I have sent the following letter to Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats:
Dear Tim Farron,
I am writing to you as a member of the Liberals/Liberal Democrats for over 50 years, and, in a personal capacity, as President of Batley and Spen Liberal Democrats, to urge you, if it comes to a vote, to lead all eight of our MPs into the lobbies against the UK's joining in air strikes on Syria.
I have read our five conditions and, frankly, they don't cut much ice. They smell of the obfuscation which is so typical of the other parties and from which we should be trying to break free
My reasons are:
- Our joining in the bombing would make a terrorist attack on the UK more rather than less likely. David Cameron's claim that adding to the bombing is necessary for our security is untrue. If we bomb we shall be less secure.
- UK involvement will add to the perception of "Crusader West". . . . .
- . . . .and therefore act as a recruiting sergeant for ISIS, thus adding to our danger and endangering the lives of yet more deluded young Muslims.
- In spite of the supposed superior accuracy of our bombs there is bound to be "collateral damage," - in other words innocent men, women and children killed.
Instead of adding to the bombing we can use our so-called "soft power," which we are told is considerable in the Middle East because of our long connections there, to:
- Promote the creation of a coalition of Muslim countries to take ownership of the problem and, if necessary, take military action.
- Cut off supplies of money to ISIS.
- Cut off their supplies of oil, if necessary by blowing up the pipeline.
- As members of the Security Council, the EU the Commonwealth, use our diplomatic connections to bring about a peaceful solution.
With the parliamentary arithmetic as it is at the moment there is a very real opportunity to avoid the errors made in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. I hope in this crisis you will avoid the macho temptations of David Cameron, whose main motive seems to me to be to want to be "in there with the big boys," and lead our party to act with the rationality and concern for humanity which are at the core of our beliefs.
Way back in the 1960s our then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, despite his faults, had the courage and character to keep us out of the war in Vietnam. So when young American protesters gathered to chant:
Hey hey LBJ,
How many kids have you killed today?
. . .we didn't feel we shared the guilt.
I believe that before the civil war in Syria there were some 500 000 civilians living in Raqqa, the supposed headquarters of ISIS. Over half have fled, but there are still around 200 000 (and probably not all that many ISIS fighters). If our MPs are blind to the experience of the last 15 years, and vote to add to the bombing they will be complicit in adding to the killing of many innocents.
And to what effect? To make matters worse, not better.