Seven days ago, without consulting a public who have grown increasingly conscious of the British state’s duplicitous “humanitarian interventions”, 397 of our elected representatives voted to add British bombs to the deluge raining down upon the Syrian people. This is our perverse democracy in action. And let us be clear, in a region disfigured by the arbitrary borders of Sykes-Picot, the abstract nation state of Syria is not burning. The Syrian people are burning, by the hundreds of thousands. British bombs will expedite their murder. Will those elected representatives now lobby as vociferously for the Syrian refugees our government is helping create as they did for the airstrikes?
David Cameron stated that the aim of our latest adventurist folly is to “destroy and degrade” the erroneously declared Caliphate. Two years ago David Cameron wanted British airstrikes to “destroy and degrade” the Syrian Arab Army, who alongside Kurdish units are the most effective force engaged in a very real life or death struggle with the soldiers of Daesh. We would be forgiven for suspecting that our Prime Minister is a shameful warmonger, eager to posit the British state favourably in the eventuality of any post-conflict dismemberment of Syria’s considerable energy interests. If you’re not sitting at the table, you’re not eating.
The Prime Minister revealed that “there are 70,000 Syrian opposition fighters on the ground” prepared to support British airstrikes. This remarkable claim requires considerable investigation. Are the opposition fighters united, or disparate and disorganised? Are they currently engaging the Syrian Arab Army? If this is the case, it’s logical to assume British bombs will also hit army targets to assist our allies “on the ground”. Are the opposition fighters ideologically sympathetic to the esteemed western values of democracy and freedom, or the hateful doctrine of Daesh? If the latter is true, we need only reference the blood-soaked nightmare unleashed by NATO airstrikes in Libya when imagining the possible futures awaiting what remains of the Syrian people, already decimated by the dropping of indiscriminate and imprecise bombs from the Assad government’s helicopters and warplanes, the firing of insurgent “hell cannons”, mass shootings and sectarian massacres.
Of the 397 votes in favour of murder, 66 were cast by Labour members, defying the principled stance of their leader. Jeremy Corbyn is not the revolutionary anti-imperialist of our dreams, but he is a social democrat fully committed to the ideals of justice and peace for all. His party is not committed to these ideals, they never have been. Postwar history informs us that the Labour Party’s foreign policy is as devilish as the Conservative’s, from the Atlee government’s plan to overthrow Iranian Premier Muhammad Mossadegh, to Tony Blair’s murderous crusade to liberate Iraqi oil.
Hilary Benn, shadow foreign secretary, forcefully argued in favour of British airstrikes. He evoked the memory of the International Brigades, who fought against Franco’s fascists in Spain, and in a bait and switch move distorted the idea of socialist internationalism in order to strengthen the case for imperialist intervention. Benn berated inaction, describing a “moral and practical duty”. Surely he is aware of the British state’s warm embrace with the very forces that nourish Daesh? Cynical inaction negates scrutiny of the regular transfer of money from our regional policemen in the Gulf to the erroneously declared Caliphate. Our government is completely idle in regards to the expropriated oil the so-called Islamic State trades within Turkish territory, while allowing the flow of Daesh soldiers and weapons across the border of a key NATO ally to continue unchallenged. When my Armenian sisters and brothers in Kessab explained that the Turkish military had facilitated the capture of their town and desecration of their holy sites by Jabhat al-Nusra, they were initially dismissed as conspiracy theorists. It is our government’s moral and practical duty to abandon this poisonous hypocrisy, above all else.
Members from both sides of the house made the case for war, oscillating between being coolly analytical and wildly impassioned, from a position of security that privilege affords. Arguments were made by professional politicians, safe in the knowledge that their night sky will never be broken by the scream of Tornado fighter jets, their children’s dreams will never be obliterated by Brimstone missiles, their lives will never be reduced to collateral damage.
Each one of the 397 “yes” votes was made with the acceptance that British bombs will kill Syrian people. David Cameron stated that the objective was to “go after these terrorists in their heartlands, from where they are plotting to kill British people”. If keeping “us” safe is the explicit aim, the implicit subtext is that innocent “others” have to die, because our existence is more valuable than their existence. Is it feasible that Brimstone missiles, revered for their terrifying accuracy, could be deployed from the skies above Paris, Brussels or London? Do marginalised, radicalised European citizens pose more of a legitimate threat than soldiers of the erroneously declared Caliphate? White lives are at the very least afforded a level of humanity. Pray for Paris. Pray for Beirut? Pray for Aden, Baghdad, Kano and Tunis? The most basic level of humanity has been denied to the Syrian people. To our parliamentarians, Syrian people are not complex, valuable individuals. To our parliamentarians, Syrian people are brown bodies awaiting violent death.
Every member that voted for British bombs to rain down upon the Syrian people must now demand unequivocally that our government fully embraces the people fleeing the death and destruction. Every member that lobbied for war must now lobby for the British state to transform its racist attitude towards the refugee crisis and welcome the Syrian people to our cold island. For if you are prepared to accept that British bombs will destroy the homes of Syrian people in order to keep you safe, you must open the doors to your own home and welcome them in.
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Robert Kazandjian is an educator and writer. He works with vulnerable children in North London. His writing seeks to challenge inequality, in all its guises. He has previously written for Ceasefire Magazine on racism in Israel, gender politics and hip hop music, and the necessity of Armenian Genocide recognition. He blogs poetry at makemymark.tumblr.com. He cites Douglas Dunn, Pablo Neruda, James Baldwin and Nas as major influences. He tweets from @RKazandjian
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