We live in a country where policy is decided on the basis of appearance and not substance. In UK politics it’s not the Christmas present that’s important it’s the shininess of the wrapping on the big boxes under the tree. Only they contain nothing but air that’s been warmed up by a passage through the bowels of a spin doctor. The Christmas spirit is nowhere to be seen, lost in the fog of farts.
This week we’ve witnessed more examples of big shiny boxes filled with farts. The first was the UK government’s surprise U-turn on tax credits, a move made not out of any great concern for the ill effects of austerity cuts on the low paid, but rather an attempt to wrong foot the Labour party. While it’s a good thing that the income of the lowest paid isn’t going to suffer a swingeing cut – at least for now – so that big corporations can continue to evade their tax bills, that wasn’t the motive for deferring the cuts. In the UK, scoring a cheap political point in the pantomime theatrics of the Commons is worth far more than protecting the poor and the vulnerable.
Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell tried a bit of fartery of his own. But in the words of Chairman Mao, the running dogs of capitalist imperialism fart louder than the proletariat. And in the words of the great Lennonist, if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow, most certainly not with the UK media. McDonnell’s quip was obviously a joke, but when your opponents already believe that you’re a card carrying member of the international proletariat revolutionary brigade, quoting Mao is a bit too meta for the raw meat eaters of the media and the Commons. All that happened was that Labour lost the initiative and the focus was placed on John’s red face and not on Osborne’s embarrassing U-turn. Meanwhile the poor and the vulnerable in Britain are used as political scorecards, starving on the sidelines while the powerful jeer at one another and lob fart bombs across the floor of the Commons chamber.
Some of the British establishment’s fart bombs are factually fatal. This week the Conservative government and its Labour supporters want to take military action in Syria. David Cameron wants to ensure that he’s got a majority in the Commons before risking another vote. Losing the vote would be a victory for ISIS he claimed, because apparently in the UK in 2015 wanting peace is the same as supporting terrorism while wanting to bomb things means you’re opposed to violence. It’s all clear in the fog of farts, and boys get to play with toys and look important while reporters eulogise a new war.
It’s not that anyone thinks that British military involvement will actually make any difference, that’s not the point. It’s never been the point. The real point is that the British establishment is afraid of some other things even more than they’re afraid of the murdering terrorists of the so-called Islamic State of Islamic Apostates who’ve measured off a part of the infinite and who call it god. A part of the infinite that doesn’t include compassion, empathy or kindness. A part of the infinite that doesn’t include the realisation that if god is all-powerful, omnipotent and almighty then he or she doesn’t require assistance from a 20 year old with a grudge and a suicide belt. ISIS is fearsome in its ignorance and its violence, but it’s not what really frightens the British state. The British state has measured off its own part of the infinite too, a part that doesn’t include common sense, realism, or much in the way of self-awareness.
What really terrifies the British establishment is that Britain will be seen to be what it really is, not the great power of politicians’ pretensions, but a small European state whose glory days are long in the past, a useless appendage to the Pentagon whose only role is to provide a figleaf of internationalism to US military action. Britain is past it, a power in its own living room but nowhere else, and it’s desperate to cling on to what it once was because otherwise it’s faced with the realisation that it’s perfectly average and unremarkable. The British establishment is terrified of normalcy.
In the factory of international affairs, the UK is the guy with the clipboard who rushes about trying to look busy while never actually doing anything useful. A bombing campaign in Syria will produce more civilian casualties than it will damage ISIS. It’s more important to produce a fusilade of fatal fart fog, hiding the impotence of the UK. The fact that innocent civilians are likely to die in the cross fire is of no importance when the public image of the British establishment is at stake.
The bottom line is that British planes joining in the bombing campaign against ISIS will not make a shred of difference to the outcome. The Americans, and now the French, have been bombing ISIS for over a year, but there has been no real difference to the picture on the ground. ISIS has been driven out of some areas in the Kurdish north, but has made gains in Palmyra and other places.
It has already been reported that the US planes which are bombing the so-called Islamic State often return to base with their payloads complete because they can’t find any more targets to bomb. Adding a few more British planes isn’t going to change that any. ISIS won’t suddenly start putting targets in the open just to give the RAF something to hit. What British involvement does do however is to give the British media something to talk about, and allows the UK establishment to pretend that it’s doing something useful as it scooshes about the Middle East with a clipboard of destruction deploying the politics of fantasies. We don’t have a foreign policy in this country, we have a fatal fart bomb in a trance.
BARKING UP THE RIGHT TREE Barking Up the Right Tree has now been published and is an anthology of my articles for The National newspaper and is being published by Vagabond Voices press, who also publish Jim Sillars. The dug is in exhalted company. None of the articles collected in this book have appeared on this blog.
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