From weekly The Observer in Britain:
John Prescott says UK should stay out of Isis ‘regional dispute’
Former deputy prime minister urges all parties to think again over air strikes in Iraq and says history is repeating itself
Saturday 27 September 2014 23.00 BST
John Prescott has become the most senior British politician to openly criticise parliament’s decision to take military action again in the Middle East.
The former MP and life peer said he lived “every day” with the aftermath of the Iraq war which he, as a member of Tony Blair‘s cabinet, authorised and has since said he regrets. “History,” he said, “is repeating itself.”
At least, John Prescott, contrary to his ex-boss Tony Blair, has learned something from history.
In his regular Sunday Mirror newspaper column, Prescott writes: “Cameron says we shouldn’t be ‘frozen by fear’ by what happened 11 years ago. But yet again we are being led by the US. This is not our or their war. So here we are again. Parliament backs British military action in the Middle East and we’re bombing by the weekend. This time the enemy is not the Taliban or Saddam Hussein. The latest ‘threat to Britain’ is Islamic State. It is a regional religious dispute that we should leave to the Arab nations. Bombing is never clinical. From Dresden to Gaza, innocent people are often chalked up as ‘collateral damage‘. Do we as a country really want to be responsible for that again?”
On Friday, at a recalled session of the Commons, MPs voted by 524 to 43 to sanction the UK air strikes, limited to Iraq, with 69 MPs not voting. A total of 23 Labour MPs, six Tories and one Lib Dem voted against UK action along with MPs from the SNP, SDLP, Green party and Respect.
Rushanara Ali, MP for Tower Hamlets, resigned as shadow education minister before the vote in order to abstain, saying she believed “further air strikes will only create further bloodshed and pain in Iraq”.
There was also criticism from Labour MP John McDonnell. He said: “This is madness and an absolute disaster. The war on terrorism will be brought to our streets as a result.”
The White House welcomed the British vote along with decisions by Belgium and Denmark to join the military campaign, but Prescott was withering in his criticism of the US tactics.
“The US and our government say the aim is to destroy and degrade the militants. But since America started bombing Isis positions, it’s claimed 6,000 people have joined Islamic State’s army – 1,300 from outside Syria and Iraq.
“Isis desperately wants Britain to join in. The public beheadings of journalists and other hostages were an open invitation for the west to strike. They’re desperate to drag us in …”
To some, it will legitimise Islamic State’s self-proclaimed statehood and lead to further recruitment and funding from around the world.
“Up until a few weeks ago, Obama admitted he had no strategy to combat Isis. Launching solitary air strikes shows he still hasn’t got one.”
Prescott also attacked his former boss: “Tony Blair said air strikes alone won’t destroy Isis. And he’s right. He also said the US and UK should follow up with putting boots on the ground. And on that, he’s absolutely wrong. Because make no mistake, this WILL be a war. Not a limited air strike. We will get sucked in. Again.”