Once again Parliament fails the people
Parliament’s vote to join in the bombing of targets in Syria, with a majority made respectable only with the backing of 66 pro-war Labour MPs, will do nothing to defeat Islamic State (Isis) and everything to stoke international tensions and a drive to war.
The vote also shows once again how out of touch Parliament is. A majority of UK citizens remain opposed to the bombing and most do not think that they will make Britain’s streets any safer from an Isis-led attack along the lines that took place in Paris last month. In fact, the opposite view is held by a clear majority.
In Scotland, 75% of the population were opposed to the bombing while similar figures were reported from cities like Liverpool.
There have been over 3,000 bombing raids in Syria since the United States launched its offensive in September 2014. Not all have been against Isis in a conflict that amounts to a proxy war between an assortment of states in and outside the region.
Russia has also attacked militants opposed to Isis but who have taken up arms against Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian dictator is Moscow’s ally and the Russians are keen to retain their naval base in the country and get payment for the arms they have sold the regime down the decades.
Turkey’s dictatorial regime has used the crisis in Syria to attack forces of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). This is despite the fact that the PKK and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party have been the most successful fighters on the ground in opposing Isis.
The country’s authoritarian president Recep Erdogan has turned a blind eye to those crossing the country’s borders to join Isis. According to the Financial Times, Isis earns some $1m per day from oil sales “to its biggest enemies” like Turkey. So, business as usual.
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States may be bombing Isis forces in Syria now but these regimes actually helped fund Isis in its take-over of northern Iraq. The Sunni Muslim-inspired Isis was seen as a counterweight to the Shia-backed forces which had the support of Iran. So the Saudis let the genie out of the bottle.
Other countries who have helped to flatten what is left of Syria include Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands. Into this maelstrom comes four fighter bombers from the RAF. God forbid that UK imperialism should feel left out.
Jeremy Corbyn, the beleaguered Labour leader whose democratic mandate was trampled on by his shadow cabinet, rightly says a political solution to the Syrian civil war is the only way forward.
But that is furthest from the minds of the major powers as well as the Saudis, Iranians and the Assad regime. Each has an interest which is separate from the well-being of the Syrian people.
The feudal monarchy of Saudi Arabia and the theocratic state of Iran will never agree a solution because they themselves are part of the problem. Western states like the US have little if anything to offer those who have flocked to the banner of Isis. The creation of a Palestinian state would do a lot to deflate Isis but where is the activity on this front? There is none.
Western capitalism is morally bankrupt, driven as it is by the struggle for markets and resources, privatisation of public goods and services and rampant inequality. The “values” of democracy that are held up as a shining example are tarnished to a point where they are positively rusty.
Of course, “the West” is not wholly responsible for the rise of Isis and the jihadist movement in general. Local states must bear some responsibility too. The Arab Spring was a secular attempt to revive an Arab Revolution that had lost its way and resulted in dictatorships around the region. But the Arab Spring was pushed back by local despots like Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt and Western meddling in Libya.
There is a real danger in Syria that the conflict will spill over into a war between the major powers. Turkey’s downing of a Russian fighter plane is an example of how incendiary the situation is.
The background is volatile. At home, many governments face a political crisis – the shambolic state of the US Republican Party is an example of this – while the world economy has failed to recover from the financial crash. Climate change is a clear and present danger but expect little from the Paris talks. Add the fact that the brutal Russia regime sees a conspiracy around every corner and the warning signs are clear to see.
Yesterday Cameron refused to apologise when called upon to do so by Scottish National Party MPs for denouncing those who oppose airstrikes as “terrorist sympathisers”.
In voting for air strikes, 397 MPs, egged on by shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn – how his father must be turning in his grave – descended into the depths of political and moral bankruptcy. Cameron and his supporters amongst Labour MPs are simply continuing the disastrous policies of the Labour government when it launched the attack on Iraq over a decade ago.
They refused to acknowledge the truth that is staring everyone in the face. The Western allies have no strategy whatsoever – military or political – to counteract the power of a relatively small organisation that is able to wreak havoc and strike terror in Syria and Iraq as well as the capitals of Europe.
Aerial bombing campaigns have never destroyed a determined ideological opponent. Neither the Nazi bombing of Britain, nor Allied air attacks on Germany succeeded in destroying resistance.
Organisations representing Syrian exiles in London strongly oppose the bombing which will kill indiscriminate numbers of civilians, reinforcing the genocidal policies carried out by Assad, whose barrel bombs have killed even more Syrians than Isis.
As Brian Eno and many others have pointed out, bombing targets in Syria is playing exactly into the hands of terrorist organisations like Isis. It reinforces their narrative that the West is carrying out an anti-Muslim campaign, a cowardly one at that.
The macho tones of Cameron, echoed by Benn, are a hollow admission of total moral and political bankruptcy. Worse than that, the rush to bomb sets up British cities as new targets for acts of terror. In voting for airstrikes, Parliament has shown once again that it is incapable of representing the majority of people in Britain and the interests of peace.
The vote for an unjust and reactionary war again shows why we have to reconstruct our political system from top to bottom, with the aim of creating a real democracy where ordinary people decide what’s best for their communities, cities and the country as a whole.
A World to Win editors
3 December 2015