Saturday, September 07, 2013


So Tony Blair was apparently on the radio this week explaining that "trust" isn't as big an issue over Syria as it was over Iraq, since we know that the Assads have and use chemical weapons.

A neat point, but one that won't wash with those of  us who'd be against a war, even if Tony produced an authenticated clip of Bashar himself sneaking around Damascus like Dick Dastardly with drums of  poison.

Why? Well, if your basic position is like mine, then one of the many reasons to disown any future wars is precisely that our political class has repeatedly proven that they can't be trusted not to do something insane the second they get what they want.

They request an inch, and take a mile.

You'll look long and hard through Hansard before you'll find a parliamentary vote on the invasion and twelve-year occupation of Afghanistan.  Nor will you find any clips of Dick Cheney telling the press that the US intended to invade Iraq, topple its dictator and turn it into a laboratory for lunatic free-market experimentation under a bunch of locally-despised exiles.

You won't find these, because the official excuses for these wheezes were "killing or capturing some very specific terrorists" and "finding some theoretical weapons".

You might say well, circumstances forced us to reassess, but let me suggest that "what our leaders did" may well have been influenced by "what they had always intended to do".

Our last war was little different: having secured permission to patrol the skies of Libya to "protect civilians", we miraculously ended up bombing fuck out of everything that looked like it might have been useful to the regime. Thus did a mission that was sold on the protection of the people of Benghazi end with the people of Benghazi blasting hell out of urban centres with the very artillery that was once trained upon them.

Like a gaggle of miniature Douglas MacArthurs, these people simply can't be trusted not to deliberately abuse whatever trust is placed in them.

God only knows what they have planned for Syria, but I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to paint the place pink and puce or appointed Rolf Harris as King.

They create a dessert, and they call it peas.

This determination to grab whatever can be grabbed is one thing, but their tendency to lie brazenly about their activities is just plain insulting your intelligence.

Readers will be familiar with this behaviour so i won't labour the point, but who can forget Barack Obama's insistence that our bombing campaign in Libya wasn't even a war, or fail to be suspicious when he says the same of our upcoming Syrian adventure?

Who doesn't feel nostalgic about that time when David Cameron and William Hague furiously denied   targeting the Gaddafi clan, while Liam Fox was simultaneously telling anyone who would listen that hell yeah, it was open season on dashiki-wearing thugs and their offspring?

These are entirely minor examples and readers will have their own favourites.  Perhaps it's Condaleeza Rice babbling about mushroom clouds or claiming to hear the "birth-pangs of a new Middle East" in the bombed-out ruin of southern Lebanon, or maybe President Bush assuring the world that America doesn't torture the people that it does in fact torture.

Whatever - the fact is that our leaders are entirely comfortable with all manner of crazy shenanigans, and are quite willing to entirely lie about it if caught.

They mistake their own propaganda for facts

More or less the only way to understand a character like Tony Blair, for instance, is to assume that he entirely believes the insane things he says.

I'm quite certain that to this day that he believes he told us all the truth about the invasion of Iraq, and this is because he's incapable of realising that a PR campaign easily tips over into outright porkies.

Lynx deodorants, for instance, would think you were mental if you accused them of fraudulently selling armpit-sanitizer as Viagra.  MacDonalds don't much fret over their responsibility to be straight with the public, and nor should they.

Wars, on the other hand, are a bit more important than burgers. They present unique challenges and acute moral dilemmas, ones that can't be overcome with daring acts of creative imagineering. There really is a responsibility to level with the public, if you intend to send their kids into harm's way and deploy the might of the nation among the houses of women and children.

Consider: is John Kerry being honest with America when he tells the people that "Assad has killed 100,000 Syrians"? That would, after all, imply that regime forces haven't taken any casualties at all. When he makes grand claims about damage to American prestige caused by failure to blam Damascus with missiles, is that a real and important thing, or a bunch of PR horseshit?

If it's the latter, then how far can anything he says be trusted?

They're so very fucking bumptious about it.

And we'll finish with a minor point - our politicians are so keen to cast their own actions as vitally important and historic that it's difficult to avoid concluding that they're victims of narcissism.

Take Iraq, for instance. Even if we believe the government was sincerely concerned about terrifying weapons of massive destructiveness*, then the invasion was surely a regrettable but essential endeavour rather than a moral crusade.

And yet, recall the soaring rhetoric of the era, which existed purely to cast as noble and virtuous an action which, by its own architects' admission, was only necessary.

Echoes of this can be heard in Michael Gove's lunatic rants after last week's vote, as he reportedly accused everyone within earshot of appeasement. Yo, Mike - this isn't 1938 and you sure as hell aren't Churchill - you are, at best, a twat.


So, you get the idea. If I carried any clout at all - which I definitely don't - my bottom line would be "no more wars until you've proven that you won't take the piss".

Of course, none of us can see the future and it could well be that five years from now, Angela Merkel will hoist the Swastika and invade Poland.

Until that point though, I'd say it's best to err on the side of caution.

*"WMD" itself being a term of art, designed to make the public worry about nuclear warheads when it really means "some nasty poison gas".


Anonymous said...

It's like Charlie Brown, Lucy and the football. We know Lucy is going to take away the football. We know these chancers are going to move the goalposts.


organic cheeseboard said...

Coming to this late, but it's also probably worth mentioning that almost everyone who supported the military intervention that Cameron was mooting did not, in fact, support it but rather some more colossally massive regime-change intervention on the level of Iraq.

Witness Nick Cohen calling Ed Miliband a 'coward' for wanting to see a plan for the 'war on Assad' which Nick seems to think Ed rejceted. Um...

Anonymous said...

"...... some more colossally massive regime-change intervention on the level of Iraq."

Even though none of them have thought about what this entails.