Y E S T E R D A Y M O R N I N G I received an invitation to join the Stop the War Coalition(STWC) in a demonstration to demand no military action be taken in response to the chemical attacks carried out in Syria by the Assad regime last week. If you hadn’t heard, according to Medecins Sans Frontiers, these attacks have claimed the lives of over 350 people and have left at least 3600 wounded in Syria’s Capital, Damascus. Although these acts of aggression seem to have provoked a greater possibility of Western intervention than previous atrocities, last weeks attacks are just one example of a plethora of egregious acts of violence carried out by the Baathist dictatorship over the last two and a half years.
So far Britain and the United States has failed to take any meaningful action against Bashar al-Assad and his criminal gang for the carnage they have enacted against the Syrian people. However, since the chemical slaughter last week, William Hauge and David Cameron both seem to be taking the idea of military intervention significantly more seriously. My intention in writing this short essay is to persuade those of you who are undecided as to whether you will attend the STWC’s demonstration that, in the case of Syria, military intervention is—and has been for a long while —a worthwhile cause.
At present, a targeted aerial raid on specific buildings of critical military importance to the Assad regime seems the most likely form of intervention; talk of a boots-on-the-ground intervention in similar fashion to the 2003 invasion of Iraq remains distinctly subdued. In agreement with what seems to be the majority of The House of Commons, I believe that the former of these options is morally justifiable while the later would most likely prove to be too bold a move.
There is now a whole body of evidence strongly suggesting that, prior to the most recent incident in Damascus, the regime of Bashar al-Assad has launched at least 14 chemical attacks. Contrary to what the Russians, Iranians and the Chinese would have you believe, there is no evidence that these attacks were carried out by Syrian rebel forces. I quote the British Joint Intelligence Committee:
It is not possible for the opposition to have carried out a CW attack on this scale. The regime has used CW on a smaller scale on at least 14 occasions in the past. There is some intelligence to suggest regime culpability in this attack. These factors make it highly likely that the Syrian regime was responsible.
Damning evidence, I know. Although surely it does not take a statement from the British Joint Intelligence Committee to determine that an underfunded and divided rebel force doesn’t have the capacity to carry out a massive chemical attack on the scale of last Wednesday’s? Well, not if you place yourself in the same camp as those who seem to think the whole of the Syrian revolution is a master plan thought up by US and Israeli neo-cons to secure global domination. And, trust me, I have seen numerous comments of this nature across the internet. One “commentator” went as far as to suggest that president Assad is a “rational actor” and would not have been so “irrational” as to use chemical weapons in the first place.
To discard such intellectual rubbish into the dustbin of history I urge you to consider the dark and sadistic record of the Assad regime since the Syrian Revolution began in 2011. At its genesis the revolution was characterised by peaceful protest in favour of democracy and a genuine desire to obtain a better life for all Syrians. Based on this “threat”, the Baathist regime of Mr Assad decided the appropriate response was to gun down scores of innocent civilians. Since then, according to Human Rights Watch, SCUD missiles have been used indiscriminately by the regime to target civilian areas. Importantly, the areas targeted were not in the vicinity of any military installations controlled by the rebel forces. Human rights watch investigated nine such attacks between February and July killing at least 215 people, including over 100 children, and concluded that the attacks constituted a war crime. To suggest that the man is incapable or unwilling to use chemical weapons against the people of Syria is either mendacious or to ignore the mountains of evidence that suggest otherwise.
There are those who will argue the case against Western military intervention whatsoever, usually in an attempt to avoid an imperialistic foreign policy. I assume that most of the STWC would willingly place themselves in this camp. However, history has proven that those who tread the ideological path of the anti-war movement do not always reach the moral high ground. George Orwell was particularly instructive on this point in his 1945 essay “Notes on Nationalism”:
The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States.
On Saturday, when I see anti-war protesters brandishing the flag of Bashar al-Assad and loudly denouncing Western military intervention in Syria, I cannot help but think that the majority of the STWC will resemble the younger intellectual pacifists Orwell mentions. These supposed “human rights activists” are most likely beyond persuasion. To those pacifists who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point, I urge you to consider the following: What happened in Rwanda in 1994 in the absence of military intervention? Nearly one million Tutsi’s were slaughtered by Hutu extremists in the most horrific incident of genocide since the holocaust. What happened when the international community averted its gaze from Darfur in 2003? Up to 400,000 inhabitants of the Western Sudanese state were massacred and starved to death by the Government of Sudan and notorious Arab militia known as the Janjaweed. In Bosnia it took the planned extirpation of 5000 adult males in the small town of Srebrenica by Serbian ethnic cleansers to prompt international military action. At the time of the genocide in Srebrenica over 200,000 Bosnians had already died as a result of the expansionist and racist policies of Slobodan Milosevic. Fortunately NATO missiles put an end to Milosevic’s killing spree in 1999.
When the evidence of massacres in Syria is so strong, at least as strong as in the incidence of mass murder I mention above, I ask you to ask yourselves: is pacifism still a reasonable option? At what point is it time to say that enough is enough in Syria? I hope, dear reader, you will agree with me when I say that that time is now. The use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime cannot and should not go unpunished. Britain must send a message to Assad and the rest of the world that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated. This message will inevitably involve some form of military intervention. Obviously a UN mandate for intervention would be desirable; however, if this is not obtained, there is little alternative but for the UK, USA and France to go in alone.
Guildford, August 8th, 2013