2003 All Over Again? On Eve of Syria Vote, UK Warned Against 'Rush to War'

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2003 All Over Again? On Eve of Syria Vote, UK Warned Against 'Rush to War'

'We must do everything we can to stop MPs voting the UK into its fourth war on a Muslim country in 14 years,' says Stop the War coalition

Thousands turned out in the streets of London over the weekend to voice their opposition to expanded war, holding signs that read, "Don't bomb Syria" and "Drop Cameron, not bombs." (Photo: Alisdare Hickson/flickr/cc)

With members of the British Parliament set to vote Wednesday on whether to send UK warplanes to bomb Syria, activists are staging an emergency demonstration in London on Tuesday evening to protest an "ever-widening war" they denounce as incoherent, dangerous, and possibly illegal.

Citing the UK's vote to invade Iraq in 2003, the Stop the War coalition warns that Britain is "being sucked into another illegal, open-ended conflict which will achieve nothing beyond giving the whole cycle of violence another spin."

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said Monday he would grant his MPs a "free vote" on the matter, setting the stage for passage of Prime Minister David Cameron's motion for airstrikes. According to news outlets, Cameron had previously said he would not call a debate and vote on the issue unless he was confident he could win it.

In remarks Monday night, Cameron ignored Corbyn's request for a two-day discussion on the march to war, calling instead for a one-day Commons debate and vote on Wednesday.

"By refusing a full two-day debate, David Cameron is demonstrating he knows the debate is running away from him, and that the case he made last week is falling apart," a spokesman for Corbyn said in response. "The prime minister should stop the rush to war to allow for a full discussion of the issues in parliament. Matters of national security are far too important to be bulldozed through the House of Commons for political convenience."

Anti-war activists mobilized quickly to maximize the pressure on MPs who may still be on the fence about joining the bombing alongside the United States, France, Russia, and Turkey. The UK is already conducting airstrikes inside Iraq.

"We must do everything we can to stop MPs voting the UK into its fourth war on a Muslim country in 14 years," reads a call-to-action from the Stop the War coalition.

"Over the past 15 years British military intervention has caused huge death and destruction," declares a separate statement from anti-war student leaders, published Tuesday. "Millions of people have been killed, injured and displaced as a result of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya."

The statement continues:

This 'war on terror' also has failed to achieve its key objective, with terrorist groups including ISIS stronger and bigger than ever before—a direct consequence of Western military intervention. 

British military action will not defeat ISIS and risks increasing the terrorist threat both to the peoples of the Middle East and to Britain.

In a piece published Sunday, Stop the War coalition chair Andrew Murray said that "[i]f there is an underlying rationale for the latest drive for war, it is the desire of the British government and military to be seen as a major power player in the region."

Echoing that argument, the coalition put out a statement on Tuesday saying those MPs most in favor of airstrikes are those with "a strong commitment to Britain’s role as a global military player, and as an unquestioning junior partner to the U.S. as global policeman, whatever the concrete situation."

Here is the Government motion in full: 

That this House notes that Isil poses a direct threat to the United Kingdom; welcomes United Nations Security Council Resolution 2249 which determines that Isil constitutes an ‘unprecedented threat to international peace and security’ and calls on states to take ‘all necessary measures’ to prevent terrorist acts by Isil and to ‘eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria’; further notes the clear legal basis to defend the UK and our allies in accordance with the UN Charter; notes that military action against Isil is only one component of a broader strategy to bring peace and stability to Syria; welcomes the renewed impetus behind the Vienna talks on a ceasefire and political settlement; welcomes the Government’s continuing commitment to providing humanitarian support to Syrian refugees; underlines the importance of planning for post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction in Syria; welcomes the Government’s continued determination to cut Isil’s sources of finance, fighters and weapons; notes the requests from France, the US and regional allies for UK military assistance; acknowledges the importance of seeking to avoid civilian casualties, using the UK’s particular capabilities; notes the Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations; welcomes the Government’s commitment to provide quarterly progress reports to the House; and accordingly supports Her Majesty’s Government in taking military action, specifically airstrikes, exclusively against Isil in Syria; and offers its wholehearted support to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

Thousands turned out in the streets of London over the weekend to voice their opposition to expanded war, holding signs that read, "Don't bomb Syria" and "Drop Cameron, not bombs."

Over 40,000 people have already lobbied their MPs via the Stop the War website alone. 

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