By Tom Walsh
My last article covered the hastiness of the government’s response to the Salisbury incident. Their response to the Syrian chemical attack has demonstrated the same Trump-like heavy-handedness that appears to be becoming part and parcel of a new era of “Cold War” politics. As a country it is quite amazing how we can condemn attacks when their origins are determined to be Russian, yet ignore them when our so-called allies perpetrate them.
The Saudi-led campaign in Yemen has received huge backing from our government and the United States. There have been many alleged reports of chemical attacks, for which, unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia cannot be held directly accountable. Yet, the kingdom supports several radical groups within the country who have no qualms about taking the blame. This is not to mention the starvation they have caused through the blockade of Yemeni ports and the airstrikes aimed at civilian targets. Humanitarianism is being deployed politically when it suits Western interests, which is a fundamental bastardisation of the concept. Perhaps this is our tool to legitimise extreme action, as sectarianism is for the likes of Iran and the Saudis.
In Syria as well, many rebel factions fighting on ‘our side’ have chemical capabilities. We continue to fund their efforts through our arms deals with the likes of Riyadh. We have a long history of funding extremists, from the Muslim Brotherhood during the time of President Nasser to the mujahideenn and Bin Laden in the Soviet-Afghan War. To claim that these airstrikes are a response to immorality is beyond the pot calling the kettle black. Our alliances have caused and are causing division, extremism and humanitarian crises in the Middle East.
It is thus with great disdain that I have to report a UN team is finally examining the incident in Douma, some time after the decision was made to bomb Syria. It is exactly this sort of jumpiness and subservience to America that caused one of the most devastating wars of the modern era in Iraq. It has demonstrated a wilful disregard for Parliament and shows an inability to learn from the horrific mistakes of the past.
Military action is something that so sane person can ever completely rule out, but doing it without a mandate and without sufficient evidence is not only negligent, but also potentially illegal. What are the likes of the United Nations for if not to ensure stability, patience and cooperation within the international community? Throwing fuel to the fire in Syria is precisely the last thing that is needed, with the country having already descended into utter chaos.
Theresa May has learnt from her previous leaders that sharp, quick, responsive military action can win votes. After all Thatcher gained a good deal of electoral capital from the Falkland’s War. But this is a different situation and a different region, one in which we must be incredibly careful due to its heavily divided and politicised nature. Her decision appears to mark a general trend of desperation within a failing Conservative Party. We can only hope that these measures do not get any more inflammatory.
Photograph: duncan c via Flickr