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70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels

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Not since Hitler ordered General Walther Wenck to send his non-existent 12th Army to rescue him from the Red Army in Berlin has a European leader believed in military fantasies as PR Dave Cameron did last week. Telling the House of Commons about the 70,000 “moderate” fighters deployed in Syria was not just lying in the sense that Tony Blair lied – because Blair persuaded himself to believe in his own dishonesty – but something approaching burlesque. It was whimsy – ridiculous, comic, grotesque, ludicrous. It came close to a unique form of tragic pantomime.

At one point last week, one of Cameron’s satraps was even referring to this phantom army as “ground troops”. I doubt if there are 700 active “moderate” foot soldiers in Syria – and I am being very generous, for the figure may be nearer 70 – let alone 70,000. And the Syrian Kurds are not going to conquer Isis for us; they’re too busy trying to survive the assaults of our Turkish allies. Besides, aren’t the “moderates” supposed to be the folk who don’t carry weapons at all? Who’s ever heard before of a “moderate” with a Kalashnikov?

The Syrian regime’s army – who really are ground troops and who never worried about the “moderate” rebels because they always ran away – are the only regular force deployed in Syria. And thanks to Vladimir Putin rather than PR Dave, they’re beginning to win back territory. Yet after losing at least 60,000 soldiers – killed largely by Isis and the al-Nusra Front – the Syrian army would be hard put to fight off an assault on Damascus by Dave Cameron’s 70,000 “moderates”. If this ghost army existed, it would already have captured Damascus and hurled Bashar al-Assad from power.

Yet in the Commons last week, we were supposed to believe this tomfoolery – all in the cause of launching two or three fighter bombers against Isis in Syria. It wouldn’t make us more vulnerable, Dave told us. In fact we were already vulnerable because we were bombing Isis in Iraq. Yet Dave knows – and we all know, don’t we? – that Isis will most assuredly try to commit an atrocity in Britain to revenge Dave’s latest schoolboy adventure. Then – à la Blair after 7/7 – Dave will insist that Isis are killing us because they hate our “values”. Then will come the inevitable video of a suicide killer saying he killed our innocents because Dave sent his miniature air force to bomb Isis.

The odd thing about all this is that most Brits I come across – and most Arabs I talk to in the Middle East – are well aware of the above. So is the Labour Party. But the Blairite MPs in the Labour Party are going to vote with Dave because while they loathe the evil cult of Isis, they hate the evil cult of Corbyn even more. Do they too believe – as we are all supposed to believe – that the so-called “Joint Intelligence Committee” is telling the truth about the mythical 70,000 “moderates”? Is this unspeakably valiant committee so stupid that it does not tell Dave about the role of the Saudi Wahabi death cult, which is the direct religious and sectarian inspiration for Isis? And if it did tell Dave, why didn’t he talk about the Saudis in the Commons last week?

No, we are not “at war”. Isis can massacre our innocents, but it is not invading us. Isis is not about to capture Paris or London – as we and the Americans captured Baghdad and Mosul in 2003. No. What Isis intends to do is to persuade us to destroy ourselves. Isis wants us to hate our Muslim minorities. It wants civil war in France between the elite and its disenfranchised Muslims, most of them of Algerian origin. It wants the Belgians to hate their Muslims. It wants us Brits to hate our Muslims. Isis must have been outraged by the thousands of fine Europeans who welcomed with love the million Muslim refugees who reached Germany. The Muslims should have been heading towards the new Caliphate – not running away from it. So now it wishes to turn us against the refugees.

To achieve this, it must implicate hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslim refugees in its atrocities. It must force our EU nations to introduce States of Emergency, suspend civil liberties, raid the homes of Muslims. It wishes to destroy the European Union itself. It wishes to strike at the heart of the European ideal by liquidating the very foundation of the union: by persuading us to tear up the Schengen agreement and to close our frontiers. And we are doing exactly that. Are we, in some auto-panic, actually working for Isis? If that gruesome institution did not ban alcohol, their members would be toasting with champagne our political leaders for their vacuity, their sophistry, the abject fear with which they now regularly try to inject us under the dangerous old cry of “Unify the nation”.

Vladimir Putin comprehends this. He knows that Turkey is helping Isis – this is why he is going to destroy the Isis oil smuggling route to Turkey – and, as a former serving KGB officer, he understands the cynicism of any crisis. If an American aircraft had strayed into Turkish airspace, he asked at his Kremlin press conference with François Hollande last week, does anyone believe that Turkey would have shot down the US pilots? We all know the answer to that. If Turkey wished to destroy Isis, why does it bombard Isis’ Kurdish enemies? Why does it imprison two of Turkey’s top journalists for reporting how the Turkish intelligence service smuggled weapons to Islamist fighters in Syria? And Putin is hardly going to object if the EU is bent on suicide-through-fear.

Amid all this, PR Dave raves on. And why not? Having Photoshopped a fake poppy on to his lapel to honour Britain’s war dead, why shouldn’t he get away with Photoshopping 70,000 fake “moderates” on to a map of Syria?

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Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

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