I was ten years old when Britain joined the USA in invading Iraq in March 2003. I remember watching the news at dinner time with my parents as bombs rained down on Baghdad. It was then that I began to gain an understanding that people could die as a result of decisions that governments made. For many people age, the Iraq war was also their first memory of becoming politically aware.
The Iraq War has, for a generation at least, undoubtedly changed the way people feel about the Labour Party. On the left, there is a general hostility towards the Labour Party due to the role Tony Blair’s government played in taking Britain into the war in Iraq. Whether or not he Iraq war was justified is a debate that we are already well versed in. With the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, it appears that much of that hostility from the left is disappearing and people are generally supportive of Corbyn’s leadership. Consequently, Jeremy Corbyn was wrong to give a free vote on Syria. The Labour Party should have learned from past mistakes in Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which have become failed states. Labour MPs should vote against air strikes in Syria for moral and humanitarian reasons.
Strategically, an airstrike campaign is madness. Ken Livingstone called it well on last week’s Question Time – bombs are indiscriminate. They will reap unimaginable devastation on a country that has already been pushed to the brink, there will be undoubtable civilian deaths and will lead to further destabilisation in the middle east.
Cameron’s case for bombing Syria fails to address the complexity of the situation. It seems he has failed to assess any of the overwhelming evidence against bombing Syria. His case appears to be little more than reactionary willy waving.
This graphic, doing the rounds on social media, explains the situation in the middle east far better than I can. It shows the complexity of the situation and of course, the multiple factions who are fighting against each other.
It is not just ISIS who are a threat to people in Syria. Refugees are fleeing from Syria, not because of ISIS, but because of Assad. This obviously does not excuse ISIS who are fascists and who should be dealt with, but we must remember the more immediate threat to Syrian people is Assad.
Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq and in Libya has left a trail of devastation in the form of failed nation states, blighted by poverty and in the case of Iraq, paved the way for ISIS. It would be unwise to become involved in the Syrian conflict because evidence from previously ill-thought out wars has suggested it will simply lead to more devastation and destabilisation. As Albert Einstein said: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Does Cameron really think that becoming involved in yet another war will achieve something different?
Over the summer, we saw many pictures beamed across our televisions and computer screens of refugees fleeing from Syria. It should be remembered that before the civil war, Syria (for the right people) was a modern country with a decent economy. Syria was like a paradise. Now, most parts are ruined and people live with the unimaginable effects of war and violence. Syria’s economy has been decimated and around 4 million people have been displaced from their homes. People are fleeing from things we couldn’t begin to imagine, an unbearable amount of violence and war. Air strikes and bombs will not stop the violence and it will not stop people fleeing from their homes.
To get rid of ISIS and other factional fascists in Syria, there is other action we can take. We must starve them of resources and delist the PKK as a terrorist organisation. The Kurds are actively involved in fighting ISIS and we should support them. Until the British Government keepe referring to them as terrorists, we fail to take them seriously.
We don’t entirely know who the enemy is in Syria. Dennis Skinner made this clear last week in the House of Commons: we don’t know who the enemy is. Keep out of Syria.