Monday, 22 August 2016

Corbyn's correct condemnation of human rights abuses by dictators militarily backed by Britain

Letter to the Times:

Oliver Kamm  (“Corbyn’s pacifism is the ultimate betrayal,” The Times, 22 August, makes the most extraordinarily inaccurate criticism of Jeremy Corbyn in asserting “he is incurious about the outside world.”

The demonstrable truth is Corbyn is probably the most internationalist of all MPs. Let me highlight just one of many international matters with which he has politically engaged while in Parliament, when many  MPs have ignored them.

in Halabja, in Kurdish Iraq, on 16 March 1988 nearly 5,000 civilians were killed on the spot. A further 10,000 were left with serious injuries that affect their lives to this day.

Within a week, Jeremy Corbyn, as a humble Labour backbencher, had raised the plight of the Iraqi Kurds in Parliament, drawing attention of Government ministers to his early day motion (EDM) no.868 which asserted in part “that this House [of Commons] is alarmed at the continuing persecution of Kurdish people in Iraq ..demands that Her Majesty's Government request the United Nations to send an independent mission to Iraq to seek safeguards for the Kurdish people and that the International Red Cross be requested to send essential supplies to save the lives of Kurdish people in Iraq” (Hansard, 24 March 1988;

Subsequently, Corbyn, representing one of the areas in the UK with the highest concentration of Kurdish and Turkish inhabitants, regularly drew attention to the Kurdish repression in Iraq, eg in an other EDM (No.867 on 15 March 1994 – backed by 35 mainly  Labour MPs - that recalled “ with horror the gas attack against the people of Halabja in 1988 by the Ba’athist regime of Iraq”

In a Parliamentary debate on Kurdistan three years ago Corbyn recalled a delegation he and fellow Labour MP Ann Clwyd led in the months following the Halabja massacre to both the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and Industry “to suggest that we should not take part in the Baghdad arms fair in 1989. “ He noted “We suggested that they should suspend all arms trade with Iraq and were rebuffed by [Conservative] Ministers on that occasion.” (Hansard, 28 February 2013: Column 543)

Corbyn added “we both frequently raised the issue, including in the British media. Although the lack of knowledge among much of the public is understandable because of how the media failed to report things, we must be honest that it took a long time for most of the media and the political establishment in this country to cotton on to what was happening to the Kurdish people in Iraq. To be honest, a lot of British Government policy was blindsided by their obsession with supporting Iraq.” (Hansard, 28 Feb. 2013: Column 551)

But the US Pentagon "wasn't so horrified by Iraq's use of gas," one of the veterans of the US Defense Intelligence Agency programme later told the Times. "It was just one more way of killing people-whether with a bullet or phosgene, it didn't make any difference."(Dissent Magazine, Summer 2003,

American political historian Roger Morris, in a revealing Op-ed analysis (A Tyrant 40 Years in the Making,” New York Times 14 March 2003, wrote

“As its instrument the C.I.A. had chosen the authoritarian and anti-Communist Baath Party, in 1963 still a relatively small political faction influential in the Iraqi Army. According to the former Baathist leader Hani Fkaiki, among party members colluding with the C.I.A. in 1962 and 1963 was Saddam Hussein, then a 25-year-old who had fled to Cairo after taking part in a failed assassination of Kassem in 1958.”

That is, Saddam, the mass murderer, was “our” dictator.

Corbyn has regularly raised the rights of the dispossessed, such as the Ilois people of Diego Garcia in the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean, forcibly removed from their homeland in the late 1960s  to make room for a British military airbase (currently loaned to the US for nuclear-armed long –range bombers) and other downtrodden people whose voice would otherwise never be heard.


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