Dig Two Graves

I’m going to preface this blog post by saying that the events of last week – the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris and in Beirut, Lebanon – are utterly inexcusable. The people who committed these atrocities have proven that they lack any compassion or humanity, and their actions should never, ever be defended, no matter the cause they claim. These killers attacked indiscriminately, slaughtering by the hundreds people who had never hurt them – had never done anything wrong, in fact, but live a different kind of life. For that reason, they can never deserve our forgiveness, nor our sympathy.

That being said, the idea of bombing Syria is absurd. In 2003, reason upon reason was laid out before George W. Bush explaining why a war in the Middle East could never result in anything but further violence and pain; these reasons were summarily ignored, and the result is what we see today – widespread chaos and misery, murder, sadism and fear, and the ascendancy of a brand-new plague of terrorism. Aggression wasn’t the answer then, and it isn’t the answer now – escalating military operations in Syria as France has claimed it will can surely only provoke greater violence from our enemies, and fuel the fire of ISIS’ brand of extremism, a brand which paints a picture of a deep and insurmountable divide between Islam and the rest of the world. If we surrender to the idea that these murderers are truly representative of Islam, then we are doing them a favour. Nothing would please them more than the West indulging in the Islamaphobic and racist rhetoric being pedalled by the right-wing press, so let’s clear this up: Syrian refugees were not to blame for last week’s acts of savagery, and neither were Muslims. The bombers and gunmen who so monstrously attacked may ascribe any number of labels to themselves, but just as we do not judge Christians by the acts of the KKK or Westboro Baptist Church, so we cannot allow the acts of a small, cruel minority to colour our view of people who live perfectly harmless lives.

We cannot, in good conscience, perpetuate this violence. If we so abhor the terrorists for the damage they inflict on our innocents, then surely we must hold ourselves to the same standards. The people of Syria are, for the most part, victims of ISIS, just like the Parisiens and Lebanese who have recently suffered so greatly. They are faced with the same threat to their safety as we in the Western world are, but for them, the danger is more immediate. How can we blame them for wanting to flee westward, to safer pastures? And equally, how can we make their homeland any more dangerous, and still live with ourselves?

When, in 2014, MPs voted in favour of air strikes in Iraq, I had my doubts. Now, I am more certain than ever that brute force is far, far from being the solution to the risk ISIS poses to the rest of the world. Yes, they need to be stopped, but they are not a single, composite unit to be picked off easily in Syria, and air strikes there can only give rise to civilian casualties, strengthening ISIS’ hatred of the West, leading, most probably, to an increase in the attacks levied against us.

I do not pretend to know how to solve this conflict. All I can do is repeat the wisdom of the quote from which the title of this post has been taken warns – “before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

  • Lana Wrigley, ex-Politics Student
    (Now studying at the University of Birmingham)

Purple Reign – UKIP’s Stranglehold on UK Press

Is anyone else sick of hearing about UKIP? It seems that you can’t open a paper or watch the news without catching a glimpse of Farage’s lizard-like features, and it’s getting old, quickly. This so-called “earthquake” they’ve caused seems to have been blown wildly out of proportion – one elected MP and a close-call further north doesn’t make them frontrunners in next year’s general election, so why all the attention? I honestly can’t remember the last time I was spared having to listen to their drivel on the news, because it looks like there’s nothing the press enjoys more than a one-on-one with old Nige, regardless of his downright dodgy politics. No news story is complete these days without a statement from him or one of his sycophantic followers, which seems bizarre when you remember that he’s not even an MP (yet).

Where, I wonder, is the coverage of the Green Party? They broke 20,000 members for the first time last week, so are hardly insignificant, and had an elected representative (Caroline Lucas, former party leader) long before Douglas Carswell managed to grease his way to the top of the polls and paint the green benches purple, yet they’ve had next to no popular coverage. Maybe this is because they’re seen as such a ‘radical’ left-wing option, but honestly, Nigel Farage wants to ban HIV+ immigrants from entering the UK, so I hardly think it’s a problem with radicalism the media and this country has.

I won’t deny that UKIP has made a dent in UK politics – it’s a point I made in my article the other week – and that therefore it’s almost impossible not to mention them, but I do wonder if they’re really deserving of all the attention they’ve received in recent times – and if this media circus, more than anything else, is the cause of their swelling ranks. Perhaps if equal attention was giving to other third-parties, we’d be talking about a green earthquake, rather than a purple one. Perhaps not, but in any case, seeing Farage’s smug face in the paper every day while he spouts anti-immigration and anti-Europe policies is driving me mad.

I’m sure that Ed Miliband and David Cameron are both quaking in their polished leather shoes as the purple tide surges, but I’ve got to have faith that everyone else in the country is getting as bored of Farage as I am, or else I’ll lose it entirely. The general election is on its way in May next year, and while I hope that the country will have come to its senses and dumped UKIP by then,  the party’s omnipresent face is giving me doubts.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics

As Weak as We Are Divided – Why “The Sun” Has Made Me Uneasy

Recently, I got into an interesting debate about The Sun – and I mean the newspaper, not the big hot sphere of gas. This discussion was particularly concerned with the front page of the tabloid yesterday, which featured an image of a Muslim woman wearing a Union Flag as a hijab, and the headline, “United against IS.” Now, this bold move by The Sun has received a lot of controversy since its publishing, and I for one can see why.

image

It’s the warning implicit in the whole package – if you’re a British Muslim, be prepared to prove that you hate Islamic State as much as the rest of us do, or suffer the consequences. This pseudo show of solidarity, reads, to me, like a challenge to moderate Muslims in the UK, demanding that they stand and explicitly state that the jihadists in Iraq and Syria aren’t acting in their name, or risk being tarred with the same brush by the rest of us. It seems almost as though the paper was giving an ultimatum – either you’re an activist or you’re an extremist, and we’re as much at war with you as we are with Iraq.

This, surely, cannot possibly do anything but feed into the steadily-growing culture of Islamaphobia that is rife in this country. Any non-Muslim reading the paper on that day would have put it down believing that all British Muslims have an obligation to speak up and stand against IS, and that if they don’t, then they are complicit in the horrific acts being acted out by the terrorists abroad. The Sun claimed to be promoting unity with this spread, but how exactly they hoped to achieve it through such uncompromising means is beyond me.

The thing is, expecting British Muslims to stand up to the maniacs in Iraq who have bastardised their religion is all very well and good in the abstract. The reality is though, that these are people who are just the same as any others, who are just as – and arguably more – scared of Islamic State as non-Muslim Brits, who are struggling with prejudice from this country and oppression and hatred in the Middle East, who may have families in Iraq and Syria that could easily fall victim to IS attacks. They may even be people who are resentful of the attitude that seems to have been shown so blatantly in that Sun article, that Muslims are terrorists until proven otherwise. And demanding resistance or dissent from these people is asking rather a lot. Yes, you could argue effortlessly that we all have a duty to speak up against atrocities of the sort that IS commit and yes of course, we should all be doing everything in our power to help put a stop to it, but realistically, how many people have the courage necessary to do so?

In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, those who belong to the Resistance are today called heroes, but they were a comparative few. Indeed, even in Nazi Germany, the majority of people – though many objected to Hitler’s actions – stayed silent while he carried them out. The simple matter is that it is hard to stand up to your enemies, no matter how undoubtably wrong or wicked they are.

Does this mean we shouldn’t try? Absolutely not, but what it does mean is that ham-fisted campaigns like those in The Sun are creating expectations which put a lot of pressure on people who hardly need it. Issuing a call-to-arms by deciding that silence is equal to consent and demanding some kind of uprising is the wrong way to go about encouraging vocal dissent. Instead, campaigns like #notinmyname on Twitter which begin within the Muslim community should be encouraged, because the fact of the matter is that you cannot bully or coerce people into resistance – they have to take it up on their own terms.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics

Let’s Talk About UKIP

The UK Independence Party, better known as ‘UKIP’ or, ‘BNP Jr.’ has had a fairly interesting time of it, lately. Ex-Conservatives Douglas Carswell, Mark Reckless and Arron Banks (the last a Tory donor rather than an MP) have all three jumped ship, and joined Nigel Farage in his slimy pursuit of power. Now, recently, UKIP has been garnering a lot of attention from the media, a fact which is odd when you consider that, for the moment, at least, they have less (elected) MPs and Councillors than the Green party, and which has led to accusations (and fairly reasonable accusations, at that) that there is a bias in the popular media towards them. Personally, I don’t have a good word to say about Farage and his lackies – the reports of outrageous racism, misogyny and homophobia would have done enough to dissuade me without quasi-Conservative economic policies and a complete disregard for the environment added into the mix – but it would seem, judging by the fact that they won 23 seats in the European Elections earlier this year, that my opinion is not an especially popular one.

The party, which positively leaks xenophobia under its poor guise of stalwart patriotism, has as its flagship issue independence from the European Union, and it’s faced a fair amount of criticism for this, not only from the pro-Europe lot, but also from those who feel that at the end of the day, UKIP are a one-trick pony. Their rise to notoriety, then, might be attributed to the cringeworthy tactics leader Nigel Farage has employed to ingratiate himself with “the man on the street,” – someone he couldn’t be further away from, being a graduate of the infamous public school Dulwich College himself – rather than his policies. Farage likes to pretend that his party has something for everyone, but honestly, the only politician the man seems to admire (other than himself, of course) is Vladimir Putin, so can we really trust a word out of his mouth?

Probably not, considering that he’s been claiming an £83,000 salary plus expenses for a job he freely admits to not doing. And it’s not just him, but the rest of UKIP’s MEPs, too, who are renowned for their record as absentees from the European Parliament. Hardly what one might call toppling the institution from the inside.

There’s no doubt that the UK Independence Party has muddied Britain’s political waters, making David Cameron feel a little antsy, and unfortunately, making it a whole lot harder for the rest of us to have a sensible discussion about the UK’s place in the EU without being shouted down by Farage’s right-wing disciples, who tend to be either ill-informed working-class people supplied with a scapegoat, or the exceedingly wealthy, who know that Farage is really about pursuing the interests of himself and people like him, and exploiting the working-class to do it. A politician through and through, he and his party may well pose a threat to the Conservative party – but I’m far more concerned about the threat they seem to pose to simple common sense.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics

Action Against IS – to Bomb or Not to Bomb?

Today at Westminster, UK MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of supporting the US in air strikes against the terrorist force IS in Iraq, with only a tiny minority of 43 opposed to the motion.

Now, honestly? I don’t know where I stand on this issue. The actions of IS have, of course, been deplorable, and I don’t think anyone would deny that they need to be stopped – not only because of the immediate humanitarian crises in Iraq and Syria, but also because their extremism and brutality has encouraged Islamophobia across the globe – but all I can think is that Western intervention, recently – in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in Libya – has never quite worked out the way we want it to. This, presumably, is why Parliament said ‘no’ to military action in Syria in 2012. So a part of me wonders how, exactly, this will be different. Hopefully, David Cameron and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon have a better plan than Blair and Bush had back in 2003, but I’m inclined to doubt it.

The thing is, we start with air strikes in Iraq, and, though Cameron has warned that defeating the terrorists could take years, we don’t know how we will end. The Iraqi government has asked for help, and we’re promising to give it, but how can we know with any certainty that our actions will make any impact at all? Is this, as some of the more cynical will suggest, nothing but an empty gesture on our part, or is there a plan, a concrete plan, to defeat these enemies? And how much force is enough force? Do we stop, as has been decided today, with strikes only in Iraq, or push into Syria, too? Perhaps I’m just clueless, but it seems to me that there’s a whole web of issues here, and it will take someone far more qualified than me to even attempt to untangle them.

All I can say is that the shaky political situation in the Middle East seems like it’s been going since the Cold War, and it seems to me as if it will take a lot more than a show of brute force to straighten it out. But, as I said, IS need to be stopped, and if the people we trust to lead us think this will do it, who am I to disagree? I suppose, really, all we can do is wait and find out if we’ve made the right choice – as the venerable John Ramm (this blog’s namesake) might say: right now, it’s just too early to tell.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics

The One That Scot Away – Scotland Says, “No.”

Bad luck, Alex Salmond. Looks like the people weren’t quite ready for independence just yet. With an unprecedented 84.5% turnout from a franchise extended for the first time to sixteen year olds, the “No” vote won by a point margin of 10.6% – more than they’d been hoping for, no doubt, but still not a hugely substantial lead.

The final result stood at 45% to 55%, and everyone in Westminster breathed a sigh of relief – David Cameron especially, one would imagine, considering that his chances of remaining the Conservative Party leader in the event of a “Yes” result were practically nil. Alex Salmond, though, is no doubt feeling far from pleased with the result. His party – criticised for a long time as being a single-issue party much like UKIP or the Greens – has lost the cause they’d been fighting for, and one has to wonder what the future holds for them, now that the people have rejected their ideas of a bright, Nationalistic future.

However, they may still seize on Westminster’s promise for greater devolved powers – the brainchild of ex-PM Gordon Brown, who cast his own “No” yesterday, and who this victory, it could be easily argued, truly belongs to. If this is the case, negotiations on what, exactly, “greater devolved powers” really means will no doubt make for interesting changes to the UK, especially with regard to the West Lothian question. After all, if a Scottish Parliament becomes solely responsible for Scottish laws, but Scottish MPs can still vote on English issues, it won’t be our friends in the north complaining about democratic deficit. As it stands, England is the only country in the UK without its own Parliament – could Scotland’s demand for reform change that? It seems unlikely, at least, that Wales and Northern Ireland won’t soon be speaking up for more power.

All in all, even if this referendum will be dubbed a failure by some on the “Yes” campaign, at least one good thing has come of it – people in this “family of nations” are finally taking a serious interest in politics. Actually, perhaps there’s something else, too – it seems that Piers Morgan has honoured the promise he made on Sunday to leave if Scotland said no.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics.