[THE LONG READ]
Some men think they have a monopoly on the truth. I’m not one of them.
Others think if you are African or non-white, your opinion is less valuable. ‘Focus on Cholera, tackling Corruption and alleviating Poverty’ they say
I and many other Africans fundamentally disagree. Our opinions as Africans are neither derived from where we come from, nor valid or of value only if a white man says so.
In the global context, our opinions are equally valid as sources of advice, rebuke or inspiration, and we have the right to express ourselves – just like anyone else.
Opinion can be complex. My view of the world is as a result of countless hours of personal study and observation, and experience in a multitude of scenarios, dealing and interacting with people from all over the world, over many years.
So, I don’t believe that the issue of what is happening in the middle East, in particular in Syria is beyond the commentary of an African, let alone a Malawian. And that is why I’m writing this post.
Because if the voices of reason, including those of the few African leaders who dared caution western leaders of the recent past not to go to war (and force regime change), were listened to – I and many others believe the world wouldn’t be in the mess that it is in today… with a bloodthirsty death cult rampaging across the middle east.
Indeed hindsight is a marvelous thing, and you can attack me on this, but you would be wrong, because as with Iraq & Libya, there were many people who categorically said DO NOT DO IT. DO NOT GO IN THERE. There were protests and marches (I took part in one), and if a referendum were held in the various countries – and people presented with facts (not dodgy dossiers and lies), the people would probably have rejected military action.
Only the people weren’t listened to as regards Iraq and Libya. And Today we have ISIL.
Don’t get me wrong, Saddam and Gaddaffi were both bad men. Unfit to be leaders in my view, but they kept the beasts within their borders under control (Something which Nigeria, Mali, Kenya… Iraq and Syria are struggling to do). And that has got to count for something.
The arrogance (or flawed decision-making) that causes certain leaders to ignore the wishes of the people, is the main problem in the world today. Even in Malawi, a leader hears that there is opposition to a certain government intention or policy, yet they fail to investigate or even be remotely interested in what the people are demanding….
Another major problem is the presence of military chiefs who … appear to just like fighting. I believe a true leader should put themselves in the shoes of the people who will be affected by the decisions he / she makes. If my family and children were likely to die as a result of the bombing (the dehumanising expression ‘collateral damage’ is necessary here), would I still want the bombing to go forward? Or would it be better for some of them to suffer under this tyranny, this ISIL, for a little while, until a credible ground army that is likely to have less devastating effects but more accurate results is put together?
And it all begs the question, why do something when you know the consequences will be unpalatable? What if something worse than ISIL were spawned by the bombing?? We had Al Qaeda which are evil, we’ve got ISIL which are inhumane,and arguably a worse terrorist group than Al Qaeda…what if we got something even worse??
Another problem is that it seems that the lives of non-white people are not valued enough for there to be sensible decisions made that would protect them. I see it again and again, and I wonder why a decision that would not be allowable in Europe, is allowed in Iraq, Syria or Nigeria?? I’m not the first one to say this, and I won’t be the last. I’d shout it from the highest mountain if I had the chance. If parts of France or Belgium had terrorists in them, no one would advocate mass bombing of those areas in these European Countries… people’s homes, cultural and historical sites…no one sensible would think of it. Yet some Europeans and Americans think it is okay to bomb parts of Syria and Iraq, simply because the evil that is Islamic State have occupied it, and the Americans and Russians are already bombing these areas??
Everyone agrees that Daesh are evil, there’s no dispute about that, these monsters are killing innocent Syrians and Iraqi’s in their thousands, but that doesn’t mean that the people should then be subjected to the horror and trauma of bombs – no matter how accurate we are told these bombs are.
This morning, it was heartbreaking to see a Syrian man on Good Morning Britain on ITV say what many others have already said: You can’t defeat Daesh with aerial bombing. The man was forced to leave his wife and child in Syria, when he received a message that ISIS were coming.
Instead of increasing diplomatic efforts to get a credible coalition army made up of Syrian, Iranian, Iraqi, Jordanian and even Russian troops on the grounds to launch offensives against Daesh, an army that would be able to better distinguish between innocent civilians and terrorists, Britain is taking the easier, dangerous, yet totally ineffective option.
Now where I’m I going with all this?
Bombs cost money, money which could be better utilised in diplomacy and providing an alternative to the Syrian people – to win hearts and minds. Yet looking at what is happening, it’s increasingly likely that it will be the Syrian people who will pay dearly for this conflict, probably using Syrian Oil – wasting their valuable resources on a conflict that was none of their business.
Let me qualify it: A few years ago, Dr Tariq Ramadan, professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University and visiting professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Qatar, made a statement when talking to Democracy Now which went as follows:
Yes. If we study the facts before and what was happening in Libya, you know, the reaction of Russia and China should be understood in the light of what happened in Libya, their reaction on Syria, because they lost the economic—their economic interest and their access to the oil resources in Libya because of what happened. They took the United Nations, you know, resolution on no-fly zone as, you know, a permission for NATO to go there and intervene. In fact, this was not for the sake of, you know, the Libyan blood. It was for economic geostrategic interests and to secure their interests. So, Barack Obama was unable to go there for many reasons, because he had internal crisis, and there is these Afghani and Iraqi fronts. It’s impossible to add another one. So there was a deal with France. And France was involved, you know. Even we had, you know, a new foreign ministers, like [inaudible]. He went there, and he was, you know, the figure who was helping France to find the [inaudible] and to create this transitory national council. But this was not done for the sake of, you know, the democratization in Libya. It’s quite clear now that all the economic interest and the access to resources is secured between four countries. The first one is the United States of America, France, Britain and Qatar, who are also involved in the whole thing. So we need to be less naive in the whole process and to deal with the situation, country per country, and understanding that there are challenges, there are from behind-the-scene alliances that are now important…
Essentially, the view in Libya was we don’t care what happens to the people of Libya. As long as our economic interests are secure, that’s all we care about.
I hope I am wrong, but this is what is going to happen in Syria.
These kinds of revelations are why I believe alternative media is paramount – because while the public are told one thing by the mainstream media, the truth is often very different.
Which brings me to Russia and Turkey. Surely instead of bombing Syria, more effort could be made to resolve the tension that is developing between Turkey and Russia, after Turkey shot down a Russian Jet? Why can’t we get to the bottom of whether Turkey is buying Oil from ISIL? Why can’t we get to the bottom of whether Russia is deliberately attacking civilian and anti-Assad forces? And ensure they stop…Shouldn’t a lot more be done to get all anti- ISIL forces on the same side, fighting ISIL instead of fighting each other? This curious scenario where we have the US and Europe supporting the Kurdish fighters, while Turkey – allegedly against ISIL, continues to attack the Kurds, in broad daylight, is laughable and counterproductive??
Here let me ask a question that has been lingering on my mind: Would Turkey have shot down the Russian plane if it had instead been a British or American Jet? Or would the Turkish authorities have simply asked it to go away??
I don’t know how you see it, but even if the Russsians are being dishonest, when on one day, Turkey shoots down a Russian Jet, then on the next day we have Nato’s chief meeting Turkey’s prime minister…and around the same time, announcements are being made that US$3 billion will be offered to Turkey to stop the flow of migrants into Europe, it all looks rather cosy…too convenient to be coincidental. I doubt I’m the only one who thinks this sounds a lot like Ukraine 2.0.
Anyway. Below is a collection of views of some Guardian readers (taken from the comments section of one article) over the UK Parliament’s decision to send jets into Syria to bomb ISIL positions.
Corbyn is right.Pay attention to what the media selectively ignores and leaves out of the Turkey story as they sell more radicals in Europe and award the counties that benefited from the Paris attacks:
1) Russia’s bombing has driven ISIS back 200 miles in 60 days.
2) The Syrian Army has captured 6 major cities and 4 major transport points/highways in the last 5 weeks.
3) Russia’s bombing campaign on the edge of Turkey proves that the jihadists have been driven back all the way back to the border of Turkey (that is why Turkey is really upset).
4) Those Allah Ahkabars that shot down the Russian pilot were protecting the town that is used to supply ISIS oil to Turkey. They are members of the Turkish Grey Wolves that were getting paid to protect the line. Paid by the Turkish government.
5) Erdogans son in law owns the company that buys the ISIS oil.
6) Prior to Russia’s bombing campaign the US never bombed any ISIS oil trucks or refineries.
7) PBS was caught last week using Russian bombing footage with cyrillic lettering and claiming it as US bombing footage.
8) The US has never introduced sanctions against any ISIS oil purchaser in Turkey or elsewhere. (They know who’s buying it).
9) The US has never gone after the head of the ISIS hydra which is, of course, Saudi Arabia who the US just made the head of the UN Human Rights Council.
10) The dealerships in Saudi Arabia and Qatar where all those brand new Toyota Hilux pick up trucks come from could easily be tracked down if the US wanted to.
11) Recently, a vide was uploaded on Live Leak showing a US black hawk helo escorting over 150 ISIS trucks. It flew past them at ground level twice. No shots were fired.
12) Al Nusra Fron, Al Jabra, Daesh, ISIS, FSA are all interchangeable. There are no ‘moderate rebels’. That is US propaganda catchword for making their jihadists more palatable by the Americna public.
13) 28 redacted pages in the 9/11 Report point the finger at Saudi Arabia.
14) Barack Hussein Obama got down and kissed the Saudi ring same as Bush and Clinton.
Another decided to make their points through poetry
WARPLANES … A season congrats song for our brave British parliament
It’s off to war we go
Yerman did put on such an eloquent show.
Nope, not Blair again
This time seduced by Belligerent Benn
It’s a-bombing Syria we go
Can things get worse? You never know
With David Cameron, the miracle man
You can rest assured they always can.
It’s a-filling criminal pockets we go
Innocent victims’ names we’ll never know
Cash a-plenty to play into the hands of Daeshite manure
Not a penny to help our own homeless and poor
Heigh-ho! Heigh-ho! Heigh-ho! Heigh-ho!
Another tackled the weapons industry. Here mind you that there is so much waste in the military spending of the US. Money that could be better utilised elsewhere, including wiping off global poverty.
The terrorists are celebrating today.
The House of Commons has done exactly as they wished it to do.
They wanted us to bomb the civilians in Syria to divide the population there and abroad, in order to turn people against us for murdering innocent civilians and therefore boost the membership of the Wahhabi death cult.
The prime minister has done their bidding. His proposal will strengthen the enemy.
The prime minster is an ally of the terrorists.
I wonder how much of a bribe the weapons industry paid to corrupt the prime minister?
After all, they and ISIS are the only beneficiaries of this vote.
Another talked of the role of Saudi Arabia in financing ISIL
The Saudis are two-faced. On the one face, they appear to be friends to the west so that they can buy weapons from us (to give to whom?) and sell oil to us at over-inflated prices.
On the other face, they are still barbaric Islamists, still practising 12th-century Islam and turning a blind eye to the influential individuals in their country who bankroll ISIS.
You can’t negotiate with religious fundamentalist wackadoos – they’ve been brainwashed too much to understand the concept of seeing a point from another person’s perspective. No-one could negotiate with Bin Laden when AlQaeda was at it’s terrorism peak. Now it’s nothing but a spent force with their iconic leader dead and tossed overboard into the sea like a piece of garbage, some Al-Qaeda are listening, while others still follow their terrorist ways.
Here, please allow me to quote Thomas L. Friedman in an article titled Our Radical Islamic BFF, Saudi Arabia:
It is not an accident that several thousand Saudis have joined the Islamic State or that Arab Gulf charities have sent ISIS donations. It is because all these Sunni jihadist groups — ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Nusra Front — are the ideological offspring of the Wahhabism injected by Saudi Arabia into mosques and madrasas from Morocco to Pakistan to Indonesia.
Another reader who called himself ‘Docsubandrio’ said:
ISIS, like Hydra from Greek mythology, possesses many heads and each time one is lost, it’s replaced by two more.
UK bombing, killing, displacing and traumatizing Syrian citizens will create more and more radicalized ISIS followers.
Some of these newly radicalized sympathizers are young British citizens who, living in the UK, will become tomorrow’s “home grown terrorists”.
David Cameron is the catalyst for more security threats to the British people.
UK’s fighting a lost cause.
Why can’t the UK learn from decades of failed experience in the region?
This was corroborated by another reader who said:
Exactly. No matter how many you kill (Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Mohammed Emwazi etc.) there will always be others to take their place which is why the cycle of endless violence is utterly futile and will only serve to bring more suffering to innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. You have to instead tackle the root ideological issues at the root of the problem, which, if I understand correctly, is what people like Corbyn have been advocating.
Egartes Theant said:
Because their real goal is the oil and gas reserves in Syria, they couldn’t give a monkey’s toss what happens as a result of the bombing, or even whether or not it succeeds against I.S. Their agenda is removal of the Assad regime, destruction of the country, consolidation of oil/gas production facilities and the construction of a new pipeline.
When one person asked how they know who to bomb from 20,000 feet, another replied :
They can’t – all this talk of precision bombing and targeted air-strikes ignores the fact that again, and again, the US – which is the major western power here, the rest are hardly even relevant – has hit civilians rather than fighters. We know this, it’s not in any serious dispute.
Whether bombing is right or wrong – an odd phrase, but let it stand for a moment – I wish its advocates would just accept that there will be ‘collateral damage’ (ie, dead civilians), and admit that they’re prepared to accept that in order to inflict damage on ISL’s military capacity and supply lines. It would at least make the discussion more honest.
There have been successes in killing a number of militant leaders – but somehow rarely those who are most influential; I’m not a soldier and don’t want to play at being one, but I can’t see how we’re going to avoid getting sucked into a ground war if this campaign doesn’t work – as it doesn’t seem even to be a prospect in the most gung-ho politicians’ minds that it will, in the sense of defeating this disparate group decisively.
One person said:
Good luck and God’s speed to the brave pilots of the RAF as they strike a blow against barbaric savagery.
To which another replied:
God speed to all the innocent casualties and to the destruction their country
One person called it a tragedy:
..We live in a country led by fools who have an unsophisticated world view based on financial speculation, arms dealing and lies.
So here we are bombing in a coalition alongside world leaders who should be in prison and mendacious allies who are causing the very problems we are trying to solve.
To which another replied
You need to specify which leaders should be in prison.
All of them
This guy talked of the consequences
So, everybody is happy now – the war mongorers can bomb the shit out of an already destroyed country, the arms manufacturers (again) are laughing all the way to the bank, and Corbyn gets made out to be a terrorist sympathiser. I hope those Labour MPs who vote in favour can find a way of living with their conscience. And especially when the tears come; they always do, which usually means too late.
To which another replied
They don’t have a conscience, and so they’ll be content with their decision, irrespective of how many lives it costs.
I wonder what the smooth-talking arms trade lobbyists promised them in return for a vote? I wonder what kind of gifts will be showered upon them by Big Oil representatives in return for their support? What will they spend the money on I wonder? That dream second home on the continent perhaps? Maybe a sleek sailing craft, so that they might sip breakfast tea in the sun, from the comfort of the deck, far from the stench of human suffering.
F**k them. F**k all the bastards who helped create this with their votes, f**k every last stinking one of them.
Then there was the bit about Gas and Oil pipelines
How do you defeat your enemy until you admit who the enemy is? IS(IS)(IL)(IC)Daesh was created by Turkey out of Saddam’s old Baathist army, with funding from the Arabian despots, to take over Syria so they could have a gas pipeline corridor from the gulf through Turkey and on to Europe.
a) European nations were so ready to have the Assad regime overthrown
b) Russia wants to save the Syrian regime to block competition to his gas sales into Europe.
After a hundred years, IT’S STILL ALL ABOUT OIL (and gas)!
To which another replied with a single link :
Finally, I found Michael East’s analysis worthy for a conclusion
I’m sure they’ll kill dozens of militants, alongside the inevitable “acceptable collateral damage” that is part and parcel of the war on terror.
What they’ll also do is continue to breed hatred from the families and friends of that “collateral damage”, continue to perpetuate the belief that the west believes Muslim lives are expendable and that we are at war with Islam, continue to destroy infrastructure and alienate the very people who are needed to end this conflict. It plays straight into the IS “everybody against us, the end of days is coming” narrative.
Bombs to the left of them, bombs to the right, there they are stuck in the middle with Asad.
I’m equally sure that at some point IS will attack British interests, either through a terror attack at home or abroad or through an action against the armed forces attacking Syria. Of course that will be the fault of the terrorist sympathisers and will require extra security measures to be implemented. But they won’t change our way of life! We’re defiant with our 2000 extra spies, snoopers charter and Prevent strategy!
Of course bombing with 8 planes will do nothing overly productive in the grand scheme of things, certainly nothing that Russia or the U.S cannot do. It’s just Cameron getting excited because he’s got his kit on and is off the bench to play with the big boys.
You cannot defeat an idea with bombs, only by presenting a better idea, something that we have failed to do. At no point since 9/11 have we shown the Middle East an ideology that is better, at no point have we shown that what we offer will give them a better life. You don’t win hearts and minds by dropping bombs and if you are to defeat IS, you must defeat and discredit the ideology with something else.
So we’ll create more terrorists in more places and then we’ll bomb them too, then there’ll be more and we’ll bomb, bomb and bomb again until either everyone is dead or we run out of bombs. But we never do, do we. We always have enough bombs to go around.
Meanwhile Christmas is coming, the arms companies are getting fat, the Saudis are funding ISIS and the Turks are buying the oil. They don’t deserve a rhyme!
With so many players in the mix, the Turks against the Kurds, Kurds against Asad, Russians for Asad and against anyone who isn’t, Iran and Hezbollah for Asad, Saudis against Iran and the Shia, Israel, France, the al-Nusra Front, dozens of small splinter groups… What exactly do we do when we’ve bombed everything to kingdom come? These factions are not going to lay down their arms and go home are they. The Americans will never allow Russia hegemony in the region, Israel will never allow it Iran. The whole thing is a proxy war.
So what is the possible endgame? Bombing is merely using a bucket in the Titanic so the unsaid answer for Cameron is a ground offensive as Hague has indicated.
And what happens when British/NATO forces occupy IS held territory? We give it back to Asad? Or we try and force him to go? Well I doubt Russia and Iran will let that happen quietly. Or do we carve up the country again and start another hundred years of strife?
Then what next? We bomb Libya again? How about Nigeria next? Egypt haven’t had a taste of democracy lately have they..
There is no answer. There is no conceivable endgame except in a fantasy world were the British knights save the day and everybody lives happily ever after in a wonderful democracy. Huzzah! All back to London for ginger beer and crumpets after giving Johnny Arab a damn good thrashing!
This is not Cowboys and Indians with defined goodies and baddies, not some moral crusade. This is a quagmire that will get worse before it gets better and we’d have been better off well away from it, working on humanitarian and political endeavours.
Instead the perpetual war continues, the erosion of civil liberties will continue, the disconnect between the electorate and the government will continue, the dangerous language will continue, the Islamiohobia will continue, the killings will continue, the death will continue, the refugees will continue and the hate will continue.
The year is 2015.. Weren’t we supposed to be better than this by now?