We have seen the truth of this very clearly over the last couple of decades. When two planes flew into the twin towers in America we were all horrified and there was a real desire to "do something" to make sure this never happened again. Invading Afghanistan didn't achieve that. It achieved the opposite. It created a stronger, more determined and better armed and trained Taliban that now stretches into Pakistan. It also provided the most unpleasant preachers of hate with a means of arguing that the West was attacking the Muslim world. A lot of people have lost their lives, a great deal of money has been spent, and it is hard to see the secure gains. This bad war was supported at the time by all the major political parties. The Greens opposed it.
When Tony Blair went on television to explain the reasons for the Iraq war, he assured us, with all the pomp of the Prime Minister's office, that if we had seen the evidence that he was privileged to see then we would all know that we were at risk from weapons of mass destruction and had to act. He had in fact not seen any evidence because there was none. Despite invading a sovereign country we have yet to discover a single sign of weapon of mass destruction in Iraq. Sadam was a horrible man who dropped gas on the Kurds and tried also to destroy the Marsh Arabs. But he was our ally when he fought a long war against Iran and we supplied him with most of his arms. Many of the arms we later took to Iraq are now in the hands of ISIS. Looking at the situation in Iraq now can anyone seriously argue that the invasion has made Iraq or the world a safer place? This bad war was supported at the time by all the major political parties. The Greens opposed it.
ISIS is now firmly established in Iraq as well as in Syria. In autumn 2012 the British government wanted to launch a bombing campaign in Syria. Not to bomb ISIS but to bomb the highly unpleasant Syrian regime that they were fighting. Fortunately parliament finally proved its real value. It voted against the bombing campaign. A little over a year later it was being asked to supply weapons to those fighting against ISIS. It agreed. We had switched sides with remarkable speed and very little thought. The Green Party opposed both attempts to intervene. I was brought up with the simple idea that my country should only go to war in self defence, that we don't attack other countries unless they attack us and we don't take sides in other people's conflicts. Our own government going against those principles has made the world a massively more dangerous place.
I am completely opposed to the ideology of ISIS. I am also utterly in favour of free speech, even if it annoys some people. I want to be able to read what I like and say what I like and won't be intimidated by any religious group into giving up that right. This doesn't mean that I think I have the right to incite people to hatred or violence. The same must apply to others that I disagree with. So I went on the Charlie Hebdo demonstration in Leeds, I strongly opposed shouting Farage down in Rotherham and I also think that radical Muslims should be free to say what they believe provided they don't preach violence or hatred. Terrorism is a crime that needs the strongest possible punishment. It needs to be fought intelligently. Government attempts to ban ideas don't work. The clamp down on our freedoms which has accompanied two bad wars has given the terrorists exactly the ammunition they wanted. We have to demonstrate we are better than them and not that we are a bunch of hypocrites who abandon our commitment to freedom when we don't like what we hear.
The latest bad war that we are facing is the Ukraine. It has been fascinating to watch the way that both Russia and American use arguments to support their line in the Ukraine that are the complete opposite of what they normally say. For the US the key principle in the Ukraine is that the Ukraine is sovereign territory - and no one should invade another country. Unless of course it is Afghanistan or Iraq. No one seems to mention that the Ukraine has moved its borders since the Second World War when the dictator Stalin wished to reward his then crony Khrushchev by adding territory in the east which was Russian speaking and had no interest in being part of the then Soviet Republic of Ukraine. Russia now wants to move the Russian speaking people back on the grounds of national self determination. A good principle. But how has Putin applied it in Chechnya? Putin is utterly uninterested in this principle when it doesn't suit his argument.
So should we start supplying weapons in order to back the courageous Ukrainians? Or should we learn our lessons. The potential for disaster when the USA starts supplying weapons to fight Russia will not escape anyone who lived through the cold war. There are a lot of hot headed generals in Russia and a lot of nuclear weapons. If their clients can mistakenly shoot down a civilian plane using Russian weapons then what else can go wrong?
If we really want to do something constructive for the Ukraine we should do everything we can to get it to understand that a real cease fire is its best option. We need to persuade its leaders to accept national self determination for the East. In return we should pour the resources we would have wasted in war into building up the Ukraine and making it so successful that the separatists regret leaving. Giving an unreliable Ukrainian government the illusion that we are right behind it and can safely take on Russia in its back yard doesn't bear thinking about.
Perhaps that is why the British government has given up the effort of trying to think clearly and is making such ill thought out and dangerous noises.
Vote Green 2015: perhaps that way we'll avoid involvement in yet another bad war.