Jeremy Corbyn prescribes a security and foreign policy with integrity and human rights at its core

July 25, 2017


Professor Paul Rogers’ reference to the Corbyn’s Chatham House speech in May, in his recent article: ‘Corbyn’s Labour: now look outwards’ prompted a search for a transcript, found on The Spectator’s website.

In his Chatham House speech, Jeremy Corbyn set out how a Labour Government he leads will keep Britain safe, reshape relationships with partners around the world, work to strengthen the United Nations and respond to the global challenges we face in the 21st century. Edited extracts follow, added emphasis and links.

In his final televised 1950s address to the American people as President, Eisenhower gave a stark warning of what he described as “the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military-industrial complex.” “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry”, he said, “can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

You are either for or against what is presented as “strong defence”, regardless of the actual record of what that has meant in practice.

Too much of our debate about defence and security is one dimensional. Alert citizens or political leaders who advocate other routes to security are dismissed or treated as unreliable.

My generation grew up under the shadow of the cold war. On television, through the 1960s and into the seventies, the news was dominated by Vietnam. I was haunted by images of civilians fleeing chemical weapons used by the United States. At the end of the cold war, when the Berlin Wall came down we were told it was the end of history. Global leaders promised a more peaceful, stable world. It didn’t work out like that. Today the world is more unstable than even at the height of the cold war. The approach to international security we have been using since the 1990s has simply not worked.

Regime change wars in Afghanistan Iraq, Libya, and Syria – and Western interventions in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen – have failed in their own terms, and made the world a more dangerous place.

This is the fourth General Election in a row to be held while Britain is at war and our armed forces are in action in the Middle East and beyond. The fact is that the ‘war on terror’ which has driven these interventions has failed. They have not increased our security at home – just the opposite. And they have caused destabilisation and devastation abroad.

Last September, the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee concluded that the Libyan intervention led to political and economic collapse, humanitarian and migrant crises and fuelled the rise of Isis in Africa and across the Middle East. Is that really the way to deliver security to the British people? Who seriously believes that’s what real strength looks like?

We need to step back and have some fresh thinking. The world faces huge problems. As well as the legacy of regime change wars, there is a dangerous cocktail of ethnic conflicts, of food insecurity, water scarcity, the emerging effects of climate change. Add to that mix a grotesque and growing level of inequality in which just eight billionaires own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest people and you end up with a refugee crisis of epic proportions affecting every continent in the world, with more displaced people in the world than since the Second World War. These problems are getting worse and fuelling threats and instability. The global situation is becoming more dangerous.

A Labour Government will want a strong and friendly relationship with the United States. But we will not be afraid to speak our mind. The US is the strongest military power on the planet by a very long way. It has a special responsibility to use its power with care and to support international efforts to resolve conflicts collectively and peacefully.

No more hand holding with Donald Trump.

The new US President seems determined to add to the dangers by recklessly escalating the confrontation with North Korea, unilaterally launching missile strikes on Syria, opposing President Obama’s nuclear arms deal with Iran and backing a new nuclear arms race.

Waiting to see which way the wind blows in Washington isn’t strong leadership. And pandering to an erratic Trump administration will not deliver stability. When Theresa May addressed a Republican Party conference in Philadelphia in January she spoke in alarmist terms about the rise of China and India and of the danger of the West being eclipsed. She said America and Britain had to ‘stand strong’ together and use their military might to protect their interests. This is the sort of language that led to calamity in Iraq and Libya and all the other disastrous wars that stole the post-Cold War promise of a new world order.

I do not see India and China in those terms. Nor do I think the vast majority of Americans or British people want the boots of their young men and women on the ground in Syria fighting a war that would escalate the suffering and slaughter even further. Britain deserves better than simply outsourcing our country’s security and prosperity to the whims of the Trump White House.

A Labour Government will conduct a robust and independent foreign policy – made in Britain

A Labour Government would seek to work for peace and security with all the other permanent members of the United Nations security council – the US, China, Russia and France. And with other countries with a major role to play such as India, South Africa, Brazil and Germany.

Reverse the failed ‘bomb first, talk later’ approach to security

I am often asked if as prime minister I would order the use of nuclear weapons. It’s an extraordinary question when you think about it – would you order the indiscriminate killing of millions of people? Would you risk such extensive contamination of the planet that no life could exist across large parts of the world? If circumstances arose where that was a real option, it would represent complete and cataclysmic failure. It would mean world leaders had already triggered a spiral of catastrophe for humankind.

The best defence for Britain is a government actively engaged in seeking peaceful solutions to the world’s problems 

Labour is committed actively to pursue disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and we are committed to no first use of nuclear weapons. But to protect the safety and security of our people and our country, my first duty, I know I will have to work with other countries to solve problems, defuse tensions and build collective security.

I am not a pacifist. I accept that military action, under international law and as a genuine last resort, is in some circumstances necessary. But that is very far from the kind of unilateral wars and interventions that have almost become routine in recent times. I will not take lectures on security or humanitarian action from a Conservative Party that stood by in the 1980s – refusing even to impose sanctions – while children on the streets of Soweto were being shot dead in the streets, or which has backed every move to put our armed forces in harm’s way regardless of the impact on our people’s security.

And as the security threats and challenges we face are not bound by geographic borders it is vital that, as Britain leaves the EU, we maintain a close relationship with our European partners alongside our commitment to NATO and spending at least 2% on defence. Deep cuts have seen the Army reduced to its smallest size since the Napoleonic wars. From stagnant pay and worsening conditions, to poor housing, the morale of our service personnel and veterans is at rock bottom.

Working with our allies to ensure peace and security in Europe, we will work to halt the drift to confrontation with Russia and the escalation of military deployments across the continent.

There is no need whatever to weaken our opposition to Russia’s human rights abuses at home or abroad to understand the necessity of winding down tensions on the Russia-Nato border and supporting dialogue to reduce the risk of international conflict. We will back a new conference on security and cooperation in Europe and seek to defuse the crisis in Ukraine through implementation of the Minsk agreements.

The next Labour Government will invest in the UK’s diplomatic networks and consular services. We will seek to rebuild some of the key capabilities and services that have been lost as a result of Conservative cuts in recent years.

A Labour Government will refocus Britain’s influence towards cooperation, peaceful settlements and social justice, while Theresa May seeks to build a coalition of risk and insecurity with Donald Trump. To lead this work, Labour has created a Minister for Peace (Fabian Hamilton, MP for Leeds North East) who will work across the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We will reclaim Britain’s leading role in tackling climate change, working hard to preserve the Paris Agreement and deliver on international commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

The life chances, security and prosperity of our citizens are dependent on a stable international environment. We will strengthen our commitment to the UN. But we are well aware of its shortcomings, particularly in the light of repeated abuses of the veto power in the UN Security Council. So we will work with allies and partners from around the world to build support for UN reform in order to make its institutions more effective and responsive. And as a permanent member of the Security Council we will provide a lead by respecting the authority of International Law.

There is a clear choice at the next election

Do  we continue with the failed policy of continual and devastating military interventions, that have intensified conflicts and increased the terrorist threat, or be willing to step back, learn the lessons of the past and find new ways to solve and prevent conflicts. As Dwight Eisenhower said on another occasion: If people “can develop weapons that are so terrifying as to make the thought of global war almost a sentence for suicide, you would think that man’s intelligence would include also his ability to find a peaceful solution.”

A Labour Government will give leadership in a new and constructive way and that is the leadership we are ready to provide both at home and abroad. In the words of Martin Luther King “The chain reaction of evil – hate – begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark days of annihilation”. I believe we can find those solutions. We can walk the hard yards to a better way to live together on this planet.

See the video here: Chatham House speech and/or read the full text with more on Syria, arms exports and nuclear weapons downloaded from The Spectator.





Len Aldis

December 4, 2015


LenAldisMark Shapiro has written to tell us that his good friend, Len Aldis, well known campaigner for peace and justice, has died. Len’s local paper, the East London News, recorded his work for the pensioners’ movement, speaking up for a range of improvements for older people and as ‘a stalwart’ of the Tower Hamlets CND branch.

In 1949-50 and during the U.S. War era on Vietnam, Len took part in marches, meetings and demonstrations calling for an end to the war. He worked as a secretary for an association relating to Vietnam and later on set up the British-Vietnam Friendship Society in 1992 and sent a comment on the post about Britain keeping out of the Vietnam war, detailing covert assistance.

He visited the country frequently, taking gifts of money and solidarity to all the people who had suffered in the war and in particular to those who continued to suffer the effects of US bombing with Agent Orange. The Vietnamese people responded warmly to his unstinting support and he received a series of honours in recognition of his work.

len aldis award

The local paper adds: “It was Len who exposed, more than anyone else, how lasting the effects of this chemical warfare were, lasting down four or five generations”. He highlighted the facts that over three million Vietnamese and thousands of American servicemen and women, and their children, continue to suffer from the serious illnesses and disabilities caused by Agent Orange and that their petition against the manufacturers of Agent Orange headed by Monsanto and Dow Chemicals, seeking Justice, was denied by the US Supreme Court on 2nd March 2009.

His disgust at the US use of chemical weapons in the Vietnam war led to Len spearheading the campaign against Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of the 2012 Olympics, which took place just a stone’s throw from Len’s flat. Dow had played a large role in the production of Agent Orange but had also worked on how to make napalm more deadly.

len aldis paintingIn 2014 this site carried news of recognition for ‘our’ Len Aldis as oil paintings by Vietnamese artists, featuring people throughout the world who supported Viet Nam during its wars and development process, were displayed in Ha Noi. His description:

“Len Aldis: a British activist who joined mass demonstrations to protest the US invasion in the south of Viet Nam. In 1992, he established the UK-Viet Nam Friendship Association in the UK and conducted charitable activities in Viet Nam”.

His nephew writes: “I have, over the last few days, received many tributes and emails from all corners of the globe, so we thought a a memorial website where we can share our fondest memories and add photos of Len would provide his many friends from around the world an opportunity to pay their respects. You can find the site here ”. The latest picture:

 len aldis with children

As the East London News ends: “The people of Vietnam and of East London have lost a fearless and principled defender of their rights and a giant campaigner for justice”.

David Edwards of Media Lens asks disturbing ‘basic questions’

March 21, 2014


media lens header.

      • Who actually shapes foreign policy?
      • What are their goals?
      • How much influence does the public really have?

He adds: “In our society, as we have noted, defence issues are barely mentioned at election time, while foreign policy options among the major parties are limited to pro-war choices”.

Turning for help to the official record – released government documents – he quotes a passage revealing the thinking behind the mid-twentieth century wars in Vietnam and Korea, Southeast Asia: 

“The UK, the US and France agreed that it was ‘important for the economy of Western Europe that Western Europe trading and business interests in Southeast Asia should be maintained’, since it was ‘rich in natural resources and certain countries in the area at present produce surplus foodstuffs’. (Quoted, Ibid, p.20).”

The Pew Research Journalism Project found last September that ‘the No.1 message’ on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and Al Jazeera, was ‘that the U.S. should get involved in the conflict’ in Syria.

war damage

The ruinous consequences of military action

Edwards comments: “The surprise failure to achieve that war has been a festering wound in the psyches of cruise missile liberals everywhere ever since”. One such, Michael Ignatieff, is said to portray himself as a man of peace reluctantly forced to endorse war as a last resort. In March 2003, he wrote in the Guardian:

“Bush is right when he says Iraq would be better off if Saddam were disarmed and, if necessary, replaced by force . . . The problem is not that overthrowing Saddam by force is “morally unjustified”. Who seriously believes that 25 million Iraqis would not be better off if Saddam were overthrown?” Edwards disagrees: “No rational person can doubt (that 25 million Iraqis are not better off) after one million post-invasion deaths”.

Another journalist, Paul Mason, in his Channel 4 News blog last month, ‘How the west slipped into powerlessness,’ wrote: ‘When the USA decided, last summer, it could not sell military intervention in Syria – either to its parliaments, its people or its military – it sent a signal to every dictator, torturer and autocrat in the world . . . “. Media Lens challenged Mason who failed to reply. Points made included:

      • It is simply wrong to claim that the US is not intervening in Syria.
      • What right the US has to act as world policeman?

The US case for waging war without UN approval was clear: the alleged Syrian government use of chemical weapons. Given that this claim has been seriously challenged, Media Lens asked Mason what other basis he had in mind for waging war.

Finally, they asked him if the utterly horrific death toll resulting from the US-UK wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya caused him to question his view that the obstruction of a US attack was a ‘disaster’ for Syria.

They quoted epidemiologist Les Roberts, co-author of the 2004 and 2006 Lancet studies on the Iraq death toll: ‘There are a series of surveys now implying 1/2 million deaths is a low side estimate… I think the 650,000 estimate in the second Lancet study was low…Thus, I think there is little doubt 1/2 million died violently. I suspect the direct and indirect deaths exceeded 1,000,000…’ (Email to Media Lens, Les Roberts, January 11, 2014)

Western and regional governments share responsibility for Libya imploding into chaos and violence –  and so should the media

Patrick Cockburn notes in the Independent: “’Western and regional governments share responsibility for much that has happened in Libya, but so too should the media. The Libyan uprising was reported as a simple-minded clash between good and evil”. But Edwards describes the assault on Libya as “a major war crime, a blatant abuse of UN resolution 1973 in pursuit of regime change – illegal under international law”.

Media Lens puts these issues into perspective: “Spare a thought for people struggling to survive in Afghanistan. Or people dying under drone attack in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Or people dying under the tyrannies ‘we’ arm and support in Egypt, Israel, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and so on.

Read the article here:

John F. Kennedy’s Vision of Peace – 1

December 31, 2013


On the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death, his nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., recalled the fallen president’s attempts to halt the war machine, describing President John F. Kennedy’s aspiration for a peaceful, demilitarized foreign policy as ‘the forbidden­ debate of the modern political era’. He opened:

‘On November 22nd, 1963, my uncle, president John F. Kennedy, went to Dallas intending to condemn as “nonsense” the right-wing notion that “peace is a sign of weakness.” He meant to argue that the best way to demonstrate American strength was not by using destructive weapons and threats but by being a nation that “practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice,” striving toward peace instead of “aggressive ambitions.”  ‘

However, James W. Douglass argued in his book ‘JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters’, that JFK’s presidency was to be a continuous struggle with his own military and intelligence agencies, which engaged in incessant schemes to trap him into escalating the Cold War into a hot one.

A Cuban invasion? The first major confrontation with the Pentagon, only three months into his presidency:

‘JFK’s predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had finalized support on March 17th, 1960, for a Cuban invasion by anti-Castro insurgents, but the wily general left its execution to the incoming Kennedy team. From the start, JFK recoiled . . . as CIA Director Allen Dulles has acknowledged, demanding assurances from CIA and Pentagon brass that there was no chance of failure and that there would be no need for U.S. military involvement. Dulles and the generals knowingly lied and gave him those guarantees.

‘When the invasion failed, JFK refused to order airstrikes against Castro. Realizing he had been drawn into a trap, he told his top aides, David Powers and Kenneth O’Donnell, “They were sure I’d give in to them and send the go-ahead order to the [U.S. Navy aircraft carrier] Essex. They couldn’t believe that a new president like me wouldn’t panic and try to save his own face. Well, they had me figured all wrong.’

Robert Kennedy continues: ‘JFK was realizing that the CIA posed a monumental threat to American democracy. As the brigade faltered, he told Arthur Schlesinger that he wanted to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” ‘


Resisting pressure for military intervention in in Laos against the communist Pathet Lao guerrillas, JFK signed a neutrality agreement the following year and was joined by 13 nations, including the Soviet Union.

Russia: secret correspondence

About six months into his administration, JFK went to Vienna to meet Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev hoping to begin a process of détente and mutual nuclear disarmament but was rebuffed. Later, however, Khrushchev opened a secret correspondence with JFK by expressing regret and embracing JFK’s proposal for a path to peace and disarmament.

tanks checkpoint charlie

When Gen. Clay made an unauthorized armed threat to knock down the Berlin Wall seeking to provoke the Soviets, the Kremlin responded with its own tanks, meeting at Checkpoint Charlie. General Robert F. Kennedy relayed JFK’s promise that if Khrushchev withdrew his tanks within 24 hours, the U.S. would pull back 20 minutes later. Khrushchev took the risk, and JFK kept his word. Khrushchev sent a second letter to JFK: “I have no ground to retreat further, there is a precipice behind [me].” Kennedy realized that Khrushchev, too, was surrounded by a powerful military and intelligence complex intent on going to war.

One year later Kennedy saw aerial photographs proving that the Soviets had installed nuclear missiles in Cuba capable of reaching much of the eastern U.S. seaboard. the Pentagon, the CIA and many of JFK’s advisers urged airstrikes and a U.S. invasion of the island but JFK opted for a blockade, which Soviet ships respected.

Soviet forces then shot down a U.S. reconnaissance plane, killing its pilot, and the ‘top brass’ demanded retaliation by destroying the Soviet missile sites; two days later Robert Kennedy and Ted Sorensen wrote pledging that the U.S. would not invade Cuba and this persuaded the Kremlin to back down.

Khrushchev said afterward that Kennedy had won his “deep respect” during the crisis: “He didn’t let himself become frightened, nor did he become reckless. He showed real wisdom and statesmanship when he turned his back on the right-wing forces in the United States who were trying to goad him into taking military action against Cuba.”


JFK and advisers

JFK and advisers

JFK was wary of the conflict from the outset and determined to end U.S. involvement at the time of his death. In his first months in office, the Pentagon asked him to deploy ground troops into Vietnam but he agreed only to send another 500 advisers, under the assumption that South Vietnam had a large army and would be able to defend itself against communist aggression.

J.K. Galbraith

J.K. Galbraith

When Vice President Lyndon Johnson visited Vietnam in May 1961, he returned adamant that victory required U.S. combat troops. Virtually every one of JFK’s senior staff concurred. Yet JFK resisted. Saigon, he said, would have to fight its own war. As a stalling tactic, John Kennedy sent Gen. Taylor to Vietnam on a fact-finding mission in September 1961, Taylor would say, “I don’t recall anyone who was strongly against [sending troops to Vietnam] except one man, and that was the president.” Frustrated by Taylor’s report, JFK then sent a confirmed pacifist, John Kenneth Galbraith, to Vietnam to make the case for nonintervention.

Senator Barry Goldwater was campaigning for the presidency against Kennedy on the platform of “bombing Vietnam back into the Stone Age”.

In the spring of 1962, JFK told McNamara to order the Joint Chiefs to begin planning for a phased withdrawal. In September1963, in a televised interview, JFK told the American people he didn’t want to get drawn into Vietnam. “In the final analysis, it is their war,” he said. “They are the ones who have to win or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment. We can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it, the people of Vietnam.”

On November 24th, 1963, two days after JFK died, Lyndon Johnson met with South Vietnam Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, whom JFK had been on the verge of firing. LBJ told Lodge, “I am not going to lose Vietnam. I am not going to be the president who saw Southeast Asia go the way China went.” Over the next decade, 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam.

Read the full text here:


John F. Kennedy’s Vision of Peace – 2: nuclear disarmament

Centenary: Look to the Middle East for the legacy of World War 1

September 3, 2013


Jan Dalley, Arts editor of the Financial Times, writes about the ‘upcoming cultural programme’

Jan Dalley

Jan Dalley

Jenny Waldman, the creative producer of last year’s London 2012 festival, is to direct a four-year cultural programme (2014-18) consisting of artist-led projects that aim to “lead us to new thoughts and perspectives” on the first world war.

Jan Dalley records that nine million combatants died in the horrors of those four years and asks: “How do you commemorate that?” Then:

“That brilliant, savage picture of the “lions led by donkeys”, as the German high command was supposed to have described the British troops and their officers, began life in 1961 as a radio play called The Long, Long Trail, and was remade for the stage at Joan Littlewood’s pioneering Theatre Workshop in 1963. The star-studded Richard Attenborough film followed in 1969.

“The 50th anniversary of the start of the first world war was marked by a ferocious satire on that – and all – wars. It didn’t go down well with the authorities – in those apparently swinging Sixties there was still censorship of the London stage, and the family of Field Marshal Haig objected to the play’s transfer from its fringe venue in Stratford East to the West End. But the tide of public opinion carried it along, then on to Broadway in 1964.

“It’s not by chance that the long success of Oh! What a Lovely War coincided with the rise of protests against the Vietnam war and the passionate anti-war mood of the moment. (And revisionism about war was not the sole province of hippies and longhairs: Oh! What a Lovely War was partly based on a stinging study of the British command called The Donkeys by one Alan Clark – yes, that one, later arch-Thatcherite government minister.)”

Ms Dalley notes a different mood abroad today, “the arguments tend to be pragmatic – about cost, effectiveness, and so on – rather than moral or emotional. Drone strikes in Afghanistan have not, to my knowledge, provoked a single song or poem”, nor even – sadly – much recognition or sympathy”. She concludes:

For the perils of war go far beyond the kind of death and destruction you can see. The true dangers of war – particularly the wars we’re now engaged in – include indifference.


Peter Hirsch, from Montclair New Jersey, replies:

In “Oh! What a lovely war centenary” (Arts, August 10) Jan Dalley casts around desperately for an appropriate, relevant response to the impending centenary of the Great War to enrich those that previous anniversaries have contributed.


May I suggest that she look no further than the Middle East today in which the legacy of that awful conflict is playing out every day culturally and politically in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, just to name three chimeras created by the aftermath of 1914?