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Opposition to War Does Not Mean Supporting Your Government's Enemy

We need to strengthen anti-war ideas and activity to stop another fifteen years of war says Lindsey German

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'Opposition to war does not mean supporting your government’s enemy. It does mean having a principled position of opposing war but not allowing the government to minimise its own role in the conflict.'


On every occasion over during the “war on terror” that there has been a call for a new intervention the memory of the last war is deleted. We start from scratch again. Iraq was not going to be like Afghanistan, Libya not like Iraq, Syria not like Libya. Every perceived failure of the wars has been put down to mistakes, bad planning, not thinking through the operations fully.

Uncannily, these same mistakes and bad planning keep recurring. But no one seems to take responsibility and a warmongering media is all too happy to ignore the consequences of war while at the same time berating those who oppose them.

This whole cycle of disaster began 15 years ago yesterday, on October 7 2001. On that day George Bush launched Operation Enduring Freedom. This was the invasion of Afghanistan, which marked the beginning of the War on Terror, and which saw one of the poorest countries of the world — already involved in civil war — plunged into a further bloody war and occupation which has seen no end.

The Stop the War Coalition is holding a conference today to protest at the continuing wars going on as a result of the war on terror. As we mark this anniversary, we should note that the second largest number of refugees fleeing to Europe come from Afghanistan and that only this week the EU is demanding the return of many of those Afghan refugees to the places they have fled in return for aid which falls far short of the country’s needs, and which are at meagre levels compared with the costs of war.

Any objective assessment of the War on Terror (a name long ago abandoned in an attempt at more user friendly rebranding), and the situation created by it, would regard it as an abject failure. Yet successive governments — for these were always bipartisan operations — as well as the media and the military continue to treat them as though they were a success, despite all evidence to the contrary.

But the legacy of the war on terror is clear. Without exception wars continue in the countries who have suffered intervention. Terrorism is much more widespread than 15 years ago. Islamophobia has grown dramatically, much of it fuelled by the demonisation of Muslims following the wars, and now instrumental in scapegoating the refugees from those same wars. The world has become a much more dangerous and unstable place.

Every single operation has failed on its own terms. This summer alone, we have had several damning official reports into aspects of the wars. Most notable was Chilcot, which blasted Bush and Blair over the invasion and occupation of Iraq. But there have been reports emanating from parliamentary committees which also condemn Cameron for his role in the Libya intervention, as well as over Syria and arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

If these politicians were teachers, social workers or any other group of people entrusted with the care of others, they would be sacked and probably prosecuted for causing a fraction of this damage. Instead they are feted, richly rewarded, and new leaders are encouraged to do the same thing over again, ensured of the backing of most of Parliament and the media.

The Stop the War Coalition has built the largest anti-war movement in any Nato country. This weekend hundreds of people will attend with speakers from international campaigns and representing different strands of the movement.

We will be discussing a range of issues and crucially recommitting to building and maintaining a vibrant anti-war movement. This has to be seen against the background of the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn, who will be addressing the conference. Corbyn’s record as an anti-war campaigner has helped to propel him into the leadership of the Labour Party, especially given his record of opposition to the Iraq war.

His success helps to demonstrate the strength of the movement. However, those who oppose him have often also trained their fire on Stop the War, which has been witch-hunted particularly by sections of the media. This has focussed most recently on the war in Syria.

Stop the War opposes all outside intervention in the hideous war that is going on there. We do not take sides or have one position on the internal conflict. But we do oppose all bombing, whether by Assad or Russia, or by the US and Britain. There is no justification for the bombing and the victims are the ordinary Syrians who are suffering on a daily basis.

Despite this position there are still claims that the anti-war movement supports Assad and Russia. This is reminiscent of previous criticisms by those supporting previous wars.

We were accused of supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saddam in Iraq, Gadaffi in Libya.

But opposition to war does not mean supporting your government’s enemy. It does mean having a principled position of opposing war but not allowing the government to minimise its own role in the conflict.

Famously, the German socialist Karl Liebknecht argued that the main enemy of working people in any conflict was their own ruling class and government.

It’s worth considering who are the opponents of the anti-war movement. Every time, we have faced criticism from government, from the military, from the right-wing media and from small numbers of people on the left, who seem to have no problem with their government’s foreign policy and who sometimes call for intervention, despite the overwhelming evidence that it cannot deal with the humanitarian crises which are so much a part of modern warfare.

The failure of these wars does not mean, unfortunately, that they are going to stop.

The breakdown of the ceasefire in Syria may lead to a deepening of the war. The imminent attack on Isis-controlled Mosul is already creating a humanitarian crisis.

We need to strengthen anti-war ideas and activity because another decade or more of this can lead to the sort of barbarism which Rosa Luxemburg predicted 100 years ago. We cannot allow that to happen.

Source: The Morning Star

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