By Jeremy Corbyn in Britain:
Syria: Deja vu all over again
Wednesday 28 August 2013
Tomorrow Parliament will be recalled. As an opener the PM will make a statement outlining the case for military intervention in Syria, the pretext being the use of chemical weapons in a horrific incident last week in Damascus.
There can be no question of anyone ever condoning the use of chemical weapons, which indiscriminately kill fighter and civilian alike.
But it’s also essential to know about the circumstances when atrocities like this occur – who used the weapons, for a start.
As yet, the UN weapons inspectors have not reported on that.
Indeed in response to alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria in May Carla Del Ponte – who was tasked by the UN with investigating that incident – said her suspicions lay with forces opposed to the Assad regime rather than the government of Syria itself.
It is obviously quite possible that chemical weapons have fallen into the hands of opposition forces, or that some are still retained by the army. But the point is we don’t yet know who was behind this attack.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and our Foreign Secretary William Hague seem very quick to decide that the weapons were used by the government before inspectors have even visited the site.
Kerry has now come out with a proposal for military intervention.
He appears to be the long arm of the State Department, preparing US public opinion for yet another war.
The motive for that war will not be the use of chemical weapons. The last chemical weapons scandal, when Saddam Hussein used them to gas thousands in Halabja in 1988, brought some ritual condemnation by the West but little else.
Hussein’s regime was being rearmed at that time and only eight months later Britain participated in the Baghdad arms fair.
Ominously, the US yesterday postponed a planned meeting in Amsterdam to prepare the ground for a Geneva recall conference which would attempt to bring about a political solution to the crisis in Syria.
Washington told the Russian Foreign Ministry that the meeting was peremptorily cancelled, thus closing off a very important avenue that could bring about a ceasefire and peace within Syria.
Realistically there can be no progress or solution in Syria without a conference that includes all the warring factions within the country – but also the neighbouring states, including Iran, and of course the participation of Russia, western Europe and the United States.
In the statements made by President Barack Obama and Kerry it seems the pair are countenancing going ahead with some form of military action without the approval of the UN security council.
And on France 24 yesterday the French government spoke of assembling a “coalition of the willing,” which would attempt to win co-operation for such a venture from the Arab League and the Gulf Co-operation Council, excluding Russia and Iran.
Public opinion as measured by YouGov polls shows the vast majority of the British people are opposed to military action in Syria and many have the deepest possible concerns about the outcome.
We’re just about to withdraw from a 12-year intervention in Afghanistan which has not brought peace and tranquillity to that benighted nation.
The no-fly zone operation over Libya and huge arms supplies promoted again by McCain have resulted in a plethora of high-quality weaponry all over north Africa, some which have ended up in the hands of the al-Shabab terrorists in Somalia.
But these failures don’t deter those who have called for war without any legal justification in the past, such as Tony Blair, who is beating the drum again.
Any intervention in Syria will be very complicated as it’s extremely unclear which opposition groups the West intends to line up with.
Western governments talk up the liberal opposition groups that rose up against the human rights abuses of the Assad regime.
But the most powerful rebel forces are the jihadist groups supported by Saudi Arabia.
Any bombardment in a closely fought civil war will result in massive casualties on all sides and is unlikely to bring any peace at all.
The whole history of the Middle East is littered with the history of empire, from the Ottomans through to the mandate period from 1922 when Britain and France calmly carved up the whole region for themselves.
It is this colonial inheritance that is largely responsible for the tragedies of today.
Another intervention in another century will leave the same bitter legacy for the next and future generations.
I’ll be on the demonstration opposite Downing Street tonight to say no to British military intervention in Syria and yes to a peace process and a political solution.
It’s very easy to let slip the dogs of war. The problem is how to get them back.
The unintended consequences of any military intervention have barely been thought about or considered by those who are happy to send other people’s sons and daughters into the field of conflict.
Jeremy Corbyn is Labour MP for Islington North.
- British government sabre-rattling about Syria (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)