• Another middle east war with the UK averted?

    30th August 2013 | News | Claire
  • Only a few weeks ago Mr Hague was reassuring us that the UK was not looking to arm the rebel forces in Syria, although admittedly the rhetoric of recent weeks was becoming more hardline.

    But it all changed after last week’s dreadful chemical attack on the citizens of Syria, including all those children, captured forever in those haunting photographs on virtually every national newspaper.

    The use of chemical weapons is abhorrent and an act of alarming cruelty. But does the answer to this cruelty lie in cruise missiles and bombs?

    I have to say I was shocked when I heard one minister after another in a series of interviews claim that they supported military action as a legitimate response to the violent and oppressive Syrian regime, which reportedly orchestrated the attacks.

    Messrs Blair, Hague and Cameron’s populist soundbites about “not idly standing by” were perhaps more predictable than Mr Clegg’s interview on yesterday’s Today programme. How disappointing was his identikit response to John Humphreys questions – even more so after the libdems strong opposition to the plans to invade Iraq, under the labour government.

    I am no expert on international law, but I do remember reading something about any military strike having to be justified, based on Britain’s national interests.

    How on earth can it be in our national interests to poke a stick into the hornets’ nest that is Syria – an odious and violent regime, with all its multitude of warring factions?  What repercussions might the UK face, as a result?

    With growing alarm earlier this week I learnt that some of the warring factions at least, comprise of what is supposed to be one of our deadliest enemies – Al Quaeda. 

    Yet Mr Cameron airily claims that any attack would not mean the UK taking sides – and this is after he blamed the chemical attacks on the Assad regime!

    One of the key arguments against the Iraq war (and our men are STILL out there getting killed on what seems to be a weekly basis) was the lack of a security council resolution.

    Some 10 years later, we are at it again. So the US and France appear to be content to launch rockets at Syria without an apparent care of what chain of events this might set off. Sensibly, Germany seems to want no part of it.  But most worrying, big powerful nations, already far from friendly – China, Russia and Iran – are lurking menacingly and disapprovingly in the shadows.

    And what of the cost to our armed forces? Already, very stretched, with slashed budgets and soldiers still fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq… A missile or two today might mean a ground force attack in a few months as the problems escalate and the target steadily shifts from disabling the ability to mobilize chemical weapons, to ousting Assad himself.

    And then we would be yet again in the depressing horribly familiar situation of our forces fighting a shifting hidden enemy, where the only unhappy outcome is widespread death and destruction, suffering of civilians and a useless sort of stalemate, which helps no one.

    Not even given a week to do their job, the weapons inspectors are suddenly superfluous to Team Cameron, who appear so desperate to get their shiny bombs out, that they want to rush through a decision to use them, before the weapons inspectors have even reported back.

    Isn’t that just sheer lunacy?

    Charities have expressed strong opposition to any military action, as they are already trying to coordinate a massive humanitarian operation with 12,000 people alone, leaving the country yesterday.

    I cannot help wondering who the heck do we think we are?  What right do we have to threaten other countries with bombs, if we don’t approve of what they are doing?  There will always be vile dictators in the world, but is it really appropriate for us to point missiles at them in an apparent attempt to teach a country a lesson, like an errant child in the UK used to be threatened with corporal punishment, by their teacher?

    The United Nations Security Council is there for a reason and it plays a vital role.  But if there is military action required, it should be as a very last resort, with the justification being widespread destruction to a significant area.  Few dispute that Britain declaring war on Germany in 1939, was an inappropriate or disproportionate act. Most people saw it as a necessary evil.

    Interestingly, for our trigger happy crew, only a few weeks ago, the same set of politicians were apparently too scared to label the latest Egyptian uprising, as a military coup

    During the last week, one MP has stood out for me as speaking sound sense, without any fear of being “off party message.”  This has been Sarah Woollaston, who has voiced many of my own thoughts. Surely we should leave this to the middle eastern countries to resolve this, she said.

    Surely, if we want to help, we should be sending humanitarian aid, not bombs, she said.

    So Ed Milliband finally saw sense, I understand, after several of his senior party members threatened to resign if he backed military action. 

    Today’s Independent reports the Tory reaction by unnamed party aids, to Milliband’s volte face.  A vitriolic mix of unrepeatable language and insults were unleashed over the phone to a journalist .  I guess last night’s humiliating defeat is what is to be expected when you try and force through a whipped vote on potentially starting another war – and your own party, in large numbers, decides it has a mind of its own.

    Mr Cameron is still talking in ominously aggressive tones about Syria, but I am sincerely hoping that the military action, which I am sure would have brought nothing but a miasma of ill to our country, is at least, now off the agenda.