THE SNP’s Shetland candidate for Holyrood has described David Cameron’s plan to extend airstrikes against Islamic State into Syria as “worse than futile”, saying it will lead to innocent civilians being killed, worsen the refugee crisis and further inflame tensions in the Middle East.
Danus Skene criticised Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael’s support for the plan, which will be voted on in the House of Commons on Wednesday night, saying the last time the Liberal Democrats “acted inspirationally in national politics was when Charlie Kennedy gave principled leadership against the invasion of Iraq, and now I react to Alistair’s views more in sadness than in anger”.
“Daesh/ISIL must be defeated,” Skene said in a statement issued on Wednesday. “They are a danger across the world, and in the light of their actions and their refusal to negotiate about anything, that defeat will need to be military.
“The point at this stage is that further bombing without linkage to a plan for action on the ground is worse than futile. Innocents will die. Refugee populations will increase. Anger and division in the region will mount, with an increase in Daesh recruitment being a probable outcome.”
He said the argument for sending the Royal Air Force (RAF) into the “crowded skies” of Syria was “driven by a perceived need in domestic and European politics to be seen to be ‘doing something’”.
“Bombing alone does not win a war,” Skene continued. “Consider Goering, or perhaps General Curtis LeMay, the American who undertook to ‘bomb Vietnam back into the Stone Age’.
“I am well aware that I am in effect saying that involvement in a ground war may be necessary. Cameron’s motion before parliament explicitly rules that out. So what is the game plan? Without ‘boots on the ground’ there can be no defeat of Daesh or end to the complex Syrian civil war.”
In reference to Cameron’s much-disputed claim that 70,000 moderate forces were ready to fall into place after the bombing, Skene said that “ragtag gangs of factional groups are no substitute for military professionalism”.
Carmichael partly justified his support for bombing because “it is now legal, with UN backing”, but Skene said there were “many things I do not do just because they are legal”.
The SNP hopeful, a former Lib Dem member, said defeating Islamic terrorists was a “necessary preliminary” to ensuring Syria and Iraq can enjoy a tolerable future.
“Military action and subsequent physical and political reconstruction must be enabled by international co-operation and agreement,” Skene added. “The current French-proposed UN resolution is only a start, and the UK’s best move at this point would be to spur on the UN and Vienna conference processes to achieve the necessary framework for eventual peace.
“Simply endorsing a geographical extension of bombing is an irresponsible substitute for thought and commitment to containing terrorism and making peace possible. The SNP are right to oppose the bombing resolution.
“Charles Kennedy. What’s left of your troops should recall you now, and honour you by voting against the bombing resolution.”