Saturday, 24 April 2010

Election Glasgow South: Tom Harris and other party warmongers

Don't mention the wars. Yes, I know, it's another (pluralised) use of a tired cliché. But it seems the most apt way of referencing the dark issue being drowned out by the current election noise on Cam-Brown-Cleggability.

Somehow, beyond the 'great TV debate', we're expected to remain restrainingly mute over the mass loss of life and staggering costs of Iraq, Afghanistan and sundry other militarist adventures.

We're also expected to accept that ugly misnomer 'necessary nuclear defence' as a fact of life, as if such weaponry had some divine presence in our lochs. Sanctified by the main political parties - including the Lib Dems - it's little wonder that opposition to what lurks in Faslane - expressed by a consistent majority of Scots - is seen as a futile exercise. So much for democracy.

Look no further than the Con-Lab consensus on Trident. £100 billion will be spent replacing this cash-guzzling obscenity, while savage cuts are wielded to key public services. Beyond the leaders' TV spinfest, where's the serious, emergency debate on that shameful statistic?

Cleaners, home helps and community centre staff, all socially useful people who actually enhance the public good - unlike bankers and arms manufacturers - are now facing debilitating redundancies and wage cuts while staggering sums are secured for post-imperialist wars and a delusional nuclear status.

Was there ever a clearer case for a set of independent, progressive Scottish 'defence' and foreign policies?

Beyond Alex Salmond's pledge to remove Trident and his denunciatons of Westminster militarism, we're still stuck with the same UK war parties. And it's New Labour which has harboured some of the most villainous officers - think the coy posturings of ex-defence secretary Geoff Hoon, the verbal-fisted John Reid and current defence mouthpiece, Bob Ainsworth.

Whatever the outcome from the Chilcot inquiry - most likely another gentlemanly whitewash - there's no hiding place now for Tony Blair. But Gordon Brown is also clearly in the frame. The former fronted the grand lie over Iraq, the latter signed the cheques for it. Brown, as the Chilcot evidence revealed, clearly understood, and approved, the illegal case for war. In a sane polity, he would be in the international dock alongside his ex-boss.

But we don't live in a rational political world where public opposition to war and military proliferation count. That's largely because an obedient political class and servile media, encouraged by big military-corporate interests - BAE, Raytheon et al - prefer to keep those uncomfortable discussions from public attention. It's all about "jobs", they tell us, as though the economy of death is more important than the right to life and security from such wicked weaponry.

The same language of 'noble militarism' is being used to prosecute unjustifiable wars. The UK, we were assured, helped unleash "Shock and Awe" over Baghdad as part of its great 'ethical interventionism'.

Uncomfortably, international law keeps saying otherwise. It was illegal. Full stop. And those who executed that set of actions bear the heaviest responsibility. The principal was well-established at Nuremberg: the higher the ranking, the more complicit in war crimes.

Which brings us to the middle-ranking 'lieutenants', MPs like Tom Harris who, despite all the evidence of scheming and dissembling, continues to defend Blair and his role in the mass killing of Iraqi civilians.

A passionate advocate of Trident, there's also Mr Harris's unrelenting support for nuclear-laden Israel, despite defining evidence of its criminal actions against occupied and suffering Palestinians.

Readers and voters may be interested in my recent exchanges with Harris on these issues, including his refusal to support the internationally-acclaimed Goldstone report on Israel's war crimes against Gaza and the report's call for universal jurisdiction to be used in pursuit of prima facie war criminals.

Nor is Mr Harris pressing for any end to the British military components that helped bomb Gaza. He also supported the use of Scottish airports to transport US bunker-busting bombs to Israel during its 2006 assault on Lebanon.

All of which may seem 'far from home' for voters in this election. But, fundamental compassion for others aside, it should, at least, raise profound questions about the moral calibre of our select elect.

There's something approaching the astonishing that voters in Glasgow South can contemplate Tom Harris as their MP. This is a critically aware man who surely understands the lies and deceit that have been peddled, yet continues to voice unwavering support for the Iraq disaster. He even put his name to a petition championing Blair as he prepared to reprise his snake-oil charm at the Chilcot hearing.

It's all rather perplexing. Or perhaps not. The generational habit of voting blind Labour still, apparently, holds.

Or maybe I'm wrong and Glasgow South is really some kind of moody redneck backwater, quietly revelling in its zealously right wing MP.

The more reasonable conclusion here is that many, probably most, constituents don't know who Tom Harris is and what he stands for. Nor, alongside his warmongering views, might they share his reactionary 'remedies' towards asylum seekers, single parent mums and unruly teenagers.

I'm reliably informed by an ex-Labour party insider that even many arch-Blairites consider Mr Harris creepily extreme.

None of which should be deemed as personal attack. I have an aversion to that kind of mendacious diatribe - as, pitifully, rather than pithily, exhibited at Mr Harris's own political blog.

The primary point here is that recourse to war is the most serious action a politician will ever undertake. And those who actively support such decisions have to be held accountable for them alongside their leaders and peers.

Mr Harris may be 'expenses clean', but what respectable standing does that suggest beside the dirty business of promoting and defending an illegal, murderous war? By what moral standard can an exponent of bombing Iraqi civilians and wasting their cities lament neighbourhood decline and anti-social behaviour? The words "galling hypocrisy" and "unfit for office" come to mind.

The over 1 million lost lives in Iraq (see the Lancet studies), the calamity of Afghanistan, the bombed and homeless of Gaza and the corporate beneficiaries of that entire military/nuclear network may all seem inconsequential to who gets returned on May 6. But it should disturb reasonable minds in Glasgow South to think that an unapologetic warmonger has been speaking 'on their behalf'.

I usually maintain a suspicious distance from mainstream parties and machine politics. But we should make serious use of any opportunity to replace bomb-'solution' people like Tom Harris with humanitarian advocates for international justice, peace and a Trident-free country.

There is a credible, electable alternative in Glasgow South.

Go, figure.


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