Saturday, 1 June 2013

MPs still speak out against our wars

Earlier this week former British soldier Joe Glenton  -  who showed his integrity in being prepared to go to jail to defend his principled stance in opposing the war in Afghanistan in refusing to return having served one tour of duty there - said in an article in The Guardian (“The roots of this hatred,“ 24 May)  “the anti-war view finds no expression in Parliament."
John Pilger similarly asserted in a subsequent article that at Westminster "the faraway violence of 'our  values'"is of  no interest." ("We've  moved on from the war. Iraqis  don't  have that choice," May 27).
In my view, both are wrong to make such sweeping statements.
The problem is the under, and indeed, non-reportage of dissent by MPs against  our foreign adventures, not its non-existence.
There was both a strong anti-invasion/war group of MPs in Parliament before , during and after the Afghan and Iraq invasions. The Lib Dems opposed the Iraq invasion vociferously, as did many Labour backbenchers and also Robin Cook, who resigned from the Cabinet to voice his opposition.
Labour Against the War, was created, led by former MP Alan Simpson, to continue the opposition after the invasions.
Much more recently, in March, a cross party group of backbencher MPs  -including two Conservatives, one Labour and Green MP Caroline Lucas (whose political work was so admired by Russell brand, 25 May)- tried to get the Iraq war debated in Parliament on the 10th anniversary of the invasion via the new back bench business committee  which choses subjects for debate, but was turned down.
When this failure was raised with leader of the House of Commons, Andrew Lansley, by Labour veteran backbencher, Paul Flynn in mid-March, he was told:
“a number of Members made an application for such a debate to the Backbench Business Committee a number of weeks ago. Such a debate has not been timetabled. I will reiterate what I said before: it is important to debate these issues, but we are aware of the prospect of a report from the Chilcot inquiry and the importance of debating those issues in the light of that report.”
(Hansard, 21 March: Column 1068)

The problem isn't MPs haven't opposed the wars, but the small coterie of MPs having a "gatekeeper" role in Westminster, and party leaderships that control the business  agenda for debates in Parliament, oppose the issue being debated, because their position is essentially indefensible, and they don’t want that being made transparent to the country.
Paul Flynn recalled  on his blog this week ( that in late March 2003 he wrote to Tony Blair PM about Iraq observing:
Our involvement in Bush’s war will increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks. Attacking a Muslim state without achieving a fair settlement of the Palestine–Israeli situation is an affront to Muslims, from our local mosques to the far-flung corners of the world. A pre-emptive attack of the kind we have made on Iraq will only deepen the sense of grievance among Muslims that the Western/Christian/Jewish world is out to oppress them. This will provide a propaganda victory to Osama Bin Laden and can only increase his support and the likelihood of more acts of terrorism.

Perhaps in light of recent tragic events the back bench business committee will now reconsider its earlier rejection of a topical debate?

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