Ed Miliband on Syria: let anyone decide as long as it’s not me

John Rentoul

Ed Miliband Labour leader 010 300x180 Ed Miliband on Syria: let anyone decide as long as its not meDavid Aaronovitch has said what he thinks about Ed Miliband in The Times today (pay wall). It is all coruscating and excoriating, but these passages give you the main idea:

Mr Miliband could have accepted the government motion last week and taken the credit for getting a proper process established before action …

[But he] intuited that the British people, overall, probably didn’t want something to take place over Syria, and decided that instead of arguing with them, he’d join them. Just as he has done over immigration. He’d become the spokesman for nothing. He wouldn’t outline his own alternative strategy — he’d just defeat Mr Cameron’s.

And in this moment of crisis it became clear — as it does — what Mr Miliband is. A personable man (and he is a very pleasant companion), politically he is not a presence at all, he is an absence. He is Oedipal Ed, the negator of the unpopular actions of the fathers; the anti-Blair, the non-Brown. His technique for victory to is follow behind the leader, wait for a slip-up and exploit his or her mistakes. He did it to his brother. He hopes to do it to David Cameron. He is neither hunter nor prey, he is scavenger. He is a political vulture. Mission creep? His mission is all about creeping.

And though you can just about see how in a bad year Ed Miliband could become prime minister, what I cannot any longer pretend, after three years of his leadership, is that he would be a good one. On the contrary. I think he would be a disaster.

My more anodyne article in The Independent today is more sympathetic to the Labour leader. I thought his conduct last week was disgraceful. As Aaronovitch says, he pretended only to want delay when his actions ensured Britain would not be part of military action.

Miliband protested too much at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday:

Last week’s vote was not about Britain shirking its global responsibilities, it was about preventing a rush to war.

No, it wasn’t. By refusing to vote for the Government motion, which conceded everything for which he had asked, Miliband ensured that the vote was about preventing Britain’s part in war.

That’s not a dishonourable position. I don’t disdain it as Aaronovitch does. In my article I quote without disapproval Andrew Tyrie, the thoughtful Conservative MP who abstained.

But those MPs who failed to support the Government have to accept that their decision not to act has consequences. It would mean, if the air strikes were not to go ahead, no prospect of deterring Assad from using chemical weapons again.

And Miliband ought to be honest about the consequences of his parliamentary games. Andrew Grice, my esteemed colleague, reports elsewhere in today’s Independent:

The Shadow Cabinet expected Mr Miliband to trumpet the concessions he won from Mr Cameron and support the Government. But after a summer in which the Tories spent attacking him as “weak”, Mr Miliband decided not to risk a messy split in which many Labour MPs would have defied him by voting against military strikes.

Miliband “did not want or expect to defeat the Government”, says Grice. He quotes a Labour insider: “We were relying on the Tory whips to win the vote and the Tories were relying on us to support them.”

This is the most extraordinary and spineless admission. As I say in my article, what Miliband and many of his MPs wanted was for the Government and the Americans – anyone, anyone as long as it wasn’t them – to take responsibility for a military action about which they could not make up their minds.


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  • MarkHolt

    Ok Mr John Justice, is that really your name? It sounds like some spivy name like Judge Dread?

    Any way obviously you have a very profound deep mind unlike mine for instance but perhaps you deny that, that filth dressed up as a human being called Tony Blair hasn’t made an absolute fortune out of working for his dictator mates or that he didn’t sell arms to Gaddafi? I suppose his government didn’t sell arms to Indonesia’s General Suharto who killed millions of his own people in the 1960’s and then went on to commit genocide against the people of East Timor with British planes sold to him by guess who?

    Do you understand the word imperialism? Do you understand the connection between war and the military industrial complex? Take a good look at Halliburton who Dick Cheney was it’s CEO just before the Iraq war and how much money they made out of Iraq.

    Are you happy that we killed 650,000 innocent human beings in Iraq and that blood is directly on the hands of those people who supported that adventure?

    I suppose you are one of those people who are so hopelessly naive that you believe that we really do bomb countries for humanitarian reasons?

    I suppose you are one of those people who are so hopelessly naive that you really believe there is such a thing as a surgical strike?

    I suppose you really believe that “we” are the “goodies” and that the rest of the world is full of “baddies” who we must reluctantly police?

    Have you ever thought the truth might just be the inverse of all that?

    Anyway please continue understanding complexity. You are obviously very good at it.

    Mark Holt Liverpool

  • JohnJustice

    You are obviously new to this site. Otherwise you would have been aware that most of your questions have been answered here and that I have been supporting Miliband’s stance on Syria against his opponents. I can’t be bothered to spell out these fairly complex answers yet again since you will not be able to see the points being made though the ideological red mist in which you are enveloped.

    Suffice to say that most of Blair’s money goes to his charities doing great work here and in Africa. (what are you doing in this respect btw?). And most of those civilian deaths in Iraq (nearer 100′000 than your figure btw) were at the hands of Iraqi and foreign insurgents deliberately targeting market places, mosques, schools, hospitals and other public spaces which are almost impossible to defend,

  • MarkHolt

    By the way were do you get 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths from?
    The figures of 650,000 that I got is based on the most in depth investigation ever carried out in to Iraqi deaths caused by our illegal and immoral invasion/occupation.
    It was carried out by one of America’s oldest and most prestigious universities, The John Hopkins and by the BMA. It was peer reviewed.
    Also are you really saying even if it is true, which it is not, that most Iraqi deaths were at the hands of Iraqi and foreign insurgents, that, that situation of insurgency whether helped by foreigners or not was not a direct result of our war? No war, no occupation = no insurgency.
    Therefore, the insurgency and any deaths caused by it, is still our responsibility, is it not?
    Or did you really believe that we (UK & US) could pull a stunt like Iraq and that somehow there wouldn’t be opposition? Did you like Blair/Rentoul believe that we would be invited in as liberators? How terribly naive?
    Lastly from the research conducted by the John Hopkins/BMA, they found that the overwhelming majority of deaths were caused by that favorite of American and British imperialism – cowardly aerial bombardment.

    You really ought to go to Iraq and see what we’ve done.

    Mark Holt Liverpool

  • JohnJustice

    No war=Saddam still in power=more Iraqis murdered and tortured (possibly with WMD if they had had the temerity to oppose him en masse after Saddam had restored his WMD programme once the heat was off him).

    And talking about research, polling done at the height of the insurgency showed that over 60% of Iraqis supported the overthrow of Saddam despite the hardships they had experienced. Facts that you would have been aware of had you been a regular visitor to this site.

  • MarkHolt

    Look the first thing is we have absolutely no right what so ever to invade another country which had not attacked us. It is against international law, unless the UN specifically sanctions it, which they did not. Kofi Anan, The Pope, our own Attorney General (until he changed his mind), Robin Cook and some of the best legal minds in the Foreign Office all said it was illegal.

    Warmongers always put it as though we are always morally obliged to intervene anywhere, everywhere to save the people. The truth is our Establishment and it’s cronies including Tony Blair, really, really don’t give a turd about any of these poor people. They always go to war for economic and or geostrategic reasons.

    You obviously really believe we went to war against Iraq to help/liberate the Iraqi people don’t you?

    If our foreign policy operates on a humanitarian basis how come was it that within less than 10 days after Saddam gassed the Kurds at Hallibja, that Thatcher sent David Mellor and other senior Foreign Office people out to Baghdad to increase Export Credit Guarantees to Saddam so that he could buy more British arms?

    You see the way it works is this. The West has dictators it likes and other ones it doesn’t and it really doesn’t matter how many people they have killed. Indonesia’s General Suharto was one of the mass murderers of the 20th Century, far worse than Saddam and yet our country under Labour and the Tories backed him with arms until the late 1990’s when he was overthrown. We backed and liked Saddam when he fought Iran and America gave him chemical weapons.

    Gaddafi for a while was hated, then liked and then hated again. Do you know Libya’s oil wealth is being privatised and is now supplying France not China. Do you not realise that Gaddafi was deposed to drive Russia and China out of the Med and out of Africa (eventually)?

    It’s all a gigantic game of geostrategic chess.

    The way the left would handle this would be not to get involved with dictators in the first place. We wouldn’t arm them or give them chemical weapons. And if for some reason we really, really had to do something about a dictator then we would implement a comprehensive arms embargo on them. We wouldn’t like Blair maintain a comprehensive embargo on everything including medicines as we did during the 1990’s which killed according to the UN half a million Iraqi kids.

    By the way Mr Humanitarian did you campaign against the sanctions which killed so many people in Iraq? I did. You probably had never even heard of Iraq back then nor did you give a toss about what was happening to the people of Iraq because of sanctions.

    The reason why I’m in the peace movement is because for a little while I had a furniture business and I did business with Vietnam, and I saw the terrible results caused by America’s use of Agent Orange. I saw the terribly deformed babies dead in test tubes. I saw the terribly wilted forests which will probably never, never recover. I saw a population with so many, many deformities and I saw the mass graves of napalm victims and I know that America and it’s side kick Britain never, never absolutely never does anything for humanitarian reasons.

    I would love to put you in Iraq during Shock and Awe (not to get hurt) just to see a cruise missile go off and see the aftermath. See the bodies of kids. See the blood. See the carnage and just leave you there for while contemplating how humanitarian we are?

    There is no such thing as a humanitarian bomb!

    Mark Holt Liverpool

  • JohnJustice

    Get off your high horse! Why is it that “peace lovers” like you only see the harm done by the West and ignore the atrocities committed by its enemies?

    Also get your facts right. The UN specifically sanctioned the Iraq war through UNCR 1441 which was legally defensible and supported by eminent lawyers whatever opponents of the war may think. Indeed military action was morally defensible as the lesser of the evils since as you say sanctions (which were the only other way of making Saddam comply with the UN resolution) were causing much suffering to the Iraqi people as a result of Saddam syphoning off the related humanitarian aid to his own cronies.

    But hey why bother with the facts and any awkward questions when you can work yourself up into a nice state of righteous indignation without them.

  • MarkHolt

    Shame you can’t answer any of the things I said to you?

    But by the way who are these eminent lawyers who said the war was legal and can they even remotely compare to Kofi Anan, The Pope, our own Attorney General (until he changed his mind), Robin Cook and some of the best legal minds in the Foreign Office? I don’t think so and I bet you can’t even name one of these eminent lawyers?

    If the war was so “legal” then why did Blair push George Bush so hard to get the second resolution? It’s pretty damn obvious why.

    If the UN Secretary General says the war is illegal then it’s illegal. Who are you to say otherwise?

    I can see the harm done by the West’s enemies but unlike you I don’t think we got some goddamn right to go around the world bombing other countries.

    And why should it always be “our” responsibility to do something?

    And as I’ve said it would be better if we didn’t arm them in the first place or perhaps you missed that point?

    Or how about not putting them in power in the first place? Did you know that it was the CIA who organised a military coup in Iraq in the 1960’s that put the Bathists in charge, which eventually led to the rise of Saddam?

    Did you know it was the British and the Americans who organised a coup in Iran in 1953 which overthrew Mosaddegh, the countries first democratically elected Prime Minister? They put the Shah back in with his murderous Savak secret police, US funded of course.

    Did you know it was the Americans who organised a coup in Indonesia in the 1960’s which overthrew Sukarno, the countries first democratically elected Prime Minister? They put General Suharto in power who promptly murdered 3 million Indonesians with American blessing.

    Did you know it was the Americans who organised a coup in Chile in 1972 which overthrew the countries first democratically elected socialist President Allende? Pinochet went on to murder 30,000 Chilean trade unionists again with American blessing.

    Don’t talk about the West’s enemies half of these dictators were of our making. Then we armed them and trained their armies until they did something we didn’t like and hey presto suddenly they are the devil and all their ugly deeds are put on display so we can bomb them. But if they kept to themselves and quietly murdered their people or other people we were happy for them to murder, we would say nothing and they would be invited to Buck House for tea and biscuits with the Queen.

    I don’t hear you calling for bombs to be dropped on Egypt’s military after their coup and the slaughter of thousands of protesters?

    I don’t hear you complaining about Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record and the billions of arms we sell them?

    No doubt one day they will fall out of favour and people like you will suddenly be conditioned by our media that they need bombing and so it goes on.

    You know sunshine you really need to learn some history. Why are you always backing the West? Do you never see our crimes? Do you not see the West’s multinationals lining up eager to savage some poor country and steal it’s resources?

    Your slavish support to these ends are pretty morally indefensible. You should be ashamed of yourself trying to put clever “intellectual” arguments forward to support wars and bombing campaigns.

    Have you no humanity?

    Mark Holt Liverpool

  • JohnJustice

    I will reply to your questions here just to show people like you that there are answers to the propaganda points they take for granted.

    1.Eminent lawyers supporting the Iraq war include

    Iain Macleod, Foreign Office Legal Adviser, formerly Legal Adviser of the UK Mission to the United Nations, statement to the Iraq Inquiry, and evidence. .

    Professor Malcolm Shaw QC, Senior Fellow at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, University of Cambridge.

    Professor Anthony Aust, LSE, Deputy Legal Adviser to Foreign Office until 2002. From 1988-1991, he was the Legal Adviser of the UK Mission to the UN.

    Judge Christopher Greenwood, International Court of Justice. Professor at LSE. Submitted a memorandum, “The Legality of Using Force Against Iraq”, to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons, October 2002.

    In addition there are of course the Attorney General to the Labour government who “changed his mind” as you put it after he had considered the matter in greater depth (I think we have all done that at times) and the lawyers working for the Bush administration.

    2 Neither the Pope nor the UN Secretary General or Robin Cook were lawyers.

    3 Blair and Bush tried hard for a second resolution because the legal case was easier to understand on that basis not because there was no legal case under the first resolution.

    4 Having no right to intervene in other countries leaves them at the mercy of genocidal dictators and terrorists (no doubt you would have been one of those opposing any intervention to save the Jews in Nazi Germany)

    5 Governments only have a responsibility for what they do in their own term of office not for what went before.

    6 I have condemned the west where I think they were wrong as in, for example, Vietnam (did a one-man demonstration against it), South Africa, Cuba, Chile (when have you condemned those opposing the West?)

    Hope you can see the points I am making here through the red mist but I doubt it.

  • MarkHolt

    I could take this further but like you I’ve been working all day. Glad to see you condemning the stuff that the West did to Vietnam and Cuba.

    Of course I would have supported intervention to save the Jews in Nazis Germany.

    But back then Britain was a very powerful, rich society (the ruling elite that is). Today we are not and I would be far more interested in spending our money on say our schools or the NHS than on wars.

    Who other than people like you are giving our nation so much pressure to bomb so many countries when we ought to do so many other better things?

    Come on John, I’ve asked you so many times do you really believe that America and Britain bomb countries for humanitarian reasons?

    You have never answered this question?

    I suppose our argument goes to this, is America and Britain a force for good in this world or a force for evil?

    I think it is the latter. You only have to look at how many countries America has attacked since the end of the 2nd World War and how many countries the UK has attacked.

    Are they all justified? You may say some were justified and other’s weren’t but I would say it was all part of a continuum that built a new empire, America’s.

    I don’t believe in empires. They are fundamentally destructive.

    Lastly you say governments only have responsibility for what they do in office? Are you sure? Why did Cameron apologize for Bloody Sunday and Hillsborough?

    If you were an Iraqi and the British had killed your family, would you forgive the British just because they had, had an election and a new government was in charge?

    If the Nazis had won the 2nd WW and then they had progressed to democracy, if you were a Jew would you have forgiven them?

    Don’t governments whether elected or not bear responsibility for the mistakes of their countries past, at least to some degree?

    Anyway sunshine I’m not responding again. I want to be involved in a blog in which more than you and I are looking at.

    I sincerely hope you may have understood some of the points I’ve made?


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