Hands off Syria - for the sake of the Syrian people!

2 September 2013

As it turned out, Cameron badly misjudged the mood of the Commons last Thursday.

And it wasn't as if Labour was responsible for his government's failure to win the Commons' backing for a military intervention. After all, Miliband was willing to support the government, provided it sought a UN endorsement. In fact, only a handful of Labour mavericks dared to raise the real issue - the legitimacy of any form of military action, or interference, by western powers in the Syrian civil war!

No, Cameron's defeat only reflected the reluctance of dozens of coalition MPs to carry the can for yet another botched up military adventure - another one like in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia and so many other poor countries in which western armies only managed to cause devastation for the population without resolving any of the problems they were supposed to address.

The electoral cost paid by Labour for its military involvement in the Iraq disaster is obviously still a vivid memory for coalition MPs! And this memory was undoubtedly revived among Tory backbenchers by the anti-war posturing of a UKIP party which, being a long way from government, can afford to take such a demagogical stance, even though it contradicts its reactionary celebration of the "British nation" and its imperial role.

"Democratic vote" or make-believe?

But does this mean that a British military intervention in Syria is definitely off the cards? Not necessarily. In fact, hardly four days after the vote, on Monday, some of Cameron's ministers were already talking about organising a new vote in Parliament, to respond to possible "new developments".

And it's not difficult to figure out what sort of "new developments" they're thinking about. Obama winning the backing of the US Congress could be such a development, combined with a report by UN inspectors accusing the Syrian dictatorship of having used chemical weapons.

Of course, such a report would be just as reliable as the claims made before the first invasion of Iraq, in 1990, that Iraqi soldiers were killing babies in Kuwaiti hospitals, or Blair's "dossier" on Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction", on the eve of the second invasion of Iraq, in 2003.

Nevertheless, this could still provide Cameron with a pretext to organise a new Commons vote, with some chance of winning more of his backbenchers to his side. After all, assuming that no government minister "forgets" to vote, as two of them did this time, Cameron would only need to regain the support of 6 of last Thursday's 30 Tory "rebels" to win the vote!

The real issues

Whatever happens, one thing is certain. Just as much as MPs' motivations are far less "humanitarian" than electoral, the objectives of the western leaders in a military intervention in Syria would have far less to do with the hardship of the population than with policing their regional order - i.e. protecting the western multinationals' looting of the region's natural resources.

In fact, there is a sinister irony in western leaders shedding tears over the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Whether "Agent Orange" (used by the US in Vietnam) or depleted uranium (used by all western troops in Iraq) are officially classified as chemical weapons or not, they left a trail of short-and long-term deaths, including countless babies deformed at birth, among the populations affected. Britain itself, under the auspices of Winston Churchill, used mustard gas (officially banned today) against the Russian workers who dared to threaten the rule of capital, back in 1919!

And these are the same western powers which, today, claim the high moral ground against Assad's dictatorship over the use of chemical weapons (assuming that it wasn't some jihadist group among the anti-Assad rebels which used them)?

Just as there is a sinister irony in these western leaders pretending to seek a "democratic" mandate for their air strikes. Hasn't the anti-Assad rebellion been armed by Gulf dictators, all close associates of the US, ever since the beginning of the insurgency? And didn't the US and the EU, including Britain, decide, back in March this year, to supply weapons to the rebels? Had these governments won or even sought a "democratic" mandate for pouring oil on the flames of the Syrian civil war? Of course not!

Whatever the pretexts invoked, any intervention, military or otherwise - in fact, any interference - by the western powers in Syria will be - and is already - paid for by the Syrian population. It is in the interest of the working class of this country to oppose this by all means necessary.