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The Government’s defeat in the House of Commons over taking military action in Syria demonstrates a rare circumstance where the public are listened to by the MPs and widespread unwillingness to create another situation we are still overseeing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yet, as another day begins since the use of chemical weapons, allegedly by Assad, the propaganda war will begin and we will be told that we have failed the Syrian people by voting against; the UK Government will denounce its citizens as misinformed, misguided and attack anti-war MPs for their ill thought-out and ‘despicable’ (as Michael Gove shouted) choices. But this is not the case.
By voting no to military action yesterday, that is all MPs, representing us, have done. With public support for military intervention sitting at figures between 8 and 12 percent, depending on your source, the case for it was always going to be undermined. And that is because people recognised the failings of the Iraq and Afghanistan war: the massive loss of lives; the lies told by the Government; and, the failure for the conflicts to end after over a decade. In addition, the increased prevalence of whistleblowers, such as Wikileaks and Chelsea Manning, have raised the profile of the war crimes and terrible consequences of Western military intervention. Many now have the opinion that using bombs as a way of ending a conflict only makes the situation worse. Perhaps, the deep misunderstanding of the way to end a conflict has caused deep resentment by groups in the Middle-East and hence given way to the increased membership of terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda. I am in no way condoning the activities such organisations partake in, but I can see a possible motivation; you wrecked our country with your imperialist use of your military muscle, we’ll do what we can to show you how reckless you have been.
It is for these reasons that people oppose military intervention in Syria. The motion presented to the House yesterday, including the amendment, did not present us with the dichotomy that we are told we were presented with. It was not so simple as black and white that it was either bomb Syria or sit back and watch Syria bomb itself. The third option, ignored by the motions and the amendments, although recognised by many members of the house in their speeches, and unsuccessfully proposed as an amendment by Green MP Caroline Lucas, was that we used more peaceful, negotiating tactics, based on humanitarian aid and diplomacy to end the conflict. A far less bloody solution than was proposed by the leaders of the three main parties in the house. It was this view that was ever-dominant throughout the debate yet, ironically, no-one was given the choice to vote for it. The closest that MPs could get to voting for peaceful action, was to vote against the motion and the amendment, which called for military action.
Hence, the opinions that we are presented with today, that we have ‘let the people of Syria down’, we have ‘ruled out any action’ and that we have somehow given ‘succour’ to Assad completely disregard this third option. It is unfortunate that we live in a world where the two most powerful nation’s leaders are bloodthirsty, hotheaded and quick to hit the launch button. At least, with some stroke of luck, a majority of thirteen members of the House swung the vote in the way of sense.