Amidst the claps and cheers of Tory MPs, Britain is at war again. A few months ago SNP MPs were castigated for clapping in the Commons chamber, but it seems that it’s fine to clap as long as you’re clapping bombing raids and war, as long as you’re clapping the militarism of the British state. In the British parliament you can applaud inhumanity and combat, but not a young MP’s humane and compassionate speech. Clapping is only wrong if you’re Scottish secessionists who want to rescue their country from the farcical charade of Westminster. Clap. Clap. Crap. Crap.
The MPs applauded because Britain is at war again. A dead Syrian child on a Turkish beach provokes outrage around the world, but a hundred dead Syrian civilians killed in British bombing raids is an acceptable level of civilian casualties. The British state has decided that their lives are worth risking for its self-importance. David Cameron’s self-esteem is more important than a life unlived, more crucial than a life cut short. The pride of Britain counts for more than the beating heart of a Syrian child, more than the twinkle in the eyes of lovers under the moon, more than the grief of a mother and father. Britain will do its bit to create chaos and then our politicians can strut the world stage on the backs of the dead.
But Britain is only doing what the British state defines itself by. Britain is defined by war and its establishment needs war in order to justify its existence. All this has happened before, all this will happen again, a merry go round of murder. A nation which defines itself by its military prowess, by its obligatory public fetishisation of pride in its armed forces, by its need to “stand tall”, is a nation that can never know peace. Like an alcoholic who crawls out of bed and reaches for the bottle, the British state needs war in order to feel normal.
Just one, just one more sip, just one more bombing raid. I can give it up whenever I want. Just one more and then I’ll stop. Honest, you can trust me, I’m the British state. Have I ever lied to you before? Iraq? That was just a misunderstanding. Just one more war, and then I’ll stop. One more, until the next one. I need this. I’ve thought it all through this time, no really I have. Just one more war and all will be well. Until the next one. You need me to have wars for you. I’m the British state. Why aren’t you proud of me?
Britain will always be at war. It’s good for business. Today the defence companies reported that their share prices soared like a Vulcan bomber. But we should call these companies what they are. Companies whose business is the production of means of killing and maiming human beings are not defence companies. They’re offensive companies. And the British state keeps offensive company.
War is the normal state of being in the UK. When our statepeople stand in the Westminster parliament and say that Britain needs to go to war because the UK must live up to the expectations of our allies, they’re saying that Britian must go to war because Britain has always gone to war. When right wing commentators say Britain must go to war because Britain is a warrior nation, they’re saying that Britain must go to war because we’ve always gone to war before. The only justification required for war is that we’ve always been at war. Past wars justify future wars in a never ending cycle. War justifies war.
For the British state the purpose of war isn’t to achieve peace, the purpose of war is to promote the British state, to make Davie Cameron feel good about himself. Without war, without combatting a threat – real or imagined – the British state has no purpose. So we get more wars so that the people don’t see the British state for what it really is, a lethal parasite that sucks us of our children and our resources, that bleeds us for its own aggrandisement and tosses us aside when we’ve been bled dry. There’s always a food bank for the servicemen who serve no more.
This war in Syria is a war that can’t be won because victory can’t be defined. You can’t bomb warped ideas out of existence. You can’t defeat madness with madness. What’s the exit strategy? What counts as victory? Who is going to destroy ISIS? There are no answers to these questions that the government doesn’t want to answer and the media doesn’t want to ask. Our government and a large segment of the Labour party repeat the same mistake that the UK’s establishment made in Iraq and in Libya, they don’t learn, they never learn. Yet the media claps and cheers along with the braying politicians. We’ll keep going down the same bloody road to catastrophic chaos, but we’ll do it with a union flag amidst appeals to patriotism and that makes it all alright.
What exercises our media on this shameful day when Britain once again drank deep from the trophy of destruction is not that we are at war without any clear idea of how to define victory. What they’re upset about is that Alex Salmond said that Hilary Benn’s late pacifist father would be birling in his grave after Hilary gave an impassioned speech to justify a bombing campaign that is incapable of delivering peace but can only deliver destruction. And all of a sudden the Westminions discover a sense of moral outrage, angry on behalf of a rich and well connected warmonger whose feelings they claim have been hurt by someone who is opposed to a senseless war.
Having sold off all the institutions and nationalised companies that once informed a sense of Britishness, there’s nothing left to Britain but a hollow shell, and it’s filled with high explosives. The media bangs on about a British identity because there’s nothing left to a British identity but the bang of bombs and the claps and cheers of careerists in the Commons. Wave your flag, cheer the troops, it’s the Great British pageantry of death. If you oppose war you’re a terrorist sympathiser. In the land of the mad the sane are crazy.
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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