The BBC has just reported the arrival of a British warship in Ukraine. A government defence minister has been shown driving a Ukrainian navy patrol boat, and speaking to relatives of the sailors recently detained by the Russian navy. He has said that the presence of our warship is to send a ‘message’ to the Russian government, and to show British support for the Ukrainian position in this dispute. My response is simple. Why?
The turbulent history of this now-sovereign nation is the subject of record. Part of Russia until the 1917 revolution, they attempted to create an independent country outside of the control of the Soviet Union, and failed. It was broken up, with parts under the control of Poland, The Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. After the German invasion in WW2, many Ukrainians welcomed the occupying Nazis. They fought alongside them, acted as guards in concentration camps, and carried out recorded massacres of civilians, including the deaths of 100,000 Poles in Volhynia. Following the defeat of the Germans, some supporters remained active as ‘partisans’ until as late as 1950.
Eventually, Ukraine was granted the right to be a self-governing part of the Soviet Union, retaining its language, and becoming represented in the United nations. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine sought complete independence, which it achieved in 1991. Since 2000, politics in that country have become more focused on being part of Europe, and also featured a right-wing bias, with some people openly supporting and espousing ‘Nazi-style’ ideas and policies. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, supposedly due to the overwhelming support of the people in that region. This created an international incident that continues to this day, with both sides at loggerheads over historical claims to Crimea. There has been open warfare in the Donbass region, and ongoing incidents between the two countries, with the most recent being the seizure of two Ukrainian navy vessels by the Russians.
This is all very involved, and no doubt tragic for those involved. But it is not our business. It is not up to us to support a country with a dubious government, and a recent history of supporting Extreme Right ideals. No more is it our business to issue warnings or ‘messages’ to Russia, especially when we are in no position to ever back up those feeble threats. There was a time when the appearance of a British Gunboat on a foreign shore would signal an intent. That intent, rightly or wrongly, would have been backed up by the biggest navy in the world at the time, and a huge colonial war machine that was feared by every nation on Earth. But that time has gone, and has not existed since the 1950s. And if such things have to be used at all, there are many other places where it might have more effect, or be of more use. This cynical support of Ukraine is packed with ulterior motives, none of which are remotely to do with any real concern over the fate of some sailors, or the future of Crimea.
It is high time that Britain realised that the sun has long set on our former Empire. We have enough problems to deal with at home, instead of sabre-rattling to show support of a country that may not even deserve it. As a country, we need to get over ourselves, and face facts. It isn’t 1910 anymore, and someone in the Ministry of Defence needs to check the date on a calendar.
After another apparent ‘chemical attack’ by the Syrian government, it might seem that the world is on the brink of the worst international crisis since the Cuban missile affair in 1962. The US President is threatening to use cruise missiles to attack Syrian military bases, and the British Prime Minister has also expressed a desire for this country to tag along on the American coat-tails. Despite claiming to have ‘proof’ that chemicals were used against civilians in Syria, the French President is adopting a ‘wait and see’ stance on whether or not France will also join in.
Meanwhile, the Russians, currently allied with President Assad in Syria, have stated that they will intercept any missiles fired at Syrian bases by the US, UK, or France. In response, Mr Trump has been bullish in the extreme, telling the Russians and Syrians that they can expect to be attacked very soon.
As far as the UK is concerned, our Prime Minister has decided that the people do not need to be consulted about military intervention that could lead to direct conflict with Russia. She is having a series of meetings with colleagues, to explain the reasons why she feels it necessary to embark on what is basically an undeclared war.
Those of us blessed with a reasonable memory will recall Tony Blair telling us that we had to attack Iraq, because they had chemical weapons that had been used against civilians, as well as the much-quoted ‘weapons of mass destruction’ that were never actually found there.
I think it is time to ask some hard questions.
Do we actually want the Syrian rebels to win?
Will the world be a safer or better place if Assad is removed?
Will any intervention not just stir up the hornet’s nest of anti-western feeling that already exists almost everywhere?
Is NATO actually capable of defeating Russia in a conventional conflict, albeit one fought by proxy in another country?
My own answers to these are No, No, Yes, and No.
Syria is a sovereign country, engaged in a civil war against various groups, including some of the same Muslim fundamentalist organisations that we have supposedly tried so hard to eradicate elsewhere. Their war is not our business, other than for the fact that western leaders would like to see Assad removed from power. If they succeed in doing this, the chances are that they will be back fighting whoever takes over from him, as they will surely be no friend of NATO and its allies.
So what is the point of this escalation, something that might drag us into a global conflict? As always, follow the money. More arms, more money for arms companies, more money for the companies that supply the logistical needs of armies, and more money for the companies that supposedly ‘re-build’ after the conflict has stopped. Add to that some school playground-style chest-thumping from inexperienced ‘world leaders’, and we are in danger of seeing a powder keg ignited, becoming a war that will surely not stop at the Syrian border.
Senseless, in my opinion.
Tony Blair was arguably the worst thing that happened to the Labour Party in Britain. Admittedly, we had Neil Kinnock and Michel Foot, and they were never going to win anything. But victory at any cost has never been something I supported, and the arrival of the smarmy Blair in 1997 was the kiss of death to moderate left-wing politics in this country.
Little more than a closet Tory, sucking up to the Royal Family and America, he even changed the whole idea of the party, going so far as to change the name to New Labour, whilst disassociating himself from the trade unions and working classes who created and supported it. At the earliest opportunity, he plunged the country into pointless and deceitful wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, so that he could have ‘his war’, just as Thatcher had The Falklands.
Facing criticism and possible investigation, he resigned as Prime Minister and as a Labour M.P. in 2007. That should have been the end of him as a political figure. But no. He was immediately appointed as Special Envoy to the Middle East (Who by? I don’t know either) on a huge salary, and began the usual round of incredibly profitable public speaking, and selling his memoirs. This a man shamed for lying to his own government, and the British Public, to take them into a war he knew to be based on falsehoods and big business corruption.
He now runs this outfit, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. Supposedly a non-profit organisation (whenever I see non-profit, I always know there’s a lot of profit there somewhere) that was funded to the tune of almost $10 million. I have no idea who put up this money, but I have my suspicions. The first thing that Blair did with this new institute was to become active in the Remain campaign, urging people to vote to stay in the EU. He was interviewed as if he was some kind of revered expert, and allowed to offer his opinions unchallenged. Once the vote went against his ideas, he returned to agitate for a second referendum, and keeps popping up with his ‘I told you so’ soundbites and comments.
Then yesterday, he appeared again, this time pontificating on the nerve agent issue in Salisbury. Warning us about Russia, Putin, and a new Cold War, as if he was the only one to be counted on to have drawn the right conclusions. This man has personal wealth in excess of £60 million. He is completely out of touch with any ordinary person in Great Britain, and owns no less than ten houses and some 25 apartments around the world. And his family is just one wife, and three children, so they have plenty of space to spread out in. And in case you think this is a personal attack, here is part of a newspaper report, from The Guardian.
“How much money will it take to make Tony Blair happy? Given the opportunity, most people would surely rest after a decade of running the country. Blair, on the contrary, appears to have spent every waking hour focused on amassing as much wealth as possible, seemingly intent on increasing his worth to match that of a small country. It should come as no surprise that the Blairs have thrown themselves into the property market, since no dollar is too dirty for them. Blair did, after all, give paid public relations advice to a Kazakh dictator after the police shot 15 protestors dead.
Tony and Cherie Blair’s property empire worth estimated £27m
So of course the Blairs have jumped on the property gravy train, snapping up more than two dozen flats in Manchester through a company Cherie and one of their sons, Euan, own; passing on properties from Cherie to her children as gifts, thus avoiding stamp duty, and ultimately amassing £27m worth of property, much of which is let out and has all already risen in value.”
This was a man who supposedly represented the working classes of this country and was the head of the only socialist party left in Britain. A man with no shame. A profiteer. A man who used his position and influence for personal gain, and family fortune. Why is anybody interested in what he says?
He needs to go away. he really does.
I have been patiently waiting for more details to emerge about the nerve agent attack in Salisbury that left two Russian nationals and an English policeman seriously ill in hospital. In a country with more CCTV surveillance than almost anywhere else on Earth, no doubt footage would emerge of suspects, and the security services would be able to name those concerned. The authorities would then tell us how the attack was engineered, and how it happened to be carried out in broad daylight, in a chain restaurant situated in the heart of a small English city.
I have seen countless news reports of specialists in protective clothing removing cars, and erecting covers around the still closed restaurant. Police tape closed off some public spaces nearby, (that tape presumably effective against unknown nerve agents) and various uniformed figures appeared on TV to issue grim statements about the despicable nature of the attack. But still no real information has been disclosed, and the great British public are none the wiser. The target has been identified as a former spy, and possible double agent for Russia. His daughter was with him at the time, and seems to have been ‘collateral damage’. So too the policeman called to investigate in the first instance. The local hospital where the victims were taken was closed for a while, but otherwise, life in Salisbury continued as normal.
There are around 50,000 people resident in that ancient city, yet only three are reported to have been affected by the release of a ‘deadly’ nerve agent. None of the staff in the restaurant were harmed, nor were any of the other customers eating in there at the time. Despite closing the hospital, sealing up the restaurant, and removing cars and ambulances, no further cases of contamination have been reported. Instead, the government and news media here have been quick to accuse the Russians of ordering and carrying out the attack, using a nerve agent that only they have access to. Our bumbling Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, went so far as to accuse Vladimir Putin directly, and compared Russia to Nazi Germany too.
So much for international diplomacy, and waiting for evidence.
Even before the international ‘experts’ arrived to test the substance, Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats, amid a torrent of accusations and unfounded charges, all based on assumption and rumour.
So what if we say it probably was Russia? The targets definitely appear to be Russians, living openly in the UK, despite their background in spying. Not many countries have access to biological warfare weapons, so Russia has to be high on the list of ‘possibles’. And Russia has been accused of colluding to influence the US Elections, supported the Assad regime in Syria, and is also reasonably friendly with Iran. It is the ‘go-to’ bad guy for almost anything that happens these days, at least since North Korea started to ‘play nice’.
But I think something is very wrong with all this.
Not far from Salisbury, just 6 kilometres in fact, is one of the largest and most sophisticated chemical and biological warfare installations in the world. Porton Down was built in 1917, and became the UK Armed Forces’ primary facility for the development of gas warfare, chemical warfare, and biological warfare too. The scientists there are world leaders in the field, and have worked alongside other countries to develop and supply all manner of toxic substances for use in modern warfare.
The ‘former’ Russian spy was eating not far from this place, and presumably either lived in the area, or was visiting from somewhere else.
This happened just before the recent Russian elections.
Very little information has been forthcoming, and some questions will never be answered, in ‘The Interests Of National Security.’ That again.
I prefer proof to coincidences and unfounded allegations. That’s what got us into a war with Iraq, and led to wars in other countries too. Can it be possible that this whole thing was constructed to discredit Russia just before the elections, and their hosting of the Football World Cup? To add more fuel to the American allegations, and inspire the international community to put pressure on Putin?
Anything’s possible. But they should all remember one important fact.
Russia is not Iraq.
Ever since I can remember, the world has lived in fear of one side or another using nuclear weapons. At school in the 1950s, we had air-raid drills; hiding under desks, facing away from the windows. As if that would have made any difference, if a nuclear bomb had actually struck central London, some two miles from where I was concealed under my old desk, in a school built during the Victorian era. We had seen the result of the American attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and these new bombs were many times more powerful.
At the time, there were few countries capable of using such weapons. The Soviet Union was the presumed enemy during the Cold War, and Britain had been given the means to retaliate too, by America. The French had also tested atomic bombs in the Pacific, so it was safe to assume that only four countries had these bombs in their possession. We are now in 2018, and that list of countries has not grown significantly. As well as Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel are all known to have the potential to launch nuclear weapons. And if you believe the propaganda by both sides, (I don’t) North Korea may well have a viable delivery system too.
Then there is the issue of ‘sharing’. That sounds very cosy, given what is being shared. The USA has ‘shared’ the option to launch nuclear weapons with Turkey, Belgium, Holland, Italy, and Germany. This basically consists of the USA siting weapons in those countries, then deciding whether or not to fire them. There are also countries that once had nuclear weapons, but apparently no longer have any; South Africa, Canada, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. One thing we can be sure of, there are a lot of nuclear bombs and missiles out there.
By using published figures, there are 14,900 nuclear missiles and bombs stored around the world. That’s more than enough to wipe out the human race, many times over. Probably enough to not only eradicate all life on Earth, but also to destroy the very fabric of the planet. When we read about the nuclear threat, it is generally in terms of a supposedly limited conflict. The US has hinted that it will use them against the DPRK, should their leader fire rockets at US bases, South Korea, or Japan. But the DPRK has a border with China, so involving the Chinese could not be avoided. India and Pakistan square up against each other all the time, and have been in conflict since 1947. But both sides know that using nuclear weapons would also be self-destructive, so have never launched any. For Israel to use them against their near-neighbours would also result in disaster for their own country, so they are almost certainly not going to launch any.
For almost sixty years, I have lived in the shadow of this Nuclear Threat. The Cold War, The Cuban Missile Crisis, and many other supposed ‘near misses’ over the decades. I have finally decided that nobody will use them. It doesn’t make economic sense, and money rules the world. I stopped living in fear of the Nuclear Threat, and concluded that it is just that. A threat.
The TV news continues to report distressing scenes from Aleppo. Civilian deaths, destruction, and more involvement from the allies of the Assad regime, with ships and aircraft arriving in greater numbers. The attacks are condemned by western governments, and all the media too. Aid is not getting through, children are being killed in the bombing, and despite being warned of the attacks, civilians are not leaving the beleaguered city.
As the Syrian government builds up forces on the outskirts, and bombs and artillery shells continue to rain down on the city, the ‘rebel fighters’ within seem to be more determined than ever to retain control of the country’s second largest city. Although there has been an outflow of refugees, it is estimated that more than 300,000 remain, clinging on to what is left of their ruined homes.
We are left in no doubt who is to blame. The Assad government, cruel and ruthless. The Russian allies, happy to help prop up an unpopular and failing regime, despite condemnation from so many other countries. Putin flexing the muscles of his country, completely disregarding world opinion. Assad determined to eradicate all opposition, whatever the cost. It says so on the TV news, and in the daily newspapers, the statements of US leaders, UK leaders, and almost every leader in the so-called ‘free world’. So that must be the case.
So why am I confused?
This is the same media, and some of the same leaders, who told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. They told us that Saddam was evil, Qaddafi was evil, and most of the other governments in that region, Iran included, were evil too. They told us that the Taliban was evil, perhaps correctly, and that ISIS was evil, again perhaps correctly, at least from the viewpoint of what society considers to be acceptable outside of those regions. Before that, they told us that Al-Qaeda was evil, and hunted down its leader, Osama Bin Laden. The new president-elect of the USA has stated many times that he is in favour of hunting down all Muslim fundamentalist fighters, wherever they may be.
Well, I have some news for him. many of them are in Aleppo, resisting the lawful (like it or not) government of Syria for the last four years. Let’s take some time to examine just who these ‘rebel’ fighters there really represent. There are many, so I will list them for clarity.
The Al-Tawhid Brigade. (Backed by foreign countries, including Qatar)
The Muslim Brotherhood. (In favour of Sharia Law. Sound familiar?)
Shams-al-Shamal. The Northern Sun battalion. (Formed by army officers opposed to Assad)
The Free Syrian Army. (A mixed bag of jihadists and former soldiers)
Foreign volunteers. (Muslim radicals from Chechnya, Libya, Yemen, France, the UK, and other countries. Some of these have since returned to the west, and have been responsible for attacks against civilians in European countries. Many are now on most-wanted lists in many parts of the world)
Kurdish nationalist militia. (These men are fighting for independence from Syria, and have joined the fundamentalists in the hope of achieving this)
Al-Qaeda. (Yes, them again, currently mounting the fiercest opposition inside the city)
Some other smaller groups are allied with these, and their main agenda is the formation of a fundamentalist Muslim state in Syria. Their eventual aims are remarkably similar to those of ISIS, currently considered to be the natural enemy of the western way of life.
Is it any wonder that I am confused? An estimated force of 10,000 of these assorted Muslim extremists are currently holding the second largest city in a foreign country, yet their fate is somehow supposed to be not only the responsibility of the western powers, but by some twisted reasoning, they have become to be seen as our allies too. And all because we are not supposed to like Assad.
And because the Russians are helping him, let’s not forget that.
We should revisit the lessons of Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and many other countries. Destabilising regimes may seem attractive on the surface, but the outcome of such interference has been plain to see in the past. Extremists posing as refugees, seeking asylum in countries where they then carry out atrocities, and help to radicalise young men and women. Foreign nations left in a continuing state of civil war and sectarian violence after the loss of stability. Most have become more extreme in their attitudes to organised religion, and vociferous in their hatred of those western countries who once helped to organise their resistance.
So before you sign the petitions against Assad, calling for him to be tried as a war criminal. And before you add your voice to the growing clamour against Putin’s Russia, take some time to look at who you will be supporting instead.
Learn some harsh lessons from history, and be careful what you wish for…
Maybe it’s the change in seasons, and the arrival of colder weather, but don’t you feel that it has all gone a little quiet of late? I refer of course to the predicted end of life as we know it. The war in Syria was supposed to herald a crisis of immense proportions. Assad had to be removed, Isis were going to sweep away western values and take over the world, and the Russian involvement in Syria was almost certainly going to provoke a nuclear war. The tense standoff between Russia and Ukraine must surely end up involving NATO troops on the ground somewhere, everyone was sure of that too.
Then there was the influx of Syrian refugees. They would change the face of Europe as we know it, radicalise the youth in the countries where they settled, and undermine the very fabric of Christian society, changing all the churches into mosques within a generation. It was alleged that most of them were simply fifth columnists, ready to rise up against the nations that had given them shelter, bringing jihad to the centre of Europe. And even if none of this happened, western economies would collapse under the weight of supporting this ‘human tide.’
In the UK, Corbyn’s election as Labour leader would destroy the constitutional monarchy, restore nationalisation of all industry, and plunge this country into a spiral of debt from which it would never recover. He alone would return us to the bad old days of the 1970s, and his closeted Marxist agenda would leave us defenceless and vulnerable, with no more influence than Switzerland or Lichtenstein. Scotland would cecede from the union, and Britain would cease to be a United Kingdom.
Nothing happened of course. The media and politicians did their best to stir everyone up into a state of terror, fearing for the future of their children. (And their investments too, of course) The Syrian refugees continue to make their long trek to a better life in the west, but somehow it hasn’t been as bad as we were told. No need to order your copy of the Koran just yet then. Life carries on all over Europe, just as it had before all this happened. The British Prime Minister even tells us that our economy is improving, not collapsing as we were assured that it would. The Russians are still propping up Assad, but we seem to have stopped rattling our sabres for now, and put them back into the sabre cupboard. Isis fighters haven’t managed to get any further than they had when they were stopped, and the prospect of a nuclear war has returned to its normal state of mutually assured destruction.
Russia and Ukraine may have cancelled domestic flights, but behind the scenes they are brokering a deal about The Crimea. Putin stood up to all the threats and rode out the hysteria. He proved that he wasn’t a man to be messed with, so the west stopped trying to mess with him. The press even started to write about things that might actually be true. Such as Isis is supported by the CIA, and funded by the Saudi government, (read Royal Family) just as Bin Laden was. The question is now finally being asked, ‘Who is the real enemy here?’
And as for Britain, they forgot one important point. Corbyn is not in power, and is unlikely to ever be. His radical policies are so much hot air; and even if Labour won the election in five years time, they would never get through the process to become official policies anyway. And he is not a Marxist, far from it. He is a vegetarian Liberal with some Socialist ideas that are unlikely to ever see the light of day. And I say this as one of his supporters…The Scots might vote for independence when they next get the chance. Then again, they probably won’t. The Union is secure as it has ever been, whether we like it or not. The proposed referendum on leaving the EU is going to be watered down to a vague ‘agreement,’ and by the time the vote happens, if it ever does, everyone will be so terrified of leaving, the country will surely vote to stay in.
So you can book your holiday for 2016, cancel the Hijab to add to your daughter’s school uniform, and stop worrying about your teenage son being called up to fight in some foreign land. Feel free to order the 50-inch curved screen TV you lust after, and get it delivered in time for Christmas. With any luck, the iphone 7 will be out soon, and there will be some good new programmes on Netflix too.