As an active member of the Stop the War coalition, and former vice-president of the group, I read with interest Boris Johnson’s comments about Stop the War yesterday, and the vicious debate they have precipitated.
In responding to Boris, I must first state that I am not speaking for Stop the War. I am speaking in a personal capacity, and am aware that many people within the movement do not support the Russian action, including Jeremy Corbyn.
Yet many people do not seem to appreciate this. They view Corbyn and Stop the War as intrinsically entwined. This popular misconception is, in my view, the reason Johnson’s comments have gained so much traction.
I am amazed people do not see the Foreign Secretary’s comments for what they are. They should see through the smoke and mirrors, and recognise this as a cack-handed attempt at party politics. They should realise that, by criticising Stop the War, Jonson is taking a thinly-veiled (and apparently ill-informed) kick at Corbyn. They should understand that Johnson is merely seeking to divide the Labour opposition, and keep the pot of dissent boiling.
But sadly it seems a few people do not see this. They believe he is actually putting his country ahead of his party. So let me reiterate a few key truths for him.
The Stop the War coalition was founded immediately after the events of 9/11 when it became clear that Britain and the US were headed for war. We organised the biggest demonstrations ever seen in this country many times over, and became the largest mass movement in British history.
Unfortunately the group’s reason for being hasn’t gone away. We are still mired in the wars it was set up to oppose 15 years ago. In the interim we have become involved in additional wars in Libya, Yemen and Syria.
There’s no likelihood of the British government losing its appetite for war, and for selling the weapons of war to even the worst dictatorships. To cite just one example, in the space of 12 months we have sold five billion dollars’ worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia. These weapons are now being used on wedding and funeral parties in Yemen and have fallen into the hands of al-Qaeda in Syria.
So it’s fair to say Stop the War is not going out of business any time soon. And the recent events in Aleppo demonstrate precisely why the group is so necessary.
People have tried to paint Stop the War a sickly shade of sycophancy, suggesting the group is apologising for Vladimir Putin by refusing to endorse protests against what’s happening in Aleppo. Well, as I have said, Stop the War is a broad coalition of people representing all kinds of views, from vicars and liberals to bishops and communists, and that’s the way it should be.
Furthermore, any rational analysis of the situation would conclude that, by taking a hard line on Bashar al-Assad, Britain and the US are helping Isis and al-Qaeda. It all comes down to the simple principle that my enemy’s enemy is my friend. This principle should have been bankrupted after the experience of Afghanistan in the 1980s, but was not.
Boris Johnson exploited the situation in Aleppo for political gain, says George Galloway (Getty)
We should be assisting all those governments fighting Isis and al-Qaeda, including the governments of Iraq and Syria, and others who have been asked by those governments to assist them, principally Russia, which has taken the fight to the extremists with extreme aggression, aggression which is fully justified.
I want to see every last terrorist lying dead on the ground, and I absolutely support military action against Isis and al-Qaeda wherever they raise their ugly heads, wherever they cut the heads off others. But I can’t support military action that aids and abets these groups.
I may say that only a few weeks ago Boris Johnson was saying exactly this. He seemed to realise that Russia was killing terrorists, and even praised Putin’s “ruthless clarity” in getting rid of the jihadists. But in exchange for the blue ribbon of office, he has changed his tune. Well I haven’t changed mine, and I’m confident that I am speaking for many Stop the War colleagues here.
It will be interesting to see how many people follow Bullingdon Boris on his posh boys’ demo outside the Russian embassy, donning their dinner jackets and clutching their cocktails. Not many, I suspect.
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