On peace, pacifism and parliamentary democracy.
by Elias Blum
The absurdity of making the world a better place by bombing people became clear to me at 4am in a tent near the Iraqi border, as I grabbed my gas mask and ran to the Scud bunker. Perhaps, I thought, rather than bombing people to death, we might find other ways to make peace.
That’s not to say that defence is unnecessary – I cannot hold to a position of strict pacifism. Sometimes evil must be defeated and the weak protected, and sometimes that requires the use of force. But it should be a last resort, not the first response.
Decisions to use force should not be taken lightly.
Robin Cook, the former government minister under Tony Blair who resigned over the decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003, claims to have secured the right of parliament to decide on war-making. Tony Blair was forced to get a formal parliamentary endorsement of his decision to go to war. I remember sitting in the Wardroom ante-room of HMS NEPTUNE listening to the results of the vote coming in – and a few days later I was on a RAF plane to Kuwait.
Sadly, all of Robin Cooks efforts, appear to have been in vain. Theresa May has ordered the bombing of Syria without explicit parliamentary endorsement. It highlights the fact that a mere ‘convention’ – as we call the unwritten rules of the British Parliamentary system – isn’t worth the paper it isn’t written on. Even a statutory provision can be changed with relative ease by the government of the day, if they have a well-whipped majority.
If you want to secure something, it needs to be entrenched in a written constitution that governments cannot ignore and ordinary parliamentary majorities cannot change at will.
To bring that about, we need a Constituent Assembly.