At least Jeremy Corbyn now knows the exact identities of the enemy within. Awkward for him that 11 of them are members of his own Shadow Cabinet. For now.
In the grand scheme of things, a few bombing sorties by British planes in Syria won’t change much. Unless you’re unlucky enough to be one of the Syrians whose home or family are hit by them, that is. Those victims won’t care which nation’s planes launched the assault on them. Most of those planes are still American or Russian. British involvement will make nothing better. But it won’t make anything very much worse either.
You can see why some commentators were saying last week’s dramatic vote in the House of Commons was a bigger occasion for British politics than it was for the Middle East. Though it raised voices and emotions on both sides, its significance was more symbolic than practical.
A philosophical confrontation between those who like to believe that lobbing bombs into the desert, flattening towns and villages, can make anything better – and those who don’t.
Between those who imagine Iraq, Afghanistan and LIbya have been pacified and made safe by the delivery of countless tons of explosives – and those who don’t.
Between those who think you can make people less “radical” by making them homeless and killing their friends – and those who don’t.
It’s hard to see how this can be anything other than an open-and-shut case. But it’s also hard to see what logic there was in drawing a line in the sand – the Syrian-Iraqi border – and bombing one side but not the other. It’s this that made last Wednesday’s vote more about the Labour Party than about ISIS.
There was a truly great speech made by Labour MP Benn. Unfortunately, you had to go on YouTube to hear the late Tony deliver his masterful, impassioned plea to the House against the bombing of Iraq.
Recalling his own experiences during the 1940s London Blitz, he said: “Every morning I saw dockland burning, 500 people were killed in Westminster one night by a landmine – it was terrifying.
“Aren’t Arabs terrified? Aren’t Iraqis terrified? Don’t Arab and Iraqi women weep when their children die? Doesn’t bombing strengthen their determination?
“Every MP tonight who votes for the government motion will be consciously and deliberately accepting the responsibility for the deaths of innocent people.”
The contrast between those heart-felt words and the semi-coherent, illogical rambling of his son Hilary in Parliament last week could hardly be greater. Sitting behind Tony Benn in 1998 was an approving Jeremy Corbyn. It is he, not Benn’s own son, who carries the great man’s flag.
Hilary Benn’s speech was widely declared one of the finest heard in the House in recent times. If that’s true, it’s a sorry sign of how far the standard of debate has fallen.
His clarion call for war was widely interpreted as a bid for the Labour leadership. Muddled though his thinking is, I can’t believe he’s stooped quite that low.
Or that he’s that stupid. There may still be many Labour MPs – left-overs from the despicable Blair regime – who want Corbyn out. But it’s the whole party membership, not the MPs alone, who choose the leader. And there can be little doubt where the party outside Westminster stands. Which is not with the allegedly “moderate” Blairite militarists.
The British weaponry destroying Yemen
One bitter “joke” doing the rounds on Twitter goes like this: “During WWII the allies bombed the enemy’s weapons factories. We could do the same against ISIS – except it would mean bombing our own country.”
Meanwhile, in what you could call the Middle East’s forgotten war, Saudi Arabia is systematically destroying its southern neighbour, Yemen.
An International Red Cross observer in the devastated capital, Sanaa, said last week: “Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years.” Around 1.5million people have been made homeless and 82 per cent of Yemenis are in need of humanitarian aid.
Former British ambassador Frances Guy said: “Where is the next place that ISIS will go? The answer is Yemen. Because of the instability caused by the bombing, we have helped created the next space for ISIS after Syria.”
The ordnance being rained on Yemen by the Saudis includes British-made Paveway IV missiles made by Essex-based Raytheon UK, launched from Typhoon and Tornado jets built by BAE Systems.
Doesn’t it make you proud?