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Grantham Journal column: I urged Prime Minister to attack Syria

MP Nick Boles
MP Nick Boles

The international ban on the use of chemical and biological weapons is one of very few international agreements that has a real and positive impact on the everyday lives of the British people.

If the lethal deployment of chlorine gas and nerve agents like sarin were ever allowed to become a normal feature of conflict, British servicemen and women would face even greater horrors on active service in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. More of them would die agonising deaths. More of them would return home to their families here in Lincolnshire with injuries too horrible to contemplate.

It was to uphold the ban on the use of chemical weapons that the Prime Minister joined the French and American Presidents in taking targeted military action against President Assad after he launched another chemical weapons attack against his own people in Ghouta. I urged her to do it. I also urged her to take the decision without asking Parliament for permission first. In 2013, after President Assad’s first major use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war, David Cameron brought his plan for military action to Parliament. It was a terrible mistake. He could not share details of Assad’s chemical weapons programme for fear of compromising intelligence sources.

He could not explain how our military action would be targeted because he could not afford to jeopardise the safety of the British forces that would be engaged in the attack. Parliament was presented with an incomplete picture of what was being proposed and, in the heat of the moment, made the wrong decision. Many MPs who voted against military action that night now openly admit that they regret it.

It is the Prime Minister’s job to defend our country and keep us safe, based on intelligence, the advice of military commanders and in consultation with her Cabinet. It is Parliament’s job to scrutinise her decisions, and the decisions of her ministers, and to hold them to account. Parliament cannot run military operations and should not try.

The Prime Minister made the right decision last week. President Assad now knows that using chemical weapons carries a high cost.

His ability to do so again has been impaired. While we must remain vigilant against future breaches, the international ban on the use of chemical and biological weapons has been reinforced. For that we should all be grateful.


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