70,000 is the new 45 minutes 119

Precisely as I reported two days ago, Cameron really is in trouble over the Syria vote due to his patently ludicrous claim of the existence of 70,000 “moderate rebels”. Most MPs are pretty unpleasant people, but they do have a high opinion of their own importance. They will vote for anything they see as in their own self-interest, but not if it means kneeling and licking the floor when they are being treated with very obvious contempt, in public. Well, a great many of them will even do that if it advances their career, and the George Osborne tendency do it in private and pay for it. But not even pretending to take MPs seriously is a risky tactic, and that is what Cameron has done with his foolish ruse of just inventing 70,000 moderate fighters.

Today the government rubbed MPs faces further in the dirt by saying they could not give a breakdown of who the 70,000 are, because it is a secret.

Yes, honestly. The identity of our allies – even just in terms of what groups they belong to – is a secret.

In consequence the Tory majority Foreign Affairs Committee has refused to endorse airstrikes. Cameron will be under real pressure to come up with a more intellectually tenable line by tomorrow. He can hardly enter the debate on the basis that the entire strategy depends on allies whose existence is secret. Or perhaps he can, on the grounds the Blairites are conditioned to support bombing anybody, anywhere, and the Tories are mere lickspittles. He may look down his long Etonian nose with contempt at the Commons, and think “the peasants will do anything I ask”.

It is going to be an interesting 24 hours. The self-respect of the Commons is at stake. I still think Cameron may have overreached.

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119 thoughts on “70,000 is the new 45 minutes

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  • Habbbabkuk (scourge of the Original Trolls)

    For example, it’s been shown that you post on Mondoweiss

  • lysias

    Just look at the text of the Syria resolution:

    “That this House notes that ISIL poses a direct threat to the United Kingdom; welcomes United Nations Security Council Resolution 2249 which determines that ISIL constitutes an ‘unprecedented threat to international peace and security’ and calls on states to take ‘all necessary measures’ to prevent terrorist acts by ISIL and to ‘eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria’; further notes the clear legal basis to defend the UK and our allies in accordance with the UN Charter; notes that military action against ISIL is only one component of a broader strategy to bring peace and stability to Syria; welcomes the renewed impetus behind the Vienna talks on a ceasefire and political settlement; welcomes the Government’s continuing commitment to providing humanitarian support to Syrian refugees; underlines the importance of planning for post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction in Syria; welcomes the Government’s continued determination to cut ISIL’s sources of finance, fighters and weapons; notes the requests from France, the US and regional allies for UK military assistance; acknowledges the importance of seeking to avoid civilian casualties, using the UK’s particular capabilities; notes the Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations; welcomes the Government’s commitment to provide quarterly progress reports to the House; and accordingly supports Her Majesty’s Government in taking military action, specifically airstrikes, exclusively against ISIL in Syria; and offers its wholehearted support to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces .”

    The passages I have highlighted clearly presage other actions beyond attacking ISIS.

  • Tom Welsh


    ‘Where did i say “we’re british, we do what we want”’.

    That’s exactly the point: you don’t even know you are doing it. You wrote about the public’s opinion “on intervention in Syria”. There is no opinion to have about that: it is a plain matter of fact (and law) that no nation except Syria is entitled to “intervene” there (and nations whose help it has invited, such as Russia and now France).

    Over the past couple of decades, the US and British governments – with frequent participation from other psychotic clowns such as the French and Qatari governments, and of course always the Israelis – have got into the habit of ignoring the sovereignty of other nations. They overfly them, bomb them, destroy their aerial defences, wipe out their armed forces, disintegrate their governments and societies, and do their best to reduce them to utter chaos. In so doing they have killed literally millions of civilians.

    And yet all of this is entirely illegal! There is not the slightest legal authority for attacking a sovereign nation unless it is actually waging war against your nation right now.

    People are so used to the idea that, “we’re british, we do what we want” that they don’t even think about it any more. And yet it’s barely different from, “we’re Nazis, we do what we want”.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I have grave concerns that the tactical use of Jihadist forces in the Middle East, especially the Fertile Crescent makes nuclear war that much more likely. It’s a real concern. With the treaty b/w the USA and Iran, the Iran-nukes situation has been calmed, thank goodness. There was areal risk of Isreal undertaking a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iran. But Israel/GCC/Turkey are playing with fire now in their support of these nutters. This is more than regional and it is more than simply about terrorism and asymmetrical warfare. No-one really is talking about this aspect.

  • Tom Welsh


    I am not surprised to notice what is missing from the text of the resolution that you cite. Read, for instance, the following excerpt carefully:

    “…calls on states to take ‘all necessary measures’ to prevent terrorist acts by ISIL and to ‘eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria’…”

    And now look at this, the unedited text of the actual UN resolution:

    “5. Calls upon Member States that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures, in compliance with international law, in particular with the United Nations Charter…”

    You will notice that the parliamentary resolution high-handedly edits the text of the UN resolution *without the customary acknowledgement*. Words and entire phrases and clauses have been omitted, in particular these words: “in compliance with international law, in particular with the United Nations Charter…”

    What is their significance? International law and the UN Charter explicitly forbid any other nation to invade Syria or attack any target whatsoever within Syria without the permission of the Syrian government. The only exception would be if Syria had previously launched a military attack upon the other nation.

    Funny that the British government chose to edit out that passage. Almost as if they didn’t want people to see it…

    If you want to understand the details of this issue, I recommend you read http://www.rt.com/op-edge/323396-unsc-isis-syria-us/

  • Phil

    Once again Assad would be mad to not allow British forces to strike ISIS. I imagine Putin would have told him as much. It makes it easier for Assad to maintain control.

  • Mary No child shall be harmed

    Thanks Dave. Heathcote Williams is ace. He gets all the facts in. V clever.

  • Ken2

    Wait until the body bags start being shown

    Cameron is sanctioning and starving people at home and abroad. People can’t eat, heat and sleep for worry at home and away. Cameron wants a bombing mission to cover up for his deficit’s.. Cameron has caused the worse migration crisis in Europe since WW11. What a loser. Cameron has been illegally funding and arming people to go into Syria. He is a war criminal.

    If he loses will he resign.

  • glenn_uk

    “Once again Assad would be mad to not allow British forces to strike ISIS.

    You reckon the British can be trusted then?


    Btw, I had a question for you in a previous thread – no doubt you missed it, quite understandably.

    Would you like to see an air bombing campaign in France, the UK and Belgium? After all, that’s where these terrorists hang out. We surely have far better “intelligence” on the location of terrorists in our own countries, and these bombings are total precision jobs, right?

    Therefore, bombing them from the air right here at home will be far more successful than bombing dubious targets in far-away places, and they are way more dangerous here after all. Right, Phil?

  • Phil

    I think there is a difference in the two. In Iraq and Syria ISIS hold territory, have positions etc. In France, Belgium and the UK they dont hold positions or territory. There’s also a far greater police and anti-terror network in European countries. (Sorry i missed your question BTW).

  • Mary No child shall be harmed

    @ 8.53pm Yes I will go on and on and on. Just as you go on and on diverting and disrupting and denigrating what genuine commenters have to say.

    I am angry and very concerned at the situation as opposed to the lack of any concern shown by some who shall be nameless.

  • Say what ?

    The stakes must be very high, the entire synagogue of satan has blown cover and is now shamelessly out in the open and with complete impunity. The devil who wanted to bomb assad to help the captagon/bathroom salt terrorists who carried out the al-Ghouta sarin false flag (1400 murdered incl 400 alawite children) has now accused JC of being a terror sympathiser !!

    Lord help us, all that remains now is for AoC crypto wellby to come up with another “morally indefensible” type of comment. Satan has taken over.

  • glenn_uk

    ” (Sorry i missed your question BTW).

    Not at all, mate, not at all – it’s easy to do with the volume and multiple active threads around here.

    Trouble is, they don’t hold specific areas anymore. They are interspersed thoroughly, and it’s damned hard to tell which of the scores of irregular militants are “good guys” or otherwise.

    But if we’re absolutely sure we can identify them over there, how come we’re so bad at spotting them over here? And if we’re totally confident about only hitting “evil doers” with our smart weaponry, then why shouldn’t the same be good enough for us?

    Surely “taking out” the odd evil-doer with a precision strike in France, Belgium (particularly) and the UK would be a fine use of our air-power, right here at home, for precisely the same reasons people like yourself are enthusing about it in the Middle East.

  • Phil

    I think a lot of work has to be done to combat radicallisation here, whereas in Syria and Iraq its very hard to combat that without boots on the ground. Obviously if we went with boots on the ground the need for Airstrikes would be significantly less. Just my opinion. However if they were certain of a homegrown terrorist here and the only way to prevent the terrorist from acting out atrocities was to hit them with a missile i would completely understand.

  • nevermind

    The British Government would be mad to fly into Syria , having an agreement with France and US, but without any understanding with Russia, don’t you think Phil?

    After all they are British and can’t do as they like anymore.

    Do you know what it means to have a cease fire

    And who do you think you are coming on here pretending to be just another Phil, and then call people bullshitters?
    is that you style?

  • lysias

    Obama anti-ISIS coalition crumbles as Arab allies focus elsewhere:

    One Pentagon official directly involved in the counter-Islamic State fight told The Washington Times that the Saudis haven’t flown a mission against the group in nearly three months. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Bahrain is still involved, but confirmed that Jordan stopped flying sorties against the extremists in August and the UAE hasn’t flown one since March.

    A top former Obama administration official who helped build the coalition last year, meanwhile, said that Persian Gulf Arab powers made a strategic gamble months ago to focus their military resources on helping Saudi Arabia wage war against Houthi rebels seen as Iranian proxies in neighboring Yemen — wagering that the U.S. and the European Union would lead the fight against Islamic State.

    During the months leading up to last summer’s nuclear deal between Tehran and the West, Yemen had emerged as ground zero for a proxy war pitting Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s top Sunni Muslim power, and Iran, the region’s largest Shiite power.

    . . .

    But the former official said it would be wrong to claim the Saudis and others had completely abandoned the Islamic State effort. “Their calculation was that the Americans would take care of leading the coalition against Daesh while they take care of fighting the Iranians in Yemen,” the former official said.

    The catch, according to some longtime Middle East security experts, is that the Obama administration hasn’t done a very good job leading other U.S. allies — in particular Turkey, Germany, Britain, Australia and France — in the counter-Islamic State coalition, while the Arab powers have lost their initial enthusiasm.

    “This is a ‘65-country coalition’ of which only about nine are doing something,” said Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic International Studies in Washington, who added that struggling support for the coalition stems in part from the administration’s failure to clearly articulate the goal of its bombing campaign against the extremists in Syria and Iraq.

    “I can’t think of a single public document that explained in any coherent way what the strategy is that we have for the air war, or what more needs to be done,” Mr. Cordesman said in an interview. “So I find it difficult to get upset about the lack of allied support, particularly when the Europeans are focused on what’s happening in Europe and the Gulf States are concerned about Yemen.

    “There is no sort of automatic tendency of people in the Middle East who have different strategic objectives and goals to follow us, particularly when it isn’t quite clear what our goals are,” he said.

    Nobody has any idea what we’re doing, apparently.

  • lysias

    That Washington Times article also has this pathetic paragraph:

    The Syrian operations may also get a boost this week as British Prime Minister David Cameron has scheduled a vote in Parliament to expand the U.K.’s more limited bombing mandate to include Islamic State and other jihadis fighting in Syria.

    Or may not get a boost, as it happens.

  • Phil

    Err, us = everyone on here. I called it bullshit because it was. He took a load of problems and assigned them all to Cameron saying it was solely him to blame, thats bullshit.

  • Iain Orr

    Over the past few days I have written twice to my MP, Helen Hayes (sucessor to Tessa Jowell) about Syria, drawing inter alia on points I made on Craig’s “Wow” blog. I’d like to share the collective reply she has sent to the many messages she has had. She will be voting AGAINST bombing; and she has set out her rationale clearly. Others may wish to draw on her reply in last-minute appeals to other MPs, especially the whipped Conservatives. Cameron rightly fears that he cannot rely just on his dodgy logic to keep them all in line. As Craig says, he might just hjave over-reached himself. There is still a lot to plat for.
    TEXT STARTS of letter from Helen Hayes MP (Lab, Dulwich and West Norwood:

    Dear all,

    Thank you for contacting me about the situation in Syria and my views on the government’s proposal that the UK should join coalition forces and undertake airstrikes in Syria. I have received hundreds of emails on this subject and I am grateful to everyone who has got in touch to share their views, both for and against airstrikes and those who have thoughtfully set out the complexity of the decision and the finely balanced nature of the arguments.

    I attended the Prime Minister’s statement on Syria in Parliament last week, participated fully in the discussions and debates within the Parliamentary Labour Party, have been briefed by senior military officers and have listened carefully to the views of all of the local residents who have contacted me about this matter. I am writing to set out my views and my voting intention.

    The conflict in Syria is complex and multi-faceted. Bashar al-Assad has waged a war of destruction against his people, resulting in unimaginable pain, misery and loss. 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives and it is no surprise that many thousands more choose to risk a perilous journey across Europe in search of safety and security. The highest level of correspondence I have received since being elected has been about the refugee crisis – huge numbers of constituents have contacted me to say that the UK should do more to help refugees and that the UK must take action to help bring stability to Syria.

    A country which was once peaceful and prosperous, the home of an extraordinarily rich cultural heritage, has been terribly damaged by civil war. The chaos has allowed ISIL (also known as Daesh) to gain territory in Syria, using the land and resources they control to fund a campaign of ideological warfare and international terror. Daesh is an entirely abhorrent organisation. There can be nothing but condemnation for an organisation which beheads and crucifies people, uses rape as a weapon of war, persecutes religious and ethnic minorities, and perpetrates the dreadful atrocities we have recently seen in Paris, Beirut, Ankara and Sharm El Sheikh.

    The international community’s failure to take united action to address the situation in Syria has led to a significant deterioration over the past four years. I am clear that the UK has a responsibility within the wider international community to do more to address the crisis in Syria, and that there is an urgent need to act. This includes engagement to persuade Russia to withdraw support from Bashar al-Assad and for a new national government of unity in Syria.

    Whether or not to support military action is the gravest decision that any Member of Parliament has to take and must be taken with clear conviction. The key question in this instance is whether authorising UK airstrikes will lead to a peaceful resolution in Syria and increased security in the wider world, and whether this is the best way to support our neighbour and long term ally France.

    I listened very carefully to the Prime Minister’s statement last week. I was glad that he spoke of the need for a comprehensive programme of action in relation to Syria, including a long term commitment to aid and reconstruction and to diplomatic efforts to replace Bashar al-Assad. But there are important areas where I have serious concerns.

    Diplomatic efforts to remove Bashar al-Assad as President of Syria, resolute efforts to cut off resources to Daesh, an international strategy to stem the ideological reach and growth of Daesh and to stop new recruits, and a continued commitment to international aid and reconstruction all form part of the approach which stands the best chance of a long-lasting peace for Syria. While the Prime Minister has highlighted the need for a comprehensive strategy I do not believe that he has identified all of the pieces of the jigsaw that are needed. There is a widely held view from many with extensive military experience that airstrikes are not the most effective way to defeat Daesh, and that bombing Raqqa would risk the lives of civilians.

    The leadership of the Labour Party has agreed that there will be a free vote on the government’s proposals. For the reasons outlined above and having closely studied the government’s motion, I will be voting against UK airstrikes on Syria tomorrow. I acknowledge that there are a range of views on this matter within the country and the Labour Party and I respect colleagues who, after careful consideration, are taking an alternative view. I sincerely hope that the debate is undertaken in a respectful manner that reflects the magnitude of the decision at hand.

    I hope that this will be read in the spirit of sombre reflection in which it was written. There will be consequences if Parliament votes for airstrikes, but there will also be important consequences for Syria if the international community fails to take effective action to tackle Daesh and to stop the fighting. The current choice is being presented by many as a choice between action or inaction. I believe that there is a pressing need for action, but it must be the right course of action.

    I will vote against airstrikes tomorrow, but will press very hard for the UK to engage fully in a comprehensive strategy to achieve a peaceful resolution to the current conflict and for the long term reconstruction of Syria.

    Best wishes,


    Helen Hayes MP
    Member of Parliament for Dulwich and West Norwood


  • lysias

    Letter worth reading in the FT:

    Slowflyer 23 minutes ago
    I am appalled – but not surprised – at the 6th form level of debate over this issue. We are about to go to war – to war – in Syria with a serious risk that my (or somebody’s) children and grandchildren or their friends out Christmas shopping in London or some other soft target will get caught in a reprisal attack; we have no proper strategy as far as I can tell; Cameron is bandying about childish insults like ” terrorist sympathiser” to wipe the stain of his last defeat on the issue and whip enough reluctant MPs into the Aye lobby; Labour MPs are using this opportunity to stick it to each other and get Corbyn out or keep him in- it doesn’t really matter which. Crispy Blunt talks of a “missing element.” You betcha. There’s a black hole the size of the Sinai desert where a policy should be. The only thing bombing is going to “degrade” is our credibility. This a sentimental response to the ghastly events in Paris pure and simple. It’s not a policy. Meanwhile the security establishment is managing expectations in the event of a reprisal with the shoddy logic” They intend to attack us anyway so sending the odd Tornado in isn’t going to make a difference”.

    Sun Tzu he say: the best approach to war is to attack your enemy’s strategy. We’re doing the opposite. We’re being suckered in. We’re making their day.

  • Beth

    Question—-In a democracy shouldn’t Hillary Benn & other war-mongering Labour MPs be representing the views of the majority of their constituents rather than following their own ‘conscience’. (Would be great if they actually had a conscience)

  • Phil

    How do you know that they are not representing the views of their constituents. There hasn’t and wont be suitable poll to work out the true views of the UK. We all have our opinions. You may believe most people are against airstrikes. I believe a majority are pro airstrikes. Doesn’t mean im right and i certainly dont claim that as gospel.

  • Iain Orr

    My (statistically sound as well as cynical) view is that you can get a majority for or against bombing Syria depending on the way the question is put and the way the polling is done. My gut feeling is that there’s a considerble public majority against bombing. People understand that if you push shit through other people’s letter-boxes they are likely to chop off your hand (or head) if they get the chance.

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