Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Syria - listen to our retired Generals

Last week Cameron and the Government lost a vote on military action in Syria. Much has been written, tweeted and blogged since.

Here in Ipswich a Tory blogger called Labour traitors for not support Cameron (forgetting to mention the Tory rebels or the Tory MP’s who did not even turn up but within days he was blogging that he agreed that military action was not the right way forward.

Ipswich Spy seems more concerned that Labour candidate David Ellesmere will not say how he would have voted. (since taken down) I would have thought more of a story was to ask why Tim Yeo did not even vote – but Ipswich spy said they do not chase stories beyond the Borough boundary (their next story was about a Tory councillor from outside Ipswich claiming hundreds of pounds for food- quail’s eggs?)

I do not believe military action was the right course to follow, I say that with some level of knowledge as a former soldier, for 6 months every morning when I looked out of my room I saw the remains of the Serb special police headquarters- a building that had been hit by a cruise missile – the inside were a mess but the outside of the building was intact – but if you had been hid in the cellar you would have survived. So in Damascus, there is little chance of hitting Assad or his senior henchmen, those who will be killed by a missile strike will be the lowest of the low – conscripts, civilians – not the Generals.

But what if a cruise missile hits a dump of chemical weapons- will that not cause the spread of those chemicals?

If I want my car fixed, I ask a garage not the Minister of Transport, so if I want to know if a cruise missile strike on Damascus would work I ask a General not Hammond or Hague – serving Generals are not known for giving out their opinion publically but only one former general could be found who agreed with the Government, General Rose, ex Guards and SAS – every General who got up to speak in the House of Lords spoke against attacking Syria, so why was Cameron so keen?

There is also the problem of the Syrian opposition – many factions a number who are seen as the enemy of the west – Iranian backed, Shia’s from Iraq - many who would like to attack the west. If Assad did go now it would leave a power vacuum – similar to what we had in Iraq.

Something of course has to be done about the use of chemical weapons, more pressure has to be placed on China and Russia and the use of the veto on the UN Security Council needs to looked at seriously to stop the UN becoming just a talking shop.
So I agreed with Miliband – Cameron made a big tactical error, his whips got it wrong it seemed almost arrogant to allow ministers to stay on holiday being so sure he would win the vote- he should have supported the Labour amendment but maybe he thought defeat on Thursday was better than being defeated on a second vote on the use of force this week?

The Tories accused Labour of playing party politics but as opinion polls showed that the country supported the stance of Ed, they are now saying that Cameron showed the way by letting Parliament decide and that Obama has since followed his lead in the USA- Clutching at straws.

Mr Gummer used his Star column last Friday to give us some indication of how he would vote, he also seems to blame Blair and the Iraq situation – even before Cameron lost the vote- saying how the mistrust of politicians (all Tony’s fault) has caused the drop in the number of people voting – He then (correctly) describes the Syria debate as a very important issue- the issue of waging war. Well what made me wonder if I could trust MP; s Mr Gummer was not what happened about Iraq but in the debate on waging war in Syria last Thursday – which you correctly declare an important issue is that over 100 MP’s did not even bother voting, many did not turn up and even a number of Government Ministers stayed on holiday.

As a soldier on a number of occasions I had to cancel leave because we had been warned that we might be needed, in 1998 we spent 6 months in Bosnia and expected to spend more time at home in 1999 – it never happened , instead we trained for Kosovo and deployed there less than a year after returning from the Balkans – we all deployed – all 650 men and women – none missing because they stayed on holiday – that is one of the reasons the public do not trust MP’s nothing to do with Blair or Iraq.

On Saturday I and a large number of colleagues spent the morning canvassing in Bridge Ward, Ipswich – and not one person mentioned Syria on the doorstep – instead it was the bedroom tax, immigration, lack of jobs and the mess the Tory run county were making of the roads in Ipswich. You can’t blame that on Toy Blair!


Ben Redsell said...

I took the article down because Mr Ellesmere has agreed to write a guest article for us, outlining how he would have used his own judgment on the vexed question should it be his to take in the next Parliament.

As I tried to explain to you, the relevance of Suffolk County Council Cabinet members claiming expenses that the public might be surprised at - indeed clearly have been surprised at - is that Suffolk County Council has directly provided services for Ipswich and as a Cabinet member he is responsible for many decisions made in Ipswich. You yourself have frequently attacked Suffolk County Council cabinet members - and ex cabinet members - for decisions they make elsewhere in Suffolk. I have never considered covering an important issue like the Beccles Free School as particularly important for Ipswich Spy, since most of the readers will not see any immediate relevance - there are no free schools planned for Ipswich, yet - but I would think that many of our readers are very interested indeed in how their taxes are spent on individual claims.

Tim Yeo is a difficult case. There are times when Ipswich Spy appears to me to be too parochial, too interested in the Ipswich Constituency rather than Greater Ipswich, which is rather a contradiction given the strong support the site gives to the concept of Greater Ipswich. Yes, you're right, we probably should be covering Mr Yeo, and we should also give more coverage to Dr Poulter as well. But like many in Ipswich, I find myself covering the more interesting fight. I don't think Dr Poulter is likely to face a real threat to his Parliamentary Majority from the Labour candidate in 2015, and I don't think Jane, no matter how hard working she is, will seriously threaten the Conservative candidate in South Suffolk.

So yes, I should probably be covering such scandals as Mr Yeo knowing where he can buy quails eggs in his constituency, but not realising there were food banks. I should probably be covering in greater detail the good work of the Big Lottery Trust in North West Ipswich, and the Kesgrave Town Council, and Dr Poulter's views on Northern Fringe. And if I were writing for Ipswich Spy as a full time job, if I were paid, if I had the time, I would consider it. But I get no revenue from the Spy, indeed it costs me money to write for the blog. I simply don't have the time to chase down all the stories I should do, or the ability to get to Kesgrave Town Council meetings, or Pinewood Parish Council meetings, or all the other meetings I ought to be attending to cover these areas properly.

I'll talk to the other contributors and see what we can come up with to better cover those areas long neglected.

Ben Redsell said...

You might want to make the point in an update of your post that we didn't just take the post down, we've replaced it with a Guest Post from Cllr Ellesmere, which outlines his position.