Very strong claims had been made that the Assad regime was proposing to use or had already used chemical weapons in the developing civil war. There was some uncertainty as to whether the regime or some of its opponents had committed the atrocity. That uncertainty was serious enough to prompt US president Barack Obama to declare he recognised the concern about proposed intervention by Nato forces and others.
In the UK, memories of the claims and counter-claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq more than a decade ago were still strong. The nervousness among voters transmitted itself to enough parliamentarians to prompt a vote in the House of Commons against military action.
Has anything changed that might trigger a change of heart in Westminster? The answer is simple: the growth of so-called Islamic State. If drone strike attacks, and other forms of action, are to continue there needs to be broad parliamentary authority for this.
Prime Minister David Cameron has made great play with the claim that he was not prepared to risk British lives at home when intelligence sources had indicated that a real threat existed.
He now needs to convince the public, some of his own backbenchers, and the opposition parties of the need for serious intent and the flexibility to make action both effective and justifiable.
It is a political and military challenge he cannot afford to get wrong.
A much wiser man than I, George Orwell, once said: “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to do evil in our name”. It was true when he said it and it is even more so now. Anyone who throws in their lot with Islamic State or al-Qaeda or any other terrorist group with plans to overthrow the West deserves all that they get.
The huffing, puffing and posturing of quisling opposition politicians just shows what self-serving and shallow individuals they are. If in government and faced with the same security problems what would they do? Wave a bit of paper and cry, “Peace in our time”? No, I don’t think so! In these parlous times we need to keep our country safe by whatever means necessary. If that means using drones, then so be it.
The RAF drone strike in Syria has triggered political accusations and demands for “independent scrutiny”.
Politicians have selective memories about the numerous Islamic State atrocities and choose to make political capital out of this incident and ignore that it is their sworn duty to preserve the lives and liberties of its people from hostile attacks.
Critics of these drone strikes in Syria – because they are in a country with which Britain is not technically at war – ignore the fact that IS continues to murder, rape, torture and plan terrorist strikes against the West.
We must ignore those who use emotive words like “extra-judicial killing” and “a targeted assassination”. Where will the apologists and the human rights lawyers hide when an IS bomb goes off in Britain?
Craig Murray, the former British ambassador, has pointed out in his blog that the drone killings of British citizens in Syria is almost certainly illegal under international law.
Twenty years ago, Britain was found guilty of illegally killing three IRA members in Gibraltar by the European Court of Human Rights. Despite the fact that they belonged to a terrorist organisation, the court did not accept that there were no other ways of dealing with them other than execution.
I do hope our SNP MPs expose this war crime in the House of Commons and continue to oppose airstrikes in Syria. It is clear that after years of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria the situation has got no better – and indeed the flood of refugees has been caused by our military interventions in the area.