"...The ordinary Labour Party member, concerned, opposed to Blair, wanting peace...ultimately you have each taken a gun and shot a child in Iraq. Are you going to stop the killing? Love to see you all sat in the road with the rest of us opposing the arms trade...but I guess I will have to wait a long time to see you put your weapons away and stop the killing."
"The ordinary concerned Labour member: done nothing more nor nothing less than the average Green to prevent this. We were on the anti-war marches alongside you. We disrupt the EXCeL conferences alongside you. We are at Faslane and the G8 alongside you. We struggle alongside you, and if you don't know we're left Labour, then that's because it's hardly a badge of pride at the moment.
The 251 Labour MPs who voted for the Iraq War are no more or less responsible than the other few hundred MPs who voted for it.
The people who lied about WMDs, from Hans Blix (if the report they cite in the debate on intervention in Hansard is correct) to Tony Blair to anyone who was in on the truth, must bear a heavier moral burden than anyone, IMO. Being sectarian about this helps no-one."
"The entire Labour party shares blame for Iraq's horrors...
The Labour party should not be relieved of its responsibility just because Blair is leaving. It is the moral responsibility of its members to question the party's role in the destruction of Iraq, and whether its new leader will listen to them and to the people of Iraq."
My Response (via e-mail)
I read with much interest your article of May 28th which was titled "The Entire Labour Party shares blame for Iraq's Horrors". As a recent addition to the left of the party, as part of John McDonnell's short-lived revival of grassroots activity, I have to question to what degree the Labour Party as a corporate entity shares the blame.
Most Labour MPs believed the lies of its leader and were led to war: this is true. But there were 85 Labour rebels who voted against the war as opposed to only 2 Conservative ones, and 139 Labour members who voted in favour of the amendment to the effect that "the case for war was not proven", as opposed to 39 Conservatives. Large numbers of Labour MPs abstained from both votes. There were enough Labour rebels and abstainees that the leadership of the Conservative Party had the power to stop the Commons vote. Surely, by the logic with which you condemn the entire Labour Party for Blair's failures, the Conservative Party should recieve an equal condemnation for its eager support of the action?
Further, since most Labour members opposed the war and many actively expressed their opposition by quitting the party or joining Stop The War's many protests, you condemn them for remaining in the party and for not forcing Blair and Brown to apologise: "The Labour party should not be relieved of its responsibility just because Blair is leaving. It is the moral responsibility of its members to question the party's role in the destruction of Iraq, and whether its new leader will listen to them and to the people of Iraq." Believe me, if grass-roots members of political parties had the direct influence you attribute to us, the Labour Party would never have gone to war in the first place.
Any attempt to spread the blame from Blair to his party in general may as well include Parliament as an institution: did that not fail when two thirds of our elected representatives voted to enter an illegal war? How about blaming the electorate which elected these thugs, or those who did not even bother to vote against them?
The Labour Party has seen a staggering amount of action against the war: not only the thousands who left in 2003 or the stalwart voters who now take their votes elsewhere because of the international solidarity they still feel, but members acting within the Party; members acting within the Trade Unions; members acting within NGOs and anti-war groups and members acting as individuals. Clearly neither the Members of Parliament for Labour or for the Conservatives could foretell the consequences of their actions in 2003, but I believe that, despite Blair's rhetoric, not many of them would describe their decision as "right" in the knowledge of what has happened.
Clearly none of this will be any consolation to millions of Iraqis who have been affected by this morally indefensible conflict. I remain convinced both that the War in Iraq was deeply and intolerably wrong and that it is better to be actively opposed to illegal war in one of our imperfect political parties than to sit on the sidelines away from the blame.
SOAS Labour Students"