Felicity Arbuthnot : Bombing Syria – How did we come to this?

2nd February 2016 / United Kingdom

HOW desperately Prime Minister David Cameron had yearned to bomb Syria.

In August 2013, when his aim was defeated in Parliament by a 285-272 vote, his vision of Britain joining US-led strikes bit the dust. His dreams of illegally joining the bigger bully and bombing a historic nation of just 22.85 million people (2013 figures) 2,500 miles away and posing no threat to Britain, was thwarted.

The US threw a conciliatory bone to Cameron and promised it would “continue to consult” with Britain, which it called “one of our closest allies and friends.”

France promised that its resolve remained unchanged despite the vote.

Chancellor George Osborne whined on BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme that “national soul searching about our role in the world” was required, adding: “I hope this doesn’t become a moment when we turn our back on all of the world’s problems.”
Translation: “Inconsequential politicians on small island only feel like real men when sending off their depleted air force to blow modest populations far away to bits.”

The then defence secretary Philip Hammond told Newsnight that he and Cameron were “disappointed” by the result, saying it would harm Britain’s “special relationship” with Washington. There’s that tail-wagging, panting, lap-dog “special relationship” again, for which no body-part licking, no crawling on all fours, no humiliation, no deviation from international law, is too much.
The excuse for the 2013 rush to annihilate was accusations that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in March and August of that year, a claim subsequently comprehensively dismissed by detailed UN investigations.

Then came the November 13 terror attacks in Paris and by December 2, Cameron’s parliamentary press gangs managed to threaten and arm-twist through a vote to attack Syria.

As the bombs fell on December 6, Cameron celebrated the anniversary of his 10th year as Tory leader with his very own military action. Libya’s tragedy was entirely forgotten in the rush to bomb. Libya, alongside Iraq, was entirely illegal — but that apparently bothers the former PR man not a whit.

As the parliamentary debate was taking place before the vote, it was reported that RAF reconnaissance planes had already taken off for Syria from Scotland — of whose 59 MPs, 57 voted against the attack. Cameron thumbed his arrogant nose to near and far.
Apart from the illegality, did it even cross Cameron’s mind, or did he care, that using the Paris attack as a casus belli not only defied law, it defied reason? The attackers were French and Belgian-born, of North African extraction, with no Syrian connections apart from that some of them had been there joining the organ-eating, head-chopping, people-incinerating terrorists. Syria is the victim, not the perpetrator, deserving aid and protection, not cowardly retribution from 30,000 feet.

After the vote, pro-bombing MPs reportedly went straight into the Commons bar to celebrate with taxpayer-subsidised booze. Warned that the main doors into Parliament had been closed due to anti-war protesters outside, one female MP apparently shouted gleefully: “It’s a lock-in.” How lightly mass murder is taken in the Palace of Westminster.

SafeSubcribe/Instant Unsubscribe - One Email, Every Sunday Morning - So You Miss Nothing - That's It

Chancellor George Osborne “eschewed the celebratory drinks … and joined a carol service in nearby St Margaret’s Church — in aid of a charity for child amputees. You couldn’t make it up,” wrote a friend of mine.

Within a week Osborne was in the US addressing the Council on Foreign Relations, stating that with the air strikes Britain had “got it’s mojo back” and stood with the US to “reassert Western values.”

It was, he said, “a real source of pride” to have the authority for air strikes in Syria. “Britain has got its mojo back and we are going to be with you as we reassert Western values, confident that our best days lie ahead.” Britain was prepared to play a “bigger role,” he vowed.

Immediately after the vote during a visit to RAF Akrotiri, the British base in Cyprus from which the bombers took off to drop their human-incinerating ordnance, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told military personnel that their mission had the backing of “both the government and the people of Britain.” He lied.

A recent ITV poll showed 89.32 per cent of British people were against bombing. Governmental “mojo” has clearly passed them by.

Pro-bombing MPs though are anything but warrior material. When angry emails arrived from their constituents condemning the bombing, deputy Labour leader Tom Watson (pro-bombing) complained of “bullying,” saying stronger social media policy was needed to prevent such correspondence.

Anti-war campaigners had also sent graphic photographs of dead Syrian children to MPs to persuade them not to vote for creating more mutilated little souls. This, the warmongers said, was “intimidation.”

One pro-war parliamentarian said the messages led him to have concerns for the health of his pregnant wife. Try being the husband of a pregnant wife, or being the wife, in Syria — with Britain’s bombs incinerating your neighbourhood.

Another MP was so keen to become a member of the “bullied” club that she was found to have added a death threat to herself at the end of a justifiably angry email from a member of the public.

Her deception was speedily uncovered. The desire to tarnish those repelled by illegally murdering others is seemingly becoming common currency in Parliament.

A majority of British politicians prepared to drop bombs on people are cowed by a few words.

Have they any idea of the reality of their “mojo” moment? It’s people tearing at the tons of rubble that was a home, trying to dig friends, beloveds out with bare, bleeding hands.

Then there’s the demented, terrified howls of the dogs who hear the planes long before the human ear can, the swathes of birds that drop from the sky from the fear and vibration, their bodies carpeting the ground, the cats that go mad with fear, rushing from a loving home, never to be seen again. And the children that become mute in their terror, losing the ability to speak for weeks, sometimes months and even years.

Yet Cameron reportedly told a meeting of a parliamentary committee before the vote: “You should not be walking through the lobbies with Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathisers.” This presumably was juvenile payback for Corbyn having stated, correctly, that: “Cameron’s approach is bomb first, talk later. But instead of adding British bombs to the others now raining down on Syria, what’s needed is an acceleration of the peace talks in Vienna.”

Cameron also received widespread derision, including from Conservative parliamentarian Julian Lewis, chairman of the influential defence select committee, for his claims that there were 70,000 “moderate” fighters on the ground ready to take on Islamic State after British bombing.

One government source compared the claim to the “45 minutes” fiction which launched the Iraq war. Lewis commented: “Instead of having ‘dodgy dossiers,’ we now have bogus battalions of moderate fighters.”

Perhaps the best encapsulation of anger and desperation came from author Michel Faber, who sent his latest book to Cameron.
He wrote in an accompanying letter that he understood “a book cannot compete with a bomb in its ability to cause death and misery, but each of us must make whatever small contribution we can, and I figure that if you drop my novel from a plane, it might hit a Syrian on the head … With luck, we might even kill a child: their skulls are quite soft.”

He explained: “I just felt so heartsick, despondent and exasperated that the human race, and particularly the benighted political arm of the human race, has learned nothing in 10,000 years, 100,000 years, however long we’ve been waging wars, and clearly the likes of Cameron are not interested in what individuals have to say.”

He speaks for the despairing 89 per cent who hang their heads in shame. He speaks for those of us who simply cannot find the words.

By Felicity Arbuthnot

At a time when reporting the truth is critical, your support is essential in protecting it.
Find out how

The European Financial Review

European financial review Logo

The European Financial Review is the leading financial intelligence magazine read widely by financial experts and the wider business community.