George Galloway's victory shows Britain is sick of the war in Afghanistan - Paul Flynn

George Galloway's victory shows Britain is sick of the war in Afghanistan

The Bradford West result is a powerful message of a collapse of trust between people and politicians. The lies must end now

Paul Flynn, Saturday 7 April 2012 14.00 BST
Article history

British soldiers from 2nd Battalion the Rifles cross a waterway through farmland in Helmand province. Photograph: Cpl Timothy L Solano/PA
The people of Bradford West have spoken. It's a message of thunderous simplicity. Our three political parties decide not to see, hear or understand.

Britain is sick of the Afghan war. It is being prolonged by politicians seeking to devise an end that will favour their reputations. After valiant heroism, the Dutch and Canadian parliaments withdrew their troops. The voices of their people demanded an end to the lies and cowardice that were causing their soldiers to risk their lives in a futile conflict.

It was simple and clear in 2001. Tony Blair was in messianic mode, clad in a cloak of infallibility. His prime objective was to build a blood-brother relationship with the Republican Bush as he had with the Democratic Clinton. Rage at 9/11 found its expression in the delusion of western omnipotence. Osama bin Laden had to be found. The tinpot regime in Afghanistan had to be toppled for protecting him. Its 13th-century society had to be transformed into a Scandinavian democracy minus corruption and the drugs trade. Tony Blair explained to the Commons that 90% of the heroin used in Britain came from Afghanistan. He said the country was riddled with corruption and had the second-worst maternal mortality rate in the world. Not an inch of progress has been made in 11 years on all three of these issues. The sacrifice of western blood has made conditions worse. The progress made in education and women's rights is fragile and will not survive Nato's withdrawal.

George Galloway's victory is against the lies and cowardice of all three main parties. All have treated the public to self-serving deception. We went to war in Iraq in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. We invaded Helmand to curb the non-existent Taliban terrorist threat to the UK. The war drums are beating to incite fear of a non-existent Iranian missile carrying a non-existent nuclear bomb.

British politicians repeat the old, lying mantras: "More should die to shore up the myth that past deaths were not in vain." More than 400 British families of the fallen will suffer wounds of grief that will never heal. Up to 5,000 other soldiers are broken in body and mind. Uncounted among the dead is Lance Sergeant Dan Collins. He had narrowly escaped death, having been shot on two occasions and injured by improvised explosive devices. But the incidents that tormented him were the deaths of two friends, one of whom died in the most dreadful of circumstances, having lost three of his limbs. The memory of embracing his best friend as he watched life fade from his eyes was unbearable. He faced a constant psychological battle and tragically took his own life earlier this year.

Bradford is a powerful message of a collapse of trust between people and politicians. It should galvanise reforms. For self-preservation, parliament dodges public opinion on other topics. The right to die has been a taboo subject for 30 years. Last week's debate powerfully spoke for the great mass of people who want to have autonomy about the manner and timing of their final moments. Prohibition of some drugs has been 40 years of abject failure that has destroyed many UK lives. Denial has bandaged the mouths of MPs of all parties. In Westminster, cowardice rules.

The Bradford humiliation of all three parties should shock parliament. After the recess I will ask the backbench business committee to allow a full day's debate and vote on independently withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan. There is rightly pride in the heroism and professionalism of our soldiers. But all the lies used to justify our incursion into Helmand have been reduced to ashes.

The UK clings to the myth of an independent foreign policy. We avoided waste of British lives by independently refusing to join the mission impossible of the Vietnam war. We must stop more sacrifices of our valiant soldiers. The question that should haunt is the one that an American officer asked in the final days of the Vietnam war: who will be the last soldier I order into battle to die for a politician's mistake?