Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

We need to hear Corbyn say: ‘Isil must be defeated’

01/12/2015, 11:17:08 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Outlining his reluctance to back air strikes against Isil in Syria, Jeremy Corbyn wrote in the Morning Star the other day, that:

 “Amid all the debate and emotion expended over Syria last week, there remains a terrible sense of déjà vu pervading this most difficult of problems. It is the sense of a government – and a nation – repeating previous errors by committing to air strikes without a comprehensive, long-term strategy involving regional powers and allies…

[I]n the absence of a proper strategy informed by better on-the-ground knowledge and intelligence, there is a real danger that any military intervention goes the same way of Iraq, Afghanistan post-2006, and Libya.”

Actually, these aren’t Jeremy Corbyn’s words; it’s an excerpt from a piece by Conservative MP John Baron, a former soldier and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, writing in the Mail on Sunday.

The subterfuge is merely to highlight that fact there are real reasons to proceed cautiously in joining US-led efforts to bomb Isil strongholds in Syria and these reservations stretch across British politics.

Indeed, there’s a decent argument to made that the case for military action will only prevail when we are prepared to wage war on the ground, winning and holding territory  (as Baron eloquently and persuasively argues). There is also a potent argument that David Cameron’s faith in the Free Syrian Army as the instrument to achieve this aim is seriously misplaced, as Jeremy Corbyn has pointed out.

Yet, even when Corbyn is right, as he is in pointing out that bombing is no panacea, he has no bigger argument to make. Where is the moral outrage about the fascistic, throat-slitting, mass-murdering rapist psychopaths of Islamic State? Or, indeed, the moral imperative in vanquishing them?

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Labour has reached peak groupthink

26/11/2015, 10:28:35 PM

by Rob Marchant

groupthink, n., [grüp-ˌthiŋk]: a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics

Merriam-Webster online dictionary

The saddest thing about party conference this year, as commentator Iain Martin remarked, was “otherwise nice/sensible people trying to persuade themselves it will be ok”.

If there were a fortnight to convince the world otherwise, this must surely have been it.

Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of Labour’s position on bombing Isil, the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris and the rebellion on an actual vote for renewal of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, have all been an unmitigated shambles.

Most immediately, there’s Corbyn’s amazing letter outlining his personal position on British involvement in bombing Isil, pre-empting Monday’s shadow cabinet discussion, astounding shadow ministers and MPs alike.

Then there was his refusal to condemn Stop the War Coalition’s toe-curling and hastily-retracted blog post, blaming the Paris attacks on France and her Western allies. Not to mention a subsequent mauling by his own MPs at the regular PLP meeting, over that, Jihadi John and the government’s shoot-to-kill policy. Then the unprecedented event of Labour MPs criticising their own leader in the Commons and his links to the Stoppers.

In the case of the vote to keep Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent, we had centrist MPs in the bizarre (and surely also unprecedented) position of defying the whip to vote for party policy, as Ben Bradshaw MP drily noted.

And let’s not forget (just 24 hours ago although it already seems longer) the unedifying spectacle of attempted political theatre gone badly wrong. John McDonnell MP – for it was he – chose to respond to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement by waving a copy of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. Yes, that Mao, the 20th century’s greatest mass-murderer.

And thus did the tragedy of Labour’s last few months descend into farce.

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Corbyn set to U-turn on whipping for Syria vote

18/11/2015, 10:33:45 PM

Two days after suggesting that any vote on bombing Isis in Syria would be whipped, Jeremy Corbyn is about to be forced into yet another humiliating U-turn.

Uncut understands that soundings from the whips suggest over half of the backbench party would defy a three line whip instructing them to oppose action.

The number of shadow ministers and PPSs who would defy the whip stretches into double digits.

With 231 Labour MPs and a payroll vote (shadow ministers and PPSs) of 140 MPs, this means over half of the remaining 91 MPs are likely to rebel. Combined with the frontbenchers inclined to vote against, abstain or simply not vote, the revolt is projected to top over 60 MPs.

Such a loss of authority would be devastating to the Labour leader’s shaky grip on power.

Faced with this scale of opposition, Jeremy Corbyn is set to retreat again and give his colleagues a free vote on the issue.

One MP speaking to Uncut said,

“God knows why he talked about whipping the vote. This was always going to be a nightmare for him, now he’s made it much worse. Idiot.”

The MP went on to detail the deteriorating situation within the PLP,

“Corbyn’s writ doesn’t run, my whip laughs at what they’re being asked to do. Groups are organising, you could see it plain as day during the Paris statement.”

The MP was referring to scenes that shocked watching Tories yesterday, when the Prime Minister’s statement on the G20 and Paris attacks was used by a series of Labour’s most senior MPs to lambast Jeremy Corbyn.

Ian Austin led the charge, looking pointedly at Corbyn when asking the PM his question, saying,

“I agree with everything the Prime Minister said about Syria and terrorism. Does he agree with me that those who say that Paris is reaping the whirlwind of western policy or that Britain’s foreign policy has increased, not diminished, the threats to our national security not only absolve the terrorists of responsibility, but risk fuelling the sense of grievance and resentment that can develop into extremism and terrorism?”

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Labour’s foreign policy is a debased joke

02/11/2015, 10:17:50 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Another milestone has been passed. Labour’s Corbynite journey on foreign policy has exited tragedy and entered the realms of farce.

This evening, the BBC’s Ross Hawkins reports that the shadow minister for foreign affairs, Catherine West, addressed the Stop The War coalition meeting in parliament, saying,

“Obviously in the summer before Russia was involved we were thinking the government might bring forward a proposal and we were preparing mentally for that. However since 30 September I think that’s more remote and obviously if that proposal does come forward then we will need to speak to you and talk to you about what your view is on that.”

There it is. in black and white. A commitment that Labour would consult with Stop the War before deciding its Syria policy.

How dare she.

Here’s Stop the War’s John Rees from 2006 indulging in paroxysms of Orwellian doublethink by backing Saddam Hussein as a champion of the oppressed that he was oppressing,

“Socialists should unconditionally stand with the oppressed against the oppressor, even if the people who run the oppressed country are undemocratic and persecute minorities, like Saddam Hussein.”

This is the Stop the War coalition that is allied to the Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine, Stalinist apologists who support Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Putin’s invasion of eastern Ukraine and oppose the democratically elected government in Ukraine.

And it is the same Stop the War coalition that invited the infamous Mother Superior Agnes Mariam de la Croix to speak at one of their rallies. She’s a nun living in Damascus trotted out by the Syrian government to deny that Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons on rebel held areas.

Her explanation of scenes of dead children in Ghouta was that they were “sleeping” while images of men and women dying from inhaling sarin gas were discounted as “stage-managed.”

She even had the temerity to suggest that rebels were responsible for gassing civilians and then claiming it was Assad.

This is the organisation that Labour’s shadow minister says the party “will need [emphasis added] to speak to.”

Labour’s problem is clearly no longer far left entryism.

When the party’s shadow ministers go on bended knee to conspiracy-mad, Stalinist front organisations like Stop the War, it’s evident that the leadership’s representatives are engaged in the reverse journey.

They are the entryists, seeking comfort, approval and acceptance from yesterday’s infiltrators.

Needless to say, if a Conservative minister or politician spoke at a meeting of a comparable group to the right of the Tory party there would be outrage.

But this where Labour is now.

A place where almost any political madness is possible and foreign policy has become a debased joke.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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Labour, this is what you chose

30/09/2015, 02:22:15 PM

by Rob Marchant

The two important days of conference, the first two, have now passed. We have pinched ourselves. We have pinched ourselves again. But no, that really was John McDonnell outlining a fantasy financial plan on Monday, and Jeremy Corbyn giving the Leader’s Speech on Tuesday.

Let me just say that again. Jeremy Corbyn giving the leader’s Speech. Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour party.

No matter how many times we say those words, it still beggars belief. Only four months ago, it would have been inconceivable.

How long ago that now seems. What happy, carefree days were those.

For those of us who have sat and watched dozens of leader’s speeches, mostly at times when Labour was actually running the country, it seems a strange, parallel universe. You get to know when a party is at a low ebb, just as when William Hague suffered his disastrous four years at the helm of the Tories.

But this is different: Labour’s current convulsions have not resulted in a moderate leader trying to rein in restive backbenchers on the fringes of the party. They have resulted in the election of a leader who is from those fringes. And a kitchen cabinet involving Unite and members of the hard left from outside the Labour party, which is likely to be more extreme – and certainly more brutal – than the man himself.

The Tories managed to pull themselves back, although it took most of a decade. But Labour’s case is that much worse, one wonders if they can pull it off at all.

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If we are to intervene in Syria or Libya, we must learn from past failures

08/09/2015, 08:11:44 PM

by Paul Lynch

To most people, there will be only one international story in the news this week. The horror of the refugee crisis, the complete cowardice of the response of many nations, and the possible solutions are on everyone’s minds, and in every conversation.

It’s a common refrain that a solution to the refugee crisis is stabilisation of Syria, Iraq, Libya and other disrupted regions, and that the best option to ensure this is military action.

If you sincerely think that, good on you; I’m minded to agree. But military action is not the easy fix that many people consider it to be. Past failures of foreign policy have shown that any decision to use military force must be taken after deep thought, conference and without emotional input. This decision must be taken coldly, rationally and with the full facts taken into account.

In my opinion, as a progressive, internationalist Labour Party, humanitarian intervention can only ever go ahead following these four points.

1) A UN resolution, and full commitment from the permanent members of the Security Council.

Yes, that does mean action from the US, France, the UK, Russia and China. Humanitarian intervention is not and can never be a power play. Nations cannot play the Great Game anymore, and use proxies to advance their own petty goals. If we talk about humanitarian intervention it must be only for humanitarian reasons, and therefore international collaboration between the world powers. Furthermore, we must work with and support local leaders to ensure regional peace and prosperity. Finally, we internationalists base our idealism on the rule of law; we cannot lecture to others on what we do not do ourselves

2) Overwhelming force.

That’s not hyperbole. If experts believe the job can be done properly with 200,000 troops, for example, we send 400,000. When military action is not prosecuted fully, we may well have never acted at all.

3) An explicit commitment to nation-building.

This is not imposing democratic ideals. Democracy must come from the ground up, and that is the responsibility and the agency of the citizen. But in order to stabilise a nation, we must make a clear commitment to developing infrastructure, an economy and basic security, creating the conditions in which liberal values develop organically.

4) Finally, an acceptance that any action is not a quick fix; If a stabilisation operation is ordered, it is likely that troops will be there for 10,15, even 20 years in order to do the job properly. Refusal to accept this idea causes fundamental damage to the strategy of any intervention.

If we can’t meet these four points, military action should be off the table. That may be cold, but as I said, these decisions must be taken rationally and mindful of the responsibility and consequences.

Paul Lynch is a Labour councillor in St Helens, Merseyside

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Is our altruistic response to Syria masking bigger public doubts?

08/09/2015, 10:51:59 AM

by Kevin Meagher

As politicians, Bob Geldof and the Catholic Church compete to entreat the British public to give up their spare room for a Syrian family, are we in danger of misreading where the real centre of gravity of British public opinion actually lies?

There’s a strong hint in the Survation poll in last Sunday’s Mail on Sunday that we are. Beneath the headline finding that 51 per cent of Brits would now vote to leave the EU, were a series of, what are, in the current climate, counter-intuitive findings about the migrant crisis.

Presented with a sliding scale of numbers from 0 to 300,000 and asked: ‘How many Syrian refugees should the UK accept’, the biggest response – 29 per cent – said ‘none’.

Half that amount – 15 per cent – said they thought Britain should take up to 10,000 (roughly the ministers are proposing over the next couple of years). Just four per cent were willing to see 30,000 or more.

And only a third of respondents (34 per cent) approved of Yvette Cooper’s plan ‘for each town to take in ten refugee families.’ 42 percent disapproved.

Meanwhile, a fifth (22 per cent) of those who believe we should remain in the EU changed their minds and opted to leave, ‘[i]f the migrant crisis gets worse’.

64 per cent of respondents thought David Cameron was ‘right to refuse to sign up to the EU’s migrant-sharing plan’. Just 22 per cent agreed.

What conclusion do we draw from these figures?

First, it seems apparent that political and media reaction is way ahead of public opinion. This isn’t to say voters aren’t moved by refugees’ plight, but they are experiencing ‘cognitive dissonance’ – holding two mutually exclusive opinions at the same time.

Or, to put it another way, they are responding with their hearts to individual tales of suffering relayed to them on the television news, but they think with their heads on the general issue.

There is no doubting that the public’s outpouring of sadness at the heart-rending pictures of tiny Aylan Kurdi’s body washed up on a Turkish beach was utterly genuine, but that doesn’t mean voters have dropped their guard when it comes to worrying about immigration.

Second, it’s clear that the prospect of further mass migration will send voters towards the EU exit in next year’s referendum.

Third, liberal politicians should beware thinking they can transpose individual tales into wider trends.

On the basis of this poll, they can’t.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut 

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IS is on the shores of the Med. Putin is rampant. Does anyone in British politics even care?

25/02/2015, 01:18:03 PM

by Rob Marchant

As if it were not enough that the EU’s two principal member states – in the form of their leaders, François Hollande and Angela Merkel – spent much of the last few weeks happily handing to Vladimir Putin parts of another European country on a plate in return for “peace”, chickens have now come home to roost in another benighted country only a few hundred miles from the EU.

It was not, as some have tried to maintain against all logic, that the West intervened in Libya and provoked a reaction against it. It was self-evidently that it did not intervene enough. In timidly restricting itself to a no-fly zone, it did not remotely attempt to help set up a functioning democratic state in the aftermath or prevent a power vacuum being filled by jihadists. In fact, NATO left early, against the wishes of the new government.

It is by now painfully obvious that wherever there is unrest in the Muslim world, jihadists will not be slow in moving in. The trick is not to let them get established. Proactive, not reactive; a stitch in time.

There is very little about Iraq on which critics and supporters of intervention agree, but most would concede that the Allies carried out a fairly effective military action and then botched the peace. For all the current crop of world leaders criticised their predecessors over that episode, it didn’t stop them repeating the exact same error in Libya.

By the time it got to Syria, of course, the alliance which had helped free Libya of Gaddafi had lost its appetite even for that kind of limited, genocide-preventing intervention. Hear no evil, see no evil. And what was the result of that? Well, genocide, naturally: 220,000 dead and counting.

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It’s still all about leadership

28/01/2015, 11:29:47 AM

by Rob Marchant

For the last few years, Labour Uncut has been repeating pretty much the same message: the Tories will mainly fight this election on two things: leadership and the economy.

They haven’t disappointed. So far, they seem to have been talking about little else.

Thing is, at this point the argument over the economy is a difficult one. To the politically-attuned, the Tories may just be perceived – even among their own supporters – as having called their last Budget badly and overdone austerity. But among ordinary folk, the reality is that Labour is still not trusted on the economy and that this would tend to trump unease with the Tories.

The logic is not exactly complex: “Labour will borrow more” is the Tory attack line. Labour’s strategy is to reply with the economically correct, and yet politically inept, response that we will leave the door open to borrow, but only to invest.

As if the average voter is likely to distinguish between leaving the door open and doing, or between capital and expense accounting in their feelings about the two main parties.

As if.

No, it is largely too late to try to unscramble that particular omelette. Our economic polling is what it is.

So we turn from economics to leadership. Some things here, too, we can no longer do anything about. It is too late to play the statesman-in-waiting, or gain the support of those world leaders who are both politically like-minded and credible (a category for which François Hollande would clearly struggle to qualify).

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2015 is going to be a dangerous year

31/12/2014, 11:15:28 AM

by Rob Marchant

No, not because there is a general election coming and, given how balanced on a knife-edge the whole thing is, the stakes are unusually high and any false move will likely be enough to do for Labour’s hopes. Although that, too, is true.

At our year-end stocktaking, perhaps it behoves us to climb into the helicopter and look at where we are in time and place.

And if there were a year to bring home to European and US citizens that their current leaders do not really seem up the job of world statesmanship, 2014 was it. In terms of foreign events, it has been a fairly astonishing year.

First in the list of astonishing feats has been that the bullying leader of a major military power – and the world’s sixth largest economy – could take two sizeable bites out of a neighbour’s territory, with scant response from the developed world, other than an outbreak of gratuitous harrumphing and some fairly limited sanctions.

An action and reaction that reminded anyone with a sense of history of nothing so much as the gradual nibbling away of Czechoslovakia in 1938 by Germany, one of the main preludes to the Second World War. And of Chamberlain’s memorable response, that it was “a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing”.

Second, that the US should delude itself that there was a realistic hope of sensible negotiations with Iran over nuclear weapons, with the US negotiating hopefully that the country might see fit to give up something that international law said they were not supposed to have in the first place. The Iranians, surely, cannot believe their luck that it has gone this far.

Third, that the West’s abject failure to act in Syria three years ago has, predictably, come back to bite it in the horrific form of Islamic State, happy to assassinate the innocent merely to send us all a crazed message.

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