“Now is the time for Britain to have an independent foreign policy based upon peace, cooperation, conflict resolution and humanitarian aid.”
Over 80 MPs who requested to speak in yesterday’s Afghanistan debate could not be called before it closed. Watch Richard Burgon’s video contribution on the situation in Afghanistan, and read the full transcription below:
“I was hoping to speak in Parliament, today in the debate on Afghanistan but unfortunately I wasn’t selected to speak. So I thought I’d share with you some of my thoughts that I was going to share in Parliament, had I been chosen to speak on this important issue of Afghanistan.
20 years ago the USA embarked on what became the longest war in its history, longer even than the Vietnam war.
This war in Afghanistan, supported of course, by the British Government has cost the USA a trillion dollars. It’s cost the UK £37 billion and even more importantly it’s cost the lives of many tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, of 457 British armed services personnel, and more than 2,300 US armed service personnel.
We need to ensure now, immediately, that we do our moral duty by refugees from Afghanistan. That means of course ensuring safe passage from Afghanistan to Britain for refugees. It also means ensuring that people who are here already aren’t deported back to danger in Afghanistan.
But it’s funny isn’t it, many of the politicians most keen on supporting wars and military interventions, which create so many refugees, are the very same politicians who are so resistant to us doing our duty to refugees by treating them as human beings.
We also need to ensure that there are reparations now for the Afghan people. We need to work with the USA and other countries, through the UN using the diplomatic weight of the United Nations, to ensure that reparations go directly to the Afghan people.
One trillion dollars has been spent on this war. £37 billion has been spent by UK governments on this war.
Imagine if such substantial amounts of money had been spent, not on bombs and bullets, but instead invested directly in the lives of the Afghan people to improve their quality of living, particularly for women. In relation to health, education and now in relation to provision of covid vaccines. That would have meant that we would be in a very different place now, 20 years on from that fateful decision to support the US intervention in Afghanistan.
We also need to learn the wider lessons from this failed, 20-year military intervention. The anti-war movement in this country was ridiculed for warning against the military intervention in Afghanistan, for warning that you can’t impose democracy on another country with bombs and bullets, for warning of the consequences of the invasion of Iraq, for warning against the military intervention in Libya.
On each of those occasions the anti-war movement got it exactly correct and the political establishment, and the so-called experts in government and in Parliament, got it fundamentally wrong.
So it’s time for some humility from those politicians who’ve consistently backed disastrous wars, and seem to have a desire to do so again. And it’s time to listen to those movements that got it right and that means the anti-war movement. Now is the time for Britain to have an independent foreign policy based upon peace, cooperation, conflict resolution and humanitarian aid. It’s time to end the era of Britain’s role in the world being to unquestioningly support the USA in its military adventures.
We can’t any longer outsource of foreign policy to the White House. We can’t any longer be simply the junior partner of the US military in the world.”
- Richard Burgon is the MP for Leeds East, follow him Facebook, twitter & Instagram.
- You can read more coverage of the debate on Afghanistan from Labour Outlook – Zarah Sultana’s contribution; Jeremy Corbyn’s contribution, Claudia Webbe’s planned contribution, Ian Byrne’s planned contribution, the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs Statement and analysis from Labour Outlook.