The legality and justice of war

On Saturday evening I attended a seminar on “Just war”, which raised some interesting legal and moral questions I would like you to comment on.

Let me begin by stressing to any mischief makers out there that I fully support our pilots over Syria and Iraq, wish them safe return, and agree they should carry out the will of Parliament, government and their commanders. This debate is not about them. Parliament on behalf of the nation voted to approve military action, and was told such action is legal.

This debate is about us and about today’s wars as well as about past wars. In a democracy war is conducted in our name, because MPs have had the opportunity to debate and vote on it. We accept majority decisions. The seminar speakers explained that over the centuries it has usually been accepted that only a sovereign can wage a just war. This used to be a King, and is now an internationally recognised government with whatever legal processes that government needs under its own constitution to enable it to kill the citizens of another country. It has also long been acknowledged that the international community wishes to place restrictions on how a sovereign may conduct war. There is a substantial body of international law and custom surrounding the treatment of prisoners, the killing of civilians and the types of munitions that can be used. In recent arguments the question of chemical weapons became an important consideration, and the indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations can be an issue. After the first world war there was a wish to restrict chemical weapons given the heavy use in that dreadful conflict. After the second world war when both sides used heavy area bombing of cities there was a wish to place limits on this in future conflicts. All in the west agree, for example, that hospitals and schools should not be targets.

Some of today’s wars raise the issue of how do you respond to violence by criminal gangs or “armies” that do not have recognition as sovereign countries with the right in certain ways and certain circumstances to wage war. Some say they should not be dignified with the title of states nor their actions called wars. They are violent criminals seeking to disrupt or overturn established states. Others say that when de facto violent people gain control of territories it is right as Mr Hollande does to say we wage war against them.

One of the big questions raised in the seminar was what legal and moral responsibility rests on the shoulders of the individual soldier or officer asked to carry out acts of violence against others. Governments and military commands like to stress the need for discipline. Normally the soldier or officer does not need to ask if it is right to kill the enemy, because they have been given clear orders by their superiors. The soldier would like to rely on the fact that the government and Generals commanding his army have taken proper legal advice, know what they are doing, and are issuing legal and sensible commands. Without discipline an army cannot function. In a battle you cannot suddenly ask or expect the soldiers at risk to hold a legal seminar as to how they should respond to danger.

However, under international law there are occasions when a junior officer or soldier does have to question a command or refuse to carry it out. If, for example, in a battle a senior officer orders soldiers to kill disarmed prisoners who have surrendered under the proper procedures, or if a commander wanted to use prohibited munitions he had captured, those asked to do this need to be aware that these might well not be legal commands. Junior officers and soldiers need to obey but they are not automata and they are not protected in all cases by the defence that they were only carrying out orders. Military training has to include understanding the laws and rules of war and the limits placed on authorised violence.

In the current Iraqi/Syrian war the government has to ask what are legitimate targets as it defines the campaign. It appears that the Coalition is very careful in identifying legitimate targets that should reduce ISIL’s capacity to kill others, without wishing to kill civilians who live near by. To what extent is it right to destroy the economic capacity of the areas occupied by ISIL to cut off some of their money supply, given that many non combatants also live there? The targets can be chosen in advance and subject to senior scrutiny before sign off.

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76 Comments

  1. Gary
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    why was ISIL’s oil exporting capacity through Turkey never attacked by NATO? It was operational for at least 2 years. Who are the countries benefiting from that smuggled oil? Why don’t you tell us about that? Why has a NATO country, Turkey, invaded a sovereign country Iraq, and does Britain support this?

    It has taking the Russians to clean up ISIL, Russia was invited in by a sovereign country, Syria. Was Britain invited in?

    An observer can only conclude that NATO is not interested in stopping ISIL.

    • Mitchel
      Posted December 7, 2015 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Also,the leader of that band of Turkmen fighters(moderates?)who shot at the Russian airmen as they bailed out and appeared,rather foolishly,full face on their video has been identified as a Turkish citizen and member of an ultranationalist group.

      • APL
        Posted December 7, 2015 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        Gary: ” Why has a NATO country, Turkey, invaded a sovereign country Iraq, and does Britain support this?”

        Turkey under Ergodan shouldn’t be in NATO. He has already tried to provoke an confrontation between NATO allies and Russia. And is even now trying to cause trouble with Russia by impounding Russian shipping through navigating the Black Sea and the Bosphoruous straits.

        Etc ed

    • Mitchel
      Posted December 7, 2015 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      Furthermore,the Syrian government is this morning reporting that US coalition aircraft have bombed one of their army units in the East of the country,causing fatalities.How long before Syria closes its airspace to all parties who do not co-ordinate their activities with Russia,possibly backed up with the threat of the latter’s anti-aircraft systems being deployed?

      • Tad Davison
        Posted December 7, 2015 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

        If it does, and Syria is perfectly entitled to close their airspace under international law, that could provide the flash point for a bigger confrontation. I am of the view, that is precisely what the yanks want, but a war with Russia by proxy if they can get away with it, with their puppets doing their bidding, just as in the 1950s when RAF Canberras over-flew the USSR on spying missions at the behest of the CIA .

        Why the hell do we keep hanging on to their coat tails, doing their dirty work and hoping some crumbs fall from the banquet table?

        Surely it must be obvious to anyone who takes the trouble to read up on it, what the ‘west’ is really after. Syria is just a side-show. We’re talking regional domination by the US and her ‘cling-ons’ by first destabilising countries as predicted by former US General Wesley Clarke (see YouTube clip that I have also forwarded to interested parties at Westminster).

        Tad

    • forthurst
      Posted December 7, 2015 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      “why was ISIL’s oil exporting capacity through Turkey never attacked by NATO?”

      It’s follow the money time again and all the relevant names of companies and principals can be found on the web; suffice to say, the huge fleet of oil tanker trucks which NATO somehow missed but which Russia has found as easy as a Turkey shoot originated from Houston.

    • Dennis
      Posted December 7, 2015 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      A Kurdish commentator who is a very close observer on the oil industry of the Iraq/Syria/Kurdistan areas told me that ISIS sells oil to anybody that will buy which includes Turkish dealers which can route it to Israel via Malta (little apparently), to the ‘70,000’ ‘rebels’ (with the knowledge of the US I suppose) and to forces of Assad.

      Nice kettle of fish if this is confirmable.

    • Chris
      Posted December 7, 2015 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      On RT last night, photographic evidence of oil tankers apparently going from ISIL bases in Syria to Turkey. Also maps showing the 3 main routes that ISIL apparently exports oil to Syria. Also details of press report plus photographic evidence from hospital concerned that jihadist fighters from Syria were being treated in Syrian hospital just over the border. Journalist who wrote the story under threat apparently, and other journalists who have written articles apparently exposing the apparent pro ISIL actions of the Erdogan government are up/have been in court.
      Furthermore, comment was made by one interviewee that the USA, instead of letting the Kurds “close” the Turkey/Syrian border stretch in question has demanded that routes are kept open (and taken action to ensure they are kept open) which in fact apparently aid the flow of ISIL “resources” across the border. I am not alleging that it is true, but it was a fascinating news report and made far more sense of what has happened than the lightweight BBC/Sky reporting which just seems to trot out superficial reports of goings on, with little in depth analysis of why the US hasn’t made more of an impact on ISIL, given their military power.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted December 7, 2015 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      I’m glad it isn’t just me who’s asking those questions Gary! Thank you!

      Tad

    • Chris
      Posted December 7, 2015 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      RT is offering alternative explanations of what is going on, plus photographic evidence. Refreshing to have some balance in all the reporting, and maybe surprisingly the RT line provides some plausible explanation of relatively little effective action by the US with regard to ISIL.

  2. Iain Gill
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Personally I would ask a special forces NCO rather than a lawyer or politician or officer. Of that I am certain is a better judgment. Really on this and so much more politics is profoundly letting people down.

  3. Javelin
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    For pretty much 10 years I’ve posted on and off on this website saying the scariest thing about the EU is how it looks like a democratic fortress that can be taken over by the far right or left and have laws imposed on the minorities. It look like a facist organisation politically run by middle of the road politicians.

    Well I won’t say it’s happened with the Front National winning in the regional elections – but I think I can claim even to deniers that it is now imaginable.

  4. The Prangwizard
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    I would like to add for the avoidance of doubt in this discussion that ‘whilst the debate is not about them’ I wish our pilots more than Corbyn’s ‘safe return’, I hope also they find targets and that they kill as many of the barbarian scum they can find, particularly those who carry UK passports.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted December 7, 2015 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      Funny people who are known to have been fighting for IS in Syria are walking the streets of the UK, yet over in Syria we are happy to kill them.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted December 7, 2015 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

        Iain,

        Maybe we ought to take a tougher line with these brain-washed mental cases now residing in the UK who would do us harm. During World War Two, the government of the day did the right thing and interned the likes of Oswald Mosley, so the precedent has been set. And let’s not kid ourselves or use weasel words, we are at war with Islamic fundamentalism.

        Tad

    • DaveM
      Posted December 7, 2015 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      “I hope also they find targets and that they kill as many of the barbarian scum they can find, particularly those who carry UK passports.”

      Well put. And having spoken to a few of those pilots the other week, I can assure you that is exactly what they intend to do.

  5. APL
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Nice blather, but your, and our problem here is that Islamics don’t acknowledge, nor even care for the Western rules of war. They use ‘total war’ and not in the sense we in the West think.

    They use annihilation, ethnic cleansing, for example the Islamic treatment of the Yazidi, and rape as an instrument of (a) fear, but (b) demographic change.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted December 7, 2015 at 7:58 am | Permalink

      Indeed any they gun people down at pop concerts and burn captured pilots alive.

  6. Lifelogic
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Indeed rather difficult judgements for soldiers to make in the heat of battle where there main concerns might well be just staying alive.

    I see we have “The Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life” reporting today. The idea of having church leaders of other faiths in the Lords is appalling. Just get rid of all religious leaders from the legislative process and get rid of the damaging religious schools too. We know exactly what these silly, lefty CofE Bishop say anyway, what rights do they have to ram it down others throats.

    Interesting to read Rod Liddle yesterday in the Sunday Times, about people employed to remove all “pig” pictures and reverence to “pigs” in children’s book certain schools. Clearly our local authorities still have plenty of money to waste.

  7. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    It was and is my understanding that the UK in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria has not actually declared War . It was written in Quality newspapers ( The Daily Telegraph obviously being the only one to be trusted ) that by not solemnly and legally declaring war, some or many of the internationally agreed rules and laws were and are inapplicable. I believe this was also the case in the UK/Argentina/Falklands “war”.

    Prior to World War Two, so my history lecturer informed us, the UK agreed in Zurich with Germany not not use chemical weapons on one another, toxic gas; destruction of water infrastructure. True the odd bomb did hit the water reservoirs around Sheffield but they were obviously not poisonous and not deliberately targeted as the main bombing was on industrial steel-making facilities which would have been more precisely hit instead of civilian areas if civilians had not been instructed by law to have black-out curtains on the windows of their homes..
    It does appear in terms of the much celebrated “Bouncing Bomb” which, unlike the movie representation, was used on not one but several German water installations…on water confinements which were essentially drinking water, to be an unpunished yet much celebrated war-crime.
    Of course when the RAF bombed Basra in the much more recent “military engagement” in Iraq, the electricity and water supplies to that city were destroyed “by accident” resulting in a “war” of attrition which rendered Saddam Hussein’s army and the denizens of Basra as…well …quite thirsty. After they surrendered, Basra children were seen for quite some time on our TV screens drinking filthy water when they could get it until Kuwait troops brought in some bottled water , handing out bottles, with inevitable fighting amongst the thirsty recipients to grab a bottle or two.
    I’m not at all certain whether Basra has erected any statues since they were liberated to Britannia, or indeed whether any of their denizens or children who lost their parents have become fighters for ISIL or ISIS.
    Of course British soldiers are the very best recorders of military warfare or military engagements and like most people I have conversed with many of them. I feel the UK’s observation of legality or rectitude in its military activities are not quite as perfect as one would wish. Also that history books of warfare published in this country are not worth the paper they are printed on.

  8. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    From what I can remember Mr Obama was very much against the bombing of Syrian oilfields because:-

    1. It would create vast environmental damage. ISIL being the enemy and not Syrian land and “birdies.”

    2. On liberation, those people/areas would need money and economy by which to feed themselves. It would be the only industrial or commercial enterprise providing wealth as Syria is largely desert and not favourable even to a modicum of agriculture.

    No-one on any side in Syria other than politicians is going to thank the UK for rendering him hungry. Eventually, due to normal metabolic human functions their miserable starving bodies would become physically stressed and this stress remembered via Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome which may make them susceptible to “radicalization” or “making their mind up about something, with which we disagree. “

    • stred
      Posted December 7, 2015 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      CH. 5. Obama’s military badly wanted to use Turkish airbases for Iraq and Erdogan is their NATO ally. Who was running the convoys over the last 5 years would be interesting too. The Kurds had were in the oilfield areas before. Something smells and eventually it may come out in the wash.

    • The Prangwizard
      Posted December 7, 2015 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      A few years ago when the ‘Typhoon’ aircraft was in development, I asked why it was not to be fitted with cannon. I was advised that it was feared it would cause ‘environmental damage’.

  9. bluedog
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Surely a simple rule applies in all conflict – once you have been attacked you have the right to act in self-defence. Forget the fine distinctions between state and non-state actors, any entity that acts in self-defence is Just, and St Augustine would undoubtedly agree.

    Of course, exactly what constitutes an attack can be the topic of endless debate. Did Prussia provoke France in 1870 so that what appeared to be French aggression was in fact a response to a diplomatic trap? Most definitely. Did Israel act in self-defence in 1967 when she launch a pre-emptive strike on the forces of three Arab nations massed on her borders? Israel would not exist today if the decision to strike first had not been taken. What of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor? Was this a defensive strike against a potentially crippling economic embargo? Debateable.

    Your correspondent makes a prediction regarding the increasing legal constraints on troops in war. Within the scope of UN actions carried out on a limited scale its a possibility. But within a full scale war, you would find that any attached lawyer would becme an early casualty. It would be an important protection for the men under command and would be recognised and appreciated as such. A quiet word with the sergeant and nobody would ever know.

  10. agricola
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Ref ” Who is burning coal.” As well thought out submissions are ignored in favour of the Lifelogic, thought I had five seconds ago type submission, I will leave you to the mercy of such repetitiousness. I realise I am wasting my time.

  11. alan jutson
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Afraid in many cases the so called rules of law are very often blurred by events on the ground.

    People offering to surrender, to get into a better position to kill those who are ready to accept surrender.

    Booby trapped bodies, civilians used as human shields, arms stored within schools and hospitals, your enemy dressed as civilians or in a friendly police uniform, children used as suicide bombers, torture, rape, the list seems endless.

    You simply have to go, to know.

    You have to be closely involved to understand certain actions.

    That is why no soldier should ever be tried in a civil court, for his actions on the battlefield.

    War should always be an absolute last resort, and is usually the result of a failure to act in a controlled manner at a much, much earlier stage.
    Example:
    Preachers of hate allowed to spread their thoughts far and wide.

  12. Douglas Carter
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    …’The targets can be chosen in advance and subject to senior scrutiny before sign off.’…

    This is going to be complex if some form of recognised alliance between combatant parties begins to look desirable. There are some NATO-alliance nations in the mix, some outside. Even within one of the NATO member states, the relationship between themselves and those they are fighting; can be observed to be significantly different to the relationship the forces some other members of the NATO forces deployed enjoy.

    Much targeting will be conducted in-theatre on immediate opportunity basis by third-party sources. Whether by autonomous reconnaissance airborne assets, manned reconnaissance and targeting or by targeting by means supplied by reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering forces deployed on the ground.

    It’s a fair question – Will UK deployed forces be permitted to accept and attack targets in-theatre which have been designated to their weapon systems by Turkish forces? I would expect HM Government to have a clear and logical view on that?

  13. Alan Wheatley
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    How long have you got? How long have I got? This is an infinite subject!

    From what I know of the history of mankind violence has always been used as a means of settling disagreements. And violence is not restricted to the human form of life. For instance, yesterday evening on BBC1 during the Hunt we did not just see animals eating other animals, but also bears fighting each other for the best spot from which to catch salmon.

    The looser in a fist fight may seek to change the “result” by using a better weapon, or rounding up a group of like-minded friends to right what is perceived as a wrong. And eventually the group becomes a state.

    A state’s boundaries are not defined by topographical features and there is nothing inherently right or permanent about them. Invariably they are established by war, and changed by war.

    And there is no effective, ultimate authority to whom states can turn to resolve interstate disputes. The League of Nations did not work and the United Nations is not much better. That is because these supranational organisations can not exist of themselves, only as an amalgamation of nation states, and these nation states can not be relied upon to agree; take Syria as a current case in point where the super-powers are pursuing their own interests.

    It would be nice to think that the international lawyers could bring order out of disorder. But I fear not: they are too remote and idealistic. Thinking back to the Somali pirate problem, ships’ captains were told all that they could not do to resist their ship being boarded and taken over, but I do not recall the lawyers offering helpful advice as to what they could do. My thought at the time was that every ship sailing through pirate waters should embark an international lawyer with a megaphone who, when the ship was approached by a pirate boat, would go to the upper deck and explain to the pirates that what they were doing was illegal in international law and they should desist at once.

    If anyone has any bright ideas I would love to hear them, and so would most of the rest of the World.

  14. formula57
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    You ask “To what extent is it right to destroy the economic capacity of the areas occupied by ISIL to cut off some of their money supply, given that many non combatants also live there? “

    For our own reasons (not least resting upon aspects of international law) we might wish to deny ISIL’s claims to sovereign status but then it is certainly proper to regard it as akin to a guerilla army and hence undertaking war-like operations against it is a legitimate response. Given the purpose of such operations is to erode and in due course destroy the enemy’s will to resist, then the economic capacity of the areas occupied by ISIL are all legitimate targets to the fullest extent we deem appropriate.

    As for applying the laws of war and in particular the Geneva Convention on the treatment of combattants, where reciprocity is not forthcoming, we need to empower our own combattants (through revised rules of engagement) to modify their own conduct as needs be to provide for their own safety, even to the extent of disapplying the Convention.

  15. Ian wragg
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Obama has not bombed IS because he sympathises with them
    It’s astonishing that there any oil installations left.
    It’s time the forces were exempt from the HRA. You can’t fill in a risk assessment when confronted with these barbarians, the military are very good at weeding out the dross.
    I despair at the opposition parties attitude to defence just like the cold war. Roll over and be destroyed.

  16. formula57
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    We might also do well to recognize the changed nature of warfare in the modern age – for we are all combattants now, at any moment capable of finding ourselves on the front line no matter where we might be, even in a Paris restaurant or at a London tube station.

    That change makes it all the more reprehensible that the population at large has been given only scant and partial explanation as to what is being done in its name in Syria and Iraq and vis a vis Russia and about the true role of Turkey etc..

  17. MikeP
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    President Assad has claimed that Russia has done more in a few weeks to counter ISIL than the Coalition has in 2 years, no surprise there then, all in the “fog of war” – who to believe, who to trust ?
    If I see footage of a highly targeted missile strike what should I conclude? That the aircraft hit something relatively small, that they believe it was a legitimate target, that it has taken a legal campaign forward in destroying an enemy position, or is it all propaganda from the military’s library footage?
    If – as they keep doing – the BBC show footage of Russian bombers dropping numerous conventional bombs in carpet fashion what do I conclude from that? That the BBC has no recent footage of Russia’s more sophisticated weapons? Lazy journalism? That Russia is bombing indiscriminately? And if so how come Assad is apparently delighted with their performance?
    Basically we only have our own values of an open and tolerant society, a healthy cynicism of politicians (no offence intended John), freedom of the press and competition within the media, and our reliance on our own judgment weighing up contrasting opinions. Meanwhile on the morality and legality of war, does any other country other than the UK, put its soldiers forward so often for committing war crimes in killing opposition fighters in the heat of battle, I doubt it.

  18. Alan Wheatley
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Civilians. Who are they?

    During WW2 whole countries were at war, not just the armed services. For instance, women working in factories or working on the land were part of the national effort to prevail. If the women making the munitions were stopped then the men with the guns would not be able to fight.

    Some while ago (I can’t recall where) I came across a German report on the effect of the Allied bombing of Dresden (or it might have been Hamburg) the conclusion being that there was such a demoralising effect on the German population there was a real fear that if there was another such raid the people would no longer have the will to carry on the war. So, if there had been another such raid, despite the very large loss of civilian life it would have caused, could there have been a much lower loss of life ON BOTH SIDES if the war had ended much sooner?

    There is a similar example with Japan. Dropping the atomic bomb did bring the war with Japan to an immediate end, and with plenty of evidence to show many more people would have died ON BOTH SIDES if it had been fought to a conclusion using conventional means.

    And I think it is worth noting what was done to and in Japan from 1945 by, particularly, the USA and the international relationships we have now. Victory and occupation can have a benign outcome.

    People are too willing to judge events in isolation without any thought to the wider context and the strategic consequences. Sound judgement may be that some must die to save many more: the political, and legal, dilemma is that while is easy to prove the some who have died it is very much more difficult to prove the many more who did not.

  19. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    The Air Force and Navy are outside this argument largely I’d say. However:

    “In a battle you cannot suddenly ask or expect the soldiers at risk to hold a legal seminar as to how they should respond to danger”.

    Quite so, attendance at war is not the same as a day/months/years(s) at the office. Mental states are different amongst different people and particularly in times of savagery. If you hire/train a killer I assume you expect…err, killing? Simple stuff really.

    It becomes a more serious matter when you find as a hired fighter that your management is as much an enemy as your foe. As Trump says, to look after the vets, don’t slowly kill them afterwards.

    Guerilla type warfare requires similar counter tactics…as with the fanatical Japanese military.

  20. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    None of it is legal by Syrian law. Syria is not part of the United Kingdom.

    As to Internationally framed Law. Witches in America and the UK were sentenced to burning and drowning by law. If one reads the court transcripts they made full use of appropriate “My learn-ed this and my learn-ed that ” when addressing very well educated and intelligent members of the court, intelligent and very-well educated even by the standards of today. Steeped in Latin and Greek languages and demonstrating a most profound knowledge of the classics.
    Their language was indeed somewhat better in terms of elegance and oratorical skill than Mr Cameron himself who speaks most highly. As in both cases they received Intelligence Reports from official British and American Intelligence Agencies. Frogs in the hundreds were seen jumping out of the defendants’ mouths and recently shouting in tongues: Allahu Akbar. Then as now, the verdict is “Burn the Witch!” Then as now the conclusion/verdict arises from dopey counsel and androidal cerebral cortices bereft of commonsense and mature worldly wisdom.

  21. Bert Young
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    War in all its guises is a horrible thing ; of course it demands the utmost discipline within all the ranks charged with carrying out orders from the top . Without discipline everything would fall apart .

    The decision Hollande made to wage war on Syria was based on “intelligence” that IS directed the atrocities in Paris ; whether he was right in his assumption I don’t know – certainly it was seen as justifiable retribution . Our following in his footsteps is another matter ; we had no such atrocity to deal with – only the “intelligence” that several attacks were planned . If our reaction was simply to satisfy Cameron’s ideology and need to stick his chin out in international support for Hollande , then I regret the way the House voted .

    Our priority is the protection of our borders and the safety of our community – these considerations taken entirely from the laws that concern us . The present intervention in Syria I regard as illegal and most unlikely to have any short or long term benefit . I fully appreciate that it is better to stamp things out before harmful acts can occur ; this being my case , I believe we have to bring under control the threats that exist within our own borders and not have the outside constraints that exist preventing us from doing so . Long live the determination and resilience of Theresa May .

  22. Bob
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Messrs Obama & Cameron caused the ISIL problem with their premature withdrawal from Iraq, foolishly creating a power vacuum which allowed ISIL to gain momentum.

    One has to wonder why the EU chose to ignore the Turks trade and co-operation with ISIL when they decided to award them with billions of Euros, fast track visas and accelerated admission to full EU membership.

    The Russians seem to have the only govt with a coherent policy on the issue.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted December 7, 2015 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Some of which money to bribe the Turks has come from UK taxpayers, despite the UK’s treaty opt-out from the EU’s immigration and asylum policy extending to any financial consequences of that policy – apart from any associated increase in the administrative expenses of the EU institutions – unless the UK government has expressly agreed to make a financial contribution.

      It’s absolutely clearly stated in the protocol:

      “A Member State which is not bound by a measure adopted pursuant to Title V of Part Three of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union shall bear no financial consequences of that measure other than administrative costs entailed for the institutions, unless all members of the Council, acting unanimously after consulting the European Parliament, decide otherwise.”

      It seems that nobody wants to talk about that and ask whether the UK government has in fact expressly agreed to pay a share of the €3 billion bribe.

  23. stred
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Quite why these international law lawyers are needed and paid to tell us whether a war is a war is a mystery to me. In the distant past one tribe or another, or barons and kings attacked each other for reasons of greed, hatred and rivalry. They did not consult their lawyers. Today, the same goes on and ISIS is has the same reasons as the Crusaders and Saladin. They hate us and wish to take over our land and enforce their beliefs. If they attack us or our allies, we respond with force and Hollande is right: it’s a war. Except for the treatment of prisoners and civilians, who needs bloody lawyers?

    Reply The Seminar I attended included analysis of the case for the French Wars conducted by Henry V, where similar legal issues were raised by Archbishop Chichele and others.

    • lojolondon
      Posted December 7, 2015 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      The reason why is because arse covering. First thing Blair did was pressurise the Attorney General into saying the war was legal.

  24. Denis Cooper
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Off-topic, JR, tomorrow the European Union Referendum Bill will come back to the Commons because the Lords made an amendment to allow children to vote.

    Is it correct to assume that MPs will not be restricted to just passing an amendment to over-turn that Lords amendment, but could also propose and pass other amendments?

    Because apart from the Bill giving foreign citizens a say on whether a country which is not their country should stay in the EU, and apart from the Bill saying nothing about what would actually ensue from a vote to leave the EU, and apart from recently highlighted concerns about the integrity of the electoral system with postal votes freely available on demand – notwithstanding the changes which have just been made and which took effect for the first time in the Oldham by-election – there is also the problem of the Lords being given a veto over the date for the referendum, which means that if they really wanted to be awkward they could simply stop it happening, and there would be nothing at all that MPs or anybody else would be able to do about that.

    I see that Cameron is trying to pretend that the Lords’ rejection of Osborne’s tax credit proposal creates a major constitutional issue:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/12036635/David-Cameron-to-ban-House-of-Lords-from-overturning-legislation.html

    “David Cameron to ban House of Lords from overturning legislation”

    “Lord Strathclyde has been instructed by the Prime Minister to look at curbing the powers of the second chamber”

    One might think that this is on a par with the constitutional crisis of 1911, when the reality is that the Lords were only able to exercise a veto over that statutory instrument because the parent Act said that they could.

    And what does it say in the EU referendum Bill, as introduced by the government and duly passed through all its stages by MPs, sent to the Lords and now sent back?

    http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2015-16/europeanunionreferendum.html

    In Clause 6(2):

    “… a statutory instrument containing regulations under this Act may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”

    And that applies to the regulations setting the date of the referendum under Clause 1(2); that date would have to be approved by the Lords, as well as the Commons.

    So giving the Lords the same power of veto that Cameron is complaining about for tax credits, and for the same reason; not a major constitutional issue, but simply that MPs agreed with the Lords that the latter should have a power of veto.

    Reply We can only consider the Lords amendments.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted December 7, 2015 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Who or what says that you can only consider the Lords’ amendments?

      I feel sure that if the government wished to revisit other parts of the Bill, and could get a majority of MPs to agree to that being done, then some procedural device could be found to allow it to happen. Are not the MPs masters in their own House?

      Reply THere are conventions between the two houses as it us bicameral, and there needs to be an end to each Bill

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted December 7, 2015 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

        This came to me on Friday:

        http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN04974

        “Expedited legislation: Government Bills receiving their Second and Third Reading on the same day in the House of Commons”

        One of the listed justifications for such a speedy passage being:

        “To remedy an anomaly, oversight, error or uncertainty that has come to light in legislation”

        • Anonymous
          Posted December 7, 2015 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

          Denis – Children voting on the EU.

          The same children they deem too irresponsible to buy matches or penknives ?

          They might say “Ah. But it’s the children’s future we’re talking about too – they must have their vote.”

          OK. Then why not 5-year-olds ?

          No. The reason for children voting is that UNITE members can manipulate their brains.

          If this is allowed then we may as well give up on democracy. In fact we know it is. Parliament exists on entirely false pretences.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted December 8, 2015 at 7:45 am | Permalink

        And there would have been an end to this Bill if the Lords had just passed it unamended, it has been their choice not to allow it to have that end but instead send the Bill back to the Commons. And if the peers can do that because they think there was something wrong with the Bill as received from the Commons there seems no reason why MPs should not then do the same thing if they belatedly realise that there is something else wrong with the Bill which needs to be put right. Otherwise MPs will be sending a Bill to the Lords knowing that it is defective and will become a bad law when, they actually had an opportunity to remedy the defects; and surely it would be absurd to knowingly allow a bad law to be passed on the grounds of a convention which is not legally binding but really just represents what has been done in the past.

  25. Bill
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    A just war? There is a long Christian tradition going back at least as far as St Augustine on the criteria by which a just war is determined. And note that a ‘just war’ is very different from a ‘holy war’. The jihadist functions under the concept of a holy war, one that has an all purpose religious sanction. The just war is said to be one that is: declared by lawful authority, is in a just cause, is made with the right intentions and is a last resort. And these criteria are slightly modified by St Aquinas.

    My understanding is that in the Middle Ages wars were limited to professional soldiery, particularly to knights who were trained, and avoided the killing of the civilian population. What we have here is a jihadist impulse directed at the West and without any compunction over the killing of civilians. So the question is how a country in which the just war tradition still lingers should confront a jihadist crusade that kills indiscriminately.

    I think we should do what we are doing in the sense that we should target military and economic targets, avoid civilians and, when we take prisoners, treat them according to the Geneva Convention. In other words the residual effects of our Christian civilisation should continue to be operative and we should avoid descending to the immoral depths of our adversaries.

    • oldtimer
      Posted December 8, 2015 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Re civilians, in medieval times there was a get out clause. For example Henry V went to great efforts to secure agreement that he was fighting a “just” war.

      When besieging Harfleur he offered the inhabitants peace if they opened their gates to him. If they resisted he invoked the book of Deuteronomy chapter 20, which authorised Henry “you shall put all its males to the sword, but the women and the little ones…all its spoil you shall take as booty for yourselves; and you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the Lord your God has given you.” That sounds like the Daesh/ISIL playbook.

  26. Tedgo
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I remember talking to a work colleague, may years ago, about how he and about 10 other British soldiers were captured by a single German soldier. Their biggest fear was that the German soldier might consider the group of 11 was too large to handle alone and would shoot them all. Fortunately for my colleague they were rescued by other British soldiers a few hours later.

    In the heat of a battle, where determination, fears, emotions and anger rule, having to consider every action from a lawyers point view is total impractical to say the least.

    Since we are now at war with ISIL maybe our Parliament and other European Parliaments should pass a law conscripting all these healthy young Syrian men in to their respective armies and put them through basic training. When eventually there is a need for boots on the ground in Syrian, these Syrian units could be used.

  27. ChrisS
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Way off topic, I know but this issue really needs discussing :

    In the budget the Chancellor took a big swipe at BTL Landlords limiting tax relief to the basic rate of tax.

    In the Autumn Statement the Chancellor hit BTL landlords a second time with his selective 3% stamp duty hike.

    On top of the ludicrously unproductive rate of CGT he chooses to do nothing about, it seems he wants to drive us out of business. Yet he has nothing to put in our place.

    This week’s Sunday Times reports that when it was a British company, Cadbury used to pay at least £50m in Corporation Tax every year. (detail about more recent tax affairs removed ed)

    Contrast the triple whammy of attacks on domestic law abiding-law BTL Landlords who are an easy target for HMRC with the activities of companies like Mondelez International.

    Many International Companies are using ……….devices to avoid UK taxes and the Chancellor, despite assurances to the contrary, allows them to get away with it. He then makes up the lost revenue by taking punitive measures against his own citizens.

    It isn’t just a problem suffered by BTL Landlords. Every UK taxpayer is paying more tax than they need too because of this problem and genuine UK-based businesses cannot compete with the likes of Amazon, Apple etc all who pay little or no tax here.

    As for the transfer of ownership of Cadbury to foreign investors, this was just one of a whole series of foreign takeovers of UK companies which were all too easy to push through. We do nothing to protect our businesses from foreign takeovers. Contrast this to France where they are currently enacting a new law to stop control of Renault from moving away from France.

    Foreign investment is one thing but transfer of ownership to abroad of our key companies is quite another. We lose not only the tax on company profits but the intellectual property rights are freely transferred abroad as well.

  28. Antisthenes
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    The legal and moral questions on the conduct of war are rather meaningless outside of seminars, international courts and the like. Especially if all those involved in conflicts do not abide by international treaties, conventions etc and who have differing views on what is morally acceptable. Those who abide by international law and have higher moral values are at a serious disadvantage with those who do not and who have very low morales(what is moral is not clearly definable as it is always down to being in the eye of the beholder).

    We may want to always when fighting to fight by what we consider to be civilised rules even when our opponents do not. However if those rules mean that we are in the end so constrained in our actions that we cannot win and could lose and lose badly what then. Do we give in gracefully accepting any fate that awaits us shrug our shoulders and say “it was not winning that was important but how we played the game”.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted December 7, 2015 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Exactly, war is war. You are rather unlikely to sit around considering the finer points of law when under heavy fire, being bombed or gassed.

      That is just what usually plump, over paid and largely parasitic lawyers and bureaucrats do in the absence of a real job, usually at tax payers expense later. Usually taking years & costing £millions to come to a conclusion.

  29. Denis Cooper
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    JR: “Normally the soldier or officer does need to ask if it is right to kill the enemy”

    Surely the word “not” is missing there?

  30. yosarion
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Just another endless round of wack a mole in the Middle East, this has bee going on since at least 1916 and the Sykes Picot agreement when T E Lawrence’s dream of an a unified Arab state was curtailed by the old imperialists.
    I thought there was an old established formula for nation states and Civil Wars, don’t get involved and work with the victors after the War is over.

  31. oldtimer
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    My view is that war should only be declared if UK interests are attacked, or if we are otherwise committed by treaty or alliance (such as NATO). Moral outrage, of itself, is not a reason to go to war. The UK is not the world`s policeman, or judge or jury.

    UK forces engaged in wars should adhere to the accepted norms and rules of war. Nevertheless, on the ground and in the heat of battle, that is unlikely to be at the forefront of the minds of those fighting for their lives – especially if or when confronting an enemy that does not respect or recognise them.

    There is little point fighting a war that you do not intend or expect to win; it follows that all means available should be used, including economic means. It is in this respect that the “war” against Daesh/ISIL is curious because, as others have noted, that organisation has been allowed to export oil through Turkey over the past few years. No one in a position to do so, as far as I am aware, has explained the thinking behind this self restraint. One explanation may be that Assad was, and remains, the greater evil in the mind of the USA government. That view might be reinforced by the fact that Iran and Russia are key supporters of the Assad regime. Daesh/ISIL has, in short, enjoyed some respite from the full force of US weaponry because of the wider conflicts and divisions in the Middle East. One day the full story may be told. But before then the USA and its allies find themselves in an extremely awkward political and military bind.

  32. Denis Cooper
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    “However, under international law there are occasions when a junior officer or soldier does have to question a command or refuse to carry it out.”

    It seems that long before “international law” started to intrude it was a matter of English common law that military personnel should only obey “lawful” orders, but with it being left to the domestic courts – not any international court – to decide whether orders had been lawful or unlawful.

    That is my interpretation of the statement here:

    https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=y6EZsDgH_9AC&pg=PA6&lpg=PA6&dq=british+army+obey+lawful+orders&source=bl&ots=NAciKAXIo2&sig=9Uvtc8MbKHvo_hKkG0Uz9QhFvdw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjL2si5ycnJAhXMshQKHdBiAz8Q6AEITTAI#v=onepage&q=british%20army%20obey%20lawful%20orders&f=false

    that

    “Until 1749 English law postulated the binding quality of military orders. In that year, however, limits were imposed on the military code of absolute obedience.”,

    but

    “What was “lawful” and what was “unlawful” remained an open question”

    to be decided by the courts.

    On the other hand, clearly for a long time before that there had been some “rules of war” which were generally accepted in theory if not always in practice, because in Henry V Shakespeare has Fluellen at Agincourt in 1415 complaining :

    “Kill the poys and the luggage! ‘Tis expressly against the law of arms.”

    Which Gower then claims was just cause for Henry to order

    “every soldier to cut his prisoner’s throat”.

    Some of the French now claim that this was a war crime. Allegedly the English knights baulked at doing it, so Henry turned to archers who had fewer qualms about stabbing or clubbing unarmed prisoners, as well as nothing to lose financially.

  33. fedupsoutherner
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I really feel for our armed forces today. It seems to be that they are questioned over everything. We have one in prison for shooting the enemy in Afghanistan and soldiers being arrested over Bloody Sunday after all these years. I am sure some are afraid to do their job properly for fear of being arrested after events. On the news this morning it was reported that the army is failing to recruit the numbers of men they need each year. I’m not surprised. We find lawyers poking their noses into everything today from boy scouts, school staff, the police and our armed forces. It must be very difficult being on the front line and nobody sitting in their arm chairs at home can imagine what does through these mens minds on the battle front. Much of what went on in the first and second world wars was unknown because we did not have the press present in all battles but now it seems nobody can move without it being reported. Let’s stop making our men fight with one hand behind their backs and acknowledge the fact that ISIL play by no rules. They don’t care about rules. Our forces are told what is right or wrong and we must trust them to do what they are trained to do and not hold them back for fear of reprisals.

  34. forthurst
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    “… I fully support our pilots over Syria and Iraq, wish them safe return, and agree they should carry out the will of Parliament, government and their commanders.”

    What should the attitude of our military be if they are given targets which are either not in Daesh controlled territory or are quite clearly essential to civilian sustenance both now and in the future? The eagerness with which NATO wishes to get embroiled in Syria when it is quite clear that Russia is actually doing what the ‘West’ has pretended to do for two years should cause even the most gullible to smell a rat. Our forces should not be put in harm’s way to further the interests of those whose objectives are entirely inimical to ourselves, but this is how NATO has been used since the collapse of the Bolshevik Empire.

  35. Tom William
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    “To what extent is it right to destroy the economic capacity of the areas occupied by ISIL to cut off some of their money supply, given that many non combatants also live there?”

    The answer is one like Morton’s Fork. In any war against a thoroughly evil regime (eg Nazi Germany) non combatants suffer. In extenuation either they support the regime or oppose it.

    If the enemy is not an evil regime or it is not a question of real national survival total war is not justified (eg the Falklands war was a limited war). How the threat is interpreted is another matter, and can vary eg Vietnam.

  36. alte fritz
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    As this post implies, a legal framework lags behind wars as they are fought. The fact that an opponent does not fall within the jurisdiction of a recognised state is clearly no reason to treat such opponent either as a prisoner or in combat any worse than a ‘legitimised’ opponent. Such ‘illegitimate’ opponents are not, however, common criminals to fall within domestic criminal law.

    My preference would be to treat such enemies under the framework of a de facto war. I feel that would remove some of the unpleasant uses of hindsight in Northern Ireland since soldiers would not have to wonder what a yet to be created police force and barely born judges would so in forty odd years.

    In Syria, whatever we think of ISIL, they regard themselves as part of at least a quasi state. It is an exercise in self delusion to suppose otherwise. That creates problems when there is a quasi state within a real state but one must start somewhere.

  37. Dennis
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    More goodies from the helpful USA:- (from Counterpunch)

    In a remarkable piece originally published by the International Action Center, Sara Flounders wrote in 2014: “There is an elephant in the climate debate that by U.S. demand cannot be discussed or even seen. This agreement to ignore the elephant is now the accepted basis of all international negotiations on climate change. It is well understood by every possible measurement that the Pentagon, the U.S. military machine, is the world’s biggest institutional consumer of petroleum products and the world’s worst polluter of greenhouse gas emissions and many other toxic pollutants. Yet the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements. Ever since the Kyoto Accords or Kyoto Protocol negotiations in 1998, in an effort to gain U.S. compliance, all U.S. military operations worldwide and within the U.S. are exempt from measurement or agreements on reduction.
    This astonishing revelation was recently expanded upon by Gar Smith (editor emeritus of Earth Island Journal), who wrote that “despite being the planet’s single greatest institutional consumer of fossil fuels, the Pentagon has been granted a unique exemption from reducing – or even reporting – its pollution. The U.S. won this prize during the 1998 Kyoto Protocol negotiations (COP4) after the Pentagon insisted on a ‘national security provision’ that would place its operations beyond global scrutiny or control.”
    “The complete U.S. military exemption from greenhouse gas emissions calculations includes more than 1,000 U.S. bases in more than 130 countries around the world, its 6,000 facilities in the U.S., its aircraft carriers and jet aircraft. Also excluded are its weapons testing and all multilateral operations such as the giant U.S. commanded NATO military alliance and AFRICOM, the U.S. military alliance now blanketing Africa.”

    Etc., etc….

  38. ian
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    The usa has spent about 1 trillion dollars fighting wars in the middle east and the UK more billions, unknown, that seem to be the only legality you need, money.
    As for the war on Gaza by Israel, last one, 28 school destroyed over 15 hospitals destroyed and 500 children killed and unknown number people killed.
    Each time Brittan and usa have declared war on countries in the middle east. This time cannot declare war on Syria because of Russia, so declare war on isil which was their idea in the first place and has backfire on them, they will be warring away for year to come, as long as they have the money with their friends in Israel.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted December 8, 2015 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      In this case it was “cannot declare war on Syria because of MPs voting against it”, the proposed attempt to use force to remove the recognised President of the Syrian state being more or less equivalent to a declaration of war on that state.

    • bluedog
      Posted December 8, 2015 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      ”As for the war on Gaza by Israel, last one, 28 school destroyed over 15 hospitals destroyed and 500 children killed and unknown number people killed.”

      Here we go. Let’s ignore the fact that Israel’s enemy was using the schools and hospitals as cover for its own attacks on Israel. Let’s ignore the Israeli decision to get out of Gaza, leaving it to the Gazans alone, who have promptly used their land to launch barrage after barrage of rockets at the Israelis.

      If any British government faced the same dilemma as the Israeli government it would act as the Israeli government does. Indeed, the decision by Cameron to form two new strike brigades of the British Army suggests that the day when Britain faces an internal security problem similar to that faced by Israel is closer than you imagine.

  39. iago
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    “This debate is about us”…
    Last week we decided to bomb Islamic State in Syria as well as in Iraq. About three weeks ago, a British Christian man of Pakistani origin was almost beaten to death in Bradford for the sharia crime or sin of apostasy, for ceasing to be moslem. No one has been arrested in connection with this.
    I find it remarkable that since then no politician in this country has made a comment about this act of savagery. We have decided to attack Islamic State but, when an attempt is made to establish an islamic state in miniature in Bradford, we have nothing to say. Another example of our pusillanimity this year has been our failure to arrest those who have been fighting for Islamic State when they return to this country.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted December 8, 2015 at 7:12 am | Permalink

      That incidence had nothing at all to do with Islam, or to put it another way:

      #THEYWERENTNOMUSLIMSWOTDIDTHATBRUV

  40. Jon
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    I see this as having two parts, a Legal and a technological aspect.
    From the legal point I don’t see a problem in principle at all, I’m not in the legal profession so just speaking from a principle point of view.
    If in my household a member decides to use some land for nefarious purposes and for financial gain lets say then I have a responsibility there. Lets say for example I disapprove but take ineffectual action against the household member that results in the activity continuing. I could still have the land asset confiscated, there could be other governance issues I could be charged with. Other household members not involved could also loose by say loosing inheritance.
    So on a country level there is still the responsibility to act responsibly to the wider society which would be the world in this case.
    John you mention only Syria and Iraq when we hear that part of that border doesn’t exist being taken by IS. Action against who? Who’s land, IS Iraq Syria? Who’s responsibility was it to keep their household in order? What should be the consequences if not kept in order and the activities act to the detriment of the wider society being the World in this case.

    The other aspect is technology. We can only legally apply what technology is available to us. I don’t think that it’s a long way off that we would be able to ‘bomb’ but where that bomb does not damage structures just organic material. I think it’s that kind of weapon you elude too and I understand it could form part of an arsenal in the not too distant future.

    I do see issues with that type of weapon, almost a chemical type weapon which would crucially make the case for war from the nefarious type even more likely. The cost benefit analysis of war would improve if you didn’t have to destroy assets.

  41. Jumeirah
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    If you are not prepared to accept that there will inevitably be civilian casualties as result of ‘human shield’ or because it’s simply unavoidable then DON’T GO TO WAR. Pilots will be given co-ordinates to attack and they should attack them – Politicians make wars NOT those they send to fight them. In the same way -the Special Forces Operatives that walk amongst us ( so we are told) are trained and tasked to kill and I would expect them to do just that in situations where they confront armed Terrorists in our streets, in our shops, buses, tubes indeed anywhere. THAT’s THEIR JOB – head shot, chest shot in rapid order because who knows who wears the Martyr’s belt and annihilates everyone within range.This is serious business and we can longer afford to play games on our own streets NOR the battle field NOR can we take to TASK those exceptionally well trained and experienced professionals we deploy to carry out operations against targets that WE (indirectly through parliament and directly through their Senior Officers) assign them to – point being that the buck stops with Parliament.
    Do you really believe that the warplanes flying (over our house somewhere in the Middle East) in the early hours of the morning every morning on their way to bomb the daylights out of Sana and on arrival there actually pick their targets or abort missions because Shia backed militia are in amongst the civilian population – NO! they let loose indiscriminately – it’s a war and they want to finish it quickly, efficiently and effectively. No Parliament here – what the King says GOES.
    Should we be bombing Syria? No! Should Russia and USA jointly force KSA (Wahabis) & Iran ( Shia) to the table and bang heads together -Yes! it’s only they that can stop it. KSA want a Caliphate within the whole Region – Daesh is not quite what they want but in time they are confident that they can fine tune it the Wahabi way and they haven’t given up their plans for resurgence of Taliban (Wahabi) in Afghanistan. Shia Iran also has it game plan. Sanctions crippled Iran big time and I mean BIG TIME so drag them kicking and screaming to the table – THEY WILL LISTEN -faced with sanctions again they’ve got NO CHOICE. How do we get sanctions approved through the UN? Fix it! Much easier now than it ever was. Just blow a cold wind over KSA – that Ruling Family is so insecure that if they feel ‘really, really, REALLY unloved’ – they will also come. KSA & Iran are the easy ones – USA and Russia – well that’s where the initial problem lies.
    Defend our Homeland ROBUSTLY that’s what we have got to do and leave the rest to others. I am heartily sick with this phrase that is rammed down our throats almost every day in response to just about everything turned out in Westminster which is ” in our National interest” – the only thing that is in our National interest is: Eradicate Terrorism in our Homeland and we can and we will; keep our Armed Forces well equipped and strong; vote to Leave EU so that we can once again Govern ourselves and reclaim our rights and our Laws; open, build up and strengthen our trade and markets with the rest of the world and pay our struggling farmers properly for the excellent produce that they provide us with.
    We have done our duty in war and many in our Nation have sacrificed themselves to this end and they will not be forgotten. But that price is now becoming too high.

  42. Anonymous
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Lawyers must not be allowed to tout for business against our troops.

    Body cameras on soldiers. A mixed blessing.

    War is war and there are some things that civilians should not know about once it’s been declared. It is unfair that our troops have to wait until they are fired upon before engagement.

  43. Ken Moore
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Who is the enemy in Syria and Libya?..is it just those that pull the triggers on the guns or the ‘baying crowds’ eagerly watching scenes of grotesque savagery?. Can the middle east ever be a safe and civilised place if a beheading is seen as an opportunity for a ‘family day out’.
    Perhaps having a brutal dictator in charge is what is needed to keep the savagery at bay in these parts of the world..oops our great leaders got rid of those as they knew better.

    Can we stop being so politically correct and admit many of these people will never share our values. The chances of us imposing any kind of political settlement in the region are almost nil.

  44. petermartin2001
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 2:56 am | Permalink

    I would say it’s just about impossible to come up with a set of rules that covers every eventuality. Everything has to be decided on what seems reasonable on a case by case basis.

    The West has to learn to look at the internal politics when civil wars break out and pick a side they would like to support. As the Iraq and Libya experiences should have taught everyone, there’s rarely an ideal choice. The alternatives to the Saddam or Gaddafi regimes aren’t any better than those regimes. So, we might well then ask if there was any point in removing them at the cost of much human suffering. Whatever their other shortcomings, it was possible to do deals with Saddam and Gaddafi. If their behaviour was unacceptable it was usually just a matter of applying enough pressure to force them to change.

    We can’t say that about ISIL or any of the many other groups that have stepped into the political void left by Saddam and Gaddafi.

    The Russians have decided that they are going to back Assad in Syria. Who’s to say they are wrong?

  45. petermartin2001
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    Sorry to be off topic but the thread where I originally mentioned this is now closed for comments.

    You dismissed this report as “scaremongering” at the time but ….

    My original question was that if we could afford to train our own nurses without making them pay when Britain was a much poorer country than it now is, why do we find it so difficult now?

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/06/nursing-bursaries-axed-jeremy-hunt?CMP=share_btn_fb

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted December 8, 2015 at 7:03 am | Permalink

      It seems obvious that if we are having to import nurses because the home supply is insufficient then any government action should be directed to increasing the home supply, and if replacing bursaries with loans has any effect then it is likely to be in the opposition direction. But then we know that the government is in favour of mass immigration in the hope that it will help the Treasury balance the books. And if the employment of foreign nurses brings down costs then there is little point in training British nurses anyway, we might as well shut down the training colleges in the same way as the coal mines were shut down because imported coal was cheaper.

    • stred
      Posted December 8, 2015 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      And why do we have to have degree level nursing, with one in ten applicants accepted? The original courses were mainly on the job training, with nurses living in special homes near hospitals in order to be available and keep costs down. We had to convert one in London to a large hotel 25 years ago. The academic side in not needed for SRN type nurses and the foreign nurses we recruit from poorer countries are not required to have academic qualifications.The NHS has become an agency for inward migration.

      • Margaret
        Posted December 10, 2015 at 2:12 am | Permalink

        For your information the academic side of Nurse training for an SRN was much more in depth clinically. We had constant theoretical exams , we were taught in medicine, had to pass state exams and hospital finals, My oral exams were to the standard of any new Dr now. The schools of nursing were centred around clinical/ medical knowledge in comparison with today when waffle and pseudo research takes precedent. The State Registered Nurse did learn theoretically and was tested in an ongoing fashion before she was allowed to try out medicine on the patient. All wards had clinical tutors and we were lectured regularly by specialists from every conceivable discipline.

      • Margaret
        Posted December 10, 2015 at 2:26 am | Permalink

        and what is more the SRN has on her state certificate that she is entitled to call herself a registered Nurse which is exactly what the new qualified nurse holds now. Degrees are of a low academic standard generally. They look good on paper , but the theory is up to the individual once the modules have all been streamlined and they have written essays in a set fashion, the content is very little. Most who have done degrees will tell you that they acquired information in different ways and the letters were for show, whereas the SRN had professional training which set her to expand with the profession and not to low university standards.
        I say this after teaching a newly qualified Nurse who not only did not knpw how to take a blood pressure , but didn’t even understand what it physiologically represented. So much for universities.

  46. Margaret
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Some interesting points here John. Russell earlier on last century asked why reasonable men fight each other when under normal conditions they would befriend each other. They have no individual war with one another. They fight because they represent a collective ;the state. Many people on this site heavily and adversely criticise the state, however it is to protect all of us who legally occupy the territory the state represents. Territory rights are one of the most basic animal/human instincts there is. However liberal we are in that territory it is advisable to be civilly obedient. Rawls argued that to be obeyed the state has to be seen as just and on this subject Tawney appealed to the general common sense and inherent good nature of man to respect justice.
    Today we are not dealing with these sort of sensibilities. We are dealing with those whose ideals are not centred around well being , life and reverence of building and improving our social conscience ,we are dealing with not one , but gangs of Hitler’s. If we get into the mind of this man we may find some sort of clue , but in a crude way to the workings of ISIL. War crimes are being committed , yet ISIS don’t subscribe to national treaties, they don’t believe in the gift of life . Death and after life is all. If we were to let this sect run riot, by their own principles they would consider it an honour to kill their own as they built up their state . Assad has taught them this , they rebel against Assad and use his tactics to dominate till the death.
    I have little faith in religion and although needed Christianity to fall back on to during a crisis in my life , there is no God , there is only man and animals and DNA and morphism, but Christianity speaks of good will to all men . This must be just, but down to basics, if someone was about to kill me, I would try to kill them first.

  • 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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