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Syria, David Cameron and a historic night in the House of Commons


Syria, David Cameron and a historic night in the House of Commons

The Syrian morass has thousands of countless victims: some have been brutalised more than others, with recent heart-wrenching images of chemical attack victims. Yet many (including backbenchers and party grandees) will certainly latch on to the defeat in the House of Commons to argue that David Cameron overstated Britain's role in the world (Report, 30 August). Yet without Labour's shying away from making a firm stand against dictators who gas their defenseless people and apparently reneging on initial pledges of support, the parliamentary defeat would have not materialised.Indeed, the purpose and objective of the limited strikes articulated by Cameron in the face of opportunistic opposition displayed nothing but the qualities of true leadership, determined to assert the moral ascendancy of the UK at such testing times. This was not another Iraqi war. Nor was it even remotely akin to Miliband's party's belief in the "dodgy dossier", sexed up to justify an illegal war in the servitude of oil and post-invasion commercial contracts. The national interests of the UK and the worthy reputation of its armed forces as a force for good would have been served much better had parliament voted otherwise.Either way, it remains a moral victory for Cameron for having the courage to spearhead the international efforts to stand up to the Syrian dictator; and  equally for respecting the will of parliament and the democratic process, of which we are all very proud to uphold.
Dr Lu'ayy Minwer al-Rimawi
Visiting fellow, Harvard Law School and Co-director of the MA programme in Islamic Financial Law BPP (London)? In our personality-obsessed era it's inevitable that the media have run headlines such as  "Cameron humiliated" and your own "blow to Tory leader's authority". But you were two-thirds right with your leader headline "Two cheers for parliament" (Editorial, 30 August). What happened in the debates and the vote represent a significant shift in the balance of power between parliament and the executive. We are often told that the Commons is not the power it once was. Thursday may come to be seen as a glorious episode in the restoration of parliamentary democracy in this country.And how about a third cheer for the role played by their lordships? Seven hours of high-quality speeches, on all sides overwhelmingly and devastatingly critical of the government's plans.
Tony Greaves
Liberal Democrat, House of Lords? The United States, Britain and France recently admitted the strong presence of al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist organisations within the armed opposition in Syria. Western media correspondents also reported these terrorists to be the strongest faction fighting against the Syrian army in some areas. Before his failed attempt to take Britain into yet another disastrous war, did Cameron consider that the planned US-led attack could strengthen al-Qaida terrorists? And did the government consider the possibility that it was al-Qaida which engineered the "chemical" atrocity on the day the UN observers arrived in Damascus?
Sami Ramadani
Senior lecturer, sociology, London Metropolitan University? One wonders whether the welcome vote against military action against Syria has anything to do with the fact that MPs were brought back hastily from their holidays, gardens and constituency surgeries, and the whips had no time to threaten them with dire consequences of rebellion, or the lure of becoming the under-secretary for paper clips (as Chris Mullin so aptly put it). MPs had had direct contact with real people and could reflect their views accurately rather than from the skewed perspective of the Westminster bubble. Many MPs ? including my own ? used email and social media to canvass opinion directly.The US secretary of state, John Kerry, made it clear after the vote that the US would not be bound by the foreign policy of another nation. The UK should also not be bound by the foreign policy of the US unless it is clearly and demonstrably the right thing for the UK to do. Recent history makes this at least debatable.
SG Kay
Edinburgh? The defeat of David Cameron's plan to attack Syria in parliament is an important milestone because it marks a recognition by the political class that the case made by the anti-war movement over the past 12 years is, in all essentials, correct. We didn't stop the war in Iraq, but we did create a mass anti-war opinion in Britain, which has made itself felt in the past few days. MPs have, in their majority, refused to back a fourth military intervention by western powers since 2001. They have, for once, reflected the majority of public opinion in this country. We now have to reject all attempts at intervention in Syria and to develop a foreign policy which is based on equality and justice, and the rights of national sovereignty. We will be demonstrating  Saturday against this intervention, whether by the US alone or with other nations involved. It is the aim of the anti-war movement to ensure that the US is forced to abandon the attack on Syria now that the country with which it is supposed to enjoy a "special relationship" has carried a parliamentary vote against war.
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Lab, Chair, Stop the War Coalition
Lindsey German
Convenor, Stop the War Coalition? On Thursday we saw the government defeated on a major point of policy. Now we have the farce of the five-year fixed term of parliament exposed for the nonsense that it is ? the government cannot command a majority in the House of Commons on a major point of principle, yet there is no talk anywhere of motions of no-confidence or of the prime minister going to Buckingham Palace to seek dissolution of parliament and a consequent general election. Is it any wonder that no one has any respect for politicians when a lame-duck prime minister clings to power?
John Richardson
Stansted, Essex? Could the US still use British bases in the UK or Cyprus for a raid on Damascus?
Jonathan Wills
Bressay, Shetland
? You write in your leader: "The most important objective in the current phase of the Syrian war is to stamp out any use of chemical weapons." No it is  not. The most important objectives now, as they has been since the beginning, are a ceasefire and to convene the planned Geneva conference, with all parties invited, including especially Iran, as soon as possible. Even if some opposition groups do not attend initially, it should still go ahead in the hope that they may see some benefit once it is up and running. Humanitarian aid should be stepped up and the weapons inspectors should stay permanently, with a wider remit, to continue to monitor the situation.Chemical weapons are indeed horrendous, but the vast majority of the many millions of deaths in armed conflicts since 1945, like the current one in Syria, have been from "conventional" weapons, some of which are equally lethal and indiscriminate. Meanwhile, the merchants of death will continue their business at the Defence & Security Equipment International arms fair at the ExCeL Centre next week. Scrapping the government's support for this and similar events, together with ending the UK's own involvement in the killing trade (ie Egypt) would be the best contribution to preventing further Syrias.
Frank Jackson
Former co-chair, World Disarmament Campaign? The parliamentary vote makes me ashamed to be British. Ashamed because the country that I love and have lived in for more than 60 years has seen fit to abandon the vast majority of Syrian people to the wiles of a callous dictator. Ashamed because we will not stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other countries and accept our responsibility as a democratic nation. Ashamed because even at this late hour we will not even attempt to deter the Assad regime from gassing children with chemical warfare. It seems that parliament is more interested in political jockeying for the 2015 elections than making any attempt to help Assad's victims, not least the two million refugees living in a vast camp in Jordan.
Henry Page
Newhaven, East Sussex? Cameron's defeat has robbed him of the temporary political capital enjoyed by previous prime ministers who seized the chances offered by the Falklands, the Gulf and Iraq. Ironically, in the long term he has boosted his chances of winning the next general election and avoided falling out with the Chinese and Russians.Former US president Dwight D Eisenhower warned his own citizens in 1961 of the biggest threat to world peace: the US military-industrial complex. This nexus of businessmen, bribed politicians and arms manufacturers are the real power behind US involvement in other countries' conflicts. So Cameron has miscalculated the British public's appetite for jingoistic enterprises, but those dissident Tory MPs who voted with Labour have just done him a big favour.
Steven Walker
Walton on Naze, Essex? Might there be a much wider significance to the decision by parliament over Syria? If, to the very strong reaction to the monitoring of UK private email by US intelligence organisations, one adds Vodafone's decision to sell Verizon, the spat with the US over the BP oil spill and the failure of other large organisations such as Tesco to establish themselves in the US ? might this be a realisation that our future lies with Europe, not with the US? 
Dr Simon Harris
Wrexham? The UK may well heave a sigh of relief at the Commons vote against military involvement in Syria, but the problems of resolving disputes remains, and will do, until the UN finds an adequate structure of diplomacy and involvement that expresses and reflects the views of all countries of the world. The security council is a cold war relic, and is unfit for these complex times. National governments do not hold all the cards these days ? they are hampered by swathes of powerful political groups, many of them violent. Many people feel they are not being heard. The global politic needs to recognise this and find processes that bring to the table the loved and the unloved in the many intractable problems the world faces today.
Val Mainwood
Wivenhoe, Colchester? After serious scrutiny, examination and reflection on Syria, Westminster MPs decided to vote against taking direct military action ? if the SNP win next year's Scottish referendum, the elected representatives of Scotland will not have this realistic option of carefully deciding whether a brutal  dictator should face consequences of direct military action.How would a separate Scotland influence the international community in these circumstances? No doubt our politicians as well as the vast majority of Scots would condemn the moral outrage of using chemical weapons. However, what we do know is that Scotland would be an insignificant and a relatively irrelevant nation when it comes to influencing and if need be, threatening, brutal leaders like Bashar al-Assad. The past few days surely taught us that Scotland carries more weight, influence and international authority being part of the United Kingdom.
Robert Samuel McGregor
Glasgow? Was it the very same education secretary who berated teachers for not doing enough in the classroom to instil "respect for other human beings" and teach pupils "the right values" who was Thursday night seen screaming abuse in the chamber of the House of Commons at those who voted against the government?
Simon G Gosden
Rayleigh, Essex? Winston Churchill said that the third world war would start in the Middle East. We must do everything possible to prevent this whether it might happen by accident or by design. I speak as the youngest of five brothers who all saw active service in the second world war and my father before me in the first.The world should provide humanitarian aid to those who are suffering in the Syrian disaster and elsewhere. It may sometimes seem inhuman in current circumstances, but perhaps countries should be allowed to solve their individual problems in their own way. This does not preclude adhering to international law and acting according to UN-considered decisions.
Gabriel Aitman
Northwood, Middlesex
* Syria
* Middle East and North Africa
* David Cameron
* Ed Miliband
* House of Commons
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