Friday, June 14, 2013

Meet The New Boss

And so we add Syria to the long list of nations fortunate enough to benefit from our glorious military largesse.

As if from nowhere, it appears that our leaders have decided that while eighty thousand deaths were an acceptable expense, ninety thousand is now intolerable.  In a matter of days, evidence of chemical weapons use that was once sketchy and unreliable has miraculously engorged itself to convincing solidity.

We might ask ourselves - what changed? A vicious, barbarous civil war remains vicious and barbarous; its participants remain murderous and its victims terrorised and pitiable.

In reality, only one aspect has changed, but it's a biggie - the side that we like least from two terrible options has begun to rack up some clear victories.

So you'll pardon me if I don't join in the chorus of We Can't Sit Back And Do Nothing when plainly, sitting back and doing nothing has suited our leaders just fine, provided that it was our favoured faction that was in the ascendency.  You'll notice that William Hague's outrage has waxed and waned with the rebels' military gains and losses, much as Vladimir Putin's has in equal and opposite terms.

After all, what does President Obama intend to achieve by shoving more and better rifles into the hands of the losing side?

Not victory for the rebels, since he himself has repeatedly told us that handing out guns to one side in a sectarian bloodbath will only ratchet up the bodycount without winning the war.

Not a negotiated peace, since President Obama has repeatedly told us that peace is only acceptable to him if it's made on terms that are unacceptable to the regime.

What can arming the rebels achieve, then?  Reader, let me lay this on you - arming the rebels will keep the war going; it will grind down the enemy factions gratifyingly and, as a highly regrettable yet entirely foreseeable consequence, it'll also keep that pile of dead civvies growing indefinitely.

But hey, we've all got to go some time, right?

This is the heart and soul of it. It's not the murdering or the bombing that we find intolerable, it's the losing...  And by appearances, it seems like we're willing to fight Assad and his allies right down to the last Syrian.

If this strikes you as ultra-cynical then I have to ask you - what was it in our leaders' recent behaviour that led you to believe that they regard anything at all in Syria as "intolerable"?

Certainly not sectarian slaughter, since some of the worst Iraqi death squads ended their war on the American payroll. Not ethnic cleansing or executions, since we spent the Libyan war providing air cover for the persecution of that unhappy nation's black African populace.

We plainly don't object to massive bombardments of basically incarcerated populations, since ourselves and our allies have played that game enthusiastically for the last decade, from North Africa to the Tigris.

We're clearly fine with all of the enormities of modern warfare, to the extent that we have entire PR departments, publications and a cottage industry of thinktanks dedicated to finessing the politics of our own democratically-inclined destruction.

And these are the people we're to trust with another "humanitarian intervention" in the Middle East?  These theoretically-reluctant bombers with their eternal outbursts of supposedly-accidental mayhem and chaos?

Unless we're using the term "humanitarian" in the same way that we'd talk about a vegetarian intervention at the salad bar, I suspect the results might belie the moniker.

Anyway. All of this must seem alien and insane to many, but if I can offer one piece of advice on this situation, it'd go like this...

Every major political actor involved in this godawful catastrophe is lying about their intentions, be they dictator or democrat, and not one of them fears inflating the horror more than they fear backing the losing side... And every single one of them is willing to get people killed in large numbers to get what they want.

Ah, needless and super-destructive Cold War proxy conflicts.  How I've missed you, and the gibbering cavalcade of outrageous, offensively obvious horseshit explosions you proliferate in every direction.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Same Again

So I'm in a bar, speaking to this friend of mine, who we'll call Bill.

Bill's a defence lawyer in Glasgow, deals with shoplifters, sticky-fingered junkies and pavement boxers, that kind of thing.  He's telling me about Mr S, who he's just finished defending against a charge of fraudulent benefits claims.

"Mr S is in his fifties", Bill says.  "He's an engineer, worked in the same factory since he was nineteen.  Two years ago, boom, firm goes into administration and lays off the entire workforce.  Suddenly, it's unemployment.  Mr S gets Jobseeker's Allowance, but it's a shitty way to live. He's still trying to pay off his mortgage, two kids to look after, and nobody anywhere wants to hire a fifty-four year old engineer..."

"Sucks to be him" I say.

"Sure does.  So one day, Mr S shows up at the Job Centre.  The guy behind the desk says, we've been looking at your case, and you've claimed six hundred and fifty quid that you aren't entitled to".

"Over two years?" I ask, doing a quick calculation.  "My God, he's been ripping us all off for more than six quid a week".

Bill nods.  "Yeah, the guy's a regular Ronnie Biggs.  So Mr S says it was an accident, that he ticked the wrong box, says the form was long and confusing".

"Did you believe him?" I ask, thinking back to my own fortnight on the dole.  I had to fill in a form the size of a novella and I got the princely sum of eight quid, and no job offers...  And that was in 1999, the salad days by comparison.

"Hell," Bill says, "The sheriff believed him, not that it did him any good.  I've seen those forms.  You need a degree in fucking advanced mathematics to work those things out.  Mr S is all like I've worked for every penny I've ever earned and I've never stolen nothing from anyone and all that shit".

"Is it true?".

"Who knows?  Who cares?  Not me, not the clerks, especially not the sheriff.  Intentional, unintentional, it's all the same.  So anyway, the DWP are having this big crackdown on benefit cheats, and they're not interested in Mr S's offer to pay them back.  Pay them with what, the money they're giving him?"

"We couldn't have that".

"No, heaven forfend.  Doesn't matter whether he meant it, doesn't matter whether he ripped off five hundred quid or fifty thousand.   Here he is sitting in a room with a sheriff, some lawyers and a pack of twitchy junkies and wham, conviction, there you go.  Guy never had a chance of getting off with it, really".

"Bad luck for Mr S", I say.  "I hope he gets a job soon. Imagine having to go back to the Jobcentre to grovel for change to the same guys that poled you up the backside like that".

"Well, if he was struggling to get a job before, he sure isn't going to find it any easier now that he's got a criminal conviction for dishonesty.  You have to declare that to potential employers, you know".

I whistled.  "Man, that's harsh.  Does the government know this kind of thing is going on?"

Bill gave me a funny look, like I'd asked where babies come from.  "Mate, I told you - the government is pushing this crackdown so hard it's a wonder their arms don't burst out of their sockets".

I gave that some thought.  "I wonder what Iain Duncan Smith thinks about folk like Mr S", I said.

"Hell, I bet he stays up all night long worrying about those motherfuckers", Bill said, draining his pint.  "I bet their plight just breaks his heart".

"Iain Duncan Smith has a heart?"

"I fucking hope so, or there'll be nothing for the vampire hunters to drive a wooden stake through...   Same again?"

I finished my pint.  "Of course," I said.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

That Syria Dilemma, In Total

Our quaint politics, how foolish.

The Sauds* took our decision for us, long ago.

*When I say "The Sauds", I mean "The Americans and the Sauds" although it's a distinction without a difference.