If you don’t want to blow up buildings, if you don’t want to wreak havoc and destruction, if you want to seek a peaceful resolution to conflict – then you’re a terrorist sympathiser. If you don’t want to go to war, if you seek to broaden debate, if you believe that fighting for peace is like shagging for virginity – then you’re a fascist. If you want talks not violence, if you seek consensus not victory, if you refuse to fetishise force – then you’re guilty of disrespecting the armed services. Welcome to British values in the 21st century, a century born in war and continuing in war, a country where the peacemakers are condemned as extremists and attack is defined as defence. Welcome to British values, where you support the armed forces by sending them to die in foreign lands where they have no business being.
Scotland is going to war in Syria. Even though just two of our elected representatives support the dubious case for conflict and 57 oppose it. Scotland doesn’t get to choose whether it goes to war, Westminster decides that for us. The Tories we didn’t vote for decide whether Scottish soldiers will fight and die in a foreign land, just like the Tories we didn’t vote for will decide whether our poor and disabled will be able to pay for food in their stomachs or will have to rely on charity and handouts.
Now Scotland is bombing Syria, getting involved in a war that’s as knotted and convoluted as the barbed wire strangling our hearts as we weep helplessly for the mess that the world is in. A mess we did not create, but it’s a mess that our young men and women will die in, a mess their deaths will do nothing to clear up. A mess we are being dragged into despite our better judgement. The SNP are opposed to war, and our media would rather criticise the SNP for its supposed one-party state discipline and attack Labour for its divisions and disputes than examine the basis of the case for conflict. British bombs are good bombs, British bombs are better bombs, British bombs will magically avoid civilians.
The war in Syria has more sides than Cameron has faces. The dodgy dossiers of Tony Blair have been replaced by the phantom forces of Cameron. There are no ground troops despite Cameron’s claims to the contrary. There are no moderates in the Syrian bloodbath. The Kurds have no interest in conquering lands inhabited by Arabs, lands which will never become a part of a future Kurdish state. Many of the other Syrian militias are motivated by Islamism exactly like ISIS, they just disagree on minor points of theology. It’s like saying you’ll support the Britain First against the fascists of the BNP.
We’ve been here before, rushing to bomb and blast without any clear idea of what happens afterwards, getting involved in someone else’s war for the sole reason that the UK Goverment is embarrassed that the French are taking military action but Britain is not. The UK is like the gang member in the playground who is desperate to get involved in any fight that’s going because otherwise his mates will think he’s weak. It’s not about bringing peace to Syria, just like it wasn’t about bringing peace to Libya or Iraq. It’s all about the ego of the British establishment, always has been, always will be. And the result is chaos and death and families who flee across the sea in leaky boats. The cost of the British establishment’s ego is a hundred drowned children on a Turkish beach. That’s a price the UK is happy to pay for strutting the world stage as the Pentagon’s pals.
Britain is going to bomb targets that other countries have already bombed, creating nothing but more death and destruction, doing nothing to bring about peace or to secure a final settlement for Syria. Scotland’s role in this deal is to pay for Westminster’s vainglorious ambitions with its resources, with its taxes, with its youth. We don’t get any say in the matter, we just have to pay for it, we just have to weep helplessly on the sidelines while the powerful decide our fate. That’s Scotland’s role in this Union. That’s why this country voted No. Voted to be ordered by the officers of Eton. Voted to be dismissed for speaking out of turn. Voted to be cannon fodder. Yessir Nossir three bags empty as you march to the foodbank.
The debate in the Commons on Wednesday proved that the only opposition to the Tories is the SNP. Labour displays more cracks than a nudist beach, the party is so divided, so riven with internal disputes, that it’s incapable of coming up with a coherent policy on the most important issue facing the country – the decision to go to war. The words of the song – War what is it good for? Absolutely nothing – apply equally to the Labour party too. Say it again. Most of that sorry bunch of excuses for socialism are just as keen as the Tories to bolster the balloon like braggadocio that passes for a British presence on the world stage. Meanwhile the party’s Scottish MSPs who are opposed to the war are more interested in attacking the SNP for agreeing with them than they are in opposing the war, and the Scottish media won’t press Kezia Dugdale on what her position is.
How many times does the UK have to bomb a Middle Eastern country before it learns that all we create is chaos and casualties, death and darkness. We create a hundred thousand broken lives, we create the grief and anger that leads to screams for revenge. We make the monsters of ISIS and then we run around pointing out the monsters. And the whole sorry saga repeats itself, in a cycle of cynicism and cemeteries.
It’s time to break the cycle. It’s not going to happen in the British state. With every vote in the Commons, with every undeserving party donor or self-publicist appointed to the Lords, the UK’s sham of democracy shatters ever more. A country that goes to war so it can, in the words of Lib Dem leader Tim Fallon, “stand tall”, is a country that Scotland is damaged by being a part of. Let’s break the cycle. Let’s break the British barbed wire that surrounds Scotland’s heart.
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. You can submit an advance order for the book on the Vagabond Voices website at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993
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