Bring them home

The Guardian is trying to spin that the public support the war in Afghanistan. I don’t know anyone who understands why the troops are there – the reasons keep changing. First it was to get Bin Laden, then to help kids go to school – now what?

The Morning Star isn’t spinning anything – which is probably why the newspaper reviews on Sky or BBC News don’t feature the country’s socialist daily.

Here’s their editorial:

Put a stop to blood-letting

Sunday 12 July 2009

We make no apologies for returning to the subject of Afghanistan for two days in quick succession in this column.

For, hard on the heels of Saturday’s editorial came one of the most ludicrous statements ever made by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, closely followed by yet more drivel from Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth.

This was supplemented by a contribution from US President Barack Obama which purported to be an expression of sympathy to the families of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan but was clearly an attempt to back up his faithful British lapdog Brown.

A total of 184 British servicemen and women have now been killed in Afghanistan since operations began in 2001 – surpassing the death toll of 179 in Iraq.

And for what? Messrs Brown, Ainsworth and Obama assure us that it is to prevent al-Qaida attacks in London, New York and points west.

But quite how this is to be done is always conveniently glossed over, and to claim a developing success on the back of the bloodiest week of the entire campaign is as cynical as it is unworthy.

The identification of the Taliban with al-Qaida exists only in the imagination of Western politicians.

For, if al-Qaida is anything at all, it is an organisation that exists across borders with no direct national links to any one country.

Its mobility, flexibility and lack of a national identity mean that, quite simply, it cannot be defeated by conventional military action and any attempt to do so is doomed to failure.

It is undoubtedly in political, not military, actions that any resolution to the problem exists.

And it is not the British army’s task to deliver civilian aid and economic development, the objectives that first John Reid and latterly Mr Ainsworth have identified.

One wonders at the lack of ability to learn from earlier mistakes of our political figureheads.

Can Mr Brown, not a fool by anyone’s standards, really not see that al-Qaida was not a problem in Iraq until the war began? Why can’t he draw the obvious conclusion that a similar intervention in Afghanistan will result in a similar outcome?

And can he really believe that, in the highly unlikely event of any great military success by Britain and the US, al-Qaida will vanish from the scene entirely?

No-one involved in international politics can surely be that foolish or that naive.

And what happens if the Western allies drive al-Qaida elements from Afghanistan into Pakistan?

Neither Mr Brown nor Mr Obama can surely be reckless enough to believe that their war without end can be extended into that country.

No, the answer to the growing problem of Islamist terrorism does not lie in the military might of the West, but in international politics.

It lies in justice for the Palestinians and the establishment of a Palestinian state, in controlling Israel and guaranteeing the integrity of Palestinian borders.

Islamist terrorism arose from a sense of massive injustice at the maltreatment of the Palestinians and from the growing habit of the West of using Islamic countries as the site of its wars of acquisition and political control.

And it is in remedying those injustices that a solution to this problem lies.

Not in importing ever more soldiers and ever-heavier armour into a country which they cannot subdue.

And not in continuing to spill the blood of the sons and daughters of Britain onto the ground of Afghanistan, a country which is not guilty of any acts of aggression against Britain, any more than Iraq was of having weapons of mass destruction.

War without end is an unworthy means of achieving an unworthy goal. Both our own soldiers and the Afghan people deserve better of this unworthy leadership.

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Tony Benn at the Stop Gaza Massacre protest

Here is veteran socialist politician Tony Benn speaking at yesterday’s huge demonstration in London:

Recorded by Ady Cousins

Afghanistan: a war for dictatorship

Before I forget to blog on this…

First the leaked message:

A coded French diplomatic cable leaked to a French newspaper quotes the British ambassador in Afghanistan as predicting that the NATO-led military campaign against the Taliban will fail. That was not all. The best solution for the country, the ambassador said, would be installing an “acceptable dictator,” according to the newspaper.

“The current situation is bad, the security situation is getting worse, so is corruption, and the government has lost all trust,” the British envoy, Sherard Cowper-Coles, was quoted as saying by the author of the cable, François Fitou, the French deputy ambassador to Kabul.

The two-page cable – which was sent to the Élysée Palace and the French Foreign Ministry on Sept. 2, and was leaked to the investigative and satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné, which printed excerpts in its Wednesday issue – said that the NATO-led military presence was making it harder to stabilize the country.

“The presence of the coalition, in particular its military presence, is part of the problem, not part of its solution,” Sir Sherard was quoted as saying. “Foreign forces are the lifeline of a regime that would rapidly collapse without them. As such, they slow down and complicate a possible emergence from the crisis.”

Within 5 to 10 years, the only “realistic” way to unite Afghanistan would be for it to be “governed by an acceptable dictator,” the cable said, adding, “We should think of preparing our public opinion” for such an outcome.

Sir Sherard, as quoted, was critical of both American presidential candidates, who have vowed, if elected, to substantially increase American military support for Afghanistan to fight the Taliban.

In the short run, “It is the American presidential candidates who must be dissuaded from getting further bogged down in Afghanistan,” he is quoted as saying.

Then the admission from the outgoing commander of British operations in Afghanistan that the war can’t be won:

Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, the commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, whose troops have suffered severe casualties after six months of tough fighting, will hand over to 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines this month.

He told The Times that in his opinion, a military victory over the Taleban was “neither feasible nor supportable”.

“What we need is sufficient troops to contain the insurgency to a level where it is not a strategic threat to the longevity of the elected Government,” he said.

The brigadier said that his troops had “taken the sting out of the Taleban” during clashes in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, but at a heavy cost. His brigade suffered 32 killed and 170 injured during its six-month tour of duty. The 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment alone lost 11 soldiers, most of them killed by roadside bombs or other explosive devices.

Why is an English parliament beyond the Tories’ Ken?

Consider the following:

Unpopular “reforms” such as Foundation Hospitals, student top-up fees, and the new undemocratic Planning Bill – have been imposed on England by the votes of Scottish Labour MPs.

If Camoron’s New Tories are really nicey-nicey, they’d want this anomaly to be resolved: it’s not very democratic is it? It’s rather nasty, in fact…

But no, not quite. Rather than simply support devolution for England (they didn’t support it for Scotland or Wales, either!) they Tories want to save their beloved Union. It’s the only union they support – though I suppose Ken and co are fans of the European Union…

So, instead of an easy-to-understand proposal for an English parliament, we have the confusing report from Ken Clarke – which might not even be adopted by the Tories as party policy, despite Camoron asking Clarke to come up with some ideas on the West Lothian Question. No, really:

For matters relating solely to England, only English MPs should vote, while English and Welsh MPs alone should vote on issues only affecting those two countries, it argues.

MPs from all countries could later vote to pass or reject the bill as a whole, the committee adds.

Mr Herbert seemed to agree in principle, saying: “Just as most of Scotland’s laws are now passed with the consent of the Scottish people, expressed through their elected representatives, so it is right to require English consent for laws affecting only England – or English and Welsh consent for laws affecting only England and Wales.”

The proposals will not necessarily become Conservative policy, although party leader David Cameron himself set up Mr Clarke’s Democracy Taskforce to come up with usable ideas.

Mr Clarke said his plan was a “compromise”, more workable than simply banning MPs from other countries from voting on England-only laws, and that this would help preserve the Union of England and Scotland.

The ideas comes amid concerns that the Scottish devolution settlement has created two classes of MP.

In Scotland, legislation on issues such as health and education are controlled by the country’s own parliament at Holyrood.

But policy for England is decided by the full Westminster parliament, with MPs from all parts of the UK able to vote.

Since some powers were devolved to the Holyrood parliament, there have been calls for just MPs with English constituencies to vote on England-only matters, or even the setting-up of a separate English parliament.

Discontented generals enter into politics, again

[Thursday]

Now, given that the WRP’s view in the 70s that the UK was headed for military dictatorship wasn’t all that crazy in retrospect (see the Clockwork Orange smear campaign and the plot against the Labour government of Harold Wilson) this story from their daily, The News Line, should be cause for alarm:

Discontented generals enter into politics
THE formation of the United Kingdom National Defence Association (UKNDA) led by ex-chiefs of the general staff and politicians such as David Owen is a clear break from Britain’s bourgeois parliamentary tradition, and is a move towards a new form of rule in Britain.

Since the 1640s, when the New Model Army purged the House of Commons and forced through the execution of King Charles 1, and formed the English Republic, the British bourgeoisie has had a horror of political armies.

Since then it has always stressed that the armed forces are the servant of the British government and that their duty is to carry out the instructions of their political masters, a role that the army has been content to carry out, till recently.

In the period when British imperialism ruled the world there was no problem with this approach.

The bourgeoisie provided the armed forces with the tools, and the army did the job, defending the empire, which the British bosses were super-exploiting, from their rivals, whether they were German, Japanese or the national revolutionary movements.

Even when the Tories, under MacMillan, declared that Britain’s role east of Suez was over, the military chiefs bit their lips and loyally supported the withdrawal from Malaya, Singapore and Aden.

It was when Britain, much reduced in economic stature, surfaced under Tony Blair as the ‘partner’ of the US and its grandiose plans to reorder the world, and the British military was called upon to punch well above its weight, that the military revolt began.

Just before Iraq was invaded in 2003, the military command demanded assurances from the Prime Minister that the war was ‘legal’ and that the US-UK defiance of the United Nations would not land them in the ‘next cell to Milosevic’ as the matter was put by a leading British commander.

The illegal war has however done much more than land an officer in prison, it has demoralised sections of the officer corps and broken the Territorial Army, and the process of demoralising the officer corps is continuing in Afghanistan.

Now we have an army whose chiefs hold that they have been ‘betrayed by the politicians’, or as another theme would have it ‘been let down by the country’ which has not provided them with the tools and the manpower to do the job.

It is a process that is paralleled by the emergence of political police chiefs who demand of parliament that it legislates to satisfy their requirements.

The emergence of political army officers and police chiefs is a semblance of a move from a bourgeois democracy to an open dictatorship that the downsized British bourgeoisie requires to stay in power.

This is the essence of the emergence of the group of former senior military leaders and politicians such as David Owen and Winston Churchill who have formed the UK National Defence Association (UKNDA) and who want the military budget increased from 2.0 per cent (£34 billion) of Britain’s GDP to a figure put between three per cent and five per cent.

Other prominent supporters of the group include Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6, and Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP who serves as a defence adviser to the prime minister Gordon Brown.

The UKNDA president, Winston Churchill – grandson of the UK’s prime minister during World War II – said: ‘At the time of the Falklands 25 years ago we were spending five per cent of our gross domestic product on defence.’ However a name asssociated with the past does not equal the recreation of the past.

They want guns not butter, and their wish for a rebirth of the power of British imperialism can only be achieved by slashing the health and education budgets and smashing the Welfare State.

British imperialism is in its death agony. The role of the working class is to bury it to go forward to a socialist society. The moment when this will have to be done is fast approaching.