Peter Hitchens writes:
Why do so many people in politics and the media want to start wars? Since I toured a sordid hospital full of wounded people in Bucharest at Christmas 1989, and even more after I saw for the first time (in Vilnius in 1991) what a human head looks like after a bullet has passed through it, I have seen it as an absolute duty to warn against armed conflict. It is a filthy thing.
No doubt there are times when we must fight. But there are plenty more when we should not. Any fool can kill a man in a second and ruin a city in a week. But it takes long years of nurture to raise a child to adulthood, and centuries to build a civilisation.
Yet I look around me and see the mouths of intelligent people opened wide, yelling for an attack on Syria, when the only certain outcome of that will be blood and screams and ruins, and the deaths of innocents in 'collateral damage'. What good will this do? What is wrong with them? They are not cruel and stupid, yet they call for actions which are both.
Haven't we got enough misery in Syria already? The place is a mass of ruins, graveyards and refugee camps. To what end? The only mercy for Syria will come when the war ends, yet we seek to widen and extend it.
Don't we have more than enough of such disaster in Iraq and Libya, where state-sponsored panic and emotional claims of atrocities excused the launching of wars so stupid and dangerous that I wonder if these places can ever recover? Perhaps worse, by creating an unending river of migrants through the Middle East and the Mediterranean, I suspect they have ruined Europe for good.
Why are we even taking sides in Syria? As Julian Lewis MP, chairman of the Defence Select Committee, rightly pointed out last week, President Assad is a monster. But his opponents are maniacs. The Syrian jihadi gangsters which our Government crazily helps and backs – the Al-Nusra Front and Jaish al-Islam – are the sort of fanatics we would arrest on sight if we found them in Birmingham.
Anyway, Boris Johnson's Foreign Office is firmly pro-monster in all parts of the world where it suits it to be so. British Royals and Ministers literally bow down as they accept medals from the head-chopping fanatics of Saudi Arabia, now engaged in a bloody, aggressive war in Yemen.
Britain maintains a naval base in Bahrain, whose rulers in 2011 crushed protests with severe violence followed by torture. As Amnesty International puts it, 'using an array of tools of repression, including harassment, arbitrary detention and torture, the government of Bahrain has managed to crush a formerly thriving civil society and reduced it to a few lone voices who still dare to speak out'.
Britain daren't even admit that our 'friend' Egypt is ruled by a military junta that seized power illegally in defiance of elections which we had supposedly supported but which produced the wrong result. Field Marshal Sisi's August 2013 Cairo massacre, in which almost 600 peaceful protesters were killed and thousands more wounded, is politely forgotten.
So is the Chinese communist regime's mass murder (1,000 are estimated to have died) in Peking in June 1989. The men whose power rests on that ruthless massacre are welcome to dine at Buckingham Palace.
But surely we can't allow Assad to use chemical weapons? We would never tolerate that. Would we? Well, when Saddam Hussein was our ally against Iran back in 1988, he undoubtedly used poison gas against Kurds in Halabja. And in September 1988 the Foreign Office declined to get outraged, saying: 'We believe it better to maintain a dialogue with others if we want to influence their actions. Punitive measures such as unilateral sanctions would not be effective in changing Iraq's behaviour over chemical weapons, and would damage British interests to no avail.'
Which brings me to the final point. Do we even know that Assad used chemical weapons? I have actually read the reports of the last such alleged attack in Khan Sheikhoun a year ago, and they prove nothing. In fact, they are quite fishy.
At the time of writing, I have yet to see a British or US media report on this alleged attack from closer than Beirut, 70 miles from the scene. Many seemingly confident and graphic accounts come from Istanbul, 900 miles away, or from London or Washington.
Where are they getting their information from? Here's a clue. The Saudi-backed faction in control of Douma at the time of the alleged attack, Jaish al- Islam (the Army of Islam), were themselves accused of using poison gas against Kurds in Aleppo in April 2016. They are not especially nice. Their other main claim to fame is that they displayed captured Syrian Army officers in cages and used them as human shields.
They have spent several years indiscriminately shelling Damascus from Douma, having taken the local inhabitants hostage, and then squawking about war crimes if the Syrian government hit back at them, which it did much as the Iraqi government (our friends) did to Islamic State in Mosul and Fallujah. I would not look for any heroes in this cauldron.
And if you want to watch war games on a TV screen, can I suggest that you buy your own virtual reality equipment? The real thing may look pretty and neat, but real people die as it happens and, if you supported it, their deaths will be on your conscience.