FOREIGN Secretary David Miliband, the ‘rising star’ in the government, was given the task of presenting Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s foreign policy strategy at the Labour Party Conference on Tuesday. As with other keynote speeches, Miliband’s, the second longest of the conference at 15 minutes, was the result of a victory of form over content.
He managed to speak about Iraq without talking about the British Army’s retreat from Basra and the fact that 5,500 troops are now hiding in Basra Air Base. There was also no mention of the growing death toll amongst the 7,500-strong British force in Afghanistan and he avoided talking about Iran.
Miliband said that he would ‘learn the right lessons’ from the ‘successes and the scars’ of former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s policy. This was the nearest he came to addressing the fact that Blair teamed up with US President George Bush in 2003 to ‘re-order the world’ and grab Middle East oil, through the invasion of Iraq, while the vast majority of people in Britain were opposed to the war.
Miliband dressed up Brown’s foreign policy as a ‘new chapter’ and a ‘second wave’. However, when he did address the situation in the Middle East he made clear that it would be more of the same, repeating Blair’s failed mantra.
He said: ‘For 10 years we’ve been uncompromising in defence of our values, unapologetic that every citizen of every nation deserves the freedom and equal rights to a true democracy. I believe we were right to do so.’
He admitted the issue of the Iraq war had been ‘divisive in our party and in our country’. However he added: ‘Whatever the rights and wrongs – and there have been both – we have got to focus on the future.
‘We need to continue to support the development of an effective Iraqi security force. We need to keep our promise to all Iraqis that they will have an economic stake in the future of the country. And we need to work with all the neighbours of Iraq to reconcile Sunni and Shia to prevent the conflict first fragmenting the country and then spreading like a contagion across the Middle East.’
Miliband then came closest to admitting defeat in Afghanistan and Iraq when he said: ‘While we have won the wars, it has been harder to win the peace. The lesson is that while there are military victories there is never a military solution. There’s only military action that creates the space for economic and political life.’
On the same day that Miliband addressed the conference, Defence Secretary Des Browne told a fringe meeting that he supported an ‘Islamic based’ solution in Afghanistan. Addressing the crisis of the military occupation of the country, he said that some commitments are ‘for decades’, but they were not necessarily military.
Concerning a political settlement in both Afghanistan and Palestine, Browne conceded that this would involve the Taleban, ‘because they are not going away’, any more than Hamas are going away in Palestine.
It is clear that the Brown government’s foreign policy is a continuation of that of Blair, with one vital difference. It is the wreckage of that policy, which has been smashed up on the rock of the anti-imperialist resistance in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and Lebanon, led by movements like Hamas, the Taleban and Hezbollah.
They have demonstrated that imperialism and the Bush and Brown governments have feet of clay. Conscious of that fact, the masses of the Middle East are going forward to drive imperialism out of the region.
Workers in the US, Britain and other imperialist countries should recognise the fact that their ruling classes have been fatally weakened.
In Britain, this was clear when prison officers went on strike in defiance of the government and the anti-union laws, and did so with impunity.
The more than three million public sector workers – postal workers, NHS staff, civil servants and local council workers – must press forward now to defeat pay cuts being imposed on them by Brown, by organising a mass public sector strike to preserve their jobs and living standards, and kick out his bankers’ government.
Defeat of the Brown government will deliver a powerful blow in support of the peoples of the Middle East, fighting for the liberation of Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine and the defeat of the imperialists and their agents, like the Zionist entity of Israel.