A number of constituents have emailed in indignation to demand an apology from the Prime Minister for being branded ‘terrorist sympathisers’ for opposing the extension of air strikes from Iraq to Syria. I was at the meeting when the comment was made and I have assured them that he said nothing of the sort. What he did say was that many colleagues with legitimate and quite understandable reservations should beware of entering the voting lobbies with terrorist sympathisers. That is not to say that opponents are terrorist sympathisers, but to accept that there are indeed some terrorist sympathisers, and there really are: Over the years there are a number of apologists who, at every terrorist atrocity, have taken the opportunity to blame our foreign policy rather than taking time to condemn the personal responsibility of the terrorist for choosing to blow innocent people to pieces.
Nothing is ever as reported: and neither were the screaming headlines announcing the ‘countdown to war’, they ignored the fact that we have been flying these missions daily against Daesh for the last 14 months into Iraq. All we have now done is to extend them to attack Daesh’s operations in Syria.
I sat through the entire 10 hour debate listening carefully. I accept that the conditions for destroying Daesh are not yet in place: there will have to be forces capable of prosecuting a ground campaign against Daesh’s ‘capital’ in Raqqa. I cannot understand however, the logic of those who said that we must destroy Daesh, but should do nothing now because those ground forces don’t exist. Clearly, an air campaign can contain and harry the enemy, severely restricting its offensive capability, even if it cannot alone destroy it.
What really unnerved me were the armchair generals on the green benches giving us the benefit of their expertise and demanding all sorts of undertakings and guarantees before their support would be forthcoming. I really wonder if we could have fought the Second World War in the current parliamentary environment. No doubt Monty would have been summoned before a select committee and asked to guarantee the weather in the Channel before contemplating the Normandy Landings. Lethal military operations involve risk, the important thing is to calculate the risks carefully. It was the French World War One leader Georges Clemenceau who said that war was too important to be left to generals, but I’m not comfortable leaving it to politicians either.