War, what is it good for?

WAR

1st December

 

I am writing this on the eve of the parliamentary vote that if ‘AYE’ will commit Britain to adding its military might to the French, American, and Russian air strikes against ISIL in Syria. I have been pondering the complexity of the issue. Listening to and reading the contributions from the many commentators exposes the lack of a consensus and the mess both politically and militarily that is Syria. Do I have an opinion? Everyone has an opinion though few seem to reflect that of those who have fled the country seeking sanctuary from the murder and mayhem.

The overarching opinion of the pundits suggests that air strikes alone are futile, and from refugees that they are indiscriminate. The death toll continues to rise while the Assad Regime, which unleashed this murderous intent, survives. Refugees see no resolution from the conflict without the removal of Bashar Assad’s Regime.

A British Army Officer, retired, added his voice to the call for military intervention on BBC’s Radio 4.He reinforced his argument sighting the success of British military action in providing an outcome in N.Ireland that led to the Good Friday Agreement. Jesus wept as did I in frustration at the blinkered view of one qualified in warfare not peace. The British Military intervention over a 30 year period, supported by the government, judiciary, and police, promoted a flawed policy that saw: the imprisonment and death of innocent victims, the nurturing of terrorist and paramilitary objectives and boosting of their ranks, and elements of which still haunt our society today.

Each successive British government from Jim Callahan’s (1970’s) to Tony Blair’s Labour Party (1990’s) had open lines of communication with the IRA and UDA. Thatcher stated that she would not negotiate with terrorists, while behind the scenes diplomacy and negotiation was key to a long-term solution to the open sore that ailed our society. The recent death of Fr. Gerry Reynolds brought focus on those who had worked diligently, out of the spotlight, in pursuing a resolution to a fractious war, with a common consensus that terrorism could neither be beaten nor succeed in it’s objectives. From this potted local history perspective I would conclude that, in my opinion, the ‘War on Terror’, now in its 15th year, is unwinnable.

What approach to take with a disparate grouping of murderous barbarians, ISIL, Boko Haram, AQ, Shabaab, and others no doubt, when the general consensus is that air strikes will have no positive outcome. The ‘boots on the ground’ proposal offers its own set of complexities, while diplomacy may be a rank outsider but ultimately it will have its moment.

Are the real criminals in all conflict not those who manufacture and supply weapons that are designed to eliminate human beings whilst making profit for CEOs and shareholders?

 

2nd December: We are at war. I will probably take some flak for my views but that will harm no one.

 

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To beard or not to beard

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Yes we seem to have averted a total meltdown of regional government as in “we’ll all throw our toys out of the pram”. This is a common occurrence at Stormont’s non-functional and divided administration. Not to drag you down some winding path but do keep in mind this is about that bit of facial hair i.e. the beard.

The near collapse was the result of a murder in the nationalist redoubt of Short Strand, Belfast. In brief, two former IRA assassins had a falling out, one shot the other dead and was then shot dead by unknown gunmen. This, in turn, shot the Stormont administration in the foot with the accusation by the DUP that the IRA’s military machine was still functioning contrary to the Good Friday Agreement. Has the issue been resolved? Well let’s just say they are still drawing their salaries.

Remember the Beard?

I recently grew a beard not as a metro male statement but to add some volume to my thinning visage Stay with me now as this is relevant to the precursor as, hopefully, will become clear. The potential tsunami of political uncertainty that threatened to sweep the country caused tightened security at ports and airports. On a recent return from Scotland through the seaport of Cairnryan we were subjected to security not see since the bad old days. The slow progress of the traffic into the port did not immediately suggest a security alert. As we reached the barrier the beard marked me out as a potential suspect. In the psyche of the ever vigilant security operatives a beard is the trademark of all terrorists, freedom fighters, jihadists, therefore: documentation? check; search boot (trunk)? check; underbody of vehicle? check. Is this a bout of paranoia or the minority oppression flag being raised? Maybe, but there again, maybe not.

Let me take you on a brief tour of those bad old days alluded to previously, days of high security when N.I .was at the nadir of political upheaval. If I wore a beard I was often stopped by Police or army demanding ID and sometimes searched. Returning from my mother’s funeral in Scotland through the same port I was sitting in the middle backseat of the car, bearded. I was the guy asked to step from the car and ID,ed Travelling through Manchester airport on return from the States, bearded, having cleared emigration I was followed to the baggage carousel by two special branch officers, ID’ed and questioned. Six O Clock in the morning is not a good time for me. I was not polite.

Clean-shaven my saintly and angelic coupon caused me no intrusions. So beware all metro males, the beard is a changing face.

Flying in the face of reason.

Proviso

Pushing back into my seat as the aircraft hurtles down the runway and lifts into the air is a thrill, the lingering spectre of Paranoia International Airport, Belfast an irritation.

It begins at the bag drop, the first step into the moral maze, a visceral reaction reminiscent of end of term exam nerves.

“Did you pack this bag yourself? Are you carrying any of the prohibited items listed e.g. a gun, a knife, golf balls, water?”

Jesus! What do these people think I am, a terrorist? I’m going to Spain for a bit of winter sunshine not to join the International Brigade. But that’s entry level to what comes next. People who have not received counselling for sexual dysfunction or have had any hint of humour surgically removed can be found at this stage of your journey,

“ Passport and Boarding Pass. Please have any permitted liquids or cosmetics in sealable plastic bags before entering the security area.”

Right, that will be the Congo Line for penned animals, all shuffling along fidgeting with pockets and bags while trying to maintain some sense of dignity.

“ Place items in the trays provided. Remove your coat, belt, and your shoes too, sir”

Don’t be fooled by that moment of apparent civility, the Crack Squad are on standby with stun guns to take you down if you step out of line.

So all my earthly possessions are on the way to be incinerated, ok scanned for WMD, and I step, unshod, through the Pearly Gates. The scanner bleeps. Fucking ‘Bleeps!’. Eyes turn on me, fellow passengers in sympathy and relief, the securocrats in glee at the opportunity to demonstrate the efficiency of airport security in the ‘War on Terror’. In this instance that would be the infamous ‘Grey Zone’ headed to the Costa del Sol to spend their pension and save on the heating bills back home.

I’m ushered into the controversial Full Body Scanner.

‘Stand with your feet on the marks, and raise your arms above your head” Reichsfuhrer von Po-Face instructs.

Now I am a fucking criminal, the real deal, how proud my parents would be. I step from the Tardis after 3 seconds of high-octane x-ray to be confronted once again by Po-Face. For the benefit of his apprentice he indicates the ciphers on the body map betraying the WMD secreted on my person.

Cipher 1: location lower jaw; Cipher 2: waist.

I venture to ask what exactly this marvelous piece of modern security technology, costing a number with lots of zeros, has revealed. I am not given a reply but asked if I object to a further search. Now tell me, dear readers, what the answer to that question is as my recourse to consulting the oracle has failed. Po-face uses a hand-held scanner, then a thorough finger and thumb search of the waistband of my jeans.

“Would it be the endosteal implant in the molar of my posterior lower jaw and the copper rivets in the waistband of my jeans that are causing such confusion for your technology?”

A further lack of courtesy indicates that the technology, the operator and the government policy are in dire need of recalibration.

Now let me get this right. I decide my partner and I need a mid-winter break. The ease with which this can be achieved is the boon of technology. Book flights, print boarding passes, book hotels, and all so straight forward you want to congratulate yourself on savoir faire. In possession of the relevant documents you set off for the airport, with pre-paid parking voucher, to make that trip. The world of reason inverts when you step onto airport property. Customer? Customer my arse! Expect implants, fillings, dentures, piercings, and clothes to be added to the list of prohibited items, while issue of an orange boiler suit de rigueur

The Security Industry is ruling our lives. Edward Snowden has been excommunicated from the Church of the NSA for telling us so and the Sus Law now applies to 90% of the population. Airports are strangled with this nonsense and customers have become suspects.

Question: How many flights have been the subject of terrorist attack?

I can think of seven.

Question: How many flights, national and international, transit without incident annually?

The answer to that has lots of zeros.

The Security Industry will assure us that the safety of those flights is a consequence of their vigilance.

Question: Do you know why elephants paint their toenails green?

Answer: So they can hide in apple trees.

Question: Have you ever seen an elephant in an apple tree?

Answer: No, demonstrating how effective that ploy is.

‘F***wits’

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Thursday last the British Government was defeated by a narrow margin on their plan to support intervention in the unfolding disaster that is Syria. That Ed Milliiband did not support David Cameron has played out like an episode from ‘The Thick of It’. The Times quoted a source at No.10, ”the Foreign Office thinks Ed Milliband is a fucking cunt and a copper bottomed shit”. Malcolm Tucker is alive and well at the heart of British Political life.

UN inspectors in Syria removed materials from the Damascus suburb, allegedly bombed with chemical weapons, for analysis. Until the results are available any intervention should be deemed illegal. A missile strike as prescribed by the US would cause added misery and death to a civilian population caught in the middle of a civil war, while the received wisdom suggests a strike, intended as a shot across the bows, would destabilise the entire region. The Pentagon Hawks have no such concerns, fingering the Assad regime for the atrocity and convincing the President to send in the missiles. Shame on you Obama being in thrall to such a gang of ‘fuckwits’.

I borrow the term from, but refuse to identify, an American comedian resident in Britain. My fear is that the Pentagon will visit their wrath upon his domestic arrangement. Imagine the potential scenario. Said Comedian gets wind of the Hawks intent and rents residence to an unsuspecting family of Middle Eastern origin. The intel does not reach base and a cruise or drone is dispatched. The innocents are struck by the hand of God and dispatched to the Seventy Virgin terrain of mobile phones and cable television. The US claim a strike for democracy against an Islamic Fundamentalist cell in the heart of a British city.

The humour may cause offence but that an administration can make life and death decisions on questionable evidence is more than offensive, it’s an obscenity. My fear is that the Ultra right of US politics, born again, self-righteous ‘fuckwits’ are on a funded, full blown Hollywood Production of Armageddon.

The G20 ‘s decisive ‘no’ vote to a military intervention will see Obama and Cameron licking their political wounds, while the Hawks will be consulting with God.

Image: Falling Angels dedicated to those caught in 9/11 who had nowhere else to go.