“Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes.”

Yesterday, Parliament passed the motion to authorise British airstrikes on Daesh targets in Syria. The motion, which passed by 397 votes to 223, extends the current military intervention in Iraq (through airstrikes) to Syria – described by David Cameron as the “heartland” of Daesh. What is obvious is that there is a desperate need for a solution, but is this really a way that should even be considered? The title of this post might give away my opinion. In his closing remarks, for which he has received considerable praise, Hilary Benn compares Daesh to Hitler and Mussolini saying that “what we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated.” I find it very interesting that he chooses to cite historical cases in which intervention has been successful and this is very deliberate. However, he makes no mention of previous military intervention in the Middle East or the surrounding regions. Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have shown, and should have taught us, the dangers of military intervention. What has resulted from British presence in the region is not peace and stability, but rather the chaos in which Daesh thrive. The last thing that is going to bring stability is more bombs, more bloodshed and more chaos. During the 10-hour debate, Jeremy Corbyn described the government’s motion as an “ill thought-out rush in to war” and that is exactly what it is. Watching Caroline Lucas’ opposition to the motion, however, made me proud to be a member of the Green Party. She recognised that this chaos and hatred is what fuels Daesh and that there are other solutions, ones that will not only avoid a huge cost to the British taxpayer but also ones that avoid the almost inevitable deaths of innocent civilians as a result of these airstrikes. “It is not a choice between airstrikes or inaction” were her words, and this is a message that did not seem to resonate with many in the House of Commons. Benn’s rhetoric echoed that of the Prime Minister; that we cannot sit back and wait for them to attack us, that it is an urgent threat to our national security and that anyone who disagrees is unpatriotic, or to go as far as Cameron himself did – “a terrorist sympathiser”. This is absolutely not the case. Dropping bombs can only end in one way and that will not be the demise of Daesh. In the 14 months since the US intervened in Syria, Daesh numbers have not weakened. They have, in fact, become an ever increasing threat – but we are not the main targets. While the government go on and on about national security and confronting the evils in this world, they seem to forget about those who are under threat from Daesh every single day. They seem to forget about those forced to flee their homes in search of rescue or worse, those that will inevitably lose their lives as a result of the decision our government has made.

And yet, there are still more sides of this to explore. In a time of increasing austerity, when the Conservatives talk of a strong and stable economy whilst cutting our public services and welfare, they have absolutely no problem finding the money to drop bombs over Syria. Airstrikes are not the solution.  A more peaceful, and very possibly a more successful, way to approach the issue is to look at how Daesh are funded. A large portion of their funding comes from the illegitimate trade of crude oil from the oil fields that they have taken control of. Whilst some have suggested that these become targets for airstrikes, I do not believe that this is an appropriate response. Rather, focus should be shifted to those who are willing to do trade with such an abhorrent group which, if Putin is to be believed, includes a number of G20 members. Saudi Arabia in particular appear to have had, and continue to have, many financial ties to Daesh dating back to long before it declared itself as a caliphate. But, instead of putting pressure on these nations to stop, to sever a significant part of Daesh’s income stream, our government continues to do deals that would put a nation known for its human rights abuses on the UN Human Rights council. A diplomatic approach to securing peace and stability in Syria is, as far as I can see, the only way forward. We must do more at home as well as in Syria. We must take in our fair share of refugees, those who are fleeing a threat that will only get worse with our military intervention.

Mile End, and in particular QMUL, is quite possibly the most multicultural community I have ever had the pleasure to be a part of. Many members of our community are first or second generation immigrants, and many of them will know (directly or indirectly) of the trauma that is caused to innocent civilians when governments recklessly rush to drastic action. Although the motion has been passed, this is not the end of the story. We will continue to protest and oppose the governments actions, we will continue to show solidarity with those in Syria and we will continue to stand up for justice and a peaceful, diplomatic resolution.

 

Robert Hunter,

Vice President

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