Has Birmingham Stop the War Coalition been brought into disrepute?
Nu'man Abd Al-Wahid
One of Birmingham’s local “Stop the War (StW) Coalition” groups held a meeting on the 7th November 2012 to discuss the Libyan situation. Surely a group, which in theory, at least, claims it opposes western intervention and was formed on the basis that it opposed the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq was going to highlight the extreme shortcomings of the British led intervention in Libya? I should’ve known better.
And who did Stop the War invite to give an assessment of what has been happening in Libya since Gadhaffi’s lynching? Why, none other than the person they invited last year to give a pro-NATO talk on Libya. I presume we live in the era of ‘War is Peace’, so why not?
However, the local StW convener, Stuart Richardson, promoted this talk on the basis that the speaker was offering his own personal perspective. But this misses the point entirely. I always thought that StW existed to oppose western interventions. Isn’t this what it says on the tin? – or on their ‘About Us’ page. Maybe on the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Birmingham StW could invite Clare Short or Tony Blair to give their personal perspective on the invasion of Iraq?
In other words, if I want to hear pro-NATO speakers I turn on the BBC/ITV/Sky or I would possibly go to a Conservative/Lib Dem/Labour Party/EDL meeting. I certainly don’t expect to arrive at a StW meeting to listen to pro military interventionists.
Allow me to draw an analogy, if I were to attend a conference on learning more about the benefits of vegetarianism, I simply shouldn’t expect the convener of the conference or the head of the vegetarian group to be eating a chicken or BLT sandwich when I arrive!
Yet this is precisely what has happened at this local Birmingham StW group two years in a row. The meeting began bizarrely enough with the pro-NATO speaker showing a you-tube clip of a person being lynched in an army barracks in 1995. The speaker claimed that this is what it was like in Libya but it could’ve been anywhere in the Maghreb, especially as there was no sound to the clip. The speaker claimed that the clip exemplified Gadhaffi’s rule before the “revolution”. I am sure that by “revolution” he was referring to the NATO-Islamist coup that ended the Jamahariyya.
From this he proceeded to address the killing of the American ambassador. Here, he offered a bizarre hotchpotch of insinuations of why the Ambassador was killed. He claimed that the American compound wasn’t protected properly and then he said that 23 of the 30 Americans stationed at Benghazi were CIA agents and he also claimed that the American ambassador did not respect local customs, the evidence of this was the Ambassador’s female colleague wearing a skirt at a meal with Libyans!
Bizarrely, he made no mention that al-Qaeda had announced the death Abu Yahya al-Libi, one of their senior commanders of Libyan origin, days earlier until I raised it in the Q&A.
After his sickening insinuations on the death of the American ambassador the speaker then began developing some kind of theory on the bombing of Gadhaffi’s motorcade just before his lynching. Only God knows what points the speaker was attempting to make. He claimed that NATO bombs hit the front of the convoy and the rear but did not hit the middle where he claimed Gadhaffi was seated. He then played another you-tube clip to show the bombed convoy surrounded by charred bodies and gloating Islamists. After a couple of minutes of watching these gruesome images, I led the calls for him to stop playing the clip.
I would have to say, even by Birmingham’s StW standards this was the most ridiculous and absurd anti-war meeting I have ever been to. If there was any accountability in StW, the local convenor, Stuart Richardson, would be sacked for organising this meeting alone, let alone that he seems to have invited the same pro-NATO speaker twice.
Birmingham StW has totally failed to address key issues on Libya. From the moment William Hague falsely claimed Gadhaffi had fled to Venezuela to the current fact that there may now be 300-400 militias in Libya it has remained silent. The other glaring omissions from this talk was the fact that with all the talk of “African” (i.e. read, black) mercenaries at the start of the Libyan “uprising” the only foreigners present were the six MI6 agents that had to be rescued. The same is now happening in Syria. The pro-interventionists are claiming that Hizbollah/Russia/Iranian troops are on the ground, yet the evidence points to the fact that Libyans/Afghans/Gulfies/Turks Islamist mercenaries are on the ground assisting the FSA.
No mention was made of the murderous racism inflicted on Black Libyans and Black Africans. No mention was made of the ethnic cleansing of the Tawargha, a town of 30,000 black Libyans. No mention was made of Libya’s frozen billions in European banks. No mention was made of bombing Libyan infrastructure including the water pipeline bring in water from the south of the country to the north. No mention was made of the up to 30,000 people currently being detained in Libyan prisons by the various militias. No mention was made of the lies that led to the intervention such as Gadhaffi’s army being high on Viagra and raping its way through Libya. Even StW hero, the Guardian’s in house “anti-imperialist”, marketing gimmick Seamus Milne, claims that the NATO bombing killed up to 30,000 people.
Just as I was beginning to think that this meeting couldn’t get worse, Stuart’s comrade, “Ali” suggested that the best way forward for Libya was for Cameron, Obama and William Hague to offer good advice to the new Libyan government! No joke!
Revolutions are supposed to provide people new hope but what has replaced Gadhaffi is nothing but NATO/UK/Islamist engineered brutal mayhem and worse Libya is now an imperialist base. To the speaker’s credit he admitted that the national past time in Libya is now looting and none of the militias are listening to the weak central government. Although he disagreed with my assertion that this central government exists only on paper.
Needless to say Birmingham StW has totally fudged the wider issue of why the British state has been leading the calls for interventions in Libya and now in Syria and not the United States. StW has also keenly fudged addressing the revitalised geo-political relationship between UK and Islamists.
On the basis of this absurd meeting, I call upon all anti-war activists and people with a robust acquaintance with common sense, to join me in urging ‘Stop the War Coalition’ head office in London to resign Stuart Richardson as he has brought anti-war activity into disrepute two years in a row by inviting the same pro-NATO speaker to an anti-war platform.