Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has backed an official inquiry into British troops’ possible crimes abroad, while calling for smaller armed forces and intelligence services in Britain.
Speaking at Labour Party’s conference in Liverpool on Sunday, Corbyn argued that probing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was necessary to show London’s commitment to international law.
“I do think there has to be a recognition that we have signed up to international law on the behavior of troops,” said Corbyn. “So I think there has to be investigation. Saying never to prosecute, I think, would be a step too far.”
The opposition leader, who was recently re-elected to lead the party, said that, the British military
was consuming too much money and that Britain should no longer have a “huge land-based defense force.”
Corbyn then slammed the country’s intelligence services for planning new recruitment programs.
The UK Secret Intelligence Service, aka MI6, is about to employ an extra 1,000 spies.
“I don’t necessarily think that’s particularly necessary,” he said. “There has to be security for everybody but I’m unclear as to why they want to be so much bigger.”
Corbyn’s call for the investigations is a slap in the face for former British prime minister Tony Blair, who backed the US in its 2003 invasion of Iraq by sending nearly 170,ooo military personnel to the Arab country.
Blair, who was battered in the Chilcot report for starting a war that plunged Iraq into chaos, has condemned the investigation into British soldiers.
Corbyn’s remarks elicited attacks from both inside and outside of his own party.
“The current investigatory system has led to too many vexatious claims against service personnel. This has come at tremendous cost to them, their families and indeed the public purse,” Dan Jarvis, a former British Army Major and Labour MP, told the Telegraph.
“Unfortunately it shows he is out of touch with Labour policy – as he was over the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent,” said John Spellar, a former Labour Armed Forces minister.
The 67-year-old socialist has shown little interest for Britain’s special relationship with the US and is opposed to nuclear weapons, including the costly Trident nuclear missile system that is maintained by the US.