By Judith Orr
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As British jets join raids on Iraq – Protest against the war

This article is over 9 years, 2 months old
Issue 2423
Protesting in Downing Street against Britain joining bombing of Iraq
Protesting in Downing Street last week against Britain joining bombing of Iraq (Pic: Dave Gilchrist)

British warplanes joined the third attack on Iraq in less than 25 years after a vote in Westminster on Friday of last week.

MPs backed prime minister David Cameron’s proposal to launch air strikes by a majority of 524 votes to 43 after parliament was recalled. 

Britain joins the US, France and a number of Arab states in their assault on the country in the name of stopping the sectarian Islamist group Islamic State, also known as Isis.

Within 24 hours RAF tornado jets flew from Cyprus to Iraq searching for targets.

Cameron said, “This is going to be a mission that will take not just months but years.”

To their shame most Labour MPs lined up to back the Tories’ new war.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said bombing Iraq was about “protecting our national interest, security and the values for which we stand.”

After the vote Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in east London, resigned as shadow education minister over Labour’s support for the air strikes. 

Labour MP and chair of the Stop the War Coalition (StW) Jeremy Corbyn refused to vote for the motion. 

He spoke to Socialist Worker on the eve of the vote as StW protesters gathered outside Downing Street in London.

Corbyn said, “This is the third time I’ve been asked to bomb Iraq and the third time I’ll say no.”

He pointed to the West’s hypocrisy. “They are joining with Saudi Arabia which frequently beheads opponents of its regime to stop Isis which beheads the opponents of its regime,” he said.

Like Saudi Arabia the West’s other allies in the bombing—Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar and UAE—are dictatorships that suppressed democracy movements during the Arab Spring. 

MPs congratulated themselves on what many declared was a serious debate. They acknowledged the shadow cast by the last war on Iraq. But in speech after speech MPs claimed that somehow this war would be different.

The vote was on a motion to bomb Iraq, but many MPs were already pushing to extend air strikes to Syria. Cameron asserted that he could legally extend action without a new vote.

Even Miliband did not rule out spreading the attack to Syria, only saying it would be “better” if there was a United Nations resolution to justify such action.

Several MPs also refused to rule out putting troops on the ground.

Iraqi socialist Sami Ramadani told Socialist Worker, “They failed to win a vote to bomb Syria last year because of opposition to war.

“Now they want to justify this new war with all the talk of tackling savagery of Isis.”

“But this is a chance for the US and the West to reassert itself in the region,” said Sami.

Activists across Britain need to get out on to the streets and challenge the warmongers’ lies and the threat of increased Islamophobia they whip up.

Demonstrate Saturday 4 October. Assemble 1pm Temple Place London WC2R 3BD. More details at

The not-so-clear targets to bomb and the response from the victims

Socialist Worker front page

Socialist Worker front page

Politicians claim they have Islamic State “bases” clearly targeted in the growing area it controls across north eastern Syria and north west Iraq.

US bombing has focused on the Islamic State-controlled city of Raqaa in Syria’s north east. 

Previously it had faced constant bombing from forces of dictator Bashar al-Assad. 

Civilians who were not able to flee are in the firing line. 

British foreign secretary Philip Hammond said Western air strikes aimed to have no civilian casualties. But he admitted, “That’s not always achievable”.

The US has already bombed a school in the town of Tal Abyad on the border with Turkey, claiming it was a local Islamic State headquarters.

Other raids are about taking back oil and gas installations captured by Islamic State forces.

The US carried out a separate strike with at least 20 Tomahawk cruise missiles against eight targets near the north western Syrian city of Aleppo.

US army chief William Mayville Jnr claimed these were to stop a group called Khorasan, which was in the “final stages of plans to execute major attacks against Western targets and potentially the US homeland”.

Khorasan is the name given—by the US—to a group of Al Qaida affiliated fighters based in Syria. Many are supposed to come from the region of that name bridging Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Yet there is no evidence that such a group either exists or has any such plans. It appears to be a creation of the CIA to whip up fears of an Islamic terrorist threat to justify air strikes. 

Islamic State is a product of the sectarian regime created by the West after its invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The West used sectarianism to help crush opposition in Iraq, setting up a majority Shia government and crushing Sunni dissent. 

This created the conditions out of which the Islamic State organisation grew. The new war allows it to pose as the militant opposition to imperialism. 

Fighters for the Al Qaida linked group Jabhat al-Nusra are reported to be defecting to Islamic State. Yet up to 3,000 have died in fighting between the two groups in the last two years. 

One Raqaa resident told the BBC, “The people are against Islamic State, but if the USA bombs Raqaa, we will be with Islamic State against the USA.” 

Syrians against West’s bombs

Tens of thousands of people in rebel areas of Syria have demonstrated against the latest Western attacks.

The demonstrations were bigger than any since 2012 in Houla in Homs province, in Daraa in the south and in Taftanaz and Maarat al-Numan in Idlib province. 

These people have fought both Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship and Islamic State, and they are opposed to the West’s intervention.

One placard said, “Civilians don’t need international killers.”

People in Kafar Daryan in Idlib held a silent protest after US missiles killed scores of civilians as well as supporters of Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra on Tuesday.

Volunteer civil defence workers, who rescue people after regime air strikes, themselves became the victims of a US attack.

In Manbij, east of Aleppo, US air strikes destroyed grain silos and killed two civilians who distribute food. 

Many rebels are now uniting with Islamist groups they have been fighting to oppose both the West’s assault and the opportunity for Assad to strengthen the regime’s control. 

Far from weakening Islamic State the West’s attacks are making it stronger.

The cost of using weapons 

Britain is so far only supplying political cover for the US which doen’t need its six RAF Tornado aircraft.

The US is showing off its most expensive fighter, the F-22 “Raptor” in combat for the first time.

The RAF boasts that its Tornadoes’ electronic pods—also called “Raptor”—mean they can see “targets” before and after attacks at a safe distance. 

Yet each Tornado has massive potential for destruction with five 500lb Paveway “precision” bombs and Brimstone missiles. 

They can also carry 1,000lb “dumb” bombs. 

Each Tornado costs £35,000 per hour simply to fly.

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