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The title of this essay came as something of a surprise. One moment I was trying to wrap my brain around a justification for bombing Syria. The next I was wondering in which pocket I should hide my ISIS membership card and novelty DayGlo Jihad badge.

I had never considered myself a terrorist sympathiser until the Prime Minister put it in those terms. In my defence, I was, like so many people, simply unconvinced by the case for bombing Syria. If I’d had an initial criticism about the Prime Minister’s plan, it was that bombing was simply not going far enough. Only troops on the ground can sort of the current mess and until bombing can work in the context of a wider strategy, it seemed a fairly pointless gesture. As the days have passed, my worries have increased, not least by reading comments posted here on this site. I’ve become increasingly uncertain about who we are really fighting and on whose behalf any victory would be won. The only persuasive argument I’ve heard is the one that demands that we stand by our friends and it’s for the people of Paris that I could be persuaded…

And then Dave goes and calls me a ‘terrorist sympathiser’ and I feel like I’m back at square one.

That is now another issue clouding an already overcast debate. I might be the only person who feels this way but I cannot adequately convey how chilling I find Cameron’s choice of words. He uses ‘terrorist sympathisers’ to mean somebody who simply disagrees with him. That is not something one usually associates with democratic debate but with third-world despots describing dissenters who we might otherwise describe as freedom fighters.

‘Terrorist’ is a extremely unsettling word. Politicians are well cautioned to use it sparingly, to use it accurately, or not to use it at all. Nelson Mandela was once labelled a terrorist and modern France was in a sense born in an act of terror, known as ‘The Terror’, that gave ‘terrorism’ its meaning. The suffrage movement was in its time considered terrorism. Yet, most unsettling of all, it was Hitler in 1933 who declared his own ‘war on terrorism’, using the Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz) to enact laws without the involvement of the German parliament. In the modern era, you routinely see Russia, China and other nations describe their internal battles in terms of the fight against terrorism. In that context, Cameron’s choice of words is worrying.

Cameron is, of course, not above such methods of persuasion. Perhaps it’s only my perceptions of the man but I have often wondered if there’s a bite of menace about his character. He seems to dislike being challenged and enjoys rather too well his victories. From the rather cruel remakes he made when first faced with a reduced number of Lib Dems across the Commons to the regular snide barbs he launches whenever pressed on a difficult subject, petty spite has become one of the defining characteristics of Cameron’s premiership. This is also a Prime Minister who routinely avoids hard questions. He has carried forward the New Labour weasel-habit of visiting schools to make policy announcements. Most damning of all, he refuses to be interviewed by Andrew Neil, the UK’s most prominent and effective political interrogator.

As readers of The What & The Why might recall, I previously thought his grandstanding outside Downing Street was foolish, uncalled for, and provocative. It happened on the morning of the day that Paris was attacked. I’m not suggesting any causality but I would argue is that there’s a tone of rabid enthusiasm in Cameron’s nature that sits uncomfortably with crisis management. As with The Big Society, standing side-by-side with Libya, green power and so many other pet projects: Cameron is a politician who strides magisterially to the stage, sets wheels in motion, and then seems to lose interest after a couple of months. In the case of Syria, our engagement will need to last much longer than that.

And so now, on the day that the House of Commons debates whether we should again go to war in the Middle East, Cameron confuses the issue by using vituperative words. The very fact he cannot apologise for the comment sets a mark against the man that I cannot help but feel is relevant. Surely any argument that needs to be won through either insults or fear is an argument that has not been won through practical reason.

 

CameronBrain

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3 Comments on "Notes from a ‘terrorist sympathiser’"

  1. Brilliant cartoon David!

    Lets face it will be the same bunch of Labour numbskulls who voted for the disastrous actions in Iraq and Libya who are going to vote us into a pointless extension of bombing into Syria this time, perhaps their motto is third time lucky. From a practical point of view it is going to make no difference either way, we already bomb ISIL in Iraq, killing an underwhelming 330 ISIL fighters in 194 strikes over the course of a year. Interestingly one of Camerons own MP’s has questioned his assertions about the FSA. The conservative chairman of the commons defence committee, Julian Lewis, said that in place of the “dodgy dossiers” used by Tony Blair’s administration to justify war in Iraq in 2003, “we now have bogus battalions of moderate fighters”. Also today the Russians have said they have evidence that Turkey is buying oil from ISIL, putting the blame for this directly at the door of Erdogan as his son is energy minister.

    • First of all: thank you! I genuinely thought I’d drawn a dud.

      It’s a strange how quickly Erdogan has become my favourite international creep. I’ve just finished a Photoshop which would have earned me a long jail sentence if I was in Turkey. He is also becoming a more visible part of this whole mess. Nobody seems to have yet asked: what do we do about Turkey? Perhaps it’s a less pressing problem but maybe not. Maybe it’s a job best left to the satirists and spooks in MI6 to undermine the power he seems to have upon his people. (In fact: if anybody at MI6 is hiring, I’m currently out of job and would love to work in your Psychological Operations department…)

      Regarding the bombing: after a long exhausting day, I’m pretty certain I’m against it. Like I said, Cameron’s rhetoric worries me. His motives worry me. His solution worries me. I also know that we should do something yet realise that we can do very little when we have four or five regional powers dealing cards from the bottom of the pack. I watched Newsnight last night and the point that struck hardest was the one that Nehad has been repeating: that ISIS is a distraction and Assad is the problem. In a sense, it makes me go back to the thing I wrote about Paris. Too much of this is layered with religious nonsense and tribal politics. The solution will come from within Islam and the Islamic world. Our best hope is to show that we are more productive and have a better standard of living without superstition to bog us down. Bombs aren’t the answer. Long term the most potent answer will probably be Premiership football, the new Star Wars movie and the next iPhone…

  2. I would suppose the best chance of an early exit for Erdogan would be a military coup unlikely though that is, since the farcical Sledgehammer case which trumped up charges against around 300 officers the chances of the military intervening in politics seem to have diminished. Given I have very little good to say about the man I suppose for balance I should say that during his tenure as PM Turkish inflation fell from an average of 70% during the previous decade and a long term average of 40% to around 10%, the economy grew rapidly as did inward investment, there were large investments in infrastructure and large social housing projects beneficial to the poorer voters, there was of course also the rolling back of secularism which had not been universally popular in Turkey. There you go, now nobody can say I’m not being fair.

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