Nick O’Brien – Chair Norwich Stop the War Campaign
It was Albert Einstein that said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The terrorist attacks that are going on over the world at the moment ARE an absolute atrocity and I can understand the need that people have to do something. But just “doing something” is never a good idea when it involves war. Nowhere in Cameron’s case for war does he mention the learning points from previous conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. After 15 years of war we’re here to say today that it’s time for a rethink.
The question we should ask ourselves is – Is the world safer today than it was the day after the 9/11 world trade centre attacks? Has a decade and a half of war made the world a safer place? Even Dame Eliza Manningham Buller the ex head of M15 revealed that the security services advised Tony Blair that the war on terror would increase the threat of terrorism. They were right.
When it comes to the relationship between war and terrorism -The cure is more dangerous than the disease. Yes, ISIS are becoming an increasingly efficient killing team but even still -Deploying Western military firepower, the most technologically sophisticated and destructive in the world, is always going to end up killing more civilians than a suicide bomber with a back pack – or even the 9/11 bombers in hijacked planes. The civilian deaths in Afghanistan alone are far greater than those caused by the 9/11 attacks
It won’t be a quick fight. Nothing symbolises this more graphically than the fact that after fourteen years of occupation of Afghanistan, the US and Britain have both recently sent significant numbers of troops to ‘stabilise’ the country. Amazingly there are now the same number of US troops in the country as were involved in the invasion back in 2001 Some army generals suggesting that it will be over by xmas – where have we heard that before. We need to say that this is arrogant and misleading.
There are things the West can do – we should stop backing, arming and hosting the most reactionary and aggressive leaders in the region for example. We should also drop conditions on peace negotiations. We should look at how ISIS are funded. But most of all, we need to remove all our military from the region.
But the movement also needs to expose the humanitarian-sounding rhetoric of no fly zones and safe havens. This is important now, and it may become even more important if some sort of peace-keeping force is touted later by the UN. We should remember the Libyan operation started with a no fly zone. And that ended very badly. A no fly zone is in fact airspace seized and patrolled by Western air forces and their allies.
One of the things the movement is going to have to reaffirm is our commitment to standing shoulder to shoulder with the Muslim community under attack, something Stop the War has made central since we began.
We need to stand with Jeremy Corbyn and other progressive people in the Labour Party. It is an outrage that a few people have said he should resign. Labour Party conference policy is opposed to intervention in Syria, he was overwhelmingly elected on a mandate of opposing intervention, public opinion is on his side.
Most important of all we have to reassert the argument that it is the wars of the last fourteen years that have played the major role in generating the horror of terrorism. And that pursuing them further is simply too dangerous to contemplate.
We are more powerful than they want us to think. If it hadn’t been for the protests, the petitioning, the marching, the lobbying and the thousands of arguments and debates conducted by the movement it is almost certain Britain would be at war with Syria. We need to do that again now. When we marched against war in Iraq we didn’t win, but we were close. Seems that 90% of the public are on our side as well.
We fight together, we will win together.