How could cruise missiles help in Syria? Commons speech.

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): We make no more important decision in this House than to give permission to our armed forces to unleash some of their formidable arsenal. We should only do so if we feel there is democratic consent for the aim and the purpose of the conflict, and we should do so only if it is legal so to do. In my adult lifetime in politics I think that we, as a country, have intervened too often. We have too often asked our armed forces to do things that armed forces alone cannot do. I am not against all intervention. Of course, when we had to liberate Kuwait or the Falkland Islands, they were noble aims. Our armed forces performed with great skill and bravery, and the British public were behind them. We must be very careful, however, not to inject them into a civil war where we do not know the languages, where we have uncertain sympathy for the cultures and the conflicting groups involved, and where the answer in the end has to be a political process in the country itself and not external force.

I therefore welcome strongly the three things the Government have set out. I welcome this debate and the fact that we will do things democratically. It is our job to speak for our constituents and, if there is to be military activity, to ensure that the British public will it—they certainly do not at the moment. I welcome very much the Government’s statement that we will not arm the rebels. That is huge progress and I support that fully.

Mr Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that what we would like to hear from the Deputy Prime Minister when he sums up later is a clear statement that the Government believe that in all future cases military action—immediate external assault—will not be entered into unless this House has given its say-so first?

Mr Redwood: Of course I agree with that. Any sensible Government would do that, because what Government can commit our armed forces without the implicit or actual support of the House of Commons? That can be tested at any time, so no Government would be so foolish as to try and proceed without it.

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend just go a bit further and agree that anybody going through the Government Lobby tonight is not giving their approval for direct military intervention on behalf of the UK, and that the Deputy Prime Minister should make that very, very clear in his summing up tonight? There will be another vote.

Mr Redwood: I leave the Deputy Prime Minister to speak for himself and the Government.

The third thing I welcome is that the Government are not trying to influence the conflict. That is an important new development, although I am not sure how it marries with possible military intervention. If military intervention is planned, I presume that it will be against Assad and his forces and that, of course, would have some impact on the conflict. That impact might be in the direction that the Government and others wish to go, but they need to accept that there is a possible contradiction or ambiguity between their wish not to have an impact on the balance of forces in Syria and their wish to intervene over the issue of chemical weapons.

Everyone in the House shares the Government’s horror at the use of chemical weapons and the brutality shown, perhaps by the regime. It is quite possible that the regime used them. I agree with right hon. and hon. Members from both sides who have pointed out that there have also been atrocities and horrors enough without chemical weapons—those should also shock our consciences and worry our emotions, and they do.

Given the understandable wish to respond to the use of horror weapons, we need to ask whether the Government could undertake, or assist others to undertake, a military intervention that would fulfil the purpose. That should be the only question. Of course I understand that the Government cannot come to the House and debate a series of targets with us in advance—that would be folly. However, I hope that the House can help steer Ministers to ask the right questions of their advisers about whether there is any type of military intervention that could make the position better rather than worse.

The military experts to whom I have talked say that the last thing we want to do is shower down bombs or cruise missiles on stocks of chemical weapons; that would degrade them, but could let them out as well. It would be a dreadful tragedy if, in an attempt to stop, by destruction, the use of chemical weapons, we infected people in the surrounding areas. That does not sound like a good idea. Bombing the factories might have a similar consequence, although perhaps the risk would not be as great as bombing the stocks of chemical weapons.

Is the idea to bomb the soldiers and their commanders who might use the weapons? That could be a way. However, we would have to ask the Government how many soldiers and officers we would need to kill to guarantee more or less that Assad would not use the weapons again. I fear that the answer might be very many, given that we are dealing with someone as mad and bad as Assad. Would we want to go that far? Are we sure that it would work?

Is the idea to bomb a load of buildings, preferably when people were not in them, so that we destroyed the command headquarters or military installations? That would be possible; western forces have done such things in other situations, normally as preparation for invasion. Again, however, how many would we need to bomb to make sure that Assad never used chemical weapons again?

I hope that the Government will think very carefully about the issues. If they wish to persuade the British people, who are mightily sceptical about our ability to find the right military response to stop Assad and his horrors, they need to come up with some answers privately and find the language to explain to Members, and the public we represent, why they have every confidence that we can achieve the noble aim of stopping Assad from using chemical weapons.

I wish the Government well. If they really can come up with a way of stopping Assad murdering his own people, nobody will be happier than me. Everyone in the House would be extremely happy. But the Government have to understand the scepticism of the British people. Assad is mad and bad and it will not be easy to stop him. I fear that we will not be able to do it in a half-hearted manner with a few cruise missiles in the hope that he will not retaliate.

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58 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    So which way did you vote John?

  2. matthu
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    These are the so-called Conservative Party rebels who voted against the government:

    David Amess
    Steve Baker
    Richard Bacon
    John Baron
    Andrew Bingham
    Crispin Blunt
    Fiona Bruce
    Tracey Crouch
    David TC Davies
    Philip Davies
    David Davis
    Nick de Bois
    Richard Drax
    Gordon Henderson
    Philip Hollobone
    Adam Holloway
    Dr Phillip Lee
    Dr Julian Lewis
    Tim Loughton
    Jason McCartney
    Nigel Mills
    Anne Marie Morris
    Andrew Percy
    Sir Richard Shepherd
    Sir Peter Tapsell
    Andrew Turner
    Martin Vickers
    Charles Walker
    Chris White
    Dr Sarah Wollaston

    Some surprising omissions.

    Reply There is an another list of those of us who abstained, and who made clear we would vote against a motion to authorise the use of force. That included people like Bill Cash, Edward Leigh and Christopher Chope. The government’s motion was bland and would not have given them the power they needed.

    • Hope
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      Abstaining is sitting on the fence and demonstrates an inability to make decision.. Well done to those who voted against Cameron and a pity no one reminded him of his speech when he was in opposition (accept Carswell blog yesterday, strange why Carswell voted for the government after his comment yesterday. What does this say about his credibility?). Once more, it appears MPs put ambition before national interest, that is why we have a coalition. Cameron’s ambition to PM at any price and wanting to change the Tory party. The man cannot be trusted and he cannot keep to what he says. Surely he remembers what he said in opposition to taking the country to war? I am not sure what Osborne’s reported twaddle is about. He need to focus on the economy.

      When he stirs a bit of courage perhaps he will remind the US that it cannot keep working into BP. The US has an appalling record for disasters, this cannot be seen for anything else other than protectionism.

      Reply I abstained because the motion was bland and the day was won. I made clear as did many of my Conservative colleagues that if they came back next week with a motion to authorise force we would vote it down. They saw the position and told us there would be no motion to approve force. We had won before the vote.

      • Robbo
        Posted August 30, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        Fair enough, John. The best way to win is without a fight.

      • Hope
        Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

        Reading alord atebbits post it appears tHe Lords had already made up their minds more convincingly than MPs.

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      Heroes – surely ?
      The vote gives us minions some hope – perhaps the imperial delusions of grandeur which have so beset parliament for over one hundred years are on the wane ?

    • Bob
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      Mr Redwood,
      I fully understand your reluctance to join Dianne Abbot, Eric Joyce and George Galloway in the “No” division.

      Awks!

  3. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    And then you abstained in the vote. Why?

    As explained here

  4. lifelogic
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Exactly, but how could Cameron or anyone else ever have though otherwise?

  5. frank salmon
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    You summed up the mood of the House and the country perfectly there John. If you were on the front benches you might have been able to influence Mr Cameron.

  6. Roy Grainger
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    In the previous thread when people asked how you voted you kept saying “Read my speech”. I read the speech and was none the wiser. However here you say you abstained, not sure why you didn’t just give that answer before.

    Reply I did give that in reply to another

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      Just out of general interest here are the Tory abstentions:

      Adam Afriyie
      Henry Bellingham
      Graham Brady
      William Cash
      Christopher Chope
      Kenneth Clarke
      Geoffrey Cox
      Nadine Dorries
      Alan Duncan
      Nigel Evans
      David Gauke
      Justine Greening
      Alan Haselhurst
      Chris Kelly
      Pauline Latham
      Edward Leigh
      Charlotte Leslie
      Ian Liddell-Grainger
      Jack Lopresti
      Anne Main
      Patrick Mercer
      Jesse Norman
      James Paice
      Priti Patel
      John Redwood
      Andrew Rosindell
      David Ruffley
      Mark Simmonds
      Rory Stewart
      David Tredinnick
      Andrew Tyrie
      Bill Wiggin
      Tim Yeo

      Reply: Yes. I think Mr Clarke was away. As a Minister he could not abstain on principle.

      • lifelogic
        Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        So only 62? Tories on the side of logic and sense, all rather depressing. Still it went the right way. But have the rest learned nothing from all the other entirely counterproductive wars?

        Reply No – some of those who voted with the government also made clear they would vote against a motion authorising force.

  7. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    As I mentioned in a previous posting I did listen to a few hours of the debate , but when the motion in its exact wording was televised , I too found it wishy washy.Is it pedantry or is this exactitude needed because this is where we springboard from in final decisions. If matters escalate from precision there is a better chance to firstly “get it right” and secondly to detect historically any deviation from the original.Am I right or is this exactitude not really necessary?

    Reply The motion was greatly watered down, and did not authorise the use of force. The government did this to try to avoid defeat and to get Mr Miliband to agree it.

  8. Tony Houghton
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    John
    I have been slow in catching up with your Diary rather than your Blog!

    I am pleased to see the discussion about targets in your speech – one thing DC could not do for obvious reasons. You did not mention one signifiant factor, I believe, and that is Assad is not concerned one jot about the demise of his own people therefore choice of target has to have impact on Assad’s closer circle if he is to be forced to change his mind about use of chemical weapons – if he did use them? It will be interesting to see what targets the US have chosen if they go ahead with their planned attacks.

    Finally, would it be possible for you to answer directly the question; ‘Did you vote against or abstain? or give a reference to where your answer is in print, please?
    Tony

    Reply I have answered this several times. I voted against the amendment and abstained on the motion. The motion did not authorise force.

  9. Simple fellow
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Cruise missiles are just as likely to hill innocent children as chemical weapons, especially if they miss their target. Explosives and incendiary devices are also chemical weapons. We would have more effect invoking the Hague Convention on war crimes and preventing the Assad family and supporters from going shopping in Bond Street.

  10. Mike Wilson
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    What was the motion that you abstained from voting on?

    Reply:
    That this House:

    Deplores the use of chemical weapons in Syria on 21 August 2013 by the Assad regime, which caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries of Syrian civilians;

    Recalls the importance of upholding the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons under international law;

    Agrees that a strong humanitarian response is required from the international community and that this may, if necessary, require military action that is legal, proportionate and focused on saving lives by preventing and deterring further use of Syria’s chemical weapons;

    Notes the failure of the United Nations Security Council over the last two years to take united action in response to the Syrian crisis;

    29 Aug 2013 : Column 1426

    Notes that the use of chemical weapons is a war crime under customary law and a crime against humanity, and that the principle of humanitarian intervention provides a sound legal basis for taking action;

    Notes the wide international support for such a response, including the statement from the Arab League on 27 August which calls on the international community, represented in the United Nations Security Council, to “overcome internal disagreements and take action against those who committed this crime, for which the Syrian regime is responsible”;

    Believes, in spite of the difficulties at the United Nations, that a United Nations process must be followed as far as possible to ensure the maximum legitimacy for any such action;

    Therefore welcomes the work of the United Nations investigating team currently in Damascus, and, whilst noting that the team’s mandate is to confirm whether chemical weapons were used and not to apportion blame, agrees that the United Nations Secretary General should ensure a briefing to the United Nations Security Council immediately upon the completion of the team’s initial mission;

    Believes that the United Nations Security Council must have the opportunity immediately to consider that briefing and that every effort should be made to secure a Security Council Resolution backing military action before any such action is taken, and notes that before any direct British involvement in such action a further vote of the House of Commons will take place; and

    Notes that this Resolution relates solely to efforts to alleviate humanitarian suffering by deterring use of chemical weapons and does not sanction any action in Syria with wider objectives.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Mr. Redwood – thank you for posting the motion.

      I can see why you abstained. I agree with your position on this, generally, and the language in that motion is far too wooly.

      In particular … ‘Agrees that a strong humanitarian response is required from the international community and that this may, if necessary, require military action that is legal, proportionate and focused on saving lives by preventing and deterring further use of Syria’s chemical weapons; … could mean anything.

      I have to say I do find this forum a breath of fresh air in our democracy.

      I wonder how many other MPs have forums such as these where people can challenge their views and make their own views known.

      Reply It started out as a holding interim motion, and then became a final irrelevance given the strength of feeling against the use of force.

  11. formula57
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Your speech makes clear what a nonesense would have been military action of some sort. Thanks 🙂

    It is beyond belief that the FCO, MOD and senior ministers could not undertake for themselves the same analysis and pose the same searching questions and conclude that what they presented was unsound. One is left to wonder if there are other motives that explain their designs such that concern about the horrors of chemical weapon usage was only a pretext to cover the real purposes.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      They seemed far more concerned with getting people to watch the horrific videos of the victims, one assume because they lacked any form of rational argument as to why distance bombing might help.

      Emotion is everything with advertising and PR types it seems, who needs logic and reason.

  12. rose
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    I greatly admired the content and tone of your speech. The Houses of Parliament in general were rising to the occasion, as they have done several times under the Coalition. The debates were a credit to this country.

    The PM was gracious and reasonable in bowing to the clear will of HM’s subjects. He should not have his nose rubbed in it by the vulgar media for having shown himself a big enough man to change course, when constitutionally he didn’t have to.

    In the end, for all the fine talk of democracy and our way of life, Enoch, as ever, was right about military action, and as a brigadier he knew the reality:

    “You cannot defend a way of life; you cannot defend values. That is an abstraction. You cannot use the verb “defend” with “values” as the object. You can only defend territory”.

    A soldier must always ask, “What is the military objective?” and then decide whether he can deliver it, not the political or diplomatic one. That is what it comes down to, when all is said and done. General Lord Dannatt put it best, in the House of Lords.

  13. Alan Wheatley
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    A good speech with which I agree.

    I have come to the view that any speech linking action to “The International Community” should be presumed to be of no merit.

  14. Wokingham Mum
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Question: For us new to politics and house procedure could someone please explain abstain?
    We are not being facetious we genuinely wish to understand the purpose and why politicians of all parties do this.

    Reply The motion last night was bland and did not commit our country to the use of force. The government had already substantially modified and toned down its intended motion given the feelings in the Commons. I made clear I would vote against any motion authorising force. The motion contained many things I agreed with, but I still did not feel I should vote for it, as a strong critic of the government’s original position on all this. Those of us who oppose the use of force in Syrin by the UK had won before the vote was taken.

    • Wokingham Mum
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      In our opinion Abstain was appropriate.

      Reply Thank you. The important thing is I think we have the right outcome.

  15. Vanessa
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    As a summing up of the inadequacies of the debate on “going to war” I think Dr. Richard North’s article on his blog is excellent. These are people in government that we trust to make the best decisions for our country and keep us all safe. The politicians “gagging” to send missiles could not even make a good argument as to why this was necessary.

    I rest my case! A gaggle of “toddlers” wrapped up in swaddling clothes (Westminster bubble).

    http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84291

    • Nina Andreeva
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      Yes there was a terrific interview with a Conservative backbencher the other day on R4’s “PM” program. Apart from sounding as though he just left school, he was also confident to believe Cameron’s “evidence” that Assad had done it even though he confessed that he did not know (nor does anyone else) what the actual evidence is.

      Please keep in mind when trying to find the culprit that it is impossible to keep soldiers under control at all time. This could be the outcome of some of Assad’s soldiers going rogue. Remember some Paras involvement with equally innocent civilians during “Bloody Sunday”? Neither are chemical weapons in the sole preserve of armies either. The Aum Shinriko cult managed to kill people with sarin on the Tokyo underground in 1995. If you are an armed gang that is getting all the wherewithal that it needs from Saudi Arabia and Qatar then it is highly probable that you too could pull off the events of the night of the 21st August and get a nice false flag event credited against your enemy.

      Reply We considered the rogue soldier possibility. It was also pointed out that Assad is ultimately responsible, and he could of course have taken action against a rogue soldier and apologised etc.

      • zorro
        Posted August 30, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

        We should reserve judgement unlike the government motion which firstly ascribes blame, and later welcomes the UN team’s investigation into whether chemical weapons have been used, but not to allocate blame……It is sometimes difficult for a state to keep its arsenal under control when it is under attack.

        zorro

  16. forthurst
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    “…we are dealing with someone as mad and bad as Assad.”

    …and the evidence for that assertion? Did Assad used to stick pins in the eyeballs of his patients whilst undergoing his post-graduate medical studies at Moorfields? Assad only became president after his elder brother was murdered. Watch his interview with Ms Shevardnaze on RT.com in which he claims he is not fighting a civil war, but terrorism. There can be no doubt that al qaida are terrorists, our new best friends or no, for whom committing atrocities is one of the perks of the job.

    It is most appropriate to hypothesis that Assad was responsible and then ask questions about the precise objectives and consequences of our meddling yet again in other peoples’ affairs, doubly so because of the infantile strutting of so many MPs who have clearly given precisely no thought at all yet again to the consequences of our intervention and are clearly are less well informed about the situation in Syria and the grievous consequences of, as well as as the ulterior motives behind, many of our previous inteventions of late than many members of the public who have the time and interest to follow events away from the propaganda served up by the MSM.

    Reply All agree that Mr Assad and his forces have been responsible for thousands of deaths of his own citizens. Are you claiming this is neither bad nor mad?

    • forthurst
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      Your PM said, ” We have multiple eye-witness accounts of chemical-filled rockets being used against opposition-controlled areas.”

      Does that statement of itself prove that Assad was responsible? Obama was foolish enough to tell the ‘rebels’ what they must do to provoke a western ‘humanitarian’ intervention. They are therfore not going to attack government controlled areas. The fact that an area is controlled by ‘rebels’ does not mean that the ‘rebels’ are popular there, it does not mean that the ‘rebels’ woud not be prepared to sacrifice civilians to achieve their wider objectives. If chemical weapons were used from ‘Assad’s stock’, (how do we know), does this prove Assad’s guilt? Of course not. They could have been stolen by ‘rebels’, army renegades, they could have been deployed by error, by a mad loyalist (unlikely). On the other hand, yes, Assad himself might have authorised their use in order to impress the UN Inspectors who had arrived to investigate another alleged use of chemical weapons by giving them a nice and local and nasty event to investigate just so that he could ensure that he would suffer the righteous indication of the (word left out ed) friends of Israel like Gove and Hollande.

      Reply Yes, it is possible the chemical weapons were from non Assad sources. However, the Intelligence Report we considered yesterday made clear that the weapons had been unleashed from a range of launch points using weapons which were most likely under the control of the regime.

      • forthurst
        Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        righteous indication? indignation.

    • Nina Andreeva
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      When Mengele was doing his medical training I doubt he got up to some of the things that he later did at Auschwitz. To follow you train of thinking you might as well have referred us on to the profile of his Mrs that appeared in the March 2011 edition of “Vogue” ….

      (wants a contributor removed – I am reluctant to do that but do ask people to avoid unfair allegations against individuals or groups of people ed)

      • forthurst
        Posted August 30, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        “wants a contributor removed”

        How impertinent. This is JR’s blog which is very good blog, and it is his prerogative to moderate according to his judgement alone.

    • PayDirt
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      Calling Assad “mad and bad” is emotional language and does not help the arguement at all, it is a somewhat infantile position to adopt, most regrettable Mr Redwood.

  17. Normandee
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Your actions are laudable, certainly better than your colleague who came out after and effectively said “I voted for the motion but am glad we lost ” which epitomises why people are getting more and more disillusioned with politics and politicians.

  18. Puzzled
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    This furore seems bizarre, on the surface anyway. Starting not least with the Divine One, many have claimed that half a dozen plus UNSC resolutions under Chapter 7 mandating “all necessary measures”, including the final 1441, were insufficient basis for the 2003 Iraq War. Now quite a number of the same people appear to be contemplating military action without a hope of any UNSC resolution at all. Hypocrisy is rampant in Western politics and its media, but this seems exceptional.

  19. Max Dunbar
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Excellent speech Dr Redwood and one that I agree with on the whole.
    The only point that makes me uncomfortable is the phrase ‘mad and bad.’ I doubt that Assad is mad although he may be bad. He is perceived as being weak compared to his father. How much control does he really have over the army in Syria? And what is the Russian and Chinese view of the use of chemical weapons?

    Reply. I rarely use the word mad, but I do think you have to be a long way from normal to countenance the mass murders we see daily in Syria under his partial control.

    • peter davies
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      He is mad and bad but is he really mad enough to sanction the use of chemical weapons at the risk of Western airstrikes when his forces were supposedly in ascendancy?

      Also we know if the rebels take power the situation will be no better – worse if anything when they go after all the non Islamic groups . This is an awful situation.

  20. Gordon Lewis
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    As a constituent I want to thank you for your speech yesterday. You put forward a very persuasive, common-sense argument for not intervening. I believe you abstained, which as you are a Conservative MP is not the same as sitting on the fence.

    From the information on this site, I count 33 abstainers and 30 rebels. As the motion was defeated by 285 v 272, the rebels needed the abstainers and the minister who was away can be excused.

    I wonder if some of the abstainers made calculations before deciding abstaining would be enough? Perhaps they didn’t want to embarrass DC too much?

    However it happened, I think this is the right decision.

    Reply Thank you. I abstained confident that the government would not bring a motion next week to authorise force, and fairly confident we could defeat that easily had they done so.

  21. John Bolton
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood, I agree with your stance. You refer in a late reply to the ‘Intelligence Report’. Would this report be to the same standard that allowed a certain PM to wage war against Sadam? Trust in many politicians is on the decline (there are honourable exceptions) but this goes with decline in trust in so many of our services and that includes the SIS.

    Reply A version is available for public view if you want to assess its quality yourself.

  22. peter davies
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I am relieved with the outcome from HOC, for all the criticism leveled against the PM and Foreign Secretary, at least they did the right thing and allowed the vote and appeared to respect the outcome unlike another PM not too long ago. Perhaps they should have seen the opposition and not had the vote, I hope the Govt is not damaged on this issue.

    I suspect as matters develop the Govt will be relieved not have been sucked into this vortex as it has so many dynamics with the potential to get extremely nasty given the proximity of Israel, Iran, Turkey etc to the region. Not to mention the involvement or Russia and their recent mass military mobilizations – do we really want to start WW3?

    I won’t post the link here because its not something I can prove but infowars claim to have information that the recent chemical attacks were from the rebels and nothing to do with Assad’s forces. How stupid will President Obama be made to look if this is proven to be the case?

    Reply The Intelligence reports to the Commons thought it more likely the attack was from Assad, but there is no knock out proof either way.

  23. Leslie Singleton
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me that there are many aspects to ponder not yet much mentioned. Is America really going to lob in missiles alone? The wider picture is that the side of the World that in any event regards America as The Great Satan is going to be enflamed just that bit more (if that’s possible). Can it be possible (I find it incredible) that America would go ahead just with France? If not, would (again incredible) France do something on its own?

    And despite everything I have read, if (admittedly unlikely and despite their Mandate not asking this) the Weapons Inspectors (somehow) find incontrovertible proof that it was Assad (or, as I have thought much more likely throughout, a crazy unit in the Syrian Army who forwent asking for his say-so) what’s the deal then? Presumably (though you would never guess) the House could change its mind.

    Reply Unlikely for the House to change its mind. It would need to be asked to change its mind by either a government or official Opposition motion, and I would have thought both leaderships would be nervous about trying this again.

  24. David Hope
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Just saw the BBC lunchtime report on this. Was amazingly biased and packed with tabloid language. Talking of humiliation for cameron, being marginalised, losing influence, embarrassment for the government etc etc etc

    I’d say instead it was a good day for parliament where the government put forward what it wanted to do and parliament discussed and decided. This is how things are meant to work

  25. oldtimer
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    You raise eminently sensible questions in your speech none of which, so far as I am aware, were answered by ministers. They are questions to which some in Congress would also like the answer. Abstention seems to me to be an appropriate response to the resolution; nor do I have criticism of those who voted against it.

    Looking back over the past few days, the whole episode looks bizarre. It suggests an executive that is out of touch, too lazy to do its homework on a vital issue and assuming there is enough lobby fodder ready to do its dirty work in the HoC.

    Furthermore, if Assad is as mad and as bad as suggested, what will prevent him unleashing his chemical weapons against those foreign countries that attack him, either through his own resources or though proxies?

  26. David Price
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    A good speech and a good outcome. I don’t see sending any missles as solving the overall problem or reducing the number of casualties. Better the governments who claim influence over Assad be seen to be responsible for the situationif they will not use that influence with the current regime to cease it’s killing of it’s own citizens.

  27. Denis Cooper
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    I believe those MPs who refused to support the government’s motion were doing what most of their constituents wanted, and in my view they were right even if it disappoints Obama and whatever faction(s) in Syria hoped to enlist us on their side(s).

    There’s so much nonsense around all of this.

    Are we to suppose that this century old protocol prohibiting the use of chemical weapons had gone missing during the Iran-Iraq war, and when Saddam was using them against Kurds, and it has just been re-discovered and now must be upheld?

    Where is the logic in watching from the sidelines while maybe 100,000 Syrians are killed by means other than chemical weapons, but when there are maybe 1000 more deaths that are attributable to chemical weapons it suddenly becomes our responsibility to punish the guilty, even if we’re not entirely sure who they are, or how we can punish them, especially without also punishing others who do not share their guilt?

    Has Hollande asked the elected representatives of the French people whether they agree with him about deploying French forces on such illogical grounds?

    And what about Obama, has he done that yet in the US?

    • forthurst
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      “Has Hollande asked the elected representatives of the French people whether they agree with him about deploying French forces on such illogical grounds?”

      Maybe he should consult with his army high command as well. According to Thierry Meyssan on his blog, the French armed forces are mightily disillusioned by recent French presidents putting troops in harm’s way in order to benefit foreign or their own private interests:

      “(Quote I could not locate removed ed)
      Personally, I think that Western politicans generally have become far too complacent over acting outside the needs or wishes of their people rather than on behalf of ‘special’ interests.

    • zorro
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

      I seem to remember that Saddam was logistically assisted by the services of a certain country to launch chemical weapons against the Iranians in the 1980s….Now who was it?

      zorro

  28. Stanley Cook
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Haven’t both sides in this conflict displayed madness and badness? Perhaps that’s not altogether surprising, given that their enmity apparently arises from irreconcilable religious differences which are also manifest elsewhere in the region. It’s not all that long ago that adherents of the two main branches of Christianity in Europe were inflicting appalling cruelties upon each other in furtherance of their respective beliefs, irrational though this may seem to most people these days. We should have learned from our own experience to confine overt involvement in such fervent quarrels to the provision of humanitarian aid unless further uncontroversial assistance is sought in agreement between the warring parties.

    Reply There are elements of the opposition that are indeed worrying, which is one reason some of us moved to stop us arming them.

  29. Leslie Singleton
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Another little (enormous?) point is Cameron’s misassessment about who, these days, can pass judgement on other countries. I reckon that this was a major reason why so many people distrusted and disliked what he proposed. It is no longer within our purview for us to kid ourselves we can decide independently to “punish” Assad or anyone else internationally. That is what I thought the UN is supposed to be for, especially amid all the squawking about “legality”. On any basis I find the use of words like “judge”, “punish” and “teach them a lesson” from just one individual country, or, for that matter, many, never mind the judgement of Cameron alone, as he would apparently like, very odd. Unilateral, perhaps urgent, perhaps defensive, perhaps even preventative, action is maybe one thing, “punishment” something vastly else. Of course with the UN a busted flush when we need it most it is admittedly all very difficult, with the UN votes being nothing short of a joke. Somehow (not easy), for its votes to have “legality” we need countries to declare an interest and so not vote. I am not holding my breath. In any event lobbing in missiles from afar is intrinsically bonkers of course.

    Reply Seeking to punish Syria would not b e legal under UN/international law.

  30. Leslie Singleton
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    And another thing–I don’t like that serpentine Miliband getting any mileage at all out of this (At least Cameron can come to a decision and stick to it–it’s just that he is mostly wrong) so can we please stop implying that the Government suffered a huge defeat? The Government of course lost but I thought that in fact the Commons was close to being about as balanced as it gets. This is why, taking in to account “Events Dear Boy” and “A week is a long time in Politics” and the like, I am not so sure as you, John, far from it, that the House is so unlikely to find a reason to change its mind, albeit on a different motion of course, especially if Cameron quits talking about his “judgement”, about which nobody could care less. Stick around.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      Comment on Reply–That’s as maybe but I have heard the word “punish” being used freely and (per Gavin Hewitt) Hollande has just said “Massacre must not go unpunished”.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      Postscript–I don’t reckon it will be long before a good few MP’s see it differently now that America is understandably honked off and referring to France as its “oldest ally”. Them Americans are really subtle–wasn’t so long ago that the Americans were calling the French, Cheese eating surrender monkeys, I think it was. Personally it’s the stand off sending in of missiles that I deprecate. If it needs doing maybe it has to be boots on the ground. If not what is the Army for exactly? Things may look very different next week. And I am puzzled by your assertion that in particular Cameron will be nervous about another vote. Best I can see, a He-who-laughs-last approach is, as many would see it, his only hope.

      • zorro
        Posted August 30, 2013 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

        The US have no friends only interests (well, they do have one special friend which influences a lot of their foreign policy)….The UK is a useful poodle who backs them uo when necessary. Remember the conduct of the USA during ‘The Troubles’….

        zorro

  31. forthurst
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    (reproduces a current web source for the idea that the chemical weapons were deployed by the rebels – I have no way of checking its veracity ed)
    We don’t know what’s really happening in Syria. Let’s end the vainglory before we commit yet another major injustice in the world. Let’s stop pretending that we are up to comprehending the machinations of some of the devious actors in the ME.

  32. Matthew
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Even Nazi Germany declined to use chemical weapons in open warfare. It’s a measure of how terrible the current Syrian regime is that they seem to have stockpiled and sanctioned their use.

    That said, the civil war seems to consist of the Assad government on one side and a number of uncharted, undesirable groups on the other side. If the opposition groups were to attain power they may be even worse and destabilise the region further.
    It’s likely that this civil war will eventually end with a winner and at the moment that looks like being Assad.

    Mr Cameron put forward his arguments, but to me, they just didn’t answer the fundamental question of how firing a few missiles at regime targets would bring an end to the use of chemical weapons and help the civilian population.

    I don’t think that the Foreign Office come out of this smelling of roses.

    So I think the vote went the right way.

  33. Bill
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate your comments and the information you give. It helps to make democracy real.

  34. Johnny Norfolk
    Posted August 31, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    What matters is that the motion was rejected. thank God for that. If Mr Redwood voted against or did not vote for it, matters not.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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