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Showing posts with label Holyrood Iraq debate 2003. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holyrood Iraq debate 2003. Show all posts

Friday, 2 March 2012

Douglas Alexander’s speech to conference - takes refuge in the fiction of Labour internationalism

Douglas Alexander’s theme is simple – an independent Scotland would be narrowly nationalistic. The UK -  i.e. Labour in government or Labour influencing government in Westminster - is internationalist, not nationalistic.

The central theme is untrue, and therefore everything that flows from it is untrue. From the flawed premise, the flawed conclusions flow, in a gooey mix of sentimentality and nostalgia, an anecdotal, selective mix, posing as history.

The UK is a nation, behaves as a nation, but on occasion acts internationally from altruistic, internationalist motives. Scotland will be an independent nation, will behave as an independent nation, but on occasion, will act from altruistic, internationalist motives.

The other argument, that the UK can be more effectively internationalist because of its greater size than Scotland is an argument that can be honestly advanced, even though the facts of history do not support it.

Let’s take Alexander’s early examples -

Does he think that the Scots who were part of the International Brigade to fight fascism would not have done so had Scotland been an independent country in the 1930s?

Does he think that Scotland, never mind just the City of Glasgow would not have embraced Nelson Mandela in the 1980s? You have a short and selective memory, Douglas – I do not. The Glasgow decision was widely derided by the very nation he holds up for our admiration – the UK, still in the grip of its late Empire delusions and deeply confused about South Africa and Mandela. Of course an independent, internationalist, social democratic Scotland would have embraced Mandela.

Does he think that the morality of Gordon Brown in working to write off the debt of the world’s poorest countries – an admirable morality that regrettably was not matched by his or his government’s economic competence in their own country – would not be the same morality that will drive an independent Scotland, an inclusive Scotland that will embrace the very same Labour people that once had such values, and who will recover and reassert them in the new Scotland.

Does he think that an independent Scotland would not make the same demand that a Labour government made at the Gleneagles Summit in 2005? Of course it would, but more effectively than that Summit, when one considers what followed it – utter failure and near-global meltdown from 2008 onwards.

Alexander asserts, with justification, that he and his parent’s horizons – “like millions of their fellow Scots” – were never limited to one community or one country. Nor will they be after independence, Douglas, especially when freed from the suffocating jingoism and Little Englandism that is the UK.

And an independent Scotland will not express its wide international horizons by launching an illegal invasion and an illegal war that brought death and destruction to millions in Iraq, destabilised the Middle East and brought endemic terrorism and paranoia to the United Kingdom. Tony Blair’s immoral and destructive internationalism are carefully airbrushed out of Douglas Alexander’s high-minded and selective agenda.

From the Eurozone Crisis to the Environment, from Export Markets to Mass Migration, interdependence – not independence - is the hallmark of our age.”

So says Douglas – and he’s right. He has missed out the part that includes countries across the globe throwing off suffocating and corrupt regimes that stifle their instincts for a national independence allied to a recognition of true interdependence.

Alexander is part of a nation that is the rump of an empire that denied all of these freedoms, and imposed its exploitative will for centuries on large tracts of our world – a rump that currently has a Coalition Government that is deeply divided over Europe and that very interdependence that he extols. And his own party is not free from such insularity and euro paranoia either.

But Douglas Alexander does eventually drop the Labour –as-internationalist-party stuff, and gets to the nub of his real argument – bigger is better.

DA:If we want to advance international cooperation: Britain has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. A separate Scotland would not.”

Scotland at the moment has no influence at the moment as a result of that UN seat. It has had no influence under successive governments, and indeed it was the Labour Government of Blair and Brown that chose to ignore the UN and its mandate when they launched the Iraq War on a lie in conjunction with a right-wing American regime.

DA:If we want to strengthen our collective security: Britain has a permanent seat on the Council of NATO.”

The same arguments as above apply, Labour and Lord George Robertson notwithstanding. What has been delivered to Scotland by NATO? Defending it from a non-existent threat? Parking outmoded and strategically irrelevant WMDs in Scottish waters, making us a prime target for a nuclear exchange, and polluting our environment? Imposing a crippling financial burden on the UK as a whole and on  Scotland to support these weapons systems?

I have already said a fair amount about the internationalist fiction that drives – and has driven Labour – for most of its history. The nonsensical contradictions of Labour’s internationalist posturing were evident in the post-war period and during the Cold War. They reached their nadir in Iraq and Afghanistan.

See my blog of 10th January 2012 -

Labour's last redoubt - internationalism

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The poppy and pro-war propaganda

I have written on the poppy and the war before, and most of what I say below I have said before. But it needs to be said again.


These are my uncles – Peter and Edward McCluskey.

They volunteered as teenagers for service in the Great War – they didn’t have to fight, they weren’t conscripted, there was no military tradition in their family, they were both born in Glasgow, and both of their parents – my grandparents – were Southern Irish, and had no love for England or the UK. They fought for Scotland, the country of their birth.

Both died before their time, indirectly as a result of their injuries in that appalling war - Eddie at the age of 28 and Peter well after World War Two. I never knew my Uncle Eddie, but my Uncle Petie was a familiar figure during my childhood. He rarely spoke of his experiences, but was horrified when WW2 broke out and he saw his younger cousins Gerard and Peter, whom he had taken into his home after they lost their father, conscripted into the Highland Light Infantry and the RAF respectively. He spent the war crouched at the radio, following every report, devastated at the casualties and praying for peace.

Peter McCluskey was moved to tears each Armistice Day, and maintained the two minutes silence, but he would not have been seen dead wearing a poppy – he felt that this potent symbol of life, rising from the blasted earth of the battlefields, amid the corpses of his comrades, had been debased by its association with Earl Haig and that it had been hijacked by militaristic politicians.

Hence my identical feelings about the poppy, reinforced by experiences in industry and commerce, where people who never had a thought for others, or the dead, or any injustice, who never contributed a penny to funds for wounded and disabled ex-servicemen, suddenly acquired a poppy in November, and accosted me, asking “Why aren’t you wearing your poppy, Peter?” They wore their poppy like they acquired their golf handicap – it was the career-wise move.

They got a dusty answer, plus, on more than one occasion the challenge from me to write a cheque there and then for an ex-serviceman's charity and I would match it. I never had an acceptance …


If we send young men and women, in the flower of the youth, to place themselves in harm’s way, risking death or serious injury in the service of the nation, we owe them a duty of support.

We have a bounden duty to properly equip them, to properly pay them, to support their families, and in the event of serious injury to offer speedy, effective medical care and long term support for both physical and psychological injuries.

We have a duty to rehabilitate them, return them to appropriate duties in their chosen profession if possible, and to offer comprehensive help to find employment outside of the armed forces if this is not possible. In the event of their death, we owe them and their families full and tangible recognition of the supreme sacrifice they have made, including adequate financial and support provisions for their dependants.

But above all, we owe them the right not be placed in harm’s way by politicians in conflicts that are irrelevant to the security and defence of the nation, especially where such conflicts are based on a fraudulent premise and are illegal under international law. One egregious example was the Iraq War.


Where our armed forces are deployed and engaged in a conflict that seemed justifiable at the outset, we have a duty to constantly review the rationale for such an engagement, to constantly question its continuing validity, and to speedily bring it to an end and withdraw from it when it ceases to be either winnable, or relevant, or both.  Such a conflict is the ‘war’ in Afghanistan, now of nine years duration – greater than the total length of WW1 and WW2 combined – and forecast to continue, in the words of our new Prime Minister, at least for another five years.


The poppy is sold in a good cause – to raise funds for soldiers harmed by war - but it must not be hijacked by politicians and the British establishment for other reasons. There are deeply worrying indicators that this is exactly what is happening, especially in the behaviour of the Tory Party in the Commons, and over the FIFA poppy issue, including today at PMQs.

Politicians and military commanders are aware that the casualties and images from the weekly repatriation ceremonies influence public opinion.

Major-General Gordon Messenger, a military spokesman on Afghanistan, talked last year about “balancing opinion”.

"If I had a plea, I think it would be to better understand the reasons why they're there and the progress that's being made and to not simply view Afghanistan through the lens of the casualties," he told Sky News.

"I think it is incumbent on me and on everyone who has an understanding of the Afghan campaign to do all we can to better inform the public as to those reasons."

In other words, the Government, the MOD and some sectors of the military are worried that the public might be questioning the weekly escalating blood sacrifice that is being made by the flower of our young people in the name of a flawed, confused and increasingly irrelevant strategy in pursuit of confused and conflicting aims. Armed Forces Day has already been hijacked and converted to a PR propaganda exercise for a failing political and military strategy and the poppy has been heading the same way for some time now.

All the emblems, symbols and techniques that support the old lie will be deployed to this end – parades of military equipment and military might, the Union Jack, old men in berets and medals, flag-waving children, and a solid presence of members of the Royal Family, together with the insidious sub-text, that anyone who does not support the Afghanistan War is somehow unpatriotic and failing to support our servicemen.

This serves as a smokescreen to obscure to real failings of a failed state – the UK – to address the very real and fundamental needs of those on the frontline, and continuing to defend the massive drain on resources represented by Trident and weapons of mass destruction that are entirely irrelevant to the modern world and the defence challenges it presents.

It serves as a PR exercise to attempt to validate the UK’s increasingly false claim to be a major player in the geopolitical great game, when in fact it is merely a convenient puppet for US foreign policy, draining its resources in an increasingly nonsensical claim to be a great power on the world stage.

Meanwhile, the confused aims and contradictory strategy of the Afghanistan coalition will continue: generals will come and go, and little men like politician Liam Fox will strut and posture - and vanish - while young men die. Behind the scenes, cuts to budgets have been made that endanger our armed forces effectiveness, bribes will be paid to corrupt Afghani politicians, and secret talks will take place with the Taliban warlords, while innocent men, women and children will be killed by ‘friendly fire’.

I fear that Armed Forces Day, with all its parades and exaltation of military might, all its band and martial music, all its speeches about heroes and sacrifice, all its flag waving and cheering, was simply a colourful cabaret to conceal the ugly realpolitik that represents the real threat to our brave servicemen and women. I fear that the deaths and the maimings will continue - and will escalate - until the citizens of these isles see clearly the blood sacrifice of their children that is being made in their names, and in the name of Britishness.

Extract from Sept. 2011 blog


A sharp distinction must be made between why defence and foreign policy matter to Scottish unionist voters and why they matter to unionist politicians, including the Scottish variety.

Scottish unionist voters either have a vaguely romantic notion of Britain’s imperial glories, or they are afraid that Scotland could not defend its security against threat and its international interests independently of the UK. They are rarely, in my experience, clear about what such threats could be, and what Scotland’s international interests are. All they have to do to achieve clarity is to look at any small European or Scandinavian nations, something they rarely do, except to patronise or deride, e.g. the tired old ‘Arc of Prosperity’ jibes. From my perspective, Scottish unionist voters are the victims of 300 years of unionist propaganda and imperial myth, exactly the kind of paranoid, jingoistic narrow nationalism that they falsely accuse the SNP of displaying.

Unionist politicians believe that defence and foreign policy - especially the nuclear deterrence policy, nuclear weapons and nuclear bases - matter fundamentally, because they are the passport to global politics, international roles, power, prestige – and money, money, money

Tony Blair, a lawyer and subsequently an MP for an obscure North East of England constituency, Sedgefield, now has an estimated annual income of in excess of £15m, and a personal fortune variously estimated at £40/60m. Such wealth was not created by democratically representing the electors of Sedgefield or the interests of the electors of the UK as Prime Minister, it was built on the back of an international career involving death, destruction and war.

Peter Mandelson, an architect of New Labour, had to borrow money from a businessman to buy his first London house. He is now a Lord, an immensely rich man, and is in the process of purchasing an £8m house. Such a fortune did not come from his earnings as a Member of Parliament, nor from his modestly lucrative salary an perks as a European commissioner, not from his liberal daily expense allowance as a Lord – it came from international consultancies and directorships that relate directly or indirectly to defence and foreign policy.


Under Labour, the Ministry of Defence, the legendarily incompetent - but unfailingly lucrative - body that fails to adequately equip our young men and women in the armed forces, spent an average of £5.6m on entertaining each year under Labour and probably far in excess of that under the current regime. We don’t have to be told who they were entertaining, boozing and eating lavishly with while Scottish soldiers died – while Fusilier Gordon Gentle died because his vehicle was not fitted with an electronic bomb detector.

No defence minister has retired poor: no senior MOD official retires into poverty or even a modest pension. They slide effortlessly through a revolving door into lucrative directorships and consultancies with the merchants of death, or with brutal foreign dictatorships of the kind now being overthrown by the people of the Middle East in the Arab Spring.

Scottish MPs on the high road to Westminster head for the lucrative, blood-soaked pastures of defence like heat-seeking missiles – they know where the money and the power lie.

After all, the bloody trail has been blazed for them by their predecessors. Only a state with its operating principle as eternal war, fed by inducing eternal paranoia in the electorate, can satisfy the insatiable greed of the powerful, the privileged, the amoral bankers and the military/industrial complex that ultimately controls this sham democracy, bleeding the people dry in every sense of the word.

The unionist politicians are M.A.D. men in the acronymic sense – they are committing the reluctant component nations of their dying empire to mutually assured destruction.

R.I.P. Uncle Petie and Uncle Eddie

Monday, 24 January 2011

Labour’s shameful record on Iraq - Holyrood 2003

moridura Peter Curran

IRAQ 2003: Holyrood had no responsibility for foreign affairs or defence issues, but SNP MSPs were determined to discuss the threat of war.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Scottish Labour: A war-mongering, unionist WMD party, expedient and devoid of principle. A few honourable exceptions - but misplaced loyalty

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Holyrood/Iraq 2003: Labour MSP John McAllion voted with the Scottish Socialists, opposing war. A few other Labour MSPs voiced some doubts.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

2003 Holyrood: The LibDems voted against the war, but stayed in coalition with Labour, showing the bad judgement that led to ConLib Coaltion

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Scottish Labour MSPs - with honourable exceptions - are cynical carpetbaggers who see the high road to England as their best career hope

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Ed Miliband is now embarrassed by Iraq - not by death, destruction and chaos, but by its effect on Labour's vote share. Is Tom McCabe sorry?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Labour warned its MSPs not to embarrass the executive or UK. Labour ministers did not speak. Tom McCabe attacked SNP for forcing the debate.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

"I fear there can only be one conclusion: the US and UK governments are pursuing an inevitable path to war" JOHN SWINNEY 2003 on Iraq vote

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

@KirkJTorrance @theSNP Here's a digital game for you, Kirk - how to build an Athlete's Village while wrecking the hopes of a Glasgow granny.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Holyrood Labour have the blood of every Scottish soldier who died in the Iraq War on their hands. They voted for the war and against the SNP

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Holyrood Labour MSPs vote for the Iraq War 2003 - Tom McCabe attacks SNP opposition

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Tom McCabe Lab 2003 "When the SNP accuses the government of pursuing an inevitable path to war, it is as opportunistic as it is repugnant,"

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

You can trust Labour to stop free travel, raise council tax, wreck free personal care, support booze barons, support WMDs and illegal wars.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Want to lose NHS, free personal care, free bus travel, pay tuition fees, be destroyed by alcohol, pay more council tax? Then vote Labour ...

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Blair, Labour PM and Iraq: Gordon Brown Labour PM supported it. Ed Miliband voted for it, but now is sorry. Iain Gray voted for Iraq War.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

The Kraken wakes - the giant brain and magnetic personality of Iain Gray are in overdrive. He is half-awake instead of half-asleep. Beware!

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Just over 100 days to an election that is crucial to Scotland's future. In spite of the polls, paranoid Labour will "go negative". Watch out

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

The Opposition in Holyrood are not part of a Parliament - they are a unionist pressure group.Democracy comes a poor second to the UK Empire.