Tonight, Westminster MP’s have given David Cameron an overwhelming mandate to involve the British war machine in action in Syria, action which will have the most profound consequences for the region and for this country, and on an evening when my overwhelming emotion is profound sadness and dismay, there’s something else in there.
Tonight there’s an undercurrent of pride in the land where I was born.
Scotland has often seemed like a divided country. During the referendum, as both sides fought their corners, a lot of people were of the view that divisions had been sewn which would never be healed. They were wrong, but Scotland had changed profoundly.
That change manifest itself in one of the clearest, and most cogent, expressions of collective will I’ve ever seen in a lifetime studying politics, when the unionist parties were routed in the election earlier this year, returning 56 SNP members to London.
Tonight, every single one of the 56 has voted against war.
They’ve been joined tonight by Labour’s Ian Murray, meaning only two, Scotland’s token Tory and the Lib Dem’s notorious liar Carmichael, a man hanging to his seat by his fingernails in the face of a legal challenge, from this nation have voted for armed intervention in Syria.
The voice of Scotland has scarcely spoke more loudly.
In spite of this, the Commons motion in support of bombing has passed, overwhelmingly, by a majority of 174 votes, a result that was assured the moment the split within Labour was confirmed and the Lib Dems decided they would embrace their inner bastard again and vote with the Tories.
It will look, to the world, like we’re all in it together.
As far as Scotland is concerned, that could not be further from the truth.
Tonight, in the Commons debate, there was a lot of emotive language, a lot of hankering back to the past, a lot of tugging on the heartstrings, especially from folk like Hilary Benn.
Blair was very good at the same; he had a gift for rhetoric which was great for swaying folk who aren’t terribly interested in facts and details but are more emotionally moved. It’s how we ended up in Iraq.
Maybe I’m cynical, but an open ended commitment to bomb, a kind of wait-and-see attitude towards the future of the region, on the basis that we can’t simply “stand back and do nothing” … it seems to me to be acting for the sake of being seen to act, regardless of what good, or indeed, as I suspect will be the case, great harm there is in doing so.
Dropping bombs on people needs to be justified by more than just ideological grandiloquence.
Benn, trying to convince us that this was a fight in which our bombs are needed in order to win, poured on the emotional appeals tonight, telling us this was a fight we needed to take to the enemy, without ever telling us exactly how victory would be achieved and without telling us what the end game would be in the aftermath.
That speech got a round of applause, a quite unusual thing in the Commons, and yet having read it I cannot find in it one single fact that would have changed one single mind, although already Stella Creasy has told the world it changed hers.
Like an illusion, it was all show and glitz, but without an iota of substance.
That’s the manner in which most of this debate is being had. All emotion, without reason.
And I think involving ourselves in a war should be devoted to reason above everything.
There has to be a strategy.
There has to be a plan.
There has to be some kind of moral justification before taking action that will end human lives, otherwise are we any different from the scum who murdered so many in Paris?
They, too, are governed by emotion.
They, too, are moved by rhetoric.
They, too, feel fully justified in bringing death to different parts of the world.
Last night, Jeremy Corbyn and those in Labour who are opposed to bombing were labelled “terrorist sympathisers”, and not by the kind of rabid bastards in the right-wing press we’ve come to loathe.
No, this was the Prime Minister himself, using gutterball language to swing votes his way, a truly despicable piece of grandstanding by a truly appalling man. Tonight that man has the swagger of a statesman. It is sickening.
Some of the MP’s today did make truly excellent interventions, but the best two that I’ve read all day were the forensic, detailed repudiations of the government case offered by Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson.
They set out, in detail, the lies Cameron and his cabinet have told in the course of the last week.
They destroyed, with real gravitas, claims of “70,000 fighters on the ground.”
They exposed the hypocrisy behind these plans, reminding Cameron, as did the Tory MP Dr Julian Lewis, to his enormous credit, that this is, in fact, the third time the government has changed its mind on who it wants to bomb …
By tomorrow night, this island will again be in the vanguard of a war that commits us to defeating an enemy by military means which has eluded us since 2004. For Islamic State grew out of Al Qaeda, which used Iraq as the greatest recruiting tool of this generation.
The global terror threat will multiply.
The threat to Britain – which had never been attacked by Islamic fundamentals in its history until 7/7 and has only suffered one attack since, and in both cases the perpetrators were actually British citizens radicalised by our own actions – will now increase tenfold.
It’s as depressingly familiar as I suppose it was inevitable.
But Scotland, at least, has learned the lessons of the past, and tonight our country has spoken out against the madness, madness we’re involved in anyway because of our continued ties to the Parliament in which we’re vastly outnumbered, and which tonight has agreed to export the Best of British Values – beating the war drum, involvement in an open-ended military intervention with no overarching strategy, for the sake of national prestige – to a faraway land populated by dark skinned foreigners because they “hate our way of life.”
And you know what?
Tonight, I hate it too.
But I’m proud, damned proud, to be Scottish.
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