In December 2015, I wrote a blog post outlining all the ways in which Peter Tatchell was supportive of, and had been calling for, military intervention in Syria.
Tatchell had previously said that the claim he supported military intervention was a ‘smear’, and I wanted to demonstrate that this wasn’t the case. Rather, it was a hard fact based on his own words and arguments.
In a tweet posted on 29/04/2018, Tatchell has once again denied supporting bombing, in the course of criticising Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on the conflict in Syria. In response to his tweet, I pointed out that this was untrue, that Tatchell does indeed support bombing Syria, and had written a whole article to this end.
Tatchell’s response was – once again – to accuse me of smearing him and lying.
Here is the relevant exchange:
The article I was referring to was published by The Daily Telegraph in October 2016.
In the article, Tatchell advocates setting up what he calls an ‘NBZ’, or no-bomb zone, and says it would be enforced thus:
But a NBZ does not have to be like that. This is how it could work: if Syria or Russia defied the NBZ, there would be no retaliation against Russia. Instead, there would be carefully targeted attacks against Assad regime military assets, such as runways, aircraft and military intelligence and communications centres. The Syrian regime would pay the price for violations – a deterrent both to it and its Russian allies.
A NBZ would not require air patrols over Syrian territory. Countries such as the UK and US have the capacity to track aircraft in Syria from beyond Syrian airspace using satellites and spy drones, and to respond to NBZ breaches with guided missiles launched from outside Syrian territory – such as from the West’s own warships in the Mediterranean.
He then goes on to write that:
It is true, of course, that enforcing the NBZ would probably result in some civilians being killed accidentally. But even Nato’s months of aerial attacks in Libya in 2011, which went beyond a NBZ and are not a model to emulate, resulted in only 72 confirmed civilian fatalities, according to Human Rights Watch (the real figure may have been higher but not hundreds, let alone thousands).
If civilians died as result of NBZ enforcement it would be desperately sad. But innocents are already dying in their thousands. So we must ask ourselves what is worse: an NBZ that could result in a low number of non-combatant deaths or the continuation of the current Assad and Putin bombing raids that have resulted in tens of thousands of civilian casualties?
My claim was that Tatchell ‘does indeed support bombing, and wrote a whole article in The Telegraph calling for it, even if it kills civilians’. I believe that the passages i’ve just quoted from his Telegraph article demonstrate this beyond any reasonable doubt.
If you wanted to be pedantic, you could say Tatchell argued for *missiles* to be dropped on Syria, even if they kill civilians, rather than bombs, but frankly I don’t really see a moral or political difference. We are still talking about airborne warheads blowing things up, including – potentially – civilians.
For anyone who has been following Tatchell’s activism on Syria over the years, this will not be surprising. His arguments have always lacked consistency to the point of absurdity – e.g. calling for an arms embargo on Syria, while also calling for heavy weapons to be supplied to select rebel groups – and he has always been very slippery and dishonest when challenged on them.
I think i’ll let the reader make up their own mind as to who’s telling the truth and who isn’t on this particular occasion.