This looks simple enough then. We’ll bomb the same people as Putin is bombing, in the same places, co-ordinated with Putin. But we won’t actually be on the same side as Putin, and maybe we’ll make that clear by painting gay rainbow flags on our bombs.
And we’re backing Turkey – although we’re not backing Turkey when they sneakily align with Isis against the Kurds, but that’s easy to get round. We’ll arrange a job share. Isis can have them on Mondays to Wednesdays, then we’ll get them from Thursday until Saturday, and on Sundays they can have the day off or back someone else such as the Cornish nationalists.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond explained it clearly, when he answered Dennis Skinner’s question “Is Turkey a reliable ally, given that it shot down a Russian jet, and has assisted Isis against the Kurds?” Hammond replied “I see that old habits die hard, and the Honourable Gentleman remains an apologist for Russian actions.”
This must mean we are supporting Turkey, against Russia as well as on the days they’re opposing Isis, though we’re on Russia’s side when they’re against Isis so we could end up supporting and opposing Russia and Turkey against each other at the same time, causing us to fall through a break in space and we’ll have to be rescued by Doctor Who.
To simplify matters even more, Hammond seems to suggest it’s a disgrace to defend Russia’s shameful action of its plane being shot down. Look at the litter they’ve caused, they could have crashed more tidily. Is it any wonder we’re never on their side except for when we’re on their side?
Defence Minister Michael Fallon explained how our bombing won’t be in support of either Assad or Isis, when he said: “A moderate Syrian government can take over to provide boots on the ground.” Oh, of course, when it’s explained that simply it makes you wonder why no one thought of getting a moderate Syrian government before – especially as they’re so easy to get from the Moderate Syrian Government store in a retail park just outside Coventry.
Maybe, as the economy has more money than we thought, we can get a really pretty moderate Syrian government with buttercups and kittens on. Then we can solve the problem of malaria by getting moderate mosquitos to take over from dirty extremist ones that spread disease because they hate our values.
David Cameron suggests our bombing will be in support of the moderate Free Syrian Army, but many of them are also jihadists. The American journalist Theo Padnos was kidnapped by them, working in an alliance with al-Qaeda. And when you’re looking to al-Qaeda as a moderate influence, you can be satisfied things are turning out extremely well. Who amongst us, when times look tricky, hasn’t thought: “I wish al-Qaeda would turn up and take over from the nutcases in charge at the moment?”
Still, Cameron’s had a lot to deal with. He’s probably mixed up a jihadist kidnapping group linked to al-Qaeda with an Aleppo and District Branch of the Liberal Democrats. It’s a mistake anyone could make.
Another question some people ask about the proposed bombing is whether it’s likely to kill civilians. Apparently it won’t; these are precision bombs. Hopefully they’re even more precise than the American precision bomb that, it was admitted yesterday, was aimed at a Taliban-controlled area of Afghanistan but blew up a hospital in the city of Kunduz instead. Even if you were making a film called Carry on Jihad, you would question the plausibility of a storyline in which an idiotic but lovable commander said: “Oh blimey, I’ve gone and blown up a blooming hospital by mistake”, before being asked “can I see your infidels?” and replying, “I beg your pardon.”
But the latest bombing proposals suggest the Government hasn’t quite grasped the extent to which Western governments and armies are so discredited out in the Middle East. Cameron says we mustn’t make the same mistakes as in the Iraq war, but the Iraq war isn’t seen as a one-off. It’s viewed as one more episode in a story that’s lasted 100 years.
Still, we seem to appreciate these difficulties: when minister Anna Soubry appeared on last week’s Question Time, she was asked by journalist Mehdi Hasan why, if we’re against extremists, we arm and support Saudi Arabia? She replied “Oh that’s just a cheap point”, and made a waving gesture as if shooing away Downton Abbey’s servants. Then when Conservative military historian Max Hastings said there appeared to be no long-term plan, she made a sort of “harrumph” noise.
That sort of attitude should reassure moderate Muslims.
But it looks like we’re going ahead. And presumably, although the US, France and Russia have already been bombing, our bombs will make the crucial difference. Next I expect Hertfordshire County Council will say they’re sending the Hemel Hempstead Air Force as a vital addition to the coalition, and Guernsey will send its traffic wardens to clamp Isis surface-to-air missiles. Then Isis will be driven out of Raqqa, and there will be huge celebrations. But they’ll be replaced by a group called The Irrational Quar’anic Cult of Universal Evil and Destruction, and we’ll all think: “it makes you wish we had Isis back, this lot are even worse.”