Personal · politics

An open letter to John Glen, MP (#DontBombSyria)

‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’ – Edmund Burke. So here I am, doing something.


I don’t tend to get political on this blog, but perhaps it’s time to do just that. I disagree with the whole notion of war. I wonder how, as a species, we have not evolved beyond this outmoded, archaic concept. I also vehemently disagree with the brand of war that has been touted by our leaders in the UK in the past decade or more. Beyond this innate dislike of violence, murder, and death, I also strongly feel that war will not stop the issues we are having at the moment – it will almost certainly make them worse. There is a vote tomorrow on further airstrikes in Syria, so I lobbied my local MP (a Conservative), to ask him to vote ‘NO’ to more war. He replied saying, amongst other similarly patronising things: ‘when I hear talk about alternative paths, withdrawing arms from the region or working through Middle Eastern intermediaries, I am far from convinced. This narrative is at heart naïve…’


What follows in this post was my reply to him (originally via email).


Dear John (if I may),


Thank you for your response to my message regarding further strikes on Syria.


That was an automated email from a petition site, but I’d like to address you frankly, person to person, in the hopes that you will give some thought to what I’m about to say ahead of tomorrow’s vote.


I’d like to pick up on your ’fundamental belief that the first responsibility of government is to protect its citizens.’


This is indeed a key role of any government. Another is to protect the future of its citizens and the country they hold dear. However, the future of the UK, and all European states, is being put into jeopardy for the sake of knee-jerk reaction, for masculine bravado, for the sake of saving face. We are creating a monster with our short-sightedness.


I’ll explain what I mean by picking up on another of your points: ’It is plainly difficult for people to grasp that removing ISIL has an immediate impact on the motivation and resources associated with jihadi fighters who may already live among us in this country.’


We can airstrike ISIL until the cows come home, but it won’t stop the problem. You already know this. In fact, as you’ll also know, it’s EXACTLY what they want. They want antagonism, war, the vilification of Islam and Muslims by the West – because then they’ll have people flocking to their cause, a whole new swathe of extremists. With very little effort on their behalf, because we are literally doing all the work for them by playing the hero/villains in their set piece. Do you realise (I’m guessing that you must, as it’s your job to know such things) that this is the UK’s fourth war on a Muslim country in 14 years? Just let that sink in for a moment, and ask yourself why. But you already know very well the answer to that, too.


I’m going to say this very clearly: ISIL cannot be destroyed with bombs.


An idea, an ideology, cannot be destroyed using bombs. And that is what they are wielding.


Instead, it is up to us to work against that desire for war and terror, to nurture peace (yes, peace, that boring, unfashionable concept that seems to have been sadly forgotten by our politicians), oneness, support, caring. Yes, protect the UK – but by God do it with intelligence – both the military and emotional kind – not with bombs that are physically and emotionally tearing a country apart.


You say: ’However, at the heart of terrorism is an ideology that hates Britain and the west. There is no interest in coexistence and no prospect of dialogue or negotiation with ISIL and, when I hear talk about alternative paths, withdrawing arms from the region or working through Middle Eastern intermediaries, I am far from convinced. This narrative is at heart naïve about the nature of the ideology and those who follow it. Their only strategy is to obliterate the west and lead us into ever greater war.’


Things are nowhere near as clean-cut and binary as you and the government would have them be. The issues are no longer black and white, but a very murky grey, with France, USA, and now the UK certainly not cast as heroes in this conflict. It would be naive, indeed, to think that they are. We are doing wrong, too. The naivety here is not mine, but anyone who can believe that further war is justified.


Do I have a solution? No, I’m afraid I don’t. But I know what I, and millions of others in the UK don’t want – and that is more war. Peace will always seem like the weaker, less glamorous option against decisive action and martial prowess, but it has its own beauty to those that strive to attain it, and I personally would opt for it every single time.


I note from the biography on your website that you are a Christian, and that you regularly attend your local church. I am not a Christian myself, but I know enough of the teachings of the Church to know that this is certainly NOT what Jesus preached. Not in the slightest. As we approach Christmas, bear in mind the destruction that will be wrought on families on the other side of the world if we vote yes to this. How will their Christmas compare to yours?


When you vote tomorrow, vote with your conscience. Consider whether more killing, more destruction is really the answer or whether – as has been proven to be the case – this tack is simply is NOT working. It has not worked in the past, and neither will it work in the future.


We must strive to find an alternative solution.


So ignore me if you will, ignore all of your advisors, ignore the Prime Minister – but listen to your heart, listen to your conscience, and do what you judge to be right.


Peaceful Regards,






Stop the War Coalition:


4 thoughts on “An open letter to John Glen, MP (#DontBombSyria)

  1. Well said. I wrote in pretty similar terms to my own (Tory) MP as below

    Mr Jason McCartney MP
    House of Commons
    LONDON SW1A 0AA 25th November 2015

    Dear Mr McCartney

    I am writing to you in the hope I can persuade you to vote against any proposal in parliament to increase the UK involvement in bombing Syria.

    I say “increase” because, of course, as emerged earlier this year, we are already carrying out bombing raids via the back door, using UK personnel embedded in other coalition forces, and despite Parliament already voting against bombing Syria.

    I am writing this against a background of yet further cuts to essential services being announced by the Chancellor. Somehow, it seems we can always find money for war, even if we can’t afford to keep the libraries open at home. You and I have corresponded on this before, and you know my views on the monetary cost of this foolish military interventionism. At a time when we are supposedly strapped for cash, it makes no sense whatsoever to be firing missiles costing £800,000 in order to destroy a Toyota Hilux pickup worth about £1500. In purely economic terms, I think we are well past the point where it would be more cost-effective to get ISIS members to give us their bank details and offer them £10,000 each to give up and become Buddhists.

    In the past, you have indicated to me when I have asked about these matters, that the cost of funding wars comes from a different budget, out of an “emergency” fund that exists for, er, emergencies. Well, we have a massive funding crisis in the NHS, we have people being forced to use food banks and kids turning up for school with no breakfast. Isn’t that an emergency?

    Of course, the justification for destroying the pickup truck is that you also destroy the occupants, but, as you know, there is no shortage of willing replacements. By reducing the likes of “Jihadi John” to a smear of strawberry jam on the pavement, all that we are doing is giving the shadowy people in ISIS who radicalise those with a supposed “grievance” against the west, yet more power, influence, and leverage. And now, of course, they have decided to start exporting their mayhem, so, far from making the streets of the UK safer, increasing the bombing of Syria is actually increasing the likelihood of yet more “radicalised” nutters wanting to have a go at us.

    I mentioned the economic cost, but there is also a human cost, of course. As a direct result of our misguided bungling foreign policy over Libya, Egypt and now Syria, not to mention Iraq and Afghanistan, we have been instrumental in creating the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two. Even given the UK’s attempts to weasel out of its responsibilities in order to appease the likes of the Daily Mail, the Sun, and UKIP supporters, this is a situation which needs bold, decisive, international action to manage it peacefully and prevent yet further deaths this winter. Part of that strategy has to be to “turn off the tap” and stop creating yet more refugees, by yet more bombing.

    The smartest smart bomb in the world, backed by the best intelligence, as you are well aware from your RAF days, will still make mistakes and innocent civilians will be killed, adding further to the pool of survivors with a grievance, who will then be exploited by ISIS as potential recruits, on the basis of revenge. You cannot defeat an ideology by bombing it, and increasing the bombing will only strengthen the arguments of those who use a warped and twisted version of Islam to justify murder and atrocities.

    Inevitably, as well, if this increased bombing goes ahead, we will then see calls for UK ground forces to be involved, and the lives of yet more British service personnel will be needlessly sacrificed in order to satisfy vainglorious politicians who are always eager to fight to the last drop of (someone else’s) blood. Instead of clamouring to join in the fight, the Prime Minister should be pressing internationally for a complete cessation of bombing on all sides and for the use of ground troops from some of those countries which surround the war zone to contain ISIS while some sort of order is restored and humanitarian aid administered.

    Even if there are no UK ground forces involved, the potential for international chaos and breakdown caused by the sort of incident we saw yesterday with the downing of a Russian plane by Turkey, can only increase with RAF planes added to the swarm currently buzzing round Raffa like wasps round a jam-pot.

    Finally, I don’t quite understand where the government has got the idea that we are actually able to prosecute a prolonged campaign anyway, either on the ground or in the air. The GR4 Tornados are coming to the end of their life, and I hear that it has just been announced that HMS Ocean is to be decommissioned. We were hampered in the Libyan campaign by the lack of an aircraft carrier. It is a curiously schizophrenic attitude, with “Bomber” Fallon pushing for increased sorties, like a latter-day Guy Gibson, while the treasury is simultaneously sawing away at his undercarriage.

    Maybe it’s time to admit that it’s 2015 and not 1815, and the money we are about to spend on yet another Middle East fireworks display could, and should, be better spent at home on solving some of the major economic problems which George Osborne has been mismanaging since 2010.

    I am coming to the end of my life, but I have, currently, six young nieces and nephews, with a seventh due next year. These kids are already growing up in a world where war is the norm, and we are already going to be handing on all sorts of massive problems to their generation to solve – climate change, to name but one. For their sakes, and for the sake of the children everywhere, in the refugee camps, sleeping beside railway lines in Macedonia with only a sheet of cardboard to keep out the bitter cold, or cowering in a cellar in Syria, trying to shelter from the rain of high explosive, or the children going to bed hungry here in the UK because of “austerity”, please either vote against the proposals or at least abstain. You entered politics to make a difference. Please make it a difference for the better.

    Yours sincerely


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