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A message to all MP’s who applauded Hilary Benn’s speech from Nathan Mcilroy

Hilary Benn’s impassioned speech won over new admirers from all sides of the house (aside from the ‘terrorist sympathisers’). It was a camp performance of measured oration, Shakespearian in scope and Grecian in its foreboding. But what about its content?

Comparing bombing campaigns in Syria to joining the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War is a very ominous parallel. Especially when you consider that it was the Nazi’s who led the aerial attacks in Spain which became the prelude for WWII. But of course – now isn’t the time for history lessons, now is the time to wrap ourselves in the flag and write obituaries onto the side of precision strike missiles. After all, we are under attack.

For a lot of people, rejecting last night’s vote was not about pacifism (the new extremism), they were rejecting the notion that Britain should bomb for bombing’s sake with no discernible plan, just so politicians can grandstand on the world stage. For many others, the shame of past British involvement in the Middle East is enough reason to stay well away and instead chase and stifle the money trail right back to the Saudi’s, Turks and of course the weapon selling Brits (spoiler – I’m in that camp). Nevertheless, there are valid arguments for some military action. Just not from the Xbox controlled drones of the RAF.

There have been a number of Westerners going to fight alongside the Kurds, including ex British serviceman and British Muslims. Crucially, their presence has been ignored in the hysteria of the press, who seem intent on giving the crusading narrative of East against West a basis in fact. Kurdish forces have been requesting airstrikes from Western powers for the past 6 months. They protect a border of around 650 miles and there’s a strong case that they should get the support they need. Nevertheless, there are few targets left that Assad’s barrel bombs and Russian and US airstrikes haven’t vaporised already. Do Britain honestly think more bombing will help ordinary Syrians when they already have that to contend with? Last time I checked there was also a global refugee crisis to sort out and more destabilisation doesn’t seem like such a wise move. Then again, a week is a very long time in politics.

Last year, a group of misguided schoolgirls fled the country to eat Nutella with jihadists drawing the full ire of the nation’s press. In the same week, a 17 year old from Tottenham called Silhan Ozcelik was stopped en route to Turkey, trying to join the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) but there were few column inches devoted to her. That’s the same PKK who have kicked seven shades of shit out of ISIS wherever they’ve crossed them. They’re also the same PKK that are on the British terror threat list because Turkey, a British ally, likens all Kurdish forces to revolutionary insurgents. She was detained upon her return and has been in Holloway prison ever since. If this was the 1930’s she might have been commended by Orwell and Hemmingway for standing up to the ‘denial of human rights and for justice’. Instead she’s branded a terror threat which is why the double standards are so baffling.

The truth is that as a nation we make nothing but weaponry and trouble for ourselves. Since the decimation of our industries (thanks again Maggie), our trading friendships have blossomed with unsavoury states that boast dubious human rights records. These include the greatest exporter of Wahhabism and our strongest regional ally in the fight against Wahhabism – Saudi Arabia. For David Cameron to fly the flag at half-mast when King Abdullah died and then turn around accusing people of harbouring terrorist sympathies is the height of double speak. Whenever he is on a peace envoy in the Middle East, he is with an aide from BAE Systems whose briefcase holds a catalogue listing the best toys of torture and high grade weapons that dictators can buy. Toys that then find themselves in the hands of a whole range of nutters – ISIS amongst them. Two years ago, the motion to bomb Syria was defeated which has saved Cameron considerable embarrassment seeing as though ISIS would have been part of the moderate rebel groups that Britain had promised to arm. We can only assume the 70,000 he speaks of now won’t be quite so moderate.

What good does British involvement do to the situation when allies are interwoven with enemies?  (We are not at war with Eurasia, we have never been at war with Eurasia).This conflict has too many sides with opposing purposes and to jump in the midst of that without reaching a consensus risks more proxy wars. It’s not a stretch to suggest that many politicians already know this. The arms and private defence agencies are the biggest, recession proof industries in the world with a big enough trough to accommodate anyone willing to be lobbied.

For MP’s to sanction these air strikes claiming moral justification was so disingenuous that they couldn’t even disguise their glee when the vote passed. Whatever your stance on last night’s decision, it’s hard to not feel repulsed when several hundred honourable gentlemen, erupt in rapturous applause after what they considered to be a game, set and match speech. These are politicians who previously claimed to have agonised over their decision, taking nothing lightly and yet such sombre tones seem at odds with their raucous one-upmanship on the backbenches. These are the moments they live for, to have their names written into the annals of history – the pen pushing Rambo’s of the upper echelons. The hands that sign the paper to fell a city, then point the finger at refugees when it’s no longer viable to say we’ll protect them. Last night illustrated a lust for self-aggrandizing which becomes undeniably apparent whenever they get a sniff of blood and oil. They may have enjoyed the theatrics of Hilary Benn’s speech but they will never be like the International Brigade – because a vote of conscience is wasted on people without one.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Yep – Absolutely spot on, right down to the Orwell quote.

    Hitler was a great orator – he won over a whole nation to his cause – but was nevertheless totally wrong in all he said.

    Tip for Labour MPs – If the Tories cheer your speeches, you’re doing something wrong. Unless you’re angling to cross the floor, that is….

  2. Well, Nathan, there are several moral and factual assumptions which need examining here. I’ll take them in order.

    On ‘terrorist sympathisers’. It is a fact that Jeremy Corbyn has called supporters of Hamas and Hezbollah his ‘friends’. The Charter of the former is an explicitly anti-Semitic genocidal document which quotes from the Tsarist-era forgery ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’, the blueprint for the Holocaust. Hezbollah, the ‘Party of God’ displays on its flag a mushroom cloud aimed at Israel. JC calls the grizzly British Islamist Ibrahim Hewitt, his ‘very good friend’. IH is a holocaust denier. When it comes to defence of their moral position, I would suggest that JC is the one with questions to answer.

    Yes, we are ‘under attack’. Read the manifesto of the Paris terrorists. We only have to exist to be considered enemies. Like the Shi’ites in their Pakistan Mosque earlier this year. What had that to do with western imperialism? What did the murder of Yazidi women beyond child-bearing age have to do with western imperialism? What do the Raqqa sex-slave markets have to do with western imperialism?

    I assume from the general tenor of your article that you are not a pacifist. Yet we have this: ‘pacifism (the new extremism)’. You seem to be trying to have it both ways in appealing to pacifists in your anti-ISIS war stance.

    Well, let’s be clear. Pacifism is immoral. You have a gun. From a secret vantage point, you see a jihadist about to murder your children. As a pacifist, you refuse to kill the jihadist. He kills your kids. You have visceral evidence that he will do the same to the family next door. You refuse to shoot him because of your ideals. He does so. But at least your ideals are intact and you are moral. Doesn’t work, does it?

    In the interests of some attempt at brevity, I’ll make this my last comment, although I am perfectly willing to take up your later points.

    On the subject of British arms sales, one can only assume that you are hinting the usual canard that the UK and the US armed Saddam and that is why we are in this mess in the first place. Well, it’s plain not true. These are the percentage figures for weapons delivered to Iraq from 1973-2002.

    USSR and ex-USSR 57%
    France 13%
    China 12%
    The US comes in equal 10th at 0.46%
    The UK is 17th 0.18%
    Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

    There is plenty to have a go at regarding US and UK foreign policy, specifically with regard to Saudi Arabia. And by the way, you failed to mention that the UK has just cancelled, on moral grounds, its contract with SA to provide it with policing – read, torture – matériel. It’s a fact that trade with SA defiles western foreign policy, but it’s always good to get the statistics right.

    • I shan’t bother to unpick your highly selective analysis of ‘facts’, although I will say that the last time I saw so many straw men being built at once, it was Harvest Festival in Summerisle.

      Absolute pile of shit Dermot, I’m afraid.

  3. Let’s continue to unpack Nathan’s piece. To the 4th paragraph. There is so much confusion here that it is difficult to know where to start.

    Whose ‘crusading narrative’? Who has mentioned any crusade in these attacks on ISIS oil refineries? Not the west. Oh, it’s the Islamists.

    Yes, ‘Kurdish forces (i.e. the Peshmerga – DC) have been requesting airstrikes (against ISIS – DC) from Western powers for the past 6 months.’ And contrary to your implication, that’s what they got when they liberated Sinjar and exactly what they have been getting regularly.

    In this context to mention Assad’s barrel bombs is orthogonal: they are aimed at his own people. They have nothing to do with airstrikes on ISIS.

    To refer to Russia in the same context is also misleading: the vast majority of Russian strikes have been against Syrian rebel forces and Syrian civilians, not ISIS.

    To jump to para. 7 and the startling sentence, ‘We are not at war with Eurasia, we have never been at war with Eurasia.’ No we are not at war with Sweden or the Maldives and I have no idea what it has to do with anything.

    The final peroration claims knowledge of the inner minds of the MPs: this telepathy is beyond the reach of most mortals, and I suspect, of Nathan.

    What does a serious view of the situation show us? We have an Islamo-fascist slave state holding hostage 8 million people across the borders of Northern Iraq and Syria. We have a peculiar form of Shi’ism murdering up to 250,000 of ‘its own’ citizens in Syria: and the 2nd Head of State since WWII (after Saddam) to use chemical weapons.

    Assuming that ISIS is defeated, we would face this. The domination of Iranian-backed theocratic Shi’ism from the western border of Afghanistan to the Mediterranean coast, backed by the ex-KGB thug Putin. And, as the leader of the Revolutionary Guard in Iran recently stated, the encirclement of equally theocratic Saudi Arabia in the north and to the south from Yemen. Therefore, decades of Sunni-Shi’a totalitarian conflict, misery and oppression.

    Now what we do about that evidently requires at the minimum a response on the state and international level. After all, what is the end-game that secularists, democrats, socialists and Muslims themselves need? The establishment of stable, secure, secular democratic states across the Middle East.

    What does Nathan propose? Well, it’s not clear. Pacifism, that is, no response from anyone at all? Well, that’s just immoral: it means continued slaughter by ISIS and Assad.

    Perhaps we all should cross Europe and join the PKK? As 12 Brits have done so far: that sounds like a less than likely call to arms. Still, if you really believe in the PKK’s Democratic Confederalism and Communalism, whatever they mean, feel free to follow Nathan’s Pooterish poster-girl Silhan Ozcelik. Btw, it is not entirely clear that Ms. Ozcelik actually reached Kurdistan: she may have simply run away to be with a boy-friend. But hey, if you think that she is the rôle-model to rid the world of Islamo-fascism then that’s the type of thing you think.

    Really, after reading Nathan’s empty and easy posturing on the moral depravity of ISIS and Saudi Arabia and the illegibility of his prescription for their cure, one can only return to the Classics: just as he started his apologia for the PKK.

    Let’s finish with a triple whammy of Horace satirizing Homer and Virgil.

    “And don’t start like the old writer of epic cycles:
    ‘Of Priam’s fate I’ll sing, and the greatest of Wars.’
    What could he produce to match his opening promise?
    Mountains will labour: what’s born? A ridiculous mouse!”

  4. So Dermot are we to bomb everyone who threatens us now? or will the UN let every nation bomb every other nation it feels threatened by? can the vile ISIS claim they feel threatened by the UK and start to bomb us? are we going to bomb Libya and Nigeria or how about Pakistan or wherever these terror types come from? what about bombing Norway after the Christian loonies like Breivik went berserk or maybe the USA after christian militia loonies blew up Oklahoma or a birth control centre? this is a modern war – it comes from everywhere – those days of nice tidy sides in different colours have gone…is random bombing the answer?

  5. The answer, P. Dan, is that we don’t know. You need to wait for the evidence to come in.

    http://eaworldview.com/2015/12/syria-daily-whose-warplanes-hit-syrian-army-near-deir-ez-zor-us-or-russia/

    Now what are you trying to argue? No intervention at all? Or only Iran, Putin and Syria should be allowed to get on with it? Btw. the Russians have killed more civilians in one month of bombing than the US has in 4 years.

    I really do suggest that you make a strategic and realistic argument instead of merely making emotive virtue-signalling points. What would you actually do about ISIS in Syria?

  6. P. Dan, nobody mentioned bombing until you did: that is the definition of straw-manning.

    I’ll have one more go in order to see if you are serious about what actually to do. Please stop with the whataboutery: we all know that it is not a serious moral argument.

    We have a problem with Islamo-fascism. ISIS is a slave-state. There are decent arguments for non-intervention, but on balance I support intervention in order to degrade ISIS’s oil revenues: ISIS sells about 30,000 barrels a day, undercutting the market price by a huge amount. In the medium and long run, from their point of view that is not sustainable. The tactical goal must be to deprive them of the infrastructure to refine it, and to disable whatever means – usually not pipeline – that they use to transport it.

    This is complementary to ideological push-back against Islamist extremism which is a real problem among western Muslims as well as against Muslim-dominated countries. The source of Sunni extremism, Saudi Arabia, has to be isolated ideologically and in trade because it sullies our foreign policy. The problem with sanctions on the Gulf States which are the cradle of Wahhabism is how enormously rich they are: and therefore able to cope even to the medium term with the withdrawal of trade.

    What Muslims need in the Middle East is a beacon of a secure, stable, secular democratic country. We have a moral duty, given the liberation of Iraq from Saddam in 2003, to support the Iraqi secularists against the Shi’a sectarians who have assisted in the sectarian deformation of Iraqi democracy. That is a monumentally difficult task.

    Given the heroic stance over the years of the Kurds in supporting democracy, in fighting for it, in advising the west, contra Nathan, that they do not need men, but rather arms: given that they eschewed their right to self-determination as a State after the Iraq liberation; perhaps, if they want it, now is the time for the creation of a secular, democratic Kurdistan. And let’s remember that the Kurds are the biggest ethnic group on the planet without their own state.

    After ISIS, Assad needs to be kicked out. He is, after all, by far and away the biggest murderer in the area. Again you would want to see a secular democratic state set up: but I suspect again that all the builders of that state are the ones who were able to afford the price of a boat across the Aegean. That’s a real problem: who remains in Syria to rebuild it?

    Orwell barely wrote a word about the ideology of fascism: he just knew it had to be defeated. So with ISIS. As regards, Assad, the UN is required to immediately prevent and punish genocide wherever it occurs: by any definition that is what Assad is embarked on.

    All of this – the enlightenment of the Muslim-dominated countries – is the work of decades and it’s just a fact that this is the world we inhabit.

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