This column appeared in the Jersey Evening Post on October 5th, 2015.
On the 20th of February 2003 the States Assembly adopted a proposition by deputy Southern of St. Helier. It spoke out against possible UK military action in Iraq in words that today sound almost prophetic:
“I believe it is vitally important that we, the representatives of the people of Jersey, point out our objections to unilateral action by U.K. troops. War, declared under such circumstances, would (…) inflict great misery on the people of Iraq. (…) such a war would extend violence across the region, encourage extremists and intensify religious and ethnic hatred.
I believe we must do what little we can to try to prevent such an outcome.”
If only Tony Blair had listened to deputy Southern, or to the millions of others who opposed the illegal attack on Iraq. Is there actually anyone in the political establishment who has a long-term perspective on the Middle-East?
For a long time our politicians have propped up dictatorships. Saudi-Arabia receives billions in military hardware from the UK. It receives political backing in the UN as our leaders turn a blind eye to the ethnic and religious hatred the Wahhabis of the Saudi regime export to the rest of the world. Right now, the Saudi air force is using British weapons to bomb civilians in the Yemen, no doubt creating a fresh wave of refugees. When Cameron talks about tackling the refugee crisis at its roots, why doesn’t he consider breaking British ties with the Saudis?
When Britain helped to install Saddam Hussein in 1963, what was our vision? Or when Hussein was provided with chemical weapons in the 1980s, did we have a strategy? Then, in 2003, Hussein had to go, as the second target in the ‘War on Terror’. Did we have a plan for Iraq? More than 1.5 million people lost their lives in that war, engulfing the entire region in conflict and making it a breeding ground for Jihadist groups capitalizing on the misery of the people. Was that part of a grand strategy?
Then Assad in Syria became the enemy. Britain poured in weapons and funds to support rebel groups. When these morphed into ISIS in 2014, strategies were reconsidered. Are we now once again supporting Assad in an alliance with Putin as Cameron contemplates airstrikes on Syria?
Jersey took a brave stand in 2003 by opposing the impending tragedy so many people were predicting. Our island showed it can adopt an independent position on a controversial international issue. Let’s hope the assembly can adopt a similar stance when the UK contemplates military action in Syria. It is time to understand that bombs do not defeat terrorism but rather create the conditions in which terror can flourish.