The word in these parts is that Cameron is planning to ask Parliament here in Britain to agree to Britain supply the Syrian rebels with materiel rather more ‘lethal’ than the various bars of soap, advice and toothbrushes that have so far been flown out of RAF Wherever, and that when he does so, a sizeable number of Tory MPs as well as a sizeable number of Lib Dem and Labour MPs will oppose him. And good for them. I am also opposed, though I feel rather uncomfortable with being in agreement with Tory MPs for one and Lib Dems and Labour MPs for another.
Some say it is sheer madness for Britain to throw its hand into the ring militarily while it is actively engaged on reducing Britain’s armed forces to a chap in a tin hat and a pop gun on Brighton beach. But that is not the reason I am against it: I am against it because at issue here is that, as is glaringly obvious to me, though to loads of other people as well, that what began a couple of years ago as protest by some Syrians fed up with the regime has now evolved into being nothing less – but nothing more either, if you get my drift – than a murderous sectarian punch-up between Sunnis and Shi’ites. And why the bloody hell should Britain or anyone else in Europe for that matter pick sides in that one?
As usual, the standard arguments are being trotted out: ‘People are dying, children are being massacred’ (by both sides as it happens – there are no ‘good guys’ in this particular spat). OK, so where as the Western World’s conscience when people were being killed and people were being massacred – and, by the way, still are – in the Congo? Nowhere. The most we could do was to wring our hands as in organising innumerable United Nations resolutions ‘deploring in the strongest possible terms’ the situation in the Congo. And you always know the United Nations and its members simply haven’t a clue what to do when they get around to ‘deploring in the strongest possible terms’ anything.
Admittedly, they did organise the mobilisation and deployment of a UN peace force, but as it was under strict instructions ‘not to get involved’ and in the event was obliged to stand by as villagers were massacred, it was as useful as a chocolate teapot. The best interpretation I can put on the most recent Western moves is that at the end of the day it is all just a game of chess, that they believe that if Assad can be convinced we are ‘serious’, he will be more prepared to take part in peace talks.
However, the trouble with that particular argument is that with the new involvement of – Shi’ite – Hezbollah and the pledge, yesterday, by Iran to send 4,000 soldiers to Syria to bloster Assad’s forces, and the subsequent announcement that Saudi Arabia will now also step up is – which, you can bet your bottom dollar, will amount to more than a few maps and those non-lethal bars of soap and it is now promising to supply the rebels with anti-aircraft guns – it is now so glaringly obvious that neither side is interested in reaching some kind of accommodation and that the idea that the Western world could achieve anything by imposing pressure on Assad is dead in the water.
Then there’s the rather uncomfortable, though pertinent, fact that no side in any conflict will be in the slightest bit interested in ‘talking peace’ unless they have reached the point where they are persuaded that they can no longer win militarily. And even then both sides must be so convinced for peace talks to start and to have any chance of succeeding. So what the hell is Cameron up to? What difference does it make whether or not he – or anyone else – is using chemical weapons? Is massacre just a tad more acceptable to our precious liberal conscience if it is achieved by non-chemical mean? This might sound horribly cold-blooded, but it isn’t intended to be. Let me get back to my original observation: that the ‘civil war’ in Syria is now no longer anything of the kind. It is now most certainly a sectarian.
Even that begs the question: exactly why does either side – the Sunnis and the Shi’ites – even want to get involved in a sectarian conflict now? I don’t know, and I can’t even begin to speculate. So let me bring this back closer to home: why for the sake of God does Britain want to get involved? Why. When it comes to killing, torture and massacring both sides have proved themselves to be as bad as each other. And a supreme irony is that thug that he is, Assad is actually more tolerant of his minorities – Christians, various Muslim sects and gays – than most of the militias making up the rebel forces ever promise to be.
. . .
Years ago when I was still in short trousers I would occasionally hear a news bulletin on the radio and would hear talk of the Baghdad Pact. What it was is now no longer relevant. And that is more or less the point. A little later – this would have been in the late Fifties, when I was still in the first decade of my life – a certain Col Grivas was operating and his struggle for EOKA was giving Britain a good deal of grief and costing it a good many lives. I remember at the time being a little bit worried.
It wasn’t that I knew what was going on, it was just that I didn’t have much of a sense of geography or proportion, and I was concerned the troubles would eventually land up on my own doorstep. But then again: who, a great many will be asking, was Col Grivas and what was EOKA? And that question is also the point. I have a 14-year-old son whose main interests, as far as I can see, are computer games.
What is the ‘Syrian conflict’ to him. I’m sure, in between killing zombies while playing Call Of Duty VI and Portal, he will have gathered that something is going on, but is he worried? Certainly not at all as much as me. And, given that all the horror – for most certainly is was horror for many Cypriots at the time Col Grivas was operating – connected with EOKA is now largely forgotten, will young Wesley (for that is his name) be writing a blog in 40 or 50 years time in which he records as I did about Col Grivas that there was an awful stink in Syria, but that ‘is now all forgotten’? I really don’t know, though I pray to God it will be. Perhaps I am fretting too much. Perhaps Cameron and Obama and Hollande have got some subtle game plane underway and that it will all come good in the end. But, you know, my immediate comments not withstanding, and given the very different dynamics of a far more globalised world, I’m really not that too certain it will.
. . .
When I first came to London in 1990, I was, in a sense, overwhelmed by the sheer size of the city, and became acutely aware of just how insignificant I was in the scheme of things. Admittedly, I was suffering from a period of depression (though, I must add, nothing quite as bad as many others suffer, however horrible it was for me at the time), but I don’t think that was the reason. The reason was that the circumstances I found myself in, looking for somewhere to stay, simply highlighted that I was insignificant, utterly insignificant. But then we all are. Most certainly most of us do have some signifance in some context or other, the context, for example, of our families and our immediate work colleagues, but at the end of the day we are nothing more important than the smoke I puff out each time I take a drag on my cigar.
Similarly, we bloggers, from the most basic blogger such as myself, to the ‘informed’ such as all those media correspondents who are also obliged to blog, are, at the end of the day, utterly insignificant. What I write here is trivial with a capital T. My concerns about Britain getting itself stupidly involved, however apparently admirable its motives, in a war which is none of its business, are equally insignificant. What do they – my views and opinions – matter? How do I matter, except to my two children, my wife, my stepmother, my brother and sister. What do you matter, except to your family and friends? Admit it: you don’t.
. . .
Finally, I can’t resist passing on a rumour, and I stress it is merely a rumour. A week or two ago, Cameron hit the headlines in on Sunday paper when he was told of an affair which affected Downing Street. The first rumour I heard was that the affair which so disturbed Cameron was between Andy Coulson, once his press bod and formerly an editor of the News of the World, and the then editor of the Sun, one Rebekah Wade (aka Brooks). Today I heard another rumour, which adds a little spice to the whole shooting match. It is that not only was Rebekah screwing Coulson, she was, at the same time, also screwing one Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s press bod. Though whether this was before, during or after Blair was rumoured to be screwing Rupert Murdoch’s soon to be divorced wife Wendi Deng I really haven’t heard. And nor do I know.