Iraq/Iran WMD myths, part 67

John Lloyd uses the “Iranian threat” to criticise Ed Miliband’s position on Iraq.

The former New Statesman journalist and "liberal interventionist" John Lloyd has a rather silly blog post up on the Prospect site entitled:

Ed Miliband's alarming attitude on Iraq

He says Miliband's declaration yesterday that the invasion of Iraq was "wrong" implies that the Labour leader does "not believe Saddam Hussein's regime posed a real threat to the world". Memo to John: it wasn't. He had no WMDs. He wasn't even a threat to his neighbours. The best — the very best! — that Tony Blair could come up with in the Iraq chapter of A Journey is that Saddam might have, one day, in the distant future, if all sanctions were lifted, and if all UN weapons inspectors pulled out, reconstituted WMD programmes (not WMDs).

Lloyd goes on to write:

Anyone in serious politics who now wishes to oppose, in retrospect, the Labour government's decision on Iraq, must give his party an account of how he sees a world in which one of the gravest strategic threats is the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Really? Did Obama? I'm always amused at how liberal and conservative hawks in Britain, who condemn those of who opposed the Iraq war and continue to denounce it, have so little to say about Barack Obama's opposition to, and denunciation of, the war (which, of course, helped him get elected too!).

Lloyd concludes:

A leader's maiden speech is not the place . . . to dismiss one of the central controversies of the past decade with a few glib phrases.

Hmm. Then how to explain Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, in August 2008, in which he accepted his party's nomination for president and said:

For while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face . . . You don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq.

Why pick on Ed M while giving Barack O a free pass?

But the real reason for this post is that I couldn't let Lloyd's claims vis-à-vis Iran go unchallenged. He writes:

Iran has taken the lead in threatening the region and the west with WMD, which it continues to attempt to acquire and make operational.

I have three responses to this nonsensical and disingenuous sentence:

1) "Threatening the region" with "WMDs"? Not even the most hawkish Israeli general or American spook has claimed that Iran possesses weapons of mass destruction.

2) He then claims that Iran "continues to attempt to acquire make operational" WMDs. Where's the evidence? The IAEA disagrees, as does the US intelligence community.

3) How can a "serious" journalist talk about the threat of WMDs in the "region" without making even a passing reference to the only country in the Middle East which actually has nukes — that is to say, the state of Israel? Ridiculous.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.