Saturday, 23 July 2016

The price of prejudice: The holistic nature of hate.

I shall arrange my footing: the following is not in the name of justification; I am not making excuses for the actions of terrorists. Nor is it religious apology. I am not a supporter of the Abrahamic faiths, any of them. I don't like the legacy of homophobia and misogyny that spills from the old testament, I don't believe in flying horses, bisected moons or unicorns. Searching for, or providing, reasons for actions is not the same as excusing them.

Fundamentalism is a problem, and is frequently referred to as the soul cause of grotesque behaviour: look at the word for a moment. It means, when applied to Christians, Jews, Muslims or any of the multitude of faiths, that they follow the fundamental elements of the religion. Moderates skim over elements of the religion that have been disproved and are now unacceptable due to being ridiculous, cruel or both. Fundamentalism, from which ever faith, is merely a sprouting twig from the main stem of its host religion.

Abrahamic faith has been in a major influence upon the western world in one form or another for well over millennium. If it could sweepingly lift up an arm, gesturing at the years gone by, to proudly announce: "Look at the peace it has brought" then I might be more open to persuasion than I am of of it being of some intrinsic benefit. However, fundamentalism, indeed religion, however frequently at fault, is not the root nor solitary cause of contemporary terrorist attacks.

The attacks in Europe have been portrayed in a false manner, everyone knows that history is written by the victors, but contemporary information is also biased in a myriad of differing ways. From the portrayal of the same information, carefully selected information and completely invented information; actual facts belong in neither the left nor right wing category, in fact neither do most people. Despite what we are led to believe people are intelligent and are aware that black and white answers are over simplified.

Using the fox news report from July 15th to comment on the Nice massacre is an example, the headline ran: "This is war. It is aimed at the west. And we must fight back." It portrays the west as just sitting, having picnics and skipping through the surf, when all of a sudden there was an attack on our way of life out of nowhere: It is monumentally naive to think that this was the case.

In every conflict propaganda is key to the argument and the stance of the populace; in conflicts in which it was not controlled In Vietnam, for example, the peoples opinion quickly turned against the conflict and consequently the state. No western country has made the same mistake since. Journalists have been carefully guided and controlled during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and politicians that stood against the conflict were derided before it started despite a strong public opinion that shared the same view.

Baghdad. 2002
It is easy to formulate propaganda against terrorists, in the digital age it is one of their tools and we help them with this without pause. However it is also easy to provide propaganda against the west and we also help to provide it: Barack Obama is the fourth consecutive president to order the bombing of Iraq. The same country, with allied assistance, has bombed 12 Muslim majority countries since 1980. (I am not including Kosovo and Kuwait in this list as the circumstances of those incidents are more complex.) I am not putting this information forward to say that the west deserves these terrorist attacks, just to make it clear if a newspaper from a differing nation to Fox news wrote: "This is a war. it is a war on Islam. We must fight back." they would have a good supply of data to back up that argument.

When it comes to the killing of innocents it simply isn't religious fundamentalists that have achieved the big numbers. Admittedly the two leaders most fervent in regard to their faiths: Bush Junior and Tony Blair, were responsible for the unprovoked wars that led to the destabilization of the countries which are now the key source of the problem. I am not putting this forward to compare "good" and "bad": I am putting them together as these actions are a direct cause for the state of affairs that exists today.

In 2007 the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, warned of repercussions due to the high level of civilian deaths caused by allied operations. The key question is: why wouldn't there be any? As in Iraq: if you are the cause of 100,000 deaths and are unable, or in fact, unwilling to provide a valid explanation for these actions what consequence would you expect? After the attacks on a Paris nightclub Britain was very quick to bomb Syria in what seemed more like random retaliation than strategy. When someone attacks your home country, not mentioning your country has attacked others, or pretending that the two events are unconnected, is either imbecilic or deliberate misdirection.

The bombing of Baghdad was incredible: it was a capital city with a population of over five million people; there was no way that were going to be no, or even a low, amount of civilian casualties. Do the people of Iraq know that we did if for no valid reason other than the privatization of the countries resources? Even the censorship of western papers couldn't keep the horror of what we had done down to a minimum. We know how we view the perpetrators of bombings in London and Paris and other peoples view of the people that bombed their cities isn't any different. I know the victims of the bombings in the west were innocent; the victims of our western bombs were innocent too.

2000.000 People in London march for peace. 2003.
Do the people of Afghanistan know that we chased an individual pointlessly through their country for a decade before finding him in a different one and labeling the operation a success? Despite the fact that British and American troops are still there today and the country is in ruins. We took away their schools, their hospitals, their friends and their relations. Imagine it was your country, imagine you were eight years old ten years ago. These children from 2003, they haven't met you or I, they have never seen a kind or gentle westerner. They have only seen Englishmen high above dropping bombs or driving by in armored vehicles with weapons pointed, at them and at their loved ones. Many have seen death first hand, our country has made it unlikely that they wouldn't have done.

We had a war on drugs and the drug problem increased exponentially; was anyone optimistic about the war on terror from the start? Terror is not an enemy it is a strategy. We certainly encouraged it among the french and other occupied countries during world war two and the Germans definitely called it terrorism.

Baghdad. 2003.
There are other elements: The refugee crisis not least among them. The idea that we can "solve" the largest displacement of human beings since world war two by closing the borders of the UK is a nonsense that cannot be upheld with any level of in-depth consideration.

Since this this war on a concept began more than a million people have died in Iraq alone, more than a million. This does not include those among the three million displaced by the conflict who faced unimaginable hardship and died as a result of that. More than two hundred thousand innocent people have been killed in Afghanistan  since the invasion began. These people, like those in Europe, had nothing to do with the war on terror, or 911, and were in no way a threat to our freedom or philosophy. The people that survived a bombing in one country are just as angry as the ones that survived in another.

Volunteers bring hope to the displaced of the refugee camps.
We have created a generation of millennials, very different to the ones from Chiswick and Croydon, and they are misinformed, understandably angry and above all traumatized, traumatized by experiences that we, as western adults would be immediately given therapy to recover from if we experienced. This, if anything, is a conflict born of greed and malice.

It can be simplified: The innocents of the west are being killed because the innocents of the east were killed, and the people that caused it are rich.

The numbers still roll in, over one hundred innocent people killed by allied bombing in Syria in a week. There will be survivors, there will be children among them. Will there be people in ten years time wondering what the cause of radicalization might be? As Leaders today declare terrorism a "sickness" without voicing the consideration that the events in the Middle East are remotely connected to the horrific events that are now taking place in Europe.

I have met some of the children of this war: mute, wide eyed and rocking. Flinching at sudden movements and noises, the bombs that fell around them still loud in their heads. I promise, without kindness now there will be anger later on.

I am not suggesting for a moment that contemporary violence can be stopped by kindness, that is as naive as thinking that terrorist acts are based on faith alone. Future acts of violence are a very different matter, as can be seen by the obvious, yet ignored, cause of our present suffering.

We must feed the refugees that we have caused. We must stop the killing and save the children lost in the horror we have created. Otherwise we condemn future generations to the same anger and retribution that we face today. Not only to save ourselves, but because what the western countries have done is a crime against humanity.

I don't believe in flying horses, bisected moons or unicorns. But I do believe in the holistic effects of a negative long term foreign policy and I do believe in people. In the same way that there is no dark, only an absence of light: there is no such thing as evil, only an absence of kindness.

In the arsenal of war kindness is not regarded as key, but in this surreal war of our own making, unless you wish the next decade to look as horrific and disappointing as the one that you are in, it is the only weapon we can wield that can strike the only enemy there is. And we have it. We have it in abundance.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

If the Somme could sigh: Chilcot and the repetition of history.

The hundredth anniversary of the battle of the Somme still provokes a strong emotive response from the British public, this includes myself. The sadness and the futility echo with us, the knowledge that streets of wives, mothers and children all lost their husbands, sons and fathers in a single day.

We know now that the young men who walked across the fields did not do so for their own freedom: It was for the empire of others. Most men were short from bad diet, the German soldiors had the vote where their English counterparts, predominantly, did not. They had left tedious or dangerous work and, once they had joined up, reported having the best food they could remember eating. There was no threat to Britain, and most had no freedom to speak of to defend if there had of been.

This year the anniversary fell awfully close to the release of the Chilcot report: a review of a contemporary conflict that begs reflection on our progress. A century since the whistles blew in flanders, what was our modern motivation and was it any less questionable than that of the past?

It was not the first time the English had fought on the Somme: Agincourt still raises pariotic rhetoric through the medium of Shakespeare, and Waterloo, which ended a long and bitter war against the french. It can't be denied that both of these were empirical battles. Nor was 2003 the first time British boots went to Iraq, far from it.

Iraq itself was formed by the British, lumped together from three Ottoman provinces once oil was discovered in Mosad. The already disgruntled populace, denied the freedom and independence it was promised for fighting with the British in WW1, was placed under direct British control. What were now Iraqis, although quite probably not to themselves, saw this as an invasion. In 1920 they revolted and were brutally reminded who ran the country. Gas was used on the insurgents of the day.

In 1941 it appeared as thought the British were busy; allies against the British were also, apparently, in abundance. None the less the support from the Germans was minimal and another rebellion was quickly quashed by British soldiors, all of whom were experienced and battle hardened. Iraq had been independent since 1932, but this was in name only and no real changes took place for the populace. It is important to remember why this took place: if the oil had not been there then neither would the British. 

In 1914 German soldiors were not slaughtering babies on Church doorsteps, in 1990 Iraqs troops were not massacring babies in Kuwait hospitals nonetheless, on both occasions, this is what the allied countries were informed. Nayirah, the daughter of the Kuwait ambassador pretended she wasn't and said she had witnessed these atrocities take place. It is safe to assume the enthusiastic allied leaders knew this, but the enemies of empire killing babies is a historically tried and tested method of encouraging the unwilling to fight. The testimony of the girl received massive exposure at the time: rather notably and for obvious reasons it rarely gets a mention now. In the context of false reasons of fighting iraq it does seem awfully relevant, even if it was an earlier war it proves how happy those that desire war are willing to lie to achieve it.

We continued to bomb and threaten Iraq between 1991 and 2003, occasionally firing tomahawk missiles to enforce the dubious peace and no fly zone created at the culmination of desert storm. This was just a Conflict of air defense systems but it was still very noticeable to the Iraqis, if not to the western media.

The Chilcot enquiry is supossed to explain why we started the 5th Anglo Iraq war: once again the reasons were false. Atrocities were used as propaganda once more: the genocide of the Kurdish population was frequently referenced. Although the allies were clearly not overly influenced by it: firstly it took place in the eighties, when Saddam Hussain was regarded as an ally and we didn't seem to mind at the time. Secondly the chemical weapons used were of western manufacture and sold to Iraq to be used against Iran,  which they were. This one of the reasons Iran is deeply suspicious of the west to this day. We know the other reasons, we know they weren't true.

What we know of both wars, in 1914 and in 2003: a great deal of money was made and both were the direct cause of future conflicts. The profiteering of WW1 gets less of a mention than a lot of its other aspects, because it still relevant. companies such as vicars and citroen, among others, were caught up  in a perpetual arms race. The french were very aware of this as their revolt of 1917 suggests, the revolt was supported by the song adieu la vie (goodbye to life). The topic of the song is that the rich men at home should do the fighting as it was they that want war.  A german soldior wrote the words: "we have to fight only for the purse of others, anything else they keep telling us is rubbish." It was observed, cynically but accurately by soldiors on all sides, that the war could not continue without the support of the newspapers. All sides were reassured by celebrities and politicians that God was on their side.

Britain and America are still huge arms dealers, but that is just one aspect of the industry: Haliburton made at least 1.7 billion from building prisoner of war camps and army bases. (Remember Dick Cheney was the vice president of this company at one point). Before Iraq was "freed" the oil was nationalised and closed to outside interests, now ExxonMobil, shell and BP all operate there. America troops were told on more than two separate occasions, but in this case, once by Woodrow Wilson and once by George Bush that they were going to "make the world safe for democracy". On no occasion has it been the truth: As observed, Germany at this point had a much more equal democracy than Britain.

The war to end all wars was the direct cause of its sequal: The loss of land, the collapse of the German economy and destruction of its infrastructure, this led to the hyperinflation of the weirmar and a political void. French general Ferdinand Foch said of the treaty of versaille: "This is not peace, but a twenty year armistice." The destruction of iraqs infrastructure and the political void that was left is the exact reason we are fighting the 5th Anglo Iraq war against Isis. Nothing breeds a dictatorship like desperation and nothing breeds radicalisation like decades of bombing and poverty.

There is no need to draw unnecessary comparisons or conclusions: we have a long history of going to war for reasons other than those that we are told, the actual reasons are often the same for differing wars. As another example we know for a fact that the bay of Tonkin incident that started the vietnam war was a lie: I don't want to list examples of this from the past, I would like an example suggesting it has stopped.

Before the battle of the Somme Field marshal sir Douglas Haig stated at the start of a speech "The nation must be taught to bear losses." It did learn, and after half a million iraqi civilians died, I assume they learned too. But we didn't need to learn, why should we have to? The lies made the world unstable, both at the beginning of the 20th century and the start of the 21st. Ruining the lives of millions of people globally on both occasions.

Harry patch, the oldest surviving veteran of the Somme said: "I felt then as I feel now, the politicians that took us to war should be given the guns and told to settle the difference themselves, instead of organising mass murder." For me at least, this applies to contemporary conflicts.

The emporers may have changed their clothes a little, but many of the lies remain the same. Whenever we are informed there is an enemy we should look closely at the person saying it, just to make sure it isn't them. Through education, spotting deceit through our knowledge of history, through kindness and forgiveness, may we find the peace for our children that we have failed to find for ourselves.
The ambassadors daughter.