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Hypocricy on BBC Question Time

Britain is holding a snap election on the 8th of June to determine who is going to be the next prime minister. During the campaigning period, all party leaders have (to greater and lesser extents) taken part in televised question and answer sessions with the British public. That’s what the BBC Question Time special last night was all about: current prime minister Theresa May and the leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn both spent 45 minutes answering questions from the British public.

What struck me about the debate is that the two biggest areas the Corbyn was challenged on were not his plans to nationalise the railways, there was just one question on scrapping zero hour contracts, no one seemed to care about his vision for social care or the NHS. What people did want to know is why he won’t outrightly condemn the IRA and why he won’t commit to sending off nukes to blow up people if  ‘we had to’.

The thing about Jeremy Corbyn is … he’s a nice guy. He has been campaigning for peace for decades and he is clearly against nuclear weapons. This should not come as a surprise. His party won’t let him get rid of the weapons, but obviously, he doesn’t want to use them to blow up entire regions and murder people.  Our nuclear weapons are there as a deterrent so I can see why it’s a little alarming that Jezebel won’t even make it look like he would use them if he had to, but he never outright said he wouldn’t use them either.  He said he wouldn’t just send them off without weighing up the situation and trying other options. Is that really so bad?

The other thing that always seems quite popular is Jeremy Corbyn’s supposed links to the IRA. He did meet with members of the IRA, as did many other members of parliament, in an attempt to create a ceasefire. People also think he supports the IRA because he spoke at a remembrance ceremony for them and because he refuses to condemn them without also condemning the violence of rival groups.

History is complicated. It isn’t always as simple as saying these were the good guys and these were the evil people. Both sides normally do terrible things and neither side is ever blameless. Acknowledging that the situation with Ireland was complicated and that deaths on both sides should be mourned isn’t the same as advocating terrorist attacks. I’m really not sure why this and nothing else seems to bother people so much.

This leads me onto my next and main point. Britain currently sells weapons to Saudi Arabia. We know this. We also know that Saudi Arabia uses those weapons in ways which most probably violate international law. We know that those weapons were used on civilians in Yemen, and there is pretty strong evidence to suggest that some of those weapons are also going to ISIS in Syria. So it just seems a bit crazy that we are so quick to jump on Jeremy Corbyn over not wanting to celebrate people dying during the troubles but we have no moral qualms about selling weapons to a country which uses them in violation of human rights and often violates the human rights of people within its own country.

Things are complicated, and I am not suggesting that the U.K should break their ties with Saudi Arabia. I just want to highlight the hypocrisy in condemning Corbyn for his ‘friendliness’ towards terrorists whilst we just ignore things like this. Judge them on their policies and their record and their actions. But if you want to judge one of them for ‘leasing with terrorists’ then take a closer look at what is actually going on before you let that be the deciding factor.

I wrote an article about this topic in more depth. If you would like to read it please go to: https://evonews.com/world-news/2017/jun/03/opinion-the-bbc-question-time-debate-theresa-may-jeremy-corbyn-and-saudi-arabia/

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Jeremy Corbyn

Click for my article on Jeremy Corbyn as the underdog of British politics.

I have long felt that the Labour party is suffering an identity crisis. The old Labour movement, the movement of Atlee, the NHS, and the welfare system was abandoned in favour of Tony Blair’s centrist movement, but that doesn’t appear to be working either. Jeremy Corbyn offers a return to old Labour, to the values Labour used to represent. Perhaps those values don’t have a place in this country anymore, perhaps the working class has changed too much.

Perhaps society has changed too much. If this is the case, and Labour cannot go back to its roots but it can’t re-imagine itself as anything more inspiring than a second rate Tory party whose main policy is seemingly slightly ‘nicer’ than the Tories, then perhaps it’s time for something new. Perhaps Labour should split, if that is how things are going. All I know is that we need differences of opinion in parliament, we need parties that differ enough that people feel that they have a choice. We need parties that represent people, that give them a voice. Parties people will support. And if Labour can’t be what it used to be but doesn’t have a good enough alternative, then something needs to change.

Corbyn has the support of a lot of people because they don’t see him as part of the establishment, because they see how much the media and the MP’s hate him. And this increases his popularity because he seems different. He’s an underdog. He shares people’s values, and that scares the establishment. He seems nice. He would rather hang out with and support local, ordinary people, then bother with the rituals and ceremonies required of politicians. Perhaps this isn’t a good enough reason to support him, but if enough people feel this way then they deserve to be heard, and if enough people want him in power he should stay.

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An update on my life, and a rant about Jeremy Corbyn

Read my article on Jeremy Corbyn as the underdog of British politics.

Me

I’ve been neglecting my poor blog.

Things have been quite busy. I’m trying to work as a freelance writer, which basically involves sending pitches and searching the internet for writing opportunities for hours and perhaps actually getting something once or twice a week. It started slow, but I’m feeling optimistic about it. I’m working as a ghostwriter, which isn’t great as you get no credit for your work, but on the other

I’m working as a ghostwriter, which isn’t great as you get no credit for your work, but on the other hand I’m getting paid to write. It’s ghostwriting for a tech company, so I have to rewrite and research these tech topics like virtual assistants for android phones and then write a load of words on them. It’s quite fun, I’m learning a lot of trivia and I’ve discovered some really addictive phone games.

I’ve also found a few other jobs along the way, including a job which literally paid me $100 me to record myself saying phrases. I think they were testing for a Google app, as I had to repeat the word “Google” so many times it stopped sounding real. It did get a bit repetitive, but realistically making $100 dollars by lying in bed and talking is pretty much the best thing ever.

Getting paid for journalism, opinions and analysis is pretty hard, especially for newbies, and as that’s what I really want to do it kind of sucks. I’ve written a fair few articles which, whilst they weren’t paid for, did manage to end up on a legit website and reach a reasonably large number of people, so that was pretty cool. I have written an article for this website, and please forgive me for being a shameless promoter but please click and read it.

Jeremy Corbyn

The article is my attempt to levy the playing field for Jeremy Corbyn by writing something nice about him. I should probably clarify, as he goes against a lot of what I write about, that I don’t actually want him to run the country, and I don’t agree with a lot of his policies.

But I am fascinated by him. For a man like him, a genuine, scruffy do-gooder of a man who would rather hang out with local people and go to his constituents citizenship ceremonies then pander to the press and attend all the official occassions … he really is something different. Whether you agree with him or not, don’t you get tired of politicians saying the same things, politicians who don’t seem to have anything to do with you?
So many people are disillusioned with politics and can’t be bothered to vote in elections because they don’t agree with the leading parties. Because they don’t feel that they represent their views. Sure some people are just lazy, or uninformed or simply don’t care, but there are a lot of people who don’t want to give their support to a candidate they don’t trust. This is at least partly why so many young people don’t tend to engage in politics, because politics has made them apathetic.

Why I like Jeremy Corbyn

And I’m personally interested in seeing Jeremy remain in parliament, not because I think he’s right, but because I think he represents the people who don’t normally get representation, and the leading party should have some decent kind of opposition even if he is a bit mad. Some say that he is incompetent, that he has crazy ideas and he abandoned England to Brexit whilst he went on a sunny holiday, and at least some of these are things are probably true. But it does appear that people really can never be satisfied.

So many people complained that the Remain campaign was pushing itself down people’s throats, that David Cameron spent tax payers money on leaflets. Some people got so sick of the constant warnings and threats that some of them voted to leave just out of spite. So how is it that the one person who didn’t do that, who didn’t make wild claims and belittled the people by giving them threats rather than actual facts, how is he suddenly the evil villain of the story?

A few newspapers have discussed this and shown that  more Labour members actually voted to remain than the Conservative party, and those that voted to leave did so because of reasons that had nothing at all to do with Jeremy Corbyn. Yes, he could have done a better job, and yes he didn’t seem that into it. Realistically, he probably wasn’t. You can’t really have his opinions and be totally in favour of the E.U. Perhaps he was hoping we’d leave. Perhaps as a man who has such strict principles, he couldn’t properly campaign for something he didn’t really support. Perhaps his main fault is that he finds it hard to lie.

Perhaps he was hoping we’d leave. Perhaps as a man who has such strict principles, he couldn’t properly campaign for something he didn’t really support. Perhaps his main fault is that he finds it hard to lie.

But he did campaign to remain, just not enough. People saw him giving talks on workers rights within the E.U and why we should have stayed in to reform it. He didn’t do it as well as he should have done, but he did so it and  we can’t know how much he actually did do because no one reported it.

I want him to remain, at least for a while longer, because I think it’s interesting to see a real difference of opinion in parliament and displayed across social media, even if it’s an opinion I don’t agree with. I want to see the parties represent different things, so people actually do have a choice. And perhaps Jeremy’s old labour socialism thing just isn’t popular enough with the majority of people, perhaps Labour itself no longer works because the world has changed and it no longer has a place in it.

The Labour Party

Perhaps if old labour can’t work anymore it’s a sign, because we don’t need a party which bases half its support on the fact it seems a bit ‘nicer’ than the Tories. I am sure there are people who really love the Labour party and believe in what it stands for today, but I don’t come across these people very often. ‘New Labour’ doesn’t seem to have the same appeal it used to, and if Labour goes back to it’s ‘Tory-lite’ image it could be years before they are re-elected.

I just feel the Labour party spends so much time saying “look, we’re not the Torie’s and you hate the Tories so you must like us”, without giving us enough of a reason to like them. I don’t feel the majority of them, including Jeremy’s contester, know what they stand for, just that it’s not the same things as Jeremy Corbyn. We need them to say what they are, not what they are not, and if they don’t know they had better start thinking. There are some things they have to agree with, because there is no way to change them. Perhaps there isn’t a good enough alternative to the tories because they actually have it all right and there is no other way, but I’m not convinced.

Maybe it’s time for a new party or several new parties. Maybe we’ll see the rise of a (real) liberal party, perhaps the greens will take over, who really knows. We would (and should)  change the electoral system, which that would involve a lot of headache and paperwork, but there are other options beyond out current brand of politics. It’s not crazy to suggest we may need to think about them at some point.

I don’t know what will happen, but I have an inkling that something has to change. Maybe Jeremy isn’t the right kind of change, but he shows that it is possible for non-Etonian champaign socialists/strict Tories to get into positions of power and at the very least, we can hope he will inspire other people to try and do the same.

 

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Thoughts on Syria

This has been a pretty intense week. After a ten and a half hour debate in the house of commons on Wednesday the UK government voted in favour of extending air strikes to Syria and contributing to a bombing coalition with the US and France in that country. After the decision was broadcast, a lot of people took to social media to voice their opinions. I have personally seen far more comments against the motion than I have for, but it would be wrong to say that public opinion is unanimously or extremely against the strikes. Public opinion is never unanimous, and not everyone takes to social media to voice their opinions. There are a lot of arguments on both sides, and both are right in parts and wrong in others.
The idea that military action should never be an option is frankly un-realistic, and some people seem to have bought into the hype surrounding this vote and decided that it means the UK will personally start dropping thousands and thousands of bombs on innocent people. This is an overstatement. The UK is contributing a small number of air crafts to an existing operation, and it has basically been admitted that our contribution is unlikely to make a significant difference, they are also meant to be targeting Daesh only and avoiding civilian areas.  They are not trying to target civilians and they claim that the RAF has not killed a single civilian during the already existing operation in Iraq, in reality this is very hard to prove because of the sheer depth of destruction in this region and dubious sources, and we may never know for sure if this is true or not. We also do not know and may never know how many civilians are going to be effected or killed by extending the operations in Syria.
Syria is already being heavily bombed by different, overlapping forces and there doesn’t seem to be much proof that it is helping to end or even significantly hurt Daesh, but if there was a proper ground force and a realistic chance at a peace settlement it would be a helpful to weaken them, scatter them and help cut off their resources. As we do not have these things, I do not feel the bombing campaign is the best course of action, and I have not been convinced by any of the frankly half baked, rushed or non-relevant arguments by the MP’s or those who support this.
Some things came up in the debate, including Cameron’s assertion that bombing Syria will somehow make us safer in the UK and all the hype about Hilary Benn’s speech. There is also a very important issue no one seems to be thinking about, which is very worrying as it is extremely relevant to our security and the future of Syria.
I’m going to attempt to address these, but this is a very complex and multi-faceted issue and I’m not going to pretend to know what the best course of action should be. It does worry me that these points don’t seem to have been acknowledged adequately by parliament.

Firstly, the idea that bombing Syria will make us safer does not make sense to me. And the reason for this is simple. Although Daesh currently has its headquarters in Syria, the attacks that happened in Paris were carried out by those in Paris, not in Syria. The people who carried out the attacks may have been to Syria, they were in touch with people in Syria, but they were born in and residents of the EU. So although people who support Daesh and subscribe to their views are likely to be in touch with people in Syria, and as we know hundreds of people from our own country have travelled to, and worryingly back, from Syria, if attacks happen in this country they are very likely to be carried out by people already here, and therefore bombing Syria will not stop their ability to carry out attacks on our countries, and is likely to make ‘revenge attacks’ more likely, as well as potentially so called lone wolf attacks, by people inspired by but not directly connected to Daesh.
There is another reason as well. It is not just extremists who dislike our respective governments and the actions they have carried out in the past and continue to carry out now. There are thousands of people who hate the very notion of religious murder and the whole idea of Daesh who also hate our government and  their previous actions in the Middle East. There are plenty of people who see the war in Iraq as nothing more than a cold, calculated war crime and believe that those who were involved are murderers. And there are also plenty of people who disagree strongly with the decision taken on Wednesday, because they believe it is to do with oil and our governments collective greed. These are non radicalised and often peaceful people who hold these views. These are not limited to extremists. The reason Daesh’s propaganda works is because some of it is based on truth. Not the idea that there is some apocalyptic crusade in which they are fighting, and not the idea that murdering innocent people is going to result in some heavenly reward. But we do have a complicated, long running and often nasty history not just with the middle east but with most places around the world. This is not because people in our countries are abnormally evil, but because human history is full of people doing horrific things to each other all over the world. There is no way to excuse the murders these people have carried out in Europe or abroad. These people have murdered thousands within Syria and continue to stone, torture and execute any dissenters or anyone who even vaguely strays from their vision of Islam and their strict rules on behaviour. They have also filled mass graves with all the people they decided not to rape. And they have and continue to carry out horrific attacks outside of Syria, including our neighbors in France. These actions can never be excused; as human action goes these are among the most evil it could be and I hope everyone reading this is under no delusion that this is the case. But that does not mean that our countries actions over the last twenty years were any less terrible, that innocent people have not died during these ‘liberation’ wars. The ‘west’ are at least partly responsible for the hell that Daesh was born out of. This is by no means the only factor, but it is a factor, and until we stop ignoring our past mistakes we cannot hope to beat  this propaganda. There is also the fact that these people want to be martyred, and they want the west to commit atrocities because it furthers their cause.
This does not mean military action is not an option, but it does mean we have to be more careful when applying it and ensuring that it is part of a comprehensive plan, not just war for the sake of looking like we are doing something.

Secondly, Hilary Benn’s speech was really not all that. In terms of rhetorical devices and the art of public speaking, it wasn’t bad. He had a good use of tone, he applied several effective rhetorical devices and he had good presence. He would have done any debating club proud. But the actual words he said did not offer anything new to the debate, in fact in terms of addressing the issues at hand he failed on several accounts. He played it in such a way that everyone could agree with it without him actually having to say anything of note, and it worked very well for him. His analogy with ‘facism’ was effective because it invoked our feelings about Nazism, but it did not address the issue. This is not the same situation as it was during the second world war not least because warfare has changed a considerable amount. This is not fighting them on the grounds, seas and skies, and fighting a clear army with equal footing, this is dropping a few bombs a week from a great hight and adding slightly to the destruction of a country.
Most of his speech concerned the need to fight Daesh in general. No one was disputing that we needed to take action against them, the issue at hand was whether contributing air strikes, and a small number of air strikes at that, is the right approach to tackle them, not whether we should fight them at all. And he does address that where he says: “Look at how their military capacity and their freedom of movement has been put under pressure. Ask the Kurds about Sinjar and Kobane. Now of course air strikes alone will not defeat Daesh, but they make a difference because they are giving them a hard time and it is making it more difficult for them to expand their territory.”. I find that pretty weak, because whilst it may slow them down, it does not mean they cannot regain the territory fairly quickly without ground forces to stop them and as we have seen in the campaign that is already happening whilst they have been stopped in some areas, they have gained territory in others. Without an effective ground army to keep them from regaining this territory, bombing will at best have very limited success.
His mentioned the ‘ground troops’ that we are relying on to hold the territory being bombed “But I tell you what else we know: it’s whatever the number – 70,000, 40,000, 80,000 – the current size of the opposition forces mean the longer we leave taking action, the longer Daesh will have to decrease that number” is also not a strong statement, in fact it highlights how little we know about these troops we are relying on, especially as they are very likely to have their own agendas. Some of these fighters are fighting for democracy, and some for their right to their own country, and some are doing very well and establishing free societies within that country, but others are not. If we train and equip these people, it is quite likely if we are able to defeat Daesh someone else will easily be able to take their place. The PM has basically admitted that some, who knows how many, are from Al Qaeda, the people we spent the last ten+ years fighting. There are many interests at work here, and I think it is extremely naive to think we can unite them all and control them, especially if they are not sure what we are offering them at the end of all this. And his statement “We are part of a coalition of over 60 countries standing together shoulder to shoulder to oppose their ideology and their brutality.” is something I’m really not convinced about. I’ve tried to find a list of every country involved in this ‘coalition’, and so far I have found around 24 countries with varying levels of involvement, as well as an array of local forces within the region. If anyone has any information on the other 36 countries apparently involved please let me know, otherwise I fail to understand where this figure has come from.
It was not a bad speech, but I do not believe it, or he, deserves the hype.  I do not feel he gave a convincing argument for  whether the UK contributing to air strikes would make a significant positive contribution to this war.  He did attempt address these points, although I do not believe he did so very well, but he spent far more rallying everyone up by making statements that are both easy to agree with and largely empty.

The third and perhaps most pressing point is that this war is far more complex then the MPs made out on Wednesday. It is not a case of a united country being invaded by Daesh that will go back to normal once they are removed. The civil war was not started because of Daesh, Daesh was just able to capitalize on it because of the chaos that was already happening. And the civil war will not stop with their removal. There are many differing and often un-compatible interests in Syria, and it is far more complex than it sounded during the debate. President Assad has most probably killed more Syrians than Daesh have, and many Syrian people have fought for years to remove him. So when and if we can defeat Daesh, there will be a few options, and none of them are ideal. Firstly, we could say that our sole aim was to defeat Daesh and now we will withdraw military action, in which case the chaos is likely to continue and a similar group will sooner or later have the opportunity to emerge, or that Assad will regain power (in which case see point three). We could go against Russia and say that we will continue to fight, and therefore fight Russia to remove Assad, which is likely to anger Iran and Russia and could potentially lead to World War Three. Wars have started for less. Or we could side with Russia and turn the country over to Assad, which is probably the most likely plan, which would be a betrayal of the Syrian people who have spent years in a hellish war. To say all of that was for nothing and that things would be set back to how they were before this all started is almost guaranteed to turn these people against us, and out of all the possible scenario’s the fact will remain that we will have proved to the world we only care about those who directly effect us and are perfectly happy to work with murderous dictators and turn a blind eye to their domestic policies as long as they are friendly to us. Some people are comparing this to Iraq, but it is not the same. It is not a case of us invading a country for no reason and removing a dictator with no end plan, many people in Syria have already risen up against Assad. We are not enforcing this from our comfortable plushy offices overseas, many people in Syria have fought for this for years.

There is no easy answer to this issue, all have the potential to be very messy and unpleasant, and I am not sure anyone really knows how to deal with it  if and when it does come up. What I do know is that by rushing into an air strike on Syria we have thrown ourselves into a much bigger conflict than we would like to think about, and the assertion that it is hardly an issue because the borders are not recognized by Daesh is not the point. The point is that the situation in Syria is not the situation in Iraq, and now we have committed ourselves to something I am not convinced any of the MP’s really understand. I am not saying military action is the wrong approach, and at some point it would probably have been necessary. But I feel they should have spent far longer thinking about the immediate as well as the future consequences and thought up at least the beginnings of a solid plan before engaging these air strikes. The Vienna talks are intended to solve this issue, but I can’t see that happening any time soon, and until they do the situation remains uncertain with or without Daesh. This was not just extending the war. This was much more than that, and to say it is not is to lie to the public.

 

Further reading:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-air-strikes-cartoon-sums-up-the-problem-with-the-international-coalition-against-isis-a6755521.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/11/us-air-strikes-iraq-isis-minimal-impact-pentagon

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/12032102/Awful-though-it-seems-working-with-Assad-may-be-the-only-option-in-Syria.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/12/02/jeremy-corbyn-warns-uk-fa_n_8700172.html

http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2015/12/heres-the-hilary-benn-syria-speech-transcript-in-full/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/russia-and-france-will-co-operate-against-isis-but-vladimir-putin-and-francois-hollande-at-odds-over-a6750781.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/03/syria-assad-question-means-a-common-front-against-isis-is-still-a-long-way-off

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-34981848

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Paris, Syria and scary current events

So, the past two weeks have been scary and intense. The Paris atrocities of November 13th, in which 130 innocent people were killed in seven terrorist attacks on the capital have understandably shaken Europe and the wider world, and you can still feel the aftermath here in the UK. There is no way to excuse these murders; the people killed were regular, innocent people, like you and me. The idea that you could be out with your friends on a Friday night, doing the things you have always done, and someone could just go and murder you because of some religious ideology that you have nothing to do with is beyond words.
Things have definitely changed in the UK in the last two weeks. There are police everywhere, personally every time I get a tube I feel like I am tempting fate and we may be only a week or two away from a full blown war. A lot of things are going on, and these are definitely scary times to live in.  I’m going to focus on the issue of bombing Syria, but this is only one part of a must larger issue and we still have no idea how it is all going to turn out.

The Paris atrocities were just that; they were atrocities. Because those that carried out these murders say they are Muslims, and indeed want to create an Islamic state based on their take on Islamic law, a worrying amount of people seem to have become concerned about Muslims in general. If you go to any comment section on a relevant news story, you will see a number of people suggesting that the Koran is evil, that that we shouldn’t trust Muslims, you will even get people suggesting that we should deport all Muslims to Syria.  I very much doubt we will get to the mass deporting of innocent people stage, but smaller levels of discrimination do appear to be on the rise, and both to keep the UK safe for all its citizens and to combat further radicalisation in our communities, this needs to be addressed. This is not just for political rhetoric and for the sake of being a good, tolerant person, but because terrorists want to invoke an ‘us and them’ mentality with the West as an all encompassing bad guy that must be destroyed. Attacking innocent people and treating them like the enemy isn’t going to help with that, and surely if we are going to try and stop radicalisation of people in this country we need to fight against this perception, not perpetuate it. Human history is full of people doing bad things to each other, and England’s history is a particularly bloody and often horrific one. That does not mean the majority of the population have personally done bloody and horrific things, or that they are responsible for these things, but we do need to acknowledge this countries past. In the same way you can’t blame all Muslims for ISIS, you cannot blame all Europeans for their colonial past or for the wars the leaders of these countries decided to drag us into.  This does not mean we shouldn’t fight Daesh or that we should apologise for them, but we need to acknowledge our part in the context of these events before we can plan what to do next. I’m sure the majority of people don’t believe all or most  Muslims are terrorist or Daesh sympathisers, but here are a few points for those that do.

Islam is not a uniquely violent religion.
That is not to say there are not very questionable passages in the Koran. It is true that there are parts that can be interpreted as promoting violence and even murder against non-believers and perceived sinners, and that people have carried out murders based on their take on the Muslim religion. Suicide bombers do follow a type of Islamic faith, although it is not the same beliefs as the majority.
However, it is not alone. The abrahamic religions have a lot of differences, but they also have a lot of similarities and it is simply untrue to suggest one is significantly more violent than the others.  The Old Testament has a lot of passages that sound pretty dodgy to me, including but not limited to: ” Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. (Numbers 31:17-18)” and “If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. Your hand shall be the first raised to slay him; the rest of the people shall join in with you. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12)”. In the New Testament Jesus is reported as saying: “”Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34“.
Do these passages mean that all Jews and Christians are inherently violent? Of course not. Have people used these religions to justify violence? Yes. Of course they have. Murder in the name of religion is hardly a new concept. Here are some nasty titbits for you: During the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars in the 1200’s, large numbers of Cathars were massacred by Christians due to their duelist religion, despite the fact they were mostly peaceful and pious people. Back in the day the Crusades were very real and lengthy religious war in which both Christians and Muslims murdered and enslaved each other in the name of their respective religions. During Tudor times in the UK, people were burnt alive for being the wrong kind of Christian. In numerous countries all over Europe those accused of witchcraft were tortured and murdered.  In more resent times, the Ku Klux Klan of whom many considered themselves Christian, murdered and terrorized black people for decades. Human history is full of people doing bad things to each other and justifying it in one way or the other. People have done many bad things in the name of Islam, but you can’t say that because some groups of people start trying to force everyone to share their outlook and commit horrific acts in the name of their Gods, it means everyone who subscribes to a version of that religion wants to do the same. Because that would mean all religious people would be murderers as people have done that in the name of pretty much every religion at one time or another. I’m not saying religion is bad. I’m saying some people use religion to justify a whole array of things, and in that respect Islam is not unique.

 The majority of Refugees do not pose a threat to our security

I guess I can kind of understand why some people have come to the conclusion that allowing refugees from the war torn countries of Syria and Iraq is a threat to our safety. Syria is an ISIS stronghold, the people who have committed atrocities have most probably been in touch with people in Syria and may well have gone there, and so therefore people coming here from Syria are all a potential threat. But that doesn’t really seem to be the case. As far as I am aware, whilst some of the terrorists managed to get through borders into France they were born and raised in Europe. As far as I am aware, none of those involved in the murders were refugees.  Why someone would choose to commit these atrocities in their own home country is something I cannot begin to understand, but that appears to be what is happening. No, this does not mean we should start deporting people on the chance that they may be a terrorist, but it is true that we seem to face a bigger threat from people already in Europe than those trying to enter.  It is true that out of all the refugees trying to enter the EU, a very small number may be be from Daesh and prepared to harm the European country they enter. But a far, far larger number are fleeing these same terrorists because they are in danger, and because they live in a war zone that has been in conflict for years, that is being bombed constantly, that is basically being destroyed. Most of them are genuinely desperate people who are trying to come here to protect themselves and their families, because they are likely to die where they are. A lot of them are leaving because they cannot stand what Daesh is doing in that region, because they know better than any of us here how they are treating people and what life is like in Raqqa.  It is not a pleasant and easy route. Many men, women and children die on that trip.  We should not turn our backs on desperate people out of paranoia. There was something in the Metro this morning about how the Conservative government have not met their immigration targets and net immigration is on the rise. Of course it’s on the blood rise! We are facing the worst refugee crisis since the second world war. Should we close our doors to fulfil a few targets? Is that going to sound good to future generations who are going to analyse our handling of this situation and judge us for it? Security does need to be tightened, and our countries need to work together to try and find known terrorists. Border security does need to be increased. But this does not mean we should close the borders and send these people back to the hell like war zone they were so desperate to escape. We need to be safe, but we need to be human as well, and I maintain all the things I said in my previous article.

We should not rush into Syria

I’m not normally a fan of Jeremy Corbyn’s politics (although I’m warming to the man himself), but I agree with his response on Syria. Paris was a terrible atrocity, but rushing into a war without a clear plan or sense of direction mainly out of revenge and the need to show our allies we are ‘doing something’ is not a good move, especially if the only action the government is willing to take is mostly symbolic. Dropping a few more bombs on a already heavily bombed area doesn’t seem like it is going to change much, especially as as far as I am aware there hasn’t been much success from the bombing already being carried out. You will probably kill a few terrorists, and maybe even some prominent ones. But there are others who can take their place, and in the mean time who knows how many civilians will be killed in the process especially as there is evidence that suggests members of Daesh will enter populated areas and use the civilians in that area as a sort of ‘human shield’, which means that even our apparently superior bombs are going to have a hard time distinguishing between terrorist and civilian. The fact is that you will kill innocent people. No matter how sophisticated the bombs that will be used, you are going to hit innocent people. That is a fact of war and sometimes it is unavoidable, but the benefits have to outweigh the costs for it to be worth it and I am not convinced that they do in this case.
Yes, we are already bombing Iraq. Is there evidence that that is helping? In the Metro today it detailed how ISIS is using tunnels in Iraq to avoid the bombs. Regular civilians are unlikely to have this luxury. I would suggest people read the testimonies of refugees from Raqqa and their opinion on the bombing, because they are the ones who are going to be most affected. And whilst they want Daesh to be stopped, most of them seem to think that bombing alone is not going to change much more than kill even more people than are already dying in that region. Incidentally, they are also questioning why all the decisions regarding Syria are being made without consulting the people who have fled this region and therefore are likely to know the most about it which is a fair point and something the prime minister should thing about. There is another point as well; The Syrian civil war wasn’t started because of Daesh, rather Daesh emerged out of an already existing conflict in that region. Assad murdered the Syrian people before the Islamic state did. And Britain was well aware of that, in fact we voted against fighting Assad in 2013. And the Islamic State has been around for a while now, and all the time they have been killing and controlling people. We’ve found the mass graves, we’ve heard the testimonies, we know this is happening. So it may well seem to the majority of people in Syria that we will turn a  blind eye to the slaughter of local people in that region, and are now only joining in to seek revenge for Paris. And whilst no one can deny the events of November 13th were horrific, if we now say that we want to eradicate Daesh and in the process potentially keep Assad stay in power as the ‘lesser of two evils’, I can only see that turning more people in that region against the West, especially if they see they start to see us as the reason for the destruction of their city and the death of their families. I imagine free press, whilst it does exist, is hard to find and risky to access in this region and you would have to be very careful about what you say, therefore if people are desperate and they see destruction all around, a group that offers you a way out even if it is through your own death may start to seem attractive.
Yes, something does need to be done. But not just about Daesh. They are not the only terrorists in that region. If war is going to happen, there needs to be a guarantee that the West isn’t simply going to hand power back to Assad in the end and turn things back to how they started. Because that is not going to end the conflict, that is going to make it worse, and sooner or later we may find ourselves right back in the position we are in now. There are obviously no easy answers, and there is a conflict of not wanting to interfere in other peoples countries but also wanting to help make them better for the people who live there that isn’t easy to resolve, but this is why I think we shouldn’t rush into broadening this conflict without thinking about the end plan and the future.
None of us want to send ground troops to the Middle East, and at this time I don’t want to advocate it either, but without sending ground troops  and solely relying on air strikes, it doesn’t sound like our respective governments are willing to properly commit to this war. Without committing properly and taking action that can be seen as not enough or even just symbolic, I don’t feel that it is worth it at this stage. They say there are 70,000 ground troops in Syria who can fight on the ground whilst the allies fight in the skies, but is that true? Who are these troops, and what do they want? The situation in Syria is very complicated, and many of these ground troops are jihadists themselves or fighting their own war against or for President Assad, which means that if we were to back those fighting Assad we may end up at war with Russia which would basically mean World War III. The PKK and some rebel groups do appear to be doing good things in that region, but they are also opposed by a lot of people in Syria. There are many mini wars going on within that context, and we can’t really rely on all of them to forget their differences and fight together. Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion that it has to be a political settlement may not be enough and may seem naive, but at least he is thinking about how to end the conflict and create some sort of stability in that country. And his other point about cutting them off at the source, by stopping their money supply and stopping people buying their oil and selling them weapons is a good one, and it is something no one seems to be thinking enough about, perhaps because if we did it would incriminate some of the US and the UK’s very questionable allies. I don’t think he is just sticking to his ideologies without thinking about the situation. He seems to be the only one who really is thinking about the situation in the long term, and for what he believes to be the benefit of everyone, not just the people in Europe. Say what you want about him, but he has clearly thought about and maintained his position because he believes it is the correct one, and I think he may be right.
The UK is in danger. An attack is quite likely. I do believe that bombing Syria is going to make that attack even more likely, not necessarily from people in Syria but from those already in the UK, perhaps people who have never even been to Syria themselves. I question the idea that bombing Syria is going to make your average person in the UK safer, because the people who are going to attack them aren’t going to be in Syria. They are going to be here. And that is why we should try to combat radicalisation not just by fighting it, but also by disproving it. Our country has a long history of self interested blood shed, please let’s think about this carefully before we do any more.

Articles

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/6120373/Top-10-worst-Bible-passages.html

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/30/syria-airstrikes-legal-david-cameron-civil-war-flawed

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/29/raqqa-exiles-bashar-al-assad-isis-bombing?CMP=fb_gu

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bible_and_violence

http://www.rationalchristianity.net/genocide.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34940728

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34927939

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34939109

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34931421

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34940427

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34941658

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/nov/26/shadow-cabinet-seriously-split-over-syria-with-corbyn-in-minority

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34944499

2

Tony Blair and the Labour Party

Why on earth is anyone listening to Tony Blair’s opinion?

I’ll admit I’m not a massive fan of the Labour party, and it is true that if they go too far left they will alienate some voters, who may switch to the Lib Dems or Conservatives if they don’t feel Labour is reflecting their interests. However, as the fairly recent surge of  support for the Green Party shows, as well as Mr Corbyn’s supposed popularity itself, a lot of people do agree with these ‘leftish’ ideas and are likely to vote for them, particularly young people and first time voters. We need political parties that reflect the views of people in society, and if Labour becomes nothing more than a slightly watered down version of the Conservatives, why would anyone vote for them anyway? It would be better for them to offer a real alternative, even if that alternative alienates some people and has the potential to gain more voters, rather than offering no alternative at all.
I personally wouldn’t vote for them, but I would be even less likely to vote for them if they have nothing to stand for, and if they don’t even know what they stand for. I’m not saying they should be socialists, but they should offer some sort of  alternative approach, and I feel a lot of the disillusionment with them is that at the moment they look very much like the Conservatives. All I know is that they need to make themselves distinct from the Conservatives or admit defeat and open the floor to other parties, and if it takes a radical to make this happen then so be it. He may not win and his ideas probably aren’t good (I have to admit I don’t know that much about him), but at least he would be offering a new approach and if that doesn’t work (Which it probably won’t) it  will hopefully have opened the Labour party up to new ideas.

What is really annoying me about this though is that 1: Tony Blair thinks he still has a right to have anything to do with politics, and 2: People actually seem to be listening to him. I’m not anti war on principle, some wars are inevitable and some in hindsight had good long term effects. World War II for example, whilst it is debatable if it led to to or speeded up the execution of the final solution, and whilst the war cost millions of lives on all sides and was horrific on all accounts, I would say it was inevitable.  Not necessarily that particular war, but I kind of think that either eugenics would have become standard practice (which would have been very, very bad for mankind) or there would have had to be a war to show the true horror of what people who believed in it were willing to do.  Some wars will happen, and some wars on average probably needed to happen.
However, the Iraq war did not need to happen. I am not saying it wasn’t a bad place before the war, or that Sadam Hussein was a nice guy. He was not a nice guy, Iraq was horrendously corrupt and human rights were abysmal.

However, Iraq was by no means alone in that department. The UK and the USA cannot justify this war based on the need to ‘free the people’ when they continue to directly fund and assist corrupt governments, when they do deals with some of the most evil dictators in the world, and when after massively impacting Iraq and being largely responsible for a surge of civil unrest and fighting, they left Iraq in disarray to the mercy of extremists. If our government is so concerned about human rights, why did they turn a blind eye to so many other countries and focus on this one? The justification given was that they were linked to AL Qaeda and had weapons of mass destruction that could ‘destroy the US in 45 minutes’. Evidence for the Weapons was never found, and was not adequate at the time of the war. Also, whilst Sadam Hussein was a bad dictator, it is very questionable if he had direct links and was in alliance with Al Qaeda.
The war in Iraq was premature, it was illegal, it caused a lot of unnecessary deaths on both sides and the question of whether Tony Blair and George Bush should have been jailed is pretty reasonable. I’m of the opinion that the West should not run around trying to quickly ‘fix’ other countries and thus creating further problems and simply change the power from one dictator to another, but even if you feel this is the correct approach surely it has become evident that the war in Iraq was a failure on all accounts. Do you really think its better off now?

The rationale they gave us was that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction, and that it had links to al Qaeda, neither of which were ever proven and are rather unlikely. By this evidence, they were either severely misled or they outright lied. Even if you don’t believe they lied, the war was extremely premature, caused chaos and has left us in the situation that now it may be necessary to invade but no government wants to re-enter. I’m not saying for sure that Iraq wouldn’t have been over run with extremism without the war, but it has opened up a very real reason to resent the west, both for its invasion and future handling of Iraq, and this can easily promote  propaganda because it is true. The justification for war was wrong, and even if there were good intentions (Which I doubt) the fact is that the war was a failure, and the war was largely pointless and paved the way for current events to unfold. Whilst perhaps I am being rash thinking that George Bush and Tony Blair should be charged as war criminals, I do not think in the circumstances either should have any say in the future running’s of this country, and I question anyone who takes anything Tony Blair now says seriously.

Yes, he led the Labour Party to victory, but he is also implicit in its demise and  furthermore whilst the middle way was a welcome innovation at the time, it is now commonplace and no longer seems to be working in their interests. The middle way of keeping both the poor and the rich happy is a good thing to aim for, but the middle way of not really saying anything at all but reiterate what others have said is not. They need to try something new even if it doesn’t work at first, to play with new ideas and try to be different from the Tories. This isn’t to say they can’t cut things, they need to cut things, and from saying all this as you have seen I’m not opposed to the Tories personally and agree with some of the changes they are making, but if there is going to be an opposition party they can’t just offer a watered down version of what the other party is saying with a sprinkle of the ridiculous stirred in. Maybe its time for a new party to take opposition that does not have the same ideological links that Labour does, maybe its time for a more Liberal approach, and maybe Labour doesn’t have enough of a vision or enough touch with modern society to stay as the second biggest party, who knows what will happen in the future but for the present all I would say is that they need an image makeover, and can’t stay the way they are.