“Any action taken will just make things worse” – How Acting Against Assad Can Help Protect Civilians In Syria

Disclaimer: I am just a person with an 2:2 undergraduate degree in International Politics who graduated in 2006, I am by no means an expert on the conflict in Syria. I’m writing this because I keep discussing this online and I just wanted to get most of my thoughts down in one place.

That can be done in Syria that will improve the conditions of the people who are trying to live their lives among  the rack and ruin of a country that has seen up to 180,000 documented deaths as a result of the Syrian Civil War. The number of deaths in the Syrian War now exceeds those of the Bosnian War in the 1990s. The number of civilians alone who have been violently killed during the civil war is over 100,000. Of these 100,000 92% were killed by the actions of the Syrian government forces and their allies. 

As with so much of this war, the figures themselves are subject to intense debate . Like the Bosnian war, there are many sides in the conflict and there is also an international dimension with ISIS spreading themselves between Syria and Iraq, with an international coalition fighting them on the ground and in the air in order to combat that specific threat to international peace and security that spawned wave after wave of brutal attacks in Sryia, Iraq and throughout the Middle East and Europe.

What action could be taken that would make the situation better? Won’t action by the US, France and the UK just make a bad situation worse?

The Syrian government has frequently used chemical weapons in attacks on civilians. This is a clear violation of the Geneva Protocol, which the Syrian Arab Republic acceded to in 1968.  This protocol calls for all parties to not use chemical or bacteriological weapons in warfare. The Syrian Government has violated this treaty., most recently in Douma, repeatedly even after promising to destroy its chemical weapons and facilities after the Ghouta attacks in 2013 that many in the UK remember for the defeat of the government of the day’s motion to authorise UK armed forces to take action against the Syrian regime following the Sarin gas attack that resulted in  the deaths of hundreds of children. This latest use of chemical weapons to attack civilians (the center of the attack was a bakery) was delivered by airstrike. 

The Syrian Air Force is a powerful force multiplier in the Syrian War, the opposition forces do not have an air force and the uncontested airspace allows the Syrian Air Force to operate with impunity and carry out attacks on civilians from the air. Attacks that civilians will find hard to protect themselves against.

What good would “more bombing” do? First of all it would divert the regime’s attention away from, say, gassing civilians, to being forced to protect its assets. Does it risk using its air force to defend Syrian air space or just meekly submit to the will of the US, French and Royal Air Force and Navy planes and missiles? Every day that the Syrian Air Force has to worry about their US, French and UK counterparts is a day that they can’t barrel bomb rebel-held areas.

Secondly bombing would degrade the Syrian government’s capabilities in the medium term too by attacking and destroying runways, hangars, radar installations, fuel dumps and munitions stores.

Thirdly, the attack would further put the regime on notice that its actions do have consequences. You cannot breach international law, especially international law that pertains to the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction, without their being consequences. The Syrian regime is a pariah and deserves to be punished as such. don’t take my word for it, read Oz Katerji’s excellent article in Newsweek.

There have been four attempts to create a lasting cease fire in the Syrian War with talks held in Geneva. Four times these have failed. If targetted action is taken to degrade the capability of the Syrian armed forces to wage war, the chances of a fifth round of talks happening and succeeding are higher. The idea that air strikes against the principle belligerent partner in the Syrian War might could lead to peace might at first seem counter-productive but this strategy worked in the Bosnian War. Air strikes by NATO against Serb artillery in 1995 convinced the Serbs to go back to talks and the Dayton agreement ended the war as a result.

I’d go further too and establish a no-fly zone for over Syria for the Syrian government forces. No-Fly zones protected the north and south of Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s air forces between 1991 and 2003, allowing a the Kurds in particular to become almost autonomous. Patrolling the no-fly zone will also allow for aerial surveillance to document any war crimes committed on the ground something which needs to be addressed by either a special international tribunal or by bringing cases in the International Criminal Court.

Organisations such as Together For Syria have long argued that the UK can and should take action to protect civilians in Syria, through demanding better standards of intelligence before air strikes are called in against ISIS targets, enabling air drops of humanitarian relief in non-regime held areas, and acting to destroy Assad’s air and heavy artillery capability, thereby helping to protect civilians from the side in the Syrian War that has been responsible for 92% of all civilians killed in the last 7 years.

Doing nothing has enabled a regime to act with impunity and kill 100,000 civilians as a result of its actions and illegally detain and torture thousands more. Air strikes against the regime wont immediately halt the Syrian War, but it could be the starting point for a genuine roadmap to end this nightmare that the UK and the rest of the world has been watching unfold for 7 years.

Going On A Blair Hunt

“Chil-chil-chil-chil-Chilcot. Chil-chil-chil-chil-Chilcot.”

We’re going on a Blair hunt.
We’re going to catch a PM
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared.

Uh-uh! Iran-Iraq war
Long wavy battlefields
One million dead

We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!

Swishy Swashy!
Swishy Swashy!
Swishy Swashy!

“Chil-chil-chil-chil-Chilcot. Chil-chil-chil-chil-Chilcot.”

We’re going on a Blair hunt.
We’re going to catch a PM.
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared.

Uh-uh! Halabja
A deep cold gas cloud
Thousands dead

We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!
Dive in!

Splash splosh!
Splash splosh!
Splash splosh!

“Chil-chil-chil-chil-Chilcot. Chil-chil-chil-chil-Chilcot.”

We’re going on a Blair hunt.
We’re going to catch a PM.
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared.

Uh-uh! Kuwait
Thick oozy oilfields
Set on fire by retreating occupying forces

We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!

Squelch squelch!
Squelch squelch!
Squelch squelch!

“Chil-chil-chil-chil-Chilcot. Chil-chil-chil-chil-Chilcot.”

We’re going on a Blair hunt.
We’re going to catch a PM.
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared.

Uh-uh! The 1991 uprising!
A big dark uprising!
Tens of thousands killed

We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no
We’ve got to go through it!

Stumble trip!
Stumble trip!
Stumble trip!

“Chil-chil-chil-chil-Chilcot. Chil-chil-chil-chil-Chilcot.”

We’re going on a Blair hunt.
We’re going to catch a PM
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared.

Uh-uh! Dujail!
A swirling whirling massacre
148 murdered

We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!

Hoooo woooo!
Hoooo woooo!
Hoooo woooo!

“Chil-chil-chil-chil-Chilcot. Chil-chil-chil-chil-Chilcot.”

We’re going on a Blair hunt.
We’re going to catch a PM.
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared.

Uh!-uh! violated UN Security Council Resolutions
14 violated UN Security Council Resolutions

We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!

Tiptoe!
Tiptoe!
Tiptoe!

What’s that?One shiny smile?
Two ears!
Two big googly eyes!
IT’S A BLAIR !!!

Quick!
Back through the violated UN Security Council Resolutions!
Tiptoe! Tiptoe! Tiptoe!

Back through the Dujail massacre!
Hoooo woooo!  Hoooo woooo!  Hoooo woooo!

Back through the 1991 uprising
Stumble trip! Stumble trip! Stumble trip!

Back through Kuwait!
Squelch squelch! Squelch squelch! Squelch squelch!

Back through Halabja!
Dive in!
Splash splosh!  Splash splosh! Splash splosh!

Back through the Iran-Iraq war!
Swishy swashy!  Swishy swashy!  Swishy swashy!

Down the road.
Get to our front door.
Open the door.
Up the stairs.
Du-du-du-du-du-du-dup.

Oh no!
We forgot to shut the door.
Back downstairs.
Du-du-du-du-du-du-dup.
Shut the door.

Back upstairs.
Du-du-du-du-du-du-dup.
Along the passage.

Into the bedroom.
Into bed.
Under the covers.
We’re not going on a Blair hunt again.

A post to show “Free Britain” how easy it is to make content on a website look nice

Thanks to Twlldun on Twitter I’ve spent half an our browsing “Free Britain” ‘s website. They are utterly bonkers, but thankfully they are also rubbish.

Take their “Our Tunes” page:

In Free Britain people who care about not going over the margins will clearly be the first against the wall...
In Free Britain people who care about not going over the margins will clearly be the first against the wall…

Not only have they embedded their videos in such a way that the videos go outside the margin they’ve created on the page for them, they also don’t seem to know that YouTube offer users the ability to embed videos in a much more pleasing way.

For example:

Bob Marley – One Love

John Lennon – Imagine

Tracy Chapman – Talkin’ bout a Revolution

But then again given their poorly-edited manifesto I think an inability to create a pleasing-on-the-eye page is the least of their problems.

Gallery

Politicians playing sport and sportsmen playing politics

If Moeen Ali gets punished for wearing a wristband, then I hope the next time a cricketer has to meet the likes of Mugabe during a game that they set him straight on what a hideous person he is and make the fine from the ICC worth it.

SNN0302AN_682_413113a

Raising Families

In many developing countries today, millions of families are in crisis and really struggling each day to survive.
• 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty on less than 80p a day

• 870 million people go hungry every day

• Farmers cannot afford seed to plant the crops that could feed their families. Others have no land, safe water or the practical skills to lay the foundations to build a secure future for their families

• In 2009, over 31 million children of primary school age in Sub-Saharan Africa were denied the chance of an education

• In 2011, 6.9 million children aged under five died from these preventable diseases – that’s almost 13 children dying needlessly every minute

 

Raising Families brings hope

Building on over 15 years’ experience of assisting needy families, Samaritan’s Purse is now working through local partners in Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa to enable:
• Access to life-saving healthcare, especially for children

• Families to have regular, nutritious meals

• Children to receive an education

• Families to generate regular sources of income and the means to create a safe and loving home

How you can help

Unlike traditional ‘sponsorship’ programmes, Raising Families ensures no long-term dependency on donors; families are taken to a sustainable future within three years.

But there’s more. Donors rightly expect us to make every penny count, to maximise the impact of their giving. So, with Raising Families we have chosen to work through trained volunteers from local churches instead of paid field staff and we have reduced ‘administration’ costs, such as creating profiles, sending photographs and providing regular reports about the individual family. We have also worked with local Churches and communities to contribute their own assets, giving them ownership and dignity and cutting dependence.

This is why we can do all that we do for families for just £10 a month!

Whatever you can afford to give, either through Direct Debit or as a single gift at this time, you can be sure that you are investing in the future of families – whether headed up by a child, a single parent, a Grandparent or a Mum and Dad – and releasing them from the chains of poverty.

What a difference a decade and a half makes.

In the mid-1960s the UK government decided to change who had de-jure sovereignty of an overseas dependency in an isolated part of the ocean far, thousands of miles from the British Isles.

Without recourse to the inhabitants of the island it evicted them and forbade them ever to return to the island, even to visit the graves of their relatives whom they had buried there. It was a callous, imperialistic and cowardly hand over of the islands to the demands of a foreign power. It doesn’t really matter that the government was a Labour one at the time of the signing of the agreement, because previous and subsequent Conservative & Labour governments all had a part to play in the shameful history of what has happened to the former inhabitants of Diego Garcia.

In 1982, another country took control of another bunch of islands thousands of miles away from the UK without the express consent of the inhabitants. This time, however, they did so by force and they did so by almost complete surprise. This time the UK government didn’t acquiesce and help deport the islanders to somewhere thousands of miles from their homes (as they could have done), this time the UK government used its full force and powers to defend the right of self-determination and self-defence that is a core part of the UN charter.

I find it odd that the rights of the Falkland islanders are often dismissed as being uneconomical by people such as Simon Jenkins, yet the self same publication he writes for rails against the injustices suffered by the people of Diego Garcia. I’ll say it now that I’m a left-wing hawk. Were I alive at the time of the Falklands conflict I would have been arguing for the rights of the islanders to be heard, and agreeing that the UK government should be using any and all legal means to restore the government that the Islanders wanted.

Certainly the jingoism in parts of the press could have been avoided. The use of help from Chile is morally dubious at best, given what Pinochet was doing in Chile at the time, but when all is said and done, the case for defending the islanders was pretty straight-forward.

The question of their “not being indigenous” arises often in discussions about the Falklands, well neither has Diego Garcia had any indigenous human population, it was first settled in the late 18th century. If the Falkland Islanders ever wish to become independent or join another country, this wish should be listened to by the UK government. The former inhabitants of Diego Garcia should have been given this choice. They had to fight for over 40 years just to get the right to visit the graves of their families.  Just before Christmas they received a horrific blow  when the court in Strasbourg told them that their right to live on Diego Garcia was revoked when they accepted compensation for their displacement.

The government is wholly wrong on this, they have fought to deny the Chagossians the right to live on Diego Garcia, just as much as they have (rightly) fought to defend the rights of the Falkland Islanders to live how they want to. This is the real imperialism, the utter disregard for the wishes of people it had a duty of care over. I hope that the UK government see sense soon and resettle those Chagossians that want to return to Diego Garcia. It’s what the Falkland Islanders would want.

(Southern) Rockhopper Penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome), Saunders Island, Falkland Islands
Copyright Ben Tubby via Creative Commons. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Falkland_Islands_Penguins_91.jpg )