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We must stop this madness before it is too late

BRITAIN'S participation in the weekend's illegal bombing raids over Syria was dangerous and wrong.

Theresa May's desperation to show Donald Trump she is every bit as obsequious a sidekick as French President Emmanuel Macron has trumped considerations of legality, democratic accountability, evidence assessment or national security.

Her speech to the nation supposedly justifying this blitz of a country which has never threatened to attack us was riddled with misinformation and sleights of hand.

The prime minister talks as if the Syrian government's culpability for using chemical weapons in Douma is an established fact.

It is not. Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons inspectors were sent to determine what had happened in Douma on Saturday. 

Trump, May and Macron dispatched their bombers without waiting for any investigation, showing a contempt for due process grimly familiar from the run-up to the Iraq war, when the findings of UN inspectors led by Hans Blix that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction were pooh-poohed by Tony Blair and George W Bush in their eagerness to start a war regardless.

May also refers to the Syrian government having used chemical weapons before, at Khan Sheikhoun a year ago, though US Defence Secretary James Mattis has publicly admitted the US never saw any evidence that this was the case.

The assumption of Syrian government responsibility is based on claims by the rebel groups it is fighting — most recently, the charming Jaish al-Islam group in Douma, which is committed to “cleansing” Syria of Shi’ite and Christian “filth” and hit the headlines three years ago for keeping civilians, including women and children, of the Alawite minority in cages in the streets as human shields for its fighters.

Turkish investigators found canisters of sarin being smuggled into Syria by militants of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front as long ago as 2013, meaning that, even if we disbelieve Syrian claims to have destroyed its stockpiles of chemical weapons, the government is not the only actor in this war with the means to deploy them.

May asserts that the bombing will deter future chemical weapons attacks in Syria — though if anything it makes them more likely. 

Rebels, who are on the point of losing the war, who conclude that the way to prompt intervention in their favour is to claim chemical weapons have been used have an obvious motive to stage such attacks. In a best case scenario, this would mean fabricating them. In a worst case scenario, it could mean carrying them out themselves.

The prime minister's claim to be defending “the global rules and standards that keep us safe” is nothing short of grotesque. 

Britain has been second only to the US in tearing up the international rulebook, helping to start unprovoked wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and using its air power to help jihadist extremists overthrow the Libyan government.

We recently learned that the suicide bomber who killed 23 people in Manchester last year, Salman Abedi, was an MI6 asset cleared for travel to and from Libya by British intelligence, on May's watch as home secretary.

Government support for these violent fanatics has cost the peoples of Iraq, Libya and Syria tens of thousands of lives, but it is also puts people at risk on our own streets.

To start a war of aggression is the “supreme international crime,” according to the Nuremberg tribunals. 

The weekend's attacks on Syria fall into that category and, by wading into a war that is already a proxy for conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US, risks sparking a global conflagration.

Full support should be given to the Stop the War Coalition's rally in Parliament Square this evening. The left must mobilise to stop this madness before it is too late.

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