A letter to my MP, Sir Paul Beresford:
Dear Sir Paul,
I appreciate that as a very loyal member of your party, this plea is unlikely to be persuasive. I would not be able to live with myself, however, if I didn’t at least try to influence the way you will vote tomorrow, or whenever, on this critical matter.
Of course I do not support ISIS or any group of murdering nutters, whether influenced by religious dogma, all of which is poisonous, or not. Rarely do non-believers like me participate in such things. Funny thing that. As far as I’m concerned, if I could wake up in the morning to discover that the government had deployed the SAS to take out every known ISIS leader/supporter on the planet, I’d cheer from the rooftops – despite the fact that it would drive a coach and horses through my belief in human rights, justice and civil liberties, I’d get over it. But aerial bombing? This is ridiculous.
What’s going on in Syria is little different, except in scale, to what happened in Northern Ireland. Oddly, no one ever seriously proposed bombing Belfast. Some of us, especially when we visit the place still, aren’t always sure whether that would have been a good or a bad thing. I jest, I guess.
You and I both know that civilians will die. The Royal Air Force are fabulous in their skills and technology but bombs and rockets, ultimately are not entirely predictable, nor is the intelligence on which targets are selected. One of the reasons why arson is such a heinous crime is because while people may not be the target, all too often circumstances conspire to make them the victims. Today, mothers watch their beloved children being blown into minute pieces of their young body-parts and being plastered over the walls of their own homes. This is the fact. It’s appalling. While we are not the ones currently pressing the trigger on those weapons, we don’t escape culpability entirely, far from it. If we are actually pressing that trigger, we the electorate, you our representatives in government, our brave military on your instructions, then it is you and me killing those children – mistakes or not, unintended or not. They will be maimed and die nonetheless.
We are not “at war”, as so many gung-ho ignoramuses like to trot out. We are no more “at war” that we were during “The Troubles”. We understood then what we choose to ignore now, it is the protagonists we need to locate, isolate and deal with and, ultimately, we will have to sit down and talk to their leaders and iron out an accommodation – one that many will find distasteful. It happens every single time. Nelson Mandela was a terrorist, I was told, now he’s a saint. Indeed, since the day I was born, my life has been impacted by terrorism – all of it religiously adorned, most of it under the banner of Islam. I abhor religion, that one more than most, but I don’t want to kill them all, only those that have a gun, metaphorical or actual, at another’s head and only on a need’s must basis. If we can talk our way out of it, or throw money at the problem, as distasteful as that may seem, that’s what we should do.
A short time ago, Bashar Assad was the devil incarnate. Tomorrow he is likely to be our ally. Russia was our nemesis, today they are our ally and fellow-vigilante.
No-one apart from family members, wept more tears than I over the slaughter in Paris. When I hear the President of France, the most left wing French leader for decades, react like a primary school bully in the playground, I despair. Then I’m told we should bomb Syria because he asked us to. That’s like my next door neighbour demanding that I join his band of vigilantes to track down and beat the man who raped his daughter. Of course we would all sympathise but that’s why we have the rule of law to keep us from responding to our base instincts and ensure due process.
These reactions to ISIS are the reflexes of very unintelligent people. I’m being generous. The only other motivation is that they merely seek the electoral support of our tabloid population and I wouldn’t stoop to such a base accusation. What we need now are clever people leading out nation’s response. If compassion isn’t enough then I am hoping that you count yourself in that number.
If you vote in favour of this action, please be in no doubt that you do so against my most earnest desires and certainly not in my name. Thank you for listening to me.