2 pieces from me. The first I put on Roger Helmer's blog
and is about the constitutional importance of Parliament's vote. The second is a letter, in a more angry vein, about how we have been lied to. It went out to all and sundry but appears unpublished. I have decided to send the first out as a letter too but think it too thoughtful for the press to want to use.
If the special relationship were that we always do what the US wants (and the US always does what the US wants) then it would be over, and good riddance.
But it isn’t. It is primarily a cultural and linguistic relationship. We both have Parliamentary governments derived from George III’s.
In that case the relationship may be strengthened. One of the changes from George III’s government is that they have a Constitution, which is literally and correctly venerated. The right to declare war is reserved to the Congress – one of the differences they introduced from George III. In Britain, up till now it has been the Royal, ie PM’s prerogative.
To Quote Abraham Lincoln on the right to declare war:
“This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings
have always stood.”
Thus Britain deciding that Parliament must approve war making is not a repudiation of our special relationship but a massive endorsement of it as a cultural success. Which is far more important than the issue of the day.
Paradoxically this part of the Constitution has been breached since at least the time of the Kosovo war which Clinton waged without reference to Congress.
The reason for this is that the Imperator/Duce/President/Generalisimo/PM needs to be able to threaten war credibly if he is running an imperial state. For a century and a half after George III we did. Now the US is such and we aren’t.
It is a tension which goes to the heart of whether a country is an Imperium or a Republic.
The best thing Obama could do is the ask Congress’ permission too. If he doesn’t get it he is off the hook. If he does he will have the support nationally, and indeed internationally, he needs.
Despite having the money, ships, aircraft and bombs the US is not a very good imperialist because their heart isn’t really in it. That is their saving grace.
The spectacular defeat of the government on the issue of making war is not just an almost unique instance in British history of lack of trust in the government.
It is a popular repudiation of 2 decades of what Robin Cook once called "humanitarian bombing". Popular because this move was driven not just by opinion polls but by the fact that, during their holidays, MPs have been outside the Westminster village and exposed to what real constituents tell them.
For 2 decades we have been picking fights with smaller countries (Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Mali and now Syria). In each case it has been justified by a scare story (that Milosevic was engaged in genocide, that Saddam had wmds, that there was the risk of genocide in democratically minded Benghazi, that if the Mali rebels took Timbuktoo they would next march through European cities and now Syria's alleged use of wmds). All of which turned out to be contrary to evidence.
Perhaps equally bad is that those we were told were "moderate democrats" when the bombing started, turned out repeatedly to be worse than their alleged oppressors and the countries we broke, were left far more dangerous and often not even nominally more democratic. The most extreme example being Milosevic against whom, despite 4 1/2 years of "trial", no actual evidence could be produced and he died after being poisoned by a chemical that induces heart attacks. In the other hand the gangsters, drug lords, sex slavers, organleggers and WW2 Nazis, NATO recruited and armed as the KLA, proceeded, when appointed as our police, to carry out massacres, racial genocide, ethnic cleansing of 350,000, the sexual enslavement of local schoolchildren and the dissection of 1,800 people, while still alive, to steal their body organs.
If the Syrian rebels had not obviously been cut from similar, often al Quaeda, cloth but had been seen to be genuinely decent and democratic the doubt that the Syrian government did the gassing would clearly not have existed.
There is also the history of our government lying. In Yugoslavia they formally promised that they respected that, under international law, Kosovo was (& therefore still is) part of the country. In Iraq there was the wmd lie. In Libya "regime change" was claimed not to be the purpose, we just wanted to stop Libya bombing Benghazi. In Syria we are told, again, that regime change is not the purpose and it would be purely a coincidence if we helped the al Quaeda forces we have been supplying. The British people simply no longer trust the government's word, for obvious reasons.
The same effect, even more dangerously, affects the rest of the world's valuation of our word. In Libya the Russians accepted a Security Council authorisation that purely authorised the prevention of bombing of Benghazi only to see it "interpreted" to allow bombing of Gaddafi's home town.
In the 1970s Yugoslavia deliberately decided not to develop its own Bomb, because this would destabilise Europe. Gaddafi gave up his attempts on a specific promise that the NATO powers would live in peace with him.
Who is going to trust any promise from a western government again?
Yet, so long as we bring Milosevic to "trial" without evidence while our own politicians, who have certainly engaged in criminal wars and worse, are untouched, how can we ever expect our country, let alone political classes, to be trusted.