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Thoughts on Syrian conflict.docx

Thoughts on Syrian conflict.docx

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Published by iainbb
John Pugh MP on Syria vote in House of Commons
Southport's MP explains his reasoning for NOT supporting the Government motion on Syria
John Pugh MP on Syria vote in House of Commons
Southport's MP explains his reasoning for NOT supporting the Government motion on Syria

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Published by: iainbb on Sep 04, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Tuesday, 03 September 2013I envy those who are certain about theoutcomes from the Syrian situation. Ilistened to Paddy Ashdown explain thatfailure to back a limited strike againstSyrian military targets now wouldinevitably and certainly lead to further widespread use of chemical weaponsworldwide.I also listened to the former British ambassador to Syria, the former Chief of theGeneral Staff, Lord Dannatt and the head of the international Red Cross who allquestioned the wisdom of an immediate attack on the Assad regime. I listened tomy colleagues at the Parliamentary party meeting who with much emotion andargument expressed their various views. I listened to and questioned manyconstituents and read every email sent to me on the subject-mostly opposed toor fearful of planned intervention. I listened hard during the parliamentary debateto the case made by the Prime Minister and the views of MPs in all parties. I readall available news sources - from all over the world.Unlike Paddy I didn't arrive at certainty but I was fairly sure that beginning anattack without letting UN weapons' inspectors report, not trying even to use theUN system and relying solely on American intelligence reports was very like whatwe had mistakenly done in Iraq. I was also pretty confident that that was exactlywhat Parliament had originally been recalled to do- that is until leaders startedcanvassing their backbenchers and changed the script.The motion before us on Thursday (see below) had been watered down so that itdid not call for the immediate military action that presumably had been pencilledin for the weekend. Instead we were asked to vote on the mere possibility of military action after the UN process had run its course. Voting for military actionitself would take place at a later date.
Most MPs in an uncertain world would not rule out military action altogether butmany MPs saw the long, wordy, cobbled together motion as code or proxy for avote in favour of the planned military action.Many, having been brought back to Parliament on a false pretext were notprepared to take the government motion on the face value. I read it carefully butwas unhappy with the impression it gave of leaving only one option open to theUN- to either back a military strike or not.It seemed to me that if we are serious about pressing the UN to address theobscene use of chemical weapons by Syria ,then we cannot in advance tell ithow precisely it punishes a violation of international law. That applies even if weare sceptical about whether it will act at all. (It could for example instead order the supervised destruction of chemical weapon stockpiles as it did in SaddamHussein's Iraq)For that reason I could not back the government motion even though I didn'tdisagree with every bit of it -particularly the call for evidence to be presented andUN action.There were though many MPs who told me they were very unlikely to vote for amilitary strike against Syria by the UK but voted with the government on this firstvote because they were in favour of referring the issue in the first instance to theUN.They knew ,or thought they knew, it was the following week's vote that wouldreally count.The UN so far as chemical weapons are concerned is supposed to be the world'spoliceman. However, we all know that when policemen occasionally don't ,won'tor can't do their job, others sometimes feel obliged to act. You can't ever rule thatout and people have to decide for themselves whether they have such a situationon their hands.
Before you act though and take the law into your own hands with all the risks thatinvolves you have to be convinced that you can achieve a genuinely goodoutcome. As a stand-in for the world's policeman the USA has not always been impartiallyfair or effective. In backing the USA in that role, the UK must be reasonably surethat the USA is going to be both fair and effective. None of this is certain and allof this needs to be weighed promptly but most carefully -not be bounced into.The simplifiers like Paddy will say yes but it is messy, could get complicated, mayexacerbate hostility in Islamic nations, anti-Western sentiment, refugee problems,regional conflagration etc BUT the bottom line is no strike now = further use of and proliferation of chemical weapons.That and its consequences are certainly worth considering seriously.However, the unpunished use of Napalm or Agent Orange by the USA in the 70s- the use of cluster bombs in the 80s (also unpunished) did not led to theworldwide roll out that Paddy's argument would lead us to believe was utterlyinevitable. Hussein used chemical weapons unpunished against the Kurds andthe Iranians but then did not use them in the Gulf War to fend off defeat.The USA indeed developed chemical cluster weapons themselves in the 60s andare in the process of destroying them.Unpunished use of fiendish weapons in the face of world wide abhorrence canmakes repetition more probable. It's something that must be taken very, veryseriously. It does not though make worldwide proliferation inevitable. Worldwidecondemnation and exposure has its impact too.

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