Tuesday 23 October 2018

An imperial gene that makes the British want to save tragic Syria

WITH a tremulous, sinking heart, I heard this week that the British are planning "humanitarian" assistance to "liberal opposition" leaders in Syria. Ten years on from Iraq and the lesson has apparently not been learnt on this fateful meridian, where the abstracts of modern English usage have almost no meaning: hence the scatter-gun distribution of inverted commas through any account of what is going on there.

Yes, I know Syria is a different country from Iraq; but its similarities are sufficient to warn outsiders against intervention. I say this with feeling, because I was one of the few Irish journalists to have supported the US invasion 10 years ago, giving me ample opportunity to repent as I watched that ill-planned fiasco slip into anarchy, abuse, torture and murder by allied soldiers, concluding in Basra with the greatest defeat of British arms since Arnhem.

Hearing Foreign Secretary William Hague declare his interest in limited involvement in Syria is like hearing a long dried-out alcoholic say: "Thank you, a small gin and tonic. Oh, and skip the tonic, and no ice, please." I can only presume that some addictively imperial gene, or perhaps a deeply masochistic one, could impel any Englishman to look at the vast forces of anarchy and wickedness unleashed in Syria, with some 1,000 semi-autonomous factions, and say: "Well, I like the cut of the jib of that bunch: jolly decent chaps – let's give them what they need to defend themselves."

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