By the time you read this, we will probably be bombing Syria. The war rhetoric is almost impossible to counter, because it is not based on rational analysis of evidence, or even of recent history. It is significant that if any history is mentioned, we go back to just one date; 1939. We invoke the myth of appeasement and the wisdom of that old war monger, Winston Churchill.
In the face of violence and fear, something must be done. Preferably something that is clean and clinical, with all bloodshed exported and outsourced.
George Monbiot quoted from this study in the Guardian today, which makes some staggering points about just how ill considered our death dealing has become. Of the 11 military adventures the researchers analysed, they found that five had no discernible impacts on subsequent terrorism. Six were followed by more terrorism than there had been before. This means that if our main objective in making ‘war on terror’ is to reduce the risk of terror attacks, then we are fighting a losing battle.
In the wake of the attacks on the twin towers, following a side show attack in Afghanistan (on the basis of some justification, but again very little strategy or awareness of history) the arguments were stacking up for an invasion of Iraq. There was huge effort to convince the public of the reason they should be fearful of the totally fictitious weapons of mass destruction that were pointed at each and every one of us. However there was very little understanding of the likely consequences of military action waged by a hated superpower against those who already saw themselves as being victimised by ‘The great Satan’.
There were other voices of course. At the time they were often dismissed as left wing lunatics or (as Cameron would have it now) ‘Terrorist sympathisers’. Remember this from 1992? (Notice the man sitting over his shoulder on the back row.)
Benn warned before the invasion that it would end in hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths and an increase in terror attacks. No one believed him.
It is always worth remembering that if it were not for the invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent imprisonment of thousands of young militants in prison camps, there would be no ISIS. This article is worth reading as a description of just how important American run prisons were in the formation of the organisation and the motivation of members.
The question is, if these military interventions are not based on thoughtful engagement with fact, or understanding of history, why are so many convinced that they are necessary? What does motivate those who are seeking war? I am not a conspiracy theorist and so I am not prepared to suggest that the desire for war is entirely about control of oil resources, or a secret plot to distract us all from some dastardly political design.
Perhaps some feel that evil has to be confronted directly. If so we are very selective in our confrontations- yesterday’s hero soon becomes the villain of today- think the Mujaheddin of Afghanistan.
Perhaps others want to hit back at the perceived source of violence and fear that assails them- after all, it has become normal to bomb these far off points- NOT to bomb almost seems neglectful of government responsibilities.
There is also a hang over from imperialist thinking that would suggest that Britain has to be in the fight, otherwise we will lose power, status, influence. Almost as if war is a measure of power.
Finally there is the fetishization of weapons and weaponry. How proudly we heard of the uniqueness of our war machines, in particular, our ‘Brimstone’ missiles that range down, god-like, to smite the evil below.
Cameron’s speech in the debate today was described as an ‘impassioned plea’ for air strikes. Corbyn was recorded as saying that Cameron had ‘failed to make the case’. Passion for war makes me shudder. Let us have some more reasoned humanity please…