Whitehaven News column – 9th October 2014

British air strikes on ISIL
Many of you reading this will be aware of the horror perpetrated by ISIL in Iraq and Syria.  The scale of the inhumanity in their actions is almost unfathomable.  From the brutal murders of innocent hostages to the widespread persecution of Christians and non-religious peoples; there is seemingly no limit to the atrocities that ISIL is prepared to commit.
On Friday 26th September, the House of Commons voted to support limited air strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq.  I supported these air strikes.  In my opinion, these strikes are both morally and strategically the right course of action.  Britain’s role is part of a wider international coalition including countries from the Middle East and for our part, this does not involve any British troops on the ground.  People in Britain are rightly proud of the sacrifices that our forces make to keep us safe and a decision to commit British forces to a theatre of conflict is never taken lightly, but, on this occasion, the case for intervention is compelling.  The international community is united in putting a halt to the atrocities perpetrated by ISIL, with Canada the latest country to commit aircraft. Recently, over 100 countries sponsored a resolution laid before the UN to stop the flow of foreign terrorist fighters joining groups like ISIL.
The democratic Government of Iraq made a direct plea for assistance from Britain.  We cannot stand by while the crisis worsens as a sovereign democratic Government asks for help – particularly given our moral obligations to the people and country of Iraq.  The humanitarian crisis and overt oppression of citizens in Iraq means that taking action is a just cause that should be pursued.
ISIL claims to represent Islam, but this is not the case.  Throughout the Muslim world there has been widespread condemnation and rejection of their hateful terrorist ideology.  These people do not represent the religion they claim to be fighting for.  These barbaric acts must not be allowed to give rise to anti-Islamic feeling at home.  ISIL are so far removed from the real notions of Islam that they seem every bit as alien to our Muslim countrymen as they do to everyone else in this country and around the world. It’s a matter of fact that ISIL is slaughtering Muslims, too.
Make no mistake, these terrorists pose a very real threat to world and regional security, and they also pose a very real threat to Britain, both within our borders and without.  This threat must be tackled, but it must not be allowed to divide communities.  Muslim leaders throughout the country continue to vociferously condemn the actions and motives of ISIL and it is only through a united front that will we defeat this hate.
Those who say that we should only be pursuing a diplomatic route to end this conflict in the region are well-meaning, but mistaken.  It is a false choice to suggest that we should pursue only diplomatic means and reject military intervention. Sadly, the lesson of the 21st century is that, all too often, both approaches are required in tandem.  Military force in the form of air strikes can tackle the imminent dangers faced in that part of the world, but only through diplomacy can a lasting peace be established.
British air strikes have been taking place over the last couple of weeks.  Reports show that they are making a valuable contribution.  It is never an easy decision to commit combat forces to war, but this is a just cause that Britain is right to engage in.
Finally, there will be more votes of this type over the duration of this Parliament. These are difficult, often painful decisions, but we cannot, and must never turn our back on the world in favour of self-defeating isolation.
Thank You
Amidst the anxiety surrounding the future services provided by the West Cumberland Hospital, we can often forget the excellent work that is done there on a daily basis by the incredibly hard-working, long -suffering staff.
My mother was operated on last week, receiving a tremendous service in a spotlessly clean environment and all is well. This week, one of my children underwent an operation under general anaesthetic and the medical staff and the staff on the bright, welcoming and scrupulously clean Fairfield ward could not have been better. It simply isn’t said enough to those who provide such a critical public service at a hospital capable of providing brilliant care: thank you.

The next time you receive good care, remember that is what we are fighting to retain. And if you or yours ever receive care that isn’t acceptable, remember that your voice must be heard, and that is why the fight to retain and improve services at the WCH is so important to you, your neighbours, and everyone who works there.
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