Location UK UK

Which side are we really on in this war of the awful against the evil?

By Peter Hitchens

I don’t think the British or American governments really want to fight the Islamic State. They just want to look as if they are doing so.

I judge these people by what they do, not by what they say. And in recent months I have noticed them doing – and not doing – some very interesting things.

The White House and Downing Street both seethe with genuine outrage about Russia’s bombing raids on Syria.

Yet the people Vladimir Putin bombed have views and aims that would get them rounded up as dangerous Islamist extremists if they turned up in Manchester. So why do British politicians call them ‘moderates’ when Russia bombs them?

It’s not as if London or Washington can claim to be squeamish about bombing as a method of war. We have done our fair share of it in Belgrade, Baghdad and Tripoli, where our bombs certainly (if unintentionally) killed innocent civilians, including small children.

Then there’s the curious case of Turkey. Rather like Russia, Turkey suddenly announced last summer that it was sending its bombers in to fight against the Islamic State.

But in fact Turkey barely bothered to attack IS at all. It has spent most of the past few months blasting the daylights out of the Kurdish militias, a policy that Turkey’s President Erdogan has selfish reasons for following.

Yet the Kurds, alongside the Syrian army, have been by far the most effective resistance to IS on the ground. Why then does a key member of the alleged anti-IS coalition go to war against them?

Turkey, a Nato member, is not criticised for this behaviour by Western politicians or by the feeble, slavish Western media. These geniuses never attack our foreign policy mistakes while we are making them. They wait until they have actually ended in disaster. Then they pretend to have been against them all along.

I’ve grown tired of people impersonating world-weary cynics by intoning the old saying ‘My enemy’s enemy is my friend’ as if it were a new-minted witticism.

But in this case, this sensible old rule seems to have been dropped. Instead, our enemy’s enemies – in the case of the Kurds, Syria’s government and the Russians – are mysteriously our enemies too.

Meanwhile the Turkish enemies of our Kurdish friends are somehow or other still our noble allies.

Compare our weird attitude towards Syria’s horrible but anti-IS president, Bashar Assad, to Winston Churchill’s wiser view of Stalin.

Stalin became our ally when the Nazis invaded Russia. Churchill, a lifelong foe of Soviet communism, immediately grasped that times had changed. ‘If Hitler invaded Hell,’ he said ‘I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.’

That is because, in body, heart and soul, sleeping and waking, with all the force and spirit he possessed, he was committed to the fight against Hitler above all things. So he would have accepted any ally against him.

Is this true of our leaders, who constantly portray Assad (and Putin) as Hitler, who imagine themselves as modern Churchills and condemn their critics as ‘appeasers’?

No. They play both ends against the middle. Their anti-extremist rhetoric, turned up full when confronting Birmingham schoolteachers or bearded preachers, drops to a whisper when they want to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, the home of Islamist fanaticism.

Things are not what they seem to be here. Russia’s action may be rash and dangerous. It may fail, especially as we are obviously trying so hard to undermine it. But at least it is honest and straightforward.

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