Tony Greenstein | 07 December 2015 | Post Views:

Benn’s War Mongering is in Stark Contrast to the Anti-War Record of Tony Benn

According to The Telegraph, Hilary Benn is ‘the poster-boy for war in Syria and David Cameron’s favourite
Labour MP’

Corbyn speaks to anti-war demonstrators

his father, the great socialist and anti-war campaigner, Tony Benn was spinning
in his grave, the Tories were in raptures over Hilary Benn’s vacuous and
emotive speech.

Dianne Abbot Interviewed by Piers Morgan

It is no surprise that Benn’s
speech in favour of bombing the people of 
Syria received a rapturous response from the Tory Press and the so-called Liberal Press too.. 
According to The
‘Jeremy Corbyn critics fear ‘revenge reshuffle’ after electionboost’ 

Judas Benn Speaks for the Tories

Sunday Times reports that Benn talked his way into being Labour’s white knight and Adam Boulson reported that, ‘The applause after Hilary Benn’s speech in
favour of extending RAF bombing into Syria was unprecedented, running in a
Mexican wave from the Tory benches, around the horseshoe of the chamber’. 

Cameron – transfixed by Hilary Benn’s speech in favour of an imperialist war

Sunday Times also informed us that Corbyn angers MPs with anti-war dinner  and like The Observer reports that

Dianne Abbott – the most consistently loyal member of  Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet

‘JEREMY CORBYN is thought to be
planning a “revenge reshuffle” to purge his shadow cabinet of MPs who voted for
airstrikes on Syria, senior Labour sources fear.

Tristram Hunt – ex-Etonian War Mongering New Labourite

…. Among the key targets would be
Hilary Benn, t
he shadow foreign secretary, whose rousing 15-minute speech in
the House of ­Commons in favour of airstrikes was seen as having stiffened the
resolve of MPs opposed to Corbyn’s resistance to bombing.

Corbyn faced calls from John Ross, an
influential ­supporter with links to key members of his inner circle, to remove

One should though make an exception for the right-wing eccentric, Peter
Hitchens, of the Mail On Sunday, who summed up Benn’s speech beautifully:  ‘if Hilary
Benn’s politically illiterate, factually challenged and emotive diatribe was a
great speech, then we have indeed fallen on hard times.’

is right.  Hilary Benn’s speech was
dishonest and disingenuous.  He first
summoned that gang of cutthroats, otherwise known as the United Nations, in
support.  The same United Nations that
has elected Saudi Arabia to the Human Rights Council and as Chair of a  Human Rights Panel.  

At a Washington State Department Press Conference, one questioner asked about
the United State’s reaction to the fact that Saudi Arabia was named to head the
Human Rights Council in view of the fact that they had just announced that they
were about to behead a 21-year-old Shia activist named Muhammed al-Nimr.
A Mr Toner, spokesperson for the State department was quite explicit:
I don’t have any comment, don’t have any
reaction to it. I mean, frankly, it’s – we would welcome it. We’re close
allies. If we’  

is the reality of the ‘anti-fascist’ alliance that Benn conjured up in order to
gain support for the murder by  bombing
of Syrian civilians.  Apparently the
cause of ISIS’s barbarities is that ‘they
hold us I contempt, our values and tolerance in contempt, our democracy in
contempt, fascists need to be defeated.’ 

the vacuous George Bush, they hate us because of our freedoms.  Perhaps it might have something to do with
the fact that we bomb them!

it is easy and lazy to describe ISIS as fascist, it is not a fascist
movement.  It is an extremely reactionary,
murderous group that has grown up as a result of previous western military
adventures, notably in Iraq.  It is not
the product of an industrial society and the need to destroy working-class organisations,
which is the classic hallmark of fascism. 
Nazi Germany was one of the world’s foremost industrial powers.  Italy was heavily industrialised.  Spain had a militant working-class and so
on.  Isis is a nasty and reactionary
group but to call them fascist is incorrect. 
It is a movement that grew up in opposition to imperialism but reflect
all the savagery and more of imperialism.

even if we accept that Isis’s mindset is close to or akin to that of fascists,
then is it seriously suggested that Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan are also
anti-fascist allies?  How does the
cutting off of heads by Saudi Arabia differ from that of Isis?  Is the proposed stoning of a young Sri Lankanhousemaid by Saudi Arabia also part of this socialist alliance?    As for our ‘sister socialist party in France’
it has introduced a 3 month state of emergency which renders illegal all public demonstrations.  This is an administration which had already
outlawed Palestinian protests and has now presided over the tear gassing of a
Climate Change protest.  Hollande is no
different from Tony Blair in his politics. 
There is nothing whatsoever socialist about this bankrupt government.

comparison with the International Brigades, who went to fight Franco in the
1930’s was positively shameful.  They
fought for a Republican Government which was starved of weaponry and support by
Britain and the western powers, thus handing victory to General Franco.  The same Tory Party whose MPs applauded Benn
last week were the ones who supported Franco in the 1930’s. 

reality of the situation is that the United States, Britain and France have pursued,
for the last 30 years a policy of using Political Islam to destroy secular and
left-wing opponents in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East.  Isis is a product of that strategy.   They came into being as Al Qaeda in Iraq and
were funded by Saudi Arabia and provided with weapons, an oil trade, banking
and much else by Turkey.  That is why Turkey
shot down a Russian plane. 

we are in alliance with the Erdogan regime in Turkey which has launched a
bitter and murderous war on the only secular force in the region, the Kurdish
PYD/PKK.  It has openly provided a base
for ISIS and threatened the Kurdish forces fighting Isis.  Like Saudi Arabia and Qatar it also supports
the ‘moderate’ terrorists of al-Nusra (Al Qaeda) and other Jihadist groups.

has to be accepted that the anti-war position of Jeremy Corbyn and his allies
was not based on an anti-imperialist position that the West has no right to be in
the region at all, but on arguments that bombing would make the situation worse
or not achieve its objectives.  It didn’t
challenge the fundamental problem, namely that it is western interference that
has created the problem in the first place. 
That is why Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Left suffered a heavy defeat
last week.

is a good article by John Ross, who has been demonised in some of the papers

Even the Labour right should accept that
Hilary Benn’s position is unviable

Posted: 06 Dec 2015 03:21

The Sunday newspapers are carrying stories presenting Orwellian ‘double speak’
on the situation in the Labour Party – that is words which are the exact opposite
of their real meaning (in Orwell’s 1984 the Ministry of Peace carried on war).
Hilary Benn’s position supporting bombing Syria
is rejected by Labour members as all polls show, by the majority of the PLP as
shown in the vote in the House of Commons, by the majority of the Shadow
Cabinet as also shown by that vote, and by the Labour Party leader.
As bombing Syria is by far the most important
foreign policy issue of the day it is not viable that a person whose view is
rejected by every body of the Labour Party that has shown its position should
be Shadow Foreign Secretary. It is necessary to have a Shadow Foreign Secretary
who is line with and expresses Labour Party policy.
But some people in the Labour right are
ridiculously trying to claim that removing someone from a position where they
disagree with Labour Party positions is ‘revenge’ – for example see the article
in the Guardian
“Jeremy Corbyn critics fear ‘revenge reshuffle’ after election boost”.

Having a Shadow Foreign Secretary who represents Labour Party policy is not
‘revenge’ it is the most elementary Labour Party democracy. Even the Labour
Party right should realise that – even if they refuse to acknowledge it
publicly. They should have a quiet word with Hilary Benn and point it out.

Hilary Benn should ask to be reassigned to a
domestic portfolio, or if he refuses to do that he should retire to the
The correct and normal thing would be for Hilary
Benn to resign because he does not support Labour policy. Robin Cook resigned
when he could not support the Iraq war.
Labour Party members should point out it is
unacceptable and indefensible to have a Shadow Foreign Secretary who does not
agree with or express Labour Party foreign policy on the key issues. If Hilary
Benn does not resign he should be replaced by Jeremy Corbyn – the timing of
that replacement being purely a question of tactics.
Hilary Benn could represent Labour on some
domestic issues but he cannot be Shadow Foreign Secretary.

*   *   *
This article by John Ross,
on the unviability of Hilary Benn’s position, was originally published on

Hilary Benn’s fake struggle
against ISIS

Posted: 03 Dec 2015 04:45
December 2nd in the House of Commons saw one of
those pantomimes that if it did not result in the death of thousands of people
could form the basis of a Whitehall farce.
The centre piece of this farce was, of course,
the ‘historic speech’ – articles praising the speech’s ‘historic character’,
‘extraordinary eloquence’ etc were incidentally prepared for the media before
the speech was delivered or anyone knew what was in it. The figure chosen to
deliver said ‘historic speech’ was Hilary Benn – although any other gullible
person could have served the Tory media and Cameron equally well, and would
have been equally praised for their ‘historic stature’, ‘capturing the mood of
the nation’, ‘historic speech’ etc.
Performing to the pre-written script, Tory ranks
in Parliament rose to a person to cheer and applaud the deliverer of the
‘historic speech’ – they had received special coaching from elderly Pharisees
who had carried out the same performance when Judas was given the thirty pieces
of silver.
Let us now examine the content of this ‘historic
speech’. Its first task was to achieve the extraordinarily challenging
intellectual task of convincing people that ISIS were a vile load of murdering
scum who deserved to be removed from the planet. Given the huge amount of
evidence to the contrary – burning people alive, beheadings, selling of
thousands of Yazidi women into sexual slavery, attempted genocide against
Yazidis – it took an intellectual giant of Hilary Benn’s stature to establish
these facts which of course have never been reported in the media.
But the crucial point is that the ‘historic
speech’ contained not a single practical proposal actually capable of achieving
the goal of defeating ISIS. In short the ‘historic speech’ was a total fake – it
is immaterial whether it was fake because it was intended to be so or because
the person delivering it was incapable of understanding what is necessary to
defeat ISIS.
Bombing will not defeat ISIS – nor does a single
serious military figure believe it. What sustains ISIS is its supply routes
from Turkey and its financing from Saudi Arabia. To quote what was written here
on 29 November under the title ‘How to really defeat ISIS’:
‘The effective measures that would really defeat
ISIS are very simple…
‘1. Turkey should be told it must close within
24 hours the main supply route across its border to ISIS at Jarablus and at
other border crossings. If it does not a UN Security Council Resolution will be
adopted imposing financial sanctions on Turkey, as with Iran and North Korea,
and the UN Security Council will authorise coalition bombing for 5km inside the
Syrian border with Turkey to cut supply routes to ISIS from Turkey.
‘2. Saudi Arabia should be told it must cease
all transfers of money to ISIS. If proof is found of any further such transfers
a UN Security Council Resolution will be adopted imposing financial sanctions
on Saudi Arabia as with Iran and North Korea.
‘If these measures are adopted they would,
unlike Cameron’s bombing, lead to the crushing of ISIS. …If Cameron refuses to
adopt this policy it shows he is not in fact trying to defeat ISIS.’
None of the measures capable of actually
defeating ISIS were proposed in the ‘historic speech’ This is why Hilary Benn’s
campaign against ISIS, including the ‘historic speech’ itself, was a fake – to
repeat it is not important whether it was deliberately fake or because Hilary
Benn is not able to understand what is necessary to defeat ISIS.
The right of Hilary Benn to deliver said
‘historic speech’ was established by two things. First his proven track record
in supporting the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and bombing Libya – all remembered
as triumphs of British military intervention leading to the complete
eradication of jihadism in the countries concerned. Second his suitable
gullibility was proven by the fact that this new war was motivated by Cameron
on the basis of a straightforward falsification that there are 70,000 moderate
members of the FSA in Syria – but despite this lie being on the scale of
Blair’s notorious ‘WMD ready in 45 minutes’ Iraq one, Hilary Benn did not see
through it.
However this lie is the key to Cameron’s whole
position. Because if the real situation in Syria were admitted – that the
‘opposition’ is controlled by fanatical jihadists supported by Saudi Arabia –
then Cameron’s real goal of removing Assad resulting in these fanatical
jihadists coming to power would be rejected by the British population.
What was the role of most [not all] of the
‘incisive’, ‘investigative journalists’ and ‘commentators’ confronted with this
pantomime? It was not to point out that Cameron’s position was a lie and that
Hilary Benn was totally gullible to believe it, but to play their pre-assigned
role in praising like parrots the ‘historic speech’. A far better job was done
by Gerald Kaufman, someone not usually right on international questions, who
even if he did not understand the situation fully at least partially hit the
nail on the head: ‘I will not be a party to killing innocent civilians for what
will merely be a gesture.’
What is it that so many members of the
‘commentariat’ now wish to conceal? That despite the ‘historic speech’, Hilary
Benn’s position was shown to be opposed by all polls of the Labour Party
membership, the majority of the PLP, and even the majority of the Shadow
Cabinet – not to speak of the Labour Party leader. In short the ‘historic
speech’ failed to convince any significant body of the Labour Party.
As Hilary Benn’s position on the most important
foreign policy issue of the day is opposed by every single major section of the
Labour Party you would think a number of giants of ‘incisive journalism’ would
point out that his position as Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary is totally

However such a blindingly obvious conclusion escapes a number of members of the
commentariat who are attempting to pretend – or are perhaps too dense to
realise – that the really unacceptable ‘bullying’ that is going on is about the
Syrian people and children who are about to be blown to pieces or hideously disfigured
for life, not about MPs receiving emails urging them to vote against war.

And that the bombs dropped by Cameron’s orders are not to defeat ISIS but to
conceal that he refuses to take the effective measures to defeat ISIS because
he is in alliance with Saudi Arabia and Turkey who are the main supporters of
But of course Arab children being killed is not
as important for some journalistic giants to write about as white British MPs
receiving rude or even pleading emails.
Where does this leave the situation in the
Labour Party after the pre-arranged charade of the ‘historic speech’? It leaves
two of Labour’s former leadership contenders, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper,
having voted for war and thereby fortunately eliminating their chances of ever becoming
Labour leader – as well as being on the list of 66 Labour MPs voting for war
who deserve to be deselected not as an example of ‘bullying’ but because they
have the wrong policies on a literal matter of life and death.
Andy Burnham voted against the war, which is to
his credit, and it is not interesting to try to work out whether this was from
conviction or because it left his hat in the ring as a viable candidate in any
future leadership contest. On such a vital matter as war people should be given
the benefit of the doubt. But Andy Burnham, nor any member of the Shadow
Cabinet, cannot be taken to really stand for Labour Party democracy or policy
unless they have a quiet (or public) word with Hilary Benn that his current
position is unviable as his policy on the most vital foreign policy issue of
the day is opposed by the major representative bodies of the Labour Party.
They should urge Hilary Benn be asked to be
‘redeployed’ to some domestic portfolio, or if he refuses to accept this he can
retire to the backbenches. Perhaps Hilary Benn can start preparing his evidence
for Chilcott 2 when it is set up to establish what went wrong in Syria and why
no lessons were drawn from the disasters of Iraq and Libya? A Shadow Foreign
Secretary who actually expresses Labour Party policy is necessary.
Although it is very far from the most important
point Hilary Benn, as much as the Royal Family, is conclusive disproof of any
‘genetic’ theory of talent. To have a giant of a father did not stop the
gullibility of a son. The compensation is that Tony Benn really will be
remembered by history, whereas yesterday’s ‘historic speech’ will be forgotten
as soon as it has served its purpose for warmongers and the Tory Party.
To return to the starting point all this
pre-arranged charade could be treated as a farce if it were not for the fact
that thousands of people in Syria, and very probably hundreds in Europe due to
terrorist attacks, were about to die as a result of it.
Meanwhile the fight for the real measures that
would defeat ISIS, as opposed to Hilary Benn and Cameron’s fakery, goes on.

This article by John Ross,
on how to defeat ISIS, was originally published on

Posted in

Tony Greenstein

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