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Yes We Should - UK migration article

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Yes We Should by Derek Wyatt

The first Iraq "Gulf" war in 1990 was legitimate. Iraq invaded Kuwait. Kuwait appealed to the UNO for help. In the end largely American forces aka "the Coalition" saw to it that Saddam Hussain was put back in his box: the pity it was not a box.

Fast forward to the second Iraq war in 2003. This was illegitimate. There were no weapons of mass destruction as Hans Blix, the UN chief weapons inspector, rightly pointed out at the time. Nor was Iraq 45 minutes away from being able to assemble such weapons. The second Iraq war was largely a correction of the first. Whilst the first Iraq war lasted a year its successor lasted till 2011 but still frankly festers.

Today, it survives differently in Iraq, in Syria, in Kurdistan (northern Iraq), in Libya, Tunisia, Somalia, Egypt and parts of Nigeria, Kenya, and Chad. It has also had outbreaks in Spain, France and the UK. Now the war, such as it is, is against an organisation of sorts known as IS, Isis or Daish and its friends Al Shabaab.

In invading Iraq in 2003, American and British governments hope was to win the war and then impose a western style democracy (ditto Afghanistan). This was the last vestige of an arrogant imperialism stretching back to the late 19th century. It was living proof of Hegel's famous quote "We learn from history that we do not learn from history".

The Middle East has always been a powder keg. Its recent past (after the end of World War 1) saw the victors - largely Britain and France - redefining the map of Mesopotamia (which had most recently been part of the Ottoman Empire). New countries arose such as Syria and Lebanon without obvious borders. And newer countries emerged such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (where once again we backed the wrong side). For too long our foreign office mandarins and their masters have been a disaster abroad.

After the Second World War, many of these protectorates sought independence or as in Israel's case their own country. And so we welcomed Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, the Emirates and others. We failed miserably to support a Palestine state largely because after the Suez Canal fiasco in 1956, British foreign policy, like it or not, became largely an arm of the Pentagon.

Our footprints in Europe are everywhere with wars against France and Spain stretching back hundreds of years. We were heavily involved in both world wars. Eventually, after some hesitation we joined the EEC or Common Market, as it then was, in 1973 and a referendum in 1975 showed the British people were in favour by 2:1.

Today, in our ever closer connected world - I still remember the first email I received from an Iraqi boy telling me in 2003 we had just bombed his house - everything happens at speed. Consider the front pages of our newspapers over the summer months with thousands dying in boats of dubious capability; of migrants frozen to death in lorries; of hundreds waiting on the island of Kos, sleeping under Budapest railway station or massing at the borders of Macedonia.

The Iraqi wars have spilled over to neighbouring countries. The sides - if there are clear sides - use illegal weapons and bombs. They have been killing each other for  four years. A quarter of a million Syrians are dead, two million have fled to Jordan or Lebanon, another million are trying to reach Europe. The West has largely turned a blind eye until Chancellor Merkel bravely agreed to accept 850,000 refugees. You have to admire her stance.

To do nothing is no longer an option. To do nothing until after the UK's EU referendum is cynical politics at its best. We should have a detailed plan and admit on purely humanitarian grounds as many as we can cope with over the next few months. We have unused armed forces housing, we can create Glastonbury style pop up villages quite quickly, we can extend an arm of friendship, warmth and love. Let the churches take the lead; let Oxfam run the centres.

Sitting on our hands is not an option. We have a global responsibility to help our fellow human beings. Politicians can go on wrangling about open borders and EU laws but they are not working now and will not be working until the EU is reformed which is unlikely to be in my time.


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