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Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Sounds from the abyss

I'm usually observant; it went with my trade. Following events was what I was paid to do but often unexpected detail enlivened straightforward reportage.

This time however I was wholly involved in understanding a new technical system on which I may, or may not, spend money. I may get to that in a later post. Yesterday, at the time, my concentration excluded all other matters.

Thus I was fresh to the news, half a day later, when the BBC News at Ten told me about Brussels. "But it was on the big TV screen just above your head," said VR. I nodded but I'd had other fish to fry. Less cataclysmic, of course, but we are what we are and we do what we do.

The information was immediate and overwhelming. In the midst of tragedy and incomprehension those suffering were turning their phones on dust, inchoate cries and poignantly deserted suitcases. One victim, moving towards the light, recorded the stumbling steps of the couple in front - silhouettes of people in need of reassurance.

This wasn't new news, of course. Think Charlie Hebdo, think Paris last November. Think further back.

I thought of politicians, those fallible individuals whom we vote for and who we expect to make decisions on our behalf. Politicians who had justifiably dragged their feet about involvement in Syria (Applause! Applause!) not caring to launch another Afghanistan (Oh no!).

When do we turn from diplomacy and start unsheathing the sword? Never, for war is hell, said William Tecumseh Sherman, and he knew. But when, privately, do we acknowledge diplomacy comes at a cost and we cannot guarantee the lives of normal people going about their normal existence? Deaths to pay for a public theory.

I’ll always be anti-war. Won’t I?


  1. "Jaw, jaw, is better than war, war" (WSC)

  2. Avus: But wasn't that what Chamberlain was trying to do? Read WSC's memoirs and see what he thought of Chamberlain. Not much. A case of do as I say, not as I do.

  3. It's tough when innocents die close to home. For anyone.

  4. MikeM: I always weep for innocents and that includes the innocents - broken and battered - wearing uniforms. Men and women join the armed services for all sorts of reasons and I'm not sure any of them see it as a theoretical proposition which will involve the trading of a limb or a life.

    For two years I wore a uniform myself and although it would have required a very serious kind of conflict for me to have gone in harm's way, it was just possible. A year or two previously, an hour's flight up the Malayan Peninsula from Singapore where I was stationed, unwilling National Serviceman found themselves slipping off into the jungle (armed with shotguns, forsooth!) to engage in one of those metaphors that stay-at-home strategists love so much: "mopping up pockets of resistance" would probably suit.

    Will we go - officially - to war with ISIS? I shudder at having to agree or disagree with that possibiity. For those "on the ground" (another of those beloved phrases) there is the unnerving prospect that whatever their thoughts about "paying the ultimate price" (and that's another), the opposition have proved, over and over again, that the prospect of dying doesn't seem to disturb them. Even in extremis I wouldn't be able to gather much comfort from the idea of dying on behalf of David Cameron's political beliefs.

  5. I think terrorist suicide bombers are made before they "enlist". And I suspect their actions have more to do with vengeance than politics. They kill out of anger rather than kill to "uphold The Constitution".