Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Stop the War Coalition Against *any* Bombing of Islamic State.

with 10 comments

Stop the War Coalition Says Do Nothing to Stop these Genociders. 

With or without UN agreement, bombing Syria by Russia or UK should be opposed

Lindsey German 30 September 2015.

ONE OF the main reasons for disillusionment with mainstream politics has been the denial of democracy that was the vote by parliament to take Britain into the Iraq war.

The Labour party conference has passed a resolution opposing the bombing of Syria unless a number of stringent conditions are met. These include unequivocal UN authorisation for such a bombing, attempts at diplomatic solutions to the crisis, and proper provision for refugees from Syria.

Stop the War would oppose UK military intervention with or without a UN resolution (look at the consequences of UN authorised wars in Afghanistan and Libya). The Labour resolution sets the bar for intervention very high, but that may change with Russia now bombing Syria.

Stop the War is against Russia’s attacks on Syria. We think they should stop immediately. And we would welcome less hypocrisy from those who have supported US and allied bombing over the last year.

It is unlikely that all of the conditions agreed by the Labour party conference will be met when David Cameron urges parliament to vote for bombing. However, it seems that a number of Labour MPs will vote with Cameron in defiance of party policy.

They will do so because they have learnt none of the lessons from previous interventions, including the bombing of Libya that is today a source of ISIS support and weaponry, as well as the starting point of many refugees.

They will maintain a willful ignorance about the fact that bombing of ISIS has been carried out for over a year, including covertly and illegally by British pilots and drones. They will ignore all the evidence that previous interventions have increased the threat of terrorism, not diminished it.

Some of them will also vote in favour of bombing, not out of any particular conviction but because they want to embarrass and defeat Labour’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy’s position is unambiguous, repeated in his leader’s speech this week: he is not abandoning his lifelong commitment to opposing war and nuclear weapons. So some on the right of the party will join the Tories in voting for bombing in order to ensure the motion is carried.

The call by some, including left-winger John McDonnell, for Labour MPs to have a free vote on this matter, will only encourage more of them to vote with the Tories. For right wing Labour MPs to defy both conference policy and a party whip is harder than for them to vote according to their ‘conscience’.

War is not an issue of conscience, but a political question. There are a number of people who oppose wars in principle. But there is no principle involved in supporting wars regardless of circumstances or outcomes. To pretend that it is so is to impute much more lofty motives to a whole number of the MPs who routinely vote for war.

Instead they should respect the mandate that Jeremy has won, not least because of his longstanding opposition to the Iraq war and his promise to apologise for it.

Perhaps MPs of all parties should also reflect that one of the main reasons for disillusionment with mainstream politics has been the denial of democracy that was the vote to take us into Iraq.

The BBC reports:

Labour members have voted to oppose airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria, without a mandate from the United Nations.

Activists in Brighton voted in favour of a motion tabled by the Unite union to make their support for strikes conditional on UN backing.

The vote is not binding on MPs but Jeremy Corbyn has said the party must heed the opinion of members.

It follows calls from a senior Labour figure for a free vote in Parliament.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told a meeting hosted by The Guardian at the Labour conference that Syria and the renewal of Trident were issues on which he did not expect consensus within the party and he believed a vote on military action in Syria should be made “on the basis of conscience”.

The UNITE Motion (Original version):

Conference notes the evidence of an increased Russian military build-up in Syria; the announcement of talks between US and Russian military leaders aimed at avoiding the risk of clashes in Syria on Friday, 18th September; the meeting between the Israeli and Russian presidents in Moscow on Monday, 21st September, focused on preventing accidental conflict between their forces in Syria; and the growing international diplomatic effort to achieve a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Syria.

Conference also notes the likelihood that David Cameron will seek House of Commons support to extend UK participation in the bombing of Iraq to Syria in the near future.  

Conference believes the Parliamentary Labour Party should oppose any such extension unless the following conditions are met:

  1. Clear and unambiguous authorisation for such a bombing campaign from the United Nations;
  2. A comprehensive European Union-wide plan is in place to provide humanitarian assistance to the increased number of refugees that even more widespread bombing can be expected to lead to;
  3. Such bombing is exclusively directed at military targets directly associated with ‘Islamic State’ and is not aimed at securing regime change in Syria, noting that if the bombing campaign advocated by the British government in 2013 had not been blocked by the PLP under Ed Miliband’s leadership,  ‘Islamic State’ forces might now be in control of far more Syrian territory, including Damascus.
  4. Any military action is subordinated to international diplomatic efforts, including the main regional powers, to bring the Syrian civil war to an end, since only a broadly-based and sovereign Syrian government can ultimately retake territory currently controlled by ‘Islamic State’.

Conference believes that only military action which meets all these objectives, and thus avoids the risk of repeating the disastrous consequences of the 2003 regime-change war in Iraq and the 2011 air campaign intervention in Libya, can secure the assent of the British people.

Tendance Coatesy unequivocally supports the UNITE motion calling for UN authorised action in Syria, and the call from comrade John McDonnell  for a Parliamentary vote on the basis of conscience, given the range of opinions inside the Labour Party’s elected representatives and the gravity of the situation.

In the Labour leadership election Jeremy Corbyn did not win a mandate for his views, as Chair of the Stop the War Coalition, on their detailed  position on the Middle East.

This was not something put to a ballot of members, affiliates and supporters.

The Stop the War Coalition effectively calls for the peoples of the world to stand aside faced with the genociders of Daesh/ISIS.

This is the defining political issue of the tragedy in Syria and Iraq – entangled with many others . It cannot be walked away from.

These are the “circumstances” Lindsey German blithely  dismisses.

The motion calls for UN authorisation.

If that happens, which is not yet clear, the immediate “outcome” of increased attacks on the Islamist killers we can hope to see is that the PYG and our Kurdish sisters and brothers will be bolstered by weakening ISIS, and that the murderers will be forced back.

The UNITE motion is good sense and adds sound points about European help for refugees.

We would back the aim of encouraging, “international diplomatic efforts…. to bring the Syrian civil war to an end, since only a broadly-based and sovereign Syrian government can ultimately retake territory currently controlled by ‘Islamic State’.

Whether this will happen is no doubt far from clear.

But we cannot  remain indifferent to the fate of our sisters and brothers in Syria.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 30, 2015 at 4:12 pm

10 Responses

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  1. Even if the UN authorised bombing, it would neither be helpful nor effective. What do ISIS military targets consist of? In the past, military targets have included water and power plants, the destruction of which contribute to civilian misery. Forensic bombing is impossible. Any bombing automatically means more civilian casualties and will lead to more refugees. Even the Daily Mail spotted that ISIS signed up more than 6,000 new recruits in the first month after American airstrikes began this time last year – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2760644/ISIS-signs-6-000-new-recruits-American-airstrikes-began-France-says-start-calling-group-derogatory-Daesh-cutthroats.html.
    And when the bombing does not work, as it never has in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, then what – more mission creep? No, we should take a clear stand against these proposals.

    Mike Phipps

    September 30, 2015 at 7:11 pm

  2. Guess who won;t be showing up …

    Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    September 30, 2015 at 7:40 pm

  3. @Mike Phipps: “Any bombing automatically means more civilian casualties and will lead to more refugees.”

    The refugees are almost all fleeing Assad’s bombs. But I think you do know that yet still repeat this cult-like mantra.

    Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    September 30, 2015 at 7:42 pm

  4. Mike, U.S. bombing helped defend Kobane and the Kurds against ISIS.

    It might not fit into the “anti imperialist” narrative but it’s true.

    John R

    September 30, 2015 at 7:48 pm

  5. Can someone please sketch out how they think this latest round of bombing will help? What is the political goal here, what is the military strategy, what counts as ‘victory’, and how can it be secured and made to last? What settlement do people envisage after the bad guys (ISIS + who? Is there any consensus on that?) are defeated? What are the forces within Syria who could ensure that the settlement would endure?

    Otherwise, places where ISIS are, or might be, get bombed, some people who may or may not be connected with ISIS get killed or maimed. The remaining ISIS forces scatter, then they regroup, and carry on doing what they do. Is bombing likely to stop or even weaken them? It might relocate them (to Jordan, perhaps?), but I can’t see how it could deliver a knockout blow. They, and forces like them, thrive on chaos.

    For myself, I don’t give a stuff about imperialism, anti-imperialism, or moralising hand-wringing “something must be done”-ism. I’m in favour of anything which ends the war, stops the slaughter and allows people to rebuild their lives in peace. Can anyone come up with a convincing case that a bombing campaign (Putin’s or Obama’s) will help put an end to the war? I’ve not heard one yet.


    September 30, 2015 at 10:48 pm

  6. By promoting the idea that 2013 strikes would have enabled ISIS, the UNITE motion is pushing pro Assad propaganda. Close observers know that Assad is unwilling or unable to fight ISIS, and that the only ground victories against ISIS in Syria have been by FSA and Kurdish forces.

    In Summer 2013 ISIS were just beginning to move against the FSA who were weakened firstly by lack of Western military support, and secondly by the failure to respond to Assad’s chemical massacre. In the days before MPs debated a motion blocking the UK government from arming Syrian rebels, the BBC and others were already reporting ISIS attacks on the FSA. Despite the lack of support, the FSA pushed ISIS out of several towns in northern Syria in early 2014. If the FSA had been given better support they might have inflicted an even greater defeat, and we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in now.

    Worse than this motion’s parroting of Assad’s ‘either me or ISIS’ line is its outright opposition to any action against the regime, either within or outside a UN resolution. Here it is unequivocally calling for a pro-Assad policy. Anybody supporting this needs to urgently rethink.

    Kellie Strøm

    October 1, 2015 at 9:54 am

  7. Nevertheless, for all the obvious difficulties, the UNITE motion deals with a stand towards the Islamic state.

    It avoids the “revolutionary defeatism” of the StWC and the humanitarian interventionism of the Eustonites.

    It should, in my view, by complemented by a call for effective political and military support for the PYK and the Kurdish forces.

    As for causalities, as Paul says, they are happening now, they have happened for the last 4 years.

    Few will have any hopes in Russian actions, or anybody else for that matter, until there is some kind of UN brokered agreement to take on the genociders: the main enemy.

    For the moment, one step at a time: crush Deash.

    Andrew Coates

    October 1, 2015 at 10:44 am

  8. Russia is now helping Assad bomb opposition ground forces with a record of defeating ISIS. The ‘ISIS first, Assad later or never’ idea is not realistic. Whatever your UK-centric argument with Eustonites, standing in the way of action against Assad makes it harder-to-impossible for Syrians to defeat ISIS. Kurds don’t have the geographical reach to do it by themselves.

    Kellie Strøm

    October 1, 2015 at 4:36 pm

  9. Reblogged this on oogenhand.


    October 1, 2015 at 6:02 pm

  10. “Any bombing automatically means more civilian casualties and will lead to more refugees.”

    A blatant lie. The RAF has been conducting airstrikes in Iraq in suport of the Kurds for the past year. There are no reports of any civilian casualties of those strikes. Not a single one.

    For the far left, simply repeating a mantra is evidently an acceptable substitute for thinking based on evidence.


    December 2, 2015 at 5:36 pm

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