by Martin Odoni

Crown Prince Mohammed bin-Salman, of the House of al-Saud, is a politician. That may sound like a grossly obvious description, but it is meant as a condemnation. He is a politician in the sense that so many professional politicians are capable of the most grotesque hypocrisy, moral inconsistency, and deliberate twisted logic.

bin Salman hypocrite

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia exploits a terrorist attack to condemn Iran, while insisting that no one should condemn him for a murder he definitely ordered.

I am sure everyone is aware by now of the attacks on two tankers – one Japanese and one Norwegian – in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday. There has been a highly prejudicial and, obviously politically-motivated, attempt to blame the blasts that rocked the tankers on the regime governing the Shi’a Republic of Iran. Now, the evidence for this, presented in an undignified rush by Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, has been criticised as unreliable. It also runs contrary to eye-witness accounts provided by the crew of the Japanese tanker, who state that the ship was struck by an airborne object, whereas Pompeo’s presentation indicated that it was damaged by a limpet-mine that had been attached to its hull.

Now, there are all manner of reasons, beyond the differing testimonies of the people who were actually there, to treat Pompeo’s story with skepticism. The video provided – purportedly of Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen removing evidence from the hull of the Japanese tanker – is suspicious at best, given it seems unlikely that US surveillance would have been monitoring the tankers so closely at the moment the pictures were supposedly captured, unless they already knew the mines had been fastened to the ships. If that was the case, why did they not send a warning to the tanker captains?

It is still possible that Iran was behind the attacks, but that is not a conclusion that can be drawn with honest confidence on present information.

With this in mind, Jeremy Corbyn, always maligned as a ‘fool’ and yet in practice always on the side of sensible and rational caution, has warned against blindly following the American lead. The response to this has been a predictable tidal wave of social media attacks on Corbyn, especially from Tory MPs, implying his insistence on critical thinking and evidence-based assessment demonstrates some kind of moral failing. Even to the extent of contradicting themselves.

Hunt showing usual Tory moral consistency

Jeremy Hunt showing his usual moral and intellectual solidity.

In all of this nausea-inducing hypocrisy, it should be impossible to judge whose knee-jerk deceitfulness is the worst. But the House of al-Saud specialises in being abhorrent in ways few other parts of the world can rival, and sure enough, bin-Salman has found a way.

The current Crown Prince is often lauded by Western Governments and media as a ‘liberal reformer’ leader, and less of a brutal autocrat than his predecessors. This is technically true, but all that really demonstrates is what horrific dinosaurs the previous generations of Emirs and Crown Princes were. By any standards, bin Salman is bloodthirsty, aggressive, and reckless, and his ‘modern outlook’ has little to do with a respect for human rights and individual liberty. Instead, he is just open-minded enough to recognise that Saudi Arabia has a lot of catching-up to do in the world of science and technology, especially if it is to survive in a relatively near-future in which Anthropogenic Climate Change is likely to force an end to the Oil Age. Hence his reforms; he wants efficiency, not justice.

Sure enough, bin-Salman’s reaction to the tanker attacks has been absolutely textbook opportunist-politics. While offering no more evidence than the US has provided, he has publicly accused Iran of being behind the attacks.

We do not want a war in the region… But we won’t hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and our vital interests… The Iranian regime did not respect the presence of the Japanese prime minister as a guest in Tehran and responded to his [diplomatic] efforts by attacking two tankers

Now, it is quite vomit-inducing enough that Saudi Arabia is trying to claim some kind of moral superiority in any situation. Sure, Iran is a very repressive country, and its regime clearly has links to a number of Shi’a terrorist groups in the Middle East. But Saudi Arabia is also a very repressive country, and has at least as many links to Wahhabist-Sunni terrorist groups across the region, and probably all around the world. Quite what bin-Salman thinks the attacks even have to do with Saudi Arabia is very unclear too.

But worse than this, less than twenty-four hours after exploiting the tanker attacks to score points against the Ayatollahs, bin-Salman has issued a statement obliquely criticising officials in the Turkish Government. The reason? Bin-Salman seems convinced that the Turks are “exploiting” the horrifically bloody murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Autumn last year (yet another Saudi atrocity that receives the sort of muted response from British politicians that a similar Iranian deed would never get).

That murder in itself is enough to sever any contact the Crown Prince has with the moral high ground for the rest of his life. But for him to criticise political exploitation of an atrocity less than a day after he was committing the same crime gives off an unholy stink of hypocrisy that spreads around the world. I mean, at least we have ample reason to be confident that Saudi Arabia was behind the Khashoggi murder. At present, there is no confidence that Iran is behind the tanker attacks.

The Iranian Government is a hideous regime, no one is disputing that. But the circle the West cannot square is its hostility to Iran going hand-in-hand with its closeness to the House of al-Saud.

All the evidence of the two years since bin-Salman became Crown Prince shows that he is not the man to ‘launder’ that relationship.

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by Martin Odoni

FOREWORD: The following is an opening excerpt from an article I have written for The Prole Star.

Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist from Saudi Arabia who, in recent years has been resident in the United States of America, has been missing since the 2nd of October. Khashoggi was visiting the Saudi Consulate in Turkey to obtain some personal documents. CCTV images very clearly show him entering the Consulate, but there are no images of him leaving afterwards.

Khashoggi enters the Saudi Consulate, Istanbul c/o AFP PHOTO / DHA

CCTV image of Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi Consulate, Istanbul, on 2nd October 2018. There is no apparent footage of him ever leaving it subsequently. Photo c/o AFP PHOTO / DHA

Khashoggi is almost certainly dead, and if he is, it is certain that the Saudis murdered him. Were he alive and held at the Consulate, it would have been very easy for the Saudis to have paraded him on television at any stage, and so cool the growing controversy. Moreover, Khashoggi has been highly critical of the House of al-Saud over the last few years, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman clearly sees him as a ‘traitor’. According to some reports, Khashoggi had publicly claimed in August that the Saudi regime wanted him dead.

This chapter demonstrates that anyone who thinks the positive-but-shallow gesture of allowing women to drive marks the end of Saudi Arabia’s gruesome history of repression is naive in the extreme.

TO CONTINUE READING, PLEASE SEE THE FULL ARTICLE ON THE PROLE STAR.

by Martin Odoni

The Conservative Party line in response to Jeremy Corbyn’s speech on Friday has been one of predictable, theatrical outrage. They have accused Corbyn of ‘making excuses’ for terrorism, as I am sure most people guessed they would, even though Corbyn himself had gone to great lengths to make clear that he held the people who commit such atrocities responsible for them. As I wrote yesterday, there is a distinction between explanation and justification or extenuation, and it is childish when a politician – or indeed anybody – tries to blur that boundary. When it happens, it is usually a rather cowardly method of avoiding a difficult discussion.

One Tory who needs singling out for particular contempt in all this is the ever-blimpish Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson – or as I call him, ‘BoJob’. At a joint press conference with US State Secretary Rex Tillerson yesterday, he decried Corbyn’s words furiously; –

“I find it absolutely extraordinary, and inexplicable… that there should be any attempt to justify or to legitimate the actions of terrorists… Now is not the time to do anything to subtract from the fundamental responsibility of those individuals, that individual in particular, who committed this atrocity. And I think it is absolutely monstrous that anybody should seek to do so.”

Screenshot from 2017-05-27 23-07-44

BoJob’s words veer a little between criticising the timing of Corbyn’s speech, and criticising the content of it. But while the focus is a little inconsistent, BoJob leaves us in little doubt that he wants everybody to see Corbyn’s meaning as objectionable.

Now, BoJob has subsequently received much criticism in return in the media, given that he was singing much the same tune as Corbyn in The Spectator back in 2005, in the aftermath of the London Underground Bombings. Of course, that atrocity occurred during the time of a Labour Government, and in apparent response to an aggressive war upon which that Government had embarked. Both the timing and the meaning of BoJob’s words then were barely distinguishable from Corbyn’s speech on Friday.

I am sure everyone is familiar with the counter-argument by now, and so shall dwell no further on it; there is nothing terribly remarkable or unusual about BoJob talking around the other side of his head, after all. Instead, I wish to point out that, as Foreign Secretary, he is particularly involved in the British foreign policy that Corbyn has been criticising.

I refer in particular to BoJob’s dismissive responses to demands that Britain cease selling arms and aircraft to Saudi Arabia. The House of al-Saud, effectively a kind of Wahhabist monarchy, is one of the most brutally repressive regimes on the face of the Earth. More pertinently though, it has been indiscriminately using the arms it purchases from Britain for the last two years to interfere very violently indeed in the Yemeni Civil War.

One shudders to guess how many children have been killed in the Saudi-led Coalition’s atrocities over the last two years, but we can be sure that the death-toll of the Manchester Arena Bombing, harrowing though it was, pales before the body-count in Yemen. Saudi actions in Yemen are, by any reasonable definition, terrorism-with-state-blessing.

Not only does BoJob have precious few words of condemnation for these crimes, he paves the way for, and defends, British weapons sales to the House of al-Saud. He not only endorses terrorism, and ‘subtracts from the fundamental responsibility’ for it, he even aids and abets it.

Please note that, in return for their ongoing co-operation, the Saudi Government has given both Johnson and some of his colleagues personal gifts, including food hampers. This is not only an inappropriate business practice, it is also an incredibly crass and insensitive choice of present, given the ongoing famine in some of the worst-hit areas of Yemen. Some of the worst hit, by the way, have been hit by Saudi air-strikes using British-manufactured jets.

So, Boris… who exactly is the one being ‘monstrous’ here?

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by Martin Odoni

Winston Churchill is popularly – and probably wrongly – credited with the amusing but insulting remark,

If, by the age of 25, you are not a liberal, you have no heart.

If, by the age of 35, you are not a conservative, you have no brain.

I wish to apply an addendum to that.

If, by the age of 18, you are in full knowledge of the Election Expenses Fraud, the deaths caused by benefit sanctions, the deceitful repetition of the fiction that ‘Labour caused the banking crash’, the equally-deceitful assertions that the National Debt is chiefly caused ‘by Welfare and excessive Labour spending’, the 2011 riots, the corrupt military action against Syria in flat violation of Parliament’s express wishes, the completely needless renewed recession triggered in late-2010 after there had been an initial economic recovery in the last six months of the previous Government, the pledge to eliminate the Public Sector Deficit completely by spring 2015 that is still over £50 billion adrift of the target over two years on, the repeatedly-failed pledge not to lose the UK’s AAA credit rating, the sell-off to private firms of vast swathes of the National Health Service, attempts to block a cap on bankers’ bonuses despite the Credit Crunch being caused by the banking industry, unquestioning military support for the House of al-Saud as it butchers the people of Yemen, the cover-up of a nuclear weapons test failure just a month prior to a vote on renewing Trident, the public panic-mongering over the National Debt when in reality there is no danger of bankruptcy, the dangerous new contract forced onto junior doctors, the program to rehabilitate the economy by driving up household debt once more and creating the very serious danger of a second Credit Crunch, the unashamed protection of mega-rich tax-dodgers, the guiltily-silent disregard for The Panama Papers, the cynical use in Parliament of dirty filibustering tactics to block Member’s Bills that include protection for domestic violence victims and tenants of irresponsible private landlords, the badly-under-priced sell-off of the Royal Mail, the idiotically large loss made on the sale of the assets of the Northern Rock Bank to Virgin Money,  the indiscriminate imposition of the Bedroom Tax on anyone claiming housing benefit including such people as domestic violence victims who live in ‘Sanctuary Scheme’ homes, the near-racist Election campaign for the London Mayor’s office, the idiotic and bombastic threats of war over Gibraltar, the reckless ‘Brexit‘ referendum that has destabilised the country just to pacify a handful of right-wing extremists in the House Of Commons, the shambolic and uselessly expensive introduction of ‘Universal Credit‘, the cuts of up to a quarter in further-education funding in some subjects, the ideological stupidity of the ‘Free Schools‘ program, the broken promise to reduce class sizes in schools, the closure of hundreds of Sure-Start Centres, the lack of interest in the Westminster Paedophile Scandal, the pointless plan to reverse the ban on fox-hunting, the moves to abandon green energy commitments, the closure of hundreds of public libraries, the refusal to hold a public Inquiry into police brutality at the Battle Of Orgreave, the ill-planned military intervention in Libya that has played an indirect but key role in the growing refugee crisis, the selfish refusal to take in more than a tiny handful of refugees, the cowardly broken promise to take in unaccompanied child refugees, the increasing dis-empowerment of workers due to new Trade Union laws, the sell-off of utilities and rail services to private companies that include some foreign firms (some of them foreign state companies, paradoxically), the “Snoopers’ Charter” Investigatory Powers Act, and the one-tone and intelligence-insulting General Election campaign of endless recitals of ‘Strong-And-Stable‘, and you have read the completely non-objectionable and at points very inspiring draft-Manifesto from the Labour Party, and you are still a conservative, then you have neither a heart, nor a brain.

That may just be the longest sentence I have ever typed, and I have no doubt readers can suggest plenty of other Tory-travesties I have forgotten – feel free to use the comments section below. For now though, here is a shorter sentence, but one that comes from both my heart and my brain; –

VOTE FOR JEREMY CORBYN ON 8th JUNE 2017.

_____

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by Martin Odoni

Discussion of the Syrian Refugee Crisis has caused a lot of increased emotion over the last few days, especially since pictures began circulating on social media of Aylan Kurdi, the boy who drowned off the Turkish coast. One of the upshots of the photos has been that many people who normally resent immigration, including a lot of the ever-fickle mainstream media, have suddenly become passionate humanitarians, although often only in narrowly militaristic terms.

The clamour has met stiffened resistance from other xenophobic elements however, who seem determined to view compassion as a weakness, and who regard the refugees with an stubborn suspicion. Hand-in-hand with this has, inevitably, been a campaign of misinformation about the crisis, misinformation clearly designed to cast refugees in a very ugly light.

I have decided to address a few of the rumours I have seen circulating.

1) “Islamic State (ISIL) are sending hundreds of thousands of their soldiers to Europe by infiltrating the refugees.”

This may just go down as the daftest conspiracy theory currently circulating on social media. It implies that ISIL has noticed huge numbers of refugees fleeing Syria, and many of them heading for Europe, and realised that if their own troops were to ‘mingle’ amongst the refugees, they could ‘ride the flow’ to the West and cause havoc when they arrive.

This idea is ridiculous for several reasons.

Firstly, ISIL is presently fighting a war on at least seven fronts. It is not only fighting several campaigns in different parts of Syria, but it is also in Iraq, Iran and Jordan, while also holding a substantial presence in Libya. The highest estimate for the total number of troops fighting for ISIL is around 200,000. Most other estimates suggest fewer than 100,000. Therefore, for ISIL to send ‘hundreds of thousands’ to Europe would mean displacing their entire forces, and the instantaneous surrender of what they view as ‘The Holy Land’, which is the prize they are fighting over in the first place. While fighting on so many fronts, ISIL simply does not have the soldiers to spare to send to Europe, even in their hundreds, let alone hundreds of thousands.

Furthermore, seeing many of ISIL’s recent recruits are from Europe, infiltrating the refugees sounds needlessly over-elaborate. The organisation could just send their European recruits back home, any of whom who have not been identified in the West as ISIL recruits would be allowed in by birthright, without all the knotty difficulties caused by immigration procedures. If there is anything to be afraid of at all on this score, it would be European nationals who have been radicalised and return home. (And even then, given how incompetent the average militant tends to be when operating alone, that danger is still pretty slight.) It is not a plausible danger from the refugees.

One more thing; when challenged to prove that this infiltration is really happening, the standard source the anti-asylum lobby offers us – without a link to a corroborating report – is an assertion that ISIL have openly announced that they are doing it. Given that infiltration is by definition something that is done in secret, would it not defeat the object of the exercise for ISIL to let us know like this? If they really are saying such things, and I can find no reliable source to suggest they are, it seems very likely that they are bluffing to heighten our fear of them.

To the xenophobes, I would therefore like to extend thanks on ISIL’s behalf for co-operating with them so completely.

2) “The refugees are refusing aid we have generously sent to them, so clearly they do not need our help.”

This rumour seems to have been triggered by a single video of what is claimed to be a train full of Syrian refugees in Hungary. The video shows several people in a crowd apparently throwing away a couple of crates of bottles that have been presented to them.

While not wishing to sound like a bit of  ‘tin-foil-hat-wearer’, I need to point out that there are several reasons why this evidence is being grossly misrepresented.

Firstly, people are presenting it in a wildly-generalised way, assuming that all refugees are refusing aid from the West, wherever they are, just because of one example in one place and time. This rumour has been debunked by the British Red Cross via its Twitter account; –

The Red Cross refutes accusations that refugees are declining aid.

The lie that refugees are refusing aid in Syria’s neighbouring countries, debunked by the Red Cross.

The incident in the video was a couple of people in a crowd of dozens rejecting aid from Hungarian authorities. It is ridiculous to portray that as indicative of refugee attitudes everywhere. It is even quite a stretch to assume it is indicative of the attitudes of the people just on that train.

Secondly, the video is not free-of-suspicion in itself. The only versions of it I have so far seen include no soundtrack – not that I speak Hungarian or Arabic but there would be plenty of people out there who would be able to translate what the people in the video are saying if only there were sound – there is no time-stamp on the images, therefore we cannot say when they were recorded – they could be years old for all we know – and the context of the video is unclear. We do not know, for instance, where the train came from, who the people on board the train are, or what happened to them during their journey which might have led them to reject aid.

Were I pushed for a possible explanation – and I freely admit this is speculative – the one I would point to is that the police officers in the pictures are all visibly wearing paper masks over their mouths; the implication of that is something at which the refugees could easily take offence if they are unable to understand the explanation, and their rejection of the bottles could be a way of saying, “You think we’re dirty? You think we’re carrying germs? Well we think your water is dirty!” Given the crass hostility the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, has shown towards the refugees, this presumed insult would fit a pattern in their minds.

If you think that unlikely, remember that most of the refugees will probably speak Arabic and no Hungarian, while most of the police will probably speak Hungarian and no Arabic. Communication is therefore going to be immensely difficult, and it will be quite a trick for the police to explain that they are compelled to wear the masks as a precaution, whether they wish to wear them or not.

As I say, this is a speculative explanation, but it is no more speculative or less plausible, and it is far more coherent, than simply writing the refugees off as being arrogant and ungrateful – which is scarcely an explanation at all in fact.

What I can say is that there is plenty of evidence from other refugees who have made it to Hungary that they are deeply unhappy with how they have so far been treated there.

EDIT TO ADD 12-9-2015: PLEASE SEE THE COMMENT BELOW BY ROSA LICHTENSTEIN, WHICH GIVES BACKGROUND DETAILS AS TO WHY THE BOTTLES WERE REFUSED BY THE REFUGEES.

3) “Why don’t the refugees stay in neighbouring countries instead of coming here?” Also sometimes worded as, “The other countries in the Middle East aren’t taking in their fair share!”

Quite simply, most of them are. The below image from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) was published in August last year, since which time the crisis has increased by well over twenty-five per cent; around September last year, the total number of refugees from Syria went past three million, and has now gone past four million.

As the graphic shows, most of Syria’s neighbouring countries had already taken in enormous numbers of refugees by a year ago, and tiny Lebanon in particular had become massively overburdened.

c/o UNHCR, Syrian refugee estimates from August 2014

c/o UNHCR. These figures are over a year old, and the crisis has increased by a quarter since then.

So refugees in the main do go straight to near neighbours. But the more people arrive, the more difficult it becomes for them to stay, as resources start to be used up rapidly. Hence, many of them start to move further afield after a while. The Kurdi family, for instance, had been in refuge in Turkey for some three years before attempting their ill-fated sea-voyage to Greece, with the number of refugees in Bodrum growing so rapidly that living conditions were deteriorating.

So when Ross England, the ironically-named Welsh Conservative candidate for the Vale of Glamorgan Assembly constituency, ‘knowledgeably’ asserts, “Genuine refugees flee to the nearest safe country. Those crossing to Europe are illegal economic migrants”, he is rather taking a ‘snapshot’ view of what the refugees are going through i.e. assuming their circumstances will remain identical for the entire time they are in exile, while asserting that if they were genuine refugees, they would be doing…. well, exactly what the Syrian refugees are in fact doing.

Now there are some neighbours in the region who have not accepted refugees, and I am certainly not defending those countries, especially the immensely rich House of al-Saud in Saudi Arabia. But even some of them have still sent considerable amounts of money to help the refugees, while the reasons they have for refusing to let people in, while still not justifying their stance, are not simply narrow callousness; the delicate ethnic and cultural balance of their populations could be adversely affected by attempts to assimilate large numbers of predominantly Sunni people. If that were to happen, it might lead to even more conflict.

So the real picture is quite a lot more varied and complex than the one the anti-asylum brigades are trying to paint.

4) “The Kurdi family tried to make the crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands because Abdullah Kurdi wanted a set of replacement teeth he could get for free in Europe.”

This rumour has been circulating since last weekend, and seems to have originated with supporters of either Britain First or the UK Independence Party (surprise, surprise). The idea is silly and would depend on Abdullah Kurdi behaving in a very counter-intuitive fashion.

The notion appears to have its roots in a part of Abdullah Kurdi’s explanation for why he had chosen to take his family away from Syria. He mentions in it (no, James Delingpole, you habitual, tantrum-throwing liar, Kurdi did say it, even a reporter from your own beloved Daily Telegraph attributes the story to him, and not just to some random blogger) that he was tortured by ISIL operatives who beat him so severely that eight of his teeth were broken.

This, along with an interview given by Kurdi’s Canada-based sister Fatima, has been twisted by xenophobic elements to mean that the only reason they were making the journey to Greece was so that Abdullah could get his teeth fixed. The problem is that this is not what she said. The reason for leaving was just that life in Turkey was so miserable for them that after three years they could bear no more and wanted to start a new life somewhere else. Being Kurdish Syrians, which is not an ethnicity held in high regard in Turkey, this is hardly surprising. Now, I suppose a chance for Abdullah to get his teeth fixed might have been a part of a ‘new life’ in the very long term, and for his own health it would have to be attended to sooner or later, but the mention in context shows clearly that it scarcely featured in their considerations.

The big question that the accusation misses of course, and for which we are still awaiting a sensible answer, is as follows; if Abdullah Kurdi’s big priority was dental treatment, why did he bother dragging his family along with him at all? He was sent money by his sister so he could hire smugglers to get him to Europe, but taking his wife and sons with him made the journey much more complicated and heavily increased the cost. (To the degree, come to think of it, that he would struggle to afford the dental treatment.) If finding a better life for his family were not a factor in his plans, would it not all have been easier, and cheaper, for him to travel to Europe alone, get his teeth fixed, and then go back to Turkey? For that matter, why the long-term plan to head all the way to Canada if all he was looking for was a dentist? We do have them on this side of the Atlantic, you know.

Another bizarre aspect of the rumour is that, with the crossing to Europe costing about three thousand dollars, a ‘free’ set of dentures sounds like a seriously false economy. I am not suggesting that Abdullah Kurdi is a man of shrewd thrift – I have no way of knowing – but then he would not have to be to see that the crossing was a dangerous and expensive gamble, for which false teeth would surely not be a worthwhile prize.

5) “This refugee crisis proves that Parliament should have voted in favour of military action against Syria in 2013.”

Just over two years ago, UK Prime Minister David Cameron attempted to get Parliamentary approval to intervene militarily in Syria against the Government of Bashar al-Assad. Cameron lost the vote at the end of the debate, and some of those who wanted military action are now presenting the current crisis as evidence that he should have been given the go-ahead.

The difficulties with that assertion arrive at us from several directions.

For one thing, the intervention proposed two years ago was expressly and specifically to be against the Assad regime, whereas a great many of the refugees are from areas that have been devastated by ISIL, which is one of the many forces arranged against Assad. Intervening to destroy the Syrian state military would have made it easier for ISIL to conquer northern Syria, triggering much the same refugee crisis.

For another, the reason there are so many refugees is that vast stretches of Syrian territory have been left uninhabitable by intense bombing and fierce ground-fighting. Whole towns have been turned into ruins. Military intervention would mean more bombing, more fierce ground-fighting, and therefore potentially still more refugees. Rather than solving the crisis, there is a great danger it would have made it worse.

The slightly infantile Western presumption of heroism in military intervention is a constant feature when Britain or the USA are at war. There are often genuine altruistic motives at work, but seldom very well-developed ones, and many of the people and organisations linked to military action do not share in them. The over-excited enthusiasm in the media, mentioned above, for the possibility of war abroad goes hand-in-hand with an unquestioning assumption that there are no sinister motives for it. There are times when the fraudulence, especially in right-wing tabloids, is like this; –

Anglo-American 'heroics' as seen by The S*n.

The mainstream media are experts in portraying hawkish and bombastic behaviour by the USA and Britain as heroic and noble.

Even when motives are genuine, the effects of military interventions in the Middle East are frequently terrible, due to poor planning and clumsy execution; for instance Tony Blair’s wish (though not the wishes of most of the rest of the British Establishment) for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was probably born of genuine motives to ‘destroy evil’, but it was almost juvenile in its development and caused much of the regional instability that led to the very war now being fought in Syria.

It is therefore hard to credit the unspoken assumption that an intervention would even have been successful.

6) “The migrants aren’t refugees because they have nice clothes.”

It says a lot about our petty prejudices that we become suspicious of those in need just when they do not conform to the image we are conditioned in our heads to expect of them. It is as though we are startled by and resentful of such people not looking the way they would stereotypically appear in a movie about dispossessed people. The most well-reported example of this judgement is probably a Tweet from UK Independence Party member Peter Bucklitsch.

Rags are part of the refugee uniform that UKIP insts be issued.

The Far Right have great trouble accepting anybody as being what they are when they do not conform to the stereotype appearance imagined. Note that the ill-informed Bucklitsch is assuming the Kurdi family were looking to settle in Europe, when they were actually trying to get to Canada.

So there you have it. Because refugees are often arriving wearing clean T-shirts and intact shoes, they cannot be refugees, and how dare they come asking for help while still in possession of one or two things that are quite nice. It is an elitist position to take, akin to the irrational tendency to get uncontrollably angry when seeing a benefits claimant owning something expensive, even if it is the only nice possession in their whole life.

It is a silly prejudice, nothing more.

7) “These refugees are cowards! They should stay at home and fight to protect it, instead of running away.”

There is a very naive machismo driving this concept, as though every human being is just a natural soldier, born to unlimited military skills. This idea may be created by watching far too many Rambo movies, or by assuming that Luke Skywalker’s sudden transition from farmer to tyranny-toppling magical warrior is based on a real story.

In reality, in most countries the great majority of people will have no military experience or skills at all, and without them, they are likely to be a liability rather than a bonus to the defences of their home. It might have been different back in the pre-industrial era, when simple weapons, city walls, and brute strength were the orders of the day, but in these days of bombing jets, semi-automatic rifles, ballistic missiles, and heavy tanks, the best thing almost any civilian can do is just get his/her family as far out of the way as possible. It does not matter even if the civilians are young men. If they have no military experience and are poorly-equipped, they are simply going to get in the way, before just adding themselves to the gruesome pile-up of dead bodies. There is nothing to be achieved by that.

I have heard more than one person saying, “Why don’t they stay and rebuild their homes then?” which is just as silly a question. Anything they rebuild while the war is going on will almost certainly be destroyed again. This is assuming they would even have a supply of the materials they would need with which to rebuild anything, which is itself a big doubt. “Why don’t they stay and wait for the war to end, and then rebuild?” Because they will die if they stay, either of thirst and starvation from remaining in a ruined city with no infrastructure or supply lines left, or simply by getting gunned down by the combatants.

The majority of the refugees would probably like to return and rebuild, but they can only do that once it is safe to do so. In the meantime they have to concentrate on simply keeping themselves alive. Getting killed is not going to help rebuild the ruins of north Syria.

This is what the war has done to vast stretches of land from Libya to Syria to Iraq. Wishing to escape it is not cowardice.

If this happened to your home, and there is little sign of help or protection coming from anywhere, and the conflict showed no sign of relenting, would you stay?

So people who make this testosterone-fuelled accusation are completely ignorant of obvious plain reality. Judging experiences of which they can have no earthly knowledge, it is easy for them to make such stupid remarks, because Britain has not been subject to horrors on this scale for centuries. (Before anyone says it, no, the Blitz in 1940 did not come anywhere close to what is happening in Syria right now. The damage caused by the Blitz was relatively brief, superficial and intermittent.) It would be very instructive to see how these ‘armchair macho men’ would respond if anything similar ever did happen to the UK.

It also bears mentioning that a lot of the Syrian refugees are Kurdish. The idea that a Syrian Kurd crossing borders into Iraq or Turkey is a ‘coward’ is nonsense, as they would be heading into countries that have very hostile views of Kurds – at least foreign-born ones. Such a move is therefore brave to the point of foolhardy.

And finally, for now at least…

8) “Isn’t it a bit suspicious how all the refugees who get to Europe are athletic young men?”

They are not. It is true that a high proportion of the refugees who get to Europe are men aged between fifteen and twenty-five, but then, while not wishing to sound chauvinistic or to write off older generations, that is the demographic that is most likely to survive such dangerous journeys. For unavoidable biological reasons, they are simply the people who are likely to be strongest and fittest.

But they are certainly not the only ones to get to Europe, nor are they even particularly close to being the only ones. Selective editing and presentation of media images by people who have an agenda are what give that impression. I will let someone else take up the story there.

EDIT TO ADD 13-9-2015: PLEASE SEE THE COMMENT BELOW BY GORDON RANKIN, WHO HAS A COUPLE OF INTERESTING STATS ON THE DEMOGRAPHICS OF THE REFUGEES. NB: I HAD PREVIOUSLY STATED THAT MR. RANKIN’S STATS CONCLUSIVELY DEBUNK THIS RUMOUR, BUT IT HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO MY ATTENTION THAT THEY APPLY TO REFUGEES IN SYRIA’S NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES ONLY. APOLOGIES FOR THE MISINFORMATION THERE.