First As Tragedy…

October 7, 2015

Can we please dispense with the tiresome accusation that Jeremy Corbyn called Osama Bin Laden’s assasination a “tragedy” on a par with the September 11 attacks? When politicians repeat these allegations as fact, can we please mention somewhere that it is not what the Labour leader actually said?

No. No, we cannot. The Guardian seems to have reprinted a press release from Tory HQ reporting David Cameron’s conference speech, in which our PR-man in chief accused Corbyn of harbouring a ” security-threatening, terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating ideology”. He then “illustrated this point by highlighting the reported remarks by the Labour leader that the death of Osama bin Laden had been a tragedy.”

The Guardian makes it seem as if Cameron agonised over whether to weaponize his bogus accusations. He “finally decided to highlight Corbyn’s remarks” after being bombarded by fellow world leaders at the UN whose only interest was “whether it was true that Corbyn had suggested that the death of the al-Qaida leader had been a tragedy.”

What balderdash. I’d wager he’s been chuckling to himself over the urinals at Tory HQ for weeks.

For the record, the remarks by Corbyn were made after Bin Laden was murdered by US Navy Seals in his Pakistani hideout. Corbyn made the completely reasonable point that it was a tragedy that Bin Laden had not been captured and tried, and found guilty under due process for the crimes that he was (allegedly) responsible for. He also suggested that using violence to resolve disputes in that way would perpetuate the cycle of terror and counter-terror, and he was absolutely right.

To be exact, Corbyn said that “This was an assassination attempt, and is yet another tragedy, upon a tragedy, upon a tragedy. The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy. Tens of thousands of people have died. Torture has come back on to the world stage, been canonised virtually into law by Guantánamo and Bagram. Can’t we learn some lessons from this? Are we just going to sink deeper and deeper?… This will just make the world more dangerous and worse and worse and worse.”

Nowhere in those remarks does he state that the death of Bin Laden was a tragedy on a par with 9/11, but he correctly argued that our inability to solve the problem of terrorism through legal means is a tragedy.

Cameron may well disagree that the courts are an appropriate venue for trying terrorists. After all, he is happy to launch drone attacks on British citizens without bothering to ask Parliament, and he’s agitating to unleash extra-judicial missiles on ISIS (and Syrian civilians). Cameron’s attack on Corbyn is utterly baseless and vile.

To its partial credit, the Guardian has an online piece asking the hot button question “does Jeremy Corbyn hate Britain?” This makes the blindingly obvious point that his words about Bin Laden were taken out of context.

The point is that there is no piece asking whether David Cameron believes in his expressed desire to wage total war in the “scourge of poverty” or whether his stated aim to “finish the fight for real equality in our country today” can hold any water at all.

And what about the promise of “a country raising its sights, its people reaching new heights, a great British take-off that leaves no one behind” – when the world economy is facing massive slowdown and deflation is on the cards?

Stop talking about whether Corbyn hates Britain and start reporting on the dissonance between Tory rhetoric and British reality. The real world, not the Westminster bubble.


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