Leanne Wood's speech on the Syria crisis

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Leanne Wood delivered an impassioned speech yesterday during the National Assembly debate on UK military intervention in Syria - and Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones' support for it. Here it is in full.

“Mission Complete”, those were the words of President Trump, following the joint US, French and British airstrike on Syria last weekend.

An estimated 400,000 Syrians have been killed since the break out of war in 2011.

More than 5.6 million Syrians have fled the country, according to the UN, and 6.1 million people are displaced internally.

The Assad regime remains safely in power. And senior generals, including the director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, has said that Assad retains the capacity to use chemical weapons after the attack.

That does not sound like “mission complete” by any measure.

I would like to address three central issues to this Assembly, Wales and our role in supporting and managing the awful consequences of the Syrian conflict.

I will firstly seek to gain clarity from the First Minister for his stance on the weekend’s airstrikes.

Secondly, I would like to discuss the material and financial cost of the attack.

Before finally moving on to discuss how we can redouble our efforts to offer a safe haven to those dealing with the fallout from the Syrian civil war. 

Before I move on to my speech proper however, I would like to reiterate my huge disappointment that members of the Labour frontbench felt that this is not significant enough an issue to warrant debate.

Failing to support Plaid Cymru’s calls for a debate on the issue is not only disappointing, but bizarre, considering their colleagues calls for greater parliamentary scrutiny of the issue in Westminster.

First Minister’s Comments

Yesterday, in First Minister’s Questions I asked the First Minister a straight question – does he stand by his statement of support for the military intervention in Syria?

His answer was typically evasive.

Without a single vote being cast in any of the UK’s parliaments, on Saturday Morning the First Minister gave his support the Prime Minister and her decision to join the American-led bombing.

So, I want to give the First Minister another chance today to answer that very question. Without any parliamentary approval, does the First Minister stand-by his statement of support for the Prime Minister and her airstrike in, as she claimed, the “British National Interest?

For that matter, knowing now that it has not mitigated the Syrian regimes capacity to use chemical weapons, or change the course of the conflict, does he still support the action?

Tokenistic strikes do little to help desperate Syrian people, who do not need more bombs to be dropped, but a solution to what is fundamentally a political crisis and human tragedy.

Cost of Strikes

War is an expensive pursuit. Of course, awfully, for some it is a profitable one.

And to see the shares of companies like BAE Systems rise at the prospect of further conflict shows the vile corporate structures that underpin the defence establishment.

British Typhoon and Tornado aircraft launched 8 Storm Shadow cruise missiles. According to a 2011 Parliamentary Question, each one of these missiles cost £790,000.

A crude calculation shows that we are looking at a cost in excess of £6.3million for the single strike undertaken on the weekend.

This excludes the cost of the planes used to fire each of these three-quarter-million-pound bombs.

When money is needed to pay our WASPI women a fair pension, the coffers are empty.

When penny-pinching and cruel welfare reforms lead to people committing suicide out of desperation, we are told there is no money left.

But when it comes to the weapons of war, the British state seems to have very deep pockets.

It is shameful that Westminster can claim spending millions on bombing foreign countries is in the national interest, whilst homeless women and men are told there is no money left to house them.

Refugees

I am ashamed to say Wales’s record on Syrian refugees remains disappointing.

And by dropping bombs on this war-torn nation, the British State may well be making more refugees at the same time it is refusing to fulfil its existing obligations.

Wales took just offer 300 refugees last year. I am proud to say it was Plaid Cymru Carmarthen Council which gave a home to the most, 51, all from Syria.

Yet some councils – the Labour administrations in Merthyr Tydfil and Neath Port Talbot – had not taken a single refugee by the end of last year.

I implore the First Minister to speak to his party colleagues and get them moving on the issue. Here in our national parliament, in our councils and in our communities, we can save lives, we can offer these desperate people a safe heaven.

We have a moral obligation to act, and I reiterate to the First Minister, he must act now to ensure Wales is doing all it can to help those fleeing this terrible conflict.

Conclusion

Much more can be and must be said about this extremely complex and important issue.

However, for now, I would like to close with the same sentiment with which I began.

Plaid Cymru does not support this tokenistic, America-led strike on Syria. And I will once again remind Members, the path to peace, is never paved with the weapons of war.

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