Monday 23 November 2015

Colateral damage

Dear Richard Arkless,

I feel confident that I have no need to write you this letter; that you, and all your fellow SNP Members of the Westminster Parliament, will remember Hamish Henderson's words:
Nae mair will our bonnie callants
Merch tae war whan our braggarts crousely craw...
Broken faimilies in launs we've hairriet
Will curse 'Scotlan the Brave' nae mair, nae mair
I feel confident that you know that adding to the 'air power' deployed in Syria only increases that most cynical and most empty of modern euphemisms, 'colateral damage'. In Syria as in Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan, only one person in ten killed by western bombing and drone strikes is a 'target'.The rest are civilians. Women. Children. The old, the sick, and the injured.

No-one's child should be colateral damage. No-one's mother should die because someone dialled in the wrong co-ordinates. No-one's grandfather should be mown down because some 'target' just happened to be passing down the road in a Toyota pickup.

And to the parents of the children we kill, to the children of the mothers we kill, to the families of the gandparents er kill, what is the moral distiction between the fanatic who detonates his explosive belt in a Paris music venue and the young pilot who unloads his payload of indiscriminite death on their village, before flying comfortably home to a slap-up dinner and a quiet night's sleep, only to do the same on the morrow?

You cannot bomb an idea. Indeed, Daesh's idea is that there is an inevitable war between the West - what they call 'Rome' - and Islam. Daesh's battle plan is that to bring on the end of days, they must 'eliminate the grey zone', to divide the world starkly into those who are with them and those who are against them. To wage war against them  is to lend credence to their ideas, to bomb them is aid them in their battle plan.

The way to defeat an extremist movement is to win over the population among whom they live and from whom they recruit, by addressing reasonable grievances and building personal connections and friendships, as Scotland's regiments learned so painfully in Malaysia. The way to end a terrorist campaign is to sit down with the terrorists and talk, as we learned so painfully in Northern Ireland. You cannot win hearts and minds from the cockpit of a fighter jet. You cannoy negotiate with a drone. You cannot kill an idea with bombs and bullets.

This week we are welcoming Syrian refugees into Scotland. That makes me proud. But let us not now make more refugees, by bombing drive more of Syria's people to flee their homes, their towns and villages, to make the long, desperate treck to hoped for safety.

As I said at the beginning, I'm sure I don't need to write you this letter. I feel sure you will not be swayed by the testosterone fueled jingoism of the Tory braggarts. I'm sure you are as keen as I am to see that no broken families in Syria will feel the need to curse 'Scotland the Brave'.

But if you can use my words can help you persuade other MPs from other parties that bombing Syria, like bombing the Bataclan, is a moral outrage which will only set peace backward and advance the black flags of the Daesh, then this letter has been worth writing.

For man tae man, the whole world oer, shall brothers be for aa that; and it it Scotland's job to make it so.


Simon Brooke

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