Syria Bombing Debate in UK Underscores 'Dereliction of Duty' in US

As the debate over whether Britain should start bombing the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria reaches fever pitch in the UK, calls for similarly vigorous public deliberation in the U.S.—which has been conducting airstrikes within the war-torn country for more than a year—continue to fall on deaf ears.

The juxtaposition is an “embarrassing” reflection of how “the Brits have a much more robust debate than we have,” CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin told Common Dreams on Monday.

“It is just so despicable of Congress to not weigh in one of the most significant issues that elected officials are supposed to weigh in on, which is waging war or peace.”
—Medea Benjamin, CodePink

In a move that effectively gives hawkish Prime Minister David Cameron the go-ahead for expanded war, Labour Party leader and longtime anti-war voice Jeremy Corbyn announced Monday that he would grant Members of Parliament (MPs) a “free vote” on the government’s proposal to authorize UK airstrikes in Syria.

With some Labour MPs backing such military action, the decision makes it more likely that Cameron’s government will now feel sufficiently confident to bring forward a vote on the issue—a reality that was not lost on anti-war groups or elected officials.

Corbyn, who opposes the bombing campaign, has also written to Cameron to ask for a two-day debate on the issue so that “important contributions” are not cut short—suggesting the vote will take place next week at the earliest. In what the Huffington Post UK said was a “highly unusual move,” Corbyn and his Shadow Foreign Secretary “will use the debate to set out their different interpretations of whether the government had met Labour’s key tests for bombing.”

Cameron, for his part, is expected to make a statement Monday on Syria after the evening news at 8 pm local time.

At least 5,000 people gathered in central London on Saturday carrying signs that read “Don’t bomb Syria;” “Drop Cameron, not bombs;” and “Don’t add fuel to the fire.”