Monday, 2 September 2013

Are "bomb them" or "do nothing" really the only options?

Witnessing the Prime Minister David Cameron and his warmongering foreign secretary William Hague receive a bloody nose from parliament was a refreshing surprise. To witness the gracelessness of their defeat has been more than that, it's been hilarious.

Cameron and Hague come out of this with no credit all, they look like a pair of desperate warmongers, too inept even to convince their own MPs to support their "rush to war". If the 30 rebel Tory MPs hadn't voted against their own government and just abstained instead, Cameron would have got his beloved war, despite Ed Miliband's demands that believable evidence is presented first.

Instead of petulantly hurling unstatesmanlike abuse at Ed Miliband for defeating their "rush to war", perhaps the Tory warmongers should focus on their own roles in this debacle, and ask themselves why 30 of their own Tory MPs voted against their plans, and why countless more Tories deliberately abstained. If anyone is "to blame" for them not getting their beloved war, it is themselves, for failing to make the case so bloody badly that their own MPs rebelled against the party whip to vote against it.


Both Cameron and Hague have been pushing for war in Syria for years (here's an article I wrote almost a year ago), so anyone with even the slightest grain of intelligence could see that they were simply using the shocking chemical weapons incident in Ghouta as an excuse to push an agenda they supported months and years before the attack even took place. Their demonstration of contempt for the evidence, contempt for the United Nations weapons inspectors, feigned moral outrage and their blatant capitalisation on the horrifying deaths of so many civilians in order to push a pre-determined political agenda, was so distasteful to behold that even a large proportion of their own MPs voted against them.

The leader of the opposition comes out with a little more credit. No matter what his political motivations, without Miliband taking the stance he did, the UK would now be rushing into a conflict without proper evidence, without public support and at a time when countless libraries are being shut down and thousands of police and army personnel are being laid off because we supposedly "can't afford them".


Ed Miliband has been taking a barrage of criticism from the press for his role in stalling the Tory rush to war (the media love a good juicy war don't they?) but to me, even if he fluked himself into holding what appears to be a sensible position on this issue, that must mean that he is due at least some credit. Still, being less of a warmongering dick than William Hague or David Cameron is hardly worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize though is it?

As enjoyable as this democratic resistance to Imperialist "interventionism" was, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't look set to make a lot of difference. As it stands, the US are still mad keen to start a bombing campaign against the Syrian government, despite the loss of their craven sidekicks in the UK, the flawed evidence and the inherent risks involved in interfering militarily in a volatile situation (they could make the whole situation a hell of a lot worse, particularly for neighbouring countries).

That parliament reached their decision to veto military action, despite the insidious war-drumming of the press, is an all too rare testament to our antiquated and unrepresentative political system. There are countless examples of this insidious pro-war slanting, but for me, one of the worst came from the BBC when William Hague was spoon fed a ludicrously loaded question on the Today programme, in which the case was made to Hague that the only possible options were to launch military strikes, or to do nothing.

This question was a clear example of a false dichotomy between the stance of the government and a straw-man position held by virtually nobody. The only people counseling for us to absolutely nothing are the extreme-right Islamophobes who hold all Muslims in contempt, and seem utterly unaware of the numerous other religious denominations that have existed in Syria for Centuries (including many Christians), many of whom are absolutely petrified of the thought of Syria being ruled over by the Saudi Arabian and Qatari financed Islamist fanatics that have flooded into the country to fight against the Assad government (Islamist fanatics that Cameron, Hague and Obama are keen to fight alongside).

The premise that the only two choices are launching cruise missile strikes and "doing nothing" creates an absurdly over-simplified loaded question, one that was clearly asked in order to benefit William Hague's case for war by allowing him to favourably contrast his policy of lobbing cruise missiles into the conflict zone with the ludicrous straw-man stance that we should do absolutely nothing.

There are obviously countless alternatives to these two extremist stances, some of which could be:
  • Wait for actual evidence of who was responsible for the chemical weapons deployment in Ghouta before launching military strikes (what Ed Miliband was arguing for).
  • An increase in the amount of humanitarian aid for Syria, and the neighbouring countries which are receiving hundreds of thousands of refugees.
  • A debate with Russia and China on what actions relating to Syria they would actually approve of at the United Nations (a UN mandated ceasefire perhaps?).
  • The development of a negotiation strategy between the opposing forces.
In my view, far from "not being an option", as the BBC would have us believe, a negotiated settlement is actually the only viable option if the objective is a peaceful resolution to the conflict (rather than some imperialist empire building project, or a deliberate attempt to destabilise the region).

I realise that I'm just a blogger with no real political influence, but I'll spend a few moments to set out the kind of strategy I would be calling for if I did have some influence.

1. A ceasefire between the two sides, with UN peacekeepers if necessary.
2. Negotiations to begin, with something along the lines of Assad to resign in return for the disbandment of the Islamist militias and the expulsion of foreign fighters from the country.
3. Moderate elements from the Syrian opposition to form a government of national unity with moderate elements of the regime.
4. The government of national unity to work on reconstruction and reconciliation projects, and towards development of a timetable for democratic elections.
5. Proper investigations to be mounted into numerous war crimes, such as chemical weapons attacks, civilian massacres and the execution of clearly surrendered prisoners, with suspects from both sides to stand trial at the International Criminal Court.

Even though the corporate media, the BBC and the Tory warmongers would love the British people to think about the situation in simplistic binary terms (bomb them or do nothing), in my view the idea that the appalling situation in Syria can be improved by firing a load of cruise missiles into Damascus is as ludicrous as the idea that the only other option is to do absolutely nothing, and I'm determined to maintain the stance that the best possible solution would surely come about through a negotiated diplomatic settlement.

The problem with promoting peace negotiations of course, is that a negotiated diplomatic settlement would suit neither the interests of the media nor the establishment. The media love nothing more than a "lovely juicy war" to sell more copy and the establishment clearly hanker after the days of imperialism, when Britain could bomb and invade countries at will, even if they can only get away with it these days by piggybacking on American imperialism. It's simply not pragmatic to argue for the only sane course of action, because the people with the power to make it happen, have absolutely no interest in doing so. So little interest in fact, that they'd have you believe that it doesn't even exist as an option.

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