I was at a wedding yesterday. On my table I was the only non-musician/actor to be found and this allowed me to embrace topics of conversation I’m often denied. Things were going fine until somebody decided that the Syria vote was a worthy subject with which to wrestle. I stayed clear for as long as possible but was scuppered when I heard the cheap statement of conspiracy: “of course we all know why they voted ‘yes’, it’s because of the arms manufacturers.”
It was the nodding from all that heard it that did it for me. Well used to be the only right-winger within a social group, I trod lightly. I ever-so-humbly explained that some had better reasons for wishing to attack Islamic State and that actually an extension of strikes across the border wasn’t a great change in the scheme of things. Just when I thought I had handled all the objections, and had successfully produced a table full of neo-cons, came what has now become the standard last line of defense.
“The real question is how we stop those funding them and supplying them with weapons”
Compared with some of the other showstopping zingers I heard, such as “ultimately it is all about inequality”, this is almost reasonable, there is something to it. With no money and no arms an organisation such as Islamic State lacks a great deal of its capability. However, when I tried to address it in detail I discovered that the question is not being seriously asked.
When people speak of the supplying and funding of Islamic State they aren’t actually seeking a solution. They are in fact shifting the blame onto ‘us’ via low conspiracism.
On the funding part, I tried to explain how the group is self-funding and has been for a long time and this was scoffed at. The word just behind their lips and waiting to get out was “Saudi Arabia”. They are, just about, our allies and therefore something we are wholly responsible for. We being “The West”. And everyone just seems to know that they are the puppet-masters of Islamic State. By the way, when you hear “Saudi Arabia” you should count yourself lucky, the really far-out ones are inevitably waiting to say “Israel” or “the CIA”.
Regarding the weapons, I spoke of what the Iraqi army had left over, the huge numbers in the region after the Iran/Iraq war, however, as soon as I mentioned the US made weapons from Iraqi police and army, that was enough. It was back to being our fault once again.
Corbyn is a big fan of this question, acting on it is his grand alternative to the more kinetic options us warmongers entertain. Apparently for Corbyn, all warfare can be avoided if you skip straight to the peace talks and if you stop the funding and the weapons. For some reason though airstrikes on their oil trade or air support of Kurdish forces taking over oil fields simply do not count. Efforts to make Corbyn declare exactly who he has in mind have been, unfortunately, rarely made.
Not just yesterday, but in general over the last few months, I’ve come to realise that people are not actually interested in how Islamic State are armed or funded. The suggestion that it is important is enough for them because to do so is to play a bit of Motte and Bailey with the idea that ultimately it is all down to us.
It is not a call to action, nor an alternative to the action proposed by political opponents, it is a call for inaction. It is a half-arsed and half-uttered smear on ourselves and a fine example of the sophistication-via-masochism so many seem so hooked on at the moment. It sounds pro-active, sensible, and considered, but on examination it is no such thing.
As with any Motte and Bailey argument a demand for clarity is essential. When you hear it made the response should always be to push the person making it to explain who they actually believe is funding and supplying Islamic State. If they claim ignorance you must then ask why they have cause to doubt the answers you provide. Answers will not come. But at the moment this dog-whistle to self-haters and conspiracy hounds is allowing too many to get away with too much.
This is what I learned yesterday, that and that I should probably be barred from social situations.