Iraq was the most formative issue of my political life. It awakened and brought home to me with shuddering clarity the savage brutality of US imperialism and the base subordination of the British state to Washington, shamelessly using the umbrella of US hegemony to pose on the world stage as a major power.
The decimation of Iraq was a crime of the ages for which not one of those responsible has ever faced so much as a day of justice. Up to a million Iraqi men, women and children were killed, while millions more were injured, traumatised and/or displaced as the country slid into the abyss of sectarian carnage out of which the monster of ISIS and Salafi-jihadism emerged. The chaos, dislocation and unremitting carnage that continues to engulf the region today can be traced back to the 20th of March 2003, the day that American and British bombs and missiles first started raining down on Baghdad.
Imagine then how Iraqis who lost sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, who saw their lives literally ripped apart as a consequence of the war that was unleashed against their country on the basis of lies, imagine how they must feel when they see the likes of Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell being treated today as respectable public figures in Britain, enjoying lucrative careers and feted as elder statesmen by the country’s political and media class?
The moral turpitude involved in such a state of affairs runs so deep it is fathomless, symptomatic of British exceptionalist and imperialist tropes. Has Russia, the bete-noire of the moment within our public discourse, ever come close to inflicting as much carnage and suffering on so many as Blair did with the aid of Alastair Campbell, his amanuensis, vis-a-vis Iraq?
Only the most diseased of politicial and media cultures could possibly find it acceptable to embrace rather than condemn those responsible for a crime of such magnitude as ours has when it comes to Blair and Campbell over Iraq.
For those on the left of the political spectrum in Britain, the most vicious of imperialist-colonialist states, foreign policy has always been and will always be the litmus test, not where you stand on issues relating to gas and water socialism. As James Connolly said of the First World War:
What lover of humanity can view with anything but horror the prospect of this ruthless destruction of human life. Yet this is war: war for which all the jingoes are howling, war to which all the hopes of the world are being sacrificed, war to which a mad ruling class would plunge a mad world.
Given the mountain of dead bodies that Blair and Bush left behind in Iraq, and the mountain of dead bodies established since due to the unbroken thread of conflict and death aross the region which traces its roots back to Iraq, John McDonnell’s GQ interview with Alastair Campbell, in which the Shadow Chancellor asserts that Blair is not a war criminal and during which he invites Campbell back into the Labour Party, was an unalloyed disgrace. Indeed it was tantamount to spitting on the graves of the Iraq War dead, including the 179 British soldiers who were sent to kill and be killed on the back of Blair and Campbell’s lies.
There is no hiding place from this. You either stand with the victims of the crimes of your own ‘mad ruling class’ or you stand with those for whom might is right and for whom mass murder, served up to the masses at home as a noble crusade in the name of democracy, is the acme of Western civilisation.
John McDonnell clearly believes that achieving power by any means necessary, including the defence of the indefensible, is acceptable in the name of socialism. It is not. James Baldwin reminds that “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
Until the left in Britain, especially within the Labour Party, faces up to and confronts the barbaric legacy of its own ruling class in solidarity with the victims of that legacy, false consciousness will continue to reign and justice for the dead will continue to be denied.
Clearly, John McDonnell is someone who wants his socialism cost-free. In a capitalist-imperialist country such as Britain, this is like hankering after pain-free childbirth. Just as the latter is impossible so the former will give birth not to socialist transformation but to the craven appeasement of an establishment dripping in blood.