We can afford to drop bombs abroad but we cannot afford welfare provisions at home?
On the evening of Friday the 13th of April 2018, on Theresa May’s Government’s word, the UK took part in ‘limited and targeted air strikes’ on Syrian soil. Following French and U.S. word, we dropped bombs to degrade Syria’s chemical weapon abilities. The strikes were a reaction to the chemical attacks on innocent civilians in Douma: near Damascus in the south of Syria. I do agree with Theresa May that chemical attacks on civilians are ‘horrific and abhorrent’, but I don’t believe dropping bombs in the region is the answer. We are fanning the flames of a seven year civil war in Syria and creating a stronger case for ‘Islamic State’ to see us as the enemy. Not only that, but we risk injuring innocent civilians in these targeted airstrikes and we cannot be sure the intelligence we are working from is correct; just as it wasn’t in Iraq. With Russian involvement in the Syrian conflict and vetoing diplomatic efforts in the UN it does make the Syrian situation seem near impossible to fix.
I have been appalled by the images of the innocent bystanders in this war and the ego massaging that has gone on between May, Macron and Trump, amongst others, disgusts me. I do feel there is an alternative motivation for this war whether that be oil, power or just ego building I cannot decide.
This article is to call out Theresa May on her biggest contradiction of shaking the famous magic money tree and finding just enough money for ‘targeted’ and ‘successful’ airstrikes on Syria. However, there is not enough cash left over to lift the UK out of Austerity or even house child refugees who are potential victims of barbaric acts of violence from Assad; or indeed the ‘West’. Millions of people are displaced in Syria and millions have fled risking exploitation and rejection in which ever country they may end up in. Whatever rhetoric we get fed Austerity is a choice made by the Conservative Government but we can always find money for war when it comes knocking. However, we can never seem to be able to find the money to help the vulnerable at home or abroad when it comes to refugees.
Since the 2015 General Election result, where the Conservatives won a slim majority in the House of Commons, the Austerity regime was maintained and in some areas of fiscal economic policy it was strengthened. Controversial plans to cap family welfare provisions to just two children and produce the ‘rape clause’ as a form of ‘goodwill’ was to ‘take pressure off the public purse’. The role out of Universal Credit was to ‘save money to the tax payer’ and help facilitate getting ‘the national deficit down’. The Conservative supporting media and Conservative MPs themselves stigmatise claimants as scroungers and blame disabled people for ‘our low productivity’ as a nation. The amount of people using foodbanks across the UK because of the heartless decimation of the welfare state, sanctions initiative within Universal Credit and growing in-work poverty due to poor regulations around precarious work continue to increase.
Since 2010 the Conservative led coalition imposed a 1% pay cap on public sector workers because ‘we need to get our house in order’ causing in-work poverty due to an employee’s pay rise not meeting living costs increases over the past eight years. The NHS in England, which is the sole responsibility of the Conservative Government, was described by The British Red Cross to be in the state of a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in 2016/17 due to funding cuts all rolled out by Governments since 2010. Patients were being treated in ambulances outside hospital buildings and charities were stepping in to support ambulance services in some parts of England.
Yet, during this time of Austerity, the Conservatives increase defence spending and invest more in our military. They even voted in favour of renewing our Trident nuclear weapons capability to the tune of up to £306 billion over a decade. These are weapons of mass destruction that could cause ‘horrific and abhorrent’ suffering to innocent people here in the UK and completely destroy life wherever it is targeting. Nuclear weapons are essentially chemical weapons, yet we bomb other countries for ‘having’, in the case of Iraq, or using, in the case of Syria, chemical weapons. I am aware that these chemical weapons used in Douma were more localised but we hold weapons that could cause more destruction and harm just a 45 minute drive up the road from Glasgow. Around 75 innocent people lost their lives in the chemical attack in Douma, but how many civilians could be killed or injured by fuelling tensions in the region with airstrikes?
Theresa May pleads her case for deciding to authorise targeted airstrikes in Syria as a difficult one. The minority administration did not even call an urgent debate in the House of Commons, which is currently not sitting, or a vote but she consulted only with her cabinet who backed the action with French and U.S. allies. They backed airstrikes as a knee jerk reaction to the terrible attacks on the people of Douma. They say it is in the ‘national interest’. Well, if spending millions of pounds on airstrikes based on ‘hearsay’ is to benefit the people of the United Kingdom we can easily lift the Austerity regime and house refugees fleeing the ‘horrific and abhorrent’ scenes in Syria.
MSc HRM Student