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.
Politics tends to be quiet, at this time of year. But look between the headlines, and you may well discover that it is all still ‘happening’.
North Korea is making overtures. They say that they will negotiate the removal of their nuclear weapons, in return for talks on lessening sanctions, and a better relationship with the south. That might be a great thing to discover, if the DPRK actually had a viable nuclear weapons option, which they patently do not. Nice bluffing from Kim. Will that bluff be called?
The Brexit negotiations are apparently ‘bogged down’ over arrangements about a hard border, in Northern Ireland. That, and the argument over free trade, after we leave the EU. Anyone but the blind, and hermits, will realise that this is all just ‘Brexit stalling’, arranged by the pro-remain politicians who are laughably in charge of settling our withdrawal from the EU. Despite clarion calls to the contrary, it is looking more and more as if a ‘second referendum’ is likely, urging the British people to vote to stay in the EU, in all but name.
As the old saying goes, “Don’t piss in my face, then tell me it is raining”.
Mr Trump continues to play ‘silly buggers’, over in America. His latest wheeze is to threaten to impose trade tariffs, strangling imports of cars, steel, and other goods from countries outside the influence of the US. I don’t think he is mad, as many others assert that he is, but he is getting increasingly silly, that’s for sure.
People are still dying in Syria, every day. Assad is the leader of that country, like it or not. Most of his opponents are from fundamentalist Muslim groups, the kind of groups we are constantly fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet for some reason, in Syria, they are ‘good groups’, and Assad is the devil. Regime change is a slippery slope, as we have discovered in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries. Best avoided? Not in Syria, apparently.
So, as Mrs May hangs on for dear life to her job, Mr Trump continues to befuddle and confound, Assad seems to be winning in Syria, and Kim finally plays his ace in the DPRK; the EU try to cling on to British membership for fear of a collapse, and the Saudis remain unrestrained in their support of the terrorists, rest assured that everything is still very much ‘going on’.
When you look at news reports of the fighting in Mosul, it is easy to overlook some of the basic facts about this huge city. Until recently, it had a population of almost 1.9 million people, and is the second largest city in Iraq after Baghdad. This makes it almost twice the size of Birmingham, England’s second largest city, and more than three times larger than Boston, in the USA.
Just imagine if those well-known cities were under occupation by a well-organised army of religious fundamentalists, and being attacked by forces from their own country helped by the US or a foreign power, as well as being bombed by British and American aircraft. Think how difficult it would be to deal with the potential for causing civilian casualties, or choosing which of the people you encounter is friend or foe. The maze of streets, the apartment blocks, rooftops, factories, industrial areas, and large airports. A major river, numerous bridges, shopping areas, markets, schools, hospitals, religious buildings, and administrative offices. Every wall or fence a potential hiding place. Every rooftop or balcony a spot for a sniper, and the ability for the enemy to hide in plain sight among crowds of distressed non-combatants.
For almost three years, this city has been a battleground between warring factions; international interventionists, and government troops. If you live in a city, or have ever lived in one, then you can only try to imagine what this must be like, as I do. Even allowing for the large numbers who have fled Mosul, it is estimated that more than 750,000 civilians remain there, possibly 1 million. That is still much larger than the population of Boston, and countless other western cities. By comparison, the largest city close to where I live is Norwich. This is the biggest city in the whole county, and covers a substantial area, including many suburbs, and an international airport. I cannot imagine fighting on the same scale happening there, yet the population is only 133,000.
Another fact overlooked, is that many of the residents remaining in Mosul actually welcomed the forces of Islamic State as liberators. They had previously suffered religious persecution from Iraqi government troops and sectarian militias, and were happy to have the intervention by the fundamentalists. Many joined them willingly, and some still fight alongside them to this day. Of course for many others, living under IS was unacceptable, as they were cruelly treated for many reasons, including religious ones. But as parts of the city are recaptured by the Iraqi army, their foreign allies, the police units, and the ‘Golden Brigade’, many civilians have been arrested, detained without trial as suspected members of IS. Many others now live in fear of reprisals by the army and militia units, as the old enmities between Sunni and Shia Muslims resurface in the ‘liberated’ areas of the city.
Naturally, I am no supporter of Islamic State. This horrible organisation has no place in the modern world. But we need to look behind the news reports, the five-minutes of combat footage, and the talking heads interviews, and to be aware that replacing one form of terror with another might well be what we are helping to achieve. Not only in Iraq, but in Syria too.
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…
As I type this, the UK government has voted to extend the bombing campaign into Syria, supporting the French, Americans, and Russians who are already doing this. The supposed intention is to counter the efforts of IS, and attack their command centres, as well as destroying their infrastructure, and degrading their military capability. We are told that this will result in the citizens of the UK being safe from terrorist attacks, and that the world will be free of the scourge of IS.
Even the staunchest advocates of this escalation know that this is a ridiculous claim. No guerrilla army has ever been defeated by bombing alone. It is also clearly stated that there are over 70,000 ‘friendly fighters’ currently battling with IS in Syria, yet there are only 30,000 ‘volunteers’ in this terrorist army, that is apparently invincible, without the intervention by the air forces of the western allies. Tornado jets will be leaving East Anglia tonight, to make their mark by hitting their first ‘priority’ targets.
Is there anyone left that actually believes this nonsense? The sole objective of all of this is to try to remove President Assad, and replace him with a pro-western alternative. The Russians at least are fairly blatant in their support of Assad, openly admitting that they are attacking other anti-government factions, as well as IS. With Turkey as part of NATO, how long will it be before the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and the PKK fighters on the Syrian border are also targeted, as a sop to the Turks?
Then there is the financial cost of this folly. An RAF aircraft carries bombs and missiles. The bombs cost over £30,000 each, and the missiles almost £72,000. On the TV news earlier, an obscured RAF officer was interviewed talking about destroying JCB diggers, heavy trucks, and bulldozers, as they can be used to build defensive positions by IS. Are they really flying all that way, to drop £200,000 worth of ordnance on a bulldozer? I doubt that. Compare this expenditure with government cuts to the NHS, Old Peoples’ Services, Local Government Councils, and community projects. A few days of extensive bombing could pay for all of these.
Given the fluidity of this war, and the lack of real intelligence on the ground, how can they possibly expect, or even hope, to hit actual IS positions? And how can they claim to be able to destroy them without serious consequences for innocent civilians in those areas? IS will not be defeated by these actions. President Assad may lose his grip on a country further ravaged by war, but the vacuum left behind may leave everyone in a far worse situation. And as for the radicalisation of young men and women in the home countries, and more volunteers willing to travel to Syria to fight for the fundamentalists, that can only be increased by this policy.
Another foreign escapade that will come back to haunt the innocent, undoubtedly.
The tragic crash of the Russian airliner in Egypt, and the awful loss of life, has featured around the world on every TV news bulletin and newspaper headline. Over the past two days, it has become clear that the plane was destroyed by a bomb, probably placed inside the luggage compartment. The motive is obvious. Russia has become involved in the war in Syria, bombing insurgent targets, and if western sources are to be believed, other internal enemies of Assad. Much has been made of lax security at Sharm-el-Sheikh, which is a relatively small airport, used primarily for the tourist trade to and from the Red Sea resort. Claims and counter-claims by different terrorist groups have clouded the issue further, but whoever was responsible, it was undoubtedly easy enough to arrange, and for their purposes, it worked in a spectacular fashion.
At the same time, various allied air forces, army advisers, and domestic combat troops, continued their fight against ISIS in Syria. ‘Precision’ bombing proved to be anything but precise. Children were killed, hospitals destroyed, and parts of the large cities in that country reduced to rubble. The Russians had joined in with this campaign, choosing their own targets, and also claiming success against militant groups. The truth is that we will never really know whether or not any of the actions, by any country concerned, has had any positive effect. Looking at the evidence we can actually confirm, ISIS continues its activities, seemingly untroubled by the bombings, or ground action. Claims to have killed prominent leaders are pointless, as leaders are easily replaced. As well as the cost in lives, the financial costs of this war are staggering. And we can now add the long-term cost of supporting the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the region, hoping to escape the war by settling in the west.
Contrast this with the action involved in destroying the Russian aircraft. A small group, perhaps three or four determined people, using cheap or readily-available explosives. They place them in some baggage, and the plane departs for Russia, happy holidaymakers returning home to the start of a Russian winter. A short time later, the explosion kills 224 people, including the crew, and many small children. For any normal person, that in itself is horrifying enough. But there are other agendas involved, and far wider repercussions. This event was just a tactic, and though a terrible tactic, it was ingenious, though we don’t like to admit it. All the western and Russian efforts over the past weeks have probably killed less insurgents than the number of people who died on that aircraft. It has probably cost billions of dollars, alienated many neutral countries, and brought into question what is going on in Syria. And we can only imagine Russia’s revenge to come.
The bombers in Egypt have achieved more in one morning, than all the resources of the western nations and Russia combined. In attacking the tourist industry in Egypt, they not only sent a message to Russia about their involvement, they also damaged the economy of a country that relies on tourism for most of its wealth. They affected western tour companies, hotel chains, and everything associated with the leisure economy in many countries, not just Egypt. If they succeed in eventually undermining the stability of Egypt, that country might be ripe for inclusion in the tide of Muslim fundamentalism that is sweeping parts of the world. The uncomfortable truth, is that the ‘terrorists’ or ‘freedom fighters’, and whatever other groups are called, or call themselves actually know what they are doing. The countries facing them rely on remotely-operated drones, hugely expensive missiles and aircraft, and supporting local armed forces that have shown themselves to be unwilling or incapable of success against ISIS, and similar organisations.
Years of war, sides changing, friends becoming enemies, untold billions of dollars, and countless lives lost. Technology used to fight an ancient war, and a reluctance to commit the lives of soldiers on the ground. Compare that with a few committed individuals, one bomb in a suitcase, and the subsequent effect.
I think we can conclude who is going to win.
Recent events in Europe have brought the crisis in far-off Syria to the door of Europe, and focused attention on this war like never before. Suddenly, it is not just someone else’s problem. Europe has to deal with it, and they don’t like it.
Many of the countries involved seemed to have conveniently forgotten their own recent histories. When Hungarians fled their country after the 1956 uprising, they were welcomed all over the world. Many went on to live good lives in the countries that took them in, finding respect for their opinions, a voice for their protests, alongside shelter and work too.
When the Balkan wars erupted many years later, humanitarian aid and genuine sympathy and concern provided assistance, shelter, and in some cases, new homes for those displaced or persecuted. Nobody asked about religion, ethnic origins, or whether or not those refugees were considered to be criminals in their countries of origin. They housed them, fed them, and tried to do the best to help them, as is right, in a civilised society.
So what of the current refugees, fleeing wars in Syria and Iraq, or fundamentalism in Afghanistan? They are treated like potential terrorists; fifth columnists, sent to destablise the west. They are fingerprinted, interrogated, and denied access to aid in some cases. They are kept out with razor wire, blasted with water cannons and pepper spray, or herded into overcrowded trains, that then take them somewhere they do not want to go.
Germany has done its best, taking a huge share of the number of people arriving in the EU. But what of other countries in the world? Where are North America, South America, Australia and New Zealand, for example? I hear no outcry to welcome them in these countries; often richer, larger, and better placed to deal with an influx of more people. It is seen as a European problem, and I am at a loss to understand why. I have no doubt, that if these people were Russian, North Korean, Cuban, or Chinese, asking to be given sanctuary from Communism, the doors to these other countries would open wide to them.
Perhaps it is because most of the refugees are Muslims. Maybe it is because they are fleeing war, not Communism. They are just the wrong kind of refugees, through no fault of their own.
OK, I admit from the outset that I am something of a conspiracy theorist. Not about everything you understand, just certain aspects of modern political machinations. ISIS appeared out of nowhere. Had you heard of them, before the excitable news reports? Suddenly, this supposedly unspeakable fundamentalist organisation was conquering northern Iraq, sweeping all before it. They were murdering Muslims and Christians, in fact anyone who did not agree with their stated ideals. But what are their stated ideals? Do any of us really know them, or understand what they are about?
It was plain to see (or was it?) that they were unstoppable. No amount of force from the Iraqi army, or the Peshmerga militia forces, could halt their seemingly irresistible advance, and their capture of much of the country, and possibly, Baghdad. These were a new brand of military fundamentalists, a volunteer army of multinational Jihadists, set on a course of massacre and destruction. Nobody was safe from them. Ancient sects, obscure religious groups, other Muslims, and crucially, Christians, were all to be killed in their thousands, or cast out as refugees.
This gave the West the ‘moral authority’, to intervene with air strikes. We have seen them on TV, but do we really know what they are, and what they are striking? I don’t. Then came the ‘execution’ of the American journalist, supposedly held for two years, in Syria. Remember that, Syria. A brutal, pointless execution, was broadcast on the Internet. Or was it just that? Do we still believe anything we see, in 2014, I wonder? This gave the Americans and their allies even more justification to expand operations. Soon, the British Prime Minister, ‘recalled from holiday’, declared that UK planes would start to assist in attacks on ISIS. He didn’t really say why. I doubt that the execution of an American journalist would usually be sufficient cause.
ISIS was proclaimed to be a rag-tag army of dedicated fundamentalists, with foreign fighters flocking to their cause. Many of these were said to come from the UK, including the killers of the US journalist. There was also the suggestion of both backing and manpower originating in Syria. Remember that. How did ISIS do so well, in such a short time? They captured American equipment in northern Iraq. This was presumably given up with little resistance from the Americans and Iraqis that previously had charge of it. Suddenly, these militiamen from all over the planet, including ordinary young men from southern England (apparently) could operate sophisticated weapons systems. They knew how to drive modern tanks without training, and manage the weapons delivery systems and computerised controls inside them. Ask anyone who has ever joined the tank regiments, in any army. It takes months of intensive training to be able to be proficient in this modern technology. They used missile systems, rockets, and other modern weapons, all of which require substantial training to become familiar with.
But we are expected to believe that these Jihadist fighters took to all this in the matter of a few days. They drove all opposition before them, and even frightened mighty America, with their military prowess. The air strikes have slowed them down, so we are told. We now have to look beyond Iraq, to see where ISIS gets its ‘real support’. Syria, naturally. The Assad regime, unpopular in the west, has been tarnished with this accusation, whilst unable to offer any defence. Next stop, Damascus perhaps, supposedly to eliminate ISIS.
So, what do I think about all this, for what it’s worth? I believe that ISIS is funded and organised by the west. I think that American and British special forces are training and leading this group, as they did with the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan, in the 1980s. Their sole purpose is to blame Syria, to engineer a reason to remove the Assad regime, and destabilise that country, as they have done with so many others. If the execution is real, it was carried out by western soldiers, not simple Jihadists, and the reports of massacres and refugees have been grossly overstated, to rouse public opinion. Time will tell perhaps, but I will be sticking by my contention.
“We are literally backing the same people in Syria that we are fighting in Afghanistan and that have just killed our ambassador in Libya! We must finally abandon the interventionist impulse before it is too late.” – Congressman Ron Paul, September 16, 2012
I read the above quote on another blog. It was in an article by William Blum, link above, that I can recommend as an interesting read. I just felt that this one quote sums up the complete nonsense of American foreign policy, and by default, the foreign policy of all their allies too.
When the Soviet Union was fighting the Taliban in the 1980’s, the West embraced the same religious fanatics we are currently castigating (and bombing). Arms were supplied, advisors sent off to assist, and their leaders, including Osama Bin Laden, and Abu Hamza al-Masri, were hailed as heroic freedom fighters. Thirty years later, and those Western allies are dumping the body of one in the ocean, (supposedly) and extraditing the other to face trial in the USA. During the Iran/Iraq war, spread over eight years during the same 1980’s, we were in no doubt who the West wanted to win. Iraq was hailed as the sensible aggressor, and their army would save the region from the excesses of the Ayatollahs, and fundamentalist Muslim fanatics. It is fair to say, that whilst no side actually won, the West was pleased that the Iraqis were not defeated, and that Iran had lost the flower of its manhood, in an relatively pointless conflict.
By 1990, the same country that we had supported for so long, including the supply of most of the weapons we later accused them of concealing, had become a sworn enemy, and the First Gulf War was the outcome. By 2003, the Iraqis had still not learned their lesson, and a laughable implication of their supposed role in the 9/11 attacks, ended with the destruction of the regime, and much of the country along with it. Not long after, those same Western allies invaded Afghanistan, ostensibly to help the legitimate government get rid of the Taliban, and to introduce freedoms for women, and non-fundamentalist Muslims there. Strangely enough, this was almost exactly the same reason the Soviets had given for their intervention, twenty years earlier.
Saudi Arabia, long held to be a friend of the West, is now beginning to be criticised. They are suspected of harbouring terrorists, and not doing enough to bring peace to the region. Their laws are too strict for ‘our’ taste, and they are controlling a cartel of price-fixing OPEC countries, making us pay too much for our oil. Iran is close to achieving the manufacture of a nuclear weapon, we are told. They are not friends of the West, and do not allow the necessary freedoms in their country. They also charge too much for their oil, and also choose who to sell it to. This huge country, with a population of 80,000,000, is written off by the West, with no regard to its former power and influence, as the once mighty Persian Empire. It is treated like a naughty schoolboy in the classroom that is the world, simply because it refuses to play the game with the Western Powers. Crippled by sanctions, reviled, and misrepresented, is it any wonder that it has become isolationist, suspicious, and unfriendly?
Being a former friend of America, Britain, and France, has become decidedly dangerous. Those countries that have never sought, or been granted this boon, are succeeding where others have failed. Cuba, China, North Korea, to name but a few, have escaped invasion by foreign powers, (at least in modern times) and in many cases are courted as business opportunities, or at the very least, tolerated, even ridiculed; but not bombed. The outcome of being a friend, enlisting support, and often taking power as a result, is plain to see. Give it a few years, and America, and their allies, will be back to take it all away again. Countries like Syria, Libya, and Somalia, would be wise to look at these examples, and change direction accordingly.