People in Iraq, Libya and Yemen are desperate for strong and stable government. Theresa May is partly why they don’t have it, says Steve Beauchampé.
Serious examination of Jeremy Corbyn’s activism shows him to have been on the right side of history and ahead of mainstream public opinion time and again, standing up for anti-racist and anti-apartheid causes, refugees and asylum seekers, gender equality, the LGBT community, environmental issues, animal rights and the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and self-expression long before such things gained widespread acceptance.
Corbyn’s attempts to achieve conflict resolution through dialogue with Irish republicans may at times have been naive, but were his actions so dissimilar to the approach adopted around the same time by MI5 and later by John Major, both of whom ultimately realised that a decades-old conflict, whose death toll was inexorably rising, could not be won solely by military means?
But whilst Jeremy Corbyn’s peripheral rôle in the republican cause has been (and continues to be) pored over and examined by his opponents half a lifetime later, the record and judgement of Theresa May with regard to much more recent UK military interventions requires equally forensic scrutiny given her claims to be a fit and proper person to lead Britain.
History’s judgement on this aspect of Theresa May is unlikely to be generous. After first being elected an MP in 1997, she voted in favour of the 2003 invasion of Iraq (having already supported the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in the frenzied post-9/11 atmosphere). Like so many of her colleagues on the opposition Conservative benches at the time, May failed to hold the Blair government to account despite the widely expressed caution of many experts over both the reasons for going to war and the lack of a post-conflict plan to stabilise Iraq. Instead, May limply and dutifully gave her support. What followed for Iraqis has been almost fifteen years of societal breakdown throughout large parts of this once architectural, cultural and scholastic gem of a nation, with swathes of land occupied until recently by Islamic State and a fracturing of the country along religious, sectarian and tribal lines in a way that will be hard, if not impossible, to heal.
By 2011, and as the then Home Secretary in the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition government, Theresa May backed the Anglo/Franco-led military action in Libya, which despite its billing as merely creating a no-fly zone to protect civilians and rebel fighters, mainly located in the east of the country, quickly escalated into regime change, culminating in the overthrow and lynching of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Again, as a senior government minister Theresa May ignored warnings that historic tribal divisions, the absence of a strong and stable government or a long-term strategic plan would quickly fracture the country. Six years on and Libya exists in little more than name only. There is no central government, armed militias and feudal warlords hold considerable power, whilst every international Islamist terror group of substance now boasts a flourishing branch office in the country from where they increasingly export their murderous ideologies. And every month, if not every week, scores of desperate migrants, people who long ago lost all control of their lives, drown off the Libyan coast whilst seeking something better than the hell that their lives have spiralled into.
Learning nothing from history and the consequences of her own actions, in August 2013 Theresa May supported Prime Minster David Cameron’s unsuccessful attempt to persuade MPs to back UK air strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The absence yet again of a coherent post-conflict strategy was sufficient for Labour leader Ed Miliband to refuse his party’s support to Cameron, who narrowly lost a House of Commons vote on the issue. The main beneficiaries of such an intervention, with its intention to downgrade Assad’s military capabilities (if not to remove him from power), would likely have been the plethora of extremist groups engaged in the Syrian civil war, principal amongst them the then nascent Islamic State.
Since becoming Prime Minister Theresa May has continued the supply of British made weapons and military expertise to Saudi Arabia for use in its war crime-strewn bombing campaign in Yemen, a campaign which has killed countless numbers of civilians and is fast creating yet another failed state in the region.
Iraq, Libya and increasingly Yemen: countries where British military interventions have created power vacuums swiftly filled by a combination of anarchy, lawlessness, violence and economic depravation, with catastrophic consequences and relentless, unending misery for millions of civilians.
Theresa May supported each and every one of these military interventions. Jeremy Corbyn opposed all of them. So whose judgement would you trust?
May 29th 2017
Written for The BirminghamPress.com, to be online shortly. It Is also available here: https://politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2017/05/29/general-election-2017-peace-policies-and-foreign-follies/
“Contrary to what one reads in the newspapers or hears on television, his manifesto is a well-argued and coherent critique of the foreign policy consensus which has done so much damage over the last quarter of a century.
“He is offering a serious alternative to the catastrophic system of cross-party politics that gave the world the Iraq, Afghan and Libyan calamities.
“His manifesto pledges to “commit to working through the UN” and to “end support for unilateral aggressive wars of intervention” . . . and has spoken out against the pattern of illegal intervention favoured by the United States and its allies”.
Corbyn has also had the moral courage to highlight the predicament of the Chagos Islanders, supporting their right to “return to their homelands”.
Corbyn bravely but correctly compares the British betrayal of the Chagossians – deprived of their Indian Ocean home as a result of a squalid deal between Britain and the US in the 1960s – with our national loyalty to the Falkland Islands, the South Atlantic territory that Britain sent a taskforce to recapture following an Argentinian invasion in 1982.
The Conservatives’ manifesto contains no specific foreign policy pledges and no mention of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Palestine or the Middle East at all
Oborne adds: “Under Cameron, and now Theresa May, Britain has thrown its weight behind the Saudi bombing campaign. I am afraid that Michael Fallon, who has proved a lightweight defence secretary, recently said that the murderous Saudi bombing raids have been carried out in “self-defence”. This comment was frankly obscene, and Fallon owes an apology to the thousands of Yemeni families who have been bereaved as a result of Saudi attacks”.
Corbyn promises to implement the will of parliament in a famous vote three years ago and recognise the state of Palestine. Arguably even more brave, he will demand “comprehensive, independent, UN-led investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen, including air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition”.
Corbyn will also “suspend any further arms sales for use in the conflict until that investigation is concluded”.
The BBC, Oborne observes, has betrayed its own rules of impartiality and ignored Corbyn’s brave stand on this issue. As Mark Curtis has pointed out in a brilliant article, the BBC website carried only 10 articles on Yemen but 97 on Syria in the six weeks to 15 May “focusing on the crimes of an official enemy rather than our own”.
Jeremy Corbyn’s radical and brave manifesto is being traduced, misrepresented, and ignored by the establishment and its mouthpieces.
Oborne: “That is wrong – and a betrayal of British democracy”.
*Peter Oborne was named freelancer of the year 2016 by the Online Media Awards for an article he wrote for Middle East Eye. He was British Press Awards Columnist of the Year 2013. He resigned as chief political columnist of the Daily Telegraph in 2015. His books include The Triumph of the Political Class, The Rise of Political Lying, and Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran.
Will Corbyn, Trudeau and Sanders eventually combine to confound tyranny and usher in a New World Order?
Jeremy Corbyn’s support for peacemaking is on record. Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister designate, has confirmed he will withdraw Canadian fighter jets from the air strikes against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria ( Watershed)
Will the humane Bernie Sanders continue President Obama’s appalling drone strikes? When asked, Sanders answered, “Yes and no,” pointing out that killing civilians is counter-productive. Drones are “one tool in the arsenal,” he said, that have at times “clearly backfired on us.”
Will there be a fruitful interaction on this and on their humane and constructive economic policies between the British prime ministerial candidate, the Canadian PM designate and US presidential candidate Sanders?
Remarkably, Sanders is said to be “running right alongside [Clinton] in a statistical dead heat for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination” in the New Hampshire primaries, according to the New York Times, citing a CNN/WMUR poll.
He has a Corbyn-like appeal for younger voters and when Clinton and Sanders made public appearances within days of each other in Des Moines, Iowa, Sanders drew the larger crowds, although it was Clinton’s first visit of the year.
By September 2015, polls had Sanders leading Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and in one poll he had climbed to within 10 percentage points of her nationally.
Like Corbyn, he is attracting far larger audiences than expected. In the key state of New Hampshire, Mr Sanders now enjoys a 22% lead over Hillary Clinton according to a poll carried out last week by CBS and YouGov.
In the interim, benign politicians and media analysts speak out against execution without trial
Last month MP Caroline Lucas and Baroness Jones sought permission for a judicial review of the policy, claiming that “targeted killing” is unlawful and Sir Simon Jenkins once again writes powerfully, denouncing air-strikes as a ‘cruel delusion, a pretence of humanity, immoral and stupid’, citing Iraq, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq again and Libya where city civilians as well as armies were bombed.
Patrick Cockburn wryly comments in the Independent that the ability to execute its own citizens has been a mark of tyrannical government from Rome in the days of the Caesars to Moscow during the Great Purge in the 1930s. He adds that where evidence for an existential threat is lacking, it can be exaggerated or manufactured, as notoriously happened in 2003 over the alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Stupid and arrogant political leaders in the US and Britain are said by Cockburn to use drone warfare because it shows them as apparently effective against evil-doers – and avoids the public backlash caused by soldiers coming back in coffins.
They stoutly deny the all too visible evidence that drone warfare does not wipe out resistance but inflames and recruits angry young terrorists – or resistance fighters.
In September 2011, in Yemen, propaganda cited the drone killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was one of the leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as a high point in its counter-terrorist campaign, but four years later Cockburn points out, AQAP has become stronger than it has ever been, spreading through Yemen and capturing a port city.
Meanwhile mainstream media plays its leaders’ game, with mock horror at Russian bombings in Syria, with a drone video shot over the district of Jobar showing remnants of bombed-out residential buildings, most of them with gaping holes and others with their top floors collapsed. One slide:
A reader sends a link to an article in which the US defence secretary has warned that Moscow will soon start paying the price for its escalating military intervention in Syria, but still claims the moral high ground for the Anglo-Saxon ‘wars of intervention’.
News of Russian military action is hyped while, as our reader comments, the US minimises its own military attack on the Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) emergency trauma hospital in Afghanistan. The MSF hospital in Kunduz was repeatedly bombed by coalition forces, even though they had been given the hospital’s co-ordinates. An enquiry by International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC) has been activated.
Jenkins reminds us that in each of the wars of intervention – against Iraq, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq again and Libya – cities as well as armies have been bombed, overtly to terrorise regimes into surrender.
But the killing of Pashtun militants has done nothing to halt the Taliban’s path back to power in Afghanistan. It has merely replaced possibly moderate elders with tribal hot-heads. Obama’s first drone attack in Yemen killed one al-Qaida suspect, 14 women and 21 children. In a six-year period to 2011 an estimated 3,000 innocents were killed in Pakistan alone, including 176 children.
In the days of conventional war, when international law was still observed to some extent, Jenkins points out that such ‘casual slaughter’ would have had an infantry unit court-martialled and jailed.
We ask again: will Corbyn, Trudeau and Sanders usher in a New World Order?