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Editorial Biden’s bombs show that after 20 years, the Stop the War Coalition is as important as ever

BARELY a month into his presidency Joe Biden has authorised his first bombing raid in the Middle East.

If the formal excuse for the attack is retaliation for attacks on US forces in Iraq, that can only draw attention to the continued presence of its army there 18 years after the illegal invasion that has done so much to destabilise the region.

The world celebrated the defeat of Donald Trump last November, and rightly. 

But Biden’s boast that “America is back” indicates a return to pre-Trump norms: ones in which Washington seeks to dominate international bodies rather than turning its back on them.

But these norms do not imply respect for peace or international law. There was nothing legal about the massive expansion of murder-by-drone under Barack Obama.

Nor about the extraordinary rendition and torture programme that saw individuals — many entirely innocent — kidnapped and transferred to third countries for brutal interrogation, often followed by lengthy incarceration in the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp maintained by US troops on Cuban soil without Cuban permission.

Former Labour ministers feted by the press as statesmen, including Jack Straw and David Miliband, still have questions to answer over the extent of Britain’s involvement in these crimes.

Let alone about the wars begun by the US and its allies, the attack on Yugoslavia in 1999, the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the bombing of Libya into the dust in 2010 and of course the greatest crime of all, the unprovoked invasion of Iraq in 2003 that led to a million deaths and the proliferation of extremist terrorist groups including al-Qaida and Isis on a previously unimagined scale.

All these wars were promoted on “humanitarian” grounds — unlike Trump, who mortified US generals and European politicians alike when he blew the polite fiction about Western motives by admitting US troops were in Syria “only for the oil,” Biden will cloak US aggression in talk of human rights.

The same drivel will be spouted on both sides of the parliamentary benches in Westminster. Labour’s declaration today of “unshakeable” support for the US-led Nato alliance is only the latest indication that under Keir Starmer cross-party support for militarism is back.

This is exceptionally dangerous. But it will not go unopposed. 

The British public — like the US public — are not wedded to a foreign policy of endless war. As Jeremy Corbyn’s bold intervention on the links between British foreign policy and terrorism in 2017 proved, there is a mass audience for an alternative.

And surveys revealed last year that the Stop the War Coalition — which holds its annual general meeting this weekend — is the most popular campaigning organisation among Labour members. 

This is a strong base from which to build a mass movement for peace, one that challenges the relentless Establishment propaganda asserting that Nato is a benign global policeman when it is an aggressive and violent tool of US power.

One that makes the political cost of war so high that politicians take heed — as the Stop the War Coalition has done over its proud 20-year history.

Without its mobilisation of mass opposition to the Iraq war — culminating in the biggest march in British history on February 15 2003 — the convention that prime ministers can go to war without consulting Parliament would never have been broken. 

Without its dogged campaigning, it is unlikely a British government would have been defeated in Parliament in a bid to go to war as David Cameron was over Syria in 2013.

And its work of mass engagement and political education fed too into the election of Corbyn as Labour leader in 2015 and the resurgence of mass socialist politics.

As the US-led camp squares up for confrontation with China, the role of the coalition is as important as ever, as is the obligation of all socialists to confront Westminster’s warmongers and campaign for peace.

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