On Owen Jones and the Stop The War Coalition.

On Saturday the 30th November, the Stop The War Coalition will host a conference to discuss the most effective ways to resist the drive to war against Syria – stalled for now, but not necessarily indefinitely. Due to speak (at the time of writing) are Diane Abbott MP, Seamus Milne, Tariq Ali and Lindsey German, among many others.

To cut a long story short, the Stop the War website is also advertising that Mother Agnes Mariam is due to speak at the conference. Agnes is a christian Nun who is suspected by some observers of the war in Syria of being little more than a mouthpiece for the Assad regime. Let’s just accept for arguments sake that this is true, and that inviting her was a bad idea (I will confess here to not being totally au fait with her views).

The presence of Mother Agnes has lead to Jeremy Scahill, the excellent American investigative journalist, and Owen Jones, a columnist with The Independent newspaper, pulling out of the conference, on the grounds that they don’t want to share a platform with an apologist for war criminals.

But I just want to share a few thoughts on why I think Jones’ position is confused at best.

Jones is a member and supporter of the Labour party, and thinks other lefties should be as well. As is hardly a secret, Labour is a party that plays host to plenty of major war criminals and apologists for those war criminals, but that apparently isn’t enough for him to want to part ways with them.

Indeed, he has in the past quite happily appeared on platforms with John Prescott, who was deputy Prime Minister at the time of the aggression against Iraq – not just an apologist for war crimes then, but an active participant in them.

Jones’ argument for staying a member of Labour is that while he doesn’t agree with these people on various issues, he thinks it’s worth trying to win the argument against them to change the party for the better, from within. It’s not a totally unreasonable position, and I think he’s certainly sincere in arguing it.

Why couldn’t he apply that same logic to the Stop The War Conference though? Say that while he obviously doesn’t agree with the opinions of all the speakers there, he thinks it’s still worth going and making his argument as to what the best anti-war position is or should be? He could even outline why he doesn’t agree with people like Mother Agnes in his talk, and maybe change a few minds.

But no, unlike his continuing embrace of the blood soaked Labour party, he’s just going to shun the conference altogether, thus giving plenty of ammunition to those who are trying to smear Stop The War, and anti-war people in general, as pro-Assad. ‘Even Owen Jones wants nothing to do with them, see!’.

My hunch is that he’s scared of being tarred with a pro-Assad brush, because that would be damaging to his reputation (certainly in the eyes of a state-corporate media Establishment that has embraced him) in a way that being seen as broadly pro-Labour – despite their horrific track record and the massive trail of corpses they left behind them last time they were in power – isn’t, given that Labour are part of that Establishment themselves.

Nuns who’ve made some dodgy comments in defense of the Assad regime? He’ll have no part of it.

A political party who instigated some of the worst and most murderous war crimes of the modern era, and whose leader continues to act as an apologist for the perpetrators, as well as the brutal wars in Afghanistan and Libya? Count him in.

For me, it shows how even some lefties have a moral vision that is badly skewed by power, and the need for Establishment approval, when it comes to assessing and reacting to Their crimes (or even alleged supporters of Their crimes), and Ours.

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22 Responses to On Owen Jones and the Stop The War Coalition.

  1. He’s already said he doesn’t like the idea of the woman on the list & has gone to complain to the organisers.

  2. Tim Hart says:

    I don’ know Mother Agnes Mariam, or Owen Jones come to that – except when I have seen him on television. But I find the arguments used in your article persuasive. I suspect that Owen Jones is seeking to protect his political ambitions. He is probably just being a good politician. Usually a disreputable thing to be!

  3. Ali Mallah says:

    I Jones and Scahill plus some of the “left” in UK believe that the atrocities of terrorist group aided by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and their masters in the west is a ” revolution”, why don’t they start their own revolution in UK and EU for the millions that are killed in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Latin America, Asia and Africa by western imperialists for many centuries and since World War 1 @2 till the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan?

    When are they going to address their “white’s man burden”?

  4. Pingback: Owen Jones & Mother Agnes. A lesson in conciliatory “leftists”. | Phil Greaves

  5. Phil Greaves says:

    Hi, i’ve cited your blog in this post: Owen Jones and Mother Agnes: a lesson on conciliatory “leftists”. http://notthemsmdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/owen-jones-mother-agnes-a-lesson-in-conciliatory-leftists/ Thanks.

  6. brian says:

    the attack on Mother Agnes, who lives in syria. by so called antiwar activists who do not, is not just shameful and arrogant with a taint of white-mans-burden: the remarks about Mother Agnes are ludicrous and flat out lies. As for President Assad….the attacks on him by the MSM and the left wing press/bloggers whole syrians in syria support him and the SAA EN MASSE ought to make any neutral observer ask what are the eurotrash up to

    Mother Agnes writes:
    ‘It has come to my attention that my participation in your conference has become a matter of serious contention, even prompting some other speakers to consider withdrawing. This is apparently due to a campaign of cruel and unsubstantiated accusations which seek to work against my efforts and those of the Mussalaha (Reconciliation) Initiative in Syria.

    Given these stop the war types seem to be opposed to Assad and the syrian govt, what do they imagine is to take its place? the SNC? santa claus?

  7. Pingback: ‘Investigative Journalist’ Scahill Takes Swipe at Mother Agnes | Fig Trees and Vineyards

  8. aletho says:

    Jeremy Scahill seems to be simply hewing to The Nation’s and Democracy Now’s editorial stance. A solid wall against true solidarity or even truth seeking. It’s nothing more than a party line, as though he were a state appointed official, an apparatchik.

    We can’t view him as a supposed alternative to the MSM or even a muckraker. Affording him that status would only be useful as a veil over the ugly realities that the Democrats would rather leave covered up.

    In their hoped for ‘progressive’ paradigm we are allowed to wring our hands about the obligation to use force against ‘evil dictators’, but we can never expose the vile, underhanded ruses perpetrated by the empire which form the bases for the ‘responsibility to protect’.

    In the end it’s not so different from Bush’s Christian right or Nixon’s moral majority, interventionism with a ‘moral’ underpinning.

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  15. dick100 says:

    list readers who want to know what is happening should google Mother Agnes and watch her exposure, analysing the frames, of the tapes used by Obama to justify his attack, being much more widely publicised in America than Britain. These are supposedly tapes of children killed in the gas attack. The evidence is damning they were faked as the same children appear in different positions on the tapes.

  16. anne johnson says:

    A lot of supposed Lefties won’t stray far from accepted bourgeois line. Stop the War itself is a case in point, leaving doubt about whose side it’s on – whilst the only correct line must be an Anti-Imperialist line (i.e. against the main enemy)!
    As for referring to what is going in Syria as a ‘civil war’, as is done in original article, does anyone really believe that the government wouldn’t have fallen long ago, were that the case!

  17. Ron Chandler says:

    Mother Agnes Mariam has a long noble record of peace-making in Syria, but she has simply been too outspoken against the barbarities of the NATO-backed terrorists sent to destroy the place.
    She invited independent commentators such as Dr Webster Tarpley and Thierry Meyssan to Qara where she runs St James’ Melkite monastery. It is near Homs, has been attacked and set ablaze by the filth. Mother Agnes has herself witnessed people beheaded in streets in Homs, simply for being the wrong religion. When she visited Australia over a year ago there was a fatwa on her life, by the jihadis. She compiled by far the most incisive report on the Ghoutta flase flag atrocity. I have a copy, and Sergei Lavrov pressed a print into John Kerry’s reluctant hands. This woman is gold.
    It’s not good enough for trendy lefties to allege rubbish charges against her. If they persist, there’s no other option but to declare them part of the warmonger alliance.
    Who gives a toss if you’re Left? If you’re a warmonger, you’re done!

  18. aletho says:

    It’s important to bear in mind that there is nothing inherently anti-war about left ideology.

    However, these warmongers are serving the existing establishment, not their ideological idealism.

    One example would be Mary Rizzo, who operates a website dedicated to Western intervention. In one piece she attempts to tar the Bolivarian regime in Venezuela as anti-democracy:

    “Libya and the Dogmatism of the “left” abandons the people again.”


    The comments thread is worth reading, purported anti-Zionist Jeff Blankfort jumps in in support of attacking Libya.

  19. Pingback: TRANSCEND MEDIA SERVICE » Owen Jones & Mother Agnes: A Lesson on Conciliatory “Leftists”

  20. Pingback: OWEN JONES & MOTHER AGNES. A LESSON ON “CONCILIATORY LEFTISTS” | Uprootedpalestinians's Blog

  21. Dave Smith says:

    Owen Jones did mention a false flag operation by Turkey as a pretext to invade Syria on BBC Dateline London, this was shortly after the Turkish Govt banned Twitter and YouTube, Esler’s response was a deafening silence (as you’d expect) but Jones hasn’t followed this up in any of his subsequent articles?

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