Kerching! UK and France Overturn the EU Syria’s Arms Embargo

EUROPE, SYRIA IN CONTEXT, MILITARISM, 3 Jun 2013

Silvia Swinden – Pressenza Int’l Press Agency

It is not the first time that ‘humanitarian’ concerns are raised to make way for escalation of [armed] conflict. This week the UK and France have managed to twist their 25 European Union (EU) partners’ arms (UK threatening to use its power of veto) in order to lift the arms embargo agreed to try and bring the warring parties to the negotiating table.

Unsurprisingly, UK and France are the biggest arms exporters of the EU.

Given the mayhem and misinformation that exists amongst the groups intent on toppling the Syrian Government the statement that weapons will only go to ‘moderate’ factions is risible. This is comparable only to the equally surreal claim that only those ‘who do not have blood in their hands’ will be invited to the forthcoming Geneva peace talks brokered by the US. The fact that the arms embargo is being lifted just before these talks also suggests that, unlikely as it may seem, the talks may had had some chance to succeed. Pouring a little fuel over the fire should deal with that possibility.

Immediately, but not unexpectedly, Russia announced it would provide Syria with more ‘defensive’ missiles, Austria, which strongly opposed the lifting of the embargo, stated it will cancel its peacekeeping mission at the Golan Hights, (leaving no buffer zone between Israel and Syria, cue to Israel’s further involvement). The conflict is already spilling into Lebanon, and Turkey is providing safe passage to weapons but not very happy about missiles falling in its territory, of which both the Syrian Government and rebel forces blame one another, just like they do over chemical weapons and civilian massacres. Iran is being rejected as a partner in the negotiations in spite of sending some help to Assad’s Government, but knowing full well that any overt participation in the conflict would be the excuse the US has been looking for to bomb the hell out it.

More weapons on the ground also means that whatever the results of the negotiations, or even if Assad were to step down or be brought down before his mandate is due to end in 2014! (So what is the hurry to kill 100.000 people to end it a few months earlier?), in the aftermath of the civil war Syria will be full of commando groups, armed to the teeth and fighting for supremacy, just like in Libya. Some of them will be, of course, radical islamists carrying new and sophisticated British and French weapons.

Who has been the main beneficiary of chronically chaotic ungovernable countries divided by sectarian violence and full of blind zones out of reach for the official authorities? If we consider Congo, Colombia, Iraq and Libya such examples it becomes clear that the extractive multinationals, mining and oil in particular, tend to move into countries where they can carry out their exploitation of resources largely unmolested by central government and regulations, and protected by mercenary armies. But these conditions are not simply created by regime change, the destruction of the country’s infrastructure is also a must.

But what can WE do?!

The scale of the problem leaves ordinary people discouraged and impotent. More pressing issues, austerity, immigration, a British soldier brutally hacked to death in the streets of London by someone who claims he did it in the name of Islam, giving in this way a fascist organisation the excuse they needed to come out of the woodwork to spread more poison, it is all so disquieting that Syria appears far, far away and ‘not my problem’ anyway. But the weapons that will kill more children in Syria will be paid for by UK taxpayers. Yes, you and me. Furthermore, there are International War Laws, seldom discussed, that make starting or helping in a war against a sovereign state illegal. Anybody who participates or cooperates with it could be in fact an accessory to war crimes. Yes, you and me.

I reproduce here a Document from Chris Coverdale, from Make War History which explains his proposal to lobby the Queen since her assent to the UK’s involvement in all these past illegal wars could have been and can be refused on the basis of their illegality.

An escalation of the violence in the Middle East is inevitable if more weapons are deployed. We must press some sense over our ‘leaders’ by all possible nonviolent means

What will it take to persuade the Queen to obey the law?

“War between nations was renounced by the signatories of the Kellogg-Briand Treaty. This means that it has become throughout practically the entire world an illegal thing. Hereafter, when nations engage in armed conflict, either one or both of them must be termed violators of this general treaty law…. We denounce them as law breakers.”
Henry Stimson, US Secretary of State 1932

It is a sobering fact that not once during her reign as Sovereign and Commander-in-Chief of Britain’s Armed Forces has the Queen obeyed the laws of war. By accepting the advice of her Ministers and assenting to seventeen illegal wars in 60 years in which 3m civilians have been killed, the Queen is assured of her place in history as our greatest warmonger monarch.

“ No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements are in violation of international law.”

UN Declaration of Principles of International Law 1970

When Britain signed and ratified the UN Charter in 1945 we made a binding agreement with the nations and people of the world that we would never wage war, never threaten or attack other States and settle all disputes peacefully. Our record at sticking to agreements and keeping our word during the last century was bad, but now, more than a decade into the 21st century, it is utterly appalling.

Since 2001 Britain has participated at the request of the USA in five illegal wars against the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya and Syria and in that time we have murdered 1.5m civilians, of whom 40% were children, we’ve injured 4m and driven 8m into exile and destitution. Why? What had they done to deserve such treatment? What is so important about our ‘special relationship’ with the USA that it overrides our international agreements and the rule of law?

International law stipulates clearly and unequivocally that all war is illegal, that the use of armed force to threaten or attack another State is prohibited and that anyone who takes part in a war on the side of an aggressor commits a war crime. So why do we do it? Why do Parliament, the Government and the Queen repeatedly break the world’s most important laws? And why do so many of us go along with it?

What is it in our collective psyche that causes us to support and endorse decisions that in our heart of hearts we know are not only wrong but evil? Why as taxpayers do we continue to fund the world’s worst crimes? Why have we spent £500bn since 2001 (approximately £10,000 per taxpayer) on killing 1.5m innocent men women and children? Why? Why do we have so little respect for the right to life and the rule of law? We must find answers; but before we do that, we must stop the killing.

“ War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal 1946

It takes no more than a minute to give the order to start or stop a war; so the quickest way to stop these wars is for the Queen, as Commander-in-Chief, to convene the Privy Council and command Britain’s military forces to stop fighting and return to Britain. So what will it take to persuade her to do this?

Perhaps we should appeal to her conscience. She knows that the inevitable consequences of waging a war with modern weapons of mass destruction are that hundreds of innocent men women and children will be injured and killed, homes and livelihoods will be destroyed, and tens of thousands will be forced into exile as refugees. She knows that killing people is wrong, that killing a person because of their nationality, race or religion is a crime of genocide and that waging war is, as the judges at Nuremburg described it, “the supreme international crime”. So all she has to do is to ask herself, “Is this the right thing to do? Is this what my people want? Do they really want our military forces to use cruise missiles, rockets, drones and bombs to attack residential areas in one of the world’s poorest least developed nation States? How can it be right to kill and injure Afghan children? Surely there is a better way?

So what will it take for the Queen to say “No!” to the Prime Minister; to say “I will not assent to this war or the use of armed force until you prove to me that it is morally right, that it accords with the laws of war, and it is the only course of action left open to us to defend ourselves from the invasion and occupation of Britain? If she had had the courage to stand up to Tony Blair and say no to the Iraq war, at least 1m innocent lives could have been saved. So what will it take for her to say “No” to Cameron and the baying pack of warmongers in Whitehall, Westminster and Washington?

If an appeal to her conscience is not enough then we need to raise the stakes and apply public pressure. If a million UK residents sign a petition asking her to command an end to the killing, it might just work. If she discovers that her decision to wage war is not only unlawful but goes directly against the wishes of the public, it might be enough to persuade her to rescind it. If she knows that we know that the world knows that she is responsible for violating humanity’s most important laws, breaking binding agreements and committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, it could be enough to persuade her to reverse her commands.

But if this fails we must resort to tax resistance. In a time of war taxpayers have a duty in international law to suspend tax payments to any government that takes part in a war on the side of the aggressor. As Britain has been waging illegal aggressive wars since 2001 every UK taxpayer is obliged in law to withhold tax until the UK Government has ended the war, recalled the troops and prosecuted those responsible for war crimes. Without the funds to pay for war leaders are powerless and wars will stop.

“ The very essence of the Charter is that individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual State. He who violates the laws of war cannot obtain immunity while acting in pursuance of the authority of the State, if the State in authorising action moves outside its competence under international law…”
— Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal 1946

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