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/
Extracts from the Plastic Hippo site:
After all this time it seems that it is the electorate that decides the outcome of an election and not the media, the chattering classes floating high above us in the Westminster bubble or even this new-fangled social media malarkey.
It is outrageous that voters should overturn the decision of political commentators, pundits, hacks, pollsters and generously funded spin doctors.
This is a situation, my friends, that threatens national security and the very future of parliamentary democracy. We need Gulags to treat these mentally unstable deviants and re-educate them to vote correctly . . .
The media and all the other political parties and some elements of the Parliamentary Labour Party styled the by election as a grand “referendum” on an unelectable Labour leader and informed us with certainty that the weird, beardy terrorist sympathiser would be history within days. The character assassination of Corbyn was unrelenting as vultures circled a dead man crawling.
With some Labour MPs putting much more effort into deposing their own leader than they ever did to remove Cameron, his end seemed inevitable
It is true that the debate on airstrikes over Syria displayed parliament at its best. Sombre, considered and, for the most part, dignified, the contributions from MPs from all parties gave an alternative to the usual Punch and Judy shouting match.
Corbyn, after defying the party whip on so many occasions, offered his MPs a free vote; the other parties did not
The new rules of engagement in politics clearly state that the words “our brave” must be used in advance of the words “armed forces” and the words “barbaric” and “death cult” must be used before and after any reference to “IS/ISIL/ISIS/Daesh”. Failure to do so is taken as clear evidence of terrorist sympathies. Similarly, any reference to Jeremy Corbyn must be prefaced by a scornful yet dismissive put down.
But so far Corbyn sounds like he is talking quite a bit of sense
It may be sacrilegious to suggest but so far Corbyn sounds like he is talking quite a bit of sense. He said in an interview that Labour MPs should listen to constituents, vote with their conscience and not hide behind a party whip.
Yet again, his words were deliberately and maliciously misinterpreted and headlines and sound bites went along the lines of: “Corbyn threatens Labour MPs” – “No hiding place for rebels who defy Comrade Jeremy”. It all became rather silly.
Those that spoke in favour of bombing did so with compassion and more than a little conscience. Hilary Benn in particular delivered an astonishingly powerful speech supporting the motion but his conclusion, sadly, missed the basic premise.
The basic premise is that without a clear strategy, cogent tactical objectives and any thought given to an achievable exit plan, bombing will escalate the problem and will result in further atrocities
The oratory was brilliant but the logic is flawed. Benn, and others in the Labour Party, have been fooled by Cameron and have signed up for yet another intractable and endless Middle Eastern war.
There are cynics that might suggest that some Labour MPs did not vote for bombing Syria but instead voted for bombing Corbyn, but that is clearly barking mad Trotsky propaganda
The claims and counter-claims of bullying, harassment, intimidation and threats from various factions within the Labour Party has turned the news agenda away from joining in with an air war into a story about the divisions within Labour.
ISIL and the Tories are delighted
The chattering classes were as wide of the mark as a bomb landing on a school rather than a terrorist training camp. The narrative has undergone a suddenly change and now the media talk of “local issues” and a “popular candidate” rather than a judgement on Corbyn . . . Earlier in the week the BBC helpfully pointed out that 25% of the Oldham electorate were of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin and our intrepid reporter stated that they were worried about having their state benefits removed. That must have been a very thorough survey.
When the result was declared the BBC inaccurately reported a reduced majority and the next day ran three voxpops from Oldham voters complaining about Corbyn – the Plastic Hippo then debunks this, giving the stats seen on this graphic:
He ends: “Only a complete fool would attempt to tell the public what to think or to tell them how to vote and only a complete fool assumes that the public are inherently foolish and therefore easily fooled.
“As the current government continues to treat us with contempt, a credible opposition is needed more than ever and the squabbling egos in the Labour Party need to be reminded that unity is strength . . .”
Read in full here:
- Or see: https://twitter.com/theplastichippo
- Or re NHS and Jeremy Hunt (apart from the last sentence) https://theplastichippo.wordpress.com/2015/11/21/trust-nhs/#more-4917: “When it comes to trust, and I might be alone in this, I would prefer to have a qualified medical professional with years of experience wielding the scalpel than some shifty politician who seems only capable of opening brown envelopes from Murdoch, the drug companies and private health insurance corporations. We must all join together in the sincere wish that Jeremy Hunt does not fall ill and require the attention of NHS staff. They, or course, would provide the very best of medical care and do all in their powers to make him well again just as they do for the rest of us.”
The Prime Minister made a Statement to the House today making the case for a UK bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria. A copy of my response has already been circulated.
We have all been horrified by the despicable attacks in Paris and are determined to see the defeat of ISIS.
Our first priority must be the security of Britain and the safety of the British people. The issue now is whether what the Prime Minister is proposing strengthens, or undermines, our national security.
I do not believe that the Prime Minister today made a convincing case that extending UK bombing to Syria would meet that crucial test. Nor did it satisfactorily answer the questions raised by us and the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
In particular, the Prime Minister did not set out a coherent strategy, coordinated through the United Nations, for the defeat of ISIS. Nor has he been able to explain what credible and acceptable ground forces could retake and hold territory freed from ISIS control by an intensified air campaign.
In my view, the Prime Minister has been unable to explain the contribution of additional UK bombing to a comprehensive negotiated political settlement of the Syrian civil war, or its likely impact on the threat of terrorist attacks in the UK.
For these and other reasons, I do not believe the Prime Minister’s current proposal for air strikes in Syria will protect our security and therefore cannot support it.
The Shadow Cabinet met today for an initial discussion and debated the issues extensively. We will meet again on Monday, when we will attempt to reach a common view.
I will get in touch again when we know the timing of the debate and vote.
Leader of the Labour Party
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?
As Canadian Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau has confirmed he will withdraw Canadian fighter jets from the air strikes against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, Michael Ignatieff suggests that he will have an influence on democratic politics even beyond his own country.
Trudeau – like Corbyn – won because Canadians wanted a better approach to politics. After nine years of partisan rancour in the nation’s politics, this set a new tone.
How like our own dear PM
Ignatieff describes Stephen Harper, the Conservative prime minister he defeated, as a master of the politics of enemies: “attacking the patriotism of his opponents; selecting wedge issues to divide the electorate; attacking the vulnerable to solidify support among the comfortable. This reached its nadir when he stoked fears of Muslims and what a member of his team called their “barbaric cultural practices”. Voters en masse rejected the ploy.
PR didn’t work – people are ‘wising up’
Mr Harper unleashed a barrage of negative adverts asserting that “Justin’s just not ready” — but the young candidate proved he was more than ready.
No doubt this negativity will continue in an attempt to bring his time in office to an end- just as the forces of corporate funders, mainstream politicians of all major parties and their media machine continue to bombard Jeremy Corbyn.
Attack opponents for who they are, not for what they say. If you can deny them standing — the right to get a hearing at all — you need not even bother with their arguments
Ignatieff says that Harper imported most of the elements of the ‘politics of enemies’ from the US – and ‘perfected their application in a British-style parliamentary democracy’
If a prime minister wants a quiet life, he keeps his MPs on a tight leash
As Ignatieff warns, the desire for democratic reform that the Trudeau/Corbyn campaigns have evoked may challenge their own authority.
He adds that if they want to revive parliamentary democracy, they must loosen the leash, allow free votes, empower parliamentary committees, open the doors of parliament to the people, reach out to them online, release documents to foster democratic debate and embark on the perilous path of electoral reform.