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Hands off Syria

The American warship USS Monterey firing a laser-guided cruise missile during the attack on 14 April. Photo US Department of Defense.

Like its predecessors – the governments led by David Cameron and Tony Blair – our government has shown it is willing to allow British blood to be shed to back up US imperialism.

With an opinion poll indicating that only 22 per cent of people in Britain support military action against Syria, Theresa May ordered the RAF to launch strikes – pre-empting debate in parliament.

Many MPs – not just Labour but also Conservatives and others – are calling for a parliamentary vote. Now MPs need to be deluged with emails from their constituents telling them to vote to stop this war – and they need to make May accountable for her illegal actions.

The cabinet thinks it can get away with shunning parliament by calling on the so-called “royal prerogative”, a hangover from the days when the sovereign had absolute power. That would be outrageous.

But governments should rule in the national interest, and there is no national interest in military involvement in the Middle East. They should also operate within the law.

'The military strikes by the US government and its allies against the Syrian Arab Republic are illegal acts of aggression, a step along the way to a lawless world'

Under international law, there are only three justifications for military intervention in another country. The first is if the government there has asked for military help – which is clearly not the case in Syria. The second is in self-defence – also clearly not the case. The third is if the intervention is authorised by the UN Security Council, which has given no such authorisation for an attack on Syria.

So the military strikes by the US government and its allies against the Syrian Arab Republic are illegal acts of aggression, a step along the way to a lawless world. 

Not that the US has shown much regard for law. For the past seven years, it has armed rebels/terrorists to overthrow the government of Syria – which is also illegal under international law. 

The alleged use of chlorine gas by the Syrian government in Douma came within a week of US generals admitting that it had effectively won the war against ISIS, and of Trump announcing that US forces would soon be withdrawn. 

Now all that has changed. And the only beneficiaries are ISIS and its allies – which makes it all the more unlikely that the Syrian government was involved.

With every day that passes, more doubt is being shed on the idea that the Syrian government was responsible for a gas attack – and even that a gas attack occurred at all.

An article in The Independent by veteran correspondent Robert Fisk relates a conversation with a doctor in Douma. While acknowledging that the video purporting to show a child overcome with gas was real, he said that what it showed was in fact the effects of oxygen starvation.

“I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened,” he said, continuing, “People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a ‘White Helmet” shouted ‘Gas!’, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”

For several days France claimed it had definitive evidence of a gas attack before changing its story and saying that definitive evidence might never be found.

In any case, the use of gas is no justification under international law for military action against another state. But to go to war on the basis of unconfirmed reports (initially posted on the web by a clearly pro-jihadi group) is the mark of leaders intent on sabotaging what by any standards is a great achievement by the Syrian government. 

For the fact is that the jihadists in Syria are on the run, their hold on territory shrinking fast. Final victory against them is in sight. For the imperialist powers – the US, Britain and France – whose aim is to keep the Middle East in turmoil, that would be the ultimate humiliation.

The dangers of continued war are still huge. And the price will be paid above all by those in and near to the Middle East. US imperialism wants Europe to fight its wars. We must say no.