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Editorial: Justice for Afghanistan has to mean holding Blair to account for his crimes

THERE is a striking symmetry between the small (actually very small) flotilla of inflatables crossing the English Channel and the substantially larger exodus from Kabul airport.

In the first case, these are people, many Afghans and a caravan of others, escaping the wars, purges, pogroms and personal dramas that afflict almost every family in a Middle East that is subject to the bombing raids, drone strikes, poverty and hunger visited on their homelands by the imperial powers.

Added into this flow are numbers of Africans whose migration to more temperate climes is driven by both wars of colonial plunder and climate change arising from industrial and economic processes over which they have no responsibility whatsoever.

Whether these migratory human beings are carried by inflatable rubber boats provided by people-traffickers whose capitalist enterprise is a silent testimony to a venal value system, or RAF transports laid on by military commanders who last week might have called up an air strike is just an accident of timing and circumstance.

We are not required to make a moral judgements about the virtue or otherwise of any of these people. And our responsibility to them is not due to any duty arising from assistance they may have given the military occupation or the war.

Our obligation to render assistance and shelter to all people claiming refugee status — whether they arrive at Dover or RAF Brize Norton — is bound by international treaty and our government is obliged to treat each case on its merits.

We expect hypocrisy to attend the government’s refugee and asylum policy and the different ways in which these two groups are regarded by the state and media tells us all we need to know about imperial morality.

The Kabul exodus includes women cast into terror at the prospect of a Taliban takeover; government ministers and state functionaries anxious to be reunited with their City of London bank accounts; secular intellectuals who see a intolerable future under religious edict; functionaries of the intelligence and security organs who fear retaliation for acts they carried out for the former regime; professionals who equally fear for their lives and their professional independence; and the abandoned employees of the fugitive swarm of corrupt contractors whose pillage of the Afghan economy makes them a target.

In short, anyone whose proximity to power or whose circumstances puts them in fear of the Taliban.

Westminster Labour has spotted a target in the indolence and incompetence of the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister in both failing to anticipate this human disaster or react quickly to enough.

Any moral high ground thus claimed was swiftly sacrificed when Tony Blair finally emerged to obscure his personal complicity with a show of concern for those fleeing Afghanistan and spiced up with a criticism of US President Joe Biden’s “imbecility” in ending this episode.

Blair’s bleating cannot obscure the truth that the present situation is the result of a imperial adventure carried through with immense human suffering for which he, more than any one else in Britain, bears responsibility.

When the senior US military officer under both George W Bush and Barack Obama now says the war was a mistake, it should compel a complete accounting with the people who started these decades of destruction.

How far Labour has fallen. Holding Blair and his coterie of complicit ministers and lying flunkeys to account was and is the first responsibility of Labour.

Jeremy Corbyn, who warned 20 years ago that it would end like this, apologised for Britain’s role.

Keir Starmer has chosen this moment to say that the party needs to embrace Blair’s legacy.

That legacy is more than 150,000 Afghans dead, near £40 billion wasted and 457 British service personnel killed.


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