Tally Ho! what what!
A bit too perfect?
The propaganda begins as it always does at times like this or maybe it just never stops.
Who is on the ground telling us as it really is?
Remember the spoon fed 'embedded' reporters in Iraq during the 2nd Anglo-American Bush/Blair invasion and those pivotal scenes from Firdous square Baghdad when Saddam's statue was toppled by jubilant Iraqi's. Only it wasn't toppled by jubilant Iraqi's, it was entirely choreographed by a US psychological operations team, troops coordinating activities with megaphones and a US tank pulling the statue to the ground.
If you were a British military propagandist, employed by an army psy-ops team or anyone with influence and bias and it was your job to create something that was 'incredibly, magnificently, unequivocally perfect' in response to the first British intervention in Syria; What would you design?
Something that perhaps 1. Expresses how outstanding the RAF contribution is relative to other forces 2. Alleviates concern regard civilian casualties 3. Significantly impacts ISIS operations 4. Something that does all of this and very swiftly.
Some MPs must still have been on the way home from the parliamentary vote when the first articles began to populate my news feed describing exactly this:
"MoD confirms that jets carried out ‘first offensive operation over Syria and have conducted strikes’ hours after MPs voted in favour of military action"
"Fallon said the raids targeted the Omar oilfield in eastern Syria, dealing a “real blow” to the financing of Isis"
“It’s a very good illustration of a target that is literally one side of the border and couldn’t previously be attacked.”
"We are doubling our strike force"
"The RAF jets carry a range of munitions including Paveway IV guided bombs and precision-guided Brimstone missiles.
"Before the attacks, pilots used the aircrafts' sensors to confirm "no civilians were in the proximity of the targets"
It was very neat. Let's get some perspective. US air-strikes in Iraq and Syria began in August 2014. There has been around 10,000 air strikes in Iraq and Syria by 'coalition' forces. Russia alone are reported to be flying 140 sortis per day. The UK are contributing a handful of jets and doubling that number is still a small number compared to those already in action.
If you were in the UK for the past month, you may or may not have been aware that the RAF have been in action in Iraq for over a year and quite likely not aware that the RAF have been flying surveillance missions over Syria for just as long. You may also have got the impression that the inclusion of RAF jets in Syria would be a real 'game changer'.
In reality Jets from the US, Russia, France, Belgium, Australia, Canada, Holland, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and more have been involved in air strikes over Iraq and and/or Syria. That is to say bombs have been pounding Syria for quite some time, and it's doubtful the extension of RAF air-strikes from Iraq in to Syria is really going to alter the course of events that are already under-way. To quote a Syrian citizen Journalist
"All the world is bombing Raqqa and the UK will not make any change in the situation,"
I'm not suggesting it was wrong to argue against UK bombs in Syria (as I did). But UK bombs have done little to stop ISIS in Iraq, just like all bombs from anyone in both Iraq & Syria have done little to interfere with the growth and operations of ISIS, who have doubled in number through that period (at least 1 recruit for ever target destroyed). They have also managed to make plenty of money, some estimates as high as $1billion in a year in the oil trade alone. Stolen assets and 'taxation' have also kept the money rolling in. Only the Kurds have successfully taken territory back from ISIS. And territory is in many ways the bottom line.
Just like the UK's first bombing of Syria, apparently the RAF air strikes beginning September 2014 in Iraq have caused no civilian casualties. That's what David Cameron, Michael Falon and the press report. This claim has been disputed. Data compiled by the Iraq Body Count project, staffed by volunteers and activists has a count of 487 civilian deaths. There may be no actual reports that are pointing at RAF air strikes causing civilian deaths, but when bombs are dropped on you from great heights you tend not to run for a telescope to find out which badge is on the plane.
But what is particularly odd about this first RAF air strike in Syria over the Omar oil fields, the one 'that couldn't previously be attacked' (despite the fact as already discussed, Syria has been pounded for quite some time) and 'dealt a real blow to ISIS financing operations' is that, it already happened, in October. At least that's what other reports tell us.
"The terrorists' oil field in eastern Syria (Omar) part of a half a billion dollar crude industry for the group - was obliterated in a day of bombing conducted by both Russia and the US-led coalition"
"There were 26 targets and all 26 were struck"
"The destruction of the Omar oil refinery leaves just Jabsah for oil production in Syria for ISIS"
Which reports are accurate? Was there anything left in Omar for the RAF to bomb? Not according to the October report. Have ISIS moved back in since October and rebuilt some of the infrastructure? Was there an agreement that if UK got the go ahead that a very neat target would be given to the RAF? Did the RAF mission over Omar even happen?
We just don't know for sure where reality and propaganda meet and probably never will.
Propaganda is of course not just about winning hearts and minds but winning markets.
One thing that has surprised me is that David Cameron and Michael Falon have been clear that military interventions in the middle east will be ongoing for years. Recall Bush Juniors' claim as soon as Saddam was captured in 2003 that the war was over. "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended," a banner with "Mission Accomplished" hanging over him. "In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."
Here we are 12 years later.
In part the reason for this openness about this being a lengthy campaign is that markets get excited by war, constantly responding to business friendly signals. To acknowledge openly that arms companies need to get busy and remain busy makes share holders happy. In the morning after parliament voted to bomb Syria stock values at BAE Systems, Airbus, Finmeccanica and Thales all soared:
"BAE Systems jumped four points at start of trading, just hours after its Tornado jets left UK bases in Cyprus to bomb Omar oilfields. In total BAE Systems, the main private sector beneficiary from UK military spending, has seen its value increase by 14 per cent in the two and a half weeks since the Paris attacks of 13 November"
MPs voted for this action despite there being no effective ground support in place to take and hold territory, and no reconstruction plan. Bombing will not end ISIS and an approach centred on bombing commits coalition forces to action for a very long time. I have argued previously that in addition to applying political pressure on Turkey, the next step should be to support the Syrian Kurds to advance on ISIS occupied Jarabulus. This is the only border crossing ISIS have left with Turkey. Oil and recruits and other resources flow over this border crossing. To recognise this is to recognise the Kurds and Kurdish invisibility has literally been policy for generations.
War is good for capitalism. Based on the above quote even terror increases stock prices. Capitalism can never rest, it must always grow. The middle East is full of oil and there are permits to be won. War requires arms and war destroys infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt. GDP doesn't care what it is that maintains it.
Left and right agree that ISIS should be stopped. The history behind the cause of ISIS is for another time. As far back as 1957 Macmillan & Eisenhower sought a secretive regime change in Syria using Islamic extremists.
War time propaganda has many functions. We cannot trust the press and our politicians to tell us the truth.
What do you believe?