Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Are we going to war?

I interrupt my normal programmes, as it were, to quote a letter written by a friend of mine to his MP. Is it overstated nonsense, or does he make sense?

 "Gloria, you’ll have perhaps noticed that the UK may be about to go to war. (However “limited” an air strike might be, if it is against the government or the people of any state, it is an act of war.)

Here’s my open letter to my MP:

Dear MP,

I fear you face a difficult vote of conscience in the House quite soon. The vote shouldn’t be whipped, but it probably will be. Good luck, but please bear this in mind:

If you vote for military action by U.K. forces, I shall never vote Labour again. Here’s why:

1)   It’s taken me years to try to forgive Labour for going to war in Iraq (at least Mr Milliband has managed an apology), and I cannot forget that John Reid said, as he committed 3,300 troops to Helmand province in Afghanistan, "We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years and without firing one shot." Wouldn’t we just, Lord Reid. The deployment was lethally mismanaged and…we all know the story since then. 

2)   The primary duty of any democratic government is to protect the people who elected them. You might be able to finesse an argument that explains how an air strike against Syria would protect us all – can’t see it, myself. It’s surely likely to further inflame many in the Arab world.

3)   Choosing sides in this civil war means choosing between a revolting regime that seems to be prepared to poison some of its own civilians, and disunited and chaotic rebel forces a significant proportion of which consists of people dedicated to attacking Western nations, and prepared to throw acid at women seeking an education. 

4)   The videos are harrowing, and poison gas is an obscenity. So is white phosphorous; I don’t recollect demands for air strikes against Israel during its action in Gaza 2008-2009. So is bombing nightclubs full of teenagers, or rocket attacks on farms; no calls for attacks on Hezbollah or Hamas. What arrogance is it in us that we think we should be the world’s police force? Why should we think we would make things better? Have we, so far, in the Middle East? The most optimistic answer would be “yes..and no.”

5)   In any case, how would air strikes help the suffering people of Syria?

6)   If UK forces carry out air strikes, what happens next? We can’t know. Have we even thought about it?

7)   There is no such thing as a “surgical” air strike. If we attack, people will die who have nothing to do with the Syrian armed forces, or the deployment of nerve gas.

8)   Let us discount the arguments of Russia and China. They are as self-serving as most nations’ foreign policies. But even should they, and the UN, “legalise” military action, please don’t support it.

I’m not a pacifist. I think I may be an odd sort of patriot. I’m trying to be a realist. I can’t see how military action helps anyone, except just possibly some military careers." 

OK, it's nothing directly to do with mortality - though it sure could be do with death.

Normal service will be resumed etc.


  1. Well, it is about death, in its way. There's this convention that gas is bad and bombs are... kindly? There are acceptable and unacceptable ways of killing people. Hard to know where to draw your red line once you've started. The semantics are not unintriguing and possibly not unabsurd.

  2. All my friend said, after the Commons vote, was "phew!"

    Yes, the semantics are sometimes absurd and often dangerous. Apparently a Syrian refugee said it might be better to be gassed than die under torture from Assad's thugs. He knew whereof he spoke.

    Maybe a red line merely gets in the way of the best course action?

    But what do I know. I'm just relieved not to be Messrs Obama and Cameron just now.

  3. It's phew from me, too. An incredibly, and unexpected, good day for common sense.

    (What is all this special relationship nonsense about, for heavens' sake?!)