Hilary Benn, Labour MP for Leeds, was urged by students and staff at Leeds university not to back David Cameron on bombing Syria.

Hilary Benn is the MP for Leeds central. On 1 December 2015 many students and staff from Leeds University sent him ‘at the eleventh hour’ an open letter urging him not to support Conservative prime minister David Cameron, who was intent on rushing to war with a bombing campaign on Syria.The next day, 2 December, Hilary Benn led 67 Labour ‘rebels’ who voted with the government, enabling the fourth UK war in 14 years. We print the open letter below.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Dear Hilary Benn MP

We are writing to you at the eleventh hour to urge you in the strongest possible terms to reconsider the moral, economic and strategic rationales behind supporting airstrikes in Syria. As students and staff members of the University of Leeds, we wish to make it clear that any vote for further violence in the region is done without the support of the undersigned from your constituency.It is not to late to change your mind and vote no to airstrikes.

In February of this year, students from Leeds University Amnesty International met you to discuss Shaker Aamer. During this discussion you asked us for our position on the conflict in Syria and Iraq. Although the situation may appear to have changed, then as now, we remain resolutely committed to ensuring the safety and protection of civilian lives across the world. It is our firm belief that British airstrikes over densely-populated civilian areas will hinder rather than assist in this. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights recently published that 653 civilians have been killed in Russian and Western airstrikes. On Thursday (November 26th) that number included five children killed by French airstrikes on a primary school in Raqqa; we will not allow British bombs to increase that death toll.

In addition to the appalling immorality of airstrikes, there is a strong argument against further conflict on economic grounds. Independent sources calculate that each British bombing mission will cost the Treasury £508,000. The Brimstone missiles themselves cost £105,000 each. At a time when many people in your constituency are directly feeling the impact of austerity, to turn around and vote for such an expensive folly would be a shameful insult.  Each airstrike could pay the salaries of 20 teachers, 20 police officers or 18 junior doctors here in Leeds Central. If we have the money to bomb humanity, we have the money to help humanity. As constituents, we urge you to consider your position from this viewpoint.

The third argument against airstrikes is strategic incompetence. As constituents we are gravely concerned for the lack of preparation and overall objectives of airstrikes and cannot support such a knee-jerk reaction. We are all too aware of the horrors of the Iraq war, and the position in which it placed the UK and also the people of Iraq. Rushing into conflict with insufficient planning has been proven to be too costly and too dangerous in Iraq and Libya. We the undersigned will not allow a third Middle Eastern blunder in our name.

When the votes are cast on Wednesday for yet another Middle Eastern campaign, consider the following words from one of the wisest politicians to have graced the Labour Party: ‘There is no difference between a stealth bomber and a suicide bomber. Both kill innocent people for political reasons.’ Please heed these words of wisdom with the utmost diligence.

Yours peacefully,

See a full list of signatories here…

03 Dec 2015

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