Saturday, October 24, 2015

Non-Conventional Weapons

Okay, so this kind of thing, raised in relation to some students' barney with Germaine Greer, really isn't at all helpful:

Speaking from personal experience, it's incredibly difficult to convince people that the European Convention on Human Rights doesn't e.g. confer entitlements to free trips to Disneyland for terrorists and so on, since Britain's moronic tabloids have been selling the public variations upon that theme for years.

The Court here is not talking about private citizens deciding that they don't like cranky Antipodeans and don't care to hear their views.  It's talking about states taking action to avoid actual pogroms and suchlike - Radio Rwanda-level calls for extermination of minorities, and so on.  Including reference to ECHR here is a bit like shouting about Nuremberg principles after the cops have pulled you over for speeding - it's not that it's just incorrect, it's also a honking great category error.

Anyone invoking the Convention on such spurious grounds is inadvertently doing the same damn thing that the Sun does - helping to convince people that ECHR exists in part to empower thin-skinned twits who don't want to hear opinions that they don't like, at everybody else's expense.  At a time when the government is actively looking for excuses to do away with the Convention rights, this type of thing is utterly counterproductive.

On the wider topic of the article - basically, banning Germaine Greer for her comments about trans women - well, I'll say this:

Any small group of people declaring that only their precise opinions on a particular subject are permissible, and angrily insisting that disagreement is tantamount to outright bigotry and hatemongering, is

a) About to start losing the few friends that it currently has, and is

b) Likely to fragment into even smaller groups of people who really, really don't like each other very much.

I'll also add that loudly accusing public figures of misogyny and hatemongering is quite a silly thing to do, unless you're very certain of your arguments, given the pro-plaintiff biases of Britain's libel laws.  Unless there's a sharp rhetorical cooling-off, I predict that this habit is going to result in some fairly hairy litigation and crushing defeats at some point, and probably sooner rather than later.

On the wider point of whether trans women are women, well, you can include me out of that particular debate - it's a battle that appears to be being fought with nuclear missiles and nothing else.  Nonetheless, let's note that if you ever find yourself accusing Germaine Greer of being a misogynist, you probably need to re-examine your reasoning, because it appears to be fundamentally fucked up in some fashion.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Drive-By Booting

Okay, so this post is a bit of a drive-by, but it's probably worth noting what does and doesn't feature in Jim Murphy's impassioned plea for throbbing British military stiffness and a pounding for ISIS.

It does contain:

- Much back-patting for the author's selfless refusal of lucrative book offers; 

- A frank admission that the 2013 Syria bombing proposals were largely cosmetic, followed by anguished sobs of regret over voting against them;

- A flat declaration that the 2003 Iraq invasion and occupation are so far in the past as to be irrelevant to decisions that we might make today;

- Nudge-nudges about how the author takes the situation much more seriously than other MPs do; 

- Gratuitous scare-quotes around the word "anti-war" in relation to other MPs;

- Open admissions that "military action alone won't work"; 

- Bizarre chin-stroking about Britain's "period of unresolved purpose" between 1956 and 1968, a time in which British soldiers were engaged in Cyprus, Kenya, Borneo and Yemen, amongst other countries*,

- An assertion that "conscientious objection" is unacceptable, and 

- A bit of rah-rah about how the decision to bomb Syria will test our national greatness, or something.

It's quite a sight, to see a once-prominent politician sobbing in regret because he didn't resign over a proposed bombing campaign that even he recognises was mainly a cosmetic gesture, while simultaneously dicking off the catastrophically destructive war that he actually did vote for.

Nonetheless, let's note what doesn't appear in Jim's article:

- A single, solitary claim that fighting ISIS will help anyone, in either Syria or Iraq. 

I'm unsure how to take this, really.  Is it absent-mindedness, or an over-enthusiastic sub-editor, or just rampant vainglory?

Whatever's going on, I think it's worth noting that for Murphy, the question To Bomb, Or Not To Bomb really is all about us, and that the countries we're proposing to bombard don't even rate a moment's consideration.

*Cheers to assorted readers for pointing out some of the sillier arguments in Murphy's piece.  You know who you are.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

On Spite

So, the Question Time Tory voter who was astounded to discover that when her political representatives said that they wanted to cut benefits for the undeserving, they were talking about her.  A minor matter of little interest, but also a major excuse for me to arse on about some of my usual gripes.

- First up, the various finger-waggers are probably correct to say that it's electorally stupid for us to take the piss out of people who are disillusioned with the Tories.  I'd also add that it's bad form to hector members of the public, as opposed to e.g. politicians, celebrities and so on, since the man or woman in the street is just trying to get by the same as the rest of us.  Additionally, since we can't establish exactly why any particular individual chose to vote for the Tories, we probably shouldn't jump to conclusions about this person's motivations.

Thankfully, I'm not a Labour activist and I don't really believe that there's any real prospect of reversing the decades-long project of political dumbing-down.  I'm also an enormous hypocrite, so I feel quite secure in saying to anyone who voted Tory and is now whinging about being much worse off as a result - Get it right up you.

- While we can't divine the souls of individual Tory voters, I think we can broadly assume that a very large number of them were swayed by the central Tory campaign message, which was - Vote for us, and we will fucking kill all the benefit-sucking scroungers and moochers*.  This concept dwarfed any attempt they made to sell Britain on the idea that the Tories would make anyone's life better.

As I said on the morning of the election, spite is one of the great motivators of British politics.  Osborne's speech about people leaving in the dark to work the early shift while their dole-scrounging neighbours sleep on is the archetype, but you'll no doubt have heard similar from friends and work colleagues - the supposedly homeless woman who drives home in a Jag after a hard day's begging; the geezer who is horrified to discover that the Job Centre is a weaponised misery-machine designed to harrass and humiliate him, and is primarily angry about this because he also believes that immigrants and layabouts have access to an entirely separate and more generous benefits system that he does not.

Spite is a horrible thing and the militarised version of it that fills the daily papers, keeps Channel 5 afloat and decides elections, is one of Britain's most regrettable cultural problems.  Spite is a personal failing and it should be recognised as antisocial behaviour, much like spitting in the street, punching people who annoy you or trying to fuck other people's wives and husbands are.

For this reason, I'm not inclined to indulge anyone offering variants upon Boo-hoo-hoo, I thought the Tories would fuck over everyone else, rather than meNote well that the lady in question wasn't upset that the Tories were fucking people over - she was upset that they were also fucking her over.  I am doing guesswork now, but I'm assuming that she doesn't want the Tories to stop fucking everybody else, because everybody else deserves it.

Perhaps I'm being unfair, and she's now concluded that political spite is a huge con aimed at gulling votes out of suckers by vowing to kill the poor.  I doubt it, somehow.

Anyway, this is a learning experience and an opportunity to grind the lesson in, even if I think there's basically zero chance of anyone actually changing their behaviour and becoming less spiteful as a result.

- I'm also not convinced by Chris Dillow's descriptions of the various cognitive biases that lead people to misunderstand the country that they live in.  I think that individually, all of the biases that he describes are demonstrably real, but there's already a word that collectively describes these errors, and that word is spite.

Treating spite as if it were a blameless error, as an honest mistake that can be overcome with a few friendly chats, is probably the wrong response.  Spite is not an error - it's a conscious choice that's maintained with determination, even in the face of countervailing evidence.  If you don't believe that, then feel free to try convincing your grumpy uncle that e.g. they haven't banned Baa-Baa Black Sheep, and see how you get on. 

I think the correct response to blubbing about how the Tories fucked you is We told you so, you utter tit rather than There, there, you sweet little lamb.

- And, to return to one of my recent themes - I am wholly unconcerned by the possibility that a few folk with Twitter accounts might alienate displeased Tory voters, for the simple reason that almost nobody reads our bloody tweets and nobody gives a damn what our opinion is on anything.

There's a good chunk of earnest left-wing Britain that responds to stories like the blubbing Question Time woman by essentially running around the internet ticking people off and ensuring that nobody has any fun at all, ever.

While I recognise their arguments are probably correct and understand their motivations, I repeat - I'm not an activist and I'm not trying to win anybody over, so I'll feel free to act up like a dick as and when I feel like it, without worrying what the upset Tory voters of Britain who aren't paying attention think about it.  There's an upper limit to the number of times that you can ask people to bite their lips in the face of provocation, after all.

*One of most glaring unrecognised issues in British politics is how crime has almost entirely dropped off the radar as an electoral issue.  It used to be absolutely central in election debates, but no longer - it's now been almost entirely replaced with rows about immigration and welfare. 

The lesson that I take from this is that the public basically regards being dirt-poor and benefits-dependent as a crime in itself.  You can probably guess whether I think this belief should be indulged or not.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Don't Do As I Do, Do As I Say

Okay, so the best charge list against Russia's hilarious propaganda campaign for its Syria war goes like this:

- Russia makes up risibly poor and obvious excuses to justify attacking countries;

- In fact, Russia engages in multiple bullshit wars at once and tells major lies about its aims and actions in all of them; 

- It makes fraudulent claims about attacking "terrorists", while actually just attacking the enemies of the governments that it's propping up; 

- It drops dark hints that other states are backing terrorism and insinuates that anyone opposed to its aims is morally suspect;

- That the Russian President has abrogated the right to bomb anything and anyone he pleases without oversight, and that he publicly alludes to bizarre international conspiracies against his nation; 

- That Putin makes nonsensical pronouncements comparing himself to the Allies in World War II, and

- The Russian government has bamboozled the populace into supporting an idiotic war, by propaganda and fearmongering... 

...And that all of this is despicable and utterly unacceptable from a modern, theoretically democratic nation.

Well, shit.  No wonder the Americans are so pissed-off - Bad Vlad is giving away all the tricks of the trade, right out there for the world to see.

Anyway, let's have a few chuckles at some of the more humorous articles bemoaning Russian state propaganda recently.

Oh no!  Russian media is pumping out state propaganda, and most of the populace believes these lies are true!  Why, its TV coverage is all swooshing action infographics and repetition of government press releases!  Russian liberals and left-wingers have been cowed by a barrage of cretinous patriotic rah-rah and accusations of treason!  Domestic opposition to the war barely gets a reasonable hearing!

How could such a thing ever have happened!

And so on and on.  Credit is due to CNN, who at least have the dignity required to acknowledge certain historical resonances, but I'd say that the most pertinent point for UK-based observers of Russia's propaganda wheezes is this:

Putin at least has had to threaten, intimidate, ban and even murder his way through the Russian media class to impose this kind of sanctimonious, nonsensical, belligerent unity upon it.

In Britain, no such campaign has ever been necessary.

An Unparalleled Congeries of Imbecilities

Plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose, which is a suspiciously foreign way of saying: Every few years, some ardent left-wing Guardian columnist decides it's time to take "a new approach" to patriotism.

This week, it's earnest sixth-former Owen Jones.  "What is more loving of one’s own country than wanting to rid it of injustice?", he asks.  "What is more patriotic than wanting the majority to have a fairer share of the country’s wealth and success?".

All of which sounds perfectly reasonable, until you remember that "patriotism", in the sense that it's used by the Daily Mail, has little or nothing to do with a love of justice or fairness, and even less to do with  actual love for the people or the nation.  Despite its endless pom-pom-waving for Britain, you'll notice that the Mail has nothing but contempt for most of the people who actually live here.

The kind of patriotism we're talking about is mainly just resentment and cowardice.  It's a blunt refusal to even attempt to see the world as it is.  It's a joyful retreat into an infantile fantasy world where everything bad is somebody else's fault, and all of our problems can be solved by reliance on childish concepts like faith, flags and force. 

If this sounds like it's indistinguishable from Jingoism, well then, that's because it is Jingoism.  This form of patriotism - self-pitying belligerence, worship of a country that doesn't exist and never has existed, aimed at rallying crowds of us to oppose them - is the only kind that counts in politics.  Anything less is inherently suspect.

If you doubt this, consider: we've had an abject lesson right here in Scotland within the last couple of years.  For a large number of Scots, "patriotism" has now come to mean "desiring independence from the UK".  To this part of the populace, the very idea that a person could be any kind of true patriot, and yet have no interest in Scottish independence, is an outright logical impossibility.  It's an absurdity that can no more be true than 2+2=5 can be correct.

I've lived here for 37 years and I have no desire to live anywhere else*.  When I wrote this, I typed up a long ramble about my affection for the people and places I've known my entire life, but then realised - what's the point?  Unless it ends with the words "And thus Scotland should be an independent country", every sentence would be seen as cravenly dishonest, if not actively infuriating, by many Scots.

As it is in the UK, so it is elsewhere.  In Russia, patriotism isn't much more than non-stop, woe-is-us boo-hoo about the rest of the planet's endless disrespect, and dark mutterings that a bit of healthy violence would settle their treachery.  In the US, it means saluting the flag, singing louder and hating anyone who suggests that there's anything wrong with America except for its abundance of traitorous hippies.  In China, the very notion that China isn't the bestest nation ever, or that the Communist Party isn't the most awesome government of all time, is tantamount to treason.

This is why there's really no point in trying to redefine "patriotism", in Britain or anywhere else.  The very attempt suggests that there's something wrong with the idea, which is the same as saying that there's something terribly wrong with the country itself - something wrong with its traditions, its people, its singular contribution to the blah blah of etc. etc.

As well to redefine "Tuesday" or "sausages".  Or maybe better, since nobody's going to kick your head in for re-examining bangers and mash.   

Which is all another way of saying - the Labour Party, the Greens, the Lib Dems, none of these people will ever be accepted as patriots in the way that e.g. David Cameron or Nigel Farage are patriots.  A reasonable discussion of what constitutes patriotism is impossible, because this kind of patriotism is utterly inimical to reason.  It's imperviousness to argument is the very reason for its existence.

Better not to seek acceptance on these terms, when the mere attempt is an admission of guilt.

*Well, I could handle a couple of months of the year living somewhere a bit hotter, but no more than that.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Me & The Government Are Very Sensible

Ah, our sensible centrists - a few twats lob eggs at a protest and it's the Texas Chainsaw Massacre all over again, but bomb a hospital and... well, it's all quite... complicated, isn't it?

Well, as is ever the case, racist UKIP candidates reflect badly upon UKIP, and EDL thugs are a problem for the British far-right, but whenever some prick somewhere is rude to a journalist, the entire left has to get down on its knees to apologise.  Ever thus.

So collectively, we're doing that thing with the noisy denunciations and disassociations that we always do when prodded, as if there's a vague chance that mass disapproval might save us from being held up as if we were all a kind of revenant parade of blackshirts.

And I understand the denunciations, because this kind of aimless aggro is stupid, unpleasant and counterproductive.  And had it not been for these egg-chucking fucks, the headlines tomorrow would've been all about the government's merciless dickishness and their intentional vandalism of the public services on which many of these people rely, right?

Oh, sure.  Maybe on page 12 of the Guardian, they would've been.

No, the sad truth here is that solemn anti-government protests are too boring to attract any kind of serious attention.  So what, a bunch of earnest kids and non-photogenic pensioners and civil servants disagree with the government?  Who cares?

Protests just don't get any positive attention these days, and they haven't had much attention of any type for a long time, unless they're violent or rowdy, or are aimed at an already-despised public figure or nation.  Still though, a few journalists getting hassled and spat at by a couple of crusties isn't so much an insignificant event, as it is actively immaterial.

I know this won't be a popular opinion, but let me lay this on you - the very best that any half-popular popular protest event from the left in the UK can expect, is to be ignored.

If it turns a bit nasty, all the reaction will be about the nastiness.  Note that the actual severity of the nastiness doesn't matter at all - if 95% of today's idiots had stayed away, the remaining 5% would've been more than enough to justify exactly the same response.

Remember, it's not so long ago that protests used to end in real violence and actual injuries, not this boo-hoo-woe-is-us stuff.  When I was a kid, these types of events regularly ended in full-scale riots and fist-fights, with mounted police and baton-charges, rather than a lot of whinging because some fucker with dreads called a reporter "Tory scum", or similar.

But even if a protest is as nice as a game of Pass-The-Parcel at a playgroup picnic, it'll just be ignored.  Any mention of it that does reach the public will only be negative portrayals of the protesters themselves - if they're young, they're daft poseurs; if they're old, they're dinosaurs; if they're posh, they're self-indulgent; if they're not, they're loutish and thick.

If a protest is about an insane bloodcurdling war, then the war is not the issue - the real issue is some fucking berk waving a Hezbollah flag.  If it's about austerity, then tsk tsk!  We already had an election to decide which version of the Thatcherite consensus would rule, thank you, and attempts by protestors to impose their will on the government is fundamentally immoral, if not outright fascistic.  Swish!

These responses are not about enlightening anyone.  They're about circumscribing politically permissible ideas, a police action on the outer edge of acceptable mainstream thought.  That's why nobody in this country who regularly writes political commentary along the lines of "Me and the government are very sensible, and everyone who disagrees with us is a lunatic" will ever go to bed hungry.

There's no way to win here folks, so just stop apologising.  If a few idiots lob eggs at a Tory, then a simple Yes, fuck those guys will suffice.

And on the specific character of complaints today, which have mainly been journalists complaining that some of the protestors called them Tories...  Again, fuck those guys, but this is probably a good point to assess why lots of young left-wing types believe that the press are instinctively lined up against them, if not actually in open collaboration with the government.

My experience of engaging with the press this last few years has mainly been one of being told that e.g. insane destructive wars that achieve nothing are very, very sensible indeed, and that being annoyed about such things is dangerously crazy.

Kids who are new to politics and even tangentially related to the Corbyn campaign have just spent three months watching every paper in the country indulge in a prolonged fit of gibbering hysterics, all of it aimed at portraying the new Labour leader as if he were a threat to the nation on par with Godzilla or the Black Death.

And when these kids open the paper tomorrow, they're not going to find much in the way of reportage about their aims in protesting the Tory Conference, but they're sure as hell going to find that they feature - as a pack of zoomers, extremists, jackbooted thugs and pantomime racists, or as a shower of preening Tarquins and Samanthas.

From this, they're only going to conclude that the press really are instinctively on David Cameron's side, and I have to say - even in my older, less excitable years - I can't really see how anyone would go about convincing them otherwise.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Political Madness Gone Correct

So the other week a university needlessly banned a feminist advocate for democracy from speaking at one of their events, an act which supposedly demonstrates our rocket-propelled downward spiral into a morass of relativism and political correctness.

It looks like nobody else will say this, so I will - I am intensely relaxed about this situation, and possibly even in favour of it, all things considered.

Why, you might ask?

Firstly, because this story has followed the standard trajectory of such incidents, which almost always go like this:

- Student group asks perfectly reasonable speaker to appear at public event;

- Some puritanical berk or glowering religious ballsack complains about it, on bullshit grounds of ideological deviation or offensiveness;

- A minor student administrator takes a fit of the vapours about potentially offending someone, somewhere, and disinvites the perfectly reasonable speaker;

- A great roaring crowd of self-proclaimed rationalists turns up on the university's digital doorstep, throwing kung-fu shapes and screeching about defending free speech, and then

- The matter comes to the attention of somebody sensible at the university, who immediately overturns the administrator's decision and reinvites the perfectly reasonable speaker.

It doesn't always go like this, but this precise flow of events has now happened so many times that we can predict with a fair degree of confidence that, whenever a speaker is disinvited somewhere, it will play out in exactly this fashion.

This being the case, I think we can agree that what we are dealing with here is usually a minor official making a bad decision, one that can be quickly and painlessly overturned.  This not a particularly difficult problem to overcome and it should be easily dealt with in calm and reasoned tones, with no need for grand declarations or denunciations.

Now, there's a strain of thought* that says such incidents are reflective of a dangerous illiberalism in campus culture, one which reveals a far greater problem in the entirety of left-wing politics, or some such cant.

This hysterical message, most commonly conveyed in apocalyptic tones, does actually contain a grain of truth, and once again - I am entirely unconcerned by this.

It's certainly true that there are plenty of people knocking about who will get their knickers in a twist if you make certain arguments, e.g. "I don't approve of Muslim women wearing the headscarf", or "Prostitution is a really bad career choice", and so on.  It's also true that certain individuals - not many, but actually existing - will attempt to prevent anyone making such arguments on campus.

Mostly, this is because students tend to be young and daft, and have always been prone to seeing the world in definitive terms that they will relax later in life.  To a lesser extent, it's also because there's a small but vocal minority of tiresome knobheads wandering around, but this has always been the case.

Nonetheless, the actual real-world effect of such people's actions translates into a bit of hassle, rather than tyranny.  We can, I think, all survive a bit of hassle by knobheads - we've all been dealing with it all of our lives after all, and we will probably survive a bout of knob-headery in even its right-on form unharmed.

More to the point, I see much of this as the inevitable result of our much-improved interpersonal relations in recent decades.  When I was a kid, racism and sexism were indulged to a far greater extent, and homophobia was only seen as a serious problem by a few activists who were repeatedly mocked in the gutter press as a shower of loony-left woofters.

Now, not so much.   The social unacceptability of these forms of prejudice has greatly improved everyone's lives, I think, and this situation is resented mainly by people who would prefer to go back to the bad old days.

Unfortunately, this has also spawned tiny gaggles of irritating self-appointed Commissars, mostly on social media, but occasionally bleeding out into the world.  I consider this an annoying but entirely acceptable cost.  The fact that these jokers get up the noses of e.g. Melanie Phillips or Brendan O'Neill is unfortunate for them and for others of their ilk, but is no reason at all to imagine that we're worse off now than we were before.

*I made an effort here not to launch into ad hominems, but I think that a few are called for.  It's worth noting that the loudest screamers about campus activism broadly use student dafties as stand-ins for their political foes, none of whom are thick enough to give them the kind of ammunition that only a bunch of painfully right-on 19-year-olds can supply. 

Suffice to say that I think this is a dishonest trick, and that any writer in their forties who regularly gets up on his or her high-horse to issue grand proclamations about student politics, is probably telling you more about themselves than they are telling you about student politics.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Replicant Army Zeta

"Bombing to support a genocidal tyrant isn't the same as bombing a terrorist organisation...  pursuing a malign policy for malign goals is worse. Hence, yes, there is a difference in reactions... You must see the quantifiable difference". 

So says a long-time reader in response to this post, a bashed-out ramble about our noticeably lesser levels of indulgence for Russian ultraviolence than we display for our own.

Taking these comments in context, I'm inclined to agree.  There are notable and marked differences between our military hijinks and those of the Russian armed forces.

For one thing, Bad Vlad Putin - a vicious cartoon KGB gangster straight out of Bond-villain central casting - has only just embarked on his first murderous death rampage in the region.

We, however, are now approaching a decade-and-a-half's worth of trying to make the Middle East and north Africa sit still and behave by repeatedly blatting several countries with thousands upon thousands of missiles.

Are Vlad's war aims much worse than ours?  Well, sure!  He's bombing one crew of nutty jihadists and a tiny clique of possibly-theoretical secular liberal warriors at the behest of the mass-murdering Syrian dictatorship, which is itself a vicious tyranny that tortures dissidents to death.

We, on the other hand, are blasting fuck out of an even nastier army of mass-murdering death-cultists on behalf of the Iraqi government, which machine-guns protestors and only tortures its dissidents mostly to death, while we quietly pass boatloads of cutting-edge explosives to the Sauds for use on Yemeni civilians.

So you see, it's really quite a stark moral contrast. 

Joking aside though, that post was mainly about the welcome return of open suspicion and ridicule for great power "interventions".  Bad Vlad's ludicrous pronouncements this week have been met with open mockery, and the Russian armed forces' claims to nobility have been torn to shreds in a riot of feral press hostility.  We are, in short, treating Russian military malfeasance with the appropriate level of credulity, i.e. none at all.

The difficulty with this is that it makes our own boot-licking, self-fondling fluffery of "the Coalition" - since that's the latest fruity name that we're giving what is basically the American government and its air force - look every bit as comical as the Russian media's supine surrender to Vlad.

You'd think that, after we've been bombing huge tracts of the planet for this long with nothing at all to show for it but ever more carnage and chaos, we might finally be shamed into maybe... just... shutting the fuck up, for five seconds.

Not so.  Instead, the Americans fret about Russian malevolence supposedly "inciting extremism" in the Middle East, as if US armed forces weren't still locked in combat with an army of brain-eating Islamic zombies... Themselves the product of America's own recent military stupidity.  Such a statement would be met with open hilarity, if it weren't quite so serious.

Consider - ourselves and the Americans know for an absolute certainty that our current strategy of drone-bombing hell out of buildings and vehicles in pursuit of nominated targets occasionally kills large numbers of civilians - wiped-out wedding parties, unlucky car passengers, and so on.  (Update - and the occasional party of Medicins Sans Frontiers clinic staff).

We know we are going to kill innocent people while we're splattering our way through the latest batch of Al-Qaeda Number-Three-Most-Wanteds, or whatever other terribly critical, high-value target we're aiming at - and yet we do it anyway.

Civilian casualties have long since become a normal aspect of our strategy, a regretable but supposedly unavoidable expense, factored in to a well-calculated cost.  These incidents happen so frequently that we can no longer reasonably claim that they're unexpected, or even really kid on that they're unintentional.  They are militarily acceptable, politically acceptable, morally acceptable.  This is what we do.

And this might even be fine, if there was some reason to believe that these people were dying to effect some grand strategic achievement, to orchestrate an endgame to this war or that.  Reader, it is not part of such a strategy.  The plan, just as it was in 2007, is to keep killing motherfuckers until the remainder settle down, or until there are no motherfuckers left to kill.

In 2007, complaints about this wacky plan were met with firm tickings off about the dangers of "moral relativism" and "equivalence", the type of patter that is supposed to emphasise our national rectitude but is almost always deployed in service of the firm message - It's fine when we do it.  

In 2015, the message is unchanged, and the relentless warfare is no closer to an endgame.  You think our dumbass bombing campaigns are morally problematic?  Why, you must be one of those gosh-darned relativists who can't see the difference between Our Boys and Ol' Journalist-Shootin' Putin!  

What this tells us is that fourteen years into our great, superviolent war on whatever, we have learned no lessons at all, and that almost nobody has been held to account for their misdeeds.  It tells me that there is literally no catastrophe so great that it can dent our endless faith in our own towering virtue; that there is no pile of rubble and corpses so high that it can't be mounted for use as a podium to issue stern lectures upon comparative morality.

It baffles me to say it, but it means that for some people, being a better human than Vladimir Putin is a real achievement in itself.

I mean, I'm taller than my cat, but I don't expect anyone to congratulate me and suck my dick for it.

Anyway, I raise all this, just as a little reminder of the context in which these grand morality plays about our wildly-different military methods and objectives play out.  I don't expect to change any minds, nor to inspire anything more than mild annoyance.

We can be sure though that ten thousand years from now, while Her Majesty's Royal Drone Force battles the resurgent 17th Glorious Ball-Peen Caliphate or whatever on the plains of Mesopotamia, some joker somewhere will still be explaining that actually, this war is not at all like the last, and that there is a vast moral difference between our war aims and those of Replicant Army Zeta.