The chorus of attacks on the Stop the War Coalition in recent weeks is a reflection of the weakness of the government’s case for war. British Prime Minister David Cameron failed to get cross-party consensus in the vote for war in parliament. A large majority of Labour MPs, as well as the Scottish National Party, Plaid, and the Greens voted against airstrikes, as did a majority of the shadow cabinet. They did so following the lead of Jeremy Corbyn. Polls show opinion moving rapidly against support for the war.
While most of our critics have supported all the wars of this century in the face of growing evidence that they have failed, the Stop the War Coalition has a proud record of campaigning against wars since the start of what was originally called “the war on terror.” We opposed the war in Afghanistan, begun in 2001, arguing that it would neither bring peace to that country nor decrease the threat of terrorism. That war continues, with the Taliban resurgent and now the rise of Islamic State.
We opposed the war in Iraq. We, along with Jeremy Corbyn, argued that the dossier which contained supposed evidence of weapons of mass destruction was not convincing, and that it provided no case for going to war. We have been proved right and our critics wrong. There were no weapons of mass destruction, but our invasion and occupation helped lay waste to Iraq and to increase its sectarian divisions. ISIS originated in Iraq during that failed occupation. It was the child of war.
We mobilized huge numbers in Britain including 2 million on the streets of London on February 15, 2003 as part of a 30-million-strong international day of protest against war in Iraq. Tony Blair ignored those protests and took us into a disastrous and illegal war for which we are all still paying the price.
We opposed the bombing of Libya in 2011, an attack headed by David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. We were told this was necessary to stop a humanitarian disaster in Libya. In fact thirty thousand died as a result of the bombing and now, nearly five years later, the country is locked in a civil war, has two rival governments, and is a center of Islamic terrorist organization.
The politicians who voted for further war last week fail to acknowledge the dismal record of previous interventions. Many of them are the same people who were the cheerleaders for the war in Iraq.
Stop the War is always accused of supporting those that our government opposes. This is far from the truth — we oppose both terrorism and dictatorship, but believe foreign intervention does nothing to deal with them. With the latest air strikes in Syria, our opponents accuse of supporting both ISIS terrorists and Assad at the same time.
We have always objected to the way that current wars are justified by reference to the Second World War. Bin Laden, Hussein, Gaddafi, Assad, or ISIS — none of them are Hitler. Hitler ruled one of the major military powers in the world and occupied most of Europe. Calls to fight fascism as a justification of these current wars might convince MPs with little grasp of history, but they only serve to obscure the real situation.
We predicted back in 2001 that the war on terror would increase racism against Muslims and that it would lead to attacks on civil liberties. There has in fact been a major increase in attacks on Muslims, especially Muslim women, and a rise in racism. This has been accompanied by a worrying increase in support for the far right across much of Europe, most recently in France.
Stop the War has been the subject of repeated attacks and witch hunts in recent weeks centered around two mistakenly reposted articles that were quickly withdrawn, and the fact that some of our supporters have had the temerity to lobby their parliamentary representatives. Wild claims of intimidation of MPs have been shown to have been falsified.
This smear campaign is being pursued by MPs and journalists to discredit the antiwar cause and champion the fourth war on a Muslim country in fourteen years. We assure them that it will not deter us from continuing our campaign against successive governments’ foreign policy which has worsened the situation in the Middle East and made the whole world more dangerous. We are encouraged by rapidly increasing membership, a huge spike in donations, and growing support for our protests.