Don’t Bomb Syria

By Charlie Bird of Veterans For Peace UK

There are a number of false assumptions that have sprung up in the debate over whether the UK should join in the bombing campaign against ISIS/ISIL/Da’esh in Syria. I suspect that that they have been encouraged by politicians who hope that the issue will cause some domestic party political collateral damage, particularly to the Labour Party leadership. But bombing Syria is not a party political issue; it is a moral one quite separate from politics. And a refusal to support the bombing campaign is not a lack of support for the French and all others who have suffered at the hands of ISIS, nor is it a sign of being weak or half-hearted when faced with the appalling atrocities and perversion of Islam perpetrated by ISIS. We are being led to believe that the decisions are binary ones: bomb Syria or we fail to support our allies, bomb Syria or we are not serious in the fight against ISIS. This is convenient shorthand to shame us into supporting a decision to join the bombing campaign.

In the aftermath of the atrocities in Paris (which Iraqis and Syrians living in areas under ISIS control will recognise from their own experience) there is tremendous pressure on Governments to “do something” and to be seen to be doing it. The action becomes almost more important than the objective we are trying to achieve. Most of us can agree that ISIS needs to be eradicated both in terms of its presence on the ground and in terms of its ideology. If that is the case, then we should be able to work backwards to find the actions or combination of actions that will achieve those objectives, rather than hoping that our added presence in the already overcrowded skies above Syria will miraculously lead to the collapse of ISIS.

There is general agreement that the UK’s participation in the bombing campaign will be of greater symbolic rather than military significance. But we are told that it will help make the UK a safer place. That is what we were told about the UK’s involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Eliza Manningham-Buller, the former Director General of MI5 told the Iraq Inquiry that the invasion of Iraq actually increased the terrorist threat to the UK. Dropping bombs on Syria is likely to encourage nascent “home grown” terrorists in the UK who may not be members, in the conventional sense, of ISIS but who are sympathetic to and inspired by them. There are many ways other than bombing Syria in which we can demonstrate real and practical support both for France and for the military and ideological struggle against ISIS. Provision of intelligence, resources and logistical support, tactical and strategic advice as well as a leading role in the search for a political settlement in Syria may be less visible and dramatic than news footage of RAF aircraft dropping bombs, but arguably may be more effective.

But for me, the final argument against the UK’s participation in the bombing campaign is that however smart our bombs may be, we will kill innocent civilians. There hasn’t been a recent bombing campaign without civilian casualties. And even if, by some miracle, RAF bombs don’t kill the innocents whom ISIS use as human shields, some of our “allies” in the campaign certainly will. They have already done so, and we will be associated with those killings. No doubt we will express our profound regret……ISIS have are responsible for the most disgusting offences against the people under their occupation, including crucifixion. The shrapnel from our bombs will tear through the flesh of the innocent like nails. Make no mistake; it will be done in our name.



  1. Gus Hales says:

    I sometimes think our politicians only exist for knee jerk reactions, expediency and political posturing’s. We need some intelligent thinkers.

    It took two World Wars to destroy the concept of Lebensraum and now we think we can bomb away the Levant with a few surgical bombing strikes.

    This problem is 1400 years old. The West has spent the last 100 years since the Sykes-Picot agreement cultivating this very problem. Air strikes will only exacerbate the situation and ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī ‘l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām are not going anywhere, they will merely morph. Their current manifestation through Wahhabi/Salafi jihadists are sponsored by Saudi Arabia, we need to be very careful who we let in to Europe and bombing won’t stop them.

    Stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia and other gulf states and there’s a good chance their resources will dry up. However, how many Labour and Tory politicians have Arms firms in their constituencies, it is not a moral question for self interested politicians to vote on. It is a human problem for all of us to be involved with and we don’t need more bombing.

  2. Willy Bach says:


    A sound article with which I agree up to a point. You can’t bomb without killing civilians, and you never know if they are innocent, but they are not combatants and we can all read the Geneva Conventions. There is never a ‘moral case’ for bombing. That is just Orwellian language. Worse still, some of Britain’s allies, including the US, have no conscience about killing civilians, medical workers, journalists, anyone, as they recently demonstrated in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Let us also not forget that some of Britain’s unsavoury allies are pretty cool with using cluster bombs and depleted uranium on civilian areas, as the Saudis are doing right now in Yemen. The British government, ever-eager to sell even more weapons to the blood-drenched despots, utters not a word about their atrocities.

    It would be better to choke off the banking services to ISIS and stop their oil sales than to supply weapons and food to other combatants. Better still, if Britain had any reputation left as an honest broker, rather than an obedient vassal to the US Empire, helping with both humanitarian aid and getting various parties to proposed cease-fire/peace talks. This won’t please the gnomes in the City of London financial district, but there we are.

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