The swift ascent to Internet Fame is generally advanced by the very young. This is fine until the relationship
On a recent visit to Damascus, right-wing British National Party leader and MEP Nick Griffin claimed that any attempt by the United Kingdom to arm opposition forces in Syria would be “madness”, as the rebel armies are currently “dominated by Islamist jihadis”. From Griffin’s Twitter feed:
[Prime Minister David] Cameron & Hague plan to send UK money & weapons to rebels dominated by Islamist jihadis.
And then there’s this little gem, minted after witnessing the aftermath of an opposition suicide bomb:
Why turn [a] stable secular state into Iraq-style hell of sectarian hate? More madness from the people who dragged us to costly war in Iraq & Afghan[istan].
Not one to mince words or shy away from controversy, Griffin’s comments bear a striking resemblance to those he recently made about Nelson Mandela and the nation of South Africa, when he took to Twitter to call the now seriously ill Mandela a “murdering old terrorist” and claimed that South Africa went from a “safe economic powerhouse” under Apartheid rule to a “crime-ridden basketcase” after Mandela was elected president in 1990. While both Syria and South Africa have seen a fair share of conflict over their democratic years, to claim that either were somehow “safer” before their respective political uprisings completely belies the reason those conflicts took place: brutally repressive regimes marginalizing large portions of the populace through oppressive and discriminatory practices.
With more than 1,200 opposition groups operating in Syria at present and more emerging almost daily, it’s almost impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. But when you’re claiming to speak on behalf of an entire nation, you don’t have to. Per a BNP spokesman:
[Griffin] is representing the point of view of ordinary British people who don’t want any engagement in the Middle East and its troubles, any more than they wanted to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A recent Opinium/Observer poll showed that a large majority of the British public is against arming the Syrian rebels, but not because of any outlandish claims of jihadist homogeneity. There’s been a definite sea change in public attitude toward Britian’s foreign policy: 78% of those polled believe that the UK has overtaxed her resources in Iraq and Afghanistan and cannot afford to intervene in a new conflict, and 69% believe that the UK military should be restricted to protecting UK territories and providing humanitarian aid. But the rationale is more about saving British taxpayer dollars from deep defense pockets than saving the free world from tyranny, a far cry from Griffin’s xenophobic rants.
Now that Britain has lifted its arms embargo against Syria to maintain pressure on Assad, the UK’s arming of pro-western rebels seems almost inevitable at this point, especially as the U.S. continues to clamor on about the possibility of chemical weapons usage in the region. Equally inevitable is the probability that at least some of these weapons will fall into the wrong hands. While Mr. Griffin claims that his comments about the rebels are not an endorsement of President Assad, I’m willing to bet that he longs for the “safe economic powerhouse” that Syria once was before it became the “crime-ridden basketcase” it is today. If there’s any better way to falsely equivocate an incredibly brutal, large-scale civil war with your average felony or misdemeanor, I have yet to see it.
(cross-posted at Soapbox Magazine)
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