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Issue #1590      April 24, 2013

Culture & Life

Britain and Syria

As I write this, the ruling class in Britain has just finished burying Margaret Thatcher at a cost to the public purse of a mere £10 million. Apparently, Maggie had planned the funeral herself, presumably not trusting her former colleagues to do it with sufficient pomp, certainly not enough to suit her enormous ego (see Thatcher gets funeral fit for a dictator).

So, not too long after Daniel Gauntlett, a homeless man of 35 froze to death outside an empty but boarded up house in Aylesford, because the police had warned him not to try to sneak inside to get out of the cold, British authorities spent £10 million on putting Maggie Thatcher’s body in a nice big vault.

And why not? After all: he was nobody, but she was somebody. Another way of noting that distinction is to say that he was poor and she was not. And the poor don’t have any right to privileges, only to obligations, as was made clear last month by Britain’s Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond. He told London’s Daily Telegraph that poor people in Britain should do more to help the military kill more poor people in other countries. Now don’t laugh – the man was serious.

Alarmed apparently that certain people the Americans tend to call “bleeding hearts” might try to help widows, orphans and the unemployed by diverting funds from the country’s bloated defence budget into the welfare sector, the worthy Mr Hammond went for a pre-emptive strike, warning the Telegraph “we have to look at the welfare budget again”.

He explained government thinking thus: “We’re expecting the Armed Forces to go abroad and kill poor people with substandard weaponry, while our own poor people lord it over them with their enormous benefits and very low risk of being blown to smithereens in anti-terrorist raids. Is that the moral statement we wish to make? Is it?”

He has a curious idea of what constitutes a moral statement, it seems to me. At the same time, a lot of ultra reactionaries seem to think that finally their time has come, and they can now show their true colours in all their blood-stained glory. So he readily admits that they “expect the Armed Forces to go abroad and kill poor people”. That doesn’t worry him, only the fact that the troops might be equipped with “substandard weaponry”, which fact would presumably restrict their ability to kill adequate numbers of poor people.

Meanwhile the British poor might derive some wry amusement from Hammond’s depiction of them using their “enormous benefits” to “lord it over” the poor of other lands. Like many Tories Hammond seems to live in some sort of fantasy world far removed from reality, although, to be fair, he seems to be on the ball when it comes to whom to blame for people being “blown to smithereens”. Unexpectedly perhaps he doesn’t blame terrorists for that but instead blames “anti terrorist raids”, in other words the US and British military. An odd position for the British Defence Secretary to adopt, although civilian casualties in Afghanistan would seem to support his position.

Meanwhile, Britain’s Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, has suggested that a future Tory government – after they have dissolved their restrictive coalition with the Liberal Democrats of course – would try to scrap the Human Rights Act, which incorporates into British Law the European Convention on Human Rights and which the Lib-Dems are determined to retain.

The Tories, on the other hand, hate everything European, for reasons that seem to have more to do with racism and xenophobia than with political economy. In March, the Mail on Sunday reported that the Home Secretary, Theresa May, is planning to pull Britain out of the European Court of Human Rights, which is clearly another step along the same road.

Meanwhile, the Cameron government in Britain is trying to muster support from other European governments for overturning the EU ban on arms shipments to Syria, so that Britain and France can openly support the Sunni Muslim sectarian front that is trying to bring down the country’s government. The two imperialist powers are already supporting the rebels covertly, with everything from body armour to “volunteer advisers”, communications equipment and even armoured cars. But they want to bring in more firepower.

The Baathist-led government of Syria is supported by a significant Arab nationalist movement and two strong Communist parties in Syria, and by religious leaders from the Muslim and Christian communities who support the secular constitution and are bitterly opposed to the Sunni sectarians who head the rebel front.

Despite a seemingly limitless supply of small arms and money, the “rebels” have been unable to hold on to any part of the country for more than a few days before being driven out by the Syrian Army backed by civilian militia.

The Supreme Iftaa Council, the highest Islamic body in the country, has called on the people to “take up available arms and form committees of national defence whose mission is to defend the land with the help of the Army”.

The tragedy is that the Syrian “rebels” are really a proxy army for major imperialist powers with eyes on Middle East energy resources, supported by the feudal Arabian princedoms, which are securely in the pocket of the USA, and hate their modern, generally more democratic, Arab neighbours. Even if the Syrian people are victorious and defeat the imperialist-backed so-called “rebels”, the process will entail a lot of suffering and hardship for the Syrian people and it will impact very negatively on their national economy.

That will please only imperialism and its Middle East stooge, Israel.   

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