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Tag: David Cameron

Syria: The Third Time

I was re-reading a BBC article from September 2016 about the findings of a UK parliamentary committee, the foreign affairs committee, criticising ‘the intervention by Britain and France that led to the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011’.

BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale summarises the report:

This report is effectively Parliament’s attempt at a Chilcot inquiry into the Libyan intervention, only quicker and shorter.
And the criticism is weighty: the government’s poor intelligence about the threat to civilians in Benghazi, its lack of awareness of Islamist elements among the rebels, the policy drift from saving lives to getting rid of Gaddafi, and David Cameron’s lack of strategy for what should happen next.

The subtext is that the lessons of Iraq were ignored.

Yet in truth the report also reveals the uncertainty among policymakers about military intervention, torn between avoiding another Srebrenica-style massacre when the West turned a blind eye to the killings of Muslims by Bosnian Serbs in 1995 and the need to avoid another Iraq-style intervention when Western countries got bogged down in an internal conflict.

What happened in Libya was a half and half policy, of intervention without occupation. And it is a model that did not work.

Crispin Blunt, chairman of the committee, told the BBC: “We were dragged along by a French enthusiasm to intervene, and the mission then moved from protecting people in Benghazi, who arguably were not at the kind of threat that was then being presented…

“Indeed, on the basis of the evidence we took, the threat to the people of Benghazi was grossly overstated.”

The committee said “political options” were available once Benghazi had been secured – including through ex-PM Tony Blair’s contacts with Gaddafi – but the UK government “focused exclusively on military intervention”.

I found this very sad. I had read this before and probably posted a comment about it on Facebook. But let’s look at the enormity of this finding and its implication. To be sure the government rejected the report. We read:

The Foreign Office defended the intervention.

“Muammar Gaddafi was unpredictable and he had the means and motivation to carry out his threats,” a spokesman said.

“His actions could not be ignored and required decisive and collective international action. Throughout the campaign we stayed within the United Nations mandate to protect civilians.

“After four decades of Gaddafi misrule, Libya undoubtedly faces huge challenges. The UK will continue to play a leading role within the international community to support the internationally recognised Libyan Government of National Accord.”

Asked whether Prime Minister Theresa May disagreed with the report’s findings, Mrs May’s spokeswoman said: “The PM is clear on the reasons why action was taken in Libya.”
The alternative, she added, “would have been to stand by and witness another massacre of civilians”.

But there was a massacre of civilians, a catalog of atrocities, perpetrated by the ‘rebels’ on the ground and NATO from the air. We read in this March 2016 Salon article:

Today, Libya is in ruins. The seven months of NATO bombing effectively destroyed the government and left behind a political vacuum. Much of this has been filled by extremist groups.

Millions of Libyans live without a formal government. The internationally recognized government only controls the eastern part of the country. Rivaled extremist Islamist groups have seized much of the country.

Downtown Benghazi, a once thriving city, is now in ruins. Ansar al-Sharia, a fundamentalist Salafi militia that is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., now controls large chunks of it. ISIS has made Libya home to its largest so-called “caliphate” outside of Iraq and Syria.

Thousands of Libyans have been killed, and this violent chaos has sparked a flood of refugees. Hundreds of thousands of Libyan civilians have fled, often on dangerous smuggling boats. The U.N. estimates more than 400,000 people have been displaced.

The foreign affairs committee report presents this as an error, a ‘half and half policy’ to prevent a massacre while not being bogged down in an occupation, in short, a well-intentioned intervention based on false or dubious premises that went tragically wrong. It was no such thing. The assault on Libya was a cold and deliberate war crime, the murder of a nation that entailed several other deliberate war crimes. The individuals most responsible for this were David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy, Barack Obama and, perhaps most culpable of all, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Salon article notes that:

… the facts show that [Clinton] did not just push for and lead the war in Libya; she even went out of her way to derail diplomacy.

Little-discussed secret audio recordings released in early 2015 reveal how top Pentagon officials, and even one of the most progressive Democrats in Congress, were so wary of Clinton’s warmongering that they corresponded with the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi in hopes of pursuing some form of diplomacy.

Qaddafi’s son Seif wanted to negotiate a ceasefire with the U.S. government, opening up communications with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Clinton later intervened and asked the Pentagon to stop talking to the Qaddafi regime.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich wrote a letter to Clinton and Obama in August 2011, warning against the war. “I have been contacted by an intermediary in Libya who has indicated that President Muammar Gadhafi is willing to negotiate an end to the conflict under conditions which would seem to favor Administration policy,” the Democratic lawmaker said. His plea was ignored.

A Pentagon intelligence official told Seif Qaddafi that his messages were falling on deaf ears. “Everything I am getting from the State Department is that they do not care about being part of this,” he explained.

“Secretary Clinton does not want to negotiate at all,” the U.S. intelligence official added.

And not negotiate is indeed what she did. In fact, after Qaddafi was brutally killed — sodomized with a bayonet by rebels — Clinton gloated live on TV, “We came, we saw, he died!”

No error, but cold, deliberate murder, not of one man, but of a whole nation.

Yet there are those who regret that Hillary Clinton is not the US President Elect. There are those who say that she was not elected because she is a woman or that Trump appealed to white racism. If this were true, and I do not believe it is, then we should all, for once, be grateful to sexists and racists.

Hillary Clinton sought the destruction of Syria on false premises as she had sought and engineered the destruction of Libya on false premises and as she had supported the war against Iraq which was prosecuted under false premises. Listen to her opening statement in this clip of a debate with Trump “Well”, she begins, “the situation in Syria is catastrophic”. She goes on the blame the ‘Assad regime’ and its Russian allies:

When Aleppo was retaken by the Syrian Arab Army and its Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies in December we did not see the massacres of civilians that Clinton and much of the US and UK mainstream media predicted instead we saw people relieved, celebrating their liberation from the oppression of the terrorists that Clinton, Obama, Cameron and Hollande had enabled. I highly recommend that you watch this short French documentary featuring interviews with the people of Aleppo:

Bashar al Assad said, of the liberation of Aleppo, that it was a pivotal moment in history, not just for Syria but for the world. I hope Assad is correct that the Liberation marks the moment when the world, enough of the world, clearly sees the pattern and sees through the lies of the Camerons, Obamas, Sarkozys, Clintons, Hollands and their cohorts. These are not respectable people, they are not at all decent and their intentions are not good, their intentions are evil and their actions are evil and the consequences of their actions are evil. I don’t like saying this because these people are our leaders and are supported by our democratic representatives and our political structures, by our whole political and media establishment. What does this say about our structures, our beliefs?

There is a saying ‘Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.’ The first time I have been fooled, the second time I am a fool. But fool me thrice? The third time I must be an accomplice.

Corbyn’s Seven Questions

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The Spectator on 26th November published the ‘full text and audio: Corbyn’s seven questions to Cameron on Syria’ and Cameron’s response. These are some of my thoughts on the exchange:

1: Does the Prime Minister believe that extending air strikes to Syria will make a significant military impact on the ground, which has so far seen Isil gain, as well as lose territory?
David Cameron: It is worth listening to our closest allies, the Americans and the French, who want us to take part … because of the capabilities we bring … yes, we would make a military difference.

Cameron says that UK involvement would make a significant military difference but he does not say what that difference would be. Corbyn’s point is probably that given the combined air power of the Americans and the French the addition of British air power would not, in fact, be militarily significant but that British involvement would help maintain a façade of legitimacy.

2: Is the Prime Minister’s view that the campaign … can be successful without ground forces? If not, does he believe Kurdish forces or the Free Syrian Army would be in a position to take back territory?
DC: There are obviously many who want to play down the existence and the role of the Free Syrian Army. Our information and intelligence is that at least 70,000 moderate Sunni forces are able to help.

Neither Corbyn’s question nor Cameron’s answer acknowledges that the Syrian Arab Army and its Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies constitute the most effective force currently fighting Daesh. Neither the Kurds, who have been attacked by NATO member Turkey nor the FSA, which many commentators say does not exist in any effective form, has been shown to be in a position to take territory from Daesh and hold that territory. Cameron’s reference to ‘at least 70,000 moderate Sunni forces’ should be considered at best vague and unverified. That he refers to ‘Sunni forces’ should set alarm bells ringing for anyone hoping for the maintenance of a secular, non-sectarian state after the defeat of Daesh.

3: Without credible or acceptable ground forces, is not the logic of an intensified air campaign mission creep … Can the Prime Minister rule out British ground forces?
DC: Let me give an assurance that we are not deploying British combat forces, and we are not going to deploy British combat forces … western boots on the ground would be counter-productive.

It is not credible for Cameron to rule out the use of ground forces in any military campaign should conditions (or our American allies) require it. Corbyn is right to point out that an effective air campaign requires coordination with ground forces. The US led alliance does not have currently have credible ground forces the Russia led alliance does in the form of the Syrian Arab Army.

4: Does the Prime Minister believe that UN Security Council Resolution 2249 gives clear and unambiguous authorisation for UK air strikes? What co-ordinated action has there been … to cut off funding, oil revenues and armed supplies from Isil?
DC: The fourth question was whether the UN resolution is unambiguous. I believe it is. The Right Honourable gentleman rightly asked what else the UN was doing on sanctions, embargoes and squeezing the finances of Isil. There was a resolution back in February.

Cameron answers Corbyn’s question on whether UNSCR 2249 “gives clear and unambiguous authorisation for UK air strikes” by saying that he believes that 2249 is unambiguous thus introducing a certain ambiguity into his own answer. A relevant paragraph of the resolution says that the Council:

“Calls upon Member States that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures, in compliance with international law, in particular with the United Nations Charter, as well as international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law, on the territory under the control of ISIL also known as Da’esh, in Syria and Iraq, to redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by ISIL also known as Da’esh as well as ANF, and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al-Qaida, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the United Nations Security Council, and as may further be agreed by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) and endorsed by the UN Security Council, pursuant to the statement of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) of 14 November, and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria;”

There is an interesting discussion of the resolution here: http://www.ejiltalk.org/the-constructive-ambiguity-of-the-security-councils-isis-resolution/

The second part of Corbyn’s question did not receive anything like an adequate answer from Cameron. Saying that the UN passed a resolution in February is hardly an answer to a question about ‘coordinated action’ to cut off funding for Daesh. Cutting of funding to Daesh must be considered an essential part of defeating the organisation not only in Syria but internationally. When President Putin notes that he has “provided examples based on our data on the financing of different Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) units by private individuals.” and continues that “This money, as we have established, comes from 40 countries and, there are some of the G20 members among them,” ( https://www.rt.com/news/322305-isis-financed-40-countries/)” we must understand that Daesh is or is backed by an international network that must be identified and dismantled in order to both defeat Daesh and prevent its rebirth under some other guise.

5: How does the Prime Minister think extension of UK bombing would contribute to a negotiated political settlement of the Syrian civil war, widely believed to be the only way to ensure defeat of Isil?
DC: The existence of Isil, or Daesh as many call it, with its so-called caliphate, is to deny the territorial integrity of both Iraq and Syria, so we cannot have a future Syria with the existence of this caliphate.

Whoa! I agree with Cameron on this. Talking about a ‘civil war’ in Syria is a misnomer. Daesh is a foreign funded entity that needs to be eliminated and the same can be said of some other so called ‘rebel groups’. Certainly the Syrian government and their legitimate opposition need to have a dialogue and need to put their arguments to the Syrian people in free and fair elections as the alternative to armed conflict but groups that persist in fighting the Syrian people and their government are clearly not amenable to dialogue. I welcome Cameron’s support for the territorial integrity of Syria but I don’t see that this squares with his wish to violate the same territorial integrity by taking military action in that country without the explicit consent of its legitimate government.

6: What assessment has the Prime Minister been given about the likely impact of British air strikes on the threat of terrorist attacks in Britain … on civilian casualties (in Syria) and the wider Syrian refugee crisis?
DC: We are already at the very highest level we could be when it comes to threats from Isil. In a year and three months of action … in Iraq, there have been no reports of civilian casualties. We have some of the most accurate weapons known to man.

I can’t comment on what has or has not happened in Iraq but I do know that the situation there is different because the US led coalition is acting with the consent and cooperation of the Iraqi government and people.

7: In light of the record of western military intervention in recent years, does the Prime Minister accept UK bombing could risk more of what President Obama called ‘unintended consequences’?
DC: We can have a bigger debate, I am sure, about the action we have had to take around the world. We have to recognise, in my view, that this poisonous narrative of Islamist extremism is a battle for our generation.

Corbyn is quite right to question the record of western military intervention. It has clearly led to disastrous consequences for the people of Iraq and Libya and it is a matter of record that the west and its regional allies have been responsible for supporting armed opposition to the Syrian government including opposition that morphed into or merged with Daesh. Western military intervention must be considered suspect in either its competence or its motivation or in both.

Viruses and Swarms

Dave Ward of the Communication Workers Union seems to have been celebrated on account of his phrase “There is a virus within the Labour party – Jeremy Corbyn is the antidote,” alluding to the Blairites in the party. http://bit.ly/1eDCTWZ

Meanwhile Dave Cameron has been widely slated for his use of the term ‘swarm’ in relation to migrants at Calais when he said “This is very testing, I accept that, because you have got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain because Britain has got jobs, it’s got a growing economy, it’s an incredible place to live. But we need to protect our borders by working hand in glove with our neighbours, the French, and that is exactly what we are doing.” http://bit.ly/1DcKDLE

The use of the words ‘virus’ and ‘swarm’ are both evocative of the unpleasant and the dangerous. That evocation was clearly intentional in Ward’s use of the word ‘virus’, but what of Cameron’s use of the word ‘swarm’? He could just as easily have said “huge numbers of people” but he chose “swarm of people”. We choose emotive language to convey our emotional states and/or to create emotional states in others. The closeness of his “swarm” term to Margaret Thatcher’s comment about Britain being “swamped” by and alien culture is worth noting. Is this merely alliterative coincidence or evidence of some ham handed attempt at ‘neuro-linguistic’ manipulation?

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