A war of unintended consequences

THE BBC dug a big elephant trap for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday. Obligingly, he fell right in, leaving only his sorrowful trunk on view.

In answer to a carefully loaded question, Mr Corbyn said he would not be happy with a policy to “shoot to kill” on British streets, as approved by Downing Street if terror attacks should arrive on our streets as they did in Paris.

His answer was a little long and incoherent, but boiled down to suggesting that suspects should be over-powered and arrested rather than shot on the street. The verbal waffle wasn’t enough to stop the stirring up of a political row among his own MPs.

In the interview Mr Corbyn also expressed his doubts about the legality of the drone strike in Syria against Isis fighter Mohammed Emwazi, suggest that “if someone is doing something wrong you act legally against them”.

Hours before the appalling human tragedy of the assault on Paris, David Cameron announced the success of the drone attack in a display of proud puffery that looked horribly hollow by the end of the day. That one small ‘hit’ suddenly seemed tragically beside the point.

But Mr Cameron stuck to his guns, or rather his drones. He later hit back at Mr Corbyn, saying: ‘Those who say we should have somehow arrested Jihadi John, don’t get the reality of the world we are in.’

Telling here that Mr Cameron should have used the tabloid shorthand for this terrorist, suggesting that the ‘reality’ he speaks of was too easily shaped by alliterative newspaper headlines.

How often our leaders use phrases such as ‘the reality of the world we are in’ to justify what they have done or wish to do. What would the world would be like if more leaders were like Jeremy Corbyn? More beige than the eye could stand for starters – yet beyond the cheap remark, are we in this situation because of a long line of bellicose leaders like Tony Blair and George W Bush?

To an extent, yes.

It is too simplistic to say that the west caused this mess and is now reaping what it sowed – even if there is some truth in the belief that Isis rose from the shattered mess we left in Iraq and rules half of Syria because of a fumbled western response to the uprising again Assad.

Too simple to say ‘this this equals that’. Yet we are trapped in a mess partly of our own making, stuck in a moral quagmire of unintended consequences, ill-considered plans and a failure to ever ask what happens next.

It is perfectly understandable that the French should send more planes to bomb Isis strongholds in Syria – yet will this prove any sort of a solution or is it an ‘old-school’ military response to a dangerously diffuse enemy who operates differently?

While we have such thoughts, while Labour MPs argue about their leader’s pacifist leanings, we shouldn’t ever forget the victims of the Paris attacks. I have just looked through all the headshots on The Guardian website: so many faces, so many races – people from around the world and from France, people who were murdered for following a liberal western way of life that Isis detests. To look at all those wasted lives is sobering and angering. So yes we do have to fight these terrorists, even if half the time we don’t seem to know how to.

But to return to my earlier question: what if more leaders shared Jeremy Corbyn’s pacifism? Well, it won’t ever happen but it’s still worth wondering whether our warlike leaders get us into even deeper messes with every tragic spin of the globe.


  1. “It is too simplistic to say that the west caused this mess and is now reaping what it sowed.”
    Is it really? In my opinion, that is exactly what happened and is now playing out, right back to our pact with the Saudis to have their oil in return for allowing them to promote a particularly destructive form of Islam (watch Adam Curtis’ brilliant Bitter Lake on iPlayer if you get the chance)… then through our imperialist and warmongering foreign policies right unto this day. Thanks heavens for the (very few) people like Corbyn in positions of influence, willing to speak the truth and make a stand. He might be villified and ridiculed by the Establishment elite and their media & military mouthpieces (most insidiously by the BBC), but he has already helped to change the terms of the debate, and I think this is incredibly important.

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