As ever, The Onion cuts to the quick of the matter. Given Syria has allies on the Security Council at the UN, there is no legal way for a United Nations member to take military action on Syria.
Just as the 2003 war on Iraq was not lawful.
Fact 1: Atrocities are happening in Syria. Fact 2: The United States has bombers, cruise missiles, and drones. Putting those two facts together does not make the second a solution to the first.
Only ten years after the disastrous “what could go wrong?” / “something must be done!” rush to war in Iraq, you would have thought these cautions would not need restatement. They do. In the face of evil we should do something, except when the something would likely make a bad situation worse.
We’ve done all this before.
Tony Blair presented a tissue of lies to the House of Commons to get MPs to vote for war with Iraq. We are never likely to be able to prove in court that Blair knew the documentation he was pushing was false, but we do know that Blair understood the US wanted war with Iraq whether or not it was legal, that Blair wanted the UK to support war with Iraq, and that Blair understood the documentation he was showing to the Commons as evidence for the need for war was intended to convince Labour MPs to vote with him to support the US’s plans for war. That the documentation had been falsified was Blair’s responsibility – especially as he sacked no one, charged no one, held no one under him responsible for preparing false information for the dossier he presented to the Commons.
It was perfectly true that Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons against Iraqi civilians, during a time when he had the full support of US and UK governments. Despite this being used as a justification for war on Iraq – during which the US and UK killed far more Iraqi civilians than Saddam Hussein had killed – Saddam was never indicted, never tried, and not convicted, for the crimes he committed when he was supported by the US/UK.
Two million people across the UK marched to tell Blair “Not In Our Name” – I was one of the hundred thousand marching in Glasgow outside the Labour Party conference. Blair arrived in a car with tinted windows and left the same way. Labour MPs were not allowed to display any indication of their support for the protesters outside during Blair’s speech. The Labour Party will never recover from this shame until they vote to expel Tony Blair and his coterie of supporters.
Conservative MPs voted for the war with Iraq alongside Labour.
They were all wrong. They weren’t just a little bit wrong. They weren’t excusably wrong. They chose not to know: they opted to support the US, or to support Tony Blair, to vote to engage in unlawful war on Iraq, and ten years later the bloody scale of their wrongness stands exposed to the world, thanks in part to the heroism of whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning.
And today, the House of Commons will meet for the first stage in doing the wrong thing all over again. You can watch it live from 2:30.
Neither Labour nor the Conservatives are proposing to support Syrian refugees and asylum seekers.
Roudi Chikhi had been secretly filming atrocities carried out by the Bashar al-Assad government and smuggling his footage out to al-Jazeera, YouTube and other media outlets. Then, when someone tipped off the Syrian government about his activities, he was forced to flee.
He arrived at Gatwick airport travelling on a false Canadian passport last December. The 28-year-old Kurd was then put in a police cell, taken before magistrates, convicted of travelling on false documents and given a one-year sentence. His savings of $3,500 (£2,619) were confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Campaigners claim his case is one of many where the British authorities have flouted the law that says refugees who escape from war-torn countries and travel to the UK using fake passports are innocent of crime.
Under the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, asylum seekers have a defence for using false documents if they have no other option. Two years ago, the government admitted that almost 500 asylum seekers had been convicted of false document offences between 2009 and 2011.
They’re not proposing to end the savagely cruel policy of keeping refused asylum seekers destitute on our streets:
“I think something that people don’t understand is that destitution – if you are a refused asylum seeker – means you don’t have a penny, nothing. A woman might have to go to services and ask for sanitary wear every month. They have to go around churches and other groups to get a loaf of bread or some milk and that’s how they live their lives for months and sometimes years.
“Destitute people disappear from statistics and as soon as people disappear from statistics people forget they are there, they become invisible, which is a tragedy.”
The Immigration Minister Mark Harper declined to be interviewed for this report. In a statement the UK Border Agency (UKBA) said that “no failed asylum seeker need face destitution if they comply with the law and the decisions of our courts and go home when required and able to do so”.
Neither Labour nor Conservative propose to condemn the increased use of “push-backs” across the EU borders to reject refugees from conflict-torn countries like Syria. The UNHCR chief has urged all European countries to do more for Syrian asylum-seekers, but this vote in the Commons is not about that.
Neither the US nor the UK can afford to start another ground war. Obama is talking about “targeted, surgical strikes” – an Orwellian turn of phrase we’re all familiar with from its use in other wars. We hear years later, if at all, about the civilians killed in these “surgical strikes”. A million dead by violence in Iraq: millions more refugees driven from their homes. That’s war.
Last resort means exactly that. It means the final, only remaining course of action after every other possibility has been attempted and has failed.
Lethal violence is only ever justifiable as a last resort. This is a moral principle, because people get killed in war — and not just the “bad guys” or the enemy, but allies, noncombatants, innocents and children. There are no moral shortcuts when those are the stakes.
Use your voice. Contact your MP. Tell them we must not do this again.