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When Donald Trump visited the fawning Theresa May in Britain last July, he was serenaded by military marching bands at Blenheim Palace, home of the Duke of Marlborough whose ancestor led victorious forces in the 18th-century battle of Blenheim.
The scene underlined the central role played by military matters in politics, and how much the “special relationship” between the US and Britain depends on Britain endorsing and supplementing the interventions, occupations and wars in which the US is involved.
Trump and May had just returned from the Nato summit in Brussels, where his main task had been to demand that Nato member states increase their spending on the military to at least 2 per cent of their country’s GDP, an increase which would cut even further into domestic and welfare budgets savaged by austerity. They also endorse continued expansion of Nato eastwards, a policy reigniting tensions in the Balkans and making conflict with Russia more likely.
Despite claims that Trump would be an isolationist president, he is actively involved in promoting war and conflict. He has imposed sanctions on Venezuela and Iran, he has escalated bombing and troop numbers in Afghanistan, he has launched missile attacks on Syria. He supports the Saudis and their murderous war in Yemen. His foreign policy is now controlled by extreme right-wing hawks, most notoriously the neocon John Bolton, who is determined to wage war on Iran.
At the centre of his strategy is closer alliance with Israel, a crucial element in attacking Iran. Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, support for Benjamin Netanyahu’s illegal settlements and his treatment of the Palestinians, are evidence of this.
Netanyahu made a speech last week at the Dimona nuclear plant which makes very clear his willingness to use Israel’s undeclared but very real nuclear weapons. The changing balance of power in the Middle East, as the war in Syria enters its final phases, will likely see further conflict involving the different powers who intervened there with such bloody results. Israel and Iran will be at the centre of such conflict.
The British government is determined to stick with Trump through thick and thin, despite evidence of failure of their policies and the destructive nature of past interventions, most notably that in Iraq. Those of us who opposed these policies from the beginning are determined to continue to do so.
This weekend the Stop the War Coalition has its annual conference, where a range of speakers from the Middle East and Britain will address these issues and debate how we can organise most effectively. It will bring together delegates from groups and affiliated organisations, individual members and campaigners, and will discuss resolutions and elect a steering committee for the coming year.
As well as the challenge of opposing wars and interventions, including Trump’s trade wars which are a dangerous prelude to military conflict, there are two further challenges facing the anti-war movement. One is the growth of racism. We have argued from the beginning of the war on terror that war and racism go hand in hand.
War and invasion in the Middle East and South Asia have led to a growth in Islamic terrorism, not its demise. At the same time Muslims are now often treated as if they were all terrorists or extremists. There has been a huge growth in Islamophobia, fuelled by government statements and policies. This has also helped fuel scapegoating particularly of migrants, and the growth of the populist far-right and even fascist groups; their recent growth presents an ideological challenge, and increasingly a challenge on the streets, for peace campaigners. So we in the anti-war movement are joining forces with those organising against the far-right and against racism in all its forms.
Our second challenge is to campaign for an anti-war government — for the first time a possibility with Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. The importance of war to the whole British establishment and ruling class, as well as its counterparts internationally, can be seen by the relentless and unjustified attacks on Jeremy Corbyn over any issue to do with foreign policy.
The row over anti-semitism which has dominated in recent weeks has been increasingly an argument over Israel and the Palestinians. Jeremy Corbyn has been absolutely right to insist that the Palestinians deserve our support, and that we can distinguish between anti-semitism and anti-zionism.
Now he is being attacked for asking questions over the Russian involvement in the Salisbury poisonings. Rupert Murdoch and his friends in the Tory and the right wing of Labour parties are horrified at the thought of an anti-war campaigner and supporter of the Palestinians entering Downing Street.
These attacks will continue, and should be resisted. An anti-war government is exactly what Britain needs, one which would break the special relationship and campaign for peace not war.
Too many Labour MPs are on the wrong side of this argument, and don’t understand that Jeremy Corbyn’s famously anti-war stance is a major source of his popularity. The anti-war movement was central to organising mass protests against Trump. It remains an important counterpoint to this, and it will continue to debate, argue and organise to ensure the forces for war are defeated.
Lindsey German is convener of the Stop the War Coalition.
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