Confused of Herne Hill

As far as I can make out, the UK is either about to start or has already started bombing Libya. This seems to have happened almost overnight with very little discussion or preparation, and I am reminded of 2003 and the weeks of protest (ours) and handwringing (theirs) that preceded the invasion of Iraq. The main difference this time around seems to be that the French are joining in, but that doesn’t seem a good enough reason to go ahead and do it without debate.

It’s easy to cry “oil”; so easy that I’m never sure it’s true. But if it’s not about oil, I have literally no idea why we get involved in the internal conflicts of some countries but not others. Gaddafi may be mad and dangerous, but so is Mugabe and so, no doubt, are lots of other people that we’re not interested in at all. But if it is about oil we can’t say so, which means we need other justification, except I haven’t heard any, so maybe we don’t even need justification any more. Maybe we just need France to say yes. I have no idea. All I know is that the effects of intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan were devastating, and that nobody is safer because of them. So unless it’s specifically about getting rid of a particular regime without much caring about what happens next, which seems short-sighted even for politicians, I’m stumped.

But then, I am easily stumped. I don’t understand why anyone thinks it’s OK for the countries with nuclear weapons to dictate which other countries should be allowed to have them, as though there’s some kind of ineffable hierarchy which says that the richest countries are allowed to decide what happens in the others. I thought we had stopped equating moral superiority with privilege around the time we stopped believing in the divine right of monarchs, but apparently not.

And I don’t understand why one o’clock clubs and play schemes and libraries are being closed while companies like Vodafone and Boots avoid paying billions of pounds in taxes, as though they and the government think nobody will notice, or that if we do, we can’t do anything about it. But one thing we know from watching Libya and Egypt and everywhere else that’s seen grass-roots dissent this year is that if there are enough of us, we can do something about it, which is why I will be joining the TUC’s March for the Alternative this Saturday, March 26th, in London. Because when I stop to think about it I’m not so much confused as angry, and there are some people I’d like to know about it.

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