Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s address to the Labour Party Conference was a great disappointment, avoiding crucial foreign policy issues. His speech failed to address the continuing occupation of Iraq, the hundreds of thousands of deaths and the humanitarian disaster which has resulted from the US and UK-led war and occupation.
Mr Miliband referred in passing to the fact that he has visited Baghdad and Basra, but failed to outline plans on troop withdrawal or explain current British policy towards a country which has suffered enormously as a result of the decision of the Labour government to go to war.
Mr Miliband’s speech was equally inadequate on the question of nuclear weapons. Referring to the need for shared solutions to global problems, Mr Miliband mentioned the need for global rules on nuclear proliferation. But he did not outline any concrete proposals for advancing this agenda, nor did he refer to the fact that Britain is flouting the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system and failing in its international obligation to disarm.
What was most notable was the lack of substance to Mr Miliband’s speech. Where was the timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq? Where were the concrete initiatives towards nuclear disarmament? Without real commitment to action, repeated rhetoric about ‘values’ and ‘change’ amounts only to empty platitudes.
The change we want to see is a new foreign policy. The values we want are peace and respect for international law. We need genuine new thinking from our government on these issues, not policies of aggression dressed up in hollow rhetorical flourishes.