There should be no doubt that the situation in Syria is beyond dreadful.  The country is torn apart by an escalating civil war in which chemical weapons have been used on an innocent populace. It has yet to be established which of the warring factions employed these weapons – it is presumed by many that it was government forces.

There is no doubt that they were used.  So who sold them?  Why are chemical weapons allowed to be manufactured and sold – especially to unstable countries?  When you sell a cooker – you know its going to be used for cooking – when you sell  a boat you know it is going to be used for sailing – when you sell a chemical weapon you now it is going to be used to attack, kill, maim and poison people.

It will not help those people who died in Syria last week – but I propose the United Nations grow a set of B*LLS  and ban the manufacture and sale of Chemical weapons and their constituent parts.

The British people spoke loud and clear last week when the government motion to join with the USA in attacking Syria was defeated in the House of Commons.

David Cameron and his ego badly miscalculated and mismanaged the vote on the motion and the opposition Amendment. If he had voted on his motion first and it failed there was still a chance that the opposition amendment would have passed – although that is also in doubt.  For once I am glad he is inept.  A government has never been defeated in a Commons vote on a military intervention in modern times.

He also miscalculated on several other factors.

He thought he could get away with the “dodgy dossier” trick – sorry that was a one trick pony and it belonged to Tony Blair and George Bush. The British public were not going to swallow that one again.  Now Mrs Thatcher has passed away Mr Blair has probably taken up the mantle of being the most hated ex Prime Minister still living for his part in the Iraq war.

The sheer number of daily emails flooding into MP’s mail boxes – all with the same message – not in our name. We do not want to go to war. We cannot afford to go to war.  We are in a recession, you are cutting all our services – we want our services not another war.

Which leads me onto my next point and one that deserves making.  Mr Cameron and his government have stripped away the UK’s welfare system – they have stripped it to the bone.  The sick and the poor are being demonized and in doing so they have stripped the British populace of compassion.  They no longer have compassion for the most vulnerable people in society – the sick and disabled, those who are unable to find work and the old and the dying.  This of course meant he was not able to use the compassion card either. His governments fostering of the “I am alright Jack” attitude has come back to sting him in the tail.

I know that I and a huge number of my countrymen all of a sudden found a reason to be proud of being British when that motion was defeated.

The way forward is not easy – on one side you have a government accused of using chemical weapons – on the other you have rebels who are radical Muslims who hold very extreme views about their future society.

A friend of mine rather flippantly summed the situation up as follows…

Britannia and Uncle Sam outside a Syrian Bar in which there is a fight. Britannia is hanging onto Uncle Sam’s arms as he struggles to go back inside. The caption reads “Leave ‘im Wayne, ‘e ain’t worth it.” whilst the Frenchman offered to hold Uncle Sam’s coat.”

I hope that the vote in the US congress will go the same way.

The US voting no is the next step but still leaves a horrible situation that needs humanitarian action to help those people affected by the civil war.

Back to the UN – it needs to step into its role to protect the citizens of Syria approximately eight million of them – one and a half million of whom have already fled the country and are languishing in refugee camps in neighboring countries – most of who have economic difficulties of their own and who are under severe pressure already.

The UN should be creating safe corridors through which they can escape – and eventually to achieve a ceasefire in the civil war and be providing shelter, food and humanitarian supplies to the refugee camps.  Once those route to safety has been established – then and only then should they try and start the peace process.  Their focus must be on providing a safe exit for the men women and children of Syria.

21 Comments

  1. Expert article, Nicola, thanks!

    I’ve been thinking on this topic for a long while — and you have found the mushy underbelly of the failed policy that let this kind of horror happen! Well done!

    There isn’t much stomach in the USA, either, for any sort of intervention. I think people are tuckered out from all the wars and have had it with getting mired in another one. Thats’ why I think it’s smart, but astonishing, that Obama is “leaving it up to congress” to push us into the next war — very much going against his own policy and that of the Cheney presidency where the executive branch imperially ran all limbs of the government.

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  2. it is very difficult to pin down when each side is equally as inhuman as the other.

    I think the USA has a greater sense of war fatigue than the UK does. I believe this would be different if these actions could be seen as achieving something tangible – at the moment they all seem rather futile.

    The chatter in the UK is that for the USA to be successful in an attack on Syria it needs the intelligence services and other specialist services of the UK. Apparently the French do not cut the mustard !

    I have to say I was surprised when I heard that Obama was going to go to congress – who knows maybe he will be known as the president who did not start a war on his watch!

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    1. It’s a smart and dangerous move for Obama to acquiesce his executive power to congress; dangerous because he drew his own “red line” in the sand for Syria that has now been completely confirmed and if he “lets congress be the ‘decider'” then they’ll also want to decide everything else in his term from here on out because they’ll color him as wanton and indecisive even more than they already have…

      It’s a smart move, though to kick it over to the Tea Baggers. They want bloodshed and retaliation and more war, let it be on their hands, and not his. He always does best when he pits himself as the reasonable adult against the petulant, childish, opposition.

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      1. I can see the risks for him in following this course.

        it will be interesting to see where the Tea Baggers fall – do they support the corrupt regime – or do they support radical Muslims – or do they support both sides and hope they kill each other ? You can bet humanitarian aid will not be on the list.

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        1. I have a feeling the Baggers support everyone killing each other so we can step in and take over the country — which means they’ll find a way to bounce it all back to Obama and nothing will happen — which is what everyone wants anyway…

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          1. Sadly that was my thought too as I wrote it – although I will be very happy if nothing happens on the war front and everything happens on the humanitarian front.

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  3. Brave of you to tackle such a difficult topic Nicola.

    The most telling comment, for me, regarding the USA’s motives for wanting to rain down missiles upon Syria which will undoubtedly cause considerable loss of lives of innocent civilians came from a quote 2-3 days ago by Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for Obama’s national security council:

    “President Obama’s decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States…He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States.”

    Good to see they are finally dispensing with the humanitarian fig leaf and finally admitting that it is their own interests they are concerned with, rather than the loss of human life and suffering caused by the use of chemical weapons.

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    1. Knew I had forgotten one of the quotes …. trust you to remember it ……….

      I would however be interested to know if that was said before or after the decision to let congress have its say.

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  4. I would not disagree with much of what is written above but would make two further comments

    1) I would not bet against another resolution coming forward and gaining support. The original government motion and the Labour one are very close to each other. The politics of Tory/Labour worked in favour of a no vote but if you took all those who supported the Labour amendment and added them to all those who supported the government motion you would have a clear majority. The main argument against another vote is that a) the country does not want this war and b) Cameron will not want to be stitched up by Miliband again.

    2) I see very little discussion in the media of the possibility of as yet unknown consequences of any US / France attack on Syria. What if Syria can attack US ships with Russian missiles? How will the US then respond? Will they put boots on the ground and how would Russia respond to that? What if they launch attacks into Israel? and Israels response. Will Iran take a more proactive approach to defend their route through Syria to Hezbollah

    I could go on but any attack seems to open up a lot of possibilities

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    1. Tony, I fear that it is almost inevitable that action against Syria will be voted upon again in the British Parliament. The caveat included by Defence Secretary, Phillip Hammond is that it would only be considered if circumstances changed very significantly. It is therefore in the USA’s interests, in order to get the UK and other countries on board, to ensure that circumstances change considerably.

      Already we have seen a considerable increase in the number of casualties reported by the USA. originally it was around 3-400. Immediately after the UK rejection, the USA said they had evidence that the true figure was 1426. Well, Médecins Sans Frontières, who are working in the hospitals in the affected area have given the true figure as 355. http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/press/release.cfm?id=7033&cat=press-release

      The USA and those who support action in the UK are always likely to come up with new “evidence” to persuade the UK that circumstances have changed considerably, as they continually did prior to the Iraq war.

      Which brings me to your second point. I do not believe that the aim of action is a limited strike. I believe it is intended as the pre-cursor and catalyst to justify further intervention. A limited strike can have no practical benefit, other than the knock-on effect of giving the West justification for further involvement when Syria defends itself.

      If, as the USA would have us believe, Assad is stupid enough to use chemical weapons in the first place, when he is winning his war and their use is the only thing likely to bring the West into the conflict, then you can bet he is crazy enough to retaliate, despite knowing that would invite further full-scale Western involvement.

      My guess is that when the “limited action” starts, a stray missile or two will find their way into either Israel or Turkey, whether fired by the Assad forces or not.

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    2. Budgie has answered this probably far better than I can. The BBC has just said Obama has the backing he needs ……… http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23950253

      As to the French involvement I have been speaking to Philippe about that – he cannot understand why they would want to get involved but says follow the money as usual !

      Given this article – http://news.yahoo.com/-u-s–france–but-no-britain–not-a-surprise-145500189.html they do have some history of working together – I would say France thinks they have something to prove. The French PM has been very vocal about getting involved in the conflict – and seems to be prepared to go in all guns blazing in spite of what his government might vote.

      The whole of the middle east is a hornets nest – the grand plan is of course oil – always has been and always will be ……….. shame they are so short sighted they should be filling the Sahara with solar plants – that way they would not need oil – but then of course they would not exert so much power over energy resources as they do now.

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  5. I did not see the vote – but Cameron was not given much choice ….. we were cheering here too . My reference to Mr Ashdown was because he was quite involved in the Balkans – from memory

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