Jeremy Corbyn MP, who has recently been elected National Chair of Stop the War Coalition, reflects on ten years of the campaign to oppose government war policies.
By Jeremy Corbyn MP
5 October 2011
Britain never learns from history. Its forces were routed in Afghanistan in the 19th century, when it was fell between the rival British and Russian empires.
Even in the 1892 Russia speculated over Afghanistan's huge mineral potential and plotted its exploitation.
Today, over a century later, the embattled and utterly discredited Karzai government is carving out concessions to global mining companies which want to plunder the country's wealth.
Yet its tragic history shows the devastation that inevitably follows imperial adventures in Afghanistan. After the Soviet Union went in to support Najibullah in 1979 it suffered terrible losses which helped bring it down.
It became an increasingly intense cold war battleground. US support and the CIA operations that served as inspiration for some Rambo films established the mojahedin as a fighting force. They in turn gave birth to the Taliban.
It was at this point that following the 2001 World Trade Centre atrocity George W Bush decided there had to be a war. He was advised to invade Afghanistan despite the fact that Osama bin Laden, Bush's sworn enemy, was actually driven by opposition to the US military presence in Saudi Arabia.
Blair was fastest off the blocks of all the European leaders. First to Washington, first to promise troops, first to promise new anti-terror laws - in short he couldn't wait to get to war.
Now, after 10 years, we see the results. Thousands of Afghans are dead. War and poverty claims more Afghan lives every day. Over 400 British and 4,000 US citizens are dead. Warlords are in charge, there is corruption on a grand scale and every day brings more bombs and destruction. We are asked to believe that the war is for "our safety."
Within days of September 11 2001 Congress had given Bush exceptional and extraordinary powers. Only the very brave Barbara Lee opposed the measures. Arms dealers were given their biggest ever orders for planes, bombs, missiles surveillance equipment and all the must-haves of 21st century warfare.
Ten years later Sky News and the BBC compete for ratings with reality TV shows depicting the lives of soldiers and the dangers they face. It is hard not to sympathise for anybody in that situation, but it is important to step back a little.
Many of the ideals to which the Taliban subscribe may be reactionary, but there are many in Afghanistan who see them as defenders of their independence from the West. Indeed many returning soldiers have said as much.
All over the region drones are replacing fighters and death is rained down on villages from a computer centre in the US Midwest.
At some point in the next few years the US and Britain will withdraw and leave behind corruption and mercenaries - sorry, security companies - and mining firms attempting to leach the wealth.
This 10-year war has set the scenes for others in Iraq and in Libya. It has generated a new form of Western expansionism and militarisation.
But it also gave birth to the biggest anti-war movement since the Vietnam war. The Stop the War Coalition was founded at a meeting in Friends House, Euston Road, a couple of weeks after September 11. The hall was packed and people were forced to stand on the streets outside.
Ever since then the coalition has mobilised for peace, justice and for a more rational approach to the world.
Hundreds of demonstrations, thousands of meetings and the record-breaking 1 million-strong march on February 15 2003 have fuelled this debate.
This Saturday, 10 years on, we are still at it. A multimedia Antiwar Mass Assembly in Trafalgar Square from 12 noon -- with films, music, poetry readings and much more -- will feature prominent figures from the world of politics, the trade unions and thed the arts. It will end at 4.00pm with a short march down Whitehall to Downing Street, led by former soldiers to deliver a message to the Prime Minister to end the Afghan war.
The billions expended on all the wars have made millionaires of a few, paupers of many and laid the bitter foundations of future conflicts. We stand for peace, for people and for a world of peace and understanding. Come and join us.
Stop the War Coalition, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the British Muslim Initiative have called a Mass Assembly in Trafalgar Square calling for troops out of Afghanistan, cuts to war not welfare and an end to the bombing of Libya. Pledge your support at antiwarassembly.org
Jeremy Corbyn MP will be at the Antiwar Mass Assembly in Trafalgar Square on 8 October.
Why YOU should join him there...