The Lives and Blood of Innocents: An Open Letter to Flick Drummond MP

The aftermath of a bombing raid over Homs, Syria, in 2012. Freedom House under a Creative Commons Licence

Dear Flick Drummond,

I write to ask you to vote against any Commons motion to sanction the extension of airstrikes into Syrian territory. I believe that I echo the voices of many people around the world who oppose an escalation of this four year war and especially on behalf of my friends in Al-Raqqa, ordinary people like you, me and our families – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, a population perhaps 50% larger than that of our Portsmouth South constituency.

NATO General Sir Richard Shirreff implied a greater number when he said, ‘It’s not something you are going to achieve with 70,000 so-called Syria moderates … To take a city of 350,000 is going to need a massive force. While I’m mindful of the dreadful atrocity in Paris, I’m not sure that adding a few more RAF Tornadoes to the already-crowded airspace over Syria is really the best way of showing solidarity with the French. Having watched what happened in Libya and Iraq, I don’t believe the case has been made.’

If, however, like the Prime Minister, you think that a former NATO deputy supreme allied commander Europe (not your stereotypical pacifist lefty) doesn’t know what he is talking about, I ask you to consider what number of Daesh terrorists, as a percentage of a city’s population, justifies air strikes? Further, if the proposed escalation of war is to respond to President Hollande’s call for support against the Paris killers, would you and your leader support airstrikes against them in Brussels and Paris? If indeed the PM is correct, that it is an act of self-defence, would you and he support airstrikes on London or perhaps Portsmouth, where a number of Jihadists have been discovered?

Defence Minister Michael Fallon asserted on Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show that ‘there hasn’t yet been a single civilian casualty’ in over a year of RAF strikes in Iraq – a statement astonishing in its audacity. He did, however, use the word ‘estimate’ but he didn’t indicate whether or not this estimate was corroborated by independent sources. Reputable monitors of claims of casualties estimate at least 370 to 465 civilian deaths and a further 130 to 145 poorly reported or single-sourced figures. Some less conservative estimates are greater. I understand that these casualty reports do not show which nations are involved. While it is conceivable that the deaths are not attributable to the RAF, Fallon’s assertion would mean that it’s the fault of our careless coalition allies – rather akin to case of the school playground declaration ‘It wasn’t me miss, it was another boy!’ Of course, evidence of civilian deaths is always difficult to ascertain and is heavily weighted in favour of the assailant’s tendency to undercount because the main witnesses are unable to bear testimony, having been eviscerated by such as the inspirationally-named Brimstone, a proudly described ‘fire-and-forget’ manifestation of hell on Earth.

Fallon wants us to believe that these are much more sophisticated instruments of shredding flesh (at £100,000 plus a piece) than the other BAE Systems weapons (cluster bombs and landmines) that are still killing innocents around the world. Maybe even as sophisticated at our nuclear weapons which have not killed a single civilian in more than sixty years – well, if you don’t count the victims from nuclear test radiation, I suppose.

I understand that the MoD has stated that Brimstone has demonstrated accuracy and reliability ‘both well above 90 percent’ and Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton stated that 98.3% to 98.7% of Brimstone fired in Libya ‘did exactly what we expected’. That’s a very tight percentage tolerance and, if I was an Air Chief Marshal, MoD procurer, Defence Minister or Saudi prince, I would be as excited as a kid at Christmas to play with them. Please explain one thing, then, to an old mathematics teacher who sometimes gets befuddled with numbers, especially statistics. If approximately three of the 200 Brimstones (I don’t think we have more) that Fallon is proposing to fire-and-forget on the city of Al-Raqqa are not going to do “exactly as expected”, even if the targeted Daesh fighters are not hiding underground or standing next to innocent men, women, children, babies in homes, schools or hospitals, how can he justify his implied suggestion that no civilians will be harmed in this proposed war game extension?

I’m curious. Why is our PM’s buddy, Saudi Arabia’s Prince not rushing to use his Brimstones against these brutal terrorists? We are on the same side, aren’t we? And the ones we sold them are just as effective as ours, aren’t they? Surely all those alleged bribes and slush funds by a company convicted of ‘felony to defraud’ were not for nothing? We need them to use theirs so we can sell them some more, I would have thought.

As for the war on terror that the USA and its allies have been conducting since 2001, in particular with the invasion of Iraq, the US State Department figures show that terror attacks have tripled and the number killed has increased tenfold, not counting the ‘Christian’ terror attacks that are not labelled as such, presumably because only Islamist Jihadists (those not currently on our side) qualify as terrorists. How do the PM, Defence Minister and Hilary Benn believe that escalating Britain’s airstrikes into Syria will have the opposite effect? It doesn’t take the mind of the Krell to understand that this is exactly what Daesh wants to happen as a reaction to the slaughter in Paris. I understand that the government isn’t particularly bothered about scores of lives lost this year alone in Lebanon, Tunisia, Libya, Denmark, Yemen, Kuwait, Egypt, Turkey, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Mali, and Chad. Yes, I know that Paris was the trigger for the Murdoch media outrage and I’m sure that doesn’t have anything to do with the illegal oil exploration deal in the occupied territory of the Golan Heights that Dick Cheney’s Genie Energy company (shareholders include Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch) has just signed with Israel.

Military action used to be a last (rather than first) resort. So why is the government not dealing with the funding of Daesh? Is it too sensitive to follow the money and the flow of oil from this sect via Turkish companies through Lebanese ports to Japan and Israel? If the Turkish president’s son, Necmettin Bilal Erdogan, is directly implicated, are we just going to ignore this? What is the government doing to investigate the training of Daesh militants over the past three years by the USA, Israeli and now, it emerges, by Turkish special forces at secret bases in Konya province in Turkey?

Is it not too serious a matter for Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to score cheap points at the dispatch box when he answered Dennis Skinner’s question ‘Is Turkey a reliable ally, given that it shot down a Russian jet, and has assisted Isis against the Kurds?’ with ‘I see that old habits die hard, and the Honourable Gentleman remains an apologist for Russian actions.’ Or was it just a convenient way to focus on Skinner’s first point in order to avoid acknowledging the second? And should we infer, because he is not an apologist for Russian actions but presumably an apologist for Turkish actions, that Fallon supports the shooting down of the Russian plane and the execution by the CIA-funded Free Syrian Army of at least one Russian airman whilst they were evacuating by parachute? Will he similarly remain silent if such a war crime happens to any RAF pilots evacuating their Tornados?

You may understandably charge me with hypocrisy when my thinly disguised anger and despair causes me also to indulge at times in similar cheap shots but I know you will respond in a calmer and more measured way. I also believe that, when the debate is conducted on Wednesday, you will consider the arguments carefully and vote in the knowledge that the lives and blood of innocents are at stake.

My friends in Al-Raqqa have been bombed enough. Having met you briefly, Flick, I do not doubt that you have as much capacity for empathy as anyone in the Commons Chamber. It is a heavy responsibility that you and your fellow MPs bear. I do not envy you.

Thank you for your attention.


Richard Peirce

Note: I have not listed sources of information here but I am happy to do so. I am also happy to receive any non-classified evidence that challenges anything I have written.