Rhondda AM Leanne Wood has criticised the UK-backed air strikes in Syria at a time when WASPI women are confined to a retirement of poverty and many community services are being cut because of austerity.
The Penygraig-based Leader of Plaid Cymru was making the debate during an urgent debate she had called for in the National Assembly for Wales on the military intervention in Syria.
The broader point of her speech was the effectiveness of a “tokenistic” bombing of Syria and the UK Government’s decision to back the strikes without any vote taking place in any UK Parliament. It was revealed that the First Minister of Wales backed those strikes after he was called by Prime Minister Theresa May.
During her speech in the Senedd, Ms Wood said it was “disappointing” and “bizarre” that the Labour front bench had opposed the debate taking place during a vote the previous day given their colleagues’ calls for greater parliamentary scrutiny on the issue in Westminster.
“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,” said Ms Wood. “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 to the Prime Minister and her decision to join the American-led bombing.
“I wanted to give the First Minister another chance, today, to answer that question. Without any parliamentary approval, does the First Minister stand by his statement of support for the Prime Minister and her air strike, as she claimed it was in the British national interest? And knowing now that the air strike has not mitigated the Syrian regime's capacity to use chemical weapons or change the course of the conflict, does he still support the action? But he's not here for this debate.
“But he's not here for this debate. I very much hope that this will be brought to his attention, and that he is able to answer these important questions in due course.
“Tokenistic strikes do little to help desperate Syrian people who do not need more bombs to be dropped, but a solution to what is a political crisis and a human tragedy.”
She added: “War is an expensive pursuit. Of course, for some, it is profitable. 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 eight Storm Shadow cruise missiles. According to a 2011 parliamentary question, each one of these missiles costs £790,000. A crude calculation shows that we are looking at in excess of a cost of £6.3 million for the single strike undertaken at the weekend.
“This excludes the costs of the planes used to fire each of those £0.75 million 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's no money left.
“All of us here have lost valuable assets and services in the communities that we represent, all because of austerity, yet when it comes to weapons of war, the British state seems to have very deep pockets. It is shameful that Westminster can claim that spending millions on bombing foreign countries is in the national interests while homeless women and men are told that there is no money to house them.”
After the debate Leanne said: “The point about the UK Government being able to find money to wage war but not provide services for people should resonate with many communities in Wales and the Rhondda. On the very weekend that UK bombs rained down on Syria, the Rhondda Fach swimming pool closed for the last time because of the need to cut costs.”
If you agree with Leanne’s stance, then come and join Plaid Cymru so we can bring about change in Wales. You can join and get involved by clicking this link.