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The answer must be peace

A century after WWI started lessons must be learnt that war will only bring more war, says JEREMY CORBYN MP

This week started with a gathering of the “great and the good” at a memorial service for World War One in Glasgow, before they hightailed it to London for a reprieve in Westminster Abbey. 

The idea that WWI was fought for peace and liberty borders on the absurd, when 20 million died and it ushered in a century of industrial warfare. 

We’re still paying the price for the victors’ justice agreed at Versailles in today’s wars in the Middle East and north Africa.

While the focus has been on the WWI commemorations and Gaza, we should not forget the huge losses of life continuing in other long-running conflicts. 

Drone bombs are still raining down on villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan causing random death, while the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 is seen in the break-up of the country and the growth of Isis — now called the Islamic State. In the north of Iraq sectarian violence is now forcing hundreds of thousands of Shia, Christians and Yazidis to flee their homes or face death as the forces of religious extremism  take hold.

The terrible loss of life in this conflict is a consequence of western policies over many years. It is a bitter irony that since the US invasion the population of Christians in Iraq has fallen from 1.5 million to less than 400,000.

Meanwhile in Libya, only two years after we were told that Nato’s war was a necessary and short-lived intervention in order to bring about stability in the country, a civil war is raging.

Massive bombardment by Nato-led forces led to death and destruction, huge social divisions and now an all-out civil war, to the extent that every Western embassy has been closed and all foreign nationals have been requested to leave the country by their governments. 

The consequences don’t stop at the borders of Libya, as the huge arms supplies obtained by various opposition forces spread over into Mali and other countries.

Less publicity is given to the ultimate victims of all the wars, as thousands of refugees attempt the perilous journey in dangerous boats from Libya to Lampedusa in order to escape and gain a place of relative safety.

There is a brief “ceasefire” in Gaza as the victims’ families try to bury the dead — 1,875 Palestinians died, 9,567 were injured and 67 Israelis (64 of them soldiers) died. Oxfam now reports that 500,000 people are unable to stay in their own homes because of the damage and danger. 

It is beyond parody that the US expresses its regret over the deaths and yet provides another £300m to Israel to replenish its stocks of weapons in case it decides to restart the bombardment.

Once again, this country and the European Union are donating to rebuild a Gaza destroyed by Israel, which has it has done several times before. 

While the talks are going on in Cairo, with the rather odd arrival of Tony Blair (what positive role could he possibly play in any of this?) the fundamental issue of the plight of Palestinian refugees, the occupation of the West Bank, the settlements and the siege of Gaza have still not been addressed by Israel and its allies in the US.

I hope there is a massive turnout at the national demonstration tomorrow assembling at midday in Portland Place outside the BBC in London. The route passes by the US embassy to Hyde Park. 

The marches and public meetings are having an effect as more MPs join the call for Parliament to be summoned to discuss Palestine and more countries either withdraw their ambassadors or suspend relations with Israel.

One would have thought that in a week in which we commemorate the 20m who died in WWI and the 300,000 who died as a direct result of the nuclear weapons dropped on Japan in 1945, and seeing the carnage in all the theatres of war at the present time, there would be a realisation that a policy of war does not bring peace.  

Not so in the case of Barack Obama who has not only replenished arms supplies to Israel despite an investigation for war crimes  over the recent events in Gaza but has also presided over a huge increase in the US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region to rival China, and now turns his attention to Africa.  

Not to be outdone by China’s hosting of a conference of African leaders, he called his own in Washington and ended by pledging several hundred million dollars to build military alliances with African countries and supplies of US weaponry.

The only people licking their lips at the news this week will be the arms and aircraft manufacturers.

The reality is one of increasing poverty amongst the young and poorest in Western countries and growing inequality in the less developed countries, as economic growth favours the better off and impoverishes the poor and landless. 

Surely the summer months, of all times, should be a period of contemplating a different global strategy rather than eternal wars and threats of nuclear rearmament.


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