I was on the BBC’s Any Questions? on Friday with the columnist Simon Jenkins, Tory William Hague and Labour’s Yvette Cooper. The main topic was the parliamentary vote that enabled the Government to send RAF Tornado warplanes into Iraq, to stop Isis or Isil as it is now called for reasons unexplained.
Jenkins and I were sceptical of this latest military adventure and the two politicians soberly explained why it was essential. Now I am not a pacifist and really do like and respect both Cooper and Hague, but they came up with no credible strategy. After Iraq and Libya, I would have hoped for better planning and carefully thought-out objectives. It seems to me that politicians don’t know what to do about Isis and so have decided to do something; anything. Bombs are the last resort of the panicked.
My colleague Patrick Cockburn has written with great wisdom on these organised and ruthless Islamicists and expressed his doubts about this latest development. Other reporters and commentators have done the same.
But parliamentarians still backed Cameron, whose own justifications and those of his inner circle were either disingenuous or plain illiterate. Isis was not behind the Glasgow bomb, as the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon suggested, nor were the killers of Lee Rigby secret members of this guerrilla force.
Such spin does him no favours.
Isis is guilty of beheadings, rape, mass killings and torture – we know and are horrified. I am a Shia Muslim and in our mosques, you can feel the terror. The transnational bandits wish to annihilate all those outside their own proscriptive and prescriptive Islam. We want them stopped, pushed back, preferably into some gulag.
Britain at War: Opinions on the ground
Britain at War: Opinions on the ground
1/8 CAROLINE LUCAS Green Party MP for Brighton Pavillion
“Whatever we decide people will die. Be it directly at the hands of ISIL, whose barbarity seems to know no limits. Or when they are hit by bombs dropped by the US, France or the UK.”
2/8 DR ANDREW WHITE Chaplain of St George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad
“Isis is an evil, evil force – the only way to control these bigots is to further put at risk Iraqi people.”
3/8 DR NAFEEZ AHMED Executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development
“We might win some short term battles but we will create more grievances that will empower the IS cause in the long run.”
4/8 DAVID DAVIS Former shadow Home Secretary
“The moral case is clear, the practical case is not - what do we do when we stop bombing?”
5/8 GENERAL JAMES CONWAY Retired US Marine
“I don’t think President Obama’s plan has a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding.”
6/8 NADIM ZAHAWI Baghdad born Conservative MP
“We need to learn that we can’t do nation-building, it has to be up to the local community to decide who they want to govern themselves.”
7/8 RICHARD WILLIAMS Former commanding officer of the SAS
“Friday’s debate lacked any meaningful reference to the political solution that must be considered in Iraq if these bombs are to mean anything.”
8/8 CHRIS DOYLE Director of Council for Arab-British Understanding
“The bigger issue is to actually help Syria, but if you just want to defeat IS then you lose sight of that overall goal.”
But as one of our elders said to me: “We can’t trust the politicians at all. They don’t know what they are doing and we don’t know why they are doing this now, and not before.” It does indeed feel like trickery or foolery. Not good.
Returning to the scene of our past crimes, as George Galloway put it, will only awaken memories of what Blair and Bush did. The Iraqi government, hastily put together, is not yet trusted. Its call for Western intervention is resented by millions of citizens. Isis is feared and loathed, but these Western allies are mistrusted. Those poor people don’t know what can save them.
Syria is even more of a quagmire – the leader, as murderous as Isis, still holds on to power. Various opposition groups are milling around and killing whoever the enemy is at that moment.
A number of the British Muslims who went forth did not go to join terrorists, but to help Syrians, after the UN failed to act. Some then got swayed by promises of world domination and joined Isis. Among those, we now hear, several feel they are prisoners of their commanders, unable to leave and to come back home.
Our leaders make no distinctions between the well motivated “soldiers of mercy” as they saw themselves and the hardened British Muslim Isis fighters.
British politicians and spooks are just as clueless about why these home-grown rebels went off and what they will do if ever allowed back here. Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for Radicalisation at King’s College London, believes about 20 per cent of the jihadis want out; at the same time, there is an Isis fan club in Britain which is very radicalised. Our bomb attacks will fuel their rage and we might see some action here in the UK.
More frightening than that prospect is not knowing why so many young men – some well educated and middle class – have become the enemies within. They faced racism and injustice, perhaps. So do other black and Asian Britons. They feel the injustice of the Iraq War, drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the West’s complicity with Israel’s appalling oppression of Palestinians. So do millions of us – white, black and brown. But we do not enlist with Islamo-Fascists. Where does this inchoate rage come from?
I think families need to ask themselves if they do enough to teach their children they belong here and have precious rights that are not found in any Muslim states, or under killer extremists. In too many homes, the message is still given that they must not become British-ised; that they must stay within their own cultural boundaries.
Too many such young people are then easily preyed on by the messengers of Wahhabism, funded by the Saudis and other rich Sunni states. Their young minds pick up on the message – follow this path, fight your battles and you can take the world. Now Isis has shown the promise is real.
Our greatest enemies are these Arab states. Neither Hague nor Cooper wanted to talk about that, because they are our allies, now part of the coalition attacking Isis, another one of their own bastard children, as were al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Expect things to get worse because many Muslim families still don’t accept responsibility for alienating their children and because the British Government will not take on Saudi Arabia and other intolerant gulf nations. Tornadoes raining down bombs on Iraq will not solve these deep problems.Reuse content