Even among senior, Labour figures, there is fairly widespread agreement that Britain’s intervention in Iraq has had dire consequences for the whole Middle East Region. George Bush’s ‘war on terrorism’ was justifiably seen by most Muslims as an attack on them and on their beliefs. The barely literate, popular Press has so fuelled Islamophobia and overt hatred of Muslims in many parts of the West over the last decade, that they in turn are suspicious of all actions directed at their co-religionists.
The hawkish Defence Minister, Michael Fallon, ignoring all lessons of history, has proposed air strikes against ISIS bases in Syria. He seems to forget that in the last Parliament, William Hague was keen to get into action against the Assad regime and to support the forces opposed to it. We now know that those ‘moderate rebels’, armed by the Americans, are clearly identified as the umbrella Islamic State! In the last Parliament, Fallon was urging military action against Putin because of his perceived threat to the Baltic States. It is clear that when Fallon is wrong, he does so in upper case letters and grabs a few headlines from such skilled, European experts as the Daily Mail. The tight arithmetic of the Tory majority forced Cameron to keep him in place at Defence to appease his own right wing. One of Fallon’s accusations against the Russians was that they were ignoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Yet he said this week that ‘there is no legal bar to us operating in Syria’ . That’s his commitment to respecting sovereign boundaries.
He has the support of the former Chief of General Staff, General Richard Dannett, who served in Northern Ireland and succeeded the disgraced General Sir Mike Jackson of Bloody Sunday notoriety as CGS. The British Army knows that the massacre by its forces in Derry over forty years ago sufficiently radicalised many, previously uncommitted, young people to join the IRA. Dannett must surely also recognise that had Britain and the US not attacked Iraq and subsequently destabilised the whole Region, then many of the of the current problems would simply not have arisen. How can he and Fallon possibly argue that Britain and armed intervention is the solution.
One other belief shared by Fallon and Dannett is the failure of the Human Rights Act. Fallon, in the last parliament, is on record as believing that what he called the “abuse” of the Human Rights Act served to bring about costly inquiries into the conduct of British soldiers during wartime operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and was wrong. “This abuse has got to stop”, he told a journalist, “and the next Tory government will limit the reach of human rights cases to the UK so our forces overseas are not subject to persistent human rights claims.” Dannett, in turn, believes that it would be wrong to bring legal action against any of those soldiers whom the Saville Inquiry found guilty of murder in Derry on Bloody Sunday.
Baron Dannett is a muscular Christian and, perhaps, the lion-hearted Richard seeks a modern crusade in Syria.