The ‘Stop The War’ coalition organized protest against British Prime Minister David Cameron’s proposal to act militarily in solidarity with France. Cameron was proposing airstrikes in Syria following François Hollande the French President’s request to Britain to help them in attacking the terror group responsible for the recent mass slaughter in Paris. The same terror group responsible slaughtering thousands of Kurdish and Yazidi people in Iraq and Syria, the same terror group responsible for systematic rape and torture of young women, and the murdering of gay men and the beheading of journalists and aid workers and other horrific almost unimaginable mass human rights abuse.
One of the chants of the protestor’s was : “Syria Syria don’t you cry… we won’t let your people die.” I have to say I did feel this was either total naivety or more than a little disingenuous. In the last 4 years 250,000 Syrians have died. The civil war continues to rage on at the same pace, clearly we will and have ‘let your people die’. It appears to me this, the protestors stated position, is the total opposite of considering the plight of people in Syria, to chant about ‘we won’t let your people die’ if we advocate doing nothing, or at least to continue the same as we have done in the last 4 years effectively nothing. Clearly people will continue to die in their tens of thousands in Syria.
I don’t think bombing ISIL will actually stop the slaughter in Syria but it may help some of the more progressive forces like the Kurdish Peshmerga to hold their ground and protect their people. It does seem to me to be the total opposite of internationalism or solidarity to only consider the death of a Syrian person as in anyway important or worthy of note if that Syrian is killed by a Western soldier or missile from a British plane. It really seems to me totally Eurocentric to only interest yourself in the deaths of Syrians if they are killed by Europeans (or Americans) and to ignore the quarter of a million who have already died killed by Assad’s forces or Hezbollah or IS or the al-Nusra Front etc. etc. Ignoring this slaughter treats it as irrelevant. To the extreme point of not even bothering to acknowledge these deaths have happened at all, or that mass slaughter continues a pace totally separate from any Western intervention aimed at trying to slow it.
But, having said that I do secretly wish that I could generate the same indignation against the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and all the other ‘war mongers’ in all the different political parties. I really wish I could generate the moral certainty that doing nothing was so vastly morally superior to attempting to do something…. Almost anything …. Against some of the worst slaughterers in Syria. But for me I have always felt myself to be something of an internationalist and an antifascist … and doing nothing seems like ….. Well, er …. Like doing nothing? ….. What used to be called ‘I’m all right Jack’ …. I understand the arguments against trying to do something …… but I just don’t find them in anyway more moral….. Ultimately I guess I find them kind of morally indefensible.
I remember back in the late 1980’s as a youth meeting some old guys who had fought in the International Brigades, individuals who had previously heroically volunteered to fight against the rise of fascism in Spain. Back when they were young men they left Britain and went to fight against Franco’s forces. This happened before the outbreak of the Second World War, the outbreak of the war finally signaled democratic governments had woken up and ended appeasement and began their own violent struggle against fascism.
So these men I met were amongst the first Brits to actually physically try and halt the rise of fascism during that era. I was completely humbled to meet these heroic men, they were people with progressive ideas, people who had embodied a left wing internationalism they joined the fight against fascism at incredible risk to themselves, many of their friends did not return. These were people who had very much opted to do something, when clearly they could have done nothing. They had bravely opted to personally and physically stand and fight against fascism when they were not even required to. On meeting these men I wondered wether I would have had their bravery in those circumstance, I doubted very much that I would.
There is a memorial to the heroic sacrifice of the International Brigades on the South Bank in London.Written on the memorial: ” ‘No Passaran’ They Shall not pass”. I met again some of these remaining few heroes at the opening of that memorial they were ‘proud to be on the left and were proud to be fighting for a world free of fascism, free of militarism, antisemitism, oppression and economic and social injustice’. Eric Blair who wrote under the pen name of George Orwell was long dead by the time Ken Livingstone’s Greater London Council saw fit to honor him and his fellow antifascists with the monument. He was dead before in 1977 when finally freed from fascism the freely elected Spanish Parliament returned. In 2007 that freely elected Parliament voted to honor all surviving members of the international Brigades with Spanish Citizenship. Orwell is one who’s contribution is honored by the memorial in London as he volunteered to fight in the British Battalion of the International Brigades. His bravery, idealism, his real world wisdom and experience, and his realism in face of evidence combine to make him someone who has aways been a cultural and political hero of mine.
It would be interesting to know where someone like George Orwell would come down on this issue today. To stand back and think, the rise of fascism in Spain in the 1930’s this is not our business ? The current rise of a new type of religious fascism in Syria and Iraq is not our business?
The German parliament has also today voted to send aircraft and military forces to act in support of the coalition attacking Daesh, ISIS, ISIL, the terror group running the self declared Islamic State Caliphate in Syria and Iraq. So German forces will join in support of the coalition with Britain because on Wednesday night the British Parliament did vote to send offensive aircraft to attack ISIL in Syria as well as Iraq and have begun air attacks alongside French and American forces.
The Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn did not support the proposed airstrikes he was of course lionized by the ‘Stop the War’ protestors. But some Labour front benchers did vote with the government. At the end of the British parliament’s debate Hilary Benn spoke, he is the Labour Party’s Shadow Foreign Secretary ( he is also the son of the famed left wing Labour orator Tony Benn MP and has inherited his fathers speaking skills ) He spoke about solidarity with France and the need to protect Britain but in summing up he said to his own party the Labour Party:
” I direct my closing remarks to my Labour friends and colleagues on this side of the House. As a party we have always been defined by our internationalism. We believe we have a responsibility one to another. We never have – and we never should – walk by on the other side of the road.
And we are here faced by fascists. Not just their calculated brutality, but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us in this chamber tonight, and all of the people that we represent. They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt. They hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt. They hold our democracy, the means by which we will make our decision tonight, in contempt. And what we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated. And it is why, as we have heard tonight, socialists and trade unionists and others joined the International Brigade in the 1930s to fight against Franco. It’s why this entire House stood up against Hitler and Mussolini. It is why our party has always stood up against the denial of human rights and for justice. And my view, Mr Speaker, is that we must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria. And that is why I ask my colleagues to vote for the motion tonight.”
Cheers Jez XXXX
[ 13 ] comments
- Jez. Well written comment. Totally agree. Someone once said that terrorism and other kinds of bullying survives because people do nothing to stop it. The majority keep their heads down. I think that Hilary Benn’s speech will go down in history. Warwick xx
Warwick @ December 5, 2015, 7:24 am
- Was it Edmund Burke ? who said : “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” Its tempting to do nothing. It would be so much easier to do nothing. And yet I think faced by the slaughter that was the ISIL attack on the Yazidis and the Kurds that was also threatening Bahgdad … it was morally correct to intervene in Iraq with air strikes ….. and logic demands they dont respect the Syrian border and are contining their slaighter over there….. so nor should we respect the defunct border …….. and use airpower to try and contain their expansion and slaughter help particularly the Kurds to stay free of IS and their slaughter…….. I agree Hilary Benn’s speach did really sum it up……. on a smaller scale nice to hear that Muslim bloke with a London accent shouting ‘you aint no muslim bro’ at the nutty Islamofacsist guy stabbing people at Leytonstone tube station while shouting about Syria ….. That chap shouting you aint no Muslim… Is underlining this is not Christianity vs Islam or even secularism vs Islam its decency against vile extremism …. After all the Kurdish people fighting for their lives against IS are muslim too ……. :-/ :-)) XXXXX
Cheers bro Jez XXXXXX
Jezblog London :-)) XXX @ December 6, 2015, 7:49 pm
- True words Jez.. We ain`t got no choice, good that it seems every country has decided to `help out`… Very difficult to stop though.. Anyway, I hope all the family are ok and well..Christmas with the parents this year?.. Stay Safe Bro xx
PaulS @ December 5, 2015, 2:40 pm
- Yes I hardly like to say it …… but hey Im an antifascist I always was always will be ….. Benn is right fascists need to be defeated …. I undersatand people who say lets not get involved its their war….. its expensive and it makes it look like we are responsible for the entire mess ……. but what I dont quite understand how passing by on the other side of the street is dressed up as more moral ….. the use of airstrikes in the last year in Iraq has undoubtedly saved 10s of thousands of innocent kurdish and Yazidi lives….. surely thats more moral? hey what do I know :-))))) Cheers bro Jez XXXXXX
Jezblog London :-)) XXX @ December 6, 2015, 12:44 pm
- Lol…yeah, it worked so well in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
“Bomb the bastards”
Pathetic speech by Benn.
Harv.! @ December 5, 2015, 11:38 pm
- Yes like I say I wish I could just feel that doing nothing was better….. even morally superior….. tragically I just don’t …. what is proposed here is more like whats been happening in Iraq for the last year … if you rember ISIL were taking ground and killing thousands of Yazidi’s and about to take the Kurdish enclaves of Iraq that would lead to mass slaughter …… and they were almost on the outskirts of Bahgdad …… US and Brits and Canadians and others began a limited airstrikes campaign….. that meant that the Iraqii army could hold its ground and the Kurds could hold theirs….. this has undoubtedly saved 10 of thousands of lives ….. the land ISIL hold in Iraq in 30% smaller now ….. This is not perfect obviously they are still a force to be reckoned with …. But I understand the RAF claims to have killed no one they didn’t mean to in a year of limited airstrikes …. I can’t help feeling this action is more moral than just letting ISIL just slaughter all the Yazidis and Kurds that they regard as apostates that should be killed ….. I dunno call me crazy ….. Like I say to do nothing and feel like you have the moral high ground wooow how much of an easier position would that be to advocate….. if only I felt like that….. I just don’t ….
Cheers bro Jez XXXXXX
Jezblog London :-)) XXX @ December 6, 2015, 12:37 pm
- Well said Bro x
PaulS @ December 6, 2015, 3:39 pm
- :-)))))) XXXXXXXXXXXX
Jezblog London :-)) XXX @ December 6, 2015, 9:39 pm
- Well written piece Jez x
Fiona @ December 10, 2015, 10:16 am
- Ah yes Jez… the usual hand wringing worries followed by reluctant support for the knee jerk of the war- mongers in this New American Century. And yes Harvi is right do look how well it has worked in the illegal invasions of Afghanistan & Iraq – which very interventions gave birth to the terrorists. Always useful to – as a Sun hack would put it – “dog whistle” Fascism up for tabloid rhetorical effect -“The New Hitler” etc. always seems to work like a dream in justifying “humanitarian air strikes”. And I’m one of those cheese eating surrender monkeys who of course always defends despots (thus revealing the True Nature of The Left), as anyone criticising the blundering & plotting is always painted. Tony Benn will be turning in his grave.
ISIL welcome the airstrikes a) as they have a 7th century Ideology and a narrative of beating an over powerful evil foriegn foe, in this case, because God is behind them & their values etc. and b) because Air attacks, drone killings (or “Bug Splats” as their pilots call them) are ISIL’s best recruiting tool. Civilians get killed or bits of them get blown off whilst ISIL apparently remains intact & defiant – as it has after years of US bombing (however morally superior the ordinance). Orwell would surely recognise the shituation. This way the “War on Terror” will continue far into the foreseeable future. Reducing the threat (rather than increasing it) could be done in much more practical & effective ways – if that actually is the aim and one sometimes wonders. I could perhaps be forgiven for thinking bringing on more death from the sky is about seeing to be “doing something” after the foul Paris attack. Plus clearly the “proxy war” strategy to remove Assad has failed – indeed it has been worse than useless. Russia, increasingly encircled by NATO, are obviously not going to give up their only military base & ally in the region.
By themselves ISIL’s ideology is so unpleasent, violent & reactionary they are hardly going to be at all popular without a) more bombing by powerful “infidel powers” and b) the money their ex Iraqi state fixers hand out. So who has & is financing ISIL, making & giving them weapons, money, buying the oil? If you want to give help to fighters who don’t share their ideology, who are the “moderate opposition”? The Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front, with which Ahrar al-Sham collaborates, meeting with the Saudis last week to plan regime change? Gosh they will force democracy right down the Syrian throat won’t they? Or is Assad the lesser of two evils, who, as seems likely, after all the bloody chaos and death in Syria, will remain in place? Having refused to negotiate with terrorists. You couldn’t make it up!
Still, look on the bright side – lots of money redirected to the arms manufacturers and “defence” contractors, cowered and frightenend populations readily agreeing to the salami slicing removal of the very rights and freedoms that are ostensibly being defended, popularist politicians strutting about on the world stage raining death down anywhere at will, a nasty racism gaining ground for the right – with the only apparent descent coming from easily demonised ideological groups claiming the moral high ground as they fight the Great Satan by any means necessary. This isn’t going to get any better. Cheers Bro x
John @ December 13, 2015, 9:12 am
- The airstrikes in Iraq by the RAF and others and the airstrikes in Syria by the US and others meant that the Kurdish regions did not fall to ISIL. The only decent thing to come out of the Iraq war is the full establishment of the Kurdish region in the North. Just to let ISIL slaughter all local people they call apostates as they had begun to do in the Yazidi and Kurdish regions would have been to stand by and watch genocide like we all did in Rwanda. That slaughter of the Yazidi people prompted the original airstrikes against ISIL, that intervention has allowed the Kurdish forces to hold their territory and undoubtedly saved 10 of thousands of lives. ISIL now holds 30% less territory in Iraq than it did before the airstrikes started. I heard the hugely impressive representative to Britain of the Kurdish Autonomous region speaking the other day…… about how grateful they are to Western air forces …. She is the representative of the only progressive government in the region, they deserve protection, encouragement and support …… I’m with Peter Tatchell in thinking we should support that government and allow them to have everything they need to defend themselves ….. The mess of Syrian civil war most of it cannot be fixed in anyway simply ….. but its wrong to do nothing when 10s of thousands of Kurdish and Yazidi people face slaughter from ISIL…… this intervention will not fix the Syrian crisis but it will help the armed Kurdish rebels the only obviously decent progressive forces in Syria and the people who shelter behind their lines and depend on those lines to hold to stay alive.
Cheers bro Jez XXX
Jezblog London :-)) XXX @ December 13, 2015, 1:19 pm
- John I just read your thing again …. do you think its better to let the Kurdish enclaves fall to ISIL …… ? Do you have any suggestions for what might be a better strategy for those who don’t want to see mass slaughter in Syria especially of people in the more progressive and minority communities ? I have characterized the “Stop the War” position as being advocating doing nothing… ie letting the civil war continue without western involvement? …. but I am genuinely interested to know is there something else that you actually advocate? It seems to me it was nutz for the West to give vocal support to groups wishing to overthrow Assad…… clearly that would not happen and a failed state constant war zone insecurity like Liiya would be the result …….. but given that is what has happened ……. is it better now to just let ISIL expand to kill all the progressive forces and minority communities without intervention? What are you actually advocating? Or do you actually really advocate doing nothing because we at least could not be blamed or possibilty might have more knock on effect etc and that risk is worse than the actual slaughter that would certainly occur without intervention?
Cheers bro Jez XX
Jezblog London :-)) XXX @ December 15, 2015, 9:25 am
- I really like your blog. very good to see so many ideas you write beside your pictures, from a much more expressive.
The Syrian bombardment difficult question. Russia’s influence in the region is growing, but whether we can talk about this war we are still not sure that we strengthen our position.
Phoo Magazine @ January 3, 2016, 1:25 pm