Bombs away: anger about UK attacks on Syria

The UK bombing Syria will – according to significant senior military figures – have no strategic effect on ISIS. But the effects on civilians will be devastating: these will be yet more bombs on a country already being bombed and attacked, in particular by Bashar al-Assad, who has killed many times more people than ISIS.

Of course, the key issue here is that Assad has killed Syrians in Syria and our politicians care little about them, as evidenced by the shameful treatment of those fleeing his barrel bombs and trying to come to safety in Europe.  ISIS on the other hand, has not only killed Syrians, but killed Europeans in Europe.  Hilary Benn – supposedly a Labour politician (and I shouldn’t judge him by his father, but…!) – argued yesterday that ISIS are fascists who must be resisted, therefore a ‘fair share’ of the bombing (says David Cameron) should fall on our shoulders, even though the consequences – more dead civilians and more refugees – will by and large be prevented from coming here (according to Theresa May and most of the Westminster parliament).  This is decision-making without responsibility for Conservative, pro-attack Labour and other politicians:

Meanwhile, we can expect to hear of yet more deaths – though that will be disguised by weasel words such as ‘collateral damage’ or ‘targeted killings’ or ‘surgical strikes’ or ‘tragic accidents’ etc. – and there will be yet more parents robbed of children, children whose parents are killed, lovers whose partners are dead, friends who are left alone in the world.

I try hard not to be a vindictive person, but at a deep level my gut reaction, especially after all the catastrophic involvement of the British is conflicts over the years is to feel utter revulsion for all those who voted for these air strikes: I want their nights to be broken by visions of children orphaned by their bombs, by parents crying over the corpses of their dead children, by haunts of wailing lovers, by houses, schools, mosques, churches and hospitals destroyed.

This will, of course, become a constructive anger at the betrayal of values most of us hold dear, and I think that things will change as a result:

In broad terms, I think/hope that the situation in this country is now quite different to 2003, and that this reckless action is the undoing of Cameron and his warmongering allies in his own party, as well as in other parties.  The maps here demonstrate this transformation.

——–

This is the list of MPs who voted to attack Syria, courtesy of the Guardian, are as follows (1, 2):

Conservative MPs – 313
Nigel Adams (Selby & Ainsty), Adam Afriyie (Windsor), Peter Aldous (Waveney), Lucy Allan (Telford), Heidi Allen (Cambridgeshire South), Sir David Amess (Southend West), Stuart Andrew (Pudsey), Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne), Edward Argar (Charnwood), Victoria Atkins (Louth & Horncastle), Richard Bacon (Norfolk South), Steven Baker (Wycombe), Harriett Baldwin (Worcestershire West), Stephen Barclay (Cambridgeshire North East), Guto Bebb (Aberconwy), Henry Bellingham (Norfolk North West), Richard Benyon (Newbury), Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley), Jake Berry (Rossendale & Darwen), James Berry (Kingston & Surbiton), Andrew Bingham (High Peak), Bob Blackman (Harrow East), Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West & Abingdon), Crispin Blunt (Reigate), Nick Boles (Grantham & Stamford), Peter Bone (Wellingborough), Victoria Borwick (Kensington), Peter Bottomley (Worthing West), Karen Bradley (Staffordshire Moorlands), Graham Brady (Altrincham & Sale West), Julian Brazier (Canterbury), Andrew Bridgen (Leicestershire North West), Steve Brine (Winchester), James Brokenshire (Old Bexley & Sidcup), Fiona Bruce (Congleton), Robert Buckland (Swindon South), Conor Burns (Bournemouth West), Simon Burns (Chelmsford), David Burrowes (Enfield Southgate), Alistair Burt (Bedfordshire North East), Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan), David Cameron (Witney), Neil Carmichael (Stroud), James Cartlidge (Suffolk South), Bill Cash (Stone), Maria Caulfield (Lewes), Alex Chalk (Cheltenham), Rehman Chishti (Gillingham & Rainham), Jo Churchill (Bury St Edmunds), Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells), James Cleverly (Braintree), Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswolds, The), Therese Coffey (Suffolk Coastal), Damian Collins (Folkestone & Hythe), Oliver Colvile (Plymouth Sutton & Devonport), Alberto Costa (Leicestershire South), Geoffrey Cox (Devon West & Torridge), Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire), Tracey Crouch (Chatham & Aylesford), Byron Davies (Gower), Chris Davies (Brecon & Radnorshire), David Davies (Monmouth), Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire), James Davies (Vale of Clwyd), Mims Davies (Eastleigh), Philip Davies (Shipley), Caroline Dinenage (Gosport), Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon), Michelle Donelan (Chippenham), Nadine Dorries (Bedfordshire Mid), Stephen Double (St Austell & Newquay), Oliver Dowden (Hertsmere), Richard Drax (Dorset South), Flick Drummond (Portsmouth South), James Duddridge (Rochford & Southend East), Alan Duncan (Rutland & Melton), Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford & Woodford Green), Philip Dunne (Ludlow), Michael Ellis (Northampton North), Jane Ellison (Battersea), Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East), Charlie Elphicke (Dover), George Eustice (Camborne & Redruth), Graham Evans (Weaver Vale), Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley), David Evennett (Bexleyheath & Crayford), Michael Fabricant (Lichfield), Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks), Suella Fernandes (Fareham), Mark Field (Cities of London & Westminster), Kevin Foster (Torbay), Dr Liam Fox (Somerset North), Mark Francois (Rayleigh & Wickford), Lucy Frazer (Cambridgeshire South East), George Freeman (Norfolk Mid), Mike Freer (Finchley & Golders Green), Richard Fuller (Bedford), Marcus Fysh (Yeovil), Roger Gale (Thanet North), Edward Garnier (Harborough), Mark Garnier (Wyre Forest), David Gauke (Hertfordshire South West), Nus Ghani (Wealden), Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis & Littlehampton), Cheryl Gillan (Chesham & Amersham), John Glen (Salisbury), Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park), Robert Goodwill (Scarborough & Whitby), Michael Gove (Surrey Heath), Richard Graham (Gloucester), Helen Grant (Maidstone & The Weald), James Gray (Wiltshire North), Chris Grayling (Epsom & Ewell), Chris Green (Bolton West), Damian Green (Ashford), Justine Greening (Putney), Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield), Andrew Griffiths (Burton), Ben Gummer (Ipswich), Sam Gyimah (Surrey East), Robert Halfon (Harlow), Luke Hall (Thornbury & Yate), Philip Hammond (Runnymede & Weybridge), Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon), Matthew Hancock (Suffolk West), Greg Hands (Chelsea & Fulham), Mark Harper (Forest of Dean), Richard Harrington (Watford), Rebecca Harris (Castle Point), Simon Hart (Carmarthen West & Pembrokeshire South), Sir Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden), John Hayes (South Holland & The Deepings), Sir Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire North East), James Heappey (Wells), Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry), Peter Heaton-Jones (Devon North), Nick Herbert (Arundel & South Downs), Damian Hinds (Hampshire East), Simon Hoare (Dorset North), George Hollingbery (Meon Valley), Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk & Malton), Kris Hopkins (Keighley), Gerald Howarth (Aldershot), John Howell (Henley), Ben Howlett (Bath), Nigel Huddleston (Worcestershire Mid), Jeremy Hunt (Surrey South West), Nick Hurd (Ruislip, Northwood & Pinner), Stewart Jackson (Peterborough), Margot James (Stourbridge), Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove), Ranil Jayawardena (Hampshire North East), Bernard Jenkin (Harwich & Essex North), Andrea Jenkyns (Morley & Outwood), Robert Jenrick (Newark), Boris Johnson (Uxbridge & Ruislip South), Gareth Johnson (Dartford), Joseph Johnson (Orpington), Andrew Jones (Harrogate & Knaresborough), David Jones (Clwyd West), Marcus Jones (Nuneaton), Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury & Atcham), Seema Kennedy (South Ribble), Simon Kirby (Brighton Kemptown), Greg Knight (Yorkshire East), Julian Knight (Solihull), Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne), Mark Lancaster (Milton Keynes North), Pauline Latham (Derbyshire Mid), Andrea Leadsom (Northamptonshire South), Phillip Lee (Bracknell), Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford), Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West), Oliver Letwin (Dorset West), Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth), Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater & Somerset West), David Lidington (Aylesbury), Peter Lilley (Hitchin & Harpenden), Jack Lopresti (Filton & Bradley Stoke), Jonathan Lord (Woking), Tim Loughton (Worthing East & Shoreham), Karen Lumley (Redditch), Jason McCartney (Colne Valley), Karl McCartney (Lincoln), Craig Mackinlay (Thanet South), David Mackintosh (Northampton South), Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire Dales), Anne Main (St Albans), Alan Mak (Havant), Kit Malthouse (Hampshire North West), Scott Mann (Cornwall North), Tania Mathias (Twickenham), Theresa May (Maidenhead), Paul Maynard (Blackpool North & Cleveleys), Mark Menzies (Fylde), Johnny Mercer (Plymouth Moor View), Huw Merriman (Bexhill & Battle), Stephen Metcalfe (Basildon South & Thurrock East), Maria Miller (Basingstoke), Amanda Milling (Cannock Chase), Nigel Mills (Amber Valley), Anne Milton (Guildford), Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield), Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North), Nicky Morgan (Loughborough), Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot), David Morris (Morecambe & Lunesdale), James Morris (Halesowen & Rowley Regis), Wendy Morton (Aldridge-Brownhills), David Mowat (Warrington South), David Mundell (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale), Sheryll Murray (Cornwall South East), Dr Andrew Murrison (Wiltshire South West), Bob Neill (Bromley & Chislehurst), Sarah Newton (Truro & Falmouth), Caroline Nokes (Romsey & Southampton North), Jesse Norman (Hereford & Herefordshire South), David Nuttall (Bury North), Matthew Offord (Hendon), Guy Opperman (Hexham), George Osborne (Tatton), Neil Parish (Tiverton & Honiton), Priti Patel (Witham), Owen Paterson (Shropshire North), Mark Pawsey (Rugby), Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead), John Penrose (Weston-Super-Mare), Andrew Percy (Brigg & Goole), Claire Perry (Devizes), Stephen Phillips (Sleaford & North Hykeham), Chris Philp (Croydon South), Eric Pickles (Brentwood & Ongar), Christopher Pincher (Tamworth), Daniel Poulter (Suffolk Central & Ipswich North), Rebecca Pow (Taunton Deane), Victoria Prentis (Banbury), Mark Prisk (Hertford & Stortford), Mark Pritchard (Wrekin, The), Tom Pursglove (Corby), Jeremy Quin (Horsham), Will Quince (Colchester), Dominic Raab (Esher & Walton), Jacob Rees-Mogg (Somerset North East), Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury), Mary Robinson (Cheadle), Andrew Rosindell (Romford), Amber Rudd (Hastings & Rye), David Rutley (Macclesfield), Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury), Paul Scully (Sutton & Cheam), Andrew Selous (Bedfordshire South West), Grant Shapps (Welwyn Hatfield), Alok Sharma (Reading West), Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet & Rothwell), Keith Simpson (Broadland), Chris Skidmore (Kingswood), Chloe Smith (Norwich North), Henry Smith (Crawley), Julian Smith (Skipton & Ripon), Royston Smith (Southampton Itchen), Nicholas Soames (Sussex Mid), Amanda Solloway (Derby North), Anna Soubry (Broxtowe), Caroline Spelman (Meriden), Mark Spencer (Sherwood), Andrew Stephenson (Pendle), John Stevenson (Carlisle), Bob Stewart (Beckenham), Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South), Rory Stewart (Penrith & The Border), Gary Streeter (Devon South West), Mel Stride (Devon Central), Graham Stuart (Beverley & Holderness), Julian Sturdy (York Outer), Rishi Sunak (Richmond (Yorks)), Desmond Swayne (New Forest West), Hugo Swire (Devon East), Robert Syms (Poole), Derek Thomas (St Ives), Maggie Throup (Erewash), Edward Timpson (Crewe & Nantwich), Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester & Strood), Justin Tomlinson (Swindon North), Michael Tomlinson (Dorset Mid & Poole North), Craig Tracey (Warwickshire North), David Tredinnick (Bosworth), Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Berwick-upon-Tweed), Elizabeth Truss (Norfolk South West), Thomas Tugendhat (Tonbridge & Malling), Ed Vaizey (Wantage), Shailesh Vara (Cambridgeshire North West), Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet), Charles Walker (Broxbourne), Robin Walker (Worcester), Ben Wallace (Wyre & Preston North), David Warburton (Somerton & Frome), Matt Warman (Boston & Skegness), Angela Watkinson (Hornchurch & Upminster), James Wharton (Stockton South), Helen Whately (Faversham & Kent Mid), Heather Wheeler (Derbyshire South), Chris White (Warwick & Leamington), Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley), John Whittingdale (Maldon), Bill Wiggin (Herefordshire North), Craig Williams (Cardiff North), Gavin Williamson (Staffordshire South), Rob Wilson (Reading East), Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes), Mike Wood (Dudley South), William Wragg (Hazel Grove), Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth & Southam) and Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon).

The two tellers for the ayes were also Tories: Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central) and Jackie Doyle Price (Thurrock).

Labour MPs – 66
Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East), Ian Austin (Dudley North), Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West), Kevin Barron (Rother Valley), Margaret Beckett (Derby South), Hilary Benn (Leeds Central), Luciana Berger (Liverpool Wavertree), Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South & Cleveland East), Ben Bradshaw (Exeter), Chris Bryant (Rhondda), Alan Campbell (Tynemouth), Jenny Chapman (Darlington), Vernon Coaker (Gedling), Ann Coffey (Stockport), Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford), Neil Coyle (Bermondsey & Old Southwark), Mary Creagh (Wakefield), Stella Creasy (Walthamstow), Simon Danczuk (Rochdale), Wayne David (Caerphilly), Gloria De Piero (Ashfield), Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South & Penarth), Jim Dowd (Lewisham West & Penge), Michael Dugher (Barnsley East), Angela Eagle (Wallasey), Maria Eagle (Garston & Halewood), Louise Ellman (Liverpool Riverside), Frank Field (Birkenhead), Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar & Limehouse), Colleen Fletcher (Coventry North East), Caroline Flint (Don Valley), Harriet Harman (Camberwell & Peckham), Margaret Hodge (Barking), George Howarth (Knowsley), Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central), Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central), Alan Johnson (Hull West & Hessle), Graham Jones (Hyndburn), Helen Jones (Warrington North), Kevan Jones (Durham North), Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South), Liz Kendall (Leicester West), Dr Peter Kyle (Hove), Chris Leslie (Nottingham East), Holly Lynch (Halifax), Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham & Morden), Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East), Conor McGinn (St Helens North), Alison McGovern (Wirral South), Bridget Phillipson (Houghton & Sunderland South), Jamie Reed (Copeland), Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East), Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West), Joan Ryan (Enfield North), Lucy Powell (Manchester Central), Ruth Smeeth (Stoke-on-Trent North), Angela Smith (Penistone & Stocksbridge), John Spellar (Warley), Gisela Stuart (Birmingham Edgbaston), Gareth Thomas (Harrow West), Anna Turley (Redcar), Chuka Umunna (Streatham), Keith Vaz (Leicester East), Tom Watson (West Bromwich East), Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) and John Woodcock (Barrow & Furness).

Liberal Democrat MPs – 6
Six Liberal Democrats voted in favour: Tom Brake (Carshalton & Wallington), Alistair Carmichael (Orkney & Shetland), Nick Clegg (Sheffield Hallam), Tim Farron (Westmorland & Lonsdale), Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) and John Pugh (Southport).

DUP MPs – 8
There were eight Democratic Unionist Party ayes: Gregory Campbell (Londonderry East), Nigel Dodds (Belfast North), Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley), Ian Paisley (Antrim North), Gavin Robinson (Belfast East), Jim Shannon (Strangford), David Simpson (Upper Bann) and Sammy Wilson (Antrim East).

Others voting for airstrikes
The two UUP MPs voted for airstrikes: Tom Elliott (Fermanagh & South Tyrone), Danny Kinahan (Antrim South).

Also in the aye lobby were Ukip MP Douglas Carswell (Clacton) and independent Sylvia Hermon (Down North).

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Appeal of His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III For a World Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace in Syria

I have been sent the letter below through one of my academic mailing lists and I thought it worth reproducing here.  Whether prayer and fasting is your kind of thing or not, I think this letter is something worth reading, considering the horrific consequences of the ongoing war. Western media have largely supplanted serious reporting about the civil war in Syria in favour of a fixation on “ISIS” – whilst I understand the reasoning behind this, let us not forget that Assad has killed many more people than ISIS, and, as Jill Kestler-D’Amours (Do follow her on Twitter: @jkdamours) points out in this article that primarily highlights electricity problems: “Four years later, the conflict appears far from abating, and its impact on ordinary citizens is widespread: 3.3 million Syrians have become refugees, at least 7.6 million others have been internally displaced, and 210,000 people have been killed, according to recent estimates.”

Chilling Syrian numbers: 83% of electricity cut, life expectancy drops 20 years

Chilling Syrian numbers: 83% of electricity cut, life expectancy drops 20 years

Here is Patriarch Gregorios III’s letter:

Damascus 24/02/2015

Appeal of His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III

For a World Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace in Syria

15-16 March 2015

“Howbeit, this kind goeth not out, but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17: 21)

This fast is the Fast of Great Lent prior to the Resurrection: a fast that prepares the faithful to celebrate the glorious Feast of the Resurrection. Lent is a way of the cross, and we are in the fifth year of the way of the cross of our Arab countries, especially in Syria, Iraq and Palestine, but also in Lebanon, which is influenced in a dramatic way by the wars that have flared up around it. Today, Lebanon has received at various stages and been hosting refugees and displaced persons from Palestine, dating back to 1949, and from Iraq several times from 2003 onwards and from Syria since 2011. Our countries’ Golgotha is very great: the greatest tragedy of the region’s territories and even of the world since the Second World War. As bishops, our role is to be with our people, alongside our people, before our people, behind our people and in the service of our people. We want to wash the feet of those who suffer, as Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Yet we ask forgiveness from our faithful, because, despite our efforts, we are unable really to meet all their needs which are increasing on a daily basis. We are at a loss before the great pain and great suffering of our people in all its Christian and Muslim communities. This is tragedy and suffering on a global scale, which affects everyone. All have been affected by poverty, hunger, cold, lack of clothing, illness, sufferings and disability. The great majority of our faithful suffer from all that, especially in Syria. All are equal now in this kind of suffering. And as we said, this is the case also for all Arab countries, especially, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon, and also Libya, Egypt and the Yemen.

Emigration

We notice with great sadness that many of our faithful are leaving or going away, in various ways, both legal and illegal. How many stories we have heard of their suffering in this flight! Some are going away and leaving the country for good reasons, others, so to speak, without pressing reasons. We urge everyone to stay, to be patient, strong, always to hope and to hang on to hope, faith and trust in God’s will. We can never oblige anyone to stay: but it is a personal decision and is up to each person’s or family’s responsibility.

But we, as pastors are staying with all those who are staying, and are serving them whole-heartedly and with all our strength. We are making continuous efforts to help everyone, by all means at our disposal, of communication, travel, correspondence, reports, congresses etc. We thank all those who help us in this difficult task: local and international, civic or religious, Christian or Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran institutes and others.

Pope Francis speaks to us in our difficulties

We thank His Holiness, Pope Francis, especially for his prayers, his concern, his appeals, his speeches and also for his material assistance through the Roman dicasteries and the various organisations related to the Vatican. In particular, we should like to thank him for his special letter that he addressed to the Christians of the Middle East for the occasion of the Feast of the Nativity and the civil New Year, and we have the pleasure of mentioning here passages which are very beautiful and significant for us and for all our fellow-citizens.

“I am gratified by the good relations and cooperation which exist between the patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches and those of the Orthodox Churches, and also between the faithful of the different Churches. It is the ecumenism of blood!

“Your very presence is precious for the Middle East. You are a small flock, but one with a great responsibility in the land where Christianity was born and first spread. You are like leaven in the dough.

“The greatest source of enrichment in the region is the presence of Christians themselves, your presence. Thank you for your perseverance!

“Within the region you are called to be artisans of peace, reconciliation and development, to promote dialogue, to build bridges in the spirit of the Beatitudes (cf. Matthew 5:3-12), and to proclaim the Gospel of peace, in a spirit of ready cooperation with all national and international authorities.

“The entire Church is close to you and supports you, with immense respect and affection for your communities and your mission. We will continue to assist you with our prayers and with every other means at our disposal.

“You are not alone. I do hope to have the chance to come to you in person and to visit and to comfort you.”

Suffering a school of faith

We say all this in the hope of strengthening the faith of our children. Besides, we hear the witness of many of our faithful who tell us about their faith, resistance and experience of God’s protection, and that He protects and preserves all citizens from many disasters. We as bishops, feel that we are being taught by the faith of our faithful.

We thank God for all that, just as we are also rejoicing over the return of some faithful, some citizens to their towns: so for example, at Ma’alula, at Qusayr, some districts of Homs and elsewhere. We are also happy to see and learn that there are now building yards open to begin rebuilding homes and churches at Ma’alula, Nabk, Homs and Yabrud. We are also glad about the compensation given by the State and for the aid of our faithful and we also thank all the international institutions and our friends who are helping us in this direction.

The flame of hope

We turn to all our children and all fellow-citizens, as we did in our previous letters with the Holy Father, Pope Francis who said, “Do not let the flame of hope be extinguished in your hearts.” We launched the initiative, “The flame of hope for peace in Syria” at Christmas time. We again ask everyone to light this flame daily in their homes and hearts, in their souls and feelings. May it be a real inextinguishable light (despite the occasional lack of electricity or gas or oil!) to lighten the way for all citizens.

Fear not! I love you!

I should like to mention some verses from the prophecies of Isaiah, in which we find great consolation and a strong dose of fortitude, of which we have great need:

“I the Lord will hold thine hand, and will keep thee. Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee.. every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory; I have formed him; yea, I have made him..” (Isaiah 42: 6, 43: 5a, 7)

Appeal for a World Day of Prayer for Peace in Syria 15-16 March 2015

From the very depths of our suffering and pain in Syria we cry out with our suffering people, who are walking on the bloody way of the cross, and appeal to the whole world: Enough! Enough! Enough of war on Syria!

We believe in the power of the prayer and fasting in this Great Lent, and we call for a day of solidarity with Syria, a day of fasting and prayer for hope and peace in Syria.

+ Gregorios III

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East

Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

Why I want independence: Devo-Max is not enough

It can seem a bit difficult to keep up with what is being offered to Scotland by Westminster at the moment – though generally I think it’s safe to assume it’s less than what most Scots want, whether they voted Yes or No in the recent referendum (and it’s also worth bearing in mind the maxim that power devolved is power retained).  I actually think there’s an argument to made that there is much noise but little real substance, as attention in Westminster turns away from us troublesome Scots now that we’ve voted to stay in the union (for now, at least).

As can be seen in the two videos here, ‘Home Rule’/’Devo-Max’ (understood as all powers except foreign affairs and ‘defence’ – this BBC segment is interesting on the issue) was what I think the panicked British nationalist parties promised to Scottish voters shortly before the referendum day, though for an interesting alternative perspective on what was offered, see this blog posting by the STUC’s Dave Moxham (in thinking about all this, I’m going to ignore the ludicrous George Galloway’s talk of Devo-Super-Max, whatever that is!).

Of course, Devo-Max is unlikely to happen.  In fact, ‘unlikely’ barely seems to cover it.  Peter McColl over at Bright Green Scotland outlines rather elegantly the trap Miliband has stumbled into and why Cameron has no incentive to honour any pledge/vow/promise made to Scotland.  Nonetheless, given the outcome of the referendum and the widespread understanding that 25% of voters eventually decided for No on the basis of these promises, it is entirely reasonable that we should, as the saying goes, hold these leaders’ feet to the fire and make sure they deliver.  Of course, we must also help them to do so – Yes and No voters need to work together on this.

Why I still want independence for Scotland

Why I still want independence for Scotland

And to be clear: Devo-Max would be great, it really would.

But it is not enough for me. I want Scottish independence.

I don’t want independence because I think nation states are in and of themselves wonderful, in fact, insofar as possible, I’d prefer to do away with nation-states and the Westphalian nation-state model altogether. I am not a ‘believer’ in Scottish nationalism understood as ethnically-based chauvinism. No, I want independence because I see it as the best way to achieve key elements of social justice to create the kind of country that I want to live in – and that is emphatically not the state we are in at present.  I want independence because even if we had Devo-Max (and could therefore more usefully direct some of our abundant resources to, for example, alleviating child poverty rather than propping up financial speculators in the City of London), there is too much that we still could not do.

Firstly there is the obscenity that is Trident.  Leaving ‘defence’ in the hands of Westminster does nothing about Trident.  I was delighted to see courageous protesters (including good friends of mine) continuing their long-standing efforts to hinder and disrupt Westminster’s WMDs just days after the referendum.  A Yes vote would have ensured the reasonably prompt removal of these weapons from Scotland, and almost certainly from the UK, and I am absolutely sure that any future moves towards independence would still do that (it would now be electoral suicide for pro-independence parties not to oppose Trident: whilst opposition comes rather naturally to the Greens and SSP, there are undoubtedly some within the SNP whose opposition to Trident is less a matter of conviction; I am confident the present leadership is absolutely opposed, however).

Secondly, foreign affairs (closely related to ‘defence’, of course).  MPs are meeting in Westminster today and will be voting on further military adventurism in the Middle East, this time ostensibly to stop the Islamic State movement in Iraq, a group that emerged as a consequence of the last attacks carried out in Iraq by… err… the UK and its allies.  I cannot see how bombing Iraq and/or Syria is at all advisable in the present circumstances, but in some ways that is irrelevant to my argument here: even under Devo-Max the Scottish government would have no say on the matter. Military action is, of course, an extreme form of foreign policy, but it exemplifies the failure of our foreign policy. In an independent Scotland I would hope and work for a Scottish government that generally took a more responsible line in foreign affairs than Westminster does: the work the Scottish government has carried out with regard to Malawi and offers for assistance to Palestinian victims of Israeli bombing in Gaza etc. offers a good basis on which to build in this regard.

We should not forget that these ‘overseas’ issues have profound domestic impacts too.  Whether in terms of financial cost (every year we retain Trident or every time we fire more expensive weaponry at people in the Middle East we have less money for healthcare, education, transport etc. – I am not alone in noting that Westminster always seems to find the money for weaponry, but struggles when it comes to social expenditure), or the impact on our collective well-being as a society for tolerating WMDs etc., or the environmental damage such militarisation causes (eg Dundrennan/Solway Firth) – this list could go on for quite a while!

Of course, under a Devo-Max system we would still have some form of representation at Westminster to help decide on these issues, but there is no reason to presume that Scottish representatives in such a system would be anything more than the ‘lobby fodder’ they are at the present time.  The Westminster system would require radical reinvention – from changing the voting system, to removing the unelected second chamber and more – but there is nothing in Westminster’s (thin) proposals so far to suggest any intention of tackling such issues.

For these reasons, Devo-Max, even if it happens, is not enough for me.  I want and need more: I want independence.  I want independence for what it could enable our government to do and be. I want a government in Scotland that can decide on the affairs of Scotland, including working for the removal of WMDs as the majority of the Scottish population has long argued for, a refusal to engage in unnecessary or ill-advised military adventurism overseas, a more responsible foreign policy… none of which can be achieved through Westminster.

So yes, let us push for Devo-Max for now, as a tactical step forwards.  I fully support the efforts of people like Mark Ruskell pushing for the Westminster parties to adhere to their promises:

I agree with many others who argue that we should work hard at trying to achieve Devo-Max – and we should ensure that we are not the ones who prevent it from happening.  At the same time I think we should be clear that Devo-Max is only a step on the way to independence and fuller control of Scotland’s place in the world – if we achieve Devo-Max, we should then push for full independence as soon as possible. And yet, as noted above, I don’t expect Westminster to (be able to?) create a framework for enabling Scotland to have a Devo-Max form of government.  If and when it does not happen, a move to full independence becomes inevitable, and could possibly happen quite quickly.  Only with independence can we make decisions about all of the issues that affect Scotland.