Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cameron: "I get that and the government will act accordingly" (No UK intervention) / Guardian

Yesterday's top fun quote, from Conservative Member of Parliament Adam Holloway:
Friends stop their friends getting into their cars at the end of an evening and driving away drunk:  I think it is one job of a British Prime Minister to stop American Presidents driving drunk, as George W Bush did (in my opinion) with Iraq and Afghanistan.
Unless I am missing something, I think David Cameron should be doing the same with President Obama now. The fact that we hear that Tony Blair thinks intervening in Syria a good idea ought to mean that all sensible people run in the opposite direction.  
The Express says that 80% of the UK public is against armed intervention; 12% are undecided and only 8% agreed with the Prime Minister.  

The House of Commons (unexpectedly) had its way with David Cameron today. From tonight's Guardian:
David Cameron indicated on Thursday evening that Britain would not take part in military action against Syria after the British government lost a crucial vote on an already watered-down amendment that was designed to pave the way to intervention in the war-torn country.
In a devastating blow to his authority, the prime minister lost a government motion by 272 votes to 285 – an opposition majority of 13 – after scores of Tory MPs voted with Labour...
Furthermore, as the BBC explains:
in an unexpected turn of events - MPs also rejected the government's motion in support of military action in Syria [even] if it was supported by evidence from United Nations weapons inspectors, who are investigating claims President Bashar al-Assad's regime had used chemical weapons against civilians.
By rejecting a UK strike whether or not better evidence of Assad's role emerged, Parliament seems to be expressing its distrust of government claims and doctored evidence.  No doubt Colin Powell's 2003 claims of WMD evidence cast a long shadow.  Heaping salt on the wound, Cameron was then asked to guarantee to Parliament he would abide by the vote of Parliament and not take things into his own hands:
Asked by Labour leader Ed Miliband for an assurance that he would not use the royal prerogative to sanction British involvement in the military action, the prime minister told MPs: "I can give that assurance. Let me say, the House has not voted for either motion tonight. I strongly believe in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons, but I also believe in respecting the will of this House of Commons.
"It is very clear tonight that, while the House has not passed a motion, it is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action.
"I get that and the government will act accordingly."
The article goes on:
The shock result means that Cameron becomes the first British prime minister in decades unable to deliver British troops to a joint military operation with the US. Whitehall sources had said Barack Obama was willing to show some patience for Britain but he would need to launch strikes against Syria before he leaves for the G20 summit in Russia next Tuesday. The New York Times reported on Thursday night that Obama is preparing to act alone at the weekend.
Britain failed to present persuasive evidence that the Assad regime was the perpetrator of the attack:
Opening the debate in a packed Commons, the prime minister ...acknowledged that the intelligence agencies had not delivered a definitive verdict.
Philippe Sands, a leading expert in international law, said the document failed to provide a "sound or persuasive legal argument" in favour of military action...
Miliband said the prime minister had failed to prove definitively that the Assad regime was responsible for the attack as he intensified the pressure on Cameron by pressing an alternative Labour amendment to a vote...
UPDATE:  NY Times emphasizes British scepticism toward American moralism:
In the British Parliament on Thursday, the theme of doubt was foremost.
Paul Flynn, of Labour, said that prior uses of chemical weapons, as against the Kurds, had not drawn such a response.
“Is not the real reason we are here today not the horror at these weapons — if that horror exists — but as a result of the American president having foolishly drawn a red line, so that he is now in the position of either having to attack or face humiliation?” he asked...

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