As you’ve probably seen on the news – a big story lately is parliament approving air strikes in Syria to combat the terrorist group ISIS.
This issue has stirred up a lot of controversy within and outside the University.
As an ex-service person who was deployed to Afghanistan in the beginning of 2012, I can’t help but express my sincere concern against these strikes. I know this article will stir up a lot of debate, which is why I have decided to publish anonymously.
My role within the military was not directly on the front line. I joined in 2011, and we were already told at this point that Syria would be and I quote ‘the next Afghanistan‘ against Assad. I’m actually surprised the air strikes didn’t happened earlier. The military has actually been preparing for this since 2011.
My deployment role was a medic, and I’m not going to lie to you, the things I saw out in Camp Bastian were horrific. I never actually went onto the front line as I only treated our wounded soldiers. However, the experience scarred me so much, I would not wish what I have seen on anyone. When I left the camp (which wasn’t often), I was mortified by what I saw. The best way I can describe it is as pools of blood, innocent civilians in despair, and just general destruction by both the Taliban and by allied air strikes.
One image which has never left my mind is that of a woman carrying her lifeless child after one of our allied air strikes. She was screaming in despair at why this could happen and the terror in her eyes has haunted me since.
Yes, I understand that terrorist organizations are awful, however air strikes are not the answer.
The matter of fact is air strikes are often inaccurate (although they have gotten more accurate since I left the military) and they can lead to mass destruction of civilian areas, causing mass civilian casualty and death. In addition the confusion around this conflict in my eyes, does not constitute the legalisation of air strikes. As I said before in 2011, we were on standby to attack Assad, now 4 years later we are attacking ISIS.
This whole conflict is so contradictory, as it looks like we are prepared to attack ISIS over Assad? Assad the dictator who used chemical weapons against his own people and is backed by Russia. Yes, I understand that ISIS are terrible and blood thirsty, but if we do wipe out ISIS, it will only allow Assad to gain ground. In my eyes it’s not acceptable to intervene in this way because the conflict has too many players and the UK cannot simply say that they are ‘protecting democratic values’ in Syria- as it seems clear to me that by bombing Syria we are not helping the situation at all.
Furthermore the argument that ISIS present a ‘security threat’ to the UK is something that I personally don’t buy into. The government has just increased investment into the Navy by a very large amount and although I cannot explain further about these policies- rest assured they are enough to secure our borders. In addition The Navy do a brilliant job in protecting our waters and a great job overseas, and in my opinion, air strikes are not needed if we are committed to strengthening our own security and supporting the Muslim community at home in their battle against extremism.
In addition, again with reference to what was said to me in 2011, it seems in my eyes this will not simply be a case of just air strikes. It is with the most utmost fear that as this conflict is not likely to be solved quickly air strikes will quickly escalate to boots on the ground. There is nothing I fear more than this happening. I fear for my friends still in the military, as I would not want them to experience anything near what I have. I would hate to receive a phone call to say they have passed in combat due to a conflict which has so many political actors and many different aims that it is difficult to distinguish who is ‘good’ or ‘evil’, or rather who is the lesser of two evils? Some of you may think that I am being extreme in worrying about this because it is only air strikes which have been approved in parliament- well in 2011 when air strikes were opposed, no one thought they would be approved, so I urge you who think to challenge me on this to remember that this is a conflict in which anything could happen and boots on the ground is at this point time a real possibility.
No matter what you think on this issue, I am merely highlighting the possible consequences of this vote for air strikes. In my mind it is unnecessary to carry out this action for all of the reasons I have suggested, and implore you to think on this issue before coming to your own view. At the end of the day, I don’t believe that this conflict could be solved in a peaceful manner as terrorists are not groups to negotiate with, however the reasons for these air strikes worry me deeply, and they do not to me seem like a ‘last resort’ tactic.