Syria: The right decision for the wrong reason?

A statesman emerges: Ed Miliband's decisions on Syria have revealed courage and determination to do what is right. They show he has the potential to be a great British statesman.

A statesman emerges: Ed Miliband’s decisions on Syria have revealed courage and determination to do what is right. They show he has the potential to be a great British statesman.

It looked as though we were all heading for another pointless adventure in the Middle East, but a day in politics really is a long time, isn’t it?

On Tuesday evening, there seemed to be consensus. The leaders of the main UK political parties had met to discuss the situation in Syria – in particular the evidence that an attack involving chemical weapons had taken place – and had parted in broad agreement that military action was warranted in order to discourage the use of such devices.

But then Labour’s Ed Miliband changed his mind. It seems likely he held a meeting with members of his own party who helped him devise an alternative plan.

In his blog on Tuesday, Michael Meacher laid down several reasons for delaying any new military adventure:

  • The UN weapons inspectors currently working in Syria have not had enough time to find conclusive proof of chemical weapon use. Attacking on the basis of the evidence we currently hold would be reminiscent of the attack on Iraq, where we were assured Saddam Hussein held weapons of mass destruction. We later discovered – to our shame – that he did not;
  • Where 100,000 citizens have already been killed by conventional means, it seems extremely odd to use the deaths of 1,000 by other means as an excuse to wade into the fray; and
  • What about international law? How would Russia and China react if the UN Security Council, on which they both sit, rejected military action but the UK – along with the USA and others – went ahead with it anyway? And wouldn’t this light a powder keg in the Middle East, kicking off a larger, regional conflict – the outcome of which cannot be predicted?

Mr Miliband concluded that it would be far better to wait for stronger evidence and he notified David Cameron that he would be tabling an amendment on Syria when Parliament is recalled today (Thursday). This would insist that a vote should be taken only after the weapons inspectors have delivered their report. He said Parliament should only agree criteria for action – not write a blank cheque (for those who want war).

This writer was delighted – the decision was almost exactly what I had suggested when I responded to a poll on the LabourList blog site, although I had added in my comment that the only decision open to Parliament was to offer humanitarian aid to non-combatants affected by the fighting between the different Syrian factions.

The decision indicated not only that Labour had learned its lesson from the Blair-era decisions to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, but that Mr Miliband had also paid attention to the will of the British people; those opposing another war outnumber those supporting it by around two to one.

Mr Cameron was now in a very difficult position as, without Labour’s support and with only limited backing from his own party, it was entirely possible that he would be defeated if he suggested military action in the Commons today.

Defeat in a major vote is, of course, something that no government voluntarily provokes. He had no choice but to change his mind, and now Parliament is being recalled to approve humanitarian aid and agree to the course of action put forward by Mr Miliband.

So now all my wishes appear likely to be granted.

It is the correct decision. But it was not the decision Cameron wanted. He wanted war.

It is also a decision that has been clearly dictated by the actions of the Opposition leader. Let’s make no bones about it, Ed Miliband called this tune and David Cameron danced to it.

Let’s look at what Michael Meacher had to say about this. It is illuminating because it comes from a backbencher who has been outspoken in criticism of Mr Miliband in the past. He wrote in his blog: “It singles out Ed Miliband as a man of inner strength and integrity who can take the gritty decisions when they are most needed, and this is undoubtedly one of those times… The hardest thing for a Leader of the Opposition to do, bereft of any executive authority, is to challenge the prevailing structure of power and change it or even overturn it. No other Opposition Leader has succeeded in this as well as Ed Miliband.

“We have already seen him take on Murdoch over BSkyB and stop the biggest concentration of media power in UK history in its tracks, and then almost single-handedly block the press counter-attack against Leveson which would have left newspapers as unaccountable as ever.”

So it seems we will see the right decision taken, albeit for the wrong reasons – thanks to the courage, leadership and statesmanship of Mr Miliband.

There’s just one further question: If the big decision is being taken after the weapons inspectors report back, and they are unlikely to do so until Monday (we’re told)… That’s after MPs were scheduled to return to Parliament. The emergency recall is therefore an unnecessary extravagance.

I wonder how much MPs will be allowed to claim for it on expenses?

(Note: This has been written while events continue to develop. All information was accurate at the time of writing.)

31 thoughts on “Syria: The right decision for the wrong reason?

  1. beetleypete

    Maybe Miliband is finding his feet at long last, but will Cameron really take any notice? I hope so Mike, we will have to wait and see. Regards, Pete.

  2. Harvey Paul

    Miliband is not finding his feet he just does not want to be tarred with the Blair war brush, the Iraq war damaged Labour big time. I very much doubt Miliband came to this choice with his own mind. Labour has played a good move in a war as they seem to want to look the good guy and at the same time screw Cameron. Hague is a twat and Cameron is losing credability every day. I would still never again in my life vote for Labour, that said I would never vote for Tories either. I hope we do not enter another muslim country-based war. We need to stop pandering to the US and get a backbone.

  3. Jon

    Lets just remember that none of these people will make any real difference – or should i say bring any real benefit to the lives of the majority. We know that in essence they are all the same and will say anything to get into power and then ignore the people for the majority of their term in office.

    I also agree with the words of a friend of mine:

    “Wars these days are no longer commanded by generals. Or even politicians. These days it’s all poll-tested taglines. Think tank-approved strategies. Steering committees and focus groups to set policy.

    Because War = Profit.

    It’s a clever marketing con job to ensure that people remain emotionally engaged in the war, but scared enough for their anger to be placated, and distracted enough to not notice the steady advance of the police state back home… or the rapid unraveling of the global financial system.”

    While i too agree with Ed here – i wouldn’t give him the time of day because they are all involved in one giant corrupt political, social and financial system and until we start to talk about alternative structures nothing will change for the better and the illusion that these people actually care will continue to blind.

    Remember what Einstein said? “”Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

    Keep voting folks!! – Unless you want real change that is…..

    1. Mike Sivier

      Another member of the anti-voting lobby, I see. If you want real change, refusing to vote absolutely won’t bring it. You need to get involved in bringing a candidate forward who will push for it, and then get that candidate elected – and you can’t do that without voting for them.

      1. Jon

        A candidate that will push for change – Like Obama you mean??

        The whole system is corrupt – therefore voting for anyone is supporting the system.

        Currently 51% overrules the remaining 49%

        No one candidate will ever have the power to change anything anyhow. You believe the PM or the President of the USA has the power to make the obvious dramatic necessary changes?

        You believe once in power, any of them will change the fact that besides being millionaires they can still charge us mortgage interest on their homes? Not to mention all the other morally bankrupt and corrupt benefits they receive?

        Why on earth would anyone want to support a system like that?

        We need a new system that makes the old one obsolete – just like Bucky suggested.

        And the really shocking thing is that there is not even a debate about any alternatives to our current systems – which are without doubt the root cause of so much inequality.

        Put whatever label you like on me Mike – but i am not part of any “anti-voting lobby” – I just choose not to support such a morally repugnant system (and individuals) in the first place – and i don’t believe that voting for anyone is going to change anything ever.

        You’re doing nothing but supporting the very system that keeps you enslaved and abused – and most keep coming back for more…..

        To me, that is insanity.

      2. Jon

        “But you can’t change anything; by definition you are opting out of the system altogether and leaving it to the very people you criticise.”

        You are correct Mike – and by voting and participating in the system you are supporting it to its very core. Hasn’t history already proved that no matter who we put in charge nothing really changes – and now its “out of control” corrupt mixed with business and finance. So, your point is?…..”It all depends on who goes into politics” – really?? You really believe that?

        But this is why we need to show we don’t want current political and economic systems – they’re systems that only really benefits the already wealthy minority as all your good work proves over and over again. And of course you’re far from the only one doing such work.

        It will never be changed from the inside – but i wish you the very best of luck in doing so and genuinely hope i am wrong.

      3. Mike Sivier

        Have a read of the comments by Billy Carlin and especially aussieeh – the bit pointing out that Labour was changed by people who infiltrated the party and perverted it is very much to the point. You CAN change the system from the inside; we see it all the time. If you don’t vote, you’re not showing you don’t want current political and economic systems – you’re showing you’re not going to do anything about it at all.

      4. HomerJS

        Actually one of the problems we have is people not voting. For instance I don’t think that the poor would be so victimised if they voted in high numbers. Democracy is about voting, and strange though it may seem (from a catch-22 perspective), we couldn’t realistically change to another system without voting on it. I don’t really think that democracy is the problem; it is the lack of quality candidates (parties) to vote for. We need to find alternatives (from outside the big 3), and preferably not UKIP. People have tried/are trying to create alternatives, but just aren’t doing it very successfully, while existing parties (Greens) don’t seem to be grasping what is a marvellous opportunity.

  4. Nick

    David Cameron is in the same mould as the Syrian government as was Tony Blair and mrs thatcher to them killing more innocent people in Syria though negligent use of how they fire they weapons is a joke

    Ed was right to see what everyone else thinks and to way up the evidence first
    killing more innocent people is never the way forward any fool can fire a weapon badly we saw this farce in Iraq where over a million died

    as i say Cameron would like to kill anyone abroad if he could but he’s not got the power of say Russia or china he ‘s just a toff from Oxford and with regret that’s how the world sees him

  5. Gavin MacMillan

    “It singles out Ed Miliband as a man of inner strength and integrity who can take the gritty decisions when they are most needed…”

    I wish… So where has Rubberband been while the coa-lie-tion have been ruthlessly dismantling the welfare state and imposing a top-down restructuring of the NHS in advance of privatisation, not to mention the partial sell-offs already happening, such as the sale of the Blood Service to Romney owned Bain Capital – none of which was in any manifesto or even half-way mandated by the electorate.Where has he been in standing up to the tax-breaks for the super rich and the corporations they own?, The tax breaks for energy companies determined to fill their boots by fracking, regardless of any environmental costs? The “bedroom tax”? Atos assessments? Slave labour through Back to Work? Cut, after cut, after cut in State benefits to the poorest, who can least afford it while IDs blatantly lies through his teeth and blatantly “invents” statistic to justify this? Expansion of “free” schools at the expense of State schools & total restructuring of secondary education? The badger cull, which flies in the face of the scientific study into culling, and is opposed by a huige number of people? The complete failure of the “greenest government ever” to promote green energy and doing the “dash for gas” instead? “Hug a hoodie” Cameron’s government’s interference in the judicial process following the riots 2 years ago leading to disproportionate sentencing – 6 months for a bottle of water, 4 years for a tv? Even the constant attack on and blame of his own party for the current economic crisis Etc.? etc.? etc???

    I accept that almost any alternative within the UK political mainstream is better than the current crew of ideological wreckers who are currently in charge, but the bottom line is that Milliband and his NuOldLiebor are only marginally better than the coalition. They still totally subscribe to neo-lib economic policy, they still pretty much support the banks, and bankers, despite what they achieved in 2008 and which they are heading towards again as they use the hundreds of billions – even trillions – in bailouts and quantitive easing pumped out by the BoE to buy into the stock-market and buy up companies and businesses to swell their own investment portfolios, rather than use this money to lend to business, etc.. The current surge in both the UK & US markets is driven, in part at least, by massive bank investment of government – ie taxpayer – fronted money. Where is Milliband, & Labour’s voice on this? And what happens when there is the inevitable “correction” in the markets when it reaches “peak bubble” point? Another banking crisis? More taxpayer bailouts?

    The man has about as much inner strength and integrity as his near namesake – a rubber band. And a cheap, Chinese, mass produced one, guaranteed that 4 out of 5 will fail, variety at that!

      1. HomerJS

        To be fair Mike, the discussion is about Ed Miliband’s leadership as much as about Syria. Gavin’s points are well made, and although I would agree that they would perhaps be more effective in a different thread, they could be more relevant that might first appear. Firstly we should not ignore the potential economic motives for an attack on Syria. Secondly we should also not ignore the possibility of using an attack on Syria to distract people from other issues that they might otherwise become aware of.
        And of course when discussing Ed’s good times, we should not forget the many times he has failed us, and personally I would rather he stood up for the people of this country than the people of Syria. That may sound a bit parochial, but I’m just not sure we should be interfering in Syria, and not convinced that either side deserve our support (other than as you say humanitarian aid for refugees).

      2. Mike Sivier

        Well he’s done two major things since he came back from wherever he’s been on summer holiday – he went around Europe seeking support against austerity, and now this. Both have my unadulterated support, and it is to be hoped that, if enough people think as I do, he will continue in similar vein and reform the Labour policies that we all know to be in poor shape, starting with social security.

  6. Billy Carlin

    Anyone who thinks that Milliband and Labour would behave any differently to the Tories/Lib-Dems over this if they were in power is sadly deluded. ALL of the political parties are controlled by the Elite Bankers, Royalty and Vatican and they work to these peoples AGENDA.

    Labour followed their agenda with regard to economy, and the deliberate bringing it down when they were in power including what is happening re ATOS, etc. and the Coalition government is just carrying this AGENDA on. Labour carried out these people’s agenda with regard to Iraq etc. especially with their involvement (Blair and others) in the murder of their own citizens in the 7/7 London Bombings and they would be doing the exact same just now if they were still in power with regard to Syria.

    ALL political parties should be banned as they are too easily controlled and are not in fact democratic – these parties operate illegally every time they use whips to make MPs etc. vote for the parties (outside influence Elites etc.) agenda or using blackmail such as the MP will not be selected to stand again if they do not toe the party line – against Common Law. We need independent people in our parliaments that are there for the benefit of everyone with a constitution to make sure they stick to it with legal threat if they do not.

    You can tell that ALL political parties ARE controlled with the fact that the financial and legal systems are corrupt and against Common Law and how the parties eagerly take part in this system without questioning it and running away from commenting on it when it is brought to their attention – as if they do not know anyway – they do!

    Jon and Gavin are bang on above and there will be no change to the fortunes of the people and this country (and the other countries) until the system is changed, political parties banned and every single politician, banker, etc. etc. etc. are brought to justice for what has been, and is , going on.

      1. Nick

        the system is changed mike when you get the right sort of government in place and not until

        your looking for a government that is seen by everyone as friendly cooperative and transparent a person you go to when you have a local problem crop up a good listener someone who has always put others first a person like me for example Ban Ki-moon is another person sir David Attenborough yes they are out there but the public need to be able to see who is good and who is bad and if the people cant distinguish between the too than your stuck

        David Cameron is NOT this person neither was Tony Blair nor Mrs thatcher

        over the past 35 we have only ever chosen bad this is a UK trait and cant be rectified if ever as the people of the uk in general like bad and selfish as it fits and mirror images themselves so what we have today as government the same will be for tomorrow and always

      2. Mike Sivier

        I disagree. It all depends on who goes into politics. If good, proper-thinking people like ourselves boycott the process because of all the corruption, then ONLY corrupt or mean-spirited people can end up in Parliament. Or so it seems to me.

      3. Nick

        but the leaders mike are chosen by the party which are bad bad is equal with wealth there is no scope for a decent person to become leader neither i or Ban Ki-moon would be able to make the leader of the government

        Cameron’s speech now on Syria is excellent but is fatally flawed as he has allowed thousands of sick and disabled to die through the welfare reform process and the Syrian government knows that only too well

        By cameron allowing the DWP/ATOS to kill many of the sick and disabled in the welfare reform process he has made his case for a military strike on Syria weak as you only need one MP to stand up and say what about the deaths of our sick and disabled

        And then that’s game over for the PM hence the tension in the commons this afternoon as Cameron keeps going on about all the deaths in Syria and as all the MPs are thinking yes we know and we know about all of our deaths that the sick and disabled have suffered.

        I myself have lost all my many on-line friends bar one, Sue Marsh, over the past 3 years all dead at the hands of the DWP HOW DO YOU THINK I FEEL ?

        Even on my estate i have lost friends to the DWP. Syria’s not the only one up the creek that’s for sure.

      4. Nick

        it’s not looking good for the middle east and i would expect the USA to go this alone as there will be attacks on Israel i feel and the UK is best left out._

        _David Cameron is not the ideal person at this time to be in charge of the UK government as many sick and disabled people have died on his watch in going through the welfare reform process. This may seam trivial to some as these deaths were not direct killings but of a welfare policy change. However a death is a death no matter what the circumstances and these welfare reform deaths do represent the killing of the sick and disabled prematurely and it would be good for other world leaders to voice there view point on this matter

        __You cant expect to kill your own sick and disabled by a badly written welfare reform bill and expect other world leaders to turn a blind eye nor can you expect the prime minister to be trusted on a chemical weapon vote hence the non approval of action by china and Russia along with mp’s on both sides of the house of commons _

        _To be a world leader you will have had to have been transparent and with great integrity at all times throughout your leadership if the world is to take you seriously with regret David Cameron is not this person and is now found wonting by other world leaders and in all probability is now stuck in going forward with his war with Syria now over thank god _

        _Had David Cameron not attacked the sick and disabled along with the bedroom tax evictions in which disabled children are suffering along with many families having to move out from the area in which they have lived in some cases for many years then the vote tonight would have been plain sailing as he would have been classed as a trusted man with information from a trusted source and china along with Russia would have been on board but all the time the rest of the world hears of our sick and disabled being under attack with some dying as a result from all of the stress placed upon them it’s no wonder the full backing for a strike against Syria is in disarray not only at home here but also from across the world

      5. Mike Sivier

        The other world leaders won’t voice any opinions on the deaths of sick and disabled people on benefits in this country – not while they want Cameron to do things for, and with, them.

        Was Mao Tse Tung transparent? Did Nixon have great integrity? Did Stalin have either of those qualities? They were all world leaders in their time.

        The vote had nothing to do with the sick, the disabled or the bedroom tax, and everything to do with the lack of evidence in favour of an attack.

      6. Nick

        if i were a mp i would never side or support my leader with someone who kills others by whatever means

        if your out to kill others by whatever means then your a killer it’s as simple as that it’s in your DNA and there nothing anyone can do about it hence the world has prisons so the public can remain safe to some extent

        David Cameron lost pure and simple as he is not to be trusted as he has a way of killing people in a very barbaric way the way of silence in the privacy of ones home to have a letter dropped on them to place that person in a deliberate panic knowing and hoping it kills them

        Syria way is one of the bullet as it always has been throughout their history most middle eastern countries have this policy china and Russia are more likely to kill there groups of people they don’t like in secrecy

      7. Mike Sivier

        That’s a very good line about a letter dropped… to place a person in a deliberate panic, knowing and hoping it kills them. I’m going to borrow that for today’s article.

      8. Nick

        i don’t see that as that is David Camerons main personalty he destroys peoples lives all of the world leaders must know this there not all thick

        if were a leader of a country i would over time wont to know warts and all about all of my world peers

      9. Billy Carlin

        I’m not saying boycott the system. I am saying we need people like ourselves that know what is going on to get out and let everyone know what is going on. I know we are all doing this via our blogs etc. but we need to get the message through the doors as well and get all the people that know what is going on to stand in local and national elections. If you put the truth out then it is up to the people to stop moaning, check out what you are saying and do something about it – you have to be blunt and tell them this as the crooks in parliament are getting away with everything because they do not do these things. You do not just wait till elections to do this you do it a long time before then to get your name known in your area plus you doing this shows up the politicians because they will run away and squirm when it comes to the truth plus you should not need to keep leafleting if you can get the people to follow you on your blog or website.

        I have already started this here myself in Paisley and have got other people who are going to stand that are aware of what is going on and who will have nothing to do with political parties and we are also looking for more people to stand as well. Get together with other people and buy a cheap HP 5550 office printer for leafleting. Too many people sit stuck in front of the TV – that is what it was designed for – when they could be out doing all this for their and everyone else’s benefit.

  7. aussieeh

    I agree with Jon, Gavin and Billy, but Mike is right you can’t change something unless you are involved. After all that’s how Labour were changed and the unions, in fact any organization that stood up for the workers of this country, they were infiltrated by right leaning traitors who changed them from the inside. An old friend of mine, who was a member of the Labour party, got really disillusioned with them, he is educated, unlike me, I left secondary school at the age of 15 with no qualifications, and my real education came after school. He even edited a couple of papers one in the states. Any way this mate handed back his membership card and a few years ago decided to stand as an independent in the local elections.
    The first time he stood he came 4th I think. He asked for a contribution to help the second time he stood, I gave him £20, it left me short but anything to help. The last two times he stood rather than give him money I could ill afford to lose, I offered to help him with his campaign. He needed 5000 leaflets, I bought from the supermarket cheap printer paper, we designed an A5 leaflet, 2 out of an A4 sheet, I got from ebay some cheap refillable cartridges and some cheap ink, and then set about printing them on a bog standard Epsom dx4800 printer. I also bought one of those cheap paper cutters £2 I paid for it, you know the ones with a blade that slides along a plastic rule, it took a while to cut the leaflets. I started this a couple of months before the election. You have to take into account we are both disabled, myself rather more than him, but I did what I could. Even helped him to post some on one of my good days. We talked to people on the doorstep, in the street, at the local supermarket, rich and poor alike.
    My reward was a visit to the count at the Reebok Stadium, where I met an old work colleague, he is, or was a bent accountant, who had been the local Tory bigwig, and our wards Tory councillor, only GOD knows why he doesn’t even live round here. What was a picture was the look on his face, when I shook his hand and reminded him of who I was, he knew, I knew of his past and he couldn’t wait to get away. The night wore on and I watched my mates pile of ballot papers grow, he came 3rd , beating the Libdems, the Greens, EDL, everyone apart from Labour and the Tories. What he did do was split the vote and we ended up with a Tory councillor again. Who only spends our portion of the kitty on the Tory area that voted for him. This time my friend says he wants to stand for a different ward and hopefully we get a Labour councillor.
    The point is, you have to get involved; you have to stand and fight your corner, because no one else will. Get organised, sit, plan, set out your game plan, get someone to stand in the local elections, I even got my grandchildren involved posting leaflets. Not voting is a vote for them to continue with the corruption, they want apathy, they would be happy if only their ilk and offspring voted.
    We have to get rid of this Ultra Corrupt, Lying, Thieving, Warmongering, Morally bankrupt, cabal of Sociopathic, Murdering Fascist, Treacherous Scum, before they completely ransack our nation. Before they turn us into nothing more than a nation of Slaves. C’mon lads do your bit lets all fight together, get all your family and friends involved. I’ve no time for politicians, I think the world would be a better place without any of them, they are surplus to requirements. Politicians cannot solve any problems they don’t know how, so they cause all the problems instead. But in the meantime we have to join and fight for that change, even if it means voting.

  8. Gavin MacMillan

    Here is an excellent article re the inconsistency of the US position on the Syrian chemical weapons attack – the position basically followed by Cameron & Clegg.

    And I note the usual crew of suspects such as Shirley Williams are all for the UK going in mob-handed if required. How are people like this ever given a hint of credibility by mainstream media? They are discredited again and again, but by sheer dint of just being there for so long, they are treated as elder statesmen/women, with a valuable contribution to make. The only decent speech was made by George Galloway, though it galls me to say this, as I am no fan of “Gorgeous” George, and his constant self-promotion…

    Meanwhile, Cameron and on Radio 4 this evening, his lick-spittle defence secretary, Philip Hammond, now parrot how of course no decisions will be made until the UN inspectors report is in, but meanwhile Assad’s use of these heinous weapons is totally unacceptable, so it is imperative we bomb Syria and kill several hundred/thousand people in revenge. So let’s wait till the trial verdict is in, but meanwhile we have already found him guilty! I just hope Ban Ki-moon has the strength to stand up to the huge pressure he must be under from the US to cave in and pronounce Assad guilty.

    1. Mike Sivier

      I haven’t read the article yet but I appreciate the sentiment in your last paragraph. Anyway, how can it be justice for us to intervene in a conflict that has killed 100,000 Syrians, by killing even more of them?

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