It’s a bald-face lie to say that the Taliban are a terrorist threat to the UK. It’s the fantasy used since 2001 to send our forces into deadly peril. It was repeated in parliament on three consecutive days. The Speaker asked me if I was saying that it was a lie. There was only one truthful answer.
The punishment is expulsion from Parliament for five days and loss of a month’s wages. A price well worth paying. My charge was broadcast widely throughout the world. It stuck a chord that continues to reverberate. I said, "The role of our brave soldiers is to act as human shields for ministers' reputations. The danger to our soldiers has been prolonged by those on the front bench who have the power to stop it.
"Other countries have removed their soldiers and are not doing what we are doing in arming and training our future enemy.
"Is this not similar to the end of the first world war when it was said that politicians lied and soldiers died and the reality was, as it is now, that our brave soldier lions were being led by ministerial donkeys?"
Those are simple vital truths expressed in direct language. Lives have been lost to protect politicians’ reputations. A months salary is a bargain price for publicity that would cost £millions.
I have been touched, moved and inspired by the hundreds of messages that have arrived. My constituents and my local paper are powerful allies for a peace campaign I have been running since 2006. There is a new welling-up of anger that could mean that we are at a tipping point. All the following quotes are from people who are strangers to me. I am sure they speak for the nation.
“As a serving soldier in the Infantry from myself and all who I have served with (of some whom died) I wanted to say - Your right, your so bloody right. Thank you.”
“This waste of life in pursuit of the blind egotism and self-supporting re-inforcement of the Tory ethos is beyond disgusting and needs to be exposed for what it is at every turn”.
have never fully understood or been comfortable with successive governments
policies in this matter and remain sceptical of what is likely to be achieved
from any UK military presence in the region - the history of attempted military
intervention in this region is more than well documented”.
“I believe it is now clear our armed forces have been hung out to dry from political convenience for some time and are likely to be left in limbo until they finally withdraw”.
“The sheer futility of the continued campaign in Afghanistan is frankly maddening, anyone can see that it is simply misplaced pride and denial that means this foreign policy persists”.
“As Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, how many more boys and girls have to die? “
“I had 16 years service in the Army reserve and fully support our young men and women in their service of our country and as a school teacher have over the years encouraged many youngsters to join our military and give service. However, over the last few years I no longer do this, as I am seriously concerned at what I see as the terrible waste of young lives both in fatalities and in injuries.
And for what?”
“In my opinion the politicians are just using our poor boys as a way to save face. I feel that we should of gone in 2001 and everything we did up until 2004 was just and right but all this redevelopment in Helmand etc is just a ridiculous quagmire”
“Of course we tend to forget all the injured persons involved. I know one young lad who joined the Royal Marines. He was posted to Afghanistan as soon as he was 18 years of age, and within a couple of months he had a leg blown off by a roadside bomb. What for I ask myself?”
“We are losing men and women out there every single week for no genuine reason at all and for what when we finally withdraw one can envisage the bad guys taking over yet again just as they did when the Russian Army withdrew between 1988 and 89.
We folks in Somerset have had to suffer its loses and even the fathers and mothers are asking to what purpose has there sons and daughters deaths served.”
“The war in any middle eastern country is futile and certainly not worth sending our young men to be killed or maimed. They may overthrow the present regimes but they are quickly replaced by another just as bad as history shows”.
“The Afghan mess is appalling and obscene. There's an underlying assumption that young people who join the army must expect to be killed or injured - it's part of their employment contract which they accept voluntarily and, anyway, if they die, they are promoted to the status of "heroes" - they can't ask for more than that. And, needless to say, those who fight on the wrong side deserve to be killed and don't qualify for hero status. As for civilian "casualties", they are a regrettable but inevitable consequence. If there were cases where war is justifiable, Afghanistan would not be one of them”.
“Each time we hear of yet another fine young person killed we feel despair. It is a war we cannot and will not win. We couldn't last time and we are damn sure we won't this time. How many more young lives are to be lost in such a hopeless battle?”
“We've lost two soldiers in the village of Llanharan in the past few months and that saddens me greatly. As far as I'm concerned a soldier’s job is to protect his country and it makes me wonder who they're protecting us from.”
“I don't know about the people you mix with, but I know of no-one who supports the war or who believes that we have any chance of 'winning' or doing any good”.
“The people in this country who ARE being lied to - as are most in the world about what war is actually for - need to have more exposing and challenging as you did. In my opinion war serves no one except those politicians who use it as a bolstering tool, both for their egos and their financial gain, in some way or another”.
In my 40 years as an elected politician, I have had a vox pop of such thunderous anger. For how long can Government ignore the truth? There is no reason why we cannot follow Canada and Holland’s example. Bring the soldiers home by Christmas.
In March 2012, I, Jeremy Corbyn and Caroline Lucas delivered a Stop the War Coalition letter to David Cameron at 10 Downing Street. It demanded the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. If the government had heeded that call we would not have had the wasted lives of the 25 British soldiers who have died since then, nor of the countless Afghans that have been killed in the same period.
How many more? Who will the last soldier in Afghanistan to die for a politicians’ lies?