Wednesday, 2 December 2015

On The Eve of Destruction?

The hours are going by as our MPs debate whether or not to approve Prime Minister David Cameron's plan to join a number of other countries such as the USA and France in bombing the so called Islamic State in Syria - UK jets have been attacking IS in Iraq for some time already. After the appalling terrorist attacks in Paris (though with little mention of similar ones in Beirut a few days before), Cameron insists that the only way Britain can defend itself against IS/Daesh is to join in an aerial campaign in the Syrian parts of the would-be Caliphate.

How this will achieve anything is a puzzle. The UK is likely to contribute at most 8 bombers from bases in Cyprus - a third of the current French force and tiny compared to the US input. It is highly unlikely to lead to any significant change in the balance of the fighting but, in the crowded skies over Syria now that Russia is also mounting a bombing campaign, who knows what scope there is for another international incident between the West and Putin, quite apart from Daesh? What possible calamity could develop out of that given all the recent sabre-rattling against Russia over the seemingly forgotten Ukraine crisis?

And as for bombing making us safer in the UK - is this the same David Cameron who warned that Russia's bombing campaign would make it more likely to suffer an Islamist terror attack? And in that, wasn't he for once correct as we saw with the subsequent downing of the Russian airliner above Sinai? And how did the aerial bombing by France, now going on for some months, make the poor people slaughtered by jihadi butchers on the streets of Paris a couple of weeks ago in any way safer?

But on Cameron goes, ludicrously but chillingly denouncing anyone who does not toe his line as "terrorist sympathisers", a tactic that assaults the right of Parliament to have free debate, of citizens to have freedom of speech and calls into serious question whether Cameron is actually fit for office. For if anyone is doing Daesh's work for them, it is Cameron, ignorantly failing to see that by his words he is both destroying the values he claims to defend and forcing the very polarisation that the jihadis seek: Daesh want this reaction, they want to be bombed. Given their death-cult beliefs, the more bombs that fall, the better - each piece of ordinance will blast away a bit more of what Daesh deride as the "grey zone", the places where Muslims and non-Muslims coexist peacefully.

But when our bombs fall on Raqqa, ISIS's capital city, however well targeted, they will fall not only on the 30,000 or so ISIS troops and their supporters. They will also fall on the 300,000 civilians who were captured in the city when it fell to Daesh. They will fall on schoolchildren, and on ordinary families with nothing to do with Daesh other than have the misfortune to be their prisoners. They will fall on the Yazidi women Daesh keeps as sex slaves, on the prisoners they have seized from among Shia, Allowite and Christian communities and on the western hostages they continue to hold.

Tory MPs, most of whom have only pointed guns at defenceless animals, fantasize about precision weapons that somehow won't explode on the wrong people. Similarly, their leader has seemingly assumed the magical powers of Gandalf to summon up an Army of Moderates - 70,000 currently invisible soldiers who will appear from the mountains and deserts of Mesopotamia to sweep the Islamists away after British bombing allegedly clears a path for them.

So much is at stake tonight. For once, in speeches by Labour's Jeremy Corbyn, the SNP's Angus Robertson and the Greens' Caroline Lucas, we have heard strong arguments against the Government's plans. Several Tories, including David Davis, have also made clear their opposition and it may be that if Cameron carries the day it will only be with the help of the extremist DUP and the tattered and pathetic remnants of the Lib Dems, whose Christian leader seemingly feels "reluctantly" drawn to dropping bombs.

But beyond this, what?

As David Davis has said, any bombing, whatever damage or casualties it inflicts, will be largely "symbolic" in the wider scheme of things. It will not destroy ISIS - it may in fact make it stronger. And meantime, Cameron plans to continue to trade and sell and work with the Saudi regime whose scions have planted and carefully nurtured the seeds of Daesh. He has repeatedly rebutted any complaints or calls for him to act, for example, on the young democracy activist the Saudis plan to crucify for daring to question their absolute monarchy. This is because they apparently give us "valuable intelligence" about threats to our national security - yes Dave, that's the very same threats they have themselves helped to create, so they probably do indeed have valuable information.

There is no strategy, no forward plan, no collaboration with effective local forces like the Rojavans. And while apparently £1 billion is earmarked for post-conflict reconstruction, who is going to do the reconstruction? Have we learned nothing from Libya, where UK-US-French bombing caused over £20 billions of damage and left the country in anarchy with the Black Flags of ISIS and al Qaeda fluttering over half the land?

What will we do when this doesn't work?

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