Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Cameron and Benn Will Own The Consequences of This War

As I and others have pointed out, David Cameron's excuses, for bombing Syria, are even more lame than those that have been put up by Prime Ministers in the past, to justify the disastrous wars launched against Iraq, and Libya. Not only has that been pointed out on the left, but Julian Lewis, the Tory chair of the Defence Select Committee, has pointed it out, and so has Tory David Davies. So, if its so apparent that this war will be a disaster, why is it that not just Cameron is pushing for it, but also Hillary Benn, and an assorted gang of Blair-rights and soft-lefts?

The reason for Cameron to support the war is clear. He is the leader of an imperialist country, whose huge military spending, to pay for vast amounts of very expensive hardware, can only be justified if that hardware is seen to be used every so often. And what better way for an imperialist power to be seen to be using that expensive equipment than to be exerting its military muscle, across the globe, to thereby maintain its status within the global hierarchy of states?

Cameron, of course, has another reason for wanting a war, which is, at present, it plays into the narrative about an existential threat to the country, at a time when he wants to waste even more money on a replacement for Trident. Of course, all of the vast expense replacing Trident will provide not one bit of additional security for British people against terrorism. On the contrary, by diverting resources away from the kind of financing of day to day security, and national defence, that would be required, in favour of a system that is designed as an offensive weapon, that could only be used against another country, it undermines real security. But, that logic does not matter under these conditions. The national dialogue, framed by the conservative media, is simply that there is a threat, and so there is a need to do something, and the bigger the stick the better.

Of course, that logic is completely bogus. The actual terror threats to British citizens do not come from Syria, but from Britain. The main actual flow of terrorists has, indeed not been from Syria, or Libya to Britain, but the other way around. Nearly all of the foreign fighters in Iraq, in Libya, in Afghanistan, and in Syria were precisely that, foreign! The reason there were tens of thousands of foreign fighters in Libya and Syria, was that many of them came from Britain! They have flowed out in their droves, via a range of routes, but particularly through NATO member Turkey, and into Syria, just as in the past, they went to Iraq, and Libya. In fact, where was it that “Jihadi John” came from again?

He was British, grew up in Britain, was highly educated in Britain, and then went to kill scores of people in Syria. So, on that basis that it is actually Britain, that is shipping off thousands of its young people to commit acts of terror in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere, should Assad, and his Russian backers have every right to come and bomb Britain, from where those jihadists have been originating?

And as Ipointed out the other day, whatever the Tories, and Benn, and the liberal interventionists might want to claim, there is a clear link between the imperialist actions of Britain and others, and the effect that has in generating support for the jihadists. If we take Switzerland, it should be at least as much a target for jihadists, on the basis of its democracy and modernism, and yet the facts show that it has suffered no attacks, itself, from jihadists, but moreover, it has had very few of its own citizens going to Syria, and elsewhere, to take part in such activities!

Cameron and Benn themselves admit that bombing will not resolve anything. They argue that boots on the ground will be required, but neither of them can even begin to suggest whose boots these will be, other than to insist that they will not be British boots – though in reality, as in Libya, its probably pretty certain that British special forces boots already are on the ground, in Syria, you just will not here about the body bags being sent back.

Cameron has flounced about with his claim that there is some mystical 70,000 “moderate” forces just waiting to take ground from ISIS once provided with air cover. Not even his own MP's believe that, and nor does any serious independent analyst. To the extent any such forces exist, they are far from “moderate”, but, in the case of the most effective fighters, are comprised of other factions of jihadists, such as Al Nusra, and engaged in the kind of sectarian, warlord conflict with ISIS that will spread throughout the country, as it has in Libya, if what passes for any central state currently, is itself removed. But, in any case, those forces have little reason to effectively make an alliance with Assad, who they see as their main enemy.

That leaves the Kurds, who have no reason to move out of their own territory, and who if they did would come under attack from the Turkomen in Syria, who are connected to the Islamist regime in Turkey, which shot down the Russian plane, and which provides assistance to ISIS, along with the West's other allies in the region, the gulf monarchies. Yet Benn, as the Jacobite Prince across the water, who is now the hope of the Blair-rights, seems, despite all of his supposed expertise in this field, to have simply failed to notice any of this!

The argument that has also been put is that Britain is bombing in Iraq, and so it makes no sense to stop at the border with Syria. That is quite clearly wrong on several counts. Firstly, the Iraqi government invited support from Britain and others., the Syrian government has only invited support from Russia. Its the reason, even during World War II, that Britain did not chase German troops across the border into Switzerland, and vice versa. Has Cameron or Benn watched “Von Ryan's Express", or "Battle of The River Plate", or "The Great Escape"? If its okay to chase ISIS across the border into Syria, then what about chasing them across into Iran, or even further into Russia? Why are they not chasing them across the border to their main source, and crossing point, in Turkey? Why have they supported Turkey, when the Islamist regime there shot down a Russian plane that was attempting to cut off ISIS supply lines, and oil routes into Turkey?

But, the obvious response, also, is that Britain should not be bombing in Iraq either! The government claims that there has been no civilian casualties in Iraq from British bombing there, because of the smart weapons it uses. It is of course, nonsense. Some, reliable, independent estimates of civilian casualties already put the number into several hundred, just in the first year of bombing in Iraq.

The reality is that Cameron will push through this war, for his own political reasons, and Benn will join him, for his own political reasons too. Both of them will then own this war, and the consequences, which all past experience shows will not be long in manifesting themselves. Both are engaging in this war for short term political advantage, that will result in longer term political ignominy, just as happened with Blair himself. Benn has the advantage for the Blair-rights, and soft left of his family name. But anyone, fooled into believing that means anything, has no business in political analysis to start with. Just think about Ralph Miliband and his offspring.

Those Blair-rights, and the soft-left, need a figurehead around which they can rally, just as in the past, reactionary forces rallied around former monarchs, or claimants to the throne. Benn as a career politician with a view on the future, is clearly glad to oblige in fulfilling that role. Either that, or his willingness to absorb, and swallow whole, all of the incredible guff that Cameron is pumping out, itself makes him not credible for the job. Indeed, if he believes what Cameron has said, I've got an Eiffel Tower I could sell him.

Of course, these career politicians are not that put off by the potential for such disasters, because Blair himself is living proof, that no matter how big a political mistake you have made, there are always lots of newspapers, TV stations, publishers, Universities and others with lots of money available to make your life comfortable, when you have to withdraw. Its like the multi-million pound pensions and golden handshakes given to bankers, and other chief executives when they have screwed the company, and get moved on to other pastures.

In that sense, Corbyn has at least isolated himself, and the Labour Party from the inevitable disaster that will flow from this war. It will now clearly be owned by Cameron and Benn and those that line up behind them, and as Chilcott shows, it will be another decade before yet another Inquiry gets around to demonstrating their culpability for misleading the British public, and for the deaths of thousands of people. For now, they are only concerned with their own political fortunes over the next few months.

But, Corbyn's decision to allow a free vote was a mistake. It allows Benn and the Blair-rights to claim the cover of legitimacy for their abandonment of a clearly set out, and massively supported Labour Party position on Syria. Unfortunately too, it is just the latest of a series of retreats made by Corbyn and McDonnell, such as over their support for Republicanism, their past opposition to British imperialism in Ireland and so on. Retreat is a tactic that can be used, in order to regroup and move forward again, when it is wise to do so. But, Corbyn and McDonnell are turning it into a strategy!

In reality, what we have is a Labour Party and a sect. That has frequently been the case in the past. The difference here is that the usual situation has been reversed. In the past, the sect, or sects have been tiny groups of Trotskyists, or in the case of Militant, a slightly larger group of left reformists, as against the mass of the Labour Party. Today, the situation is that it is a couple of hundred people in the PLP, along with a small minority of party members that represent the sect, whereas it is Corbyn and the near 500,000 Labour Party members, that stand behind him, that represent the real Labour Party.

What happens, when the sect splits away from the real party, has been seen, on many occasions, in the past. The sect quickly disappears into obscurity, and the party continues on its way. Corbyn and McDonnell, and their supporters have to stop acting as though they were still part of the sect, and start acting as what they are, the real Labour Party, leaders of half a million members who stand behind them, and their supporters in the PLP.

If this is to be new politics, it should be so. Stop worrying about the politics as normal in Parliament, and start to build the Labour Party as a movement out in the country. Last weekend, Corbyn and McDonnell, and others, should have been out leading mass demonstrations against bombing Syria. They should start organising such demonstrations now. Stop worrying about the need for a balanced Shadow Cabinet, and all those parliamentary niceties, like having a Shadow Cabinet at all. The role of Corbyn and his supporters is now to give voice to the vast majority of party members, in the country, to use Parliament as nothing more than a tribune from which to speak.

The PLP should be made to act as the representative of the party, and of party policy, and those that are not prepared to do that should walk away, and find some other party, or other profession, to pursue. If the issue of Trident is raised, then that is easy to deal with. The policy was set long ago, and the party has changed qualitatively since then. The vote of the Scottish conference is an indication of that. If a special conference, to set policy on Trident, cannot be organised in time, then the example of just polling each party member can be followed, as Corbyn did over the weekend, with Syria. Then that will remove the argument of the Blair-rights on that too.

Its time to clean the Augean stables.

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