When Hilary Benn the Shadow (official opposition party) Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs sat down after his barnstorming speech to the British House of Commons on Wednesday, 2nd December 2015, the Government Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Philip Hammond) replied "I congratulate the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) on an outstanding exposition of the case for the motion. It will go down as one of the truly great speeches made in the House of Commons."
Well, if that is what we call a great speech, the state of our democracy is truly lamentable. Benn displayed no understanding of the nature of the situation in Syria/Iraq to which he referred. The simplifications he used to describe that situation pandered to the worst kind of knee jerk reaction possible.
Hilary Benn addressed Parliament. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn to his right
His "analysis" proceeded from this statement:
"The question that confronts us in a very complex conflict is, at its heart, very simple. What should we do with others to confront this threat to our citizens, our nation, other nations and the people who suffer under the cruel yoke of Daesh?"
"Daesh has killed 30 British tourists in Tunisia", when it is generally acknowledged that it was the North African Al Qaeda that committed this atrocity.
And the connection between Daesh and terrorists acts in Europe is not proven to be strong. Daesh may have provided money and some training and a few Kalashnikovs but the precipitators were almost without exception home grown. They were helped by Daesh at most. Any putative connection is talked up by politicians and the press to deflect attention from failures at home and to give an easy target for revenge.
To counter the argument that there will be civilian casualties he cites good intentions as a defense:
"I share the concerns that have been expressed this evening about potential civilian casualties. However, unlike Daesh, none of us today acts with the intent to harm civilians".
I wonder if the resulting innocent dead and injured will take comfort from our well meaning bombs?
His analysis of the foe is crude, resorting to the overused label 'fascists' as if that might clarify anything.
"We are faced by fascists--not just their calculated brutality, but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us".
He makes no attempt to address the current complexity of the situation completely ignoring the Russian bombing campaign carried out in conjunction with the Syrian President, Assad. His message is simplistic in the extreme. They are fascists. Let's bomb the hell out of them.
Benn is not alone in creating ISIS as a kind of metaphysical monster that happens to have come to dwell amongst us. By that I mean that ISIS is seen as representing some terrible incomprehensible force that has emerged to confront us like a biblical plague. It is apocryphal coming from some deep well in human nature that we cannot address with rationality but must respond with all the brutality that it itself embodies.
Why are we so incapable of standing back and trying to understand the thing we feel so threatened by? The answer to this question, Mr Benn, really is as simple as you obviously like things to be. The answer is that we have created and are creating the monster of ISIS ourselves. There is nothing like guilt, that you don't want to acknowledge, to distort your vision and cause you to lash out uncontrollably..
As Benn's colleague and party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has said, ISIS is being funded from somewhere. It sells some oil, probably mostly to Turkey and Israel, but this would not be enough to sustain its forces and activities. Some state in the region is giving it money on a massive scale. The obvious candidate is our close friend and ally, our vital trading partner whereby we exchange hi-tech arms for oil, not to mention, the intimate friend of our very own monarch who publicly mourns the deaths of its head chopping, hand chopping kings. There are not many "usual suspects" for the role of funding ISIS and top of that list has to be Saudi Arabia.
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