Monday, 21 March 2011
I'll liberate you if it kills you...
It’s not always a good idea to listen to the radio when you’re eating your breakfast. I did it this morning and the spoonful of boiled egg, instead of going down my throat, stuck half-way. It was the ‘Today’ programme on BBC Radio 4, widely considered the flagship current affairs programme of the BBC. John Humphries was interviewing William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, about the combined French-British-US assault on Libya. “So we’re mounting an aerial bombing campaign on Libya for humanitarian reasons” Humphries said. There was no layer of irony in his voice – he said it as a statement of reasonable fact. Hague didn’t attempt to rebut the statement or tell Humphries he was being unpatriotic with his implicit criticism of what Britain was doing. No, no, no. He accepted Humphries’s statement as though it made perfect sense. We’re dropping bombs on Libya – bombs that make the Omagh bomb look like a Halloween firecracker – and we’re doing it because we care about the people below.
Fortunately, there are other media outlets in Britain with a slightly more thoughtful approach to events in the world. I don’t always agree with Jackie Ashley in The Guardian but her column this morning gets it right. “Who thinks democracy can be offloaded from a military plane on a country that has known little except dictatorship?” Indeed. And who thinks Britain-France-the US are doing their bombing and shelling because they’re concerned about the Libyan people? The Middle East, since any of us can remember, has been the pumping station for Western capitalism, and the slaughter or non-slaughter of human beings has been dependent on whether the oil has been kept flowing westward smoothly enough. Cameron sees this as his Falklands moment – distract the populace from the dire domestic situation with a stirring foreign adventure. Anyone who believes a word of his rhetoric about democracy is gullible beyond redemption.