The Vassal’s Revolt


Rejoice. Rejoice. The first chain of vassaldom has been broken. They will repair it, no doubt, but let’s celebrate independence while it lasts. For the first time in fifty years, the House of Commons has voted against participating in an imperial war. Aware of the deep and sustained opposition inside the country and within the military establishment, members of parliament decided to represent the will of the people. The speeches of all three leaders were pretty pathetic. Neither the opposition amendment nor the war resolution could muster enough support. That’s all we needed. The thirty odd Tory dissidents who made British participation impossible by voting against their leadership deserve our thanks. Perhaps now the BBC will start reflecting popular opinion instead of acting as the voice of the warmongers.

Given Britain’s status abroad as Washington’s bloodshot adjutant, this vote will have a global resonance. In the United States itself the vote in London will increase the disquiet, evident already in off-the-record briefings to the press saying there is no hard evidence linking the regime to the chemical weapons attack. ‘What?’ American citizens will ask each other. ‘Our most loyal follower, deserting us just before the strikes?’ What does it all mean and shouldn’t we be debating the issue? Obama’s language in interviews yesterday was no different from that of Bush. He actually said that the reason for the planned assault was that these chemical weapons ‘might be used against the United States’. By whom? By al-Qaida etc. Excuse me. Aren’t they on your side in this particular conflict and isn’t the real aim of the strikes to strengthen one side against another in this ugly civil war?

Meanwhile in Europe too, the vote in the British Parliament reverberates like a shock wave. The German elite (barring its Green component) tends to be nervous of wars. This leaves François Hollande as Washington’s only enthusiastic backer in the first tier EU. Who’s the Trojan mule in Europe now? Cameron was blaming Blair and the Iraq War for the scepticism that prevails in the country. True. But let’s not forget that the Tories were solidly behind that war as well. I remember debating the ghastly Gove on television at the time: he was worse than most Bush apologists in the United States.

Its true that having been lied to once, people are less inclined to believe the government on these matters again. Cameron put on a passable Blair imitation, but the times they are a changing. He couldn’t convince his own party.

Meanwhile, Washington is determined to go it alone with the French in tow. That is why too much celebration is premature. The Stop the War coalition in Britain has no equivalent elsewhere in Europe or America. Even in isolated times (the invasion and bombing of Libya, for example) the pressure was kept up. The demonstration called for tomorrow is even more necessary than before, to celebrate our triumph here without forgetting that Obama is off to war again.

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