Lets bomb Syria! Goering nails it in one

21 Nov


Why of course the people don’t want war. That is understood … But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg Trials

Don’t we instinctively recognise the truth of Goering’s words? I began my last post but one by describing Corbyn’s response to the Paris question – would he endorse shoot to kill by special forces if even greater carnage might thus be prevented? – as “woeful”. I never thought this a damning indictment; just that it showed lack of media savvy (a Blair/Campbell obsession that still grips the Labour right) rather than fuzzy thinking: in sum a tactical rather than strategic or, worse, principled error; my concern being that it would embolden those who, wanting to vote for bombing Syria, might think twice about defying the whip on a matter with potential for blowback should history deliver an Iraq style thumbs down. But even at that tactical level I may have been unduly harsh.

Oliver Tickell, writing on November 19 in the always excellent CounterPunch, summarises the wider context. After accurately sketching out the open war waged from all sides on Corbyn, not least by the hard right of his own party (those moderates who want Trident renewed, Syria bombed and sensible trims to welfare budgets) he says this of that interview by BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg:

And here’s the mystery. Kuenssberg is always good at nailing down the key, defining question. And the obvious follow-up to Corbyn’s reluctance to endorse “war on our streets” was, surely: “But just to be completely clear for our listeners Mr Corbyn, would you or would you not agree to the use of lethal force against terrorists if that was necessary to save civilian lives?”

But this is the question that was not put. Did Kuenssberg know that she had what she wanted ‘in the can’ and that any further question would only detract from its impact? Was a BBC producer yelling “Cut!” into her ear?


But underpinning Goering’s words is an understanding that goes wider and deeper yet. How do we form our conclusions that (a) Russia is the unprovoked aggressor in Ukraine, (b) Greeks have themselves to thank for their fiscal mess and (c) Corbyn can’t be trusted with “the economy” but (according to taste) George Osborne, Danny Alexander or Yvette Cooper can?

Here’s a clue: it is not by independent study of the facts. It is not by (a) perusing relevant maps to find out where the fuck Ukraine actually is, and so bring out the implications of three waves of post cold war NATO expansion.* And it is not by (b) and (c) engaging with the fundamentals of economics.

Who’s in better shape, I wonder. The subjects of totalitarian states who know their leaders and state controlled media lie to them, or we in parliamentary democracies who pride ourselves, in the face of abundant evidence to the contrary, on being well informed – if not by our leaders then by a billionaire controlled press and BBC reliant on licence fees set by the government?

* From Baltic to Black Sea, Germany to Georgia, NATO has pushed relentlessly eastward. This holds whether or not we believe claims of a NATO promise not to do so. Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic in 1999 were followed by Bulgaria, the three Baltic States, Romania and Slovakia in 2004; Albania and Croatia in 2009. Factor in Turkey’s membership, EU enlargement and the fact Napoleon and Nazi Germany struck at Russia through the Ukraine. Note also that should Ukraine or (anyone remember 2008?) Georgia join NATO, an alliance universally understood as anti-Russian would be brought to that country’s borders. One has to be even more spectacularly ignorant of history than the average Briton or American to think Washington would stand for anything remotely comparable. Not for nothing has ‘American exceptionalism’ become such a zeitgeist term.

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