28 Edis St,
Dear David Miliband,
It is with some regret that I am unable to attend the public meeting which you are holding in Brighton tonight. However, since questions to you are vetted in advance, I suspect that any question I wished to ask you would have disappeared in the best traditions of New Labour.
I knew your father Ralph Miliband, the author of Parliamentary Socialism, who was a fine socialist and Marxist. Indeed I once debated with him as to whether or not socialists should work inside the Labour Party. In retrospect he was, of course, right when he argued that the Labour Party was no place for socialists. It is ironic that his own sons should be the best proof of this.
My purpose in writing this letter is however not to indulge in nostalgia but to ask how someone who used his position as Foreign Secretary to defend the use of torture in the ‘war against terrorism’, can reconcile this with seeking the leadership of the Labour Party. Throughout your period of office you sought to prevent information being revealed about the collusion of the British security services and MI6 with those who were doing the actual torture. Your main concern being to preserve co-operation with the CIA and US security services.
It was for this reason that you strove to persuade, first the High Court and then the Court of Appeal, hardly radical bodies, to suppress evidence that British agents were willingly using the torture of a British subject, Binyamin Mohamed, in order to obtain information. To most people this makes you as guilty as the torturers themselves. You helped create a market for torture by subcontracting it to our allies whilst trying to distance yourself from what happened. To you the ‘special relationship’ was more important than any moral principle concerning the use of torture and rendition.
As the renowned lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith wrote:
‘Mohamed was seized by the Pakistanis in April 2002, turned over to the Americans for a $5,000 bounty, abused for three months, rendered to Morocco, tortured with razor blades to the genitals, rendered on to the "Dark Prison" in Kabul, tortured some more, and then held for five years without charge or trial in Bagram air force base and Guantánamo Bay. The verdict of the court – comprised of three of the country's most senior judges – underlines the shameful way in which, in this case and beyond, our political leaders have placed their desire to suppress embarrassing revelations above the welfare of citizens.’What was your reaction? ‘two years into the litigation, the foreign secretary, David Miliband, still argued that a court would be "irresponsible" to reveal the material…’
And this was even though, in some cases, the material you were trying to protect had already been released and publicised by American courts!
Even Britain’s security-minded judges, people like Igor Judge and Henry Neuberger, insisted that a seven paragraph summary of British-American collusion in torture should be published. You argued however that secrecy, the crucial ingredient that allows torture to thrive, was more important than revealing the truth. And perhaps we should remind ourselves of the context, namely that there have been dozens of deaths from torture in American custody. It is therefore unsurprising that you ruled out a public inquiry into what has happened.
It is another of life’s ironies that it is the Conservatives, with their proposed Inquiry into Collusion with Torture by Britain’s security services, coupled with the abolition of the hated Identity Cards, who have managed the remarkable feat of being seen as the party of civil liberties. Indeed it is the Daily Mail, not a paper normally associated with airy fairy liberals (David Blunkett) which has taken a principled stance against the iniquities perpetrated whilst you were in office. ‘Nailed, Miliband and six lies on torture’
You are therefore in a quandary. On the one hand you cannot be seen to oppose the proposed Inquiry yet clearly you do not support it. Hence why you have been conspicuous by your silence ever since the announcement was made.
You have distinguished yourself, even amongst your fellow New Labour candidates for being slavishly loyal to the era of Tony Blair. Not one word of criticism of the slaughter in Iraq where over a million people have been killed or Afghanistan where that slaughter continues.
Throughout your three years as Foreign Secretary the words ‘ethical foreign policy’ did not once cross your lips. On the contrary you distinguished yourself with your slavish support of American’s ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’.
And when Israel attacked the unarmed aid flotilla to Gaza on 31st May and murdered 9 passengers on the Mavi Marmara, even William Hague was obliged to condemn it. You however chose to underline your pro-Zionist credentials by saying nothing. Just as you couldn't even bring yourself to support a ceasefire when Israel attacked Gaza in 2008/9 killing 1,400 people.
At home you have nothing to say about the bankers who caused the present economic crisis but hasn't stopped you from being a supporter of ‘welfare reforms’ such as the abolition of Incapacity Benefit and other attacks on the unemployed. Today of course, the Tory/Liberals are merely continuing New Labour’s unfinished business.
At a time when we are witnessing an unprecedented attack on the working class and unemployed, you have nothing of relevance to say. Everything that the present Coalition Government is proposing were New Labour ideas.
It would be churlish to list all the examples of your lack of any political principle or ‘values’ . Political ambition is clearly your only guiding light. However there is one particular example that stands out. Your father was a refugee from Nazi Germany.
‘The young Miliband was forced to move from Belgium in 1940 as Hitler's army moved westwards through the country and he managed to catch a boat for London at Ostend. He and his father Samuel entered the UK illegally on forged papers.’If it were possible for you to have been Home Secretary at the time, then one can be sure that you would have had no compunction in deporting your ‘failed asylum seeker’ father.
Of course none of this prevented you and brother Ed from speaking recently of the ‘fears’ of people about immigration. The same ‘fears’ that were once created by the popular press against Jewish and other refugees from persecution.
An example of how such ‘fears’ were created and why they could not be appeased was the Daily Mail of 20 August 1938, which described how "The way stateless Jews from Germany are pouring in from every port of this country is becoming an outrage… a problem to which the Daily Mail has repeatedly pointed”. Or on February 3rd 1900 the Mail described how Jewish refugees from pogroms in Czarist Russia “fought, they jostled to the foremost places at the gangways. When the Relief Committee passed by they hid their gold and fawned and whined in broken English asked for money for their train fare.”
At the time socialists and communists campaigned for the admission of such refugees and in opposition to the agenda of the then British Union of Fascists. New Labour sought to outbid their successors, the British National Party, with its repeated attacks on the right of asylum seekers. New Labour even sought to deport gays to Iran and girls back to countries where they would suffer the horrors of female genital mutilation. It was only rulings of the courts that overturned New Labour immigration practices in both these areas.
You are indeed a fitting, if somewhat characterless, successor to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
Yours for socialism,