I caught the end of the Moral Maze on BBC Radio 4 this evening, where Socialist Worker Party exitist and Stop the War Coalition officer John Rees made his case against military support for the Libyan population currently being slaughtered in great numbers by its own government.
While Stop the War Coalition is a barely disguised pro-war organisation with a record of race hatred, support for terrorists, homophobia, and sexual discrimination, and seem to be given a wide berth by the people for whom they claim to speak, Rees is right on several points – for example, the need to sell Libyan assets and make the money over to the pro-democracy forces, and the travesty of this country’s continuing purchase of oil from the regime (I haven’t checked that out, though). I was disappointed he didn’t elaborate on his brief reference to the Spanish Civil War, the solidarity which drew the International Brigades to war in Madrid, Jamara and Guadalajara. Why is it that the identity of the intervenors matters to John Rees more than the calls of the people in need of protection? What would need to be in place for armed UK solidarity with the Libyan people to be acceptable to John Rees? The passage of 100 years? 200? On the Moral Maze, Matthew Taylor’s analysis is that John Rees can’t tell the difference between the colonial powers of the 1800s and the post-colonial federations of today. He’s like some kind of selectively contrite British global public relations freelancer with an extremely long memory (but where – or more specifically, who – does he get his money from?).
He didn’t explain why there shouldn’t be surgical strikes and he was poor at explaining why, while “solidarity with those fighting for their democratic and national freedom is our obligation”, he thinks we should simultaneously throttle any expressions of self-determination which involve appeals to ‘Western powers’ for military assistance. I’m not really convinced by his confidence telling us (“believe me”) what various interventions would “mean” to the Middle East, and what Libyan pilots would do. StWC, the SWP and John Rees have been trying to tell us for a long time that Islamists were the resistance. I’m guessing he’s been out of his depth for weeks with these secular nationalist uprisings.
“Stop the War Coalition is clear that there must be no US or British intervention in Libya or anywhere else in the Middle East under any pretext whatsoever. Such interference over the last century is the root of the region’s troubles, and its continuation will solve none of the difficulties there.”
So then what? Because something has to happen. But then, you think of Congo and Darfur and remember that nothing has to happen.
At least he didn’t say “We are all Gaddafi now”. But “believe me”, to John Rees Iran’s arms to the Taliban scandal will be our fault. Can’t you hear him now, folding it into his narrative of ‘Western’ contrition?
“Is that not clear enough? No massive invasion is necessary, so everyone can just calm down now. It is true that if the agony-pokery and astrological consultations in the NATO capitals carry on much longer, a huge humanitarian intervention may be the only option left. If you expect the Arab League states to properly take charge, you’d be banking on the Arab police states to come to the aid of the rebels who want them overthrown. You’d be an even bigger chump to heed the Arab League’s western apologists and its weapons suppliers.
What to do now, exactly? It is not so difficult to find answers to that question. We only need to make up our own minds, abjure neutrality, and tell the rebels: It’s your revolution, tell us what you need, we’ll help in every way we can. And then prove that we mean what we say. The far more disturbing question is why the Arab revolutionaries’ demands tend to be relegated to the back pages even now, and more importantly, why the “west” has been deaf to their voices all along. This is where Palestine comes into it.”