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Chris Mullin, Ex-MP, Voted Against Iraq. This Is Why He'd Vote No On Syria

"Surely we have learned by now from our experience in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya that, when you take the lid off one of these regimes you unleash the fires of hell."

by Chris Mullin
02 December 2015, 6:29pm

Chris Mullin was the Labour MP for Sunderland South from 1987 to 2010. He was one of the 139 Labour MPs to vote against the invasion of Iraq. Here, he writes the speech he would deliver, were he still in parliament today.

"Mr Speaker, in the absence of any credible plan to retake the territory controlled by Isil, I am against taking part in the bombing of Syria. I am not a pacifist. I could be persuaded, but I have not been persuaded. I accept that the United Kingdom must play a part in helping to defeat Isil. There are many things we can do, short of bombing. I am not against the use of airpower in support of a just cause. I would have supported the use of airpower in support of any credible ground force. It was right last year to use of airpower to assist the defenders Kobani, on the Turkish border. It was right to use airpower recently in support of the Kurds fighting to recapture Sinjar. It makes makes sense, too, to isolate the Isil strongholds in Raqqa and Mosul and to cut them off from each other.

There are already quite enough people dropping bombs on Syria.

But there are already quite enough people dropping bombs on Syria and, in the absence of a plan, I remain to be convinced that more are needed. Listening to the prime minister and his colleagues in recently, one has the impression that their main motivation is that they can't bear to be left out. Or that bombing has become a substitute for more effective intervention.

Nor should we forget that there are a large number of civilians trapped in the Isil strongholds. At least 200,000 in Raqqa alone. Inevitably, there will be many casualties. Indeed, I would be surprised if the number of civilian dead from allied bombing has not already exceeded the number of victims of the recent atrocity in Paris. It is just that we don't see them and their families on our television screens at night. Indeed, to judge by some of the images on the news bulletins of late, one could be forgiven for thinking that bombing is some kind of video game. The point about bombing is that it looks utterly different from the ground looking up than it does from the sky looking down.

Surely we have learned by now from our experience in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya that, when you take the lid off one of these regimes you unleash the fires of hell.

There has been a lot of talk about precision bombing in recent days. I don't believe a word of it. Casualties of NATO's precision bombing of Belgrade during the last Balkan war included a train packed with civilians, the Chinese consulate, a radio station and, in Kosovo, a convoy of Albanian refugees. And when the Serbian regime finally capitulated and withdrew its tanks and armour from Kosovo it became clear that far fewer had been put out of action than had been claimed.

The Americans in particular have a shocking record when it comes to inflicting civilian casualties. Why, as recently as October, they bombed a Medicine Sans Frontieres hospital in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan killing at least 30 medical staff and patients. The Kunduz incident was only remarkable in that they owned up immediately; usually they obfuscate. In the first Iraq war they fired two laser guided bombs into the Amiriyah air raid shelter in a suburb of Baghdad, killing more than 400 people. In Afghanistan and Iraq they have bombed hospitals, schools and even wedding parties. Don't talk to me about precision bombing.

One final point, Mr Speaker. Ministers have repeatedly made the point that the removal of President Assad remains our objective. Were that to happen, I have no doubt that the result would be the disintegration of the few parts of Syria where there is still some sort of functioning government. We should be careful what we wish for. Surely we have learned by now from our experience in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya that, when you take the lid off one of these regimes you unleash the fires of hell."

@chrismullinexmp

More on VICE:

The Arguments for Britain to Bomb Syria Are Completely Insane

I Asked Anti-War Protesters in London Why They Think Bombing Syria Is a Bad Idea

Those Bizarre 'Open Letters' to Isis Are a Cry for Help

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