Iraq: what can we do?

There’s almost nothing harder to understand than the Arabic world. Their capacity for hating each other and us can be baffling, especially if you have a limited understanding of the region’s history. No-one’s going to pretend I’m not included in that bracket, but I’d like to share my thoughts with you anyway.

ISIS has made serious gains in Iraq; provoking worries that its next target will be Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. ISIS is a Sunni fundamentalist grouping, is in fact an Al-Qaeda break-away, and it seeks to establish a Muslim caliphate of-old across the Levant and Iraq.

I don’t need to tell you that this would unacceptable; we can’t take sides in the Sunni-Shia divide (contrary to previous writings of mine, which I do formally recant, as we are all learning) because this would be a gross underestimation of how deep the problems run, and would probably prolong the sectarian strife in that region for another couple of centuries. However, we are certainly not looking to establish a ‘terrorist state’ right at the core of the Arab world, that sacred objective which has determined American policy in the region up till now. Essentially, that is a noble objective, and certainly the only clear one to follow.

Having invaded their country twice in the last two decades, it would be cowardly and pathetic to turn our backs on Iraqis now that the Great British people no longer have the stomach for war. The 2003 invasion was a total mess, and I’m unconvinced of its usefulness in doing anything at all. The motives for the invasion seem to be transparently corrupt with respect to the Americans, and totally pathetic with respect to ours.

But we set up a government which was elected, albeit with sectarian bias. The dictator we toppled was a Sunni-strongman, hellbent on repressing Iraq’s Shia majority and waging a holy war against Iran. I doubt anyone misses Saddam Hussein, but now Iraq’s Sunnis are feeling the pinch of Shia revenge, which has encouraged them to rise up and join with ISIS to combat their own government.

They have taken the city of Mosul, and already started “summary executions”; leading a frantic Shia cleric to encourage the Shia population to arm itself in preparation for the Sunni advance. That’s really not helpful.

With my very limited knowledge of this crisis, I can only suggest that we do all we can to stabilise and support the Iraqi government that we have ourselves installed. So far their troops have turned tail and fled from Sunni militants in their thousands, a most embarrassing state of affairs. Moral in the army has taken a downturn in the face of worsening Jihadist violence and the mutilation and even crucifixion of their captured comrades.

There’s no question of boots-on-the-ground, the British people are totally averse to the idea, and I quite agree. But there must be some way we can help the Iraqi government to retain control; perhaps we could provide military expertise, or even munitions.

After spending 179 British lives on this country, it’s too late to turn our backs now.






We need to talk about UKIP…

There should be nothing more absurd than a former investment banker calling on the working classes to help him “topple the establishment”; but the line between absurdity and normality has become blurred in Britain these days.

Another example of our impending, ever-expanding and all-consuming absurdity is the total media blanket surrounding the Green Party’s steady and considerable success in the recent election. Although our progress wasn’t much of an “earthquake”, I believe it still deserved more than two or three articles written in a slightly sarcy tone on the BBC website.

When you compare this with the strange, morbid fascination BBC executives seem to have developed about UKIP; what with all their “surge”, and “momentum”, I start to feel that there’s something wrong with the way news is reported. Reporting the success of the Greens is to concede validity to their ideas, and to confront the status quo. No wonder the main corporate-owned media outlets are reluctant to talk about it. (Another complication, by the way, to the argument surrounding press freedom.)

UKIP is a party based on deception, idiocy and sheer luck. They put their success down to disillusionment with ‘the establishment’, as if somehow they are separate from that establishment. What exactly do they mean by that label? Apart from their radical and nonsensical approach to the EU, their policies are just Tory, but much more so. They are still in favour of benefit cuts combined with tax cuts for the richest: all the neo-liberal tripe that most voters despise. To top it all off, their policy regarding climate change is simply to ignore it. First class thinking there.

What UKIP voters want is a return to the 40s; without seeming to realise that the modernity which they so fear is a consequence of over reliance on the US, not the EU. Those are the bedrock of UKIP support, who have been there for some time. The others are more likely to be financially insecure, politically dispossessed voters (which is almost all of them) who want to send a message, without properly examining the fine-print of their own letter.

Immigration is a topic with which many sympathise; personally it’s never bothered me until recently, when I attempted to understand the viewpoint of older generations. The Britain they knew is vastly changed, in ways my generation can’t truly comprehend.

On balance, immigration is something which has so-far enriched us, but also something to be considered and controlled. I don’t doubt that Farage overstates fears of a Romanian “flood”, but if we don’t wisen up, we may start to see the sectarian strife which so plagues the French authorities.

I hope rumours of a UKIP- National Front alliance to disrupt the EU parliament is unfounded; I can’t think of anything less constructive to do with our money, as European citizens.