Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

New Lib Dem leader Tim Farron: Britain Wrong to Bomb Islamic State in Syria.

with 3 comments

Britain could be playing into Isis’s hands by bombing Syria, the new leader of the Liberal Democrats has said.

Reports the Independent.

Tim Farron raised concerns about a revelation that British pilots embedded with other nations’ forces were conducting air strikes on Syria despite MPs voting against action in 2013.

He argued that the suffering caused by such strikes could lead people to support terror groups such as the so-called ‘Islamic State’.

“The decisions you make there are not based on some overall theological sense of what you should do but on what is right,” he said.

“Is it right for us to attack a sovereign country? Is it right for us to overstep a mandate that we have not been given by the electorate or government? Is it right to incite ISIS, or indeed not to incite them – but to play into their hands and be martyrs.”

In response to a freedom of information request from the human rights group Reprive, the Ministry of Defence disclosed that US, French and Canadian armed forces were deploying UK pilots in Syria.

Jennifer Gibson, staff attorney at Reprieve, said the debate about UK action in the Middle East needed to be more “open and honest”.

“It is alarming that Parliament and the public have been kept in the dark about this for so long,” she said.

Yet more worrying is the fact that the UK seems to have turned over its personnel to the US wholesale, without the slightest idea as to what they are actually doing, and whether it is legal.”

An MoD spokesperson said the so-called Islamic State group was a threat to the UK and clarified the position of the British pilots.

“UK embeds operate as if they were the host nation’s personnel, under that nation’s chain of command,”

“Isil poses a direct threat to the UK and to countries around the world. The UK is not conducting airstrikes in Syria and the government has made clear it would return to Parliament if it proposed doing so.

“We have a long-standing embed programme with allies but there are currently no pilots taking part in this region. When embedded, UK personnel are effectively operating as foreign troops.”

The Independent’s Defence Correspondent Kim Sengupta explained that the revelation could have undermined trust in the Government.

Many people would be concerned that British air power is being used, without Parliamentary authority (which was promised)  to launch bombs in Syria.

There has, however, been this Twitter reaction,

Tim Farron’s honeymoon period as newly elected Lib Dem leader barely lasted 12 hours after his comments on ISIS and his religious convictions caused a social media backlash.

TheySay.io analysed over 80,000 tweet mentions and 15,000 Tweets relating to Farron over 24 hours and found that whilst social media reaction was initially mostly positive, there was a significant increase of negativity following his BBC Radio 4 interview this morning.

Further analysis indicated that the negativity was due to a variety of topics including but not limited to the current state of the Lib Dems, right wing criticism of his political stance and some bemusement and concern about the influence of his religious convictions.

Below are a selection of random tweets covering some of the points.

As the first “random Tweet” comes from David Aaronovitch one equally doubts if many people care about what the former Communist, present-day pro-military intervention everywhere,  and Murdoch columnist, thinks either.

Farron’s intervention could be put down to a desire to make a stir on the first day of his leadership by appealing to the Liberal Democrats’ ‘anti-war’ past.

But….the  claims about the bombing seem to be true.

To repeat the Independent’s story:

Freedom of information request by human rights group Reprieve reveals UK service personnel acted under auspices of US and other nations within coalition

British pilots have carried out air strikes in Syria, marking a significant expansion of the UK’s role in the campaign against Islamic State.

The UK pilots were embedded with coalition forces, including the US and Canada, and the number involved is understood to have been in single figures.

Details of British personnel’s involvement in strikes by allied nations’ forces were revealed by a freedom of information request from the pressure group Reprieve.

This is clearly wrong – it is active intervention in the Syrian civil war without democratic authorisation – even if it remains the case that not many people will be concerned if Isis fighters are killed.

And it is also the case that any support, called for the Kurds, fighting their genocidal enemies, is to be welcomed.

What the masses of the entire world care about ISIS/Islamic State/Daesh  is this:

Escape from Isis.

We were prepared for harrowing tales of life under Isis, but never expected positive stories to emerge from the horror, says director Edward Watts.

One cold March morning in Iraq, my small team and I looked out across fields of lavender towards the trenches of the Islamic State, the most feared terrorist group in the world, with a sense of hope.

When, weeks earlier, Channel 4 commissioning editor Siobhan Sinnerton offered me the chance to direct a film about the lives of women living under the rule of the Islamic State – the film that became Escape From Isis – we both knew the project would entail insane hours of relentless work amid tales of unimaginable human suffering. And so it proved.

But neither of us could have guessed that here, on the frontline with Isis, we would find a positive twist to the story.

Through hard work and a series of lucky breaks, I got the opportunity to follow an underground network of activists who, unseen by the world, were trying to free women held by Isis militants and used as sex slaves. That morning, we were waiting for a family of 24 to be guided across the frontline to freedom after eight months in the hands of Isis.

The brutality that people endure inside the Islamic State is difficult to comprehend. One woman’s story will always stay with me. At only 21, Aeida was abducted with her two-year-old daughter and one-year-old son. The militants beheaded people in front of the children and kept the family in a house where women were used as sex slaves.

During her interview, Aeida had just described witnessing a nine-year-old girl being taken away to be raped when she suffered an extreme traumatic flashback and collapsed, struggling to breathe, her face contorted by the horror she had witnessed.

I was torn between the film-maker in me, who knew I needed to record, and the human being, who did not want to add in any way to her suffering by pointing a camera at it. Even after making 20 documentaries, I still find it a difficult balance to strike.

You do see Aeida collapse in the film, but in the edit, I could not watch the material without shedding tears.

Team bonding

For most of the shoot, there were only four of us: me, our main character Khaleel, driver Hazim and fixer Hassan Ashwor, running around northern Iraq in Hazim’s dad’s old saloon. Having a small team allowed me to sneak into places that were off-limits to bigger units – and build the relationships on which our access depended.

The most essential member of the team was Hassan. He had worked as a translator for the US Marines – good preparation for work in television – and was a true TV soldier. His incredible stamina, translating almost continuously for up to 24 hours, helped me to build trust with the secretive rescue network, who had never before allowed cameras to film them.

The humour of our little team carried us through hell; I remember teasing driver Hazim about his quest for a girlfriend as we drove past blown-up buildings and the craters left by roadside bombs.

That cold morning, two hours passed on the frontline with no sign of the family. I decided to snatch a shot of an Isis observation post on the frontline ahead. We wrestled the tripod to the front of the trench and I fitted a long lens. I had just put my eye to the viewfinder when Hassan nudged me: “They’re coming.”

I swung the camera up to the hills and saw the family of 24, a tiny group of black-clad figures, scrambling towards us and freedom.

Everyone – the soldiers, my team, relatives of the escapees – leapt over the frontline and ran helter-skelter into no man’s land to meet them, heedless of the danger. I filmed the soldiers carrying several of the women the final few hundred yards to safety.

The family had walked for two days to escape. They were too exhausted to take another step and were loaded into trucks and driven away. I flicked off the camera and wiped away the sweat. Hassan grinned at me. “No one has seen anything like that before,” he said.

I’m proud that, thanks to all of our hard work, they now can.

Progressive humanity stands with these brave people fighting the Islamic State genociders.

3 Responses

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  1. I am not an expert on the legality of UK troops who are seconded fighting Isis but I’m pleased that they are doing it. It would not surprise me if there is a legal defence and military agreements for such secondments.

    Again, the important issue is if the Kurds, who are in the forefront of the fight against Isis, call for assistance.

    Whether or not it is the case that Parliament should discuss this matter (and they should imo), the defence of the Kurds and their allies is a legitimate defence against genocide and should be supported.

    In any case, these actions would, I hope, assist the case of those socialists and others who are being prosecuted for fighting Isis.

    John R

    July 17, 2015 at 9:43 pm

  2. For the reasons you cite John I suspect that this call – which is, to say the least, catch-all and I imagine most even committed leftists have yet to take a position on Yemen – will find little support:

    “Revelations that British fighter pilots have been secretly attacking Syria under US command reveal both the government’s contempt for democracy and its subservience to Washington foreign policy.

    The news makes a mockery of Michael Fallon’s promise of a full debate and vote in parliament on the issue.

    Since the start of the “war on terror”, jihadi organisation has spread from small pockets of Central Asia across whole swathes of the globe. Western bombing in Syria will do nothing to halt Isis.

    On the contrary it will add fuel to the flames of war engulfing the whole region, and it will lead to an increase in terrorist attacks.

    Stop the War demands the government publicly commits to an immediate end to British bombing of Syria. More widely we call for an end to military and diplomatic support for Saudi Arabia in its war on Yemen and for a stop to the bombing campaign in Iraq.

    Tomorrow there will be a public meeting in London calling for an end to the bombing and Saudi attacks on Yemen.

    Speakers include Diane Abbott MP, Chris Nineham (Vice Chair of Stop the War), Kim Sharif (Human Rights for Yemen) and Ahmed Al-ashaf (Yemenis Cultural Centre). The meeting takes place at 2.15pm, at the Bloomsbury Baptist Church, 235 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8EP.”

    http://stopwar.org.uk/resources/stop-the-war-statements/syria-stop-the-war-statement

    Andrew Coates

    July 18, 2015 at 12:46 pm

  3. “Is it right for us to attack a sovereign country? Is it right for us to overstep a mandate that we have not been given by the electorate or government? Is it right to incite ISIS, or indeed not to incite them – but to play into their hands and be martyrs.”

    The first question is a strawman. ISIS are a gang of barbaric thugs, not ‘a sovereign country’. As for ‘incitement’, ISIS were cutting the heads off British citizens last year. The UK government had good reason – indeed arguably a duty – to use force against ISIS from that moment. At the least, air support for the Kurds is quite justifiable. Farron trying to portray the British government as ‘inciting’ the savages of ISIS is a disgrace. We are used to the far left supporting Islamists and sneering at the idea of universal human rights. Does Farron believe in liberal values or not?

    Lamia

    July 22, 2015 at 8:08 am


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