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 unviable.
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 ISIS.
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.
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This article by John Ross, on Hilary Benn’s fake struggle against ISIS, was originally published on Facebook.