Editorial: Listen!

IssueAugust - September 2016
Comment by Milan Rai

What should progressive activists (whether Leave or Remain) be doing, post-Brexit? In every area, there are different needs, for sure. However, it seems to me there is a national urge to listen to people who feel ‘left behind’ by the system, an urge rising up like a wave across the country, an opportunity which should be seized on by people committed to peace and justice.

In Hastings in England, there is an attempt to set up a ‘listening project’ – for progressive people to go to all corners of the town to listen to people’s views on difficult issues like immigration. (Some people want to set a target of listening to 5,000 Hastings folk in the next few months.)

In Aberystwyth in Wales, Remain supporters at a post-referendum community meeting concluded (according to the minutes): ‘it is important to listen to what those who voted Leave say about why they voted that way’. The chair urged Remain supporters to talk to Leave voters before the next meeting. (The community meetings have become a weekly Thursday event hosted by a local café.)

In Hastings, people have decided they want to train themselves to listen rather than argue (maybe losing their tempers) when they hear opinions that they think are wrong, or find offensive. They’ve also decided to gather information that is relevant to the Brexit debates (around housing, for example).

Whatever the lasting value of these listening efforts, campaigners learning a bit of humility, and developing more skills in active listening, can only be a good thing.

Chilcot: the real threat

The 12-volume Chilcot report on the invasion and occupation of Iraq was published on 6 July, days before we went to press. There is one fundamental issue which was obscured in the report, and in the media commentary.

Back in 2003, both pro-war and anti-war voices in the mainstream media agreed that if Iraq was found in possession of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons (WMD), that would justify military action.

British vice-admiral sir James Jungius made the crucial point in a letter to The Times on 11 January 2003: ‘Even if the weapons do exist, where is the evidence of intent to use them? War is too important and unpleasant a business to be undertaken on the basis of a hunch, however good that hunch may be.’

In their report, certainly in their executive summary, the Chilcot team do nothing to challenge the assumption that simple possession of WMD by an unfriendly state justifies military action against them.

If this criminal principle is allowed to stand, we face many more disasters ahead.

Topics: Europe
See more of: Editorial