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:
- Clear and unambiguous authorisation for such a bombing campaign from the United Nations;
- 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;
- 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.
- 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.