“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
John Stuart Mill
There’s something unnervingly odd about a movement which glorifies the International Brigades – volunteers who left their homes to take up arms against fascism in the Spanish Civil War – yet venomously opposes any suggestion of military intervention of any kind against one of the most barbarous theocracies the world has ever seen. While, of course, favourably comparing Islamic State to said International Brigades.
It might not make a great deal of sense to you and I, but you’d better get used to it. For, as long as Jeremy Corbyn is leader of the Labour Party, we’re going to see an awful lot more of this. As an old communist friend I bumped into on the train the other day told me, “there’s a lot of interest in Trotskyism at the moment.”
Yes, welcome, dear friends, to the loony world of the New Left. A world of absolute moral certainty, brazen hypocrisy, open thuggery, deep-seated hatred, and irrational, incoherent thought. A world which does not worry itself about facts, nor take the time to judge each decision and situation on its merits, but which consistently falls back on emotion and rigid ideology to steer its course.
I have to say now I have no firm position on bombing Syria. In fact I often feel as though I may be one of the last people in the United Kingdom yet to make their minds up about it. But, crucially, neither do I feel vitriol against anyone for supporting or opposing air strikes. There are very good cases to be made for and against military intervention, which concern logistical questions over exactly what kind of ground troops we are supporting through air strikes (if any), and the precision of modern laser-guided bombing.
What I do oppose is the screeching, kneejerk, reaction from the Far Left against this so-called “Tory war” and front organisations for the loathsome Socialist Workers Party like Stop the War Coalition which, true to its name, must continue to justify its pitiful existence by opposing military action of any kind – no matter how horrible the consequences.
It’s the kind of irrational gibberish which allows this stupid, stupid, woman to genuinely believe that a highly mystical cult like Islamic State which believes it is bringing about Armageddon can be negotiated with to stop enslaving non-Muslims for sex, throwing homosexuals from the tops of buildings, terrorising western nations, and devising the most brutal execution techniques imaginable to murder prisoners of war.
It’s the kind of idiocy which overrides the irony-receptors in people’s brains when deciding to illustrate a story about the bizarre discarding of medals yesterday by a group calls Veterans for Peace with a picture of said group carrying a banner emblazoned with the words “NEVER AGAIN” on Remembrance Sunday.
Never Again. Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves why that phrase was coined. It was coined after the Second World War when we vowed to never again allow one people to systematically wipe out another. It was coined with shame in our hearts when we decided against bombing the death camps, then learned inmates prayed for Allied bombs to rain down on them in order to escape the helpless and pitiless death of the gas chambers.
We said it again after Rwanda, and again after Kosovo. Many still wonder why it took something as petty as a border dispute for Vietnam to stop the Khmer Rouge massacring its own people on an industrial scale. And in Poland, Rwanda, and Kosovo, we felt we perhaps didn’t do enough to prevent the genocide or stop it quickly enough. But, eventually, we did end it – with the only tool available – military force. Stop the War’s weasel words would have had no truck with Hitler, the Akazu, or Milosevic, just as they will provoke nothing more than laughter or bewilderment from Islamic State.
I have heard people say Tony Benn would be spinning in his grave at the thought of his son Hilary passionately making the case for air strikes against Islamic State, which he called the modern fascists, blissfuly unaware of the fact Tony Benn served as a fighter pilot against Nazism in the Second World War.
Many more, who I suspect of being against the air strikes simply because it was proposed by a Conservative government, took to Parliament Square last week to chant “David Cameron shame on you!” I imagine many of them probably don’t realise it was the Labour Party which, as early 1937, jettisoned its pacifist approach to Hitler and attacked the Conservative government of the day for its diplomatic appeasement of Nazism. That then-Labour leader Clement Attlee, now a saint of the Left, visited the International Brigades fighting a war in Spain and even had a battalion named after him.
But let us ignore these pathetic quislings, these would-be collaborators and modern-day appeasers, who think nothing is worth killing for and nothing worth dying for. Bring us instead the spirit of a Left which believed in defending democracy and civilisation against tyranny and barbarism – the spirit of the International Brigades, of Clement Attlee and, yes, of Hilary Benn.
P.S. If you can find Stop the War’s alternative to defeating Islamic State on their website, do let me know. Because I can’t find it.