An open letter to Tom Brake MP

Dear Tom,

As my local MP I wanted to express to you my deep concern with the planned military response to the events in Syria by the government.

You are tasked, along with the other members of the House of Commons, with the difficult task of deciding what action we should take in regard to Syria. I do appreciate that this is a difficult decision. The actions in the Syrian Civil War especially in regard to the alleged gas attacks make this a difficult issue for anyone and you are one of those responsible for taking this step on behalf of the country – I don’t envy you.

The civil war in Syria seems to have people on both sides who most of us wouldn’t want to be associated with. Syria has its own dictatorship supported by Iran and the Hezbollah. The rebels have their own fundamentalists and Al-Qaeda supporters. Caught in the middle are the civilians who would like the war to stop. How will an attack help this to come about? I have not read anywhere about this being to “help” one side or the other. So, other then a slap on the wrists for the Syrian government what is this intended to do?

I do believe that we are, again, on the verge of making another grave mistake if we rush into an attack on Syria.

It is only a week since youtube pictures became available of a suspected dreadful Sarin gas attack in rebel held areas of Damascus. If true it is an awful crime against humanity. In that time we have moved from demanding access for inspectors, to being given access, to a potential attack of some unspecified nature on Syria. Surely this is far too short a time in which to make decisions that will end up in people dying. We would think that a court decision for murder that occurred within a fortnight of the murder and with limited access to the site and the people involved would have a massive chance of being bad justice.

Why should this be different?

The Liberal Democrats have a long tradition of being prepared to ask hard questions about justice and international involvement and I hope that you and your colleagues will do justice to the questions being raised.

Surely, it would be better to pursue this issue through the international arena for longer to ensure a) that the evidence really does stack up and we don’t see it falling to pieces as it did in the Iraq war, b) that we find out who really was responsible for the decision to use chemical warfare and to be able to target them with real conviction, c) to ensure that the international community is united and its not just the West and its allies.

A rushed decision is all too often a bad decision.

We have the law of unintended consequences to contend with as well. When Iraq was attacked the unintended consequences were huge. They included not only rising militancy in this country but also large scale ethnic cleansing and violence in Iraq. All the time we were told that the evidence for weapons of mass destruction was there and that it will all sort itself out. However, it is still subject to extreme violence and there is no-one authoritative who believes that it didn’t lead to more than 100,000 dead.

One of the other, and little noted, unintended consequences of our intervention in Iraq was the ethnic cleansing of Christians from that country. These people had been living in Iraq for two thousand years (and their ancestors far longer) and due to our intervention there are now more Iraqi Christians living in Chicago than in Iraq itself . Nearly 90% of them have had to flee and those remaining live in daily fear of their lives. Intervening in Syria may well cause the 10% of the population who belong to the ancient churches there to be ethnically cleansed as well. How will we ensure that our intervention doesn’t make things significantly more difficult for these people (remember that most in the Middle East believe that the West is Christian and therefore it plays into the history of the Crusades for them) – or are prepared to wash our hands and ignore them as we did in Iraq and leave them to die or flee?

Everything in the Middle East is interconnected, rumour and conspiracy theories are ripe and our intervention can so easily play into the hands of extremists. I hope and (if you will allow me to) pray that you along with your colleagues will act with more caution than appears to be portrayed in the media at the moment.

Yours Sincerely

Revd Will Cookson
Minister, Springfield Church, Wallington


8 comments on “An open letter to Tom Brake MP

  1. Sandykin
    August 28, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    Brilliantly put!

  2. sammo
    August 28, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    I am reminded of the Yes Prime Minster episode where they discuss the Nuclear Deterrent. At what point is action taken?

    As to making it worse for the Christian communion in Syria now living with the knowledge that chemical weapons can and will be deployed, I am reminded of the life of Brian when on the cross being threatened with worse punishment. ..

  3. Will Cookson
    August 28, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    The point action is taken is when a) we really know what happened and b) we know our course of action and we have thought through the consequences.

    In terms of the Christians the main threat is actually with the rebels – that is the bizarre nature of the conflict.

    Iraq and Afghanistan showed us the problems we face when we rush things – and this time Syria is supported by Iran and Russia.

  4. petruspjs
    August 29, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

    If organisations like Open Doors and Barnabas Fund are to be believed then Christians in Syria are already having an awful time at the hands of the rebels. Intervening militarily in the affairs of another country is always very difficult at the best of times but doing it when there is so much lack of clarity over who are the good and bad guys seems foolhardy.

  5. Sandykin
    August 30, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Heard part of your interview on radio Jackie today! Go will go!

  6. smellofburntwiggle
    August 30, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    Having had the situation explain to me by a Shia Muslim friend – with all the intricacies of Sunni and Shiite loyalties of Syria’s neighbours and the various countries’ allegiances and historical conflicts I think our military interference can only complicate things further.

  7. Ann
    September 3, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    Thank you for expressing your thoughts so well Will. Couldn’t have put it better myself.


  8. Apelles
    September 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    Yes in the clamor that is the consequence of the preparation for war many seem to forget insignificant things such as the ethnic cleansing of Iraqi Christians or the catastrophic effects that U.S and NATO engagement in Syria will have . The victories in Iraq and Afghanistan have been Punic. All of this is nauseatingly redundant,as the poets of WW1 said the only one who wins the war is the war.

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