Monday, 19 March 2018

Retaliation is futile. Apparently.

It’s not quite what the daleks say, although the image of Boris Johnson speaking through a dalek voice synthesizer is an interesting one.  I doubt that he’d make much more sense, but he probably couldn’t make much less sense either.  In Borisland, it seems that when the UK government takes action against Russia, this is a way of punishing Russia.  And when Russia responds, the only people hit by its actions are Russians.  It all sounds like a very cunning plan to me, albeit more Baldrick than Doctor Who.  All we have to do is punish the Russians a bit more, and they’ll end up doing even more damage to themselves.  I’m sure that there’s a flaw there somewhere, though.
There was also (yet another) echo of the UK’s colonial past in the reasoning of the Foreign Secretary in saying that the closure of the British Council’s offices in Russia would remove Russian access to opportunities to learn English.  It harks back to the days when the colonial masters set about inculcating knowledge of the English language and culture in the natives in place of their own, and completely failed to understand why the natives weren’t eternally grateful.  It’s only a very colonial mind-set which believes that promoting the UK’s language and culture abroad is done primarily for the benefit of the foreigners rather than the UK.
As I noted a few days ago, I really don’t know whether the Russian state did or did not have a hand in the Salisbury attack, although they must remain major suspects.  As a response to that post stated, it’s entirely possible that the government have access to information that was gathered either clandestinely or illegally and which is more definitive than anything so far made public.  The Foreign Secretary suggested as much yesterday, when he claimed that “We actually have evidence within the last 10 years that Russia has not only been investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purposes of assassination, but has also been creating and stockpiling Novichok”, although he didn’t go so far as to tell us the nature of that evidence, or explain how even that information ‘proves’ that Russia was responsible in the specific case.  On the basis of past claims about ‘evidence’ from intelligence sources – dodgy dossiers and 45 minutes to launch weapons of mass destruction – and in the absence of any immediately obvious benefit to Putin or Russia, I remain at least a little sceptical, and reluctant to trust anything the government says without seeing more hard evidence.  From that perspective, I saw nothing wrong with Corbyn’s response in saying that we should exercise caution before jumping to possibly unwarranted conclusions.
The way in which Corbyn has been pilloried for taking an entirely reasonable position – not just by the Tories and the media, but even by prominent members of his own party – left me wondering, not for the first time, what exactly are those great British values in which we are all supposed to believe?  Sometimes I think I know, and at other times I’m left baffled.  I don’t remember how and when those values included the idea that people were guilty until proved innocent, or that punishment should be meted out before guilt had been formally established.  I thought that the approach of the Queen of Hearts to such matters in Alice in Wonderland was that it was a fantasy, not a documentary.  And I certainly didn’t think that failing to support the implementation of the sentence before due process had been completed constituted some sort of treason, which seems to be the position of Corbyn’s opponents in his own party.
The rush by Labour members of parliament to uphold the ‘tradition’ that the opposition should always support the government on foreign affairs has been a pretty dismal spectacle.  It exposes yet again (as if it needed further exposure) the deep-rooted jingoistic nationalism of many of that party’s elected members.  Yet still far too many people cling to the idea that Labour is somehow ‘progressive’ and deserving of support.  What does it take before they realise the truth that, when push comes to shove, they're little different from the Tories?

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