Introduction by New Cold War.org, Dec 13, 2015
The following is a collection of articles and statements concerning the political fallout in Britain over the vote in the British House of Commons on December 2 to join the U.S.-led aerial bombing of Syria. The government motion to go to war in Syria passed by 397 to 223.
Britain’s government, corporate media and ‘humanitarian intervention’ nexus are waging an intense campaign of political attack against the Stop The War Coalition and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn over their leading role in opposing Britain going to war in Syria.
Jeremy Corbyn and a large majority of Labour Party members of Parliament voted against the government motion on December 2. Corbyn is a former chairperson of Stop The War and he continues to support the antiwar coalition. That has angered the military-industrial complex in Britain as well as the right wing in the Labour Party.
Two days after the vote in the British Parliament, the German Bundestag voted to join the U.S. effort, though the government proposal has the German air force and navy playing a support role, not a direct bombing role. The vote in Germany was 445 to 146. Voting ‘no’ in Germany were all the deputies of Die Linke (Left Party), all but three Green Party deputies, and 28 Social Democrats and two Christian Democrats.
Full coverage of the ongoing debate in Britain over the bombings in Syria is available on the website of Stop The War.
The assault on Stop the War is really aimed at Jeremy Corbyn
Statement by Tariq Ali, published in The Independent, Dec 11, 2015.
‘The “moral compass” of the anti-war movement has not shifted – it is no better or worse since the day it was founded’, says Tariq Ali.
Stop the War, of which I am a founder member, was created to oppose the crude war of revenge against Afghanistan in 2001. I remember arguing at the time that the war would be a disaster for Afghans, it would destabilise neighbouring Pakistan and would end without solving anything.
I was wrong on one point. It has not yet ended. We denounced the war in Iraq as being based on a huge lie. A million lives later the country is still a wreck, its infrastructure destroyed, the political vacuum has produced Isis (even Obama acknowledged this fact) and the Western politicians responsible for the crimes walk free. At that time a lot of stage Kurds were brought into BBC studios to support the war.
We campaigned as a small minority against Nato’s six-month assault on Libya that cost between 20 and 30 thousand lives and has left the country divided into three jihadi zones (Isis, al-Qaeda and local variants of both). In neither of these cases did the English media conduct a concerted witch-hunt to denounce us as a malign force in British politics.
So what occasions the current assault on Stop the War, with some prominent Greens even arguing a “loss of moral compass”? The answer is simple. In addition to the wars in the Middle East there is a nasty and unpleasant war being waged in England, targeting Jeremy Corbyn. Some had hoped that a majority of the PLP would vote for bombing Syria. This did not happen. Hilary Benn’s pathetic pro-war speech (he voted for the Iraq war as well) was boosted beyond belief by a media and political establishment desperate to replace Corbyn.
How to explain the majority of Labour MPs who voted against? Simple. They were “bullied” by Stop the War supporters. Three pages of this tripe were published in this paper. The real bully was the Bullingdon boy in Parliament, accusing anti-war MPs of being terrorist sympathisers just like Bush at the outset of the “war against terror”. But no mention whatsoever of the wavering Labour MPs flattered into voting for the bombing by tutorials on Syria at the Ministry of Defence.
Did anyone bully the staunch anti-war contingent of Scottish MPs or did they decide on their own like the 70 per cent of Scots opposed to war?
In the forefront of this campaign against Corbyn – who made no attempt to conceal his political views on domestic and foreign policy prior to his election – are his own Thatcherite colleagues on front and back benches. No opponent in the Conservative Party has ever aroused such fixity of hatred and rancour as their newly elected leader.
The bile is reserved for those who refuse to abandon social democracy. Realising that anti-austerity arguments are popular, the scoundrels have switched to “patriotism”, to defence issues, to the safety of the realm, sacralising the ridiculous Trident missiles in the process. A serving general is wheeled on to breakfast shows to suggest that if Corbyn is elected the British Army might mutiny. Since Corbyn is a founder member of Stop the War, the propaganda assault is essentially designed to weaken and destroy him.
Stop the War is opposed to foreign interventions and especially where the British Government is involved. There is a long tradition of such activity in British politics, starting with William Morris’s observation in 1885 that the defeat of the British Army in the Sudan under General Gordon at the hands of the Mahdi (a religious leader par excellence), was a positive event insofar it weakened the British Empire. He was writing as a socialist. During the 1950s CND prevented Britain from becoming a replica of the United States or West Germany and over a hundred Labour MPs were at one point members of this movement that won over the majority of the Labour Party before the capitulation of Aneurin Bevan reversed the decision in the following year.
Stop the War was founded in different times. It is and has been a coalition of individuals and organisations with differing views on many issues. This is as it should be and always has been with broad single-issue campaigns. It does NOT take positions on the demerits or otherwise of the Taliban, Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad. It is in favour of the withdrawal of ALL foreign troops (this includes the Russians) and bomber jets. The arguments against the war deployed by Stop the War are not all that different from some conservative columnists who cannot be bullied: Simon Jenkins, Peter Hitchens, Peter Oborne. None of the three are Corbynistas.
We have been consistent over the years, which is why the organisation has survived. There is no similar body anywhere else. The recent upsurge in activities against the Syrian debacle is due to the growing realisation that the murderous chaos in the region that has produced such misery will get worse with more bombs. The sight of hundreds of thousands of Syrian war refugees seeking shelter in Europe has made many realise that the way to peace is not through a war waged by the US, Europe and Russia.
That is why jumping on the anti-Stop the War bandwagon by some leading Greens suggests a loss of political nerve. Is it too cynical to detect in this behaviour a fear that the Pied Piper of Islington is attracting the electoral support of large numbers of hitherto Green supporters and needs to be denounced?
The “moral compass” of the anti-war movement has not shifted. It is no better or worse since the day it was founded. Meanwhile the wars continue. I hope there will be a large turnout on Saturday.
In Defense of the Stop the War Coalition
By John Wight, published in Counterpunch, December 11, 2015
You have to feel for the Stop the War Coalition. Back in June I attended one of their conferences in London, where during one of the plenary meetings a few people voiced criticism from the floor over the organization’s refusal to come down squarely on the side of Assad in the Syrian conflict. I have long expressed sympathy with this position, based on the concrete reality that if Assad falls Syria’s state institutions will fall, its army will disintegrate, and the country will descend into an abyss of sectarian bloodletting violence that would make the status quo seem like child’s play by comparison.
However I also understand that Stop the War is a coalition of disparate views on the particulars of the various conflicts that have scarred and continue to scar our world, and that therefore its focus has by necessity to remain on building consensus on the fundamental issue of opposing British military intervention in those conflicts. Without exception this military intervention has only succeeded in feeding and breeding instability and human suffering, rather than ending it.
Now Stop the War find themselves under attack from voices accusing it of failing to take a stand against Assad and the Syrian government. Their chief spokesperson is the Australian-born UK-based human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who a few weeks ago at a public meeting on Syria, held in the House of Commons, began heckling the platform from the floor along with anti-Assad Syrians who were in the audience. Stop the War described the heckling as an “organized disruption” while afterwards Tatchell shared his account of the experience on social media, accusing STW of refusing to allow those Syrians the right to speak, a claim the organizers of the meeting deny.
Public and media demonization of the group has continued since, used as yet another stick to beat Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with given his close and longstanding association with Stop the War and its aims and objectives.
Despite having my own differences with the Stop the War Coalition over the years, I have no hesitation in crediting them with maintaining a principled opposition to wars and conflicts unleashed in the name of a status quo of injustice and might is right. Its organizers and activists have given over a decade’s service to exposing the hypocrisy and subterfuge employed to defend the indefensible, and consequently I feel duty bound to defend them now.
Peter Tatchell on the other hand is a classic example of the Western liberal whose conception of the world is akin to that of a child let loose with crayons on a blank sheet of paper, allowing said crayons to go wherever they please with no thought of the mess being made or lack of coherence being wrought.
Worse, he and his co-thinkers continue their slavish attachment to the wondrous virtues of ‘humanitarian intervention’, despite the history of the catastrophic consequences of this very concept in practice. Afghanistan is a failed state. Iraq is a failed state. Libya is a failed state. How many failed states must litter the globe, particularly the Middle East, before the penny drops? The mindset involved in continuing down this path regardless of the result is indistinguishable from the one described by Samuel Beckett, when he wrote: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.’
However in the case of Syria, as with Iraq and Libya before it, we are not talking about drawing pictures with crayons. We are instead talking about the fate of a nation and society that is engaged in an existential struggle for its very survival. Failure in such a scenario is not an option. It begs the question of whether people such as Peter Tatchell really care about Syria and the Syrian people, as they claim, or if on the contrary Syria is merely the latest in a catalogue of convenient excuses for promoting the cultural imperialism that resides deep in their hearts?
Moreover, do they stop for a moment to consider that millions of Syrians support Assad and the Syrian government? Are the views of those Syrians less worthy or legitimate than those of the Syrians opposed to Assad? Do they consider that those who do not share the view that Assad should be overthrown are not motivated by the belief that he is a benevolent leader, but rather that his government is all that currently stands between Syria’s survival as a secular state in which the rights of its minorities are protected, and it being turned into a mass grave by the modern incarnation of the Khmer Rouge?
The role of exiles, dissidents, and victims of abuse by governments across the Middle East in making the case for the West’s military interventions is nothing new. It follows a script written in the run up to previous wars, most recently Iraq and Libya, in which our bombs, missiles, and/or troops have been deployed and without exception have sown disaster.
But no matter, for the Western liberal one Arab country is as disposable as the next, with all that matters in their reductionist purview something they like to call ‘human rights’. In truth it is not human rights they champion but the right of the civilized, superior, and righteous West to go anywhere it pleases, bombing recalcitrant countries and lesser cultures into submission, or dictating to them how their countries and societies should be organized, blithely ignoring the particular and specific conditions out of which said countries and societies have developed and against which they are struggling to develop. No, for the Western liberal the world with all its complexity and challenges is reduced to a giant chessboard, upon which other nations are pieces to be moved around or removed as they see fit.
Western colonialism and imperialism has for centuries relied on the intellectual and ideological cover righteous and right-on liberals have provided it under the rubric of saving peoples from ‘tyrants’, whether the people concerned wish to be saved or not. In the process democracy and human rights are words chucked around like change in a millionaire’s pocket – and rendered just as meaningless. They champion the cause of justice and democracy within states, while in truth working to crush justice and democracy between states.
Just as a crayon in the hands of an unsupervised child spells havoc in the home, moralism in the breast of a liberal spells havoc in our world.
John Wight is the author of a politically incorrect and irreverent Hollywood memoir – Dreams That Die – published by Zero Books. He’s also written five novels, which are available as Kindle eBooks. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnWight1
Jeremy Corbyn stands by Stop The War, attends annual fundraising dinner, The Guardian, Dec 12, 2015
Jeremy Corbyn faces new pressure to disown Stop the War Coalition amid claims group has ‘lost its moral compass’, The Independent, Dec 11, 2015