- Thursday, 16 August 2012
- Written by Darrall Cozens etc.
Back in June, Labourspokesperson Jim Murphy sent out an e-mail to Labour Party members on the subject of Armed Forces Day. Darrall Cozens from Coventry NW CLP sent a reply back (which was also printed in the July/Aug edition of Socialist Appeal) taking up some of his points. Since then a few more e-mails have been sent. Here we reproduce the texts of this interesting debate.
The original e-mail from Jim Murphy:
In just two days on the 30th June the country will be celebrating Armed Forces Day.
This important event gives us a chance to thank those who serve.
As Party members we often ask you to get involved in activity that can take up a lot of your time. For Armed Forces Day I only want to ask for three seconds of your time - that's all it would take to say 'thank you' to a member of our Armed Forces.
That must be the easiest thing we have ever asked you to do.
You may have read about soldiers who had been pallbearers at a corporal's funeral being turned away from a pub on Monday.
Armed Forces day is a day to say thank you – but it’s also a day to ensure that discrimination against the Armed Forces becomes a thing of the past
Labour is calling for cross-party talks on ending discrimination against the Armed Forces. Join our campaign here
You can campaign on defence issue with Labour Friends of the Forces. Click here to join for free
The reply from Darrall Cozens:
Thank you for your email asking me to join in the campaign to say thank you to our Armed Forces. I feel honoured that after having been in the Labour Party since October 1964 I am receiving personally addressed emails from the shadow Minister of Defence! Having said that I do have some issues about the intent of your email.
You and I know that the bulk of recruits to the Armed Forces come from our traditional supporters, the working class. This is even more so at times of recession when job prospects for working class youth in many areas are even lower than "normal" times.
If you look at the class profile of the more than 400 British soldiers that have been killed in Afghanistan alone, it is overwhelmingly working class young men and women who are sacrificing themselves in the heat and dust of that country. In that respect the only thing that has changed since the first Afghan wars of the 1830s/40s is that today the bodies of the fallen are brought back home.
And what is it that they are fighting and dying for? You will say to stop terrorism, to stop Al Quaeda, to stop the Taliban. I will say that Afghanistan is a failed state riddled with corruption where the powerful use their positions in the state to fill their pockets and make millions from the drug trade. Even one of Karzai's own brothers was recently stopped in Saudi Arabia with suitcases stuffed full of dollar bills.
And while British youth are dying out there fighting the Taliban, NATO and its allies are negotiating with the same Taliban, with the enemy, on two issues: on allowing trucks to pass through Taliban-controlled territory to supply forward bases and for which the Taliban are handsomely paid in dollar bills and secondly, on the role they will play when British and other forces are withdrawn. And it is the Taliban which condemns women to the burka, to second class citizenship, to being confined to the home, and even worse condemns the whole of the population to living under the religious edicts of the Taliban. So many wasted lives of British and Afghani people to establish a theocratic state that will be no different to what existed before the invasion.
No, there will be one difference. The state will be propped up with £bns from the west as the Afghan GDP is not even big enough to cover military and police expenditure, never mind education and health. I will make a prediction. After the withdrawal of British and other forces, Afghanistan will be faced with two scenarios - the division of the country into opposing warring states under the control of rival warlords or a constant battle between these rivals to control the Afghan state itself which will offer rich rewards to whoever controls it. The ordinary Afghan people, whose needs we as a Labour Party should be fighting for, will still be condemned to producing wealth for others to plunder. And all of this will be happening under a state where rights that we take for granted are systematically eroded.
And what of our working class heroes, our British troops? They have given all they can and many have made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives. It is apt that you refer in your email to pallbearers at a corporal's funeral being turned away from a British pub. That happened in Coventry where I have lived for the past 45 years. The pub is question has always had a policy of turning away potential customers whose faces did not fit. Ii is mainly frequented by students from the nearby Coventry University and many Black and Asian students in particular have suffered at the hands of the pub's discriminatory entry policy. The soldiers concerned should not have been barred and neither should other customers whose skin colour was not of the right type.
I recognise the heroism and bravery of these soldiers who once having joined up obey orders without question. My father did the same from 1936 to 1951 in Afghanistan, Burma, Palestine, the Rhine crossing and Defence at home. After his sacrifice he came home to a land "fit for heroes" and spent his remaining years working on trawlers and in factories only to be rewarded with a few years of retirement before death, as happens to many working class men.
The real reason we are in Afghanistan is economic and geopolitical. It is a staging post for western interests given the proximity of Russia, China and Iran. It also has vast reserves of oil, gas, precious metals, gold and precious stones such as diamonds and lapis lazuli . It was not for nothing that the Russians invested £800m to try and exploit the natural resources and their soldiers paid for it dearly with their lives. Now it is the turn of British working class youth to fight and die for the interests of multi-national corporations and suppliers of war materials and services.
I salute, as I have said, the courage of working class youth who ask no questions and do as they are ordered. But please do not ask me or anyone else to join in the hypocrisy of celebrating the death and destruction of British and Afghan working people and their families.
Darrall gets a reply:
Many thanks for your email.
I am glad that you are supporting the anti-discrimination campaign. It is essential that those who protect our nation have the protection they deserve here at home.
And you are right to say that many of those who join the Army are from working class backgrounds. The Army provides an excellent career and experiences which given important skills and insights which, with the right support post-Service, can be extremely useful in civilian life.
You are right that there are huge challenges in Afghanistan. I disagree with the view that we are there for geo-political reasons. We want and need a stable region, but the reason for the conflict was September 11th and the reason we are there today is because we want to see a more stable country which can never again be an incubator for terrorism. The actions of our Forces can help bring greater security to our streets at home.
This is an issue that we both care enormously about, and I attach a copy of a speech I gave on this matter, which may be of interest to you. I believe we must all find ways to ensure safety and security in Afghanistan is sustainable. My wider worry is that with a lack of political progress that stabilises the country the military achievements may be undermined.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.
Rt. Hon. Jim Murphy MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
And sends one back!