If somebody wishes to be a ghazi, I should much prefer them to do it in Tikrit rather than in Peterborough or Penicuik. To that extent I agree with Bob Quick. The periodic media scares about Sunni families going to Syria to “join ISIS” are very peculiar. We appear, with no public debate, to have adopted a de facto system of exit visas. Ronald Reagan famously said to Mikhail Gorbachev that we never had to lock our people in. It seems that now in the UK we do.
We have companies that recruit and control active armies of mercenaries, which are responsible for thousands of deaths overseas. I detest the violence of “ISIS” but it is not morally different from Executive Outcomes machine gunning villages from helicopters in Angola or from Aegis killing random vehicle occupants in Iraq who happened to be near their convoys. Yet Tony Buckingham and Tim Spicer became extremely rich after founding their careers on the latter killings, and now are respected figures in the London establishment. Apparently killing for money is good; only killing for religion is bad.
Nor is there any official objection to the young Britons who go to Israel to fight with the IDF, and were involved in the war crimes that last year killed hundreds upon hundreds of little Palestinian children.
Terrorism is appalling. The desire by some of the inhabitants of the Middle East to establish a Caliphate run on what they interpret as theological lines is a legitimate desire, if that is the kind of society people want. We devastated Iraq: we bombed Iraq into a failed state. We we were part of the nexus of interests that conspired to arm and facilitate armed insurrection in Syria. In the Blairite creed, we apparently believed that unleashing death, devastation and destruction of physical infrastructure and social institutions, would result in an embrace of democracy and western values by the people.
You would have to be mad to believe that, but it appears to remain the guiding principle of western foreign policy.
Even the remotest claim to wisdom would lead to the embrace of two principles. The first is that we cannot dictate how societies very different to our own ought to organise themselves. We can try to encourage a dialogue leading to respect of universal human rights, and hope for gradual improvement in that direction. But the second lesson is stop bombing. It is plainly counter-productive.
Today the BBC is wall to wall 7/7 commemoration. The coverage keeps focusing on military uniforms, even though the military were in no capacity whatsoever involved in 7/7. It is inappropriate militarism, just as we saw with the return of the bodies of the Tunisian victims.
There is an elephant in the room. Nobody is mentioning the starkly obvious truth. If we had not invaded Iraq, 7/7 would never have happened. Let me say it again, because it is not sayable within the corporate media and establishment consensus. If we had not invaded Iraq, 7/7 would never have happened.
Our response to “Isis” illustrates that we have become no more sophisticated than the Victorian portrayal of the “Mad Mahdi”. The difference is that, due to globalisation, we cannot just pound foreign lands into submission without provoking the blowback of terrorism elsewhere. I detest terrorism and do not believe random killing of civilians can ever be justified. But it is not an inexplicable manifestation of evil. We are causing it.
It is a fact that ISIS was never implicated in any terrorist activity in the UK before we started bombing ISIS in Iraq. We created the appalling mess in Iraq and Syria. By bombing we continually make it worse. It will take some time for the Middle East to recover from the profound effects of the Western wars against Muslim countries at the beginning of the 21st Century. Our response to the provocation of Bin Laden has been so stupid as to attain most of his goals for him. We have of course also attained most of the goals of the armaments and security state industries, which have sucked wealth from the rest of us. A spiral of despair for us has made billions for them. When a policy is as obviously counter-productive as our continual Middle Eastern wars, then ask cui bono?
I am not claiming that if we stop bombing then terrorism will stop instantly. There will be a lag effect. And in even the most benign scenario, Iraq and Syria will take decades to normalise. That is our fault, but we can best now help by staying well away.