Sit tight, this is going to be a long one! There’s a lot in here, so best get yourself a cup of tea and sit somewhere comfortably. I don’t expect you will agree with all of it; I strongly suspect you will disagree with at least some if not most of it! But at least give it a read all the way through…
On Thursday 2nd December, the British House of Commons held a 10 hour debate on the situation in Syria, followed by a vote on whether or not the UK should join the fray and start bombing Daesh positions in Syria. Prime Minister David Cameron’s motion for air strikes passed by 397 votes to 223, a majority of 174.
Since then, a lot of people have said a lot of things about the situation, and who am I to pass up a chance to throw in my 2p worth? Rather than focus on a single aspect, or pontificate at length upon the Syrian situation, I’m going to take a look at several points which stand out for me amongst this who debacle.
In the lead up to the debate, at one point Cameron asked his supporters to ignore the “terrorist sympathisers” and instead vote with him in favour of the bombing.
It was clear that he was referring to the likes of Jeremy Corbyn (leader of the Opposition) and Jack McDonnell (Shadow Chancellor), and this raises to me two questions –
- Was he correct in describing them as terrorist sympathisers?
- Was he correct to use the term in the debate?
Taking the first question first, was Cameron correct to describe Corbyn and others as “terrorist sympathisers”? Well, Corbyn has often expressed sympathy and support for the IRA, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hezbollah, amongst others, countless times across the years. McDonnell has publicly supported the IRA and even said that their members should be honoured.
So, yes, Cameron was correct in describing them as “terrorist sympathisers”, as they have expressed sympathy for and toward terrorists in the past (and not so distant past too).
Now, having established that his statement was factually accurate, to the second question; was he correct to actually say it? To me, the question revolves around whether saying it had any constructive purpose and served the debate in a positive manner. By referring to them as terrorist sympathisers, did Cameron advance the level of the debate? Did he provide a constructive argument to support his position or constructively oppose the position against which he was arguing? Did his use of the term add anything positive to the debate? Was his description relevant in any way?[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]ad hominem (adj, adv)
- directed against a person rather than their argument
- based on or appealing to emotion rather than reason
[/pullquote]I would have to say that the answers to all of those is a resounding No. It did not add anything constructive to the debate; it did not make his position clearer; it did not counter any arguments the opposition had made. It was nothing more than a puerile ad hominem attack. And as such, is not the sort of thing we should expect from a debate lead by the leaders of our country. Indeed, when ever someone resorts to using ad hominem attacks, it is one of those sure signs that they know they do not have an argument, that they do not have a means of countering what is being said, and that they are lacking in the courage of their own position, so rather than attack the opposing argument they weakly attack the opposer personally.
So, in short – yes, Cameron is correct that Corbyn, McDonnell and others are technically “terrorist sympathisers”. And NO, he absolutely should not have lowered the tone of the debate to such a puerile and pointless personal attack. For Cameron (he with the proven porcine proclivity) to make reference to that in the Commons debate was pathetic, for it had nothing to do with the issue at hand and was purely a form of bullying.
Talking of bullying, it seems that there is some very unpleasant bullying going on from a minority group of extreme left-wingers who are unhappy that democracy means you don’t always get your own way.
It would seem that it started in the run-up to the vote, with some MPs reporting that they were targeted. One such person was Labour’s Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow, whose constituency office was targeted for demonstration by anti-war protestors, who plastered her windows with stickers arranged to spell “No”. Her staff were threatened and harrassed, both in person and via telephone, according to reports. Such was the level of abuse thrown at her staff that Stella had to leave the debating chamber in the House of Commons to check her staff were OK, forcing her to miss parts of the debate.
For christs sake – I want to listen to debate in chamber but people ringing my office abusing my staff so dipping out to check ok! #syria
— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) December 2, 2015
Diana Johnson MP said she had received an email to her parliamentary address, saying: “Six months after the vote on bombing Syria the Labour Party members will lobby in the constituency Labour parties to move a vote of no confidence at constituency meetings in those Labour Party MPs who vote to bomb Syria.”
Liz Kendall, the former LAbour leadership contender, who was still undecided as to which way to vote, received a tweet calling for “a final solution to purge Blairite scum” like her from the party.
Mind you, some of the threats and bullying were little more than an own-goal ultimately. A Stop the War march to the party HQ in Brewer’s Green meant that a phone-banking session to campaign for the Oldham by-election candidate had to be cancelled.
In the end, 67 of Labour’s 232 MPs sided with the government and voted in favour of the bombing of Daesh within Syria.
Which almost immediately lead to another bout of bullying from the minority hard-core extreme left groups who are now demanding the immediate de-selection of those 67 Labour MPs who voted for the Syria bombings – some of their tactics and language is utterly disgusting. Neil Coyle, Labour MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, has received death threats because of the way he voted – threats which Scotland Yard took sufficiently seriously as to place police officers outside his constituency office for protection.
Back to simple deselection threats, Labour veteran Ken Livingstone has said that Labour MPs who voted in favour of airstrikes should be pushed out of their seats. He also said that if his MP had voted for airstrikes he would back a de-selection challenge. De-selection for daring to not vote the way he demanded.
One Labour MP who voted in favour of the air strikes and has been singled out for special “attention” is Hillary Benn. During the debate, Hillary gave what has been described by MPs from all sides of the House as a very powerful and impassioned speech on the topic. Some have described it as one of the best speeches the House has heard in a very long time, in terms of its presentation, content, passion, delivery. Indeed, it was greeted with applause by MPs from all parties, including both those who ultimately voted in favour of the bombing, and those who voted against, so impressed were they with his speech that their admiration transcended partisan lines.
Yet one MP could not resist getting personal with his attack on Hillary Benn for daring to support the bombing. Former SNPO leader Alex Salmond announced that Hillary’s father (Tony Benn) must be “birling in his grave” over Hillary’s position. Something which those who knew Tony Benn well have all stated is utter nonsense (some have described it as offensive and asked for a retraction or apology, neither of which Salmond has been inclined to grant), for Benn Sr was not the sort of man who would hold a petty grudge against his son for daring to have a difference of opinion (something perhaps Mr Salmond would do well to consider?). Indeed, it is interesting to note that both of Benn Sr’s grandfathers were Liberals, as was his father (albeit one who walked the floor to Labour during the course of his career), so he would be well versed in the reality that not everyone in a family must hold the same political positions on everything.
MPs Cheering the Bombing?
Very quickly after the result of the vote, SNP MP Mhairi Black posted something rather disturbing on Twitter about MPs cheering the bombing of Syria –
Very dark night in parliament.Will never forget the noise of some Labour and Tory cheering together at the idea of bombs falling #SyriaVote
— Mhairi Black MP (@MhairiBlack) December 2, 2015
This was quickly shared and retweeted a great many times, and was used to show how nasty and evil many MPs were, cheering at the vote to bomb Syria. People from all walks used Mhairi’s tweet to condemn the insensitive MPs for treating such a serious issue so lightly.
However, it turns out that Ms Black was being somewhat disingenuous with her tweet. There had been no cheering, as stated by Labour MP Tulip Saddiq –
There was pin drop silence after the results of the vote was announced last night. No one cheered. Some MPs were in tears. It was awful.
— Tulip Siddiq (@TulipSiddiq) December 3, 2015
Indeed, we can see for ourselves that there was indeed no such cheering by watching the video of the announcement of the result –
How much will all of this cost anyway? An important question at any time, but even more so as we are in the midst of austerity and need to reduce all expenditure, apparently.
Actual costs are not always easy to determine, but this gives a good approximation (figures are mainly based on this report by Sky News from September 2014 so some individual figures may have since changed, but still remain very much within the ballpark).
A typical airstrike mission would use 2 Tornado fighters and would last typically between 4 to 8 hours. So let’s average it at 6 hours per mission. A Tornado costs £35,000 per hour when in action, so that is £210,000 per 6-hour Tornado mission.
Then there’s the cost of the missiles and bombs. Each fighter is expected to typically carry four Paveway bombs (costing £22,000 each), and two Brimstone missiles (£105,000 each). Which comes to £508,000 per aircraft, or £1,016,000 per mission. Of course, some of the missions may use Storm Shadows which come in at £800,000 each, which would vastly boost the cost of the mission, but let’s stick with the cheaper £1m/mission figure.
What would that £1m for a single mission get us if spent elsewhere? Well, based upon average salaries, the cost of a single mission would pay for 1 year’s salary for –
- 20 paramedics.
- Or 20 police officers.
- Or 20 teachers.
- Or 19 nurses.
- Or 18 junior doctors.
- Or 18 firefighters.
For the cost of a SINGLE mission! It seems almost churlish to enquire as to where we are finding all this money at this time of massive service cuts and austerity all around…
Daesh and Saudi Arabia
OK, perhaps cost is an irrelevance when it comes to these things. Let’s take a look at the rationale behind the decision to attack Daesh in Syria. It is, we are told, because of the extremism which they display, and their thoroughly abhorrent attacks on fellow humans.
Certainly, they do have a lot of extreme punishments. For example, murder, blasphemy, treason and acts of homosexuality are punishable by death.
Adultery has two different sentences depending upon the circumstances. If the parties are married, then it is death by stoning; if they are not married, then it is only 100 lashes (the word “only” there belying the terrible nature of such a punishment).
Stealing is punished by the amputation of the right hand, whilst theft via banditry is punished by the amputation of hand and foot.
Certainly sounds like an unpleasant bunch with whom we have nothing in common and who need to be dealt with, right?
Oh, hang on a moment. Those punishments, all prescribed by Daesh? You know who else has those exact same punishments? Why, it’s our friendly allies Saudi Arabia! You know, the friendly state who beheaded 110 people between January and August 2015 (compared with 65 beheadings by Daesh in that same time-frame).
Remind me, why are we bombing Daesh in Syria, yet kowtowing to Saudi Arabia (and even doing secret deals to get them a place on the UN Council of Human Rights)?
Should We Bomb Syria?
If only the episode had aired before Bush and Blair lied to us and dragged us into an illegal invasion of Iraq (so where are those WMDs which still nobody can find despite Blair’s lies to parliament at the time?)…
See, if Bush and Blair had not been allowed to get away with lying and dragging us into an illegal invasion, the simple fact is that we would not be facing Daesh now.
Dash arose out of the absolute mess which resulted from us bombing the crap out of Iraq for no good reason for years.
Let’s take a look at where things are recently.
The UK has, along with others, been bombing the crap out of Daesh in Iraq for 2 years.
Several countries have been bombing the crap out of Syria for months.
Have either of these eliminated or reduced the threat from Daesh? No, it has simply radicalised and recruited greater numbers to their cause.
So, we’ve been bombing them for two years in Iraq, several countries have been bombing them for months in Syria, all with no positive outcome, and yet we are supposed to believe that suddenly by the UK bombing the crap out of them in Syria it will magically destroy Daesh, stop the radicalisation of those whose homes are being bombed, and bring a Glorious Pax Britannica to the Middle East? Really?
I know that the UK likes think that it is still the major power it was during the height of the Empire, but we are not. Our presence is not going to magically turn things around, it will only make things worse.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”[/pullquote]We’ve always bombed the crap out of the Middle East for decades, which has only ever created destabilisation of the area followed by increased radicalisation of a moderate populace, resulting ultimately in higher levels of terrorism.
So, why will a new wave of doing exactly the same thing suddenly give different results?
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]
- al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa al-Sham
- Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
- Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
[/pullquote]”Why call them Daesh? Don’t they call themselves ISIL or ISIS?”
Well, yes, they do. They can call themselves whatever they want, of course, and Daesh is just another name for them. Their chosen names are acronyms of the English version of what they call themselves; Daesh is the acronym of the Arabic version of their name. So really, when you think about it, it is more respectful to them to call them Daesh as it is using their own language. There is an even better reason to call them Daesh, however, and that reason is that Daesh hate being called Daesh (or داعش as it is in Arabic – interestingly this is the name much of the Arabic world uses pejoratively to describe them) because it also sounds like other Arabic words which have pretty insulting meanings to them! They hate it so much that they have threatened to cut out the tongue of anyone who calls them Daesh. So naturally, the French President used that name for them when speaking about the recent Paris attacks. And the other leaders of the world are joining in with the term, as are increasingly the media and people in general.