Jeremy Corbyn has a habit of being on the right side of history when it comes to military interventions. The past few days have been no different.
Where Tories, LibDems – and Tom Watson – fell over themselves in their haste to praise Donald Trump’s airstrike that killed nine civilians including four children, Corbyn took time to consider his response and then issued a statement that put him head and shoulders (and torso and thighs) above them for its measured, statesmanlike and perceptive qualities:
Tuesday’s horrific chemical attack was a war crime which requires urgent independent UN investigation and those responsible must be held to account. But unilateral military action without legal authorisation or independent verification risks intensifying a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people.
What is needed instead is to urgently reconvene the Geneva peace talks and unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement of the conflict. The terrible suffering of the Syrian people must be brought to an end as soon as possible and every intervention must be judged on what contribution it makes to that outcome.
The British government should urge restraint on the Trump administration and throw its weight behind peace negotiations and a comprehensive political settlement.
Meanwhile, the blairite-permeated LCID (Labour Campaign for International Development) opted to extend its brief to international destruction by lauding the airstrikes and calling for more of the same. On Friday, it published a statement that included this:
The horrific chemical weapons attack in Idlib, undeniably committed by the Syrian regime, is yet another act of barbarity in the conflict which shows no sign of ending. For too long, the international community has stood back and done nothing, whilst hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, tortured, or forced to flee their homes.
The US. missile strikes on a Syrian government airbase should only be the start of a wider and coherent strategy to protect civilians, and ultimately to help Syrians to establish a democratic, free and socially just country. In the short term, an internationally-led no-fly zone should be set up in Idlib province as soon as possible to prevent further civilian deaths.
Where to start? Well, doubts persist whether it was a chemical weapons attack and, if it was, whether it was delivered by the Assad regime, as a former British Ambassador to Syria told the BBC:
If LCID want to talk about ‘acts of barbarity’, airstrikes in retaliation that kill 9 civilians including 4 children, all for an incident nobody knows who’s to blame for, would qualify.
And to advocate a no-fly zone that would bring UK and other western military aircraft into potential conflict with the Russian fighters already operating in the area demonstrates a naivety that can only be considered either astonishing or, more likely, wilful.
Not only that, but around the time LCID were issuing this gem, even American media were questioning the legality of the airstrikes, which did not follow the usual constitutional procedures.
A rush to support a US president in an illegal military operation and to ignore obvious commonsense to call for its escalation – now where have we seen that before? Perhaps this was some blairite version of a tribute band.
Happily for almost everyone, it seems the vast majority of the PLP (parliamentary Labour party) agreed. In spite of the statement being up for two days now, only a handful of people have signed up to support it – and only 19 MPs.
The list of MPs is a line-up of the ‘Usual Progress Suspects, all known to be keen on a bit of bombing – but it appears that the remainder of MPs were unwilling to join them in their foolishness and preferred to stay on the same side of history as Corbyn.
Just like one of those old Carry On films, where the massed ranks of soldiers all step back to leave one hapless ‘volunteer’, the majority of Labour MPs were sensible enough to step back, away from a call that could only result in more deaths of innocents – leaving the few who just can’t resist a bit of military action standing exposed.
Corbyn, meanwhile, looked like the only statesman in the [Westminster] village – and reminded everyone why they voted for him in the first place – and why he’s so highly regarded by even honest Tories like Oborne and Hitchens.
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