What we can do to help Syrians now


9:30 am - September 1st 2013

by Natalie Bennett    


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When we are thinking today about Syria there’s only one place to start: the desperate situation of up to 8 million people in urgent need of help.

More than a million and a half are refugees in neighbouring countries, states that have their own problems, serious economic strains, and that need help to provide the homes, the blankets, the care, that these often traumatised refugees need.

Millions more are displaced, or at risk, within Syria. We need to ensure that every effort is made to get humanitarian supplies, medical supplies, to them.

And we need to find a way for the UN to protect them from future attacks of all kinds, to fulfil its responsibility to protect. The UN should be creating safe corridors through which they can escape – and eventually to achieve a ceasefire in the civil war.

I agree with President Obama on one thing: “We cannot accept a world where women and children and innocent civilians are gassed on a terrible scale.” Indeed, we – the international community, acting collectively under UN auspices — must save them from attacks of all kinds.

And yet the US focus, the French focus, is on what are clearly plans for a missile strike against the Syrian regime, a strike that no one is claiming is going to remove the dreadful President Assad, that no one claims is going to take any productive step towards helping to construct an alternative government for Syria, a strike that will, simply, take more lives, including, undoubtedly, lives of people, men, women, and children, who have nothing to do with the conflict, but are simply trying to survive in the middle of an awful civil war.

But there’s no evidence, no sense, in the claim that a US missile strike, covered with a fig leaf of whatever other countries beyond France can be persuaded, bribed or pushed into “participation” in the attack, is going to stop any future gas attack, from whichever side it might come.

And no, we haven’t seen real evidence, independent scrutiny, in what happened in that hell in a Damascus suburb on August 21. John Kerry says: “This is common sense. This is evidence. These are facts.” Well, we’ve heard that before, and we’ve good reason not to believe it.

The vote in Parliament this week was a big step forward – a step forward for British democracy, a step forward for our place in the world. And the impact has been found around the world.

It seems unlikely that this evening’s decision by President Obama to refer his plans for an attack to Congress would have occurred without the Westminster vote. But is for Britain this should be only the start. We could take three more steps – important steps.

1. Call off the world’s biggest arms fair planned for London next month.

2. Stop selling UK arms to abusive regimes. Our £12bn arms industry is a trade in misery, in death, in supporting regimes like that of President Assad, and the dreadful human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.

3. Scrap Trident nuclear weapons, making us truly world leaders. So I say to Congress, I say to President Hollande, I say to whichever Arab regime the Americans are hoping to bribe, bully or persuade on board an attack, please, stop, think.

The combined UN-regional talks route to a ceasefire in Syria is a difficult route, strewn with obstacles. But it’s the legal route. It’s the route that can help the people of Syria and the region to together find a way forward – not have it imposed on them, as the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, had the route imposed on them, with continuing awful results.

The route to justice for a horrific gas attack is the International Criminal Court. As Caroline Lucas said this week: “Crimes against humanity and international law have been committed. Once there is evidence of responsibility for these appalling attacks, those responsible must be dealt with by the International Criminal Court.”

The UN and the International Criminal Court are the right routes. But it’s time the world – America, Nato, the UK – took the right route.

—-
This article is an adaption of a speech I made today at the No Attack on Syria demonstration.

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About the author
Natalie Bennett is leader of the Green Party of England and Wales
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,Middle East ,Westminster

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Reader comments


1. the a&e charge nurse

‘What we can do to help Syrians now’ – very little if we are honest.

In essence you are asking if the plight of the Syrian people trumps the west’s corporate geopolitical, and economic needs – the answer, given our dependence on oil and addiction to gadgets is almost certainly no.

This might sound far fetched but how about key players in the middle east sorting out some sort of settlement?

2. Man on Clapham Omnibus

This is not an exercise in humanitarianism,this is a chess game where facts are irrelevant and all that matters in strategy.

Has anyone seen any evidence yet?

We all know its a proxy war, and the people of Syria don’t stand a chance, unless we capitlaise on the decision by Parliament. That means giving succour to the anti-war movement in the US & France. The answer has been there for weeks. A conference which includes Iran. After all it is all preparations for an attack on Iran. Everyone knows it.

“1. Call off the world’s biggest arms fair planned for London next month.
2. Stop selling UK arms to abusive regimes . . .
3. Scrap Trident nuclear weapons . . .”

None of those things will do anything at all to help the people of Syria, unless you believe the UK is selling or about to sell arms to Assad. If you do believe that, please provide evidence. You’ll probably bring down the Government.

“The combined UN-regional talks route to a ceasefire in Syria is a difficult route, strewn with obstacles.”

You talk as if there is a diplomatic route to a ceasefire which we could go down if only we tried hard enough and were patient enough. What evidence is there of that?

The reality is that Assad is going to continue brutalising his population until either a) he wins or b) somebody stops him.

Now I do agree with you on the key point, which is that we shouldn’t set out to stop him. People in this country have had enough of war, and the results are not always the results we hoped for. Even with good intentions, military action sometimes things worse (but not always – see Libya, Kosovo, Sierra Leone).

While I’m against bombing Syria, we shouldn’t invent little fantasies about “talks” making everything better (“if only David Cameron could be bothered to make the effort!”). We’ve decided to sit back and watch while people slaughter each other. It’s probably the right decision, but that’s what we’ve decided.

In response to some other posters – no, Iran and Russia are not going to reverse their foreign policy if we invite them to a nice conference. Why on earth would they?

Quite a remarkable trick to come up with a three-step plan that actually has less logical connection to events in Syria than Cameron/Obama’s idea of tossing some cruise missiles in the general direction of the problem.

Perhaps you could have thrown something in there about the badger cull, or Page 3?

Hardly surprising; everyone knows what the effective action to take is; you even spell it out. Just no-one wants to pay for it; neither the short term costs, nor the longer term ones of having a regime in place that needs popular support more than it needs imported heavy weaponry.

And so even you are unwilling to call for anything that might lead to it coming about.

After all, you can hardly go to an anti-war march and argue for a course of action that, while it might well lead to a negotiated settlement, also has as a possible outcome a proper full-on war.

There are two concerns regarding Assad: firstly that if he isn’t sent a strong signal to stop the atrocities then he will do more, and worse. Secondly that if he falls then there will be another failed state like Iraq further destabilising the Middle East.

Syria is full of jihadis and psychos of all persuasions supported by countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran in what is a proxy war. The West’s knee-jerk response is that Saudi Arabia is an ally and Iran is not, Assad is supported by Iran so Assad is not our friend. If you dig beneath such superficialities the absurdity of such a position is glaringly obvious.

This silly OP makes one good point, we should help the refugees. Humanitarian aid should be a significant part of our intervention. Perhaps it would even give us more influence in the region.

8. Man on Clapham Omnibus

7. Cherub

so where is the evidence for the recent atrocities and where is the evidence that these atrocities are different in nature from those carried out by the rebels?

I believe there is still footage of a guy being beheaded with a stanley knife by al nusra on the web somewhere. Topple Assad and its these kind of people you put in the mix. They are currently supported by Turkey who are ,as it happens, pals with the US. This wouldn’t be the first time friends of Al Qaeda are being supported by the west.

This situation is tragic but to suggest that one side is any better than the other is slightly naive. The only thing the West can and should do is humanitarian aid.

Anyone thinking that any intervention will cause the situation to get better is being played.

In any event, a policy based on no evidence is not a policy worth having.

Consider this:-

http://www.almanar.com.lb/english/adetails.php?eid=108546&frid=31&seccatid=91&cid=31&fromval=1

“Stop selling UK arms to abusive regimes. Our £12bn arms industry is a trade in misery, in death, in supporting regimes like that of President Assad, and the dreadful human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.”

The UK doesn’t sell arms to Assad. It is Russia and China who do that. So your criticism should be aimed at those countries if you are at all sincere about alleviating suffering in Syria.

Of course you won’t, because the disingenuously named ‘No Attack on Syria’ is a group formed by the Communist Party, who are long time supporters of… Russia and China. Fancy that.

So Syrians are still being killed today – with the help of your friends.

What a dishonest and fraudulent article. Your hands are covered in blood, Natalie. You are a disgrace to the Green Party.

“The combined UN-regional talks route to a ceasefire in Syria is a difficult route, strewn with obstacles.”

Sizeable ones being Russia and China, who are arming Assad in his mass murder of Syrian civilians, and who in turn are fully supported the same Communist Party of Britain that runs the hypocritical pro-Assad front movement… of which you are a member.

Reading your argument ‘against’ ‘an attack on Syria’, Natalie, is like watching someone stuffing their face with an animal carcass in between lecturing the rest of us on the evils of meat-eating. Your moral compass is broken.

9. Lamia

The UK doesn’t sell arms to Assad. It is Russia and China who do that.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/blood-money-uks-123bn-arms-sales-to-repressive-states-8711794.html

#11

you haven’t produced any evidence there that:

1. the UK supplies arms to Syria
2. That China and Russia do NOT supply arms to Syria.

So what is your point?

13. SWP loyalist and close friend of Anjem Choudary

The idea that the rebel opposition is dominated by … salafists is … implausible.

12.
The article in the Independent shows that the UK supplies arms to dodgy rulers so, we are ‘supporting regimes like* that of President Assad’.
* My emphasis.

A nauseating OP that moves from moral grandstanding about how the author cares sooooo much about the Syrian people to using their plight as peg on which to hang three unrelated campaign issues – none of which, if achieved, would help the Syrian people one iota.

Pass the sick bag.

@15. Speak after the TONE
Ms Bennett is not the first politician to use the crisis in Syria in order to raise important matters about the UK’s export of arms. At least Natalie’s comment and the votes in Parliament have people talking – Jaw, jaw is, arguably, better than war, war.

#14

Fine, but Natalie offered stopping selling arms as one of the measures to help alleviate the situation in Syria. ‘Regimes like Syria’ in context suggested that she meant ‘Syria and other regimes’ are supplied by Britain. That is the only way that the UK stopping selling arms would have a beneficial effect on Syria.

But since we don’t sell arms to Syria, it will have no effect. By contrast, Natalie’s own movement supports those actual regimes which ARE supplying arms to Syria. She’s an utterly dishonest hypocrite.

#16

“At least Natalie’s comment and the votes in Parliament have people talking…”

Natalie was aconveniently talking about those who are NOT actually arming Syria – those who ARE are supported by the absurdly named ‘No attack on Syria’. She’s the de facto warmonger here, posing as someone who cares about peace in Syria, pointing her fingers at those who are not murdering Syrian civilians while her friends go about their business doing precisely that.

17. Lamia
Has the Green Party of England and Wales changed its policies on ‘Peace & Defence’ recently
or
are you spouting rubbish?

@17. Lamia
I dread to think of your views on Gandhi.

If the evidence of the chemical weapons attack in Syria, gathered by the US is strong, then it is time for the Muslim world to stand up to be counted. What has come from international news reports of indiscriminate slaughter across many countries is a terrible indictment of Muslim values. Why don’t these Muslim protagonists devote effort and resources to dealing with hunger, disease and poverty in Islamic countries instead of killing other Muslims by the score?

From The Independant. A useful analysis of the complexity of the situation in Syria and at home. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/in-syria-its-a-case-of-all-or-nothing-8792975.html

@ anyone who might be persuaded by Lamia: The UK has, at present, no moral standing to lecture China and Russia on their choice of customers. They can justifiably point out that we routinely sell arms to regimes just as horrible as Assad’s. If we stop doing that, we will not only have stopped directly contributing to mass murder in various countries (surely a good thing in itself), we will be in a position to call out Assad’s suppliers.

(I felt it was worth replying, but not to Lamia directly, as anyone who says this: “Natalie’s own movement supports those actual regimes which ARE supplying arms to Syria” is not arguing in good faith. It’s a lie and Lamia knows it.)

#18

I am not talking about the Green Party, idiot, I clearly rewferred to ‘No Attack on Syria’, which is a front organisation for the Communist Party which supports Russia, Ian and china, i.e. those who are arming the butcher Assad

Bennett isn’t supporting peace, she’s just supporting peace and quiet for ‘No Attack on Syria”s allies to keep murdering Syrian civlians.

#19. Lamia

“I dread to think of your views on Gandhi.”

And well you might. Since Ghandi advocated that in resonse to Nazi persecution the Jews should commit mass suicide as a ‘protest’, I think he was dangerously misguided, to say the least, about how to deal with fascists.

“Hitler killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs. As it is, they succumbed anyway in their millions.”

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Mahatma_Gandhi

Do you support that obscene statement?

#22

It is not a lie, it is absolutely true.

1. Natalie Bennett was speaking on behalf of ‘No Attack on Syria’

2. ‘No Attack on Syria’ is run by the Communist Party.

3. That same Communist Party supports Russia, China and Iran.

4. Russia, China and Iran are the countries arming Assad.

If you think you can refute any of those points, go ahead. Bennett’s hands are no less bloody for not being in plain sight to ostriches like yourself.

I was under the impression that the Stop the War coalition was largely organised by the SWP, whom had placed themselves in opposition to Soviet form communism on the basis that it was state-capitalist.

Moreover why are communists supporting Russia, Iran and China? Force of habit? Since all three are currently capitalist economies.

Cylux,

It was from 2001 to 2011 headed by Andrew Murray of the Communist Party of Britain, a party which supports not only those states but places like ‘People’s Korea’.

“Moreover why are communists supporting Russia, Iran and China? Force of habit? Since all three are currently capitalist economies.”

I would guess largely force of habit, yes. They are still viewed as anti-western, so they tick all the right boxes. A section of the far left isn’t really ‘for’ anything anymore as opposed to being against ‘the west’ about anything.

23.

I am not talking about the Green Party, idiot, I clearly rewferred to ‘No Attack on Syria’

… and who in turn are fully supported the same Communist Party of Britain that runs the hypocritical pro-Assad front movement… of which you are a member.

Where is the clear reference? Membership of what?

No Pukes @ 16:

The Syrian crisis raises many issues. But she focuses on the suffering of the poor Syrians – about whom she cares soooo much – and uses it as a peg on which to hang her other concerns and as a means rhetorically to manipulate her audience. It is nauseatingly cynical.

28.
‘Cynical'(adj.) means ‘distrusting the motives or sincerity of others.’
I don’t think that is nauseating.

Nathalie Bennett: “But there’s no evidence, no sense, in the claim that a US missile strike is going to stop any future gas attack.”

And that’s the key point. It’s refreshing to see someone putting this less easy but much more solid argument first, rather than taking the easy way out of relying on the possibility that the insurgents did it (when really that seems a pretty long shot), and so no difficult moral questions arise.

Lamia: “By contrast, Natalie’s own movement supports those actual regimes which ARE supplying arms to Syria. She’s an utterly dishonest hypocrite.”

No, it’s an umbrella movement. It exists to unite opposition to an attack on Syria, and is not a complete political union. Saying that anyone joining the umbrella movement becomes a paid-up member of CPGB and must secretly share all of their views (despite clearly stating otherwise) is verging on infantile.

#27 “I am not talking about the Green Party, idiot, I clearly referred to ‘No Attack on Syria’

… and who in turn are fully supported the same Communist Party of Britain that runs the hypocritical pro-Assad front movement… of which you are a member.

Where is the clear reference? Membership of what?”

Feeble, feeble stuff. You quote from post #10. In post # 9 I had stated:

“the disingenuously named ‘No Attack on Syria’ is a group formed by the Communist Party, who are long time supporters of… Russia and China. Fancy that.”

Keep playing dumb, by all means.

#31

“No, it’s an umbrella movement. It exists to unite opposition to an attack on Syria,”

No. It exists to prevent western governments attacking Assad (not ‘Syria’) while providing distraction from the act that a number of countries supported by the membership of the STWC are actually already supplying the weapons with which Syrian civilians are being slaughtered by their government.

It’s not anti-war, it’s pro one side of a civil war.

You are a disgrace to the Green Party.

says, Lamia (#9). Am I right in presuming it is because the Green Party member does not support the side that you support? If you can find real evidence that the Stop the War Coalition supports Russia, Iran and China please post proof. Please bear in mind that if you cannot supply facts to back your claims you’ll continue to appear like someone impersonating Barry Goldwater on crystal meth.

What do you want Lamia? Make it clear and, if possible, make it concise.

Ceiliog @ 29:

Concise OED: ‘Cynical’…churlish, captious, incredulous of human goodness, sneering.

And I was using the word in the sense of captious (ie sophistical) and sneering. By using the rhetorical device of playing on her audience’s feelings about the Syrian people – about whom she cares sooooo much – she is sophistically advancing her view that the UK should abandon the arms trade and Trident. To attempt to manipulate people’s feelings in this way suggests sneering contempt for them. It is worthy of Goebbels.

34.
Natalie Bennett made her speech at the ‘No Attack on Syria’ demo so, what were you expecting?
‘Captious’ means nit-picking.
Am I right in thinking that you do not want a missile strike launched at Syria and that you are posting comments on this thread because you disagree with the Green Party’s agenda on weapons?

#33

“Am I right in presuming it is because the Green Party member does not support the side that you support?”

No, you are not. It is because Natalie Bennett tacitly supports a side that is actually killing Syrians while complaining about a side (the UK and US) that hasn’t yet intervened. Her words about ‘peace’ are self-serving rubbish. Where is her criticism of Russia, China or Iran? Nowhere.

I don’t support the west getting involved in this. Unlike Natalie Bennett, I’m not prepared to pretend to be unware of who is ALREADY taking an active hand in the murder of Syrian civilians.

” If you can find real evidence that the Stop the War Coalition supports Russia, Iran and China please post proof.”

The proof is

1. having as chair for its first ten years a member of the Communist Party of Britain which is an apologist for all of those regimes.

And

2.the Stop the War coalition as a whole hasn’t on any occasion criticised any of those regimes which are supporters of the butcher Assad. Now if YOU can supply any evidence of them subjecting Russia, Iran or China to the same condemnation re Syria as they subject the US and UK to, go ahead.

“Natalie Bennett made her speech at the ‘No Attack on Syria’ demo so, what were you expecting?”

I was expecting her not to say one word of criticism of those states beloved of so many members of the Stop the War Coalition, who are already involved in the Syrian bloodbath. And she obliged.

Here are some actual members of the Coalition complaining as long ago as 2008 that the steering committee of STWC displays bias by ommission:

“Not to mention Russian interests in the recent conflict, can give the impression that the Stop the War Coalition believes Russia has progressive motives for military intervention in Ossetia and Georgia, and that the Coalition is giving Russia its support.”

http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/campaign/Anti-war/Stop_the_War_Coalition/6399

All of that could apply to the STWC on Syria today. The Socialist Party in 2008 at least showed some principle. Natalie Bennett playing along with the continuing STWC bias of omission today is being cynical or stupid. The STWC are not interested in peace. They don’t mind bloodshed at all if it comes from the Russian side.

36.

I don’t support the west getting involved in this.

Thank you.

Ceilog @ 35:

“Natalie Bennett made her speech at the ‘No Attack on Syria’ demo so, what were you expecting?
‘Captious’ means nit-picking.
Am I right in thinking that you do not want a missile strike launched at Syria and that you are posting comments on this thread because you disagree with the Green Party’s agenda on weapons?”

1. What was I expecting from NB? Not much. She is a deeply confused. A useful idiot.
2. ‘Captious': it means more than nit-picking. Use a reputable dictionary. And arguing about words will not get NB off the hook!
3. Correct. I do not want a missile strike on Syria, but I do not want to see unilateral nuclear disarmament.

40. Psychological Mind Games

Unless you can cleanse Syria of Al Qaeda you may as well Nuke the entire country because death and destruction is going to go on for decades, possibly forever.

Al Qaeda is like a cancer that is spreading and soon it will be so far advanced it will take over and nothing will stop it.

39.
So, you are criticising the leader of the Green Party for expressing Green Party policies.

42. PottyTraining

Havent any of you dumb schmucks sussed the zionist ‘play’ on ‘lukewarmism'(neither hot nor cold from Bible) but not doing anyfink?

ET-onians – an Alien species!

Here’s a Biblical ‘clue’- spot the Jews + SYRIANS

“LAODICEA

(la-od-i-se’-a) (Laodikia): A city of Asia Minor situated in the Lycos valley in the province of Phrygia, and the home of one of the Seven Churches of Rev (Rev 1:11).

Distinguished from several other cities of that name by the appellation Ad Lycum, it was founded by Antiochus II (261-246 BC) of Syria, who named it for his wife Laodike, and who populated it with Syrians and with Jews who were transplanted from Babylonia to the cities of Phrygia and Lydia.

Though Laodicea stood on the great highway at the junction of several important routes, it was a place of little consequence until the Roman province of Asia was formed in 190 BC. It then suddenly became a great and wealthy center of industry, famous specially for the fine black RAVEN wool
(we have those in White Tower of london)

(Revs
15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to spit you out of my mouth!)

– of its sheep and for the Phrygian powder for the eyes, which was manufactured there (compare Rev 3:18). In the vicinity was the temple of Men Karou and a renowned school of medicine.”

1. Call off the world’s biggest arms fair planned for London next month.

Jesus wept.

44. PottyTraining

@ 15 – Tone
Excellent post

Don’t forget the warning left in zillions of our Churches by the old masons – carvings of the shadowy/half hidden “Green Men”
(they screwed us all with their energy policies for one ie ‘revolving door’ – german-jew surname Hugne)

Lin means ‘green’ as in Lin-coln green!
Sta-lin was a jewish mass muderer of 40 million + backed up by the Krem-lin.

Think of all the lords. elites and MPs with symbolic Green in their surname – Greening , Jew Lord Green etc etc

Green-wich mean-time!

New-age. Greenies, liberalism, lukewarmist church mis-leaders = mislead Satanism (don’t ‘fall’ for it!)

45. PottyTraining

@ 40

Actually if you delve into who funds the terrorists/supplies arms
– you find CIA backers

The CIA are funded by zionist, Khazarian ‘black-blood’ faux-Jews
(of the Synagogue of Satan)

Some of us have ‘woken up’!

46. PottyTraining

I should have mentioned

most Muslim flags also have ‘green’ in them!
The templar/masons got their knowledge passed from the Suffi turks(Khazarian Jews are part of the tribe)
(young turks-shriner fez/ tommy cooper etc)


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