'Stop the war, destroy the Daesh genocide and rape machine' was the ironic slogan held up by Kurds as supporters of the Stop the War Coalition - stoppers for short - made their way into a London restaurant for a fundraising dinner last night. Other placards said airstrikes saved Kobane and liberated Sinjar. They also urged the stoppers not to betray the Kurds and said 'Thanks to British friends for the airstrikes.'
The protestors were from the Kurdistan National Coalition and the Kurdish Cultural Centre in London. The event was controversial because Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, a founder of the group, was the guest speaker, having rejected pleas from Labour MPs that associating with the group would discredit Labour.
The stoppers' main achievement was the massive march in February 2003 against the invasion of Iraq. Their demonstrations have dwindled since and the movement is a rag-bag of ultra-leftist sects that recycles tired slogans regardless of reality.
Their intellectual rot has been apparent from the beginning. Novelist, Ian McEwan's book, Saturday, is set on the day of the London march. It includes dialogue between Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon who has treated tortured Iraqis and knows about 'the massacres in the Kurdish north', and his anti-war daughter. Perowne pointedly asks: 'Why is it among those two million idealists today I didn't see one banner, one fist or voice raised against Saddam.' She replies, 'He's loathsome, it's a given.' He retorts, 'No, it's not. It's a forgotten.'
That march was their heyday but they soon embraced loathsome actions. They tried to persuade Labour in 2004 to adopt a position of Troops Out Now from Iraq. This would have created a vacuum in which those violently opposed to elections would have benefitted. Iraqi trade union representatives who persuaded Labour to reject this by a massive margin were then denounced as Quislings and stooges when they were just arguing Labour should accept the new Iraqi democracy.
This probably created the conditions for the murder of the Iraqi labour movement's International Secretary, Hadi Saleh in January 2005. Myself and others had met him in the Commons and knew him as a principled man who narrowly escaped Saddam's hangman and returned from exile to help refound a non-sectarian trade union movement. A key stopper loftily dismissed his ghastly murder by Baathist thugs as a hullabaloo about a Communist collaborator.
The stoppers are now lashing out because their primitive politics are in the spotlight. Veteran stopper, Tariq Ali last week arrogantly and offensively denounced 'a lot of stage Kurds' who were, he said, brought into BBC studios to support the 2003 invasion. He and the others just don't get it. Kurds are not children that can be manipulated. They were relieved by the overthrow of Saddam and face an existential fight with Daesh. They want Western help because they cannot do the job alone.
The stoppers have issued an official summary of their position but it makes things worse. It pathetically seeks victim status by claiming they are under unprecedented attack by those who misrepresent it because it opposed airstrikes in Syria and because such attacks are perceived to weaken Jeremy Corbyn. Their own actions have put them in the firing line. Some former prominent supporters have left and maybe others will follow.
The statement says the stoppers do 'not support calls for western invention, including an air war to establish a no fly zone, whether those calls emanate from Syrian exiles or anyone else, just as we did not support such calls from anti-Taliban or anti Saddam Afghans or Iraqis. Syrians do not all speak with one voice but many are opposed to western bombing.'
War should always be a last resort but military action is sometimes necessary, as it is now in beating back Daesh. The stoppers ignore the monsters whose barbarism forces peoples such as the Kurds to call for assistance. Yet, even if the Kurds support airstrikes the stoppers will still oppose airstrikes. They know best what is good for the Kurds, who are only stooges in their eyes. Surely, arguing that the West is always wrong, even when it responds to the Kurds, is an odd form of imperialism in itself. Opposing all action regardless of the justice and necessity of the case is dogmatic and irrelevant.
Allowing the stoppers to help determine the terms of political debate means that discussion on whether and when force is necessary is poorer, and makes it harder for any British government to do the right thing. The small but symbolically powerful protest by Kurds outside the restaurant threw down a gauntlet to the stoppers, whose arrogant ideological gyrations are tasteless and of no practical use to those fighting Daesh for the sake of humanity.