A speech on Syria

We present the text of our secretary's speech at the Don't Bomb Syria rally held yesterday on King's Parade by Cambridge Stop the War Coalition.


An appetite for war

Thank you for having me. I'm here to speak briefly for the Cambridge People's Assembly Against Austerity. From our perspective the government's appetite for war in Syria – the name of the enemy, Assad or Islamic State, being left to tactics – is a reminder that what this country can and cannot afford is finally a political decision. Our protest is against the war, not its expense. However the government's plans do show once again that the constraints of a budget deficit are not as narrow as it has often pretended.

I'm not a pacifist, but what's planned in Syria is an adventure. Of course bombing can degrade the Islamic State forces, but any strategic gains will go to one of the rival armies on the ground in this terrible and complicated war. It's hard to welcome these unpredictable results, and they will come at a bloody cost in civilian injuries and deaths. What bombing can't degrade is Islamic State's capability for savage terrorist attacks like the one on Paris two weeks ago: to do so calls instead for patient, careful police work. In truth our bombs will be gambling chips, thrown in after others' to get a stake in whatever happens next in Syria. This is a cynical and imperialist policy.

We won't help Syria by bringing more violence to the country; we have to find other ways, and one suggests itself first of all. When a society is shattered, a priority is to save as many as possible of the pieces. Britain must open its borders to Syrian refugees.

Neil Kirkham

28 November 2015

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