Wednesday, 28 August 2013

I have a nightmare

It’s so quaint, isn’t it, that Britain continues to be a monarchy? The pageantry, the millennial rituals. And now with a baby too. It makes you feel all pink inside.

We’re about to see another glorious aspect of this enchanting tradition re-enacted. It’s called ‘royal prerogative’, and doesn’t that sound grand? It doesn’t mean the right of the queen to travel around the West End of London in a gilded coach, and devil take the traffic. It means that there are certain things the queen can do, as sovereign, without being answerable to parliament or having to consult it.

One of those things is to take the country to war.

Now she doesn’t actually exercise that royal prerogative herself these days. Instead, it’s delegated to the British government acting in her name. So Tony Blair was able to take us to war in Iraq on the basis of royal prerogative and David Cameron could do the same, any day now, in Syria.

And why not, after all? That initiative of Blair’s went so well. Iraq is now fully pacified, fully democratised; the fact that 66 people were killed this very morning by terrorist action in the capital is of course regrettable, but things are never perfect; and the fact that the nation is now little more than a puppet of Iran’s merely proves… well, I don’t know what it proves, but it proves something, and certainly not that the intervention was less than the stunning success George ‘Mission Accomplished’ Bush claimed.

I see no reason to assume that intervention in Syria will achieve anything else.

Of course, it wouldn’t actually matter if the government gave up royal prerogative: with a docile parliament and a pliable opposition leader, there’s little doubt it would get the authorisation it needed to support the military action already decided upon. Decided in Washington not London: the American War of Independence may have made the US independent of Britain, but it has left Britain entirely dependent on the US.

So on this day, the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream speech’, we’re faced with the depressing spectacle of a US President poised to take not just his own country but France and Britain as well, into another military adventure in the Middle East.

In King's footsteps? Or just Dubya's?
Perhaps we ought to add a line to that great speech, to bring it up to date: ‘I have a dream… that some day a black President will be sitting in the White House, and will drag his allies into another senseless war, just like his lamentable white predecessor did.’

Personally, I have a nightmare.

A nightmare that fifty years from now Britain will still be taking its most dangerous decisions on the basis of a mechanism centuries out of date.

A nightmare that at that time the ‘democracies’ will still be reaching for military means as the first resort, rather than the last, for confronting their political problems.

A nightmare that a woman in the White House, like a black man, will behave as badly as any of their white male predecessors, proving in the saddest possible way that Dr King was right, and no race (or gender) is to be preferred over another.


Faith A. Colburn, Author said...

He's certainly not walking in King's footsteps. What gets very little attention these days -- and even in his own time -- is MLK's vehement opposition to the Vietnam War. He certainly wouldn't go there today.
I suspect Obama wouldn't either, if not goaded into it. I just wish he'd be his own man enough to say no. We tell our kids to Just Say No. Wish he would.

David Beeson said...

Lovely to read your comment - especially as, funnily enough, I've written on the Syria subject again tonight and made use of the 'just say no' line myself...

I couldn't agree more with your sentiments. It does seem much more to do with weakness in Obama's case, than with perniciousness, doesn't it?

Excellent point about King's opposition to the Vietnam war - I'd forgotten about that (though I do remember, with admiration, our Prime Minister Harold Wilson's).