Speeches at international anti-war conference 30.11.13

Message from Lindsey German, national convener Stop the War Coalition

A big thank you to everyone who contributed to the conference on 30 November 2013. With over 400 registrations, plus speakers, volunteers and guests, it was a great chance to discuss and debate a range of issues from drone wars to the history of British imperialism, from the Middle East to Africa. The conference heard from a number of guest speakers including US journalist Jeremy Scahill, Indian campaigner Manik Mukherjee, Diane Abbott MP, Guardian journalists Jonathan Steele and Seumas Milne, Stop the War president Tony Benn, Jean Lambert MEP and many others. The various sessions were lively and well attended.

The conference was another chance to discuss the changing situation following the Syria vote in the British parliament, which forced the US and Britain to abandon its plan for direct airstrikes. At the same time, the general feeling was that the Middle East remains highly unstable and a target for imperialism, and that there are growing tensions elsewhere, especially in the Pacific with growing conflict between China on the one hand and Japan and the US on the other.

Below is a selection of speeches from the conference. Click image to play...

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Letter to David Cameron: No UK intervention in Syria

Opinion polls show that a majority of the British public are opposed to the government escalating UK intervention in the Syrian war. On Thursday 9 May 2013 at 3pm, Stop the War Coalition delivered the following letter to David Cameron, UK prime minister, at 10 Downing Street, urging the government to abandon its interventionist policies.

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing to express our alarm at the increasing intervention by the UK government in the civil war which is now taking place in Syria. We believe that the future of Syria is for the Syrian people alone to decide, and that your actions can only worsen the situation.

Your campaign to increase the provision of arms to the Syrian opposition in response to allegations of chemical weapons being used makes no sense. There is no clear evidence that chemical weapons have been used, or by whom. Carla Del Ponte, a member of the UN Commission of Inquiry taking testimony from victims of the Syrian conflict, has recently expressed ‘strong, concrete suspicions’ that sarin nerve gas is being used by opposition forces. And even in the event that chemical weapons have been used, you have failed to make the case as to why arming one side would improve rather than aggravate the situation.

There has long been covert arming and provision of aid to the opposition by various powers, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UK, France and the US. Israel has now engaged in its second bombing raid on Syrian territory, in flagrant violation of the rules of international law.

The lifting of the EU arms embargo and the direct arming of opposition groups can only further fuel what is already a bloody civil war which is causing immense harm to many Syrians and which is threatening to further destabilise the whole region. Already fighting has spread to parts of Iraq.

The aim of the intervention so far has been to effect regime change, again illegal under international law. The solution in Syria cannot lie in further militarising the conflict, or in intervention by Western powers.

We fear that the aim of those intervening is to change the face of the Middle East, by weakening the influence of Iran through attacking its allies such as the Syrian government and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The recent Israeli air strikes on Syrian targets are part of this process and represent an act of war against another country.

We believe that it is for the people of the Middle East to decide their own future and that the Western powers have a record and history of intervention there which has been a key source of the region's problems. We also believe that majority opinion in Britain, according to recent polls, is against such intervention, especially if it is designed to effect regime change.

We therefore urge you to abandon your interventionist policy.

Yours,

Jeremy Corbyn MP Chair, Stop the War Coalition
Lindsey German Convenor, Stop the War Coalition

Afghanistan: end the war now

NATO's withdrawal of its personnel from all Afghan ministries today is an indication that they are losing control of the situation in the country.

Earlier two senior NATO officials were shot dead in the most secure section of the Interior Ministry in Kabul, itself the the most heavily guarded building in the capital.

The shootings coincided with demonstrations across the country in protest at US soldiers burning copies of the Koran. Those protests in turn indicate an intense bitterness towards the NATO forces and that the Afghan people want the occupation to end.

This is hardly surprising. The level of violence in Afghanistan has been rising year on year since 2006. Afghans have become so used to NATO attacks on their public ceremonies that, in the most contested areas, traditional outdoor weddings have all but disappeared.

Meanwhile the much promised reconstruction has not materialised and the country remains near the very bottom of the UNDP development index.

Continuing the occupation will only prolong the violence and the immiseration of the country. Isolated as they are, the foreign forces are only being kept in Afghanistan to save face for the politicians who have backed the war.

NATO forces should be withdrawn immediately in order to allow the Afghans to determine their future.

Stop the War Coalition, February 2012