"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

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Saturday 19 March 2011

Not in My Name

Updated 22nd March after the vote in the House of Commons with voting details on Libyan Action
see bottom of page

Along with over a million others, I marched in late 2002 and early 2003 on the peace marches against our collaboration with the US in the Iraq 'situation' in order to wipe out "weapons of mass destruction". So obviously this week's news about the UN Resolution 1973 instituting a No Fly Zone over Libya has made me feel very miserable - and to put it very mildly - uncomfortable.

The Prime Minister has announced his intention of providing military support. He has been backed in this by the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband, who also happens to be the leader of the political party to which I belong. So perhaps others would expect me to support my leader, but here I am repeating the marching cry from 2002/3 to say to Cameron and Milliband that their statements are definitely "Not in My Name".

There is of course a difference this time. In 2003 Britain - along with the US - took their military powers into Iraq without the sanction of a UN resolution. Arguments as to whether or not it was a legal invasion are still continuing - in my view and that of other pacifists and marchers is it certainly was not a moral action.

People tend to think that for me, being a Pacifist, it is an easy option. Perhaps they think I just hear the word 'military action' and kind of 'opt out'. It actually doesn't work like that. I have written a bit about the kind of soul searching involved here: http://rephidimstreet.blogspot.com/2010/11/remembrance-and-pacifism.html
And when something like the events of Thursday and Friday of this week happen, soul searching of a different type take place. In all honesty I can imagine a defensive position where I would agree to some sort of direct action - but it would have to be an absolutely last resort - and this does not apply here, especally as I still have reservations as to the motives of those countries who are offering military 'support' now.

If, as they say, the leaders of these countries are so concerned about Gaddafi - whom I agree is a tyrant and despot - and the wider Middle East I do have a few questions for them:
1.Why now?
2.Why Libya and not, say, Bahrain, Yemen etc?
3.Does the word OIL have anything to do with your decision?
4.If - as you claim - you have thought for a long time Gaddafi is so dangerous, why did so many UN countries [including the UK] continued to sell arms to his regime?
5.A question to David Cameron - if we cannot afford to finance the Disability Living Allowance, the NHS as it is, Police force ditto, Social Services ditto, School buildings ditto, need to raise University tuition fees and all the other 'cuts' - how can we afford to offer military assistance?

Regarding point number 5 above there is a marvellous song by Robb Johnson: More Than Enough. I have been trying to find the lyrics to it or a Youtube link, to no avail so I will try to transcribe it when I have a spare moment. It can be heard on the CD Sit Down & Sing by Roy Bailey with Martin Simpson & John Kirkpatrick. It does contain the lines:

There's always the money for missiles and tanks
There's always the money for generals and banks
There's always the money for new ways to kill
But limited budgets for you if you're ill
Yes there's always enough for a war
But never enough for the poor

I heard Tony Benn on the radio yesterday [Friday 18th] speaking against UK intervention. He speaks such good sense. I wish I had his eloquence!

Great links, much better written than mine, on this subject. If anyone has any to add please 'comment' and I will add them:
A kind of 'Man on the Clapham Omnibus' point of view: http://tinyurl.com/6yhucph
John Baron MP press release: http://pressreleases.johnbaron.co.uk/archives/529

Voting details taken from BBC news webpage: errors and ommissions are therefore theirs!

Fifteen MPs (13 voted against plus two "tellers") against:Conservative: John Baron (Basildon & Billericay).

Labour: Graham Allen (Nottingham North), Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley), Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North), Barry Gardiner (Brent North), Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Hall Green), John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington), Linda Riordan (Halifax), Dennis Skinner (Bolsover), Mike Wood (Batley and Spen), Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran), Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South-East)

Green Party: Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion)

SDLP: Mark Durkan (Foyle), Margaret Ritchie (Down South)

The MPs who did not vote - either abstaining deliberately or because they were unable to be present - were:
Conservative: Greg Barker (Bexhill & Battle), Henry Bellingham (Norfolk North West), Peter Bone (Wellingborough), Conor Burns (Bournemouth West), Douglas Carswell (Clacton), Oliver Colville (Plymouth Sutton & Devonport), Nick de Bois (Enfield North), Alan Duncan (Rutland & Melton), Gerald Howarth (Aldershot), Edward Leigh (Gainsborough), Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West), David Lidington (Aylesbury), Peter Lilley (Hitchin & Harpenden), Jack Lopresti (Filton & Bradley Stoke), Stephen McPartland (Stevenage), Jesse Norman (Hereford & Herefordshire South), Owen Paterson (Shropshire North), Mark Reckless (Rochester & Strood), John Redwood (Wokingham), Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury), Mel Stride (Devon Central), Hugo Swire (Devon East), Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes), Gavin Williamson (Staffordshire South), Tim Yeo (Suffolk South)

Labour: Joe Benton (Bootle), Hazel Blears (Salford and Eccles), Chris Bryant (Rhondda), David Cairns (Inverclyde), Michael Connarty (Linlithgow & Falkirk East), Rosie Cooper (Lancashire West), Frank Doran (Aberdeen North), Angela Eagle (Wallasey), Caroline Flint (Don Valley), Paul Flynn (Newport West), Fabian Hamilton (Leeds North East), Tom Harris (Glasgow South), Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow), Jim Hood (Lanark & Hamilton East), George Howarth (Knowsley), Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central), Glenda Jackson (Hampstead & Kilburn), Sian James (Swansea East), Alan Keen (Feltham & Heston), Denis MacShane (Rotherham), Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham & Morden), Alison McGovern (Wirral South), Alan Meale (Mansfield), Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby), George Mudie (Leeds East), Fiona O'Donnell (East Lothian), Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central), Marsha Singh (Bradford West), Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester South), Graham Stringer (Blackley & Broughton), Tom Watson (West Bromwich East), Dave Watts (St Helens North), David Winnick (Walsall North)

Liberal Democrat: Andrew George (St Ives), Mike Hancock (Portsmouth South)

Democratic Unionist Party: Gregory Campbell (Londonderry East), Nigel Dodds (Belfast North), Jim Shannon (Strangford), David Simpson (Upper Bann), Sammy Wilson (Antrim East).

SDLP: Dr Alasdair McDonnell (Belfast South)

Independent MPs: Lady Sylvia Hermon (Down North)

Photograph of the 2003 peace marches courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Not-in-my-name_banner,_Stop_The_War_demo.JPG


  1. Yours is a great blog Jon and I hope others read it!

  2. I am no pacifist. There are times when military escapades are required - Hitler is an easy example. yet, as you so eloquently point out, a month ago Gaddafi was an ally. His crime, to squash dissent within his own country. Heinous? Yes. But so is what has happened in the recent past in places like Burma, China, North Korea, Zimbabwe. The list could be a very long one.

    If we could only learn that it it is unrealistic to sell arms to despots and expect them not to use them.