5 Sep 2013

Baghdamascus: Iraq’s long shadow

There’s a new town in town. Not on any map, but deep in the public psyche of the UK, US and France.

It’s Baghdamascus, a vague, sandy, hot, Araby sort of place our leaders keep wanting to bomb but it all keeps going wrong and we’re stuck there forever and, well, what’s it got to do with us?


Debating whether this is right or wrong is irrelevant.

Opinion polls in London, Paris and DC show HUGE (off-the-scale) opposition to bombing such a place.

People. Have. Had. Enough.

As discussed in the last Tomoblog, four words explain this adequately: George, Bush, Tony and Blair.

Plus nowadays we have a cautious mid-west lawyer instead of Texan cowboy as world sheriff.

Prez Bam (Barack Obama) couldn’t even manage to keep his election promise to close America’s torture centre at Guantanamo Bay. It’s all about caution, not action.

A man who could scarcely order fries without a congressional inquiry isn’t going to order war (and it is war) without hesitation.

And so it’s proved. He blinked – Moscow, Tehran and Damascus stared and wondered.

See more: Syria cartoons – how Assad’s soldiers mock Barack Obama.

Ever unsure, Bam’s weirdly moved in the past 48 hours from “a shot across the bows”, to bringing regime change onto the agenda.

Well – that really worked well in terms of human life, security and freedom in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now possibly in Syria, didn’t it?

Read more: Spectre of Blair haunts Syria war

Congress looked like saying no.

Now key Republicans and Democrats say yes. But likely yes to a re-writing of the White House draft contract to prevent nasty killing in Syria unleashing nice killing in Syria.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has still not produced incontrovertible evidence. Russian President Vladimir Putin says so. Mr Kerry says so.

The same Mr Kerry photographed with Mrs Kerry and Mr and Mrs Assad at a cosy restaurant in Damascus just a few years ago – a man the US could really do business with said Mr Kerry.

Saddam Hussein

Oops – rewind to Saddam Hussein and sundry neo-cons with similar awkward family snaps…

Meanwhile in the UK we have a defence secretary freudian slipping his way around the airwaves saying Saddam when he means Assad – but for the public profoundly troubled by Baghdamascus, it actually is all the same.

The only shaft of sunlight for British MPs of the pro high explosive tendency, is that Mr Blair seems, belatedly, to have realised he should zip it, however desperate he is to bomb the “troublesome” middle eastern capitals.

Which leaves the French and President François  Hollande with a potential tete-a-tete avec le Bam in St.Petersburg. Snug. Dave might not get one. Ooh la la…

Perhaps after that congress will come round to Bamovision and president Hollande doesn’t need the national assembly to follow him. Well, in the same way as Bam didn’t need the Hill.

All the while the hapless Ban Ki-moon waxes lyrical from New York about the legal need for the security council to be consulted and won over!

But the cold war-cultured Security Council is the problem, not solution.

Sitting in global perma-division it stops the UN working. Always will, until it’s abolished and countries simply vote. That’s known as democracy in some quarters. Sometimes works – like last week in London, possibly next, in DC.

I aim to be in Damascus to assess its effect.

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