By Shaun van Eeden
A couple of weeks ago blogger Paul Canning published an article attacking Stop the War Coalition (StWC) and its Convenor Lindsey German branding her ‘a thug, an accomplice’. This was retweeted by Peter Tatchell, the activist who disrupted Jeremy Corbyn’s speech on Human Rights Day.
In my previous blog post I referred to the ‘humanitarian interventionists’ in Parliament, who were attempting to justify illegal military intervention on human rights grounds, and today I turn to someone ‘on the left’. Paul Canning’s article is misleading, and plays hard and fast with the truth.
This week as the massacre of men, women and children has been live on the Internet UK MPs from all parties bar UKIP have urged aid for civilian protection on the British government.
It isn’t actually clear what this means. What is ‘aid for civilian protection on the British government’? Aid is aid, and civilian protection is something very different – something that would entail military intervention against the Syrian or Russian military for which there is currently no legal validity. He then goes on to quote Lyndsey German as follows:
In response to Parliament one of the loudest leaders of the Stop The War Coalition (StWC), Lindsey German, said:
Every time they get the chance, MPs rush to promote further intervention and to justify past ones.
To her organisation the use of the UK’s armed forces to meet the requests of Syrians, such as those articulated by SyriaUK, is ‘intervention’.
Firstly, the point she made is identical to the one I made in my previous post about those with hawkish foreign policy aims misusing the humanitarian situations to justify the use of, often illegal, force, whilst ignoring the past interventions that have caused more harm than good.
Secondly, I’m not sure what point he is trying to make about ‘intervention’. Is flying an RAF drone in sovereign territory not an intervention?
Thirdly, Paul Canning implies above, as he does throughout the article, that the voice of SyriaUK is the only legitimate voice of the Syrian people. It is very misleading to imply that one voice in a civil war such as this is the legitimate one – I’m sure that Syria UK speaks for many Syrians – but it certainly doesn’t speak for all of them.
The way that he has structured this section is an attempt to imply that StWC and Lyndsey German don’t want to help the victims of these crimes. But does that hold weight? German ends the article referenced by Canning by saying:
We should be calling for an end to the war, with a ceasefire and attempt at a political solution, an end to all outside intervention on whatever side, and for humanitarian aid to those who need it. We should also allow Syrian refugees into Britain, something these hypocritical MPs have no intention of doing.
She really showed her true colours as a ‘thug’ and an ‘accomplice’.
Canning then states that StWC:
is the group which also opposed the use of those UK armed forces to defend Yazidis under genocidal threat from ISIS. This is the group which opposed any aid to Mali when is was faced with occupation by the same sort of Islamists.
The first article provides a critique of StWC’s opposition to UK armed intervention in Iraq to defend the Yazidis in 2014. In this instance, there was no UN Security Council permission to intervene at the time, so had the western states not obtained Iraqi government consent the armed intervention would have been illegal under international law. But the law aside– to Western Commentators our military interventions are always benign. The author, influential Liberal Democrat Mark Pack, stated the following within the same article:
Nor was military action in the form of air strikes sufficient. It was the trio of humanitarian aid, forces on the ground and air support which overall saved lives and made a horrendous situation far less bad. That has been in my mind recently during the Liberal Democrat debates over Syria. Anyone uttering with confidence that air strikes never help should bear in mind the lesson of the Mount Sinjar, amongst others.
To point to the mount Sinjar intervention in this way for its success, whilst ignoring the implications of our interventions elsewhere in the region, is irresponsible. What happened to the people of Libya when our government claimed it was their intention to protect them from Gaddafi? What happened to the people of Iraq when our government claimed it was their intention to protect them and us from Saddam?
The second article referenced by Paul Canning is included to support his statement that StWC opposed ‘any aid to Mali’ is a link to his own previous blog post which would more accurately be described as a rant against Glenn Greenwald, but provides not a shred of evidence that StWC opposed ‘any aid’ – I assume that Paul has once again conflated ‘aid’ with ‘military intervention’. Two very different things – the latter being prohibited under Art 2(4) of the UN Charter but for few exceptions.
The article then quotes ‘Socialist Gabriel Levy’ in a post that sums up the true reason Canning has such an issue with StWC’s approach:
I have gone through the last six months of statements on Syria by the “Stop the War” coalition, looking in vain for any mention that the main responsibility for the assault on civilians this year is borne by the Syrian and Russian forces. If anyone’s seen one, please let me know. There are repeated calls for “all” intervening forces to withdraw and underlining the role of US, British and other forces (but not Russian ones).
Assuming that Canning approves of the above statement about StWC’s position, we can deduce the following:
1) That Canning accepts that StWC have called for ‘all intervening forces to withdraw’ including Russia
2) On that basis, that Canning’s issue is not that StWC is failing to condemn Russia but that they are failing to condemn Russia independently of the West’s military actions, which it opposes.
3) This brings us to the crux of the issue with humanitarian interventionists such as Canning. Within his approach is the underlying assumption that the West’s intentions and interventions are benign. That their military actions are humanitarian – in face of the mountains of evidence showing that this faith is misplaced.
StWC urges us as people to reflect not only on the crimes of our perceived enemies, but also on our own. Canning has whitewashed the intervention currently ongoing in Iraq, Mosul in particular which Amnesty International warned ‘threatens to become a humanitarian disaster’. I fail to see any mention in his article about the children in Mosul being dragged from the rubble of their homes, or those decapitated by mortar fire. Whilst he brands StWC ‘excusers of war, excusers of massacres, excusers of genocide’ he forgets to mention that they were this country’s main opposition to a war which killed a million people in Iraq. We should not let this kind of slander drag StWC’s name through the mud nor should we accept a distortion of the truth in relation to ‘humanitarian intervention’. As long as we continue to whitewash our record of self-serving interventions in the Middle East there will those willing to capitalise on it in order to justify more wars.