Theresa Terror

It’s a week since the slaughter of the innocents at the Manchester Arena and the single image I can’t get out of my mind is the face of Eilidh MacLeod of Barra. She looks into the lens and right through us with the defiant beauty of youth, a look that both asserts her arrival at the door of adulthood and challenges us, as if asking what kind of world we have created for her generation.

Not that she knew that. To her this was just being, a wild creature engaging in the ever-changing excitement of growing up – the thrill that led her to a pop concert in the city. It’s the contrast between the empty slopes of pastoral Barra and its misty air of the ethereal with the sickening brutality of jihadist murder that is most poignant. The surreal disjunction contrasts the unchanging stability of one world with the shrieking madness of the other.

The insane serendipity of it all shocked my ten-year-old. ‘She left home to have fun at a party and didn’t know it was the last time’, she said, articulating one of the great unknowns for all of us. Accident, heart attack, random violence all stalk us every day. On leaving home and saying goodbye, none of us knows if it’s for the last time. A recently retired neighbour ended a disagreement with the words: ‘Never mind. Life’s too short.’ Four days later he was found dead. ‘I never saw him again’, said the other arguer, pondering the ironies of existence.

And you just know that out there in the Western Isles, Eilidh’s family will question themselves, silently doubt their decision-making with the ache that if only they could go back in time…But life is a procession of If Only. And it will always be true that no one is burdened with blame but the perpetrator(s). Those who planned, organised and committed this act are solely to blame. There is no mealy-mouthed excuses for cold-blooded mass murder.

But that cannot be used as a reason to quietly close the door on examining why it happened. However nihilistic, jihadism does not exist in isolation from the world it attacks. Every day in some part of the globe a family suffers like the MacLeods…in untold numbers in shattered Syria, across destabilised Libya, endlessly in Afghanistan, or, with UK cluster bombs, in Yemen…and so it goes on, countries conflicted among themselves but often the recipients of western foreign policy decisions. Interventions through invasion, insertion of advisers, support back-up for one side or another and, of course the relentless re-armament of militias through profit-seeking arms sales – in which we and the Americans specialise – destroy lives and communities.

Add in the vicious on-going Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the hangover of the US-UK invasion of Iraq, and you can see how millions of people feel little sympathy for a handful of deaths in the rich, seemingly inoculated western nations. Compared to a mother in Aleppo, a British woman has no actual knowledge of what it is to live every day in fear, where children are at literally risk, hunger and disease constant, home is bombarded and death close by. Even people who wish no harm to anyone in the west will console themselves with the unspoken satisfaction that a sporadic bombing here is a taste of what life is like for them. We tend not to engage too deeply with the world’s on-going wars of tribalism and religious sectarianism because they are mostly unfathomable, convoluted affairs and because it’s simply unbearable to share the daily sense of grief and loss involved. We shake our heads and move on. In my case, to help assuage guilt and offer solidarity, I give to Unicef and Medical Aid to Palestine.

But, like Britain’s – and Barra’s – grieving families, every one we see wailing in despair over a small broken body in a dusty village is going through the same human hell. The bewilderment, disbelief, the anger and despair are the same, be it Castlebay or Kabul. Manchester didn’t scare us into surrendering to jihad or opening a door to the stone-age death cult of IS as was intended, but it did act as an excoriating reminder of how millions of fellow humans are forced to survive, rarely far from death. Some of that violence is either the indirect consequence of actions taken by our government and allies or it is perpetrated by us or our agents. That’s why we cannot allow the semi secret military apparatus to sneak arms into war zones without democratic scrutiny. If the public are told the truth about war in Yemen and it becomes a national issue of importance, would they accept it? Or might they see how Britain’s involvement in attacking a muslim country might lead to retaliation?

The UK gives £100m to aid Yemen. But it receives £3.3 billion from selling arms to Saudi Arabia which uses them to attack Yemen. More than 5000 civilians have been killed mostly by the bombing raids with British-made weapons. Those are families. Children are blown up, some left with terrible shrapnel injuries and the war is leading to large scale famine and a humanitarian crisis. We are a key part of that crisis.

SAS troops are thought to be there (as in Syria, Iraq and Libya without parliament being told). In Libya it gets even darker as it isn’t clear who our personnel are fighting on behalf of – there isn’t a government as such. And it’s clear there’s been an unspoken policy of encouraging fighters to go to Libya from the UK and to return unchecked, the route taken by Salman Abedi. This murky soup is deliberately kept secret from the public who are deemed unworthy of having the information. That of course also means we were unaware that our own security forces had been warned by Abedi’s own family and friends that he was dangerous. They were also told by American security about him well in advance.

This of course is dereliction of duty. The first responsibility of government is defence of the realm and there can be no doubt that in failing to run a suitably efficient security and intelligence service able to respond to repeated and timeous warnings, this government has let down the country. They unnecessarily exposed to lethal threat citizens who could reasonably expect protection. It will always be true that an unknown individual or even one on a list but not regarded as active, can strike at will and wrong-foot the police. There is no known defence to this. But when the government’s policy allows for unofficial fighters to pass in and out of the country unchecked and when a named individual is identified by several sources as of imminent danger, there can be no excuse when lives are lost through inaction.

I find it extraordinary that the link between Theresa May’s tenure at the Home Office – running immigration control, anti terrorism and security – and this disaster is not a key part of the election. The Tories are proven to be weak on security and defence. The former commander of armed forces told MPs the UK couldn’t withstand an attack by the Russians, our forces are so depleted. Now we find that even with clear advance warnings, our intelligence and security cannot respond in time to save lives.

Saying you’re good at something doesn’t make it so and we’ve heard enough about strong leadership lately to make us laugh and enough about running the economy to make us cry.

The crumbling of the Tory image edifice into a pile of rubble is the story of the campaign, embodied by twitchy Theresa who sounds panicked, unsure and incompetent. Not being Jeremy isn’t nearly enough and, even if she does pull off a nervous victory as expected, her perception with the public is fatally wounded. And to the EU negotiators she will be more rag doll than iron lady, a pitiable figure with but a squeak of an argument rather than Gloriana summoning her archers.

May has done the impossible – she has made Corbyn electable. What a country. Please can we leave soon?

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21 thoughts on “Theresa Terror

  1. I’m always worried by this obsession that a leader has to be charismatic. I like Jeremy Corbin, but have no need to vote for him here in Scotland as there’s a party that’s had many of those policies for years. The biggest problem, for me, with Jeremy is his parliamentary party. He’s trying to run a church that is too broad and his compromises make him look week. The sooner the rank and file members, many of whom joined as supporters of the Momentum faction, get the chance to deselect MPs who are members of The Progress faction the better.
    I’d add that the chance of a coalition of the left with active tactical voting is too good to ignore. When I lived in England, FPTP meant that I always voted for the least worst option. That may sound really negative, but on occasion the least worst option can also be the best option. The greens and liberal democrats understand this in England and are encouraging tactical voting, but Jeremy cannot be seen to encourage this, even if it would benefit him. The tories have succeeded in making any talk of a coalition of the left toxic for Jeremy. They’ll just evoke the Alec Salmond with Ed Milliband in his pocket poster again and change the faces

  2. Excellent article Derek. Well researched and informative, empathetic and to the point.

    Craig Murray was saying the other day when it first happened that the attack was likely to play into the government’s hands.

    But as the incompetence in the Home Office and the former Home Secretary, now PM, Theresa May, is exposed it looks likely to rebound on them.

    I suppose though that Jeremy doesn’t look to be much safer to small c conservatives, but perhaps it’s enough to tempt wavering Labour voters back, sufficient to make the Tory majority a narrow one. In which case the election gamble will not have paid off.

    And if so, provided we get a good number of SNP MPs returned, it plays into our hands long term, as May will have looked doubly incompetent, in forcing another election on us to no great avail, and looking increasingly feeble in the Brexit negotiations. In such circumstances the obligation of Scotland to commit economic suicide along with England for the sake of ‘our precious union’ must seem increasingly questionable to even the most proudly unionist Scots.

  3. Brilliant article. I just wish this article and others like it would appear in MSM. Then the Scottish Unionists could be educated about the reasons why you say ” Please can we leave soon?’

  4. YES BUT why are you one of the few and why is it only online do we read such an article. WE will never see the faces or know the names of the many that are killed daily in the many world wide conflicts supported directly and indirectly by the UK and the USA.

    THERE ARE MANY QUESTIONS HERE

    Why is most of this a secret ?

    Why are the MSN not on top of this in an unbiased way ?

    Why when the BBC get out there do we only see and hear about what THEY want us to know ?

    Why are we selling arms to ‘anyone’ ?

    The Why’s are endless really.

    Finally what is ‘great’ about Great Britain not a lot that I can see and would want to talk about

  5. Robert Graham

    A good article and thanks for taking the time , Someone else said why are the media not pressing this useless government on how this failure was allowed to happen , because it was a failure , a failure to protect as best they could all these children , I cant imagine the utter helplessness of the parents robbed of their future , it breaks your heart , Then we have the murdoch press trying to divert attention and Jumping all over Corbyn trying to link him to the IRA , SKY and the SUN dredging up tenuous comments from thirty years ago , say what you want about him he dosent want to kill anyone , Amber Rudd commented if Labour are elected more deaths will occur ! , what a ridiculous bloody statement from an increasingly incompetent vile tory government whos representatives when pushed cant defend their actions ,or their record , Scratch the surface and they fold , ask searching questions and they have no answers .

  6. Sadly we will search in vain to find a dead tree or broadcast media journalist writing such an excellent piece.

    If it wasn’t for a supine media neither May nor her chosen shower of embarassing incompetents would be within a light year of being the favourites to win the UKGE.

    Its about time that the media stopped being the Tory party’s poodles courtesy of their billionaire owners and do what they are supposed to do by serving the public interest instead.

  7. After watching TM’s performance at leaders debate, I despair. She has no soul and has a dead-eyed look which resembles a shark. And you know that sharks exist only to feed on the weakest…!

  8. A couple of interesting articles have appeared recently that show just what we are dealing with when it comes to the UK establishment, which is always present and does not depend on whether Labour or the Tories are in power in the UK.
    This first one has also been picked up by the Guardian.
    Link to original article: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/sorted-mi5-how-uk-government-sent-british-libyans-fight-gaddafi-1219906488 and the Guardian article can be found here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/27/libya-fallout-theresa-may-failed-terror
    The second article that might be interesting for some people and maybe explains why Tony Blair has escaped any official censure; because it would also have brought down Cameron as well. Anyway it is worth having a read: http://truepublica.org.uk/united-kingdom/david-camerons-secret-nuclear-weapons-deal-raised-17-8m-for-conservative-party-funds-sets-pretext-for-war/

  9. That was a very moving and eloquent tribute to the Macleod family in sympathy for their loss of a cherished daughter.

    You were right to link the grief of those who lost loved ones in the Manchester bombing with the awful ongoing tragedy of the terrible attrition in the Middle East. Sometimes the horror being visited on their communities for so long is too overwhelming to contemplate. The imagination quails in comprehending the everyday anguish of these people.

    However, those who callously trade arms and weapons with insane militias and medieval tyrants appear to have untroubled consciences. I was reminded today that Madeleine Albright – a recipient of several awards for ‘ world peace’ – when it was put to her that US involvement in these conflicts would lead to loss of life in the civilian population, she replied without hesitation that it was a price worth playing.

    The model for these interventions which have helped cause so much misery as well as being profitable for numerous shadowy organizations was Afghanistan, when it was planned to bring down the Communist regime there and thus involve the Soviet Union. Through this proxy war with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, arms and training were given to the mujahadin, notably bin Laden, as we now know.

    Our media played along by presenting it as a war of freedom fighters and helped conceal the religious fanaticism of those we were supporting. It was pointed out to Zbigniew Brzezinski by those in the CIA, who knew very well what they were unleashing on Afghanistan, that the triumph of the mullahs in Afghanistan would lead to the imposition of a particularly harsh form of Islamic regime in Afghanistan, particularly for women. He, too, thought that it was a price worth paying.

    And so it goes on………

  10. Yes but how will we get Indy if re elected Tory govt, albeit weak, continues to refuse referendum?

    • We just have a ton of work to do to convince the 55%, (now 50%, I believe), that we have a right to reject the Brexit deal as being economically suicidal to our national interests. Provided we can do that, there are other options.

    • There are other options. There’s the advisory referendum, though that is potentially subject to Unionist boycott as the Catalan one was. The necessity of a new Section 30 order is apparently arguable and serious legal opinion has it that it is not. So Holyrood assumes it, passes a binding referendum bill under the continuation of the old order and invites Westminster to take them to court to prevent our right to self determination. During the Brexit negotiations with the eyes of the world on them.

      Or we take Craig Murray’s point that referenda are infrequent instruments of independence and National Conventions are much more common. A national convention of MSPs, MPs and MEPs would have a Yes majority and would have recognised democratic legitimacy, especially if we had been denied a referendum.

      Or the SNP/Greens call a new Holyrood election and run on an overtly Yes ticket asking for either a combined majority or more than 50% of the vote. We could do the same with a mass resignation of the MPs.

      And of course there is always at the last the nuclear option of UDI, which the Catalans are reportedly preparing. In part I suspect as a bargaining chip with Madrid: either you let us have an orderly, organised and agreed separation or we have a disorderly, disorganised and possibly violent one. I don’t know how much control the Catalan govt has over the police for eg. Here in Scotland Holyrood controls all the emergency services. Also the troops are sworn to the monarch. If we keep the monarch, will they stay out and not obey politicians?

      But the point is the UDI nuclear option should never be ruled out. Westminster needs to know it is there in our armoury and we can use it if circumstances force it. We must try and be seen to try all the above options first though. It remains to be seen if the international community views the Catalans as having exhausted all their options if they are going to go there.

      • I think it would be madness to try UDI or anything similar if a very large percentage of the population is opposed. We would be starting a new country with an insurrection on our hands and under such circumstances we are unlikely to be able to deliver for those who have backed us hoping for better things. That is why, whatever route we take, we cannot take it unless we have made substantial progress on winning over a significant part of the 55%. Having canvassed them lately in the Tory heartlands of Edinburgh South, I am under no illusions of how much work remains to be done to convince.

        • As if it is the Tory supporters we need to convince. There are 190,000 EU citizens in Scotland, likely ignored by the pollsters because they are not allowed to vote in general elections.

          They alone will go a long way in closing the 245,000 gap we had last time. Then there’s the population changes from the unionist elderly leaving us whilst ever more Yes friendly youngsters reach the age of 16. Another group the pollsters rarely canvass for similar reasons.

          RIC has done some canvassing here in Dundee after the Brexit and we find working class Yes Leavers when asked directly say that they are very likely to vote Yes again, regardless. So the supposed losses due to Brexit don’t seem to be as large as some think.

          As the true horror of Brexit comes clear the Middle Class Remainers will trickle to us as well. My No voting wife amongst them. She will probably have to dragged to the polls and will hold her nose in voting Yes but she works in university postgrad recruitment and admissions and they rely on many overseas students who will be put off by Brexit Britain but not EU Member iScotland. At the moment she is all ‘a pox on all their houses’ because at the moment nobody is asking her to choose.

          She has taken to vote Green so she has half a foot at least in the Yes camp. She knows they are a Yes party too. Little by little.

  11. A great post Derek.

  12. Reading this article Derek was a real tonic thanks.

    I am a pacifist and despise the arms trade and the UK’s role in it.

    May’s Tories are toxic, full of bile and hatred. Someone open a window and let the light shine in for I am close to despair.

    I have a 3 year old boy and cannot bear the thought of him growing up in a world so tarnished by greedy capitalists who will sanction the death of so many innocents for profit.

  13. Derek comments latterly on May and Brexit and her image now.
    Read in the Guardian, May 31, Rafael Behr on May and Brexit omnishambles.
    It is powerful

  14. I cant bear the thought that when I am gone the younger members of my family will be living in a Brit Nat Tyranny. That is what those who are voting for British Nationalist Parties in the guise of the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems will be doing. That is the world they are leaving to her generation. I fear for that generation. A plague on all of them that will vote for those Parties!

  15. There have been many phrases, change during this election recorded. Catch phrases lime MayHem, Maygeddon, Brexit means Brexit, M-Turn etc.
    However, it is to a group of “real” meet the people in the English constituency of Hemsworth who changed at May as she went to meet the selected few in a factory:
    “Make June the end of May!”
    Now that may well be if we have a Hung parliament. It will be the end of May!!
    It needs repeating:
    “MAKE JUNE THE END OF MAY!”

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