Dear Mr Mulholland,
Thank you for the e-mail. I am extremely disappointed in your vote and your justifications.
You make several dubious assertions:
It is not at all obvious that it is a good thing to get rid of Assad, dictator though he is we have seen the consequences of removing a similar dictator Saddam Hussein in Iraq. It seems reasonable to look at Iraq’s fate at the hand of western sanctions and what happened after Iraq’s invasion. Even today Iraq has millions requiring humanitarian aid, and thousands of children died as the result of sanctions before the invasion.
Approximately 3.3 million Iraqis, including 750,000 children, were “exterminated” by economic sanctions and/or illegal wars conducted by the U.S. and Great Britain between 1990 and 2012, an eminent international legal authority says. http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-sponsored-genocide-against-iraq-1990-2012-killed-3-3-million-including-750000-children/5314461
And ask yourself, did getting rid of Saddam really help the people of that country? Today in Iraq:
An estimated 8.2 million people across Iraq remain in need of humanitarian assistance, including Internally Displaced People (IDP), Syrian refugees, returnees and host communities, as well as affected populations in Armed Opposition Group (AOG) held areas. http://reliefweb.int/report/iraq/unicef-iraq-monthly-humanitarian-situation-report-1-31-october-2015
If the same circumstances are repeated in Syria, and Syria like Iraq and Libya become western puppet caliphates like Iraq then there is a real danger that further bombing in Syria will contribute to catastrophic numbers of deaths in that region. There is also much doubt about the extent of the crimes of Assad’s regime: see for instance the introductory chapter of Professor Tim Anderson’s forthcoming book entitled The Dirty War on Syria:
ISIS as Obama recently claimed and as I understand it received initial impetus from the chaos that resulted from the Iraq invasion in 2003, not from Assad. And the civil war in Syria may also not be laid entirely at Assad’s door. It is quite possible that the civil war in Syria was in part stimulated by western backed military support and funding for the Free Syrian Army and other such Islamic groups. This seems even more likely given that in 2013 Cameron’s government wanted to bomb Assad’s troops and support the FSA.
Stating that a reason for voting for a lethal bombardment and the deaths of innocents is in order to maintain a western coalition of powers is shallow, unless you can justify the lethal bombardments of those other powers such as France. Also, I haven’t heard any argument suggesting that bombing in Syria will reduce the risk of blowback attacks in the UK, and after all the people who may inflict such acts may well already be in the UK.
You are either ignorant of or wilfully ignore the role of such countries as Saudi Arabia and Israel in fostering the break up of Syria. See:
You have voted for an amplification of a logic of destructive ‘self protection’ that will lead to an acceleration of a violent global ultimately global catastrophe.
I leave you with this conundrum:
The stoning of a woman for adultery in Saudi Arabia and our mainstream media’s lack of interest in it makes one think, or it should:
- Why is the ‘west’ so keen to a) be an ally of Saudi Arabia and b) to get rid of Assad in Syria?
- Was/Is Syria ‘too independent’ of western (oil) corporate interests?
- Does the west need a threat to attack because the ‘west’ (neoliberalism) is formed and continues on the basis that its formation and development was in response to a presumption of an always already existing threat of attack.
But trying to the kill off the threats must kill the innocent thereby fanning the flames that will in the end kill the host.
This is Esposito’s immunisation paradigm – an example of a thanatopolitics (a politics of death) in action. (Esposito, R. (2008) The Immunization Paradigm. diacritics, 36(2): 23-48.)
There IS a viable alternative: challenge the US/Israel/Saudi hegemony that fosters ISIS and the break up of Syria, through effective diplomatic, political and economic means. Join wth Russia to re-stabilise Syria.
Challenge the neoliberal negative use of the concept of ‘freedom’ which insists all must be free to not be threatened by the other. This stimulates greed, violence and ultimately self destruction
Owen Dempsey MRCGP
6 Castle Grove Drive
On 04 December 2015 at 15:35 Greg Mulholland <email@example.com> wrote:
I am writing to you in relation to the recent debate and vote on regarding air strikes in Syria.
After lengthy consideration and discussion, I decided, as did my party leader, to vote for the Government motion to extend current air strikes against ISIS/Daesh in Iraq to also strike ISIS/Daesh in Syria. This must be part of a wider diplomatic and military plan to tackle this monstrous enemy, resolve the Syrian conflict and help end the refugee crisis.
This is clearly a very difficult decision, but in the end I have been presented with no viable alternative other than to work with the international community on a diplomatic and military strategy that involves action in Syria as well as Iraq.
The RAF are already targeting ISIS/Daesh in Iraq. It needs to be understood that what we are voting for is for the RAF to join French and American allies- and Russia- to also target ISIS/Daesh in Syria. The UK is already using air strikes against ISIS/Daesh in Iraq, with the support of the Iraqi government and assisting their army in defeating this evil force. That is the right thing to be doing. What we are now discussing is whether to extend these air strikes to Syria as part of a wider international strategy.
People are comparing this decision with the possibility in 2013 of the UK attacking the forces of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, but this is clearly not the same, legally or in reality. That potential action was taking on an existing ruler, this is not. It is targeting a terrorist force that is murdering, subjugating and raping thousands of people in Syria and Iraq. They have also beheaded British aid workers and thrown gay people off buildings. Now they are targeting Western Europe and people enjoying a rock concert or a meal with friends because somehow that is all about prostitution and homosexuality. This is an attack on our way of life, our shared belief in democracy and tolerance and everything this country fought for. We fought against a similarly monstrous illiberal movement, the Nazis who also persecuted and killed people due to their religion, nationality, race or sexuality.
As an internationalist party, we accept our responsibility to assist with international peacekeeping efforts. At times, when done legally (which this would be), we must also support international military action against those who terrorise, suppress, and are involved in mass murder and rape.
I fully accept that bombing alone will do little – but the point that people simply saying “don’t bomb Syria” are failing to grasp is that the US, France, and (crucially) Russia will work with us on a post-Assad future for Syria, but these countries do expect us to play our small part (which is what it is) in existing military action against ISIS. This is now about a wider solution and not about a few token missile strikes.
I am clear that this is not about “bombing Syria” or even just about dropping a few bombs on ISIS/Daesh targets. I agree that alone would not do much to alter either their position or the civil war. The actual motion we are voting on is not “should we bomb Syria”, it is a commitment by the United Kingdom to be part of – and play a full part in – an international a wider diplomatic and military solution, so it is wrong to misrepresent what we are voting on. The actual motion MPs will be voting on is:
“That this House notes that ISIL poses a direct threat to the United Kingdom; welcomes United Nations Security Council Resolution 2249 which determines that ISIL constitutes an ‘unprecedented threat to international peace and security’ and calls on states to take ‘all necessary measures’ to prevent terrorist acts by ISIL and to ‘eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria’; further notes the clear legal basis to defend the UK and our allies in accordance with the UN Charter; notes that military action against ISIL is only one component of a broader strategy to bring peace and stability to Syria; welcomes the renewed impetus behind the Vienna talks on a ceasefire and political settlement; welcomes the Government’s continuing commitment to providing humanitarian support to Syrian refugees; underlines the importance of planning for post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction in Syria; welcomes the Government’s continued determination to cut ISIL’s sources of finance, fighters and weapons; notes the requests from France, the US and regional allies for UK military assistance; acknowledges the importance of seeking to avoid civilian casualties, using the UK’s particular capabilities; notes the Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations; welcomes the Government’s commitment to provide quarterly progress reports to the House; and accordingly supports Her Majesty’s Government in taking military action, specifically airstrikes, exclusively against ISIL in Syria; and offers its wholehearted support to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces .”
So I and we would not vote simply to drop a few bombs and if that is all it is, we would not support it. But if us extending our air strikes already happening in Iraq to over the border in Syria is a necessary part of a wider international solution, then we are prepared to and will do so.
I am also very clear that to disrupt and defeat ISIS/Daesh not only clearly involves concerted legal international military action, but in the end will involve ground forces. The question is whose ground forces and this is where we need existing ground forces getting more support and training. We will also need potential involvement from a Middle East-led international force, rather than Western forces being involved.
Of course I understand the concern and the views of those who say we should not extend our military involvement in Iraq to Syria. However I have heard no realistic alternative strategy of how we take on this monstrous anti-democratic, murderous and grotesquely intolerant, illiberal force. So in the end, I am voting to support concerted action rather than doing nothing, because doing nothing will not stop ISIS/Daesh and stop them we must.
We also must act as an international community to stop the Syrian civil war. What many Syrians ultimately want is the Assad regime gone. We must never lose sight of this being our end goal, so Syria can be ruled by a democratic government chosen by Syrians themselves, not a brutal dictatorship run by one family. And as long as Assad exists, ISIS/Daesh will continue to recruit. I, and indeed the Liberal Democrats, have always been clear that air strikes alone are not a solution. We also need to find a way to remove Assad, and this was touched on in the second of the five criteria Liberal Democrats lay out for supporting airstrikes. The question is how we remove Assad, and being totally realistic, the Vienna talks are our best chance right now. Whether we like it or not, there is no other option and I would challenge others to suggest one.
Yes, the Vienna talks have their issues – mainly, that Syrians aren’t represented. But my office has spoken with the foreign affairs minister responsible for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood MP and I understand that a UN group is present at the talks looking specifically at inviting a broad range of Syrian representatives. This is an important task since the Syrian opposition forces are much divided and exist in many factions, so we must seek to involve as many of them as we are able to. Tobias Ellwood MP said clearly that “Syrians must be involved” in these talks. It is only right that the future of Syria is decided by Syrians themselves, so I look forward to them playing a leading role in the Vienna talks as they develop.
Regardless, as I have said, the Vienna talks are our best chance right now to remove Assad. Then the question is, doesn’t that depend on Russia no longer propping him up? Indeed, and Vladimir Putin knows he is risking extremist instability within Russia the longer he allows ISIS/Daesh to grow. In short, Vienna could be Russia’s own exit route from having to back Assad. This is significant. The Vienna talks are proposing a six-month political transition, led by parties that both the regime and opposition agree on, followed by an 18-month timetable for elections. There are caveats with the Vienna talks but, and I labour the point deliberately, they are our best chance of removing Assad and that will remove the main driving force behind the creation of ISIS. The Holy Grail is Assad and ISIS gone, and Syria put back in the hands of Syrians, allowed to rebuild and look ahead to a better future.
Our international partners expect us to play a full part in the action required to take on ISIS/Daesh, if we do not do so, we will play little if any role in also assisting with a solution to the civil war and a stable and democratic future for Syria. So I do believe that to be part of the wider solution, as we clearly should, we are obliged to also play our part, our small part, in the air strikes on ISIS/Daesh in Syria as well as in Iraq.
As I have said, bombing on its own is not the solution and the House of Commons vote must not be seen that way. We also need to understand that the refugee crisis- the worst we have seen in Europe since the Second World War- will not be solved unless the Syrian crisis is resolved. To do this means a wider strategy to ensure a safe, stable and democratic Syria and the removal of ISIS/Daesh who have forced thousands to flee their homes and an end to the civil war that allows them to operate as they do, as well as an end to Assad’s oppression. I and the Liberal Democrats have been right to call for us as a nation to do our bit to assist those feeling persecution and violence, but in the end it is hollow to do so when doing nothing to tackle the reasons for the people being forced to be refugees in the first place. So we must get to the situation where hundreds of thousands of Syrians are not having to abandon their home country and seek refuge elsewhere.
Yes, we must continue to show our compassion to people in desperate need- imagine being in their shoes. But Syrians, like each of us, want to live in their own home country, not be driven away from it. So while resettling Syrian refugees, we must also work to get the stability in Syria itself. Remember, these refugees had their family, friends, jobs and schools in Syria. They will want to try to return to that and rebuild the lives they had. It is therefore not enough to simply call for resettling refugees when we all know the only solution is this: a stable Syria that millions of people do not have to flee from in the first place. That must be our ultimate goal that we work towards and I see my decision as part of that.
So I hope that explains my position and how I and colleagues have come to this very difficult decision. I accept that people will have different views on this, but those of us making the decision are the ones who have to actually vote on the motion before us and it is a decision that whatever we do will weigh heavily upon us, as it must, but I and colleagues will do what we think is the right thing for the country, as either way it will it will be difficult for the party.
Member of Parliament for Leeds North West
Tel: 0113 226 6519
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