Military action in Syria denied by shameful UK

August 30, 2013 1:00 am

syria-chemical-weaponsAlmost exactly a year and six months ago I wrote an article outlining why I believed we should stage military intervention in Syria. Much of what I wrote was based on the views and opinions of Marie Colvin, a highly respected Sunday Times journalist. Shortly after writing her piece, which urged that the UK take immediate action in Syria, Marie was killed in the relentless bombing of Homs by Assad’s regime.

Today, I watched with eager anticipation the debate in the House of Commons and I truly believed that finally Marie would be granted her last request. David Cameron trounced Ed Miliband in what could only be described as a patient, well presented and logical demonstration of politics by the Tory leader. Miliband, who was pedantically calling for minor amendments to Cameron’s proposal, at one point listed three important factors which the Attorney General had stated needed to be satisfied before military intervention could be considered. Cameron, to great laughter, then stood up reading the next line of the Attorney General’s statement which read that he considered all three of those factors had been met.

It would have seemed, to an impartial observer, that parliament was going to vote military action should be a viable option providing that the various terms were met and that the UN inspectors found strong evidence against Assad. However, shockingly, in a vote of 285 to 272, the British MPs voted against any possible future military action against the Syrian regime to deter the use of chemical weapons.

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I was dumbfounded. Britain has not taken the stance of appeasement since before the Second World War when Hitler was continuously appeased by the League of Nations to the point in which he had conquered half of Europe. Assad’s regime has now killed well over 100,000 of Syria’s citizens with at least 14 counts of chemical weapons being used. Aside from the fact that he has committed genocide on a mass scale, chemical weapons have been internationally banned since 1925 – almost 100 years. There is very little, perhaps apart from a nuclear bomb, which can be considered worse than using nerve agent on innocent civilians. The line of dead toddlers displayed in a long row shows the brutality of this horrific weapon and the regime that wields it.

Since when did the “red line” become so manoeuvrable? What kind of moral virtue do we now project as a country? After the catastrophe of the build-up to the Iraq war and the false information and bad intelligence that was presented to us, Britain is of course nervous about committing itself to another war where claims about weapons of mass destruction are being made without definitive proof. However, I can’t help but find it ironic that an unjust war was started by a Labour government in Iraq and yet now, when military intervention could hardly be considered more just and necessary; it is Labour who seeks to prevent it.

I feel extremely sorry for David Cameron. He clearly believes that military intervention in Syria is the right thing to do and he fought passionately to ensure that it would become a strong possibility. It must be a tough pill to swallow to have to back down in the face of what, in some cases, could be called political manipulation from the Labour party. Whilst this is a loss for Cameron, at the very least, he should sleep easier knowing that he did what he could to help Britain maintain some sense of moral justice.

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Personally, I feel highly ashamed of my country. That we should ignore Syria’s hour of need when some of the worst atrocities known to man are being committed on innocent women and children and that we stand idly by using technicalities to distract us from the outrageous truth of genocide, makes me no longer proud to state that I am a citizen of the United Kingdom.

Our moral influence in the world is now at an end. We have failed ourselves, we have failed the UN, we have failed our allies and above all we have failed Syria. In isolation, we shall now stand in shame and remember that through our own failure to act, we condoned mass murder, genocide and the use of chemical weapons.

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  • James Dawson

    Warmongering nonsense by a journalist fallen privy to the idea that Syria’s civil war is a matter of good (rebels) vs. evil (Assad). ‘Moral fight for justice’ look at your wording, it’s naive, childish, oversimplification. Do you really think that US and UK involvement in the affairs of Syria would bring an end to fighting without a body count in the thousands? Do you really think that Syrian intervention would be entirely about ‘bringing justice?’- the reason for the lack of public support is because the general public doesn’t buy it.

    The issue is clearly more complex that the one you’re presenting, to call Milibands amendment pedantic is ridiculous. There was clearly a need to establish parameters for future intervention, to not do so would be irresponisible and risk making Syria another interventionist-quagmire. David Cameron made the mistake of trying to rush us to war. What sense does it make to move towards war before UN weapons establish that chemical weapons have been used and/or there is clear, substantial evidence regarding who perpetrated the attacks?

    Voting ‘no’ is not shameful, it’s responsible, it’s about considering a complex conflict. We should ‘moral fights for justice’ to comic-books and video-games. Where they belong. Grow up.

    • Admin Charlie

      I completely disagree. I never stated that this was about rebels vs Assad. This is about chemical weapons being used to kill innocent people. What is the point on having international rules on such things if, when the time comes and they are broken, we sit back and do nothing?

      We have a moral responsibility to punish those using chemical weapons and to prevent them from being used again.

      Yes I do think Syrian intervention would be about trying to bring justice – as you state, British people would die and that loss would need to be for a worthwhile cause in which a greater amount of life was saved.

      Miliband was pedantic (as members of his own party said during the debate) because Cameron had already conceded that it was indeed important to define parameters for future intervention which is why there was to be two votes, the second of which being cast after findings were made by the UN inspectors. Miliband then preceded to add things, in different wording, that Cameron had more or less already agreed to and that is why his proposed amendment lost HEAVILY despite military intervention later being opposed.

      To state that I (and presumably, therefore, our Prime Minister, the American President and millions of others) should grow up seems to ironically be a pretty immature way to argue your point of view. You can have a debate without throwing insults around.

      At the end of the day it does come down to a simple question. Do you think we have a moral obligation to prevent a regime from using chemical weapons and committing genocide. I strongly believe the answer to that question is yes. It isn’t a case of growing up, it is a case of moral perspective.

      • James Dawson

        What’s the endgame for the intervention that you’re proposing? Based on what you are saying, I can’t see any endgame other than regime change. How can you then say that this is purely about the use chemical weapons?

        Chemical weapons are being used as an excuse for intervention. As was brought up countless times in the debate western powers are willing to turn a blind-eye to chemical weapons when they are used by their allies (see Israel), or when friendily governments oppress their people via non-chemical but equally murderous means (see Turkey). The reason that the US/UK are keen to intervene in Syria is due to the Assad regimes’s relationship with Russia and China, and its general failure to comply with western powers.

        Yes I do think there is moral obligation on the part of the UK to prevent genocide and chemical weapons, however I think the brand of imperialistic US-led interventionism that this article promotes is nonsense. There are other humanitarian/ UN-led ways of preventing chemical weapons being used. Your approach is incredibly gung-ho, it is irrational and it would ultimately be dangerous. We are talking about war.

        I will state again, concrete evidence is yet to be provided on whether chemical weapons have been used and (if they have been used) then who has used them. Why could that not be established before this bill was voted through? Another good reason that we shouldn’t be rushed to war, sure there was to be another vote, but in the meantime there was nothing to prevent our preparations for war and ‘indirect action,’ which Clegg repeatedly failed to rule out in his closing speech.

        Please do explain how you feel justice could/would be achieved through our missiles. Explain the nobility of the UK cause. Explain who you would like to see leading Syrian once the Assad regime was overthrown.

        • Admin Charlie

          The simple question is this: Do we or do we not act over what Assad and his regime are doing? The whole situation itself is obviously far more complicated. As Cameron pointed out, no one can say for sure what will happen, during and after if we were to go to war. Yes it is a serious matter, and it is easy for us sitting here to dismiss the Syrian problems on all the grounds you have listed.

          Watch this video: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-23892594 – this is what is happening every day, and not even the worst of it – yes, I completely agree that if we go in, the aftermath is going to be a huge thing and something that will have to be very carefully thought through and dealt with better than we have dealt with similar situations in the past. We cannot simply hand the government over to the rebels or create a new regime and leave, it would probably have to be a lengthy process with the combined help of all involved countries. But just because there will be difficult problems along the way does not mean that we shouldn’t act to save innocent lives whilst we can.

          I think you are taking my use of justice out of context – justice would come through assad being tried in an international criminal court, but other than that, justice is not really obtainable/achievable – perhaps I should not have used that word. What is achievable is that we concentrate our efforts in stopping this genocide and use of chemical weapons.

          You, and much of the media talk about rushing this decision – Cameron has been pro this for almost two years now – it is only now that evidence has likely sprung up on a large scale in the form of the latest chemical attack that we have the opportunity to do something legally.

          I can’t speak for past governments and situations where perhaps the international community should have helped countries such as those in Africa, but right now at this moment, we have the opportunity to make a difference and save lives in Syria, and I believe we should take it.

          Yes war is a last resort, and should be – but Syria has made it clear that they will continue to ignore everything else we and the UN have tried to do.

          Ultimately, we aren’t going to agree – I understand your point, committing to war is starting something that has no guarantee of ending successfully and does guarantee pain and loss of life along the way but I still feel we have a moral obligation as an international community to enforce rules created for the good of mankind and to stop genocide when it is in our power to do so.

          • James Dawson

            I’ve seen the video, there are videos of atrocities by either side. It’s sickening, it’s irrational, it’s a consequence of civil war. Do you think US/UK missiles would not cause similar atrocities?

            There is clearly an agenda behind that video, a call to emotion that promotes the intervention and the military action against the Assad regime. Why aren’t we seeing videos of atrocities committed by those fighting against Assad? Why aren’t we seeing videos of the atrocities committed in Egypt (why aren’t you calling for intervention there…)? The public is still not swayed because they’ve seen the propaganda before.

            Do you now see a problem in the US/UK making the decisions over a regime change, do you not see the issues it raises in regards Syria’s sovereignty? Your view of the UK as world-police is crude and imperialistic. I’m done with debating. I am glad we’re not going to war.

          • Admin Charlie

            I accept many of your arguments and your view that military intervention is not the right course of action. I don’t accept slandering journalists who are putting their life on the line in Syria to report back stories such as the one above. The BBC as a whole is actually anti Cameron (as can be seen from what made today’s stories) so no, I don’t think there is an agenda behind that video, other than to show us the desperation of the Syrian people.

            Today’s world is full of bullshit conspiracy theories that every political decision is motivated by greed or something else. Rubbish. Our government, elected by the people, from the people are not some foreign body with ulterior motives. It is plainly obvious that Cameron wanted military intervention because that is what he thought was the moral thing to do. You seem to have been so influenced by the aftermath of Iraq that you are sitting back and trying to provide intellectual arguments and questions that completely ignore the plain and solid events that a huge weight of evidence tells us are occurring.

            You bring up Egypt like it is the same event. Where are the chemical weapons and 100,000 dead people? Egypt is split roughly 50-50. The powerful aren’t massacring the weak. Yes it is a tricky situation there and that is why Britain has stopped over 40 military training operations that they were doing with the Egyptian army. But we are not at a stage, as we are with Syria, where we can more or less prove genocide using illegal means. I was in Egypt as Morsi was overthrown, I can promise you it currently is a very different vibe to Syria.

            I must admit, I’m finding it hard to remain level headed in this discussion with you, you bring out all these age old arguments that ultimately ignore and detract from the main issue here. Innocent people are being horribly murdered. The strong are meant to protect the weak and I for one feel uncomfortable sitting back and watching the weak get massacred whilst we clap ourselves on the back for avoiding another Iraq like situation.

            We could probably argue this all day, I feel sick in my gut at the thought of us sitting back and watching the bully in the playground get his own way. I sincerely hope that American and France find a solution where our MPs have been too cowardly and desensitised to do so.

          • Ashamed

            It is a moral obligation of Britain to stand up against mass killings in Syria.

            Shame on you Ed Miliband and those MPs voted against

  • David Scotian

    Oh dear James Dawson, you seem to have completely missed the point and your comments are ill informed and clearly born of inexperienced youthful misinterpretation! Is that your current photo of you as a child trying to attack a well written article? Cameron was not ‘trying to rush us to war’ but seeking to join with others to establish a world marker over which nations cross at their peril. Miliband had struck an agreement to support this with Cameron but then his unreliable party politics kicked in and he broke his agreements for party gain. Once again that party cannot be trusted on even the most important world issues. Cameron had agreed with Miliband not to use any force until after The United Nations case was made and now we see this morning what a strong case that is. Assad will, from the USA and France, shortly find out that a surgical strike on him and his cowardly tactics is answered by a clear marker that he has ‘crossed the line’. Cowards pay attention to these markers and it will become clear to him that if used again, these weapons will produce a response from those that still have some moral fibre. None in the west wish to get involved in this civil, tribal and religious war in Syria, but the world order has to have some markers laid down. Miliband has damaged Britain, her relationships and her trust by his action. Cameron has behaved completely correctly and you must grow up a little bit before seeking again to criticise a proper article that was well written.

    • James Dawson

      I’m going to ignore the ad hominem bullshit about my ‘youth’ (it’s my twitter picture, duhh) and concentrate on what you’ve just said and why it’s wrong, shortly and concisely.

      “Cameron was not ‘trying to rush us to war’ but seeking to join with others to establish a world marker over which nations cross at their peril.”

      There was an early recalled of parliament to vote on a motion that offers the prospect of military action. The timeframe for public and parliamentary debate on the subject was short because of the ’emergency recall.’ By offering military action as a solution to the problem a precedent for war as solution was set.

      So yes, it was rushed, and yes, it was a move towards war. Fullstop.

      “None in the west wish to get involved in this civil, tribal and religious war in Syria, but the world order has to have some markers laid down.”

      France, Britain and the US have all given pretty clear indications that they are willing to intervene in Syria, by first condemning the Assad regime and then taking military against Syrian government targets. This demonstrates a clear desire by the west to intervene in the civil war.

      Also, I’m pretty interested in hearing about which countries you believe to be the ‘world order’ (by which I assume you mean the countries who stand as moral guardians of the world). On what authority did they gain the status of ‘world police’?

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