The images of one tragic little boy have changed everything. For a long time now we have seen pictures of desperate people attempting to flee the brutal chaos of Syria, but it has taken that one picture of the limp body of a child being carried from the water to bring home to us all the fate of families for whom any escape, however dangerous, is better than the nightmare of attempting to survive murderous madmen and indiscriminate bombing. The mental scars will never heal, neither will the experience of escaping in the supposed care of smugglers, who abandon them to the cruel seas.
This morning we codgers remembered our long-gone days at Sunday School and those evocative lines instructing us to suffer the little children and forbid them not. For so long they have laid buried in our subconscious minds beneath an ever-growing concern about our population growth and open borders for EU citizens. But the fate of that little boy has brought us awake. These are not people deciding to seek better wages, homes or benefits. They are fellow human beings with only one possibility of staying alive, and we cannot pass by on the other side.
Our PR expert turned Prime Minister can usually be relied upon to read the public mood. This morning he faces a U-turn of monumental proportions. He has no alternative to creating a safe haven to accept a quota of desperate people. Of course it will only represent salvation for a tiny proportion, but someone has to follow the example of Germany in demonstrating compassion.
But the harsh reality is that once the floodgates are opened the flood will grow. The only lasting solution lies in facing up to the source of the human tragedy. The Kurdish enclave of Kobani in north-east Syria, once the home of Aylan al-Kurdi and his family, is largely in ruins after a four-and-a-half month siege by Isis fighters that ended in January. It was the scene of one of the greatest victories in Kurdish history, but a pyrrhic one that saw 300,000 Syrian Kurds flee. Isis may have been driven back, but Kobani enclave remains a desolate, ruined and very dangerous place. Some 70 per cent of the city was destroyed in the fighting by Isis suicide bombs and mortars, Kurdish counter-fire, and US air strikes using 500 and 2,000lb bombs to supposedly smash Isis positions. In most of Kobani City there is no water or electricity supply, and retreating Isis forces have booby-trapped many of the shattered buildings. And now the prospect of a counter-attack looms large.
The family of little Aylan, and thousands like them, faced a straight choice between starvation and probable death or a potentially fraught escape route. Who amongst us would have hesitated? And so long as the rest of the world continues to imagine that bombing will stop Isis more and more families will take the last-chance option. There is only one real option open to the EU, America and the other major powers – intervention on the ground. We cannot sit idly by hoping that the Kurds can single-handedly stop the fanatics and their British recruits, we should be demanding that the UN musters a modern army capable of ending this reign of terror once and for all. This is not an Iraq with its imaginary weapons of mass destruction, this is a war in which a frenzied rabble is terrorising the innocent, and only one response will stop them.
Sadly the British government has decimated our armed forces, but we should at least be prepared to make the best contribution we can to a multi-national response. We have a choice. We can either act to restore peace in the homelands of people like Aylan, or we can sit on our hands awaiting violence on our own streets as the madmen amongst us become ever more emboldened.
But the leadership of our once proud islands is no longer made of the stuff of Churchills. Why is that? Having cleaned out the hens we settled in the hut and found the answer in Jeremy Paxman’s ‘The Political Animal’. He makes the point that when a Prime Minister selects his government he has first to exclude from consideration the clapped out, the unproven, the unreliable, the hostile, the inept and the unstable. He will also wish to exclude those who may conspire against him. This leaves him with a very small group indeed from which to select his ministers. Then you must add in the need to ‘reshuffle’ with a view to weeding out his potential enemies and rivals. Take a glance at the post of Transport Minister and you will find that over the past twenty-nine years there have been twenty-one different ministers. By the time they have worked out what it is they are in charge of they are gone.
Many years ago parliament was not filled with career politicians. Every new parliament included a sprinkling of retired Generals, Doctors, Lawyers etc. They actually brought real experience and expertise to the table. It seems a reasonable assumption that given the presence of such we would not now be floundering in a sea of indecision and politically correct appeasement.
And the world would not be witnessing innocent children being carried from the sea.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” WE want the whole world to see this so that they can prevent the same from happening to others. Let this be the last!”…. Abdullah al Kurdi, father of Aylan.