How to deal with ISIS


There is no doubt: ISIS are barbaric, murderous, stupid, infantile and ultimately doomed. Despite this, all of the responses to last week’s horrendous events in Paris have lacked a full clarity of the situation- unsurprising given the confused web of intersecting sectarian and geo-political alliances that have found their bloody intersection in Syria.

What so desperately needs to be pointed out is this: as long as we don’t know who our enemies are, who are allies are, and what we plan to accomplish in relation to either of those, any large-scale military intervention is unlikely to be constructive, and may well make matters worse.

Questioning what drives people towards radicalisation is not the natural human reaction to being attacked: understanding rarely comes before anger and a desire for retribution, whatever the consequences. And I’m not saying we should invite ISIS terrorists to a counselling session to talk about their feelings; I mean why is ISIS able to recruit from Muslim populations all over the world? And why is it able to launch attacks all over the world?

That Western foreign policy is to blame is always a tough sell at times like these, but it is never the less vital that we should continue to involve historical context in the way we react- to ignore history simply because we don’t like it is dangerous folly. A line often trotted out by Tory commentators is this: “The foreign policy blunders that you claim alienated the Muslim community happened after 9/11, so really, they have nothing to complain about”.

To suggest that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan are the only grievances the Muslim world has against us shows a shocking ignorance of everything. Which makes it even more shocking that this isn’t countered more often.

After the 1st world war, Britain and France (acting through its diplomats Sykes and Picot) divided the former Ottoman holdings in the Middle East between themselves, with France taking northern Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, and Britain claiming Transjordan, Palestine and the rest of Iraq. By drawing imaginary lines in the sand we divided ethnic groupings and traditionally bonded peoples and made artificial nation states to make things easier for ourselves. Much the same thing happened in Africa.

These borders are behind a lot of modern conflicts. As Robert Fisk points out in his interesting article in yesterday’s Independent: ISIS thrives through its proud disregard for these Western-imposed borders. The Sykes-Picot agreement is reviled throughout the Arab world.

But that doesn’t even begin to scrape the surface of our crimes in the Middle East, which usually involved hoisting dictators onto artificial nation states in order to ensure a continuing flow of oil to our Western economies.

Despite ISIS’s success at publicising its brutality through the internet – which is, of course, in their interests – they have killed far less people than Assad’s regime, who has made a murderous habit of barrel-bombing his own people in order to stifle dissent. Just a few years ago we were discussing toppling Assad: what has changed? He is still the murderous Tyrant he ever was: are we now going to ally with him as the less of two evils simply because the other side started killing Europeans?

On the face of it, that seems a natural reaction, but it also demonstrates our readiness to impose double standards on Western lives and those of Arabs, Africans, South Americans and Asians. It shows a tendency to think that our borders are sacrosanct (and thus to express haughty outrage when refugees flood across them) and that the borders formed of imperial self-serving ignorance in the Middle East are weak, flimsy, not to be taken seriously. As Fisk says: Arab leaders have always lacked respect for these borders because they don’t believe in their legitimacy.

Why is ISIS able to launch attacks all over the world? It probably isn’t. But we know that news outlets are very fond of being the first to declare links that don’t exist, and we know it is in ISIS’s interest to claim responsibility for things they have actually had no centralised control over. This is a standard procedure for terrorist groups: to exaggerate their influence, power, and global reach; all too often Westerners are happy enough to oblige, and give themselves to fear.

Let us be crystal clear: ISIS is not the challenge of our generation, it is not a threat to humanity. By exaggerating their threat you are only doing them a favour. Fear should not be our reaction. And I disagree with Zoe Williams , hide your fear with manful bluster if you need to, it has served Britain well for centuries, and I find her classic Guardian-style take on the human psyche to be irritating.

And finally, to continue living your life with happiness and tolerance is the ultimate insult to ISIS, to refuse to be afraid the ultimate weapon. Bombing ISIS in Syria is exactly what they want, but that doesn’t mean it will be good for them. Clearly, they are counting on a long, drawn out war (very much a possibility) and on the chance to demonstrate Western aggression towards Muslims (again, very much a possibility), thereby radicalising Muslims all over the world. Our strategy, if we do bomb Syria (and it seems likely that we will: just leaving them there to get on with butchering more people, living off the revenue of oil, is not exactly a prime strategy) must be to avoid both those things.

That means having a plan, and being careful not to alienate the Muslims who had nothing to do with the attacks in Paris, any more than I hold responsibility for Michelle Bachmann. The only thing that could polarise the world in the way ISIS would love to see happen is if those people believe they don’t have a place here.

It is our duty to make sure that they do.








Yesterday’s Daily Politics opened with the ever-lovely Jo Coburn sitting beside Nazir Afzal, who, we were told, was not only the former Chief Prosecutor for the North-West of England (be still, my racing heart) but would also be with us for the whole programme.

Then Jo winked at us, as if to say: “You lucky dog”.

The chief stories of the day were the furore surrounding the latest meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Cameron’s push for bombing in Syria and better funding for intelligence services, and the somewhat off-message announcement that another round of cuts were in the pipes, including, erm…the jobs of 5000 police officers in London.

First was Yvette Cooper, bearing her usual look of some kind of affronted poultry, descending into incessant head-wagging with every syllable as she grew more at ease. As far as disagreeing with every Jeremy Corbyn stands for, and yet avoiding directly disowning him, she did a terrific job. I feel I may have misjudged her during the leadership election.

The producers of the show presented a trio of troublemakers on the screen: three circular frames with the grim earnest face of Dan Jarvis, the stretched avuncular beam of Hilary Benn, and the concerned Yvette Cooper. All had challenged Corbyn at the latest meeting of the PLP; in what many MPs had called the most “discontented” session they had ever witnessed. Now, I’m no more than a political babe, but it amazes and shames me that the meeting of the PLP that discussed the Iraq war was apparently more amiable than this one: which after all was focused on a single comment Jez had made, regarding his discomfort with the shoot-to-kill policy.

Yvette Cooper told us that it was not politicians’ business to interfere in the work of the police. This is alright, I suppose, but it’s not a rule that can be extended very far. Parliament can, always has been and God-willing alwasy will be able to legislate on the methods of the police force. To introduce an “anything goes” policy now seems rather weird, and certainly more deserving of controversy than Jeremy Corbyn’s discomfort at police shooting to kill.

Yvette touched on the need for solidarity and unity, although apparently didn’t feel the need to extend this principle to her own party.

More ridiculous than anything was Jeremy Corbyn’s assertion that the killing of ‘Jihadi John’ was illegal- that really, if you’re going to do it properly, he should have been arrested.

We suddenly had an image of a crack team of out-of-work Metropolitan police officers, parachuting into war-torn, Isis-held Iraq and detaining Jihadi John with as little violence as possible, “You do not have to say anything…” they would intone, as JJ’s blood-crazed friends simply stood by and let justice take its course, like the good British chaps we all know they are.

Next we had a clip of George Osborne at GCHQ, discussing the threat posed by ISIS cyber attacks, and contrasted the use of the internet to spread liberal values (he was grinding his teeth here) with the use of the internet to spread terror, propoganda and brutality (here he was visibly aroused).

The Chancellor had announced his latest round of cuts, on what departments they would fall, and alluded to vague details about where the money would come from; as usual, based on his unshakeable faith that wherever there is public endeavour, there is waste, profligacy, and barbarians at the gates. So nothing new there.







Time for a funny

Sometimes the news is too ridiculous to approach with any sincerity: only a light hearted approach will do. Ben Carson is a name that keeps popping up. I thought Trump was a satirist’s boon- but he was only the start. Dr Carson offers endless scope, not just as an example of an idiot, but of what’s happened to American politics. Where’s the “bull moose” Teddy Roosevelt today, who was shot before a speech, and then simple carried on? He has been replaced by Donald Trump, with a face like a pompous, stay at home cat who inherited a “small sum” of 1 million dollars from his father, and who seems permanently constipated; whose answer to every question is to shout boyish assertions, screwing up his face into new levels of infantile frustration with every strange, spluttered syllable, and who apparently can’t remember in which foot he had bone spurs to such a degree he couldn’t serve in the Vietnam War; and then there’s black jesus: Ben Carson, a man who bases his platform for the presidency on “Hey, it’s hardly brain surgery”.

Creds to:
Creds to:

He allowed photographers to go around his house – which is a brave gesture for such a weirdo, but apparently not a wise one: they discovered walls covered with magazine clippings about his own successes, almost a kind of shrine to the wisdom that is Ben Carson’s to hold and cherish, but also to spread, around the world, like a benevolent virus, so that we too may one day peer with widened, amazed, enlightened eyes onto the truth behind such weighty topics as the real construction of the pyramids (that’s right- I said the real story- don’t believe what the political establishment tells you, idiot.)

This Bill Maher video’s quite funny.

The Tea-party/whackjob/is the earth round contingent are truly amazing: it’s astounding how a movement which, if it were to succeed, would completely rework what social contract exists in the US in favour of even greater wealth and power for meglamaniacs like Trump, manages to portray itself as a “people power” movement, against what it says are “vested interests”. American politicians bandy this phrase about like it was their favourite dildo, in the same way that Boris Johnson did in his Tory conference speech.

It takes a certain kind of stupid to consider nurses’ unions as vested interests, and the press barons, asset-stripping hedge funds and meglomaniac millionaires (to name but a few) who back the Tory party as the brave warriors of progress fighting against such “vested interests”.

Which brings me on to another thing: there seems to have been an upsurge in polls conducted with the dubious intention of finding out the moral character of certain groups of people. These have been held up as proof by delighted left-wingers that they do tip waiters as well as Tories, if not even better. This is ludicrous. I do not need a shabby poll, conducted in a sample group of fewer than 5,000 people in a country of 60 million, and ungracefully flaunted by the Huffington Post, to tell me that I’m morally superior, cleverer, and better looking than Conservatives.

Secret service agent looking away on black background

I know that in my bones.

And apparently bacon causes cancer. Someone should really tell this guy:

An American hero- doing a terrific Donald Trump impression.