Sunday, 1 September 2013

A Sad War

The world was horrified at the possibility that chemical weapons had been used in Syria so sent UN inspectors in order to gather evidence. They have now left Syria and we await their report. I am no expert but I think it is fairly easy to tell from the videos that came back from Syrian hospitals that chemical weapons had been used. The real question is who used them? There are reports like this one from Reuters that say it is the rebels and not Assad who used chemical warfare.

So was it President Assad, that calming influence in the Middle East who trained as an intelligent, calm, studious and respected doctor and gained a significant amount of his training in London? During his training the President must have been heavily influenced by rational, stable and sensible Western thinking. Or could it be those nasty rebellious terrorists in Syria, acting as agents provocateurs, who used chemical weapons on themselves in order to gain the sympathy of the rest of the world and provoke attacks on the Syrian Government?

My questions may be biased but there may be an element of truth in them. Indeed, they may be true. Now, according to this BBC report, we learn that the UN inspectors' 'mandate is limited to determining the use of chemical weapons and not who used them'. It goes on to tell us that the US say hundreds of children were killed 'in the suspected chemical weapons attacks' but who was behind those chemical attacks? We don't have the results of the inspection so I wouldn't say we are back to square one quite yet but when we get the results we will be back to square one. Syria says that the US claims are "full of lies"

I was listening to an interview with an imam on Radio Lancashire this morning, and you can still hear the interview on Joe Wilson's programme if you go to 2 hours 47 minutes. According to Wikipedia, estimates of the number of deaths in the Syrian civil war vary between 83,260 and 110,375. One death is one too many but we were told by this imam who had just returned from Syria that there had been 130,000 deaths. He has seen schools and hospitals bombed and death and devastation on an unimaginable scale. You can see how he comes to the conclusion that the UN should act and he blames Russia and China for preventing this action.

The UK Government's vote only concerned the use of chemical warfare and was nothing to do with regime change. The UN, and Russia and China's use of a veto, only relates to the use of chemical warfare. The imam described the horrible deaths of women and children caused by bombing which would appear to be caused by the Syrian Government but this would carry on even if the UN did resolve to act. Whether UN or UK or US action is legal depends on assurances that the use of chemical weapons was ordered by Assad. I am told that chemical weapons could be produced in a domestic bathroom so finding proof as to who is to blame may be difficult.

The imam tells us that we have a 'moral duty to step in'. There may be a moral duty but I would prefer to add a legal duty as well before I went to war. If the imam is right about Assad being behind the use of chemical warfare (and I am not sure how he knows even if has visited Syria) then that must mean that there is another regime that is better than Assad's. I suspect there is such a regime but I would not rule out the possibility that there would be many more murders even with regime change.

I was concerned when the imam who wants to go to war told us that he would not tolerate the actions of Russia and China. He finds their actions "disgusting" and those who support the tyrants (I think he includes in that phrase all those MPs who voted against the UK Government on Thursday) are equally tyrannical. He then blames President Putin for massacres in Chechnya. Both sides in Chechnya have been accused of war crimes  but that isn't the point. The imam thinks that Putin is mad and should be ignored so I think the imam must want to break up the UN. Joe Wilson doesn't make this point but suggests that if Putin is mad then we should be standing by the people of Russia and attacking this regime. The imam's reply is that "good people are not doing enough". So the imam must want to go to war with Syria and with Russia. I am not sure what he wants to do with those tyrants who are MPs.

There is doubt about who has perpetrated war crimes. I am just glad that we don't leave our decision making to imams like this one on Radio Lancashire, even if he has visited Syria recently.

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