The bastards are at it again. This week Obama bombed away any lingering hope that he might take a break from America valuing aggression over reason. With depressing inevitability, the Septics announced an air strike campaign against the nebulous, slightly fantastical (sorry, was that meant to read fanatical?) group ISIS -or is that ISIL? Or is that Islamic State? Or is that Al-Qaeda? Dammit; which American trained & armed group of previously useful Middle Eastern destabilising nutters are the States meant to be non-person-ing this time?
Any news source, from the frothing Nazis over at Fox News, to the lily-livered liberals of the Huffington Post all agree that Isis (or Isil, or Islamic State - in keeping with the needle point accuracy the media is displaying on this, I'll just use a confusing and interchanagble set of names throughout this piece) were/ are created by the gaping power vacuum the Gulf War left. Or, alternately, they were created as a MOSSAD false flag plan, but you’ll have to ask the more mental areas of the internet about that.
Conspiracy theorists disregarded, the equation seems pretty simple. Bombing places = more extremists. They’re like Gremlins; don’t put them in water and don’t feed them after midnight unless you want shitloads of them. Or, in this case, don’t bomb their country back to the dark ages, commandeer their resources and murder their families until they hate you. This would seem self-explanatory. But apparently I’m all wrong. Because how could waging a war of attrition against an ideologically driven guerrilla army possibly fail?
hmmm. There was that.
David Cameron announced to the UN today that he would very much like England to get involved in operation CertainFailure. Now that may seem - in the context of recent disastrous Middle Eastern campaigns - to be a pretty stupid idea. So, to help you complete the mental arithmetic that makes bombing children in far-away countries OK, yesterday The Telegraph declared:
“Iraq airstrikes: Why 2014 is not like 2013”
Actually, it’s pretty easy to explain why 2014 isn’t like 2013 – the people being targeted are COMPLETELY FUCKING DIFFERENT. There wasn’t a debate to launch airstrikes against Iraq in 2013 (these war-torn Middle Eastern countries eh? All blend into one after a while don’t they?) - the debate was whether to kick off against Assad’s regime in Syria. We’re now talking about bombing ISIS who – and I’m pretty sure I’ve got this right – are on the OTHER FUCKING SIDE. We’re so desperate to get bombing that we’ll just keep picking enemies til one of ‘em sticks. Assad? Don’t fancy him? What about these guys he’s fighting? They do? Yeah, yeah, I get it; it’s super complicated and ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ doesn’t apply in the Middle East because – well it just doesn’t OK? Shut up and sit back down. Let the men do the thinking.
The Telegraph went on to explain that bombing Assad was different to taking on Isisisisis, because Assad runs a sovereign state. As such, attacking him is against some rule that they don’t bother explicating. On the other hand, dropping bombs on his country is fine if Isil is the target, despite the fact that Assad has quite publically not given his permission to drop bombs in his country. Still, worry not. According to Tuesday’s Guardian “Jim Murphy, Labour’s international development spokesman, said air strikes in Syria to destroy Isis would not be “illegal” as Washington does not recognise the legitimacy of President Assad.”
Whoops! Hang on, the Telegraph guy just told me America respected Assad’s sovereignty? Now they don’t? Which is it to be? Fuck it; turns out- no one cares.
No one cares because Westminster is getting a hard on –there’s a sweet, tantalising war in the offering – one where no one really knows who the bad guys are, or what the objectives are, or what the get-out plan is, or even which country it’s taking place in. The big selling point is that we don’t have to commit any ground troops - the States are claiming that the Arabs will take care of all that mucky front line business. All we have to do is show up and spunk some of our defence budget by dropping warheads. And then we definitely, definitely won’t put any troops on the ground. Still, guess who reckons we should send in the boys? Go on, guess. It’s a good ‘un. Really though, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of solid idea where the UK needs to go to even combat Isis. Is it Syria? Is it Iraq? Is it Iran? Yemen? Jordan? Calormen? Who cares? Let’s go!
Calormen is run by this guy. It's in Narnia. Apparently we start bombing it next April
All that matters is that Cameron has run through a quick mental recap – Maggie Thatcher: Falklands War. John Major: Gulf War. Tony Blair: Gulf War. Gordon Brown: no war – and done the maths.
In truth, he’s been playing the long game, jockeying for some superhot bomb-on-flesh action since the first days of his ill-gotten premiership. Within 9 months of taking office he was giving speeches that questioned whether English Muslim groups were hiding terrorist threats – “Do they believe in equality of all before the law?” he asked. I can’t even bring myself to make some sort of joke about the irony of that statement. Expenses/ abuse claims/ banking collapse – you come up with something.
But there was Dave, carefully seeding the vague brown menace. A menace that wanted to come for you! Yes you, you lovable Britishers! There’s Muslimic ray guns hiding in your shed! They’re stealing your pickle and laughing at your village green! They’re the enemy of everything we stand for! They’re against all British values, values like tolerance! Values like workfare! Values like the right to get drunk! To get so hammered you call your cabbie a dirty paki! British values!
This imaginary extremist has been a busy chap in the last few years, but then he’s bloody good at his job. It turns out that one bloke with a balaclava gets a lot more play from the British public than thousands of people being horrifically gassed to death.
Let’s look at the timeline. Last year the Tories were pushing to bomb Assad in Syria – he’d almost definitely used chemical warfare to murder thousands in the most terrible manner possible. Fortunately, parliament had a quick look at history, noted the sterling success rate bombing the Middle East has at sorting out Middle Eastern problems (lurking somewhere round 0%) and thought naaaaaah. Crucially, they knew the public were never going to go for it, despite a long media campaign to win over opinion in favour of war.*
As it turned out, compassion hasn’t got a strong enough pull on our imagination. Certainly not strong enough to bamboozle this imaginary mass known as ‘the public’ into forgetting everything they’ve learnt about bombing campaigns in the Middle East (ie they never work). Cameron didn’t get his war. Incomprehensible stories in the newspaper about thousands dying elicited a cooing of sympathy, a shudder of horror and little else. We’ve got our own problems, the man on the street said to the microphone thrust into his face.
It was back to the drawing board for the war committee. Compassion’s just not what it used to be. Hmmmmm. How about fear? Fear’s a banger, total crowd pleaser. Throw in some hate and its job done. Enter, stage left, Jihadi John.
I love** Jihadi John. He’s just this ridiculous bogey man figure. He could have been plucked from a Victorian penny dreadful, he belongs alongside Spring Heeled Jack, Sweeney Todd and the Mad Mullah. There he is; catchy name, scary outfit. British voice, but not quite British. Familiar, yet alien. Part burglar, part executioner. Dirty great knife (everyone knows its guns for show; knives for a pro). He’s here to stalk your nightmares, a ghost transmitted from the front pages, a hissing shadow with a blade and an accent, lurking in the dimly lit suburbs of your mind. Jihadi John has got an unquantifiable hate of everything being English means, which is all the more remarkable, because I’m fucked if I know what being English means (something about sandwiches?)– Jihadi John knows! and he hates it!
So whilst compassion couldn’t get us roused and warlike, the stain of Jihadi John spilt all over the news, knife to the neck of some guy who could be your neighbour, your brother, your dad, your son, your masculinity, your nation, YOU- now that’s worked wonders. On Radio 4, Labour’s business spokesman Chuka Ummuna noted that “the public is in a different place on the Isis issue.” Despite the fact that only one English man has actually been killed, the media is in ISIS uproar, gleeful printing page upon page of this menace that is supposedly both without and within. Trust no one! You’d think we were on the verge of a blitzkrieg. Westminster is uniting, the UK's involvement in Obama’s bombing campaign looks ever more likely, and finally the arms dealers who toured the Middle East with Cameron back in 2011 are going to get their party.
David Cameron – this very morning: “I think everyone can see that Isil is a direct threat to the UK. They have taken hostages, they have conducted plots to kill and maim British citizens.”
I’d like to offer my voice here David. I can't see that Isil are a direct threat to the UK at all. On the other hand, I think your plan to bomb an unspecified clutch of Middle Eastern countries is. One man has been killed by Isis, two are missing. Can we get some fucking perspective here? Why not just announce that Thailand is our next target? Because, look, more British people have been offed there than by Isis in recent weeks. Get ‘em before they get us!
It’s ridiculous. The eagerness with which we choose to inflict death and misery on our tiny globe is utterly, utterly ridiculous.
Who cares? I can type it again and again. Who cares that ISIS was directly created by the bombing of Iraq? Who cares that the press is full of articles justifying war by conflating completely different countries and opponents? Who cares that the only possible result of bombing and violence is more bombing and violence? Who cares that whilst one English journalist has been killed, America’s first assault killed 8 civilians, including 3 children. 3 dead kids. There’s going to be loads more, but you’ll never see them. Who cares?
I thought we were in austerity Britain. I thought there was no money for the NHS, for disability payments, for child care, for the British film industry, for anything that might promote a happier society, let alone for pursuing acts of aggression that could “take years” to see any sort of conclusion. I thought no one had any appetite for war - war, which- in case I'm not being clear here- we pay for. I thought lessons had been learned from previous disastrous conflicts. I thought there was meant to be some difference between left wing and right wing parties. I thought we crowed about democracy because it was a system that offered choice.
I wish I could conclude this piece with something that would inspire people to go out and BE SPECIAL like I’m running the KONY campaign and heading for my 100 millionth view, but to be honest I’m sick of special people, and opinions and sharing campaigns and everything. I just really, really don’t want the few pence of VAT that are claimed every time I buy a pint of milk, or whatever, to slowly wend its way through the system, until, after transmuting into a series of bytes on a government account, it is then transferred into a series of bytes in a BAE account, which is then spent on the metal and plastic and electronics required to create a bomb that is then flown around the world by a fighter plane- that some portion of my pint of milk may well have also paid for- that is then dropped through the opening bay of the plane, that then falls slowly throw the air, or in fact, falls pretty fucking quickly for the poor stupid dead cunt underneath who may or may not have ever considered me on the other side of the world having a cup of tea.
You can find Ian McQuaid on twitter.
*There’s a phrase for the manipulation of opinion; nudge theory. David Cameron is an open advocate of nudge theory, and it’s been extensively used to shape the public mood since he first took office. No one’s hiding this btw, it’s just that the government tend to announce that nudge theory is being used to get more people to carry organ donor cards, or to insulate their loft. Nice things. Naturally, the government would never dream of nudging the population into approving of a lucrative foreign war.
**I don’t actually, literally love Jihadi John btw. I’m not about to blow up the tube.