House of Commons votes no to Syria action

August 30th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports that the House of Commons has voted down by 285 to 272 a resolution authorising use of force in . This is a huge embarrassment to and his Government.  Cameron has said he will respect the decision. Around 30 Conservative MPs voted against.

I’m not totally surprised. I listen to the UK Today in Parliament on podcast almost every day, and in the past few months there have been many speeches from Conservative MPs expressing concern at the UK doing anything to help the rebels in Syria.

This will also be a big blow to Obama, who will have to act without their traditional ally. Of course he does have strong backing from most of the Arab League for action.

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61 Responses to “House of Commons votes no to Syria action”

  1. David Garrett (7,271 comments) says:

    Very good decision…If the Arab League – whoever they are these days – want to remove an odious dictator from their region let them do so…No-one elected the yanks – or the Brits for that matter to be the world’s policeman…

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  2. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    This will also be a big blow to Obama, who will have to act without their traditional ally

    No, he could wait and see what the evidence is, then decide what (if anything) to do. Alas, he seems to have made a decision to attack prior to getting all the evidence. The weapons’ inspectors haven’t finished their work.

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  3. mandk (993 comments) says:

    If the Arab League wants action, then its members should take action.
    The current conflict in Syria is not the business of the US, UK or any other Western nation.
    The real winners from any kind of Western intervention would be the Muslim militants.

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  4. GPT1 (2,121 comments) says:

    No, he could wait and see what the evidence is, then decide what (if anything) to do. Alas, he seems to have made a decision to attack prior to getting all the evidence. The weapons’ inspectors haven’t finished their work.
    He made that dumb red line speech. He has to be seen to do something even if it is just firing a few Tomahawks and hitting some camels in the arse (to paraphrase Bush II). If he doesn’t then the next time the US calls a nation on playing silly buggers (eg: North Korea) the threat will be empty.

    It’s a hell of a dilemma. I have no doubt that there are atrocities being committed all through Syria probably by all sides and that the Government is quite happy to unleash the chemicals. It is awful but expending more Western blood and treasure in the Middle East really isn’t that attractive. And to what end? Spreading the joy of freedom and democracy is a long and seemingly never ending task. Shooting Assad, whilst undoubtedly a positive act, isn’t going to bring peace and joy to the people of Syria overnight.

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  5. Bevan (3,924 comments) says:

    Does this mean the good men are going to do nothing?

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  6. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    Of course he does have strong backing from most of the Arab League for action.

    Arguably that would be a reason to think long and hard about whether you’re doing the right thing.

    Assad is an odious dictator. His opposition are a mix of jihadis and crazies. There is a non-zero risk that it’ll turn out Assad didn’t do the poison gassing. Some in the region support Assad due to his ethnic and religious group. Others support the rebels due to their ethnic and religious groups. Whatever comes out of this won’t be good, and I’m not sure it’s wise to get involved – that’s just a reason for everyone to blame the west. If we could even work out which side was least bad that’d be a start, I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing here as being on the side of the angels.

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  7. RightNow (6,994 comments) says:

    Wow, I didn’t realise how influential the UKIP is getting.
    http://ukip.org/newsroom/news/851-ukip-opposes-intervention-in-syria

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  8. mandk (993 comments) says:

    @ Bevan,
    Good men will do nothing if they calculate that doing something will lead to more harm than benefit.
    Out of interest, what good do you see coming out of an intervention by good men?

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  9. Griff (7,686 comments) says:

    As of May 2013, UKIP has 11 of the 73 UK seats in the European Parliament, three members in the House of Lords and one seat in the Northern Ireland Assembly, though it has never won a seat in the House of Commons.

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  10. the deity formerly known as nigel6888 (852 comments) says:

    I have beer and popcorn. Watching Obama try to build a “coalition of the willing” to invade a Ba’Athist dictatorship in search of WMD is too too ironic.

    Guess the hopey changeyness hasnt quite panned out, and Mr “let me be clear” is discovering that there are nasty people out there, that national interests matter irrespective of the current flavour of US President, and that Vlad has handed him his arse. Again.

    Plus, those Poms who lined up to support the US last time, haven’t really enjoyed being shat on by Obama the last 5 years. “Sorry old boy, democratic processes and whatnot…”

    Wonder when his Nobel peace prize will have to be given back?

    bwuhahahaa

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  11. queenstfarmer (782 comments) says:

    there have been many speeches from Conservative MPs expressing concern at the UK doing anything to help the rebels in Syria

    It’s far from clear who “the rebels” are, and whether the west wants to help them.

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  12. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    @mandk “Good men will do nothing if they calculate that doing something will lead to more harm than benefit.”
    Agreed.
    The existing situation is a bad situation, but lobbing in a few Tomahawks would make things much worse.
    Syria would then attack Israel (as they’ve threatened to do), and their ally Iran could also do so.
    Israel would then hammer Syria and Iran (as they’d be entitled to do).

    After that – who knows? In particular, it’s anyone’s guess as to what Russia would do (if anything).

    IMO, Assad couldn’t care less about a few Tomahawks. The only thing that firing Tomahawks would do is to salve Obama’s conscience, and IMO that’s not a good enough reason to act.

    As for “innocent people being killed” – it has happened in the Middle East for centuries and will *continue* to happen for centuries.

    If Syria attacked *another country*, then ok, that country is fully entitled to retaliate and hammer him. Otherwise, the West should stay well away from all of this.

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  13. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    The new Egyptian military installed regime has also opposed action in Syria – unlike the former MB government of Morsi that championed democracy in Syria.

    Little wonder, use of military force against civilians is what they have in common and calling Moslem opposition terrorist and made illegal.

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  14. DJP6-25 (1,387 comments) says:

    It’s good to see the mother of parliaments making a rational decision for once. Maybe its the start of a trend.

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  15. JC (955 comments) says:

    I’m very much in favour of a big missile and bombing program to punish Assad.. only I’d suggest Obama raise the sights a bit and hit the Iranian nuclear sites.
    Thats the source of the trouble with Syria, Lebanon and Hezbollah.. Assad is just a bit player who is a tool of Russia and Iran.

    JC

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  16. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    The vote will reinforce the confidence of the UKIP in their campaign to take the UK out of Europe and this will really divide the Tory Party.

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  17. Reid (16,442 comments) says:

    Syria is and always has been a regime-change operation. Western-backed mercs have been raping, torturing and killing civilians including children, who were all quite happy and content under Assad. After all, did we ever hear about internal dissent from them, before this regime-change operation began? No, we didn’t. That fact alone should give people pause for thought. But no, apparently not.

    Another fact is, many rebel groups are Al-Qa’ida. AND THE WEST IS BACKING THEM! That’s another FACT that SHOULD give people HUGE pause for thought seeing as how Al-Qa’ida are apparently the bad guys, but still no, apparently not.

    Sadly it appears, not many people are well versed in how Western-backed regime change operations work. It’s as if they hallucinate that the West doesn’t engage in such things and it’s always “the enemy” who does them. Even when they consider things like the well-known fact that Brzezhinsky, the father of the colour revolutions in Eastern Europe in the 90’s, was in Obama’s FP team during the last election, and when they consider the false pretext in Iraq, and the Libyan regime change, still nothing appears to register.

    It’s amazing. It’s like some mass hallucination, it’s like some people still think they’re living in Reagan’s campaign slogan, “It’s morning in America.”

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  18. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    @JC – “I’m very much in favour of a big missile and bombing program to punish Assad.. only I’d suggest Obama raise the sights a bit and hit the Iranian nuclear sites.”

    Nah….. very risky as to how the Russians would react.

    A clearer and “cleaner” scenario would be this –

    The West stays out of it but Syria attacks Israel of its own accord.
    The attacks are largely ineffective – missiles are stopped by Iron Dome and its longer-range sister system David’s Sling.

    Israel then retaliates and *hammers* Syria. Iran tries to attack Israel but also gets hammered.
    In summary – two scumbag regimes attack Israel and Israel destroys them in retaliation. Two scumbag regimes destroyed, justifiably and cleanly (as clean as war can ever be).

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  19. kowtow (8,445 comments) says:

    David Cameron is a huge embarrassment to the Conservatives.

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  20. NeilM (370 comments) says:

    Instead of using the humanitarian crisis in Syria settle old score over he Iraq war the British Labour Party might want to deal with who they think was responsible more directly. Like the British Labour Party.

    10 years ago they voted for military intervention when there weren’t WMD. Today the vote against it when not only there are but they’ve been used.

    Getting wrong twice is hardly making amends for anything.

    Great way to deter the US from acting as the world cop. Obama will be thinking, gee thanks guys, I got voted in partly to try and act more multinational and you and fuck me over.

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  21. the deity formerly known as nigel6888 (852 comments) says:

    Sorry Neil

    Is this the same Obama who sent back the bust of Churchill, gave the queen an ipod of his favourite speeches, stiffed Cameron, made a big point of strong-arming “british” petroleum, and said the special relationship wasnt that special?

    the Poms owe him nothing, so politely letting him twist in the breeze is the least they can do …

    Bwuhahaha

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  22. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    @the deity – Agreed!

    IMO, the only competition that Obama has for “worst POTUS ever” is Jimmy Carter.

    Ok, Dubya had his moments, but I’ll give him credit where it’s due for rebuilding infrastructure in Iraq (after the clusterf**k decision to go in there) and the even better massive building of roads, schools, hospitals, phone network and a military in Afghanistan.

    If Dubya was a 7 or 8 on the 1 to 10 “bad president scale”, Obama is a 10 – no doubt about it.

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  23. Nigel Kearney (1,012 comments) says:

    I have no idea whether military intervention is worthwhile, apparently unlike the other posters in this thread. But some things are clear:

    1. Contrary to what John Key said, UN approval should have absolutely no bearing on the decision. Russia has proven they will provide immunity from security council action to any despot who pays them enough. The ‘official’ system is broken so free, democratic nations need to decide another way.

    2. It’s wierd to suggest that moral authority to act is somehow related to geographic distance from the wrong being committed. If we treat this any differently than we would treat a similar situation in Fiji, it can only be because of a different level of self-interest.

    3. It’s wishful thinking that Syria will be foolish enough to attack Israel. Saddam gassed his own people and was allowed to continue merrily along until he foolishly attacked Kuwait. They will have learned from that.

    Probably I would be more inclined to just put a large price on the head of Assad and his top people and let the private sector collect if they can. Let him go to bed every night wondering if the soldier guarding the door would like to be $20 million dollars richer. A drastic shortening of the life expectancy of people ordering this sort of thing is an essential element for it to be prevented in future. Military strikes tend to just hit the footsoldiers.

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  24. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Reid, dissent against the regime in Syria was not an invention of the Americans – it came from the Arab spring in North Africa (Tunisia) and the existence of al Jazeera and the internet breaking local government control of the media.

    Past rebellions were also put down by reprisals against unarmed civilians.

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  25. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    @Nigel Kearney – “Let him go to bed every night wondering if the soldier guarding the door would like to be $20 million dollars richer.”

    Agreed. That is the most elegant, simplest and cleanest solution that I’ve seen! I’m amazed that it hasn’t yet been done (as far as I’m aware).

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  26. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    It would seem that some on the right confuse a militant Moslem with a gun fighting for democracy (after unarmed protestors were shot in Damascus) with a terrorist. And a Moslem seeking democracy with one seeking to impose sharia law.

    Apparently so well trained have the right become to the idea of Moslems being a terrorist threat to our security that they cannot contemplate common cause with Moslems when they want democratic self government. And thus those like Assad can just call their opposition terrorists and block support for them or even restraint on his regime using chemical weapons against unarmed civilians.

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  27. Reid (16,442 comments) says:

    Reid, dissent against the regime in Syria was not an invention of the Americans

    SPC, the Chinese media could take the Maori attitudes here and manufacture precisely the same bullshit. Then say Indonesia backed by China could send in a few gangs and start killing people. Then when the govt retaliates the thugs start shelling Taihape and blaming it on the govt, and the Chinese media hypes it up, claiming there was a general massacre and atrocities committed against the poor innocent Maori who really came from Taiwan and are really ethnic Chinese. Etc etc.

    That’s how they do it and the US did it in South and Central America all through the 80’s and in Eastern Europe all through the 90’s and in the ME they used their proxies over there to do it. They provide the funds and the proxies buy the arms on the black market and that’s why Saudi Arabia are one of the “rebels” biggest backers and it’s no coincidence they’re the US’ closest ally beside Israel.

    Your comment and previous comments on Syria betrays your profound ignorance of what the West do and always have done. You appear to be one of the ‘Morning in America’ fantasists. Good luck with your fantasy. I expect you’ll be one of the fools who are most surprised when WWIII breaks out.

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  28. NeilM (370 comments) says:

    I do think Miliband is now in a difficult position.

    He does not oppose military intervention and he did not oppose one single word of the defeated resolution. He wanted to add some clauses but already Cameron had conceded that he would return to parliament for a second vote if there was going to be military action.

    Now though he’s the hero of the anti-interventionist side and gas made it extremely difficult if not impossible for Britain to take action against Assad no matter what Assad does.

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  29. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    Interesting NeilM. So essentially Labour thought they could grandstand and vote against because they thought it would go through anyway. Then it turned out that a few tories (note to some on here, that’s an accurate description when used to refer to UK conservatives) voted against it for principled reasons. And it turned out that actually Labour needed to vote for it if they wanted it to happen.

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  30. NeilM (370 comments) says:

    @PaulL

    I think life will be difficult for both Cameron and Miliband.

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  31. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Reid, disagreeing with your opinion is not a sign of ignorance and nor does it place in me in some enemy “Morning in America” camp. The world is a more complex place than that.

    Simplistic this side or that side is the resort of those who believe in some adversary (Hebrew word Satan) to slander (Hebrew word for slanderer is devil). You believe in a being called satan and devil in your primitive religious faith and you believe in demonising those who do not agree with you and your world view. It’s not a sign of intelligence.

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  32. NeilM (370 comments) says:

    Isn’t Obama the POTUS the world was hoping for so long?

    Intelligent, liberal, considered, multilateral.

    And isn’t Assad the very tyrant the world said they would act against if action had to be taken – is actively brutal, is currently using WMD?

    And yet this is all being framed as the fault of the US.

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  33. Andrei (2,644 comments) says:

    It is the fault of Obama NeilM, he is very good at emoting and image building but shit useless at diplomacy

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  34. Reid (16,442 comments) says:

    SPC I called you ignorant and a fool and you are, on this matter. You’re not on other matters but on this, you are, so far. Sorry if you think that’s slander but to me it’s just so obvious what the west has been doing and most people should have seen it since Iraq and if you haven’t then you really are ignorant, since the history is all there, just waiting to be discovered. But if you don’t want to look at it; I can only imagine it’s because doing so hurts your ego due to the fact that looking at it creates cognitive dissonance because in your own mind, “your side” doesn’t and couldn’t act like that: then you’re a fool, because you’re disregarding fact in favour of emotion and that’s the very definition of a fool.

    Sorry about that, but there we are.

    Incidentally I think you’ll find it’s the Greek word diabolos that translates into slanderer, the Hebrew for devil is accuser or adversary. Interestingly I often cite Satan’s alternative names “the slanderer and the deceiver” and he’s just that, he’s very good at deception that is, hiding his true intent and plan and he’s very good at slandering, which is at the basis of all propaganda: accuse your enemy of what you yourself are most guilty of. And coincidentally (or not) this is precisely what the chemical attack is an example of.

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  35. the deity formerly known as nigel6888 (852 comments) says:

    There is a good reason why Assad has never been offed, its the same reason the Israelis never offed Arafat. Better the devil you know. Look at “regime change” in Libya and Egypt. Hasn’t that turned out well?

    Looks as though cutting and running in Iraq wasnt so clever either. Wonder how Afghanistan will turn out once the americans run away there too?

    There seems to be a few simple lessons:

    1. Keep away from getting embroiled in Middle Eastern politics, these guys do hate and grudges going back thousands of years, they wont be changing anytime soon. The only thing guaranteed that they will hate more than each other is you. If you expect gratitude you will be waiting a very long time,

    2. If you do get involved, you broke it, you own it, this is a long, long term game. Expect to be occupying for the next 50 years.

    3. If you havent the stomach to carry through on 2, then revert to 1.

    4. Your left wing are all quislings, they have the attention span of gnats and the intellectual consistency of baby poo. They will knife you any way they can, regardless of your apparent politics, just to demonstrate their own moral superiority. If you are a rightie they will march in the streets and call you a baby killer before you start, regardless of whether you are doing exactly what they have previously demanded. If you are a leftie, they will give you ooh, maybe five to six months to make the world perfect, before they will drag you down.

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  36. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Reid, Obama and I both opposed the regime change in Iraq.

    The idea that he is now part of some attempt to falsify facts on the ground to justify intervention is nonsense.

    He is caught out on his earlier words of a red line on use of chemical weapons. Their use is inconvenient to him, not something he manufactured.

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  37. Reid (16,442 comments) says:

    The idea that he is now part of some attempt to falsify facts on the ground to justify intervention is nonsense.

    SPC, is that because you’ve looked into it and concluded such, or because you’ve never considered it because you already “know” it couldn’t be?

    Your words indicate the latter, since if you’d looked into it you would know this isn’t unique to Obama, it’s part of US ME dirty tricks crossing multiple Administrations dating back to the fifties, when they overthrew Mossadeq. Just more of the same. Same old, same old.

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  38. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Reid, Baath Party regimes (in Syria and Iraq) have used chemical weapons before, and no that does prove that every use in Syria is by the Assad regime time. Precedent is on neither side in this.

    But given Obama’s form in opposing the Iraq play, reluctance to lead in Libya or get involved in Syria to this point, there are reasons for doubting his involvement in manufacturing this.

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  39. Reid (16,442 comments) says:

    SPC it’s not what they say, it’s what they do. And it’s not only the US whose been advocating Syrian intervention. And the question is not only who has been or even what they have all been doing these past few years, it’s why. And you won’t get that from the MSM or Whitehouse.com.

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  40. Australis (101 comments) says:

    “Do you allow Assad to use chemical weapons with no consequences at all”.

    What if the UN inspectors are authorised to investigate who the culprit was, and decide that the evidence points to one of the many rebel groups? (We know they have sarin, and Al Qaeda could probably lay their hands on other strains, esp with the help of sunni governments)

    Would USA allow terrorists to use chemical weapons with no consequences at all?

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  41. NeilM (370 comments) says:

    I’m appalled by the lack of support for Obama from the international community. I’m appalled at Miliband’s behaviour and appalled that the isolationist Right and anti-American Left have conspired to to defang any attempt to deal with Assad.

    Perhaps Miliband could have signalled his intention to opt out at the time when Obama made it clear the consequences of using gas. Did Miliband think that was an empty threat?

    The international community has gifted the perfect attack line for the next Republican presidential hopefuls – Oh Obama tried that multilateral thing, but when it came the crunch he was on his own – so no point going down that route with Iran or North Korea.

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  42. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    The BBC and the napalm bombing of a school playground in North Syria.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-23892594

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  43. Andrei (2,644 comments) says:

    Get over it NeilM – Obama is a clown, an arrogant fool with no idea how the world works and who expects everybody else to go along with him.

    How this cretin ever got to be the President of the USA is a mystery but he has succeeded in making his Nation a laughing stock and alienated the vast majority of the world to the USA.

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  44. tvb (4,418 comments) says:

    KRudd is ramping up this issue taking a very aggressive stance ahead of Australia’s role as Chair of the security council I do not see how Australia can Chair the Security Council with integrity against this background. Tony Abbott meanwhile is taking a more cautious approach. He says that Australia does not have the capability to take any meaningful role and it should be left to others. In others words it should stop playing the rooster taking credit for the dawn.

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  45. publicwatchdog (2,593 comments) says:

    30 August 2013

    ‘Open Letter’ to NZ Prime Minister John Key – please confirm that New Zealand will act in accordance with International Law, as spelt out in the ‘Purposes and Principles’ of the UN Charter, regarding conflict in Syria:

    Dear Prime Minister,

    Please be reminded that New Zealand was one of the original signatories to the following UN Charter, signed on 24 September 1945.

    http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter1.shtml

    CHAPTER I: PURPOSES AND PRINCIPLES

    Article 1

    The Purposes of the United Nations are:

    To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;

    To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;

    To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and

    To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.
    Article 2

    The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles.

    The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.

    All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.

    All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.

    All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
    All Members shall give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the present Charter, and shall refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.

    The Organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.

    Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter Vll.

    http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter7.shtml

    CHAPTER VII: ACTION WITH RESPECT TO THREATS TO THE PEACE, BREACHES OF THE PEACE, AND ACTS OF AGGRESSION

    Article 51

    Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
    _________________________________________________________

    Please be reminded of the following statement by the NZ Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, in the ‘Foreword’ of the UN Handbook 2012:

    http://www.mfat.govt.nz/Media-and-publications/Publications/UN-Handbook/offline/UN-Handbook-2012.pdf

    FOREWORD

    “..One of the UN’s greatest strengths is that all states, no matter their size, wealth, or military might, are empowered with an equal voice.

    Every state has a chance to speak, an opportunity to listen and a role to play.

    As a small nation in the Pacific, but one which has always sought to play an active, independent and constructive role in the United Nations, New Zealand understands the importance of that multilateralism and of the UN’s goals and values.

    New Zealand is a firm believer in the United Nations and in doing our share. ….”
    _________________________________________________________

    Please note that in British MPs have voted to reject possible military action against the Assad regime to deter the use of chemical weapons:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23892783

    “British MPs have voted to reject possible military action against the Assad regime in Syria to deter the use of chemical weapons.

    A government motion was defeated by 285 to 272, a majority of 13 votes.

    Prime Minster David Cameron said it was clear Parliament does not want action and “the government will act accordingly”.
    It effectively rules out British involvement in any US-led strikes against the Assad regime.”

    Please note that at this point in time, conclusive scientific EVIDENCE has yet to confirm the symptoms or cause of death of the ‘3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms in less than three hours on the morning of Wednesday, August 21, 2013.

    Of those patients, 355 reportedly died.’ (As reported by the International medical humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders, on 24 August 2013):

    http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/press/release.cfm?id=7029&cat=press-release

    Brussels/New York, August 24, 2013 — Three hospitals in Syria’s Damascus governorate that are supported by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have reported to MSF that they received approximately 3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms in less than three hours on the morning of Wednesday, August 21, 2013. Of those patients, 355 reportedly died.

    Since 2012, MSF has built a strong and reliable collaboration with medical networks, hospitals and medical points in the Damascus governorate, and has been providing them with drugs, medical equipment and technical support. Due to significant security risks, MSF staff members have not been able to access the facilities.

    “Medical staff working in these facilities provided detailed information to MSF doctors regarding large numbers of patients arriving with symptoms including convulsions, excess saliva, pinpoint pupils, blurred vision and respiratory distress,” said Dr. Bart Janssens, MSF director of operations.

    Patients were treated using MSF-supplied atropine, a drug used to treat neurotoxic symptoms. MSF is now trying to replenish the facilities’ empty stocks and provide additional medical supplies and guidance.

    “MSF can neither scientifically confirm the cause of these symptoms nor establish who is responsible for the attack,” said Dr. Janssens. “However, the reported symptoms of the patients, in addition to the epidemiological pattern of the events—characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers—strongly indicate mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent. This would constitute a violation of international humanitarian law, which absolutely prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons.”

    In addition to 1,600 vials of atropine supplied over recent months, MSF has now dispatched 7,000 additional vials to facilities in the area. Treatment of neurotoxic patients is now being fully integrated into MSF’s medical strategies in all its programs in Syria.

    “MSF hopes that independent investigators will be given immediate access to shed light on what happened,” said Christopher Stokes, MSF general director.

    “This latest attack and subsequent massive medical need come on top of an already catastrophic humanitarian situation, characterised by extreme violence, displacement, and deliberate destruction of medical facilities. In the case of such extreme violations of humanitarian law, humanitarian assistance cannot respond effectively and becomes meaningless itself.”

    – See more at: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/press/release.cfm?id=7029&cat=press-release#sthash.MBp21T4Q.dpuf
    _________________________________________________________

    Please be reminded that UN weapons inspectors, tasked with investigating and reporting back on ‘the 21 August chemical attacks that left hundreds of people dead’, have not yet completed their findings:

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/29/un-inspectors-syria-strikes

    “UN weapons inspectors have been ordered to leave Syria early amid mounting anticipation of US-led military strikes.

    As the five permanent members of the security council held a second emergency meeting on Syria in two days on Thursday evening, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, instructed the 20-strong inspection team in Damascus to leave on Saturday, a day ahead of schedule.

    Ban also announced that the team would report to him immediately on departure, raising the possibility that the UN could issue an interim report on the 21 August chemical attacks that left hundreds of people dead.

    The inspectors had not been due to deliver their findings for a week at least, with the analysis of samples a painstaking task.

    The demand for a rushed early assessment reflects the fraught atmosphere at the UN triggered by US threats to launch punitive air strikes within days.

    In Washington US intelligence officials were on Thursday seeking to persuade congressman of the evidence that the Syrian government was responsible for chemical weapons attacks, as the Obama administration resisted comparisons with the run-up to the Iraq war.”
    _________________________________________________________

    Please be reminded that the underpinning reason for the illegal invasion of Iraq, was based upon US Secretary of State, Colin Powell’s following statement to the UN Security Council on 5 February 2003, claiming that Iraq’s possessed weapons of mass destruction, which proved to be an outright lie.

    Remarks to the United Nations Security Council
    Secretary Colin L. PowellNew York CityFebruary 5, 2003

    http://web.archive.org/web/20050204130309/http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/powell/remarks/2003/17300.htm

    “…. My second purpose today is to provide you with additional information, to share with you what the United States knows about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, as well as Iraq’s involvement in terrorism, which is also the subject of Resolution 1441 and other earlier resolutions.

    I might add at this point that we are providing all relevant information we can to the inspection teams for them to do their work.

    The material I will present to you comes from a variety of sources. Some are U.S. sources and some are those of other countries. Some are the sources are technical, such as intercepted telephone conversations and photos taken by satellites. Other sources are people who have risked their lives to let the world know what Saddam Hussein is really up to.

    I cannot tell you everything that we know, but what I can share with you, when combined with what all of us have learned over the years, is deeply troubling. What you will see is an accumulation of facts and disturbing patterns of behavior. The facts and Iraqis’ behavior, Iraq’s behavior, demonstrate that Saddam Hussein and his regime have made no effort, no effort, to disarm, as required by the international community.

    Indeed, the facts and Iraq’s behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction. ..”

    http://www.theinsider.org/news/article.asp?id=487

    US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has finally admitted that the case for invading Iraq “appears” to have been untrue.
    As if the US government didn’t know it at the time!

    Powell was given the job of making the case for overthrowing Iraq’s government to the UN last year. He delivered a presentation to the Security Council, broadcast in the media throughout the world, claiming that Iraq had WMD and had to be disarmed. He showed photographs and maps of weapons facilities. But none of the locations he pointed to were weapons facilities. These sites were all visited by UN weapons inspectors before the war and known to be clean.

    Colin Powell said the US knew Iraq had WMD, and even claimed to know where the weapons were located. Many people took his word for it, particularly in the US. Did you? The official reason for the war on Iraq was a pack of lies. The UN weapons inspectors knew it. Russian intelligence knew it. German intelligence knew it. French intelligence knew it. Even we knew it. Are we supposed to believe that the US and the UK were the last to know? In fact, the truth was freely available for anybody who cared to look.

    Richard Clarke, the US government security advisor during the last four presidencies, and Paul O’Neill, the former Treasury Secretary, have both confirmed that the plan to conquer Iraq was already on the table on 9/11. Bush and his cabinet were ready to use 9/11 as an excuse to take Iraq’s oil even before the bodies were cold.

    There was literally never any evidence whatsoever to support accusations that Iraq had WMD. The reasons for the war on Iraq were not the reasons sold to us: http://www.thedebate.org/

    SOURCE

    BBC News, “Powell admits Iraq evidence mistake”, 3 April 2004.
    [ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3596033.stm ]
    US Secretary of State Colin Powell has admitted that evidence he submitted to the United Nations to justify war on Iraq may have been wrong.
    In February last year he told the UN Security Council that Iraq had developed mobile laboratories for making biological weapons.
    On Friday he conceded that information “appears not to be… that solid”.
    The claim failed to persuade the Security Council to back the war, but helped sway US public opinion.
    Mr Powell said he hoped the commission appointed to investigate pre-war intelligence on Iraq would examine whether the intelligence community was justified in backing the claim.
    Doubts have been widely cast on the existence of the mobile labs, not least by the former US chief weapons inspector in Iraq, David Kay, who now says does not know whether Iraq ever had a mobile weapons programme.
    http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/pb/business/qoa/50HansQ_20130829_00000002/2-syria-internal-conflict%E2%80%94use-of-chemical-weapons
    _____________________________________________________________

    Please be reminded of the total number of Iraqi civilian deaths that have been recorded since the unlawful invasion of Iraq in 2003:

    http://www.iraqbodycount.org/

    Documented civilian deaths from violence

    114,392 – 125,352

    Further analysis of the WikiLeaks’ Iraq War Logs
    may add 11,000 civilian deaths.

    __________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Please take all possible steps to ensure that the New Zealand Government opposes and tries to prevent any unilateral military action by any country against Syria, and upholds the above-mentioned International ‘Rule of Law’ (UN Charter Chapter 1, Article 2 (4):

    “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

    “War does not determine who is right – only who is left,” Bertrand Russell.

    Yours sincerely,
    Penny Bright
    Jacquelyne Taylor

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  46. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    “Documented civilian deaths from violence.”

    I note that that statement doesn’t say *whose* violence.
    That statement begs the question – how many were killed by local jihadis, and how many by Allied forces?

    A very good page that examines that is here –
    http://markhumphrys.com/iraq.dead.html

    That page has a bit about the “Mahmudiyah massacre” in March 2006. How many were killed there? *Four*.

    Quote – “Article: “The Mahmudiyah rampage is regarded as the U.S. military’s most depraved atrocity in Iraq.”
    This is the worst? The killing of 4 people is the worst? How could the U.S. have killed 100,000 if the killing of 4 is the worst proven incident? ”

    2. Civilians killed by allies – Did the allies really kill 100,000 civilians?

    If you really believe that the allies accidentally killed 100,000 (or 200,000, or more) civilians, then here’s what you can do. If this is true, then there must be many incidents in which over, say, 30 civilians were accidentally killed at once. Collect a list of these larger incidents and then cross-reference them with what the allies were doing at the time, to try to explain them. For each of them, demand that the allied militaries explain the incident. Listen to their explanations, which will be things like:
    They weren’t operating in the area at the time.
    The Iraqi side did it.
    The incident never happened.
    The dead were combatants.
    Iraqi combatants used civilians as human shields.
    We did it. It was a mistake. Here’s how the mistake was made.
    and then classify all of these incidents. Rank them by the most damning incidents. ”

    – End quote

    So – as at March 2006, FOUR people at one time was the worst
    killing of civilians by the Allies. Gee – in order to get to 100,000 or 200,000 or more from there, they would need to have carried
    out deliberate slaughter on an *industrial* scale.

    I wonder if anyone can show absolute documented proof of that happening? I doubt it.

    The other thing is – if the Allies killed as many people in Iraq as the lefties say, then WHY were there the various “regional uprisings” such as the “Anbar Awakening”?

    Why would all of those people switch sides and stand beside the Allies who were (according to the Left) slaughtering all over the place?

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  47. Marty McFly (6 comments) says:

    “What our national media isn’t telling you is that in May Turkish security forces found a 2kg cylinder with sarin gas after searching the homes of Syrian militants from the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Nusra Front.”

    http://benswann.com/what-the-media-isnt-telling-you-about-the-syrian-chemical-attack/

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  48. BlairM (2,339 comments) says:

    This proposed Syrian intervention may be the dumbest idea anyone’s suggested since the Austro-Hungarian military thought visiting Belgrade would be lovely for a bit of Summer R&R. No good will come of it. None.

    If we are going to be on anybody’s side in this clusterfuck, it should be Assad’s, not the crazy jihadis. The Russians have it right in this instance.

    But sure, Mr Obama, go right ahead, help the people who are burning churches, killing Christians and kidnapping Priests. Dumbarse.

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  49. KevinH (1,227 comments) says:

    The Assad regime will interpret the British backdown as a victory in their war against rebel forces and may result in more brutal tactics being emoyed on the battlefield.
    The US will have to seek sjpport for a military intervention from local regkonal powers ie Turkey and Israel and this may broaden the conflict.

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  50. NeilM (370 comments) says:

    My thoughts exactly:

    http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/alex-massie/2013/08/on-syria-parliament-has-voted-to-have-no-policy-at-all/

    It was a classic example of the prisoners’ dilemma. Cameron and Miliband are now less well off because they did not cooperate.

    But it’s Miliband who has shown a complete lack of moral compass.

    Having got Cameron to put forward a compromise resolution he then votes it down on the pretext that it didn’t have further amendments that didn’t in fact alter the resolution in any substantive way.

    And now in the Guardian he’s saying, oh maybe I’m not really against intervention, but but but…

    Clear as mud.

    This issue has been on the cards for sometime now – ever since so sms drew the line. But Miliband clearly has spent no time working out his position.

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  51. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    ”Muslims seeking democracy,”….Nothing making much sense there??
    Sunni muslim Obama wants to bomb Christians and Alawites.
    Aren’t Sarin gas and other chemical weapons made in America??

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  52. NeilM (370 comments) says:

    The Guardian editorial unintentionally sums up how it wasn’t about Syria but rather payback to the US over Iraw.

    Pity it was aimed at Obama – who opposed that war – rather than Bush. And pity it means that the Syrians pay the price:

    “There is plenty of evidence that it is fed up with the debilitating post 9/11 years of national sacrifice, with the humiliating excesses of US national security policy (not least its abuses of human rights and surveillance), with the unequal burden-sharing among allies and, above all, with the failures of policy. Iraq casts a very long, very dark shadow. As a result, right from the start of its spiralling civil war, Syria has felt like a sacrifice too far. When the latest call to arms came, though it came from a respected American president and was provoked by clearly intolerable war crimes, the answer was a clear one. Enough.”

    Maybe the Brits could have signalled to Obama earlier that they had to settle some scores before they could engage on Syria.

    At least the French centre left can get things right.

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  53. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    @NeilM – “…a respected American president…”

    Hmm… I think The Guardian got that very wrong….. :)

    It wouldn’t surprise me if Obama is the most despised US president for decades – even more so than Dubya was. Unless I’m much mistaken, Dubya’s time didn’t see the wholesale ignoring of Constitutional rights that Obama’s administration has carried out.

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  54. Kea (12,812 comments) says:

    Would someone please remind me what Obama got a Nobel Peace prize for ?

    He said he would act in the best interests of the US, regardless of support from other nations. What he did not do was announce why waging war with Syria was in the best interests of the US. I think what he was meaning was in the best interests of Israel. Though I doubt this is really going to help Israel’s securit longer term. I

    It is none of Obamas business what goes on in Syria. If he cares about “human rights” he may want to take a long hard look at African nations and the behaviour of many US allies.

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  55. my 2 cents (1,091 comments) says:

    Don’t you want to laugh even allowing for the “is there any American interest” argument.
    Iran’s use of their proxy Syria has shown Obama as the paper tiger he is (not America mind you just it’s president).
    Now they know he’ll likely fold over the nukes and can carry on the plan.
    It’s frightening seeing Obama and his crew telegraphing both the timing and target list for the “intervention” as they know resources will have been moved and it will all be a media sham with no real substance.
    If I were an ally of America I would be worried as is this what will happen should we need back up.
    If Israel doesn’t wake up to this they deserve all they get.

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  56. Kea (12,812 comments) says:

    my 2 cents:

    1. How is Iran using Syria ?

    2. What is “their plan”. Do you mean having nukes like Israel ?

    3. What have US allies got to worry about, beyound the violent power crazied warlord in charge of worlds biggest military ?

    4. How the fuck is any of this the US’s business ?

    5. You are aware Obama is backing a radical Islamic group attacking Syria… arn’t you?

    I hope China, Iran and Russia draw a line in the sand over this. The US voted in a president based on his skin colour. He is an ignorant and violent man who has murdered thousands and sown discontent and war around the world. The US needs to reap what they have sown. Fuck them and all who stand by them.

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  57. Kea (12,812 comments) says:

    It wouldn’t surprise me if Obama is the most despised US president for decades

    He is probably the most hated president in US history. But the lefty media will tries to hide it. Do you really think the world is ok with what he is doing ?

    Even countries that formerly cooperated with the US in recent years, like Russia, are now distancing themselves from him. Even the UK has had enough of this idiot. He seems to determined to out do other notable black leaders (like Idi Amin, Mugabe, General Butt Naked and various warlords of Somalia and the Congo) in bloodshed war and destruction.

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  58. NeilM (370 comments) says:

    @my 2 cents

    “Iran’s use of their proxy Syria has shown Obama as the paper tiger he is”

    I think that will shortly be shown not to the case and there’ll be lots if noisy “anti-war” demos to prove it – demos against Obama that is, not Assad.

    When the strike does happen what’s Miliband going to do – condemn, support or equivocate? I would say equivocate, lots of words at the end of which his position will be even less clearer than now.

    As for the Security Council, there’s no longer any need for Russia to veto. Britain has already done that.

    What a complete fuck-up à deux from Cameron and Miliband.

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  59. NeilM (370 comments) says:

    The two tweets i think sum up the tragedy and farce:

    From Simon Schama:

    “Ed Miliband says he’s learned the lesson of Iraq but its the lesson of Bosnia – and Guernica – that hes supposed to be learning from.”

    And from Steven Fielding:

    “The morning after that vote it feels like Baldwin had offered to intervene in the Spanish Civil War to be rebuffed by Attlee & Churchill.”

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  60. UglyTruth (4,551 comments) says:

    Probably I would be more inclined to just put a large price on the head of Assad and his top people and let the private sector collect if they can. Let him go to bed every night wondering if the soldier guarding the door would like to be $20 million dollars richer.

    Why? Because chemical weapons were used in Syria?

    What if the UN inspectors are authorised to investigate who the culprit was, and decide that the evidence points to one of the many rebel groups?

    What reason is there to think that they won’t get it wrong like they got it wrong with Iraq?

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  61. Marty McFly (6 comments) says:

    From Ron Paul

    “Release of the long-awaited US government intelligence dossier on the alleged chemical attack in Syria on Aug. 21, had been moved and postponed until the media black-hole of a Friday afternoon before a big US holiday weekend.
    Now we see why.”

    http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2013/august/30/obamas-syria-dossier-trust-us.aspx

    From Ben Swann

    “According to reports in Mint Press News made by veteran Associated Press reporter Dale Gavlak, the chemical attack came from Syrian rebel arms by Prince Bandar, not the Assad regime.”

    http://benswann.com/reports-saudi-prince-using-u-s-to-topple-assad-to-consolidate-own-power/

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