Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Thought for the day

Ed Miliband in his conference speech today said that the war in Iraq was "wrong". All the media analysis of this part of his speech has centred on the strategic re-positioning implications for Labour of this admission (and of course on the rift this exposed with his elder brother who was captured on camera asking Harriet Harman why she was clapping when she had voted for the war).

However my opinion is that all this talk of "trying to strategically reach out to those who left the Party because they opposed the war" is both trivialising the issue and dramatically missing the point when we think of the human consequences of the conflict. I wonder how the families of soldiers who lost lives or limbs in Iraq will feel about the leader of the Labour Party now essentially saying that those sacrifices were for nothing.


menaiblog said...

The argument you make isn't really one that makes much sense.

The fact that someone who's suffered because of the war is upset because Labour has changed it's position on that war, doesn't really have any baring on whether the war was justified or not.

Anonymous said...

From BBC website an extract of what he (Ed Milliband) said

"The generation that was taught that the end of history had arrived and then saw 9/11 shatter that illusion.

And we are the generation that recognises that we belong to a global community: we can't insulate ourselves from the world's problems.

For that reason, right now this country has troops engaged in Afghanistan.

They represent the very best of our country.

They and their families are making enormous sacrifices on our behalf and we should today acknowledge their service and their sacrifice.

Our troops are there to stabilise the country and enable a political settlement to be reached, as David said yesterday, so that Afghanistan can be stable and we can be safe.

I will work in a bi-partisan way with the government to both support our mission and ensure Afghanistan is not a war without end.

But just as I support the mission in Afghanistan as a necessary response to terrorism, I've got to be honest with you about the lessons of Iraq.

Iraq was an issue that divided our party and our country. Many sincerely believed that the world faced a real threat. I criticise nobody faced with making the toughest of decisions and I honour our troops who fought and died there.

But I do believe that we were wrong. Wrong to take Britain to war and we need to be honest about that.

Wrong because that war was not a last resort, because we did not build sufficient alliances and because we undermined the United Nations....."

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Menai Blog - the point is more about the myopic nature of the media coverage, overly focussed on the political rather than human repercussions of this statement.

Prometheuswrites said...

I notice that a couple of days after I wrote about increasing progressive taxation of the rich Ed Milliband said much the same.

Now does that make him Promethean or does it make me a Millenium, err.. a Millipede, err ... a Millibandolier, err ... theres a word waiting to be coined here.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Prometheus - it probably means you are part of the "new generation"...

Anonymous said...

Harriet Harman or Harperson as she is known is a complete "cee you next tueesday" and i despise her.

The Captain

Anonymous said...

Toryism to the Nth degree again and it is you Blue Robed Druid(ess) who is myopic. Human repercussions and subsequent media coverage of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan - extremely sad as those consequences undoubtedly are with people losing life and limb and families losing brothers, sisters and fathers for a cause they probably do not understand or believe in - only achieves to draw attention from the absolutely right questions that need to be asked about the why, for what purpose and to what ends are we there in the first place - and the public have seen this 'wrong' a long time ago. It is typical right wing twaddle and deflection tactics to seek to suggest that anyone who questions the rights and wrongs of wars to be 'unpatriotic' or not supporting 'our boys'. I'm no Labour supporter - especially as it was they who took us to these wars - but the statement today was both fresh and brave, and a lot braver and more honest than Cameron's half and half nothingness and crocodile tears. The sad, sad truth about all this is that if Cameron actually said the same thing - which he probably in his heart of hearts believes anyway - and then actually acted on the human rather than the political element of this then a lot more 'human consequences' could be avoided for a lot more families.

The Great Councillini said...

I have to agree with Menaiblog. If I could politely point out that, whilst Druid does highlight the nature of the media coverage, he concludes with a distinctly party-directed question:

"I wonder how the families of soldiers who lost lives or limbs in Iraq will feel about the leader of the Labour Party now essentially saying that those sacrifices were for nothing [?]"

I would say that Ed is being quite straightforward and even brave to stand against the decision to invade (there was no declaration of war, in much of any of its possible accepted forms, so it wasn't a war; it was also almost certainly unlawful, like much of the 'emergency' anti-terror legislation since passed).

I also think it simplistic to label what went pre-Ed, party members and all, as being pro-'war', because a large number of people did not agree with the decision, nor how and why it was reached, clearly in kowtow to the Bush administration. Those in the cabinet may have seen it as advantageous to toe the 'go to war' line, but a large proportion of less power-hungry people opposed such a terrible move.

So, what Ed is doing is not taking some new generation forward to a Labour nirvana, but restoring normality to a party that went totally off the rails under Blair.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the Druid. The Labour party expended a huge amount of energy when in power to take the country to war (remember the sexed up dossier? intelligence documents plagiarised from online phd thesis? Dr David Kelly's vilification and suicide? 30 mins claims?) and now, for what appears to be electoral advantage, EdM and Labour are trying to distance themselves from the war.

See this from Political betting today:

"And what about the new leader’s Iraq position? Can it be dismissed as opportunistic and a crowd-pleaser and is it really going to convince potential Lib Dem switchers?

During the leadership election campaign it might have gone down well with some of Labour’s electorate but EdM really didn’t convince when put under pressure on the issue during the many hustings meetings. Just remember the exchanges during the Question Time leadership debate less than a fortnight ago. Those like Diane Abbott who were against the Iraq War all along are not going to be satisfied."

Suggesting quite clearly that EdM wasn't known for his opposition for the war when in power (his brother certainly didn't think so yesterday!). There's nothing brave about telling people what they want to hear.

Anonymous said...

09:34: That's one person's journalistic view. I've been a Lib.Dem. sympathist for years, but, given time to prove they have ditched the quite far right-wing policies, I can see a switch to Labour for me might well be on the cards. I think many real-world people feel the same.

I'm perplexed by this, though:

"Suggesting quite clearly that EdM wasn't known for his opposition for the war when in power"

He wasn't an MP when the invasion was approved, let alone in a Cabinet position! But I'll grant you his voting record does suggest rather surprising views on many issues that may be more right than left wing; it depends how you read the record and put it all together.

I gather we had 45 minutes to say our prayers (in Cyprus), not 30 as you gave!

Anonymous said...

John Rentoul in the Independent http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2010/09/29/looking-forward-to-the-grown-up-debate/

"Overall, I did not agree with a lot of it but it was a piece of positioning that had some electoral logic. The passage about Iraq I thought was dreadful, and to have that in the same speech as the promise to stand against “conventional wisdom” was laughable.

Yet it was politics, and it was the sort of thing that one can imagine the early Blair doing, a supposedly “tough choice” that is actually the easy decision, which happens to appeal to a section of the electorate that could be described as in the centre, although in fact it mostly isn’t."

Jarlath said...

You can see the right wing press are worried about Ed Milliband, hence all the noise emanating from them. They realise that the key votes of the next general election, are most likely to be disillusioned Liberal Democrats voters. Will they still be angry with Nick Clegg for, in their minds, selling the party’s principles for a seat on the Cabinet?

It has happened before when Lloyd George, the famous Liberal, entered into coalition government, some in the Liberal party of the day believed that he had abandoned true Liberal principles, and at later elections, he suffered badly because of it.

The right wing press are taking a gamble attacking Ed Milliband; that it does not make him more appealing to disillusioned Liberal Democrats, many of whom where also opposed to the war in Iraq.

And if the Coalition Governments economic plans go badly wrong and we enter another recession, then maybe as some predict it will only be a one-term government.

Anonymous said...

Guido Fawkes:

"Yesterday morning the Labour Party was in favour of the war in Iraq because “it was the right thing to do”, yesterday afternoon it turned against the war in Iraq because Red Ed said “it was wrong”. Harriet Harman voted for and argued for the war. Hundreds of British soldiers gave their lives and limbs to liberate Iraq from Saddam’s tyranny. Harman illustrates the Orwellian readiness of professional politicians to say whatever suits them at the time, whatever the price in other’s blood and treasure. At least David Miliband had a principled position…"

Anonymous said...

"it will only be a one-term government"

I'll be very surprised indeed if it isn't. We're all just a bit nervous at the moment, not suffering too badly as a whole. Wait until the end of the year, see how popular sentiment starts to rise against the cuts and what it will mean for people who are simply meant to leave one public sector job and find a new one in the private sector. I can see that working really well in places like Anglesey...

Groundhog Day said...

The Labour Party are in a real mess with regard to the Iraq war. Yound Ed's comments yesterday showed up the many hypocrites in the party, Harriet Harman in particular.

I've just watched Windbag Kinnock on the Politis Show creaming his knicks over young Ed and praising him to the skies - kiss of death there then for young Ed. Praise from such a failed politician who along with his useless wife ran and grabbed the best seats on the Euro gravy train is indeed faint praise indeed.
I predict that this afternoon the fair David will step back from joining his wet-behind-the-ears brother's cabinet and retreat to the back benches. At some time in the future when young Ed has made the proverbial pig's ear of being leader of the opposition, David will ride in like a knight on a white charger to save the party and eventually become PM - God help us all!

Anonymous said...

Don’t forget this is a good diversion from the Conservatives deep division over military spending, as exposed by Dr Liam Fox’s leaked letter. Is the defence of the realm safe in this coalition hands?

Anonymous said...


Was the wealth of the country safe in Gordo's hands.


The Red Flag said...

It is fair to say that Iraq crippled the Labour Party internally and it remains crippled to this day. It was hugely divisive and extraordinarily badley handled in the build-up. Those divisions are still there and will remain until no politician is left in the Labour Party who was involved - say another 30 years or so.

I say badly handled because the case was transparently laughable and to persist withit polarised things even more. If Blair had just said "Saddam is a twat and we're going to waste him" the British public by-and-large would have gone with it. Instead he tried to be clever with what was obbviously dodgey and flimsy stuff - it's that that the public were most annoyed about.

I am a former career Infantry soldier. I have (or had) friends who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq was the wrong war and the time we wasted on it has made Afghanistan (the right war) all the harder.

Even the troops waiting on the Start Line hours before the invasion didn't believe Blair - it was a standing Jjoke. If you said something dodgey your commander would retort "Don't try and Blair me"

Welsh Ramblings said...

"I wonder how the families of soldiers who lost lives or limbs in Iraq will feel about the leader of the Labour Party now essentially saying that those sacrifices were for nothing [?]"

Hopefully they will feel betrayed and those of them that still support the war will realise their sons and daughters and family members were used as pawns in an illegal war.

Guido Fawkes wrote "Hundreds of British soldiers gave their lives and limbs to liberate Iraq from Saddam’s tyranny."

Yes, and to replace it with another tyranny. It is sad, but when the war is wrong it logically means the lives of the soldiers were wasted. The Labour & Conservative parties should be punished for sanctioning that conflict.

The Red Flag said- "If Blair had just said "Saddam is a twat and we're going to waste him" the British public by-and-large would have gone with it. Instead he tried to be clever with what was obbviously dodgey and flimsy stuff - it's that that the public were most annoyed about."

Good point, the public would probably have gone with that. It would not have been possible to make that case internationally though, or conduct any kind of foreign policy on that basis! I also have trouble seeing how Afghanistan is "the right war" but maybe that's a debate for another day. Incidentally another Welshman lost his life in Afghanistan yesterday, as the country's President- alleged by Western insiders to be a manically depressed heroin addict- wept on live television about the state of his country and the despair that has not really lifted since the removal of the Taliban nine long years ago.

another anon and me said...

Anon 13:41

Dr Liam Fox in his letter to the Prime Minister is not so sure, following is an extract from the letter; see The Telegraph for letter in full:

“Frankly this process is looking less and less defensible as a proper SDSR (Strategic Defence and Strategy Review) and more like a “super CSR” (Comprehensive Spending Review). If it continues on its current trajectory it is likely to have grave political consequences for us, destroying much of the reputation and capital you, and we, have built up in recent years. Party, media, military and the international reaction will be brutal if we do not recognise the dangers and continue to push for such draconian cuts at a time when we are at war.”

Prometheuswrites said...

"Prometheus - it probably means you are part of the "new generation""

Sorry Dru I'm not a Trekkie.

Give me 'Firefly' anyday: - It's that 'Rebels vs. the Alliance' angle that I identify with.


Groundhog Day said...

My son and his Chinook was in Kuwait awaiting the signal to go for Iraq. As you can imagine it was a very worrying time for all families with sons and daughters in tne military but we all understood our kids were in a service for which they signed up unconditionally and they were all professional as are all the brave guys and gals in Afghanistan now. What made my blood boil at the time was that the Defence Secreatary Geoff (Buff) Hoon was on holiday and saw no reason to cancel amd return to Whitehall to oversee "his" armed forces. That alone was enough to put me off the Labour party for life. Why didn't Bliar not kick his arse and order him back. Perhaps he should have been sent to sit on the ramp of the Chinook without a safety harness. Labour have not changed, they will stand up and lie to the nation and never never use the word "sorry". I hope they never ever get back into power again.

to honour we remember them said...

Groundhog Day I hear what you say, and yes Geoff Hoon was wrong he should have cancelled his holiday. However, once the decision to go to war had been made, I believe it made sense to leave the planning to the professionals.

Also it was not "his" army, it never was "his" army, that would be Her Majesty the Queen your thinking of.

The Red Flag said...

I believe it made sense to leave the planning to the professionals.

Bolocks. By that stage the planning had been done and rehearsed over and over again. The political hierarchy needs to be at station not only to give strategic direction should the situatoion suddenly change in extreme, but also so that the Infantry - who are busy busy busy killing the enemy - in some cases in very gory hand-to-hand combat - don't think you are taking the piss.

But then again by that stage the troops did think he and Blair were taking the piss so maybe it was best to keep him in a cupboard or whatever - that way he isn't in the decision process. Shame Blair wasn't with him thinking about it.

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