Burnley’s MP: Why I said no to bombing Syria

Julie Cooper MP would vote to allow 16-year-olds to vote
Julie Cooper MP would vote to allow 16-year-olds to vote
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Burnley MP Julie Cooper voted against extending RAF air strikes to bomb so-called Islamic State in Syria.

In a statement Mrs Cooper said Burnley residents told her they were “overwhelmingly” against military action even though the majority of MPs backed the move, prompted in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

RAF Tornado jets began a bombing campaign last night, within hours of the vote, but Mrs Cooper said she refused to back the bombing of IS because Prime Minister David Cameron did not have a strong enough case.

Here, in her own words, she reveals why:

This week the Prime Minister called a vote on whether the UK should pursue a bombing campaign against Syria.

I am grateful to the thousands of local residents who have already contacted me with their thoughts. The depth and strength of the feeling this issue has generated locally only reinforces how important this decision is. Residents have told me overwhelmingly that they are against air strikes.

I have considered this decision long and hard because undoubtedly, committing our armed forces to military action is the most serious action that a government can take. I have listened to residents, I have consulted widely to ensure that I have the best possible understanding of the very complex situation in Syria. To promote my understanding I have met with the Foreign Secretary, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, the Defence Secretary and also with specialist government advisors with particular knowledge of Syria and the surrounding region.

ISIL/Daesh are an evil force who carry out atrocities on a daily basis. I, like so many, was shocked at the recent attacks in Paris. My heart goes out to the people of France and in fact to people throughout the world, who have suffered at the hands of these heinous terrorists. It is clear that ISIL/Daesh needs to be defeated. They pose a threat both regionally in their main area of military operations and internationally through terrorism. Their reign of terror has seen women subjected to unspeakable sexual violence, gay people killed and thousands upon thousands across the Middle East forced to flee their homes. The horrific attacks in Paris saw people of all ages, cultures and faiths enjoying the start of the weekend only to be caught up in indiscriminate acts of violence. We will all remember the shock at seeing the bloody images at the Bataclan and on the Paris streets. Innocent civilians in Egypt, Beirut, Ankara and Tunisia have been brutally murdered and I am in no doubt that they pose a threat to us here in the UK.

I would like to make it absolutely clear that I am not a pacifist and I am not in principle against bombing strikes. If I thought for one moment that we could go in there and by bombing obliterate these evil terrorists I would have no hesitation. I have listened carefully as the Prime Minister set out his case and the question that I have asked myself is whether a UK bombing campaign will lead to the defeat of ISIL/Daesh. Ultimately I have made the decision not to vote for bombing Syria because I am not convinced that the Prime Minister has made a strong enough case. I believe that this action, that is not part of a comprehensive plan, will not defeat ISIL. I think rather that it will lead to more radicalisation and to more terrorist attacks. We are all really angry but indiscriminate bombing with no proper plan is not the answer. Being angry is not a good enough reason. There is no doubt that the proposed bombing will kill innocent men, women and children and it will be recorded as collateral damage. I believe that David Cameron’s is a knee-jerk reaction born of the same anger that I feel. I think it is designed to make a gesture to show that Britain is doing something. I think it is designed to make Britain look tough. I would say that there is nothing tough about bombing innocent people. Such action will not defeat ISIL but it will make a terrorist attack in Britain more likely. I will be supporting the following amendment:

“This House while welcoming the renewed impetus towards peace and reconstruction in Syria, and the Government’s recognition that a comprehensive strategy against Daesh is required, does not believe that the case for the UK’s participation in the ongoing air campaign in Syria by 10 countries, has been made under current circumstances and consequently declines to authorise military action in Syria.”

Ultimately, I have made the decision to vote against air strikes in Syria because I do not believe the Prime Minister has set out a strong enough case for how this action will lead to ISIL/Daesh’s defeat or provided assurances that it will not put the British people at greater risk.

The UK has a diplomatic strength we should rightly be proud of. I believe our resources and efforts are best directed towards trying to achieve a Syrian Peace Process, which would secure an immediate ceasefire and plan for an orderly transition from an Assad-led government prior to national elections. This may appear a distant goal, but it is nevertheless crucial as ISIL/Daesh thrives where vacuums of power and conditions of chaos exist.

Here in London we are uniquely placed to use the city’s massive resources and technological expertise to help intensify international efforts to cut off the flow of funds and arms to ISIL/Daesh. We should also be taking the lead in pushing for a co-ordinated humanitarian response to the refugee crisis that is an inevitable result of the turmoil in Syria.

Crucially, we need to challenge the ideology that still today is seeing young men and women joining Isil/Daesh. I fear that a bombing campaign with the risk of further civilian casualties will only drive greater numbers into the recruiting grounds of their poisonous propaganda.

As I write this, no formal proposal has been put to MPs. I will continue to carefully consider any proposals the Government brings forward to address the persisting threat of ISIL/Daesh, but at this time I do not believe the case has been made for UK military intervention.”