Syria: PM's push for action ignores will of most Britons

Cameron and Hague are 'itching to have crack at Assad' but intervention will be 'dangerous'

Column LAST UPDATED AT 11:24 ON Tue 27 Aug 2013

CURIOUSLY, David Cameron and William Hague have chosen to make the case for military intervention in Syria based on intelligence.
 
Speaking to the BBC yesterday the foreign secretary said: “I know some people in the world would like to say this is some kind of conspiracy brought about by the opposition in Syria – I think the chances of that are vanishingly small. So we do believe this is a chemical attack by the Assad regime on a large scale.”
 
Let's hope the phrase 'vanishingly small' does not enter the language in the same way as 'It's a slam dunk, Mr President'.
 
It's no secret that Cameron and Hague have been itching to have a crack at Assad. Forgive my weary cynicism, but it's no surprise then that 'intelligence' seems now to support the case for intervention. The John Scarlett rule of intelligence – put together the intelligence the prime minister wants to hear and you will get promoted – is clearly alive and well in Whitehall.
 
Even if Assad has used nerve gas on his own people I fail to understand why gassing a thousand people is somehow more wicked than killing 50,000 with Kalashnikovs and artillery. It's the killing of civilians that is wrong – not how they are killed.
 
One of the more depressing aspects of how the Syrian tragedy is being covered in the media is the suggestion by some interventionists that they 'care' more about the innocent Syrian dead than those like me who think intervening in this charnel house is madness. How much we care isn't the issue. Appalled compassion and sadness at the photographs from Damascus of the dead in their shrouds was a universal reaction. The issue is what the hell can we do about it?
 
'Professional politicians' – men and women without experience or maturity, who go into politics directly from university, disfigure our national political life. Many are clearly driven by their own egos and passing emotions. They are adept at calculating their own interests but seem incapable of understanding the concept of the national interest. Blair and Cameron are of this type. Between them they have designed a new type of warfare – professional politicians' wars. That is military action with no carefully considered aim or purpose except to make the politicians feel good or important or at the centre of events.
 
Getting involved in Syria will be dangerous. The most likely replacement for the Assad regime, if it goes under, would be some form of Islamist extremist dictatorship. But there are geopolitical risks as well. The Syrian drama does not exist in a vacuum – the Assad government has the backing of Putin's Russia which is asserting itself on the world stage in the strongest manner since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. We must also consider Iran which is rapidly emerging as a regional power now that its traditional rival Iraq has been Balkanised as a result of a botched Western military intervention. Does David Cameron really understand what he is getting us into?
 
And what after all is the aim? We should be in no doubt if this military action goes ahead – Royal Navy submarines launching cruise missiles, RAF planes attacking Syrian government installations and UK Special Forces on the ground – we will not only be taking action against a ghastly and odious regime but also acting in direct support of Islamist extremists, including those who have declared their allegiance to al-Qaeda.
 
Cameron may or may not recall parliament – let's hope he does so. The fact that he hasn't already shows his breathtaking arrogance. But I have little doubt that after winding itself into an orgy of moral indignation it will rubber-stamp the plans. Parliament is full of professional politicians. In any case, even if MPs voted against military action it would not be binding. Under the rules of our non-constitution Cameron can do what he likes using the Ruritanian-sounding 'Royal Prerogative'.

I doubt there is much support for any kind of military intervention outside a tiny political elite. How do the British people bring this perpetual warmongering to an end? What instrument can we use? What does democracy mean when the will of the people on something as important as the use of armed force abroad is routinely ignored? · 

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How can I as a mature British national stop Cameron and Hague's madness?

No, No, No, we must not intervene in Syria. Cameron is wrong again, just like he was when he was riding his bike to work, just like he was putting that stupid windmill on his roof, just like he was hugging a hoody, just like he was trying to sell off our forests etc. My retriever has got more political nous than this idiot!

Crispin - you speak for the vast majority of us! Cameron, like Blair before him, seems to have been gripped by quasi-religious zeal to "protect the vulnerable". the vulnerable, in Syria's case, are the civilians, women and children on BOTH sides of this civil war - if the Syrian "Opposition" prevails, in the end, does Cameron think, for one moment, that those forces will spare the women and children of the "Regime" - of course they won't - the slaughter will only just begin!

The vast majority of my own military career was served in the Intelligence Corps - the most important rule of Intelligence gathering, and the subsequent use of such, was NOT to make the facts fit the theories - that way lies disaster! One very wise boss of mine exhorted us all to "suck the lemon dry" before attempting to form any conclusion.

Neither Cameron nor Hague (nor, indeed, Mrs Cameron!) have served in uniform - they have NO moral authority to commit this country to yet another costly, unpopular and quite unjustified "intervention" in a foreign land that poses absolutely NO strategic or existential threat to the United Kingdom or its interests overseas - no matter how tenuous an argument Cameron might try to concoct.

Yes - Cameron is out of the same mould as Blair - and, I fear, just as disingenuous - in 2006, while in opposition, he DID pledge to make a future PM accountable to Parliament and to the country before embarking on another foreign war - and, believe me, this WILL be a war - Syria is not without allies.

Iran will, with Russia's blessing, foment yet more trouble in the region and WILL threaten our vital strategic interests by threats of oil blockades at the Straits of Hormuz - why wouldn't they? Then we will all see a huge spike in energy prices at home, further damage to our economy and hopes of an economic recovery further stymied - all sacrifices on the altar of Cameron's "moral obligations".

Exacerbated, of course, by his obdurate insistence on ring-fencing "overseas aid".

Cameron is more of a danger to our national interests than Syria could ever be!!!

I can see it now. America decides on action and sends in a drone or two. One of the bombs dropped flattens a hospital where survivors from a chemical attack are being treated.

Political clowns,the reality is that the electorate has had enough of these ill conceived humiliating "military adventures" disguised as humanitarian intervention and virtually guarantee the election of a lab/lib/dem coalition at the next election and the disastrous effect that will have on the slowly recovering economy.

I don't often agree with Crispin but he is spot on this time. My husband and I have already talked about the hypocrisy of all this hysteria over 1000 deaths from gas in comparison to the relative lack of hysteria over the countless thousands of deaths caused by conventional weapons. Interfering in the Middle East is a no-win situation for western interests - as has been borne out by the results of our ill-advised actions in Iraq and Libya. Its also another expensive war that we just cannot afford when the country is starting to get back on its feet again following the financial crash. I hope enough of our politicians stand up for Britain's interests rather than vote for war - I'm not holding my breath though.

Bring back that British Empire when the world was agog with rapt attention if Britain spoke.....
I think that is the dream Cameron et al. are hoping to re-awaken with this theatrical follow-up to match Tony Blair's blunder in Iraq.
Back then, as it is now, it was the "Western intelligence" (an oxymoronic posterchild, if there ever was a need for one) that corroborated a rationale for attack to stop the tyrant - and the short memories seem to shut out the fact it was the same "Western intelligence" that completely got it wrong.
So, this time....show us proof before going in. Why is no-one asking for this proof this time - after having (not) learnt it the hard way about the WMDs last time....?
So much for Western intelligence.

It's not democracy. It's a power of attorney - limited in time but unlimited in scope - granted by people who can't know all the details.

It's an absolute oligarchy,

Don't be so hard on British Intelligence. Blair wanted specific information and MI6 gave him appropriate data heavily qualified. Campbell reformatted this and sent it over to Defence Intelligence, which was what MI6 would usually do BEFORE Number 10 saw it, but in Defence Intelligence the file was not passed to the two experts who should have seen it. Instead it was seen only by the newly appointed Chief who was new to Intelligence and had not yet learned the traditional procedures, and by his similarly limited Deputy, a civil servant who, despite previous civil service promises, was also new to Intelligence. Thus the professionals were cut out, as Crispin Black knows, the Chief of Defence Intelligence returned the file to Scarlett, and the stitch-up was complete. The fatal inexperience of the CDI and of his Deputy had been skilfully exploited, Scarlett was generously rewarded, Blair had his alibi. but the professionals in British Intelligence, with the exception of Scarlett, were kept in the dark and do not deserve your condemnation.

Our Intelligence Services have, no doubt, collated a vast amount of information - both humint and sigint - BUT, it remains for our "leaders" in Downing Street to analyse and UNDERSTAND that resultant analysis - rather than as I said, to wilfully and knowingly twist the facts as they emerge, to suit a political agenda and timescale.

If Cameron, Hague et al know something that we, the electorate don't, it is incumbent upon them, within the constraints of wishing not to reveal the true extent of our intelligence - gathering capabilities and of source-protection, to enlighten us BEFORE committing our overstretched Armed Forces and our slender national resources to yet another military adventure.

Blair DID distort the facts and he DID rely on unproven and sloppy analyses of those "facts" - Cameron and Hague are about to do the same, I fear.

Question ......If the chemical weapons are proven to be launched by the Free Syrian Forces, would there still be a punitive strike ??

I found this information with a ten minute web search, how come the British government with their famous G,C,H,Q, could not, he recalled parliament to take us to war over this?

Syrians in Ghouta, including rebels and
eyewitnesses are reporting that the chemical attacks on August 21 in Ghouta were
the result of rebel mistakes. This story comes from veteran Associated
Press writer, Dale Gavlak, via
his new gig at MintPress.
Gavlak has been covering the Middle East for years for the AP and other outlets.

In his most recent story, Gavlak interviewed
numerous "doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families" in an
attempt to find out what happened from people that live in the affected regions.
Many of those interviewed believe the weapons came from Saudi Arabia via
Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of one opposition
rebel who died in the chemical attack is quoted, "My son came to me two weeks
ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry." He
went on to describe the weapons as "having a 'tube-like structure' while others
were like a 'huge gas bottle.'"

A female rebel fighter, who spoke anonymously
for fear of retribution stated, “They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how
to use them. We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they
were chemical weapons. When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he
must give them to those who know how to handle and use them."

Yet another rebel fighter says, “Jabhat al-Nusra
militants do not cooperate with other rebels, except with fighting on the
ground. They do not share secret information. They merely used some ordinary
rebels to carry and operate this material We were very curious about these arms.
And unfortunately, some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set
off the explosions."

So far, this story has been absent the
mainstream media, even as the White House on Friday released its report outlinning that President Bashar al-Assad had fired the
chemical weapons against Syrian civilians in the Damscus suburb, killing over
1,400 people. Gavlak goes on to explore and explain many other details that seem
to piece together a puzzle that is very different from the shoddy "evidence"
being put forth by the American government

...Bob - this story is at least as plausible as the rushed conclusions that Kerry, Cameron, Hague et al have arrived at. Western prejudices against Assad and anything Russian and Iranian supported tend to cloud judgements to an alarming degree.

Yes - it is entirely plausible that these weapons, or at least the components for them, were supplied by the Saudis - after all they have the motives (Sunni v Shia - they hate Assad's Alawite Shias), they have the means and they, possibly, have the active connivance of some of the more murky elements of Western influence.

PLEASE, Obama! - wake up and smell the coffee before it is much too late for all of us - not least, Mrs Cameron's refugees.