Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Late night mid-week ramblings...

One of the best programmes on television? Well, there's quite a few, once you've sorted the wheat from the chaff. The other day I watched an excellent documentary on David Gilmour, the lead guitarist of Pink Floyd: brilliant. Then, there was an Arena special and today – arguably the best of the lot – Timothy Spall's six-year circumnavigation of Great Britain in a seagoing barge : wonderful. And I've forgotten one of the best programmes I've seen in a long time, that of Julien Temple's film about Wilco Johnson, the former Dr. Feelgood guitarist and long-standing resident of Canvey Island, and his reflections on life and death following his close shave with the latter and his subsequent recovery.

And now I'm watching the more depressing 10 o'clock news. I'm not sure what to think about bombing Syria. Half of me thinks we ought to get in there and kick some arse, but the other half tends to agree with Corbyn and the fact that there's no real need for us to join the USA and France and Turkey and all the others dropping bombs on Syria. Surely, there must be nothing left of the place already without us going in? What's left to bomb? "Britain is the one dragging it's feet," somebody has just commented, meaning we ought to go in just for the sake of it.

There's some real concern over whether we'll mess up in Syria, just like we did in Iraq and Libya and Afghanistan. As many people have said already, there's no point in air strikes alone. We'd be better off chucking a few soldiers in there too – 'boots on the ground' as they say. The problem there is that nobody wants to commit troops to the cause so it's all looking a little uncertain. My guess is that we will go in and we will mess up. The bombing will stop, ISIS will be stronger than ever and everybody involved will be less secure than they are now.

The British government simply wants a fight. It knows that air strikes alone will get us nowhere, but it goes ahead anyway. I always find it amazing that we are told there is no money, that we are 'battening down the hatches' with a view to getting our finances in order, but when it comes to war there seems to be a bottomless pit of cash.

There's going to be a debate in the House of Commons tomorrow followed by a vote. Corbyn could have set the cat among the pigeons by insisting that his MPs vote against the motion for air strikes. Instead he's allowed them a free vote and it is widely believed that within a few days the British will be bombing Syria.

I've switched over to Newsnight with Kirsty Wark. There's a live television debate and one of the audience members is worried that we might be repeating the mistakes made in Iraq. Can we make a meaningful difference? And do we have an end game? David Aaronovitch believes we can degrade ISIS forces by bombing them. But others believe that airstrikes alone won't be enough. Who will supply the local ground forces to defeat ISIS on the ground? Cameron talks of an existing force of 70,000 ground troops, but many think the people concerned are not to be trusted as nobody really knows who they are.

What to expect next...

1. Propaganda footage from both sides. ISIS will be showing images of civilian casualties – probably caused by themselves deliberately. The British media, of course, will be gullible and stupid enough to give it plenty of air time. Cue Piers Morgan, Huw Edwards and Louise Minchin with 'concerned faces'.

2. Similar propaganda footage by the 'coalition' forces. That phrase 'coalition' reinforces the notion that 'we're all in this together', despite the fact that less than half of the voting public in the UK support air strikes (according to a YouGov poll in The Times).

3. British casualties. A lone pilot, maybe, but he'll be held prisoner by IS and probably beheaded by 'Jihadi Joe' or 'Islamist Irene'.

4. A terrorist attack on British soil coming to a street near you! Rumour has it that a supermarket might be attacked – or is that a ploy by supermarket management to boost online shopping sales in the lead-up to Christmas?

5. News that ISIS is 'stronger than ever' and that air strikes have been a complete and utter waste of time and money.

6. It's going to be a complete disaster – remember you heard it here first, folks – and we won't be seeing the back of ISIS for 'many years to come'.

I know what I'd rather be doing: chugging around the coastline of Britain with Timothy Spall in Matilda, his sea-going barge, or living in a crofter's cottage in Applecross like Monty Halls did a few years ago (another great television programme).

In other news....

• Peter "the Ripper" Sutcliffe, currently residing in Broadmoor, a hospital for the criminally insane, is getting a little hot under the collar about his impending move back to a proper prison. It turns out he's no longer a loony and more than fit to enjoy prison life to the full again. Imagine how mad you have to be to regard a long-term stay in Broadmoor as 'cushy'.

• David Cameron has being slinging mud at Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, calling him and his followers 'terrorist sympathisers'. Ultimately, I think Corbyn's stance will be vindicated as things will get steadily worse, not only in Syria, but around the world. When, I wonder, can the UK expect it's next terrorist attack? Place your bets, please! Of course, the problem with a terrorist attack is that it will stiffen Cameron's resolve to step up British involvement in the crisis.

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