I have always been ideologically opposed to war and all the horrors that flow in its wake: agonising fear and death, famine, displacement, maiming, torture, rape, internment and the breakdown of all the hard-won values of civilised human law and behaviour.
Looking back, I think that was partly why I was attracted to work in diplomacy and how I ended up being enticed into intelligence. These worlds, although by no means perfect, could conceivably be seen as the last-ditch defences before a country goes bellowing into all-out war.
I marched against the Iraq war, toured the UK to speak at Stop the War meetings, worked with Make Wars History, and have ceaselessly spoken out and written about these and related issues.
Today in the UK we have reached a consensus that Blair’s government lied to the country into the Iraq war on the false premise of weapons of mass destruction, and subsequently enabled the Bush administration to do the same in the USA, hyping up the threat of a nuclear Iraq using false intelligence provided by MI6.
Millions of people marched then, and millions of people continue to protest against the ongoing engorgement of the military/intelligence complex, but nothing ever seems to change. It’s democratically disempowering and an enervating experience. What can we do about it?
I have a couple of suggestions (The New Stuff), but first let’s look at some of the most egregious current fake realities.
Last year we had the spectacle of the current No 10 incumbent, Dave Cameron, stating that the Libyan intervention would be nothing like Iraq – it would be “necessary, legal and right”. But there was no subsequent joined-up thinking, and Blair and his cronies have still not been held to account for the Iraq genocide, despite prima facie breaches of international war law and of the Official Secrets Act….
But help might be at hand for those interested in justice, courtesy of Abdel Hakim Belhaj, former Libyan Islamic Fighting Group leader, MI6 kidnapping and torture victim, and current military commander in Tripoli.
After NATO’s humanitarian bombing of Libya last year and the fall of Gaddafi’s regime, some seriously embarrassing paperwork was found in the abandoned office of Libyan Foreign Minister and former spy head honcho, Musa Kusa (who fled to the UK and subsequently on to Qatar).
These letters, sent in 2004 by former MI6 Head of Terrorism and current BP consultant, Sir Mark Allen, gloatingly offer up the hapless Belhaj to the Libyans for torture. It almost seems like MI6 wanted a gold star from their new bestest friends.
Belhaj, understandably, is still slightly peeved about this and is now suing MI6. As a result, a frantic damage-limitation exercise is going on, with MI6 trying to buy his silence with a million quid, and scattering unattributed quotes across the British media: “it wasn’t us, gov, it was the, er, government….”.
Which drops either (or both) Tony Blair and Jack Straw eyebrow-deep in the stinking cesspit. One or other of them should have signed off on Belhaj’s kidnapping, knowing he would be tortured in Tripoli. Or perhaps they actually are innocent of this….. but if they didn’t sign off on the Belhaj extraordinary kidnapping, then MI6 was running rampant, working outside the law on their watch.
Either way, there are serious questions to be answered.
Both these upstanding politicians are, of course, suffering from political amnesia about this case. In fact, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary at the time of the kidnapping, has said that he cannot have been expected to know everything the spies got up to – even though that was precisely his job, as he was responsible for them under the terms of the Intelligence Security Act 1994, and should certainly have had to clear an operation so politically sensitive.
In the wake of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, what worries me now is that exactly the same reasons, with politicians mouthing exactly the same platitudinous “truths”, are being pushed to justify an increasingly inevitable strike against Iran.
Depressing as this all is, I would suggest that protesting each new, individual war is not the necessarily the most effective response. Just as the world’s markets have been globalised, so manifestly to the benefit of all we 99%-ers, have many other issues.
Unlike Dave Cameron, we need to apply some joined-up thinking. Global protest groups need to counter more than individual wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, Sudan (North and South), Syria, Iran…… sorry, I’m getting writer’s cramp just enumerating all the current wars.
Give me a while to overcome my moral spasm, and I shall return with a few suggestions about possible ways forward – 21st Century Pacifism; the New Stuff.