OPEN LETTER TO MP: The time for moral courage

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Dear Mr Hayes.

You are the MP for the constituency in which I live. I have never written to my MP before.

I have served in all of our recent wars. As a front-line military intelligence officer, I served in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq.

In Iraq I led one of the military teams looking for the weapons of mass destruction that we were assured were the reason for the war.

I note you voted for that war and therefore share responsibility for what happened. Later I was a senior advisor in the UK missions in Helmand and Libya. I have written extensively about all of them, apart from the latter and am a regular visitor and speaker at military units, including the Joint Command and Staff College.

In the early 1990s I lived in Syria for some months and made many friends there.

It seems clear that there will be a parliamentary vote on intervention in Syria. Syria is a mess; neither side are fighting for anything approaching what you or I might call a ‘good cause’; it is a Sunni-Shia proxy war.

All of the main opposition units are closely linked to Al Qaeda. These facts are not in dispute. What is in dispute is whether we should join in. Yet our national leadership seems set upon intervention in Syria. One wonders why this is after the debacles of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, but there we are. This must not be allowed to happen, and you have the opportunity to stop it.

Any military action must have clear political outcomes and strategic clarity at its heart. This is a lesson we have learned the hard way, at very great cost over the last decade of failed involvement in the Muslim world.

This is why our senior military officers and our serious experts on the Middle East, many of whom I know and are friends with, are united in their opposition. They clearly see the deep danger of becoming directly involved in a Sunni-Shia religious proxy war. When this is overlaid by the possible involvement of Russia it seems to me that there is no case at all for our forces and country to be involved.

The hundreds killed in the recent chemical attack were savagely slaughtered, as were the many tens of thousands killed before them in other ways.

I fear some of my old friends may be amongst them.

There is no room at all for emotional responses; none. The decision to involve the United Kingdom must be made with clear defined objectives and an equally clear end-state and be part of a political strategy.

It must be in our national interest. Such objectives, interests and end-state are entirely absent here.

Vote against it. I appreciate that to do so for someone who is a ‘Minister without Portfolio’, whatever that is, might be difficult.

It will require moral courage. This is the time for such moral courage.

I am of course content to debate the issues with you.

Frank Ledwidge

Lieut Cdr (Retired)