Syria : Statement – Andrew George MP – 29th August 2013

Posted on: 11th September 2013

Whether today’s vote sanctioned UK military intervention in Syria – which is what the PM wanted – or softens up Parliament and paves the way to a subsequent sanction of military action I’m unpersuaded.

No matter what I may think about the appalling Assad regime and the almost certainty that they have used chemical weapons to kill hundreds and injure thousands of their own people is not sufficient to persuade me that the UK should engage in or support military strikes in Syria.

Yes, bomb them with diplomacy, inspectors, humanitarian aid, shelter and support, but recent history should now have taught us that military engagement merely changes the problem; it doesn’t resolve it.

The proposed punitive strikes would be intended to have a ‘deterrent’ effect.  But this presupposes that these (even limited strikes) won’t:  1) provoke an escalation of war, 2) provoke the Assad regime to take a calculated risk of goading the west by using chemical weapons again, 3) provoke other countries (Iran? Lebanon?) to become drawn in and for the conflict to escalate further; 4) appear to strengthen Assad, as he “successfully withstands” the attacks.

It also presupposes that the strikes won’t result in Operational shift and extended action (as in Iraq, Libya) in order to pursue the “real objective” of regime change, which itself may result in simply replacing a tyrant with jihadists and perpetual sectarian strife.

We are assuming that the evidence is found, the perpetrators of the chemical attack unequivocally confirmed and that the legal justification and UN support become unarguable.

This is not the first alleged war crime of this or indeed other civil wars and conflicts of recent years. The widespread slaughter of now over 100,000 people in Syria has been accompanied by powerfully made allegations of war crimes involving the deliberate targeting of non-combatants and the killing of many innocent men, women and children.  What is the difference between a war crime involving the targeting of a child killed with a bullet or conventional bomb and a child killed by a chemical weapon?  Both are horrendous and totally unacceptable incidents.  The horror and unacceptability of these are no greater for one than the other.

Finally, my problem with today’s motion is that, although it may not sanction UK military involvement in strikes on Syria, it would create a momentum and climate for others (US or France) to engage with greater impunity.  I will not support today’s motion.

Link to Hansard record of debate. My contribution at Col. 1519

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