Who Shall We Bomb? How Shall We bomb them?

Like a recurring nightmare we have entered the state of prewar.  Our leaders exude moral purpose and determination and a sense of their own historic importance.     Journalists and tv presenters emanate barely-suppressed excitement and urgency, as they interrogate politicians on the legality and possible consequences of missile strikes.

Keyboard warriors clap their hands and pass the verbal ammunition.   Pundits discuss outcomes and targets, aided by dazzling interactive videos that flash up possible targets and cities and simultaneously entertain us and educate us about distant geographies that we previously knew nothing about until it was time to bomb them.

Once these videos showed Kabul, Herat, the Tora Bora caves, Baghdad, Mosul and Basra.  Now we wonder if it will be Aleppo, Homs or Hama, and whether we should bomb them them with tomahawk cruise missiles or B-2 bombers, whose advantages, according to the International Business Times, include the fact that ‘they can be armed with huge bunker-buster bombs able to penetrate thick reinforced concrete. That would also serve as a test of their possible future use against Iranian nuclear sites. ‘

Well it’s always good to think ahead, while the pundits discuss the Imperium’s plans to hit Syrian command and control infrastructures,  military headquarters and barracks, communications sites, radar and antiaircraft missile sites’ and other targets that will ‘degrade’ Syria’s ability to use the chemical weapons that it may never have used.

The public has shown little enthusiasm for another Middle Eastern ‘intervention’, and the popular mood alternates between anxiety, disinterest,  and a sense of inevitability.   But our leaders are not interested in enthusiasm, when passivity and acceptance is enough.

To ensure it, they inform the media that the forthcoming strikes will be ‘surgical’, ‘proportional’, ‘punitive’ and ‘ limited’ in order to reassure us that none of this is anything for us to worry about and it won’t be too serious, just serious enough to convince ourselves that we have ‘done something’.

Journalists rarely question these assumptions.   Because in the age of humanitarian war we have become accustomed to believe that our awesome weapons will not kill or maim many people, and that their victims will only be the evil ones and certainly not ‘the innocent’ who these ‘limited strikes’ are intended to save.

We feel relieved that we have such magical weapons, which our technological prowess has transformed into the perfect instruments of our humanitarian intentions.   We could almost be forgiven for believing that these machines are fitted with computer programs that can separate the innocent from the guilty, and our leaders would like us to believe this, because too many accidents or an excess of ‘collateral damage’  might make us doubt whether our weapons really are humanitarian after all.

In any case, for us, we know that for us at least, the latest intervention will be as bloodless as all the others.   We look at the maps in newspapers showing the positions of our ships like the games that we wished we had as kids.   We see little rows of NATO patriot missiles in Turkey; four US cruise missile-carrying destroyers in the Mediterranean;  the USS Nimitz battle group in the Persian Gulf;  US F-16s in Jordan.

We learn that there is a French airbase in the United Arab Emirates, and at least one British cruise-missile carrying nuclear submarine in the Mediterranean.

The newspapers and tv news programs that show us these images do not question why we have so many ships and bases in these countries,   or the purpose behind this vast panoply of military power.  Naturally we assume that it cannot be aggressive, and that our bases, ships and planes, like the cluster bombs the United States has just sold to Saudi Arabia, are benevolent, defensive and intended to protect our security or the security of our friends and the ‘international community.’

It would of course be a different matter if we were to imagine, just for a moment, that we inhabited an alternate universe in which China, Russia or Iran say, had missile-carrying warships and nuclear submarines patrolling the English Channel, the Straits of Gibraltar,  the Pacific or the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

Try to imagine that and then you realize that the planes and warships that the West has permanently deployed in the Middle East and other areas of strategic interest are the latest manifestation of power relationships that have evolved over hundreds of years of colonial expansion and domination, in which ‘the West’ has become accustomed to looking at the rest of the world, and the Middle East in particular, through a gun sight, or the equivalent of a drone-operator’s video.

These relationships enable – and in the eyes of some, entitle – us to bomb who we like, when we like, in whatever circumstances we choose, with drones, cruise missiles, fighter planes and bombers.   We, on the other hand, know that we cannot be bombed or attacked, except by the occasional terrorist, and that when we are, these atrocities will be used by our leaders as a justification to bomb someone else, somewhere, somehow, in order to guarantee our ‘security.’

And now it seems almost inevitable that the spectacle of bloodless war and  bombing as entertainment is about to unfold again;  the rolling news clips showing cruise missiles taking off at dawn, over and over again;  the colorful footage, beautiful in its way, of our missiles exploding over another Arab country; the pampered, overfed politicians puffed up with moral fervour and ‘get the job done’ toughness.

When it happens these statesmen-turned-lawmen will assure that all this was legal and a ‘moral’ obligation to protect the innocent.   It is in fact an utterly cynical, futile and grossly manipulative demonstration of brute force intended to achieve geostrategic objectives that have nothing to do with morality or protecting anyone, that will push Syria and the Middle East one step closer towards chaos and all-out war, and our own countries a little deeper into the swamp of lies and deception that in which we have been stuck for too many years.

One thought on “Who Shall We Bomb? How Shall We bomb them?

  1. Yesterday late at night I had the “honour” of watching Sir Peter Torry, your fromer Ambassador to Germany, on one of the flagship political talkshows on german TV. Now, inspite of the surplus “r” in his name I sort of had a feeling of what was coming. But lets not only mention Sir Torry. He was supported by a former high ranking german military guy (who before he retired had a few years as a high ranking NATO official), next in line there was a journalist of the BILD-Zeitung (something like the german “Sun”, just so you know). Last but not least of the pro “bomb them” r2p-jingoists we had the foreign policy advisor of the CDU/CSU, who was – to his credit – at least somewhat sceptical towards the outcome of such bombardment, however we of course had to do “something” according to him.

    The lone ranger warning against intervention was Sarah Wagenknecht from the “Die Linke”-Party, who inspite of respectable efforts wasn’t really on top of the “game” when it comes to all the various legitimate doubts and potential weaknesses in the pro bombing pundit-line.

    So the ground from the very get go was everything but leveled, it was a 4 vs. 1. Now I am not going to bore you with the details of that 1 and a half hour long gutwrenching r2p-warmongering, however, I thought you might enjoy a few highlights:

    1. Sir Peter Torry hinted that Germany is basicly meaningless nevertheless “the british” expect that this time Germany won’t oppose the war like in 2003, and wont abstain like vs. the Colonel G. but rather nicely supports the war effort this time around.

    2. Sir Peter Torry accused Wagenknecht of being an Assad-Spokeperson when she pointed out that “surgical attacks” as such mean intervening and war and that “collateral damage” means killing innocents and that it would be better to spend all the money helping the refugees and rather than war put the whole effort on finding a regional solution including all major proxy-powers who are willing to fight to the last Syrian.

    But most of all, just to show you how low german public TV has sunk, I simply have to tell you of the most bizarr thing I have seen in a long time: They actually, and now fasten your seatbelt, showed a clip where they had one of their jurnalists run around the streets in Berlin with an Ipad full of pictures with gased, dead children. Armed with that gruesome imagery he rushed people on the streets, shoving the Ipad into their faces asking “How long can we stand by when such things are happening, Sir??”, “How can the german people accept the killing of children and babies??” etc.

    It was unbelievable. And of course, 90% of the people, shocked by the pictures right away asked for intervention – Sir Peter Torry was indeed pleased after he watched the peoples reactions on the screen in the studio.

    I am going to leave you with a new nice german word for you: Strafaktion. It more or less translates directly to punitive action and is thrown around german media all the time these days. Interesstingly it was also probably one of the most beloved words of the 3d Reich. What was invading Poland? A just “Strafaktion”. Every time we summarily executed thousads of partisans? Strafaktion. Strafaktion, Strafaktion, Strafaktion! Seems the world can’t wait for Germany to get back in bussiness with Strafaktionen or at least cheer when they happen.

    Needless to say, Sir Peter Torry was pleased. Especially since “Strafaktion” was about the only word he pronounced correctly that evening.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *