Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Labour’s problems didn’t start with Corbyn but New Labour’s arrogance in power

22/04/2017, 07:29:42 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The failure of the New Labour project, measured in its ability to blow the victory of 1997 by 2010 at the latest, has an eerie similarity to the failure of Trump to know that pride goes before a fall. Not the current President of the USA, but Judd Trump, the snooker player. As someone who plays the game but very badly, I am in awe of Trump who was the youngest player ever to make a maximum 147 break an will one day win the world championship. But not this year.

He was knocked out by an unknown 46 year old qualifier last week, Rory McLeod, in the first round on April 19th. He came into the Championships as world ranked Number 2 and joint champion, and made the fatal error of saying the rating did not worry him. He should have been worried. Like many super talented people, he underestimated his opponent and suffers from the pride of arrogance. Like some politicians I can think of. David Cameron thought the Brexiteers were ‘swivel eyed loons’ and lost the 2016 referendum. The 1945 general election result led to some Labour people saying “We are the masters now”. But while Judd Trump was so upset he could not make his post-match TV interview, he should look at the current Labour Party and think he got away lightly.

While the Labour Party recovered after losing in 1951, and Cameron’s party looks like it is doing well, whether the arrogance of New Labour will see a recovery will be in the lap of the gods. And no one should blame Corbyn for the current crisis, which he makes worse but did not create. Blair destroyed his own credibility with the working class core voter even before the Iraq war. While the 2001 seats tally was much the same as the 1997 landslide, in key areas like Stoke the working class voter had already started to slip away. By 2005 Blair could only muster 37% of the vote, enough to win, but also to give Michael Howard’s Tories the scent of a failing project. It is a matter of history that Brown and Miliband could get nowhere near even the 2005 election result.

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Labour must be more than technocrats. The challenge is to lift Britain out of its moral depression

17/07/2015, 03:37:48 PM

by Gordon Lynch

A common observation about the Labour leadership contest this summer is that the candidates, for all their relative strengths, have not yet succeeded in providing a compelling vision of our country’s future and the role of the Labour party within it.

Where this wider debate has begun to open up it has been primarily in terms of differing positions towards deficit reduction and austerity. But whilst Labour’s ability to provide a credible economic plan for Britain’s future is undoubtedly the threshold that must be met for it to be taken seriously by the electorate, it is not sufficient to provide a powerful vision of our collective future. Nor does a focus on the failings of Labour’s last general election campaign provide a sufficient analysis of the depth of electoral disillusionment with progressive politics at the moment.

The roots of this disillusionment do not lie simply in the public blaming Labour for the current financial deficit. It lies in a moral depression which began before the financial one.

Since the relative euphoria of Labour’s electoral success in 1997, there have been three significant moral traumas in which public confidence in progressive politics has been deeply damaged. The first was the decision of Tony Blair’s government, with strong Conservative support, to engage in the 2003 Iraq War against unprecedented popular opposition. The party that had won in 1997 by articulating the public’s moral aspirations betrayed this six years later when it embarked on a war that was so deeply at odds with the ethical foreign policy that it initially espoused. The fact that the 2003 war set in motion a chain of events that has now led to the horrors of the rise of ISIS only perpetuates a residual sense of despair at such a fundamental failure of Britain’s political institutions to respect the moral convictions of its people.

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A big argument on a big issue. Tony Blair showed Labour the way on Europe

08/04/2015, 10:28:09 AM

by Callum Anderson

As Labour’s most successful leader and prime minister, it has always struck me as odd (and rather self-defeating) that Tony Blair continues to be relatively unloved by the Labour mainstream.

Respected? Yes. But for a winner of three general elections, Mr Blair fails to stir the levels of positive emotions by the Labour faithful – in stark contrast to the cast majority of many Conservatives’ slavish adoration for Margaret Thatcher – even twenty five years after the end of her premiership.

In what could be a unique characteristic of the Left, too much analysis of Blair’s legacy focuses on the Iraq war and not enough on domestic successes (minimum wage, investment in schools and the NHS anyone?).

Yet, despite all this, as Steve Richards astutely observed, Mr Blair showed, once again, how he “remains the best communicator in British politics”.

As Mr Blair ventured, for the first time, into the 2015 general election campaign on Tuesday morning, we were reminded of the huge scope for a positive and patriotic argument regarding the UK’s position in Europe and, indeed, the world.

Not only did he make short, punchy jabs at Labour’s opponents – correctly asserting that the issue of the UK’s membership of the EU as “too important” to be treated as a “sop” to opponents, as David Cameron has done in response to the rise of UKIP; and UKIP’s nationalistic tendencies as “ugly” – but also made what was in all probability the most coherent case for Britain’s EU membership.

Indeed, with the Conservatives wheeling out clichés such as ‘Long Term Economic Plan’ and ‘securing a strong economy’, Mr Blair shrewdly highlighted that an EU referendum would cause chaos in the British economy. Any referendum would destabilise businesses, endangering inward investment into the UK, as Conservative MP Mark Garnier, JP Morgan and eight in ten small and medium sized businesses have all warned.

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We can disagree over Iraq but we should stop vilifying Tony Blair

10/02/2015, 09:01:23 PM

by Simon Bartram

Tony Blair was arguably one of the boldest and most talented politicians of the late 20th and early 21st century. Domestically he is widely credited with delivering vast swathes of progressive legislation across the country, introducing the minimum wage, allowing civil partnerships, and strengthening employee rights. Britain’s social values radically changed during his time in office – the values of the older generation were swept away, and a new morality gained greater acceptance.

Whether legislation was the enabler or the consequence of these changes is up for debate. Yet it is Blair’s foreign policy which overshadows what would have been quite a progressive legacy. From being characterised as a saviour by the British press in 1997, Blair’s image as a war criminal was frequently propagated by the press, and, as the coverage on the Chilcot Inquiry reveals, it still endures to this day.

When confronted with media reports of loud, clamouring protests over his foreign policy, it’s easy to forget that more people actively voted for him than his opponents in successive general elections, even after his, and Parliament’s, disastrous decision to enter Iraq (undoubtedly a clumsy and calamitous execution, in hindsight). A silent but substantial number of people voted for him. No doubt a good number of these people had inanimate political views, or would have been more interested in parochial matters, such as their local health services, or were Labour tribalists, or were simply uninspired by a Tory leadership that was more interested in niche topics like Europe than bread-and-butter issues like Education. And yet still, it appears that these people would have been at worst ‘neutral’ on Iraq and, indeed, there would have been people who supported Blair’s intentions in Iraq. We seldom hear about these people.

One of the unique features of opposition is that there is always a platform for the rebel – it is never inappropriate to speak against the status quo, whilst, conversely, supporters of it rarely feel the need to randomly unleash polemics in praise of what’s occurring. There’s no incentive to do so, for a start. Why speak when change is not needed? There are far more opportunities to criticise than to defend.

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The Vietnam doctrine and the Powell doctrine

07/10/2014, 12:33:04 PM

by Pat McFadden 

As the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries struggle to put together a strategy to combat Isis the question arises, has the West lost the will to implement the Powell doctrine of overwhelming force and is it by default reverting to the Vietnam doctrine of escalation in steps, with the danger that the steps are not big enough or decisive enough?

The question matters because the decision to engage in military action In Iraq and (for the US) Syria has been characterised as much by what is ruled out as what is ruled in.  Haunted by recent long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both Britain and the US have emphasised at all times their unwillingness to put “boots on the ground”.

What does ruling out boots on the ground mean in practical terms?  There should be little doubt that the leaders of both the US and UK would sanction special forces operations to hunt down the Isis killing squad who are beheading innocent hostages if they knew where they were.  Those special forces would be wearing boots.  And, for a time at least, they would be on the ground.

By talking about no boots on the ground our leaders don’t actually therefore mean no boots on the ground.  They mean something that doesn’t look like an army as in the long and visible military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years.

But when we consider special forces, advisers and other means of co-ordinating military action from the air, and the imperative of stopping Isis establishing a caliphate, it is possible that these lines could become more blurred.

Philip Bobbit, the highly respected US author and academic wrote recently that ruling out boots on the ground was a necessary price for President Obama to pay to get approval for the action from the air that he sanctioned.

Perhaps, but two questions arise.  First, will the line between what is actually happening and what has become ruled out become more blurred as the action escalates?  And if it does, what questions will that raise about honesty and treating the public as adults?  Secondly, if the goal is to do serious damage to Isis and impair its ability to act, does the politics of ruling out boots on the ground conflict with the action necessary to make this goal more achievable?

In other words, is war weariness pushing the West back into an unwitting adoption of the Vietnam doctrine of escalation by degree rather than Powell doctrine of using overwhelming force which replaced it?

For our leaders haunted by the recent experience of Iraq and Afghanistan it is worth remembering, the past did not begin in 2003.

Pat McFadden is Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East

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Why is it right to carry out actions against ISIS in Iraq, but not in Syria?

28/09/2014, 05:26:50 PM

On Friday 26/09/14, the House of Commons debated military action against ISIS. The vote was in favour, but only in Iraq. In a particularly pointed parliamentary contribution , Pat McFadden eloquently articulated the challenges in stopping anti-ISIS operations at the Syrian border and the wider issues in how the debate has been framed. At Uncut, we felt this speech deserved a broader readership, so here it is – Atul Hatwal (editor)

by Pat McFadden

“The immediate decision before us in this debate is about military action, but behind that, this is about values. This is not a war against Islam. Islam is one of the great world religions, which is practised freely, without any harm to anyone, by millions of people in this country and around the world. This is not about Islam, but about co-existence.

Co-existence is absolutely fundamental to our society—the ability to elect Governments who are freely chosen by the people, equality of rights between men and women, freedom of speech and freedom of religion are fundamental—but ISIS rejects every tenet of it. That is why ISIS kills, with impunity, fellow Muslims, Christians and Yazidis; engages in sexual exploitation of, and the trade in, women; and cares nothing for anyone who does not sign up to its single truth. This is not about Islam, but about co-existence.

The shadow of past decisions—particularly the 2003 decision to invade Iraq—is a long one in debates such as this one. That is because there is a live debate about the degree to which we are responsible for creating or fomenting violent jihadism. It is important to be clear about that. I accept that past decisions have angered jihadists and perhaps encouraged some people to join them, but it is a fundamental mistake to think that we are responsible for violent jihadism. Let us not forget that the bombing of the World Trade Centre on 11 September took place two years before the invasion of Iraq. Syria, until recent days, has been a byword for non-intervention by the west; yet it is now the headquarters of the global jihad.

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This government has tacitly acknowledged its failure on anti-extremism. But Labour should examine its own conscience

27/08/2014, 09:14:31 AM

by Rob Marchant

Last week in Iraq, American journalist James Foley was murdered by Islamic State.

He was murdered savagely and painfully, and he was not even murdered in supposed punishment for a crime; it was merely to send a message to the West. If that were not enough, they then put a video of the whole killing on YouTube.

It is difficult to find words for the psychotic nature of both the killer and the twisted ideology which drove him, not just to kill, but to kill a quite innocent victim in such a way.

Above all, we should be disturbed to know that the perpetrator, from his accent, is thought to be almost certainly British.

How did we end up here? It is dispiriting enough that you can grow your own terrorists to bomb you, as happened in the London bombings of 2005. But to export your terrorists is, well, a bit careless.

Britain of all countries, it seems, is becoming the place where extremists can feel most at home, or even come here with the express intent of becoming radicalised. As Haras Rafiq of the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation, wrote yesterday, “London and the UK has been primed for this for decades”.

What is certain is that the government’s blasé approach to anti-extremism and anti-terrorism has not helped, as I wrote here two years ago. On coming to power, and egged on by Lib Dems with an interest in civil liberties sometimes bordering on obsession, the Tories largely dismissed the Labour’s rather effective Prevent anti-extremism programme, reducing its funding from £18m to £1m. As Rafiq puts it:

“When our Prime Minister says that his Government is going to redouble the efforts to stop youngsters being radicalised – the redoubling of zero still equals zero.”

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Labour must rise to the challenge of Iraq and Syria

26/08/2014, 09:34:01 AM

by Jonathan Todd

A monopoly on violence is a pithy definition of statehood derived from Max Weber. On these terms, thugs in the Middle East have recently achieved this standard. There was a gang in the East End of London, the Krays, who did the same in the 1960s. The People’s Republic wasn’t then declared. This waited for Lutfur Rahman.

The key word that I’ve missed from Weber’s definition is legitimate. The violence visited on James Foley is no more legitimate than that of the Krays. That’s why James Kirkup insists that Foley’s killing was a murder, a criminal act, not an execution, something states do to breakers of their most important rules.

Ken Livingstone, who has topped Labour’s NEC “constituency reps” ballot, helped Rahman to his current status. Livingstone’s victory indicates the strength of Labour’s left, which tends to be more suspicious than the Labour right of military intervention and the motives of the US, as well as quicker to explain Islamic extremism in terms of the perceived failings of the west.

If ISIS doesn’t prompt the Labour left to consider military intervention, will anything? If US bombing of ISIS, in an attempt to avert genocide, doesn’t justify support from the Labour left for US action, will they ever support such action? If the brutal murder of an American, a civilian only seeking to do his job as a journalist, can be explained in terms of supposed US failings, can’t everything?

The Labour left might now be questioning their presumptions. Or maybe not, maybe the Iraq war’s shadow remains too long. As David Miliband, often dismissed as a Blairite by the left, has recently conceded, the outcome of that war “induces a high degree of humility”. Therefore, if the Labour left are now reassessing, they are doing what the Labour right has done for the past decade.

I wrote recently that Labour needs new thinking on the Middle East. Atul Hatwal has provided some – arguing the case for a pragmatic approach to President Assad in Syria. And Lord Glasman has too – advocating that we be pro-Kurdish, pro-Iranian and pro-Christian.

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British policy is imprisoned by the past – it needs to be free to fight the threat we face

22/08/2014, 02:35:31 PM

by Pat McFadden

The Prime Minister has hardly communicated energy in the fight against Islamist extremism with his yo yoing holiday plans but it’s not his physical location that matters most – it is the lack of a strong and clear plan to fight the battle in which we are engaged.

The ISIS killing spree targeting Christians, Yazidis and fellow Muslims, and the brutal horrific murder of American journalist James Foley should leave us in no doubt, if there was any in the first place, that we have to face up to the threat posed by the ideology which drives these actions.

The Prime Minister terms this a generational struggle.  He is right about that.  Yet he cannot bring himself to will the means to fight it because government decision making is imprisoned by the past, in particular by the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and by the Prime Minister’s immediate decision following last year’s Parliamentary vote on Syria to take the option of military intervention off the table.

Public opinion in both the UK and the US is war weary for understandable reasons. Many lives have been lost and many brave young servicemen and women have suffered life altering injuries as a result of long military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Yet opting out of this battle is neither possible nor in the end desirable because we have to defend our way of life, stand up for our freedoms and combat an ideology of mass murder based on a gross perversion of faith. We don’t have a choice about whether to engage in this fight.  If we don’t go to it, it is coming to us.

In that regard, the government’s decision a couple of years ago to abolish Control Orders and give terror suspects in the UK new freedoms to move around the country and access the internet – and to put a sunset clause on the weakened regime even if the threat level posed by the person had not changed – now looks even more reckless and irresponsible than it did at the time.

The wrong analysis led to the wrong policy.  The Government came to office believing that the laws of the land posed a threat to our liberty.  But while security and liberty always have to be carefully balanced it is not the law of the land – heavily scrutinised by parliament and the judiciary – which poses a threat to our freedoms.  That threat is posed by the ideology which saw James Foley beheaded on the internet and which would inspire the people who carried out this crime to target people in this country too.

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In the face of nihilistic Islamism, there are only bad options and worse ones

21/08/2014, 04:20:53 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Yesterday, four suspects were arrested in the ongoing investigation into parcel bombs sent to army recruitment offices across southern England earlier this year. This is part of a renewed campaign by Republican dissidents in the New IRA.  They are dangerous and uncompromising and believe the mainstream republican movement has sold out its principles by settling for less than full British withdrawal from Ireland and the immediate reunification of the country.

They remain committed to ideals enunciated by Theobold Wolfe Tone in 1798 and transmitted to them via the Irish Declaration of Independence, the War of Independence, the republican side of the Irish Civil War and the Provisional IRA during the Troubles.

Yet theirs is still a creed borne of the Enlightenment; a desire, as they see it, for a sovereign Irish republic where liberty, equality and fraternity for all is realised – once the yoke of the oppressor is cast off.  If minded, they can be engaged with, negotiated with and pacified. None of that is to say they should be, merely to point out there is a basis to do so.

The difference with the Islamic Jihadi violence playing out in Iraq and Syria is that it’s brutality is not only indiscriminate but it’s driven by a politio-religious philosophy that is so doctrinaire, so other-worldly, so unsophisticated, so laughably unrealisable and so totally unamenable to reason, that there is not only no chance of agreement – ever – there is no basis even for dialogue.

Who does John Kerry or Philip Hammond reach out to, even if they wanted to, to avert the horror of the IS beheading another captured Westerner?   Even a consummate dealmaker like the late Irish Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, happy to talk to anyone in order to rattle the Northern Ireland peace process along, would throw up his hands in despair.

What do we say to the hooded and scarfed figures jabbering on about infidels in Muslim lands?  What appeals to decency, international harmony, respect for human rights or enlightened self-interest can be made to barbarians who want to impoverish and enslave us all in a worldwide Caliphate?

This total lack of options means two things. Either we tiptoe around the false grievances of Jihadists, ignoring the brutality, mass murder and ethnic cleansing of the Islamic State – or whichever lunatic organisation comes next – in order to avoid becoming a target of its exportable evil, or we seek to overcome it.

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