Cameron’s Selective Memory (and disingenuous rhetoric)

Apparently we are winding up to bombing Syria.  The logic being used to persuade parliament is that it is wrong to sub-contract the defence of our country.  Well,forgive me Prime Minister but wasn’t it you that, five years ago, scrapped our 2 aircraft carriers, their fleet of Harrier jets (sold to the USA by the way – so they couldn’t have been that bad) and, pertinently, literally destroyed our independent maritime surveillance and anti-submarine Nimrods?

For the last five years, and until the newly announced P8 Poseidon is combat ready (“by 2020″), we have been sub-contracting our defence of UK waters, with Russian submarines regularly nosing around, to the Dutch, the French and the Americans.  But that’s different isn’t it? Oh, by the way, the twin-engined P8 is less capable than the large four-engined Nimrod would have been and is being bought without any competition.

PARIS. November 13th 2015

At time of wrting there are 130 fatalities, and more than 300 directly injured, resulting from a series of terrorist attacks in Paris.  There are no words to express the revulsion I feel for the acts and the perpetrators, and the sympathy I feel for the dead, injured and their families and friends.

Social and formal media are full of understandable outrage, but other sorts of extremists are given encouragement to vent bilious hatred by some of the, farankly, exploitative, media coverage.

Comentators whose memory (or knowledge) is scant, cast the blame for the rise of ISIL on the second Iraq war.  This is simplistic and, frankly, both convenient and disingenuous.  The roots of middle-east instability go further back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when Britain, France, Germany, Italy and other European ‘superpowers’ were carving up feudal and tribal territories and adding them to their colonial empires; to this you can add the forced creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, and the partition of India into Muslim and non-Muslim states.  French and Italian colonial ambition in North Africa added yet more causes of injustice.  All in all we, in the so-called West, built the bonfires, added the petrol, and with proxy governments, rulers and despots, threw on the matches. In the aftermath of the bloody atrocities it is impossible to expect people to have a balanced appreciation of the events and their context: they are out for blood and revenge.  In the immediate aftermath of 13/11 it is too much to expect France to acknowledge that their own actions have contributed to the creation of conditions out of which this rapacious beast has appeared, or that when it suits them they are not above terrorism:  thirty years ago France carried bombed the Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior, in Aukland harbour – a murderous act for which it has never even apologised.  RIP Fernando Pereira.

To counter Islamophobia in the UK, Muslim communities must be unequivocal in their condemnation of those who have misappropriated their religion in the name of ‘true’ Islam.  France has already “decared war” on the supposed organisation behind the attacks, ISIL, and the rest of the world is already lining up alongside, ready to give another twist to the spiral of violence. Dropping bombs, however “smart”, from 20,000 feet will inevitably kill more innocents. Violence breeds more violence.  Injustice creates more injustice.  In our own country we have already suffered terror attacks planned and executed by British born, educated, and resident perpetrators.  Is bombing Syria going to reduce or increase the threat from such as these?  In a multi-cultural society it would be a tragedy if tolerance, diversity, social cohesion and democracy itself were also victims to add to the body count.  Yes we need to be resolute, but also calm, measured, proportionate and, above all intelligent, in our response.

Bobbies on the beat

With all the financial strictures on publicly funded services for the last 6 years I think we’ve got so used to the “Cuts are Good, Spending is Bad” mantra  of our government that we don’t see the nonsense of a lot of it.

Our local police force, Devon & Cornwall, is about to close a lot of police stations and make several hundred officers and support staff redundant.  In their reporting of this decision, the TV news media use the old stock images of two policemen (or women) walking along a street.  When did you last see any policemen walking along a street?

Now, part of the rationale (really?) is that the statistics say crime is reducing so logically (really?) we don’t need so many police officers and offices.  Meanwhile we see that low level, anti-social, behaviour is tolerated and on the rise.  The more we tolerate, the higher the threshold for what is considered intolerable.  I remember, as a child, being ticked off by a beat policemen for horseplay with a friend too near a road!  Doesn’t anyone see that the more we withdraw visible policing presence (whether human or bricks and mortar) the more low level ‘crime’ there will be.  The fewer resources available to challenge crime the bigger the crime will have to be to attract attention: from an acceptance of low level crime, and anti-social behaviour, comes more serious crime.  No, I’m not saying that every litter lout will go on to snatch a ‘phone or steal a car, or assault someone…but some will. In the end, spending less on frontline community policing will cost more down the line in the criminal justice system.  Where’s the saving then?

However for a growing section of the population, senior citizens, it is the feeling of insecurity and unease generated by being face-to-face with this sort of anti-social behaviour, that has the most impact on their daily lives.  Of course, senior citizens are targetted by scammers and opportunist thieves.  But the sort of crime to which the police are increasingly pointing their dwindling resources, drugs, cyber crime, terrorism etc., does not figure so large in the quality of life of older people.  It seems that the driving force behind allocation of police resources is less the impact on ordinary lives and more the monetary, or headline grabbing, value of the crime.