For the third time in 25 years, Parliament has voted to support military action in Iraq. The two conflicts have killed over half a million people, displaced four million and orphaned five million children. By any measure, Iraq is now in a worse state than it was before the 2003 invasion. There is civil war, the western backed government has no legitimacy among the majority of the population, real power is held by local war lords as in Afghanistan, another failed military intervention.
In recognition of the failure of military action in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, Parliament refused to back British involvement in the Syrian civil war. This conflict together with the sectarian policies of the corrupt Iraqi government, spawned ISIS, a brutal militia, armed and financed by governments hostile to the western presence in the middle east. Any engagement with ISIS will inevitably spill over into Syria where the Americans are already training and arming forces opposed to the Assad regime. No one knows the outcome, as in Iraq in 2003, there is no exit strategy.
Interviewed on Radio Derby, High Peak candidate Charlotte Farrell said that further military involvement would only make a bad situation worse and would further fuel the resentment many feel in the region to western interventions. Caroline Lucas was one of only 43 MP’s who voted to oppose further military involvement, joined in the ‘no’ lobby by Derbyshire MP’s Dennis Skinner, Bolsover and Tory MP for Amber Valley, Nigel Mills. The overwhelming majority won by the Coalition Government, supported by the Labour Party did not reflect public opinion. Despite the horrors depicted in the press of the actions of ISIS, 43% of British people oppose further military engagement.
Radio Derby’s political reporter noted that the timing of the Parliamentary recall suited the Tory party, giving its leader the opportunity to play big international statesman on the eve of their conference to cloud the issue of a ministerial resignation and a defection to UKIP. He reminded us of another Conservative prime minister, who in 1982 and facing electoral defeat, used a foreign policy adventure to drive up jingoistic popularity and win a year later. But cynicism aside, there are many good reasons why this new engagement should be opposed. We are endlessly told that the economy is struggling and that we must all tighten our belts. Despite this, close to £1billion was spent on bombing Libya and we can not suppose that this campaign will come any cheaper. This is about the sum saved by scrapping the Educational Maintenance Allowance, three times that saved by scrapping the disability living allowance. So our young people and disabled are having to pay for a military adventure that will solve nothing.
From recent past history we know that this action will further radicalise young men into joining the jihad against us. It will kill and displace yet more civilians, it will condemn more hostages to death, it will bring closer the time when Iran will feel forced to intervene itself. Military force will not solve anything, it will make a bad situation worse.
We have to do something, the whole region is in a state of collapse. As Charlotte said, we have to open negotiations, this can be difficult, talking to people involved in atrocities. But then we are now allied to countries that are brutal dictatorships. In August alone, Saudi Arabian courts ordered the beheading of nineteen people, mostly foreign nationals, this year it has beheaded six women, again mostly foreign workers.
In the light of the headline reports of ISIS atrocities, calling for talks seems an inadequate response. But Europe is the living proof that only negotiations can solve age old problems. In 1945, Europe lay in ruins, divided by generations of bitter hostility that had broken lives, displaced millions and brought the full horrors of war home to everyone. Something had to change to alter the course of events that could so easily have lead to yet more conflict, such has been the 2000 year history of Europe. The response by a few wise heads to the brutality of two world wars in a generation was to negotiate. Not as in 1918, the victors dictating to the vanquished, but as equals. The bitter enemies of just a few years earlier, joined together to find a collective vision to banish warfare, to allow their countries to cooperate in building a peaceful society in which people could flourish. This process led to the Treaty of Rome and the European Union. The dream of warlords from Charlemagne to Napoleon, of a united Europe was achieved without bloodshed, through negotiation among equals.
This is the only way forward for the Middle East and every new military campaign only serves to further delay the opening of these talks. They have to involve all parties, including Iran and Syria, including the representatives of the Kurds and on equal terms, Sunnis and Shias. The west and western interests can not dictate terms. Peace is possible and there is a profound desire among the people of the whole region and beyond to find this peace. But a small minority, protected from the horrors of war, see profit in further conflict, Iraq, broken as it is, is spending $1billion on weapons, good business for some. Weapons flow freely, from Russia as well as the west, earning great wealth and creating more markets. This is where the west’s action is needed, control international arms sales, stop fuelling the conflicts that are threatening to spiral out of control and engulf us all.
For more information, visit: http://www.stopwar.org.uk/