The abyss opens in Syria: Growing war takes over the G8 agenda

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When Tony Blair and John McCain, the right-wing U.S. Republican, along with Rupert Murdoch's Times, are the cheerleaders for greater intervention in Syria, then you know there's nothing humanitarian about it.

Instead, the people who brought us Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and all the disasters that accompanied them, are doing it again. And they have to be stopped.

As the leaders of the G8 assembled in Enniskillen this week, Syria is shooting up their agenda. The announcement by the Obama government that it will arm sections of the opposition is guaranteed to escalate the war and to create tensions with its traditional Cold War rival Russia, which remains a close ally of the Assad government.

The pretext for the change in policy, where so far intervention has been covert and often unacknowledged in mainstream media or in government, is the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria by the regime. This allegation comes from CIA intelligence, an unreliable source given its record on the Iraq war.

There have been similar allegations circulating for months now, and until recently Obama's line was that it was not clear who was using chemical weapons or where, and that the amounts of such weapons were small. There was some suggestion that both sides were using chemical weapons. This week, however, the U.S. declaration puts the blame completely on Assad and insists that their use means that Obama's 'red line' has been crossed.

Why the change in attitude? There seem to be two obvious factors: the recent involvement of the Lebanese Hezbollah, a close ally of Iran, in fighting within Syria, and the military advances which Assad has made in recent weeks. It is fear of these two, connected, questions which seems to be driving U.S. policy.

Our own home-grown warmonger Tony Blair has now weighed in to support intervention, claiming in the Guardian today that chemical weapons use will spread if there is no such development and that their use in Syria is the first since Saddam Hussein used them back in the 1980s. That is pure fabrication: the U.S. used white phosphorus in Fallujah in the early years of the occupation there, and the Israelis used the same chemical in Gaza back in 2009.

No one should defend the use of chemical weapons, with their deadly effect on human beings, from any side. But nor can this supposed evidence be used as a pretext to intervene in Syria, which has seen the number of deaths rocket from around 10,000 a year ago to over 90,000 today. As Bill Neely says in the Mirror, this figure may be far surpassed in another year if intervention goes ahead.

For there is one simple fact which is ignored by Blair and Obama, but which stands out in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya: war to avoid humanitarian disaster has always created greater humanitarian disaster. We are told that the aim is to save lives, but in all these cases the result was a much higher death toll.

The British government is up to its neck in the warmongering, with Blair merely echoing Cameron's determination not to be left out of this latest military adventure. Indeed Britain and France have already forced the lifting of the EU arms embargo, which runs out in August. Cameron will use the G8 to argue for greater intervention. Blair's suggestion of a no fly zone is one that may become a reality. It would almost certainly presage a war throughout the Middle East and perhaps beyond.

It is for this reason that even some who traditionally support wars are hesitant and why there is so much division in government circles both here and the US about what should be done. Over 80 Tory MPs have sent a letter to Cameron urging him not to arm the opposition, and calling for the House of Commons to have a vote before any decision is taken. It is rumoured that five Cabinet Ministers are also opposed. Cameron will face strong opposition in parliament. Even the Daily Mail thinks it's a bad idea.

This opposition is reinforced by strong levels of opposition in public opinion polls, which show large majorities opposing intervention, and opposing recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We must harness that opinion into action and campaigning if we are to stop the really dangerous people now arguing for war from getting their way. 


Lindsey German is the convenor of the UK Stop the War Coalition. 

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