In what world does bombing a country on the pretext of bringing peace make sense? This is not quite a rhetorical question. Here in the UK we see the results all around us, from Libya and Iraq to the fundamentalist insanity which rules what is left of Afghanistan. But the answer is one which most of us know already. As the wheels of war speed up (Parliament is being recalled! Blair speaks out!), the majority of the British public oppose armed intervention in Syria. Stop the War UK are calling for an emergency demonstration outside Downing Street, which perhaps 0.001 percent of people will have the opportunity to attend. The placards on its web page read, optimistically, ‘Hands off Syria’ – hands are not the problem here. Bombs are the problem: the lethal stockpiles amassed by the West, which one imagines sitting there in their thousands, issuing a low, robotic, irresistible siren call. “Use us. Use us”.
And what an opportunity this presents for the UK’s de facto rulers to bring a few truths home to those still laboring under the illusion that our elected representatives should do what they are paid to do, and represent us. We see Michael Gove, as Education Secretary, claiming that our Parliament has been lucky, so far, to have been kept informed. Any serious decisions, says the man responsible for our schools, should be left in the hands of the Prime Minister and the ‘national security council’. What Syria should have to do with our ‘national security’ is clear: nothing. “If the inspectors find incontrovertible evidence that the gas attacks were carried out by an opposition group, does this means that the West will take military action to support the Assad regime?” asks a commenter in the Guardian. It is a good question. In reality we see both the US and the UK indicating that they will not be influenced by any of the UN’s findings, nor rely on a mandate from the Security Council. Our Parliament is being recalled, but the intention to attack has already been made clear, and the evidence on which our MPs, or those who turn up, are expected to vote has been dismissed in advance.
This is, in one way, hardly surprising. But one wonders, as Iran – a democratic state which Blair has also been keen to attack – gets pulled into the whole explosive mess, how many Germans, in World War Two, sat and watched with horror as Hitler attacked country after country; powerless and, eventually, resigned. Hitler, of course, had a problem which the West and its allies (the coup leaders in Egypt now included) do not have. He needed hundreds of thousands of men on the ground to fight his wars; the result was a necessary blitz of propaganda and terror aimed at his own people. Our warmongers need no such thing: they have the technology. And Iraq has taught them other lessons, including the fact that there is no need to lie about UN resolutions, or proof, before going in for the kill. Consequences do not exist, unless you count Blair’s subsequent role as the public face of Louis Vuitton. Whatever we say, whatever anyone thinks, they will, apparently, go ahead anyway.
The ongoing tragedies are obvious, and the shame palpable. The dangers for escalation outside Syria (itself included in an update of the ‘Axis of Evil’ in 2002) are apparent. The consequences for the people inside Syria, already dying in the so-called superpowers’ games, are inevitable. A group called Radical Beirut are calling it clear. “Foreign military intervention in Syria is unacceptable and condemnable, whether it comes from Hezbollah, Russia, Iran or the Americans, Turkey or the Arab countries. Syrians are the only ones who should determine the fate of their country” they write. “On the other hand, foreign military intervention …does not erase the crimes of Assad and his regime and does not erase his being a tyrant and a criminal against humanity…Military strikes will serve the Assad regime who will kill people under the pretext of resistance to foreign interference, and the regime will appear to be a heroic resistance to imperialism and “terrorism”. At this stage, we need moral clarity to support people in the face of power and freedom in the face of tyrants and occupation”.
We in the UK, under our own, smooth-talking autocrats, can surely agree with that. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the International Criminal Court’s former prosecutor, said, back in November, that world leaders had a ‘good case’ for preparing a warrant to arrest Assad. Such a move, the former judge noted, ‘would force Assad to negotiate’. He was ignored, and the bloodshed by Assad’s regime, and by the increasingly crazed, and Western-backed rebels, has continued. If this world were a sane one, and the UK government possessed a fraction of the morality it claims as its own, it would be working with the UN to arrest Assad, not preparing to bomb the people of an already devastated country to punish ‘him’.
Still, it is tempting to imagine this country’s reaction had a thousand UN peacekeepers, or representatives of the countries who stood firm against Iraq, turned up at the Houses of Parliament to arrest Blair and his inner circle. Possibly, most people here would have cheered. But, judging by our government’s own actions, there would have been no need for them to stick with international law. They could have just bombed us. Our MPs should be encouraged to reflect on this equivalence. The ‘debate’ which the more radical MPs have been demanding is, based on the Iraq precedent, nonsensical; the terms already fixed.
They need to be told to act.
Tabitha Troughton is a a freelance journalist and has written for various publications, including the Sunday Times, Morning Star. Tabitha has reported on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Abkhazia, Iceland, and the student protests in the UK. Her first novel “Animals” was published by Simon & Schuster.