Category Archives: war

Trump’s first triumph

One of the many thoughts I composed in my head but never got around to posting was a reaction to the election of Donald Trump.  An optimistic reaction, mixing tongue-in-cheek (to wind up some – probably most – readers), benefit of the doubt, and a few realistic hopes for how his presidency might lead, intentionally or otherwise, to real improvement in the world.

It’s too late for that now.  He’s made so many appointments I’d have to dig into them before taking a Panglossian view on his rhetoric about surrounding himself with the best people.  He still has the outsider’s potential advantage that, if he chooses, he can better afford to stand up to Vested Interests – including those who control purse-strings for US politicians of both parties – than his predecessors in modern times.

On one matter of foreign policy he’s sent a message which is both clear and constructive.  He is not in favour of warmongering around the world where his country has no business.  Like provoking civil war and supporting terrorist and rebel groups on a my enemy’s enemy basis.  The most obvious potential beneficiary of that is Syria, where the hope and expectation of Western intervention launched and subsequently fuelled a devastating civil war.

Trump gets elected, and after just a couple of weeks the rebels in Aleppo finally cut their losses.  Another couple of weeks and we get a ceasefire backed by Russia and Turkey, and for the first time the Western-backed rebels seem to have dropped their show-stopper precondition that Assad and his government be booted out.

Coincidence?  Even if we attribute Aleppo to pure military victory, the change in the rebels’ stance is surely not unconnected with Trump’s election.  Trump has sent them a clear signal that the leading warmongers in the West – like John McCain in the US or Andrew Mitchell in the UK – won’t persuade our governments to step up military involvement.

Of course that doesn’t mean peace: it remains to be seen to what extent that can happen, and indeed whether Russia and Turkey can make a better job of it than the West’s interventions in other countries (above all Iraq).  The key point right now is that the US – and by extension the West – no longer stands in the way of peace.

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A lesson from Castro

With Castro dead, the world can draw another line under the Cold War.  I have no intention of trying to comment on his life: a complex subject on which I have nothing really to say.

But the reporting of his death reveals an interesting split, between those who revered (or at least respected) him and mourn his passing, and those who hated him and danced on his grave.  The former being Cubans in Cuba, the latter being Cubans in Miami.  Plus a handful of  global Cold Warriors on either side, who will dismiss the other side with a quasi-religious fervour.

Could that split between a home population and expats in the West be the exact same phenomenon that led us into fighting and provoking so many disastrous wars, particularly in the middle-east, in recent years?  At various times, our media have presented us with articulate expats from countries we’ve openly invaded (like Iraq and Libya) or meddled more quietly in and stirred with agents provocateurs (like Syria), in support of our campaigns.  Those would be their countries’ equivalent to the Miami Cubans dancing on Castro’s grave.  And that’s where our narratives of our wars come from: when our powers-that-be want war, they can find some extreme but articulate expats and present them as the voice of ordinary people.  Only once the die is cast do some in our media start to question dodgy dossiers and claims.

Lessons not learned

The Chilcot report is due tomorrow.  I don’t expect to read it, so like most of us I’ll hear what the media see fit to report from it.

They’ve already been telling us it’s likely to disappoint anyone expecting it to blame The Liar.   That would fall outside its terms of reference, so any finger pointed at him is likely to be of a secondary and probably tangential nature.  There’s also a suggestion floating around that the current Labour leadership crisis has something to do with it: the Party wanted a more compliant (interim) leader than Corbyn in place to respond to Chilcot.

With the passage of time and the principal warmongers no longer in post, this probably means there’ll be little appetite for further investigation, and The Liar will be off the hook, facing no more than criticism at a level he’s well-equipped to brush off.  A dismal contrast to the vigorous pursuit of much lower-level perpetrators of Bad Things in pre-1945 Germany, up to 70 years on from their crimes.

This may be a lot more than a mere injustice.  We’ve not merely made a horrendous mess of Iraq, but also destabilised the region, pretending all the while that we were the Good Guys.  No wonder there’s the hatred and despair that’s led to the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant!  A token of contrition and act of justice – like putting The Liar on trial – might be the last opportunity in a generation to defuse that justified resentment and make a start on winning back “hearts and minds”, so that the Islamic State is not succeeded by something yet more brutal arising out of the same sense of grievance and monstrous injustice.

Forever war

Once again, we’re going to war against an ill-defined enemy.  But this time it’s clear: this is the enemy’s own agenda, and our Headless Chickens are merrily dancing to “Jihadi John”‘s tune.  As ever, we’ll take a bad situation and make it vastly worse.

When it’s demagogues like Galloway and Farage consistently talking the most sense on the subject of policy towards the world’s trouble spots, one can but shake the head and redouble one’s efforts to reduce complicity.

Oh, erm, and am I the only one to see the irony in all the Islamic State horror coming in this centenary year of 1914, as we look back at “Germans eat your babies”?

Cui bono?

Cicero may have popularised Cassio’s wise words “to whose benefit?“, but in our cynical times we need to refine the question: to whose expectation of benefit?  Indeed, it seems implausible that the subtle distinction should have been lost on the Romans, but I certainly lack the comprehension of their language that would enable me to judge such nuances.

WordPress records show the above as the first words of a draft saved, but not published, on February 26th 2012, following the death in Syria of distinguished journalist Marie Colvin.  Who could expect to benefit from her death?  Or indeed from the escalation of events both before and since: an incursion at the Turkish border, various massacres.  Most recently the use of sarin gas, coming conveniently shortly after Obama had spoken of chemical weapons as a ‘red line’ that would provoke a change of policy.

The answer must surely be, someone looking to provoke Western intervention.  Someone given hope of powerful backing by western rhetoric, and by events in Libya.  They’ve been disappointed for a long time, but now finally it seems Obama will supply them[1] with weapons.  For anyone else to engage in such gratuitously provocative yet militarily futile acts would be extraordinarily perverse.  Above all, for a government with nothing to gain and everything to lose if the West were to get seriously involved (not to mention a ruthless but quietly efficient president without the vain showmanship of Saddam or Gaddafi).

Nor could you rule out someone with an even more sinister Agenda, like the CIA or Al Qaeda, or one-off maverick nutters, with whom neither ‘side’ would wish to be associated.  The latter can be the ones who have the most devastating effects of all, as in the assassins of  Franz Ferdinand or Yitzhak Rabin.

Can this be lost on our politicians and their advisors?  Seems unlikely.  I suspect much of the current rhetoric is driven by a complex case of good-cop-bad-cop desperately hoping to achieve something.  Those Western politicians who really want military intervention do so for external reasons: to topple a regime with a history of the two great regional crimes of being friendly with Iran and hostile to Israel (even if Israel itself would rather have a devil-you-know relationship with a stable neighbour than a civil war)!

Could a new Western-friendly president in Iran change the situation?  It’s an interesting prospect (and will probably spare Iran the kind of disturbance that followed re-election of the ‘wrong’ man last time), but I fear it’s too late to make much difference.  Events in Syria have momentum.  Likewise in the West: if the more gung-ho of American politicians and their backers rebuffed Khatami[2] in more peaceful times, how likely are they to change now, when it would mean some serious backing down?  But at least Rohani’s probable election could serve to strengthen the hands of those favouring peace in the region including, I think, Obama himself.

Where I think the West must really bear guilt is in provoking the war in the first place.  The ambiguous rhetoric and the Libyan example led rebels to suppose they’d get support if things got bad enough, but also westernised media-savvy Syrian emigrants who “spoke for” the country when it was all starting, spinners of propaganda like the “gay girl“, and doubtless others, all contributed.  The contrast must surely be Bahrain, where a similar uprising was suppressed by a government that was historically more repressive than Syria’s.  The obvious difference is that with no agents provocateurs or prospect of international support, Bahraini protestors cut their losses rather than escalate when the government reacted firmly to them.  Bahrain didn’t get Egyptian-style democracy, but neither did it get the horrors of civil war.

[1] Who “they” may be, and whether there is a faction less guilty than the government to whom the West could supply weapons is an altogether different question.  Not one I could speculate on.
[2] The Iranian president from 1997-2005, who made serious efforts to mend fences with the West but was firmly rebuffed by the US, sending a message that the West wasn’t interested and that a Western-friendly leadership was a waste of time.

Lest we remember

11th November is “remembrance day”, when we commemorate the 1918 armistice with plastic poppies, symbolising the Flanders fields where so many young men fought and died in unspeakable conditions.

In the past I’ve not just worn a poppy, I’ve even helped sell them and raise money.  In more recent years they’ve come into disrepute with the appropriation of remembrance by Blair’s warmongers, so I would feel unclean touching them or participating in the event.

This year, we should also have belatedly dropped the pretence of supporting the veterans of the Great War.  Since the death of Harry Patch[1] in 2009, there are no such veterans to support.  The Great War is now history, just as the Roman campaigns or the Napoleonic wars (to take just two examples) are.  The plastic poppy should be relegated to the museum.

Lest we forget may be a fine sentiment.  Until you give it a moment of thought, and look at the history of not forgetting.  Blair’s Britain has glorified war to a level not seen since before 1914, and treats the memory of past wars – particularly 1939-45 – as an absolute excuse to behave like James Hogg’s Justified Sinner around the world.  Much better we do forget.

[1] A man to be admired for his robust refusal to allow his status as the last survivor to have fought in the Great War be appropriated by today’s warmongers.

End of an era

RIP Harry Patch, the last UK survivor of the trenches in the Great War.  His funeral was held today at Wells Cathedral.

I can admire him, not for what he did in 1917/18 but for his later years.  Specifically his repudiation of war, and his refusal to accept a state funeral.  Thank you for not giving our generation’s warmongers an undeserved chance to bang their drum.

Thank you bishop

I don’t often have good words about religious leaders.  But since Bush & Blair brought a new reign of righteous terror on ever-increasing parts of the world, the Church of England has been something of a voice of reason.  With His Holiness The Liar gone, I wonder if anyone might even listen?

Today’s news: The Archbishop of Canterbury (who is second only to the Queen in the CofE hierarchy) has spoken out strongly about starting any more wars in the middle east.  Of course it’s easy for him: neither his job nor his funding depends on producing and selling armaments[1].  In the case of the Rt Revd Dr Williams, I expect he really does find it painful when his country inflicts untold suffering on millions of people.  And speaks from a position of some authority.  Well done that man!

[1] except insofar as it may be linked to the UK economy.

Banging the war drum

Sir Richard Dammit[1], head of the British Army, is reported as wanting some kind of celebration of the return of British troops from invading Johnny Foreigner in the latest armaments industry trade shows.

Let’s see now. Powerful country wages war of aggression in foreign lands. After huge losses to the victims of invasion, they are eventually beaten off and return home. What happens?

A historical parallel in Europe and within living memory would be German troops returning home in 1945. OK, it’s not an exact equivalent: it only becomes that if a victim proves stronger than us and we get bombed into the ground at home, too. So just a moral equivalent. Were the Wehrmacht celebrated? I doubt it. So why the **** should we expect to celebrate today’s moral equivalents?

Right. So that’ll be banging the war drums for the next arms show, which various folks are speculating might be in Iran. And it’s sufficiently out of character[2] with utterings previously reported from Sir Richard as to lead me to suspect he may have been .. ahem .. encouraged to speak on the subject by someone with an Agenda.

[1] Well, that’s how his name always sounds on the wireless, and it appeals to my inner schoolboy.

[2] OK, that’s a very tenuous speculation: I have no knowledge of his character on which to base it.