Hostile Environment

This spring saturday what do the newspapers tell us about the state we live in?

The Daily Express wails at accountability for past military action – like the death rattle of a failed state now operating 95% on the ether of imperial nostalgia. In a surprise move the Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley confirmed she was defying concerns expressed by army chiefs, and had decided not to make a “statute of limitations” an option in the four-month consultation on how best to uncover the truth of so-called “legacy” cases.  Three former British soldiers already face prosecution over killings in the 1970s – Dennis Hutchings, seventy-seven, and two former Paratroopers, who are now in their sixties.

This process of has sent the likes of Lord Dannatt and Richard Kemp into howls of shock and anger. Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded British forces in Afghanistan, is so angry that he is returning his precious officer’s Commission in protest.

The basis for this anger seems to be:

a) this happened a long time ago
b) some of these people are in their sixties now
c) or, as according to Retired Air Commodore Andrew Lambert: “The pursuit of old soldiers is going to make it more difficult to retain the loyalty of troops if they know that at some point many years later everything they have done will be gone through with a fine tooth comb.”

It seems to be a sort of blanket exceptionalism, a Get Out of Jail Free Card on hand at any time – past or future – on the grounds of being British.  Never mind the rule of law or international standards of military conduct. This doesn’t seem to be a credible position to hold unless you are in the grip of something else, not just within the military but within the wider culture and public sphere.

The Times (with some nice photo placement) tells us that ‘Britain has become more racist after Brexit’.  It’s a difficult truth from the UN’s special rapporteur on racism, Tendayi Achiume, who said “anti-foreigner rhetoric” had become “normalised” in the UK since the EU referendum.

The paper says Ms Achiume also criticised the government’s immigration policies, which she said created a “hostile environment for all racial and ethnic communities.”

Tendayi Achiume, who is a law professor at the University of California and the UN’s special rapporteur on racism and xenophobia, said that hate crimes had risen starkly since the EU referendum in 2016 and that anti-migrant and anti-foreigner rhetoric had become “normalised” even among high-ranking civil servants.

It’s an unremarkable rather than an inconvenient truth, but it has predictably sent the tabloids into a self-delusional tailspin of faux-hurt and defensiveness: “What us racist!?”

That this bleakly obvious state of being was spelt out by a young black woman no doubt added to the apoplexy of a country now deeply mired in nationalist fantasy politics.

The Sun says Ms Achiume is “clueless” and accuses her of peddling “slurs” not backed up with evidence. The Daily Mail says her “insulting” remarks were received with “fury” by Number 10, which said the government had made “great progress” in making racial equality a reality.


Achiume  said: “Stakeholders raised serious concerns about the failure of political leaders on the left and the right to consistently and unequivocally condemn antisemitism and Islamophobia perpetrated in the media, in public spaces and even by members of the UK parliament.”

“A Brexit-related trend that threatens racial equality in the UK has been the growth in the acceptability of explicit racial, ethnic and religious intolerance,” said E Tendayi Achiume.

The special rapporteur’s final report, to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June next year, will contain more detailed findings on the impact of Brexit on racial equality in the UK.

As always we are not immune.

The Daily Mirror is basically an advanced warning of ERF (Extreme Royalist Fawning – incoming you have been warned, take cover). The Daily Mail is cashing in on the plastics nonsense, and The Telegraph has something about toothpaste. The Daily Record, to their credit, has this report on the Clara Ponsati case.

We shouldn’t think these two front-pages are unrelated.

The racism detailed by Tendayi Achiume is self-evident by anyone with one eye open. But the wave of Anglo-British nationalism behind much of this is the same that treats the Irish border, and the Irish people with complete contempt in Brexit negotiations. There is of course continuity with these attitudes and the idea that you can act with impunity in military action in the past, present and future. The idea that the Good Friday Agreement, and peace in Northern Ireland should be sacrificed on the altar of British exceptionalism and in the grip of the most bizarre manifestation of English nationalism, is indeed a Betrayal.


Comments (20)

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  1. SleepingDog says:

    Well, I guess this shows that a popular vote on “are our military the best/most ethical/most professional in the world”, “is the UK racist” and “is our system of constitutional monarchy which reserves war-making and general/admiral/air-force-marshall-appointing to the firstborn descendant of a line of war criminals an appropriate form of government for the 21st century” is not guaranteed to produce the truist results.

    And on the other hand the beneficial functions of minorities, the rule of law, the role of experts and transparent international scrutiny.

    1. Joe gibson says:

      I think this union is in its deaththroes. iI spent 23years in the army 1954 to 1978 and now I cannot believe the depth that those serving men and women,s moral has plunged since David Cameron and his toties have destroyed their environmentnment. Sad about that but it is now onwards to independence for Scotland now.

  2. Brian MacLeod says:

    Putting soldiers in life or death situations and then fine tooth-combing their actions for legal repercussions 50 years later seems fundamentally wrong to me. The time to do that is when the original action happened.

    If there is any criminality it should be levelled at the people who put those soldiers in that position. It is akin to blaming the weapon for what the bullet does, when it is the person who pointed the gun who is to blame.

    In this case the soldiers are the weapon and it is the the politicians who pointed the weapon.
    Change the law so that the politicians are the liable party, not the weapon.

    1. Jamsie says:

      It is fundamentally wrong especially when pardons have been granted to terrorists who committed murder of civilians, police and soldiers.

      1. McGillicuddy Dreams says:

        Aren’t Soldiers human beings, who commit murder as soon as they deliberately take a life?

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @Brian MacLeod, you want to instate the Nuremberg defence that absolves people for “only obeying orders”? State secrecy, military cover-ups and victor’s justice generally mean that there is no opportunity to administer justice when the original events take place:

      And treating soldiers as obedient machines slaved to the will of their commanders could remove one of the main objections to automated killing systems.

      By the way, I think your metaphor does not make sense.

      Military ethics is too complex a subject to be boiled down in a comment, but on the other hand the progression of the law of war has clear goals and benefits (including those to serving military personel) progress you seem to wish to reverse:

      And everyone in the chain of command is already liable, including politicians.

      1. Willie says:

        British SAS soldier participating in the Rhodesian War for Independence is instructed by Salisbury to put a bomb on a bus full of children to discredit the independence movement.

        Who is guilty of murder. The soldier following orders, the command in Salisbury, both, or are they all both due a medal.

  3. McGillicuddy Dreams says:

    Xenophobia, racism, stupidity or simply rationalising, you decide. I cannot help but feel that all English born people who officially voted in our 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, on whether Scotland should remain under an English government, have no honour.

    1. Jamsie says:

      Ok I have decided you are xenophobic, stupid and a racist.

      If you reside in Scotland and are entitled to vote the honourable thing to do is fulfil your civic duty.

      That means vote when called upon to do so.

      Simple really except if you happen to be a nationalist.

      1. McGillicuddy Dreams says:

        Thank you for your kind admission. Is that a British Nationalist? I am a bit of a nationalist from a culture perspective, a bit of a regionalist from a resources perspective, a bit of a globalist from a knowledge, intellect and innovation perspective.
        Voting in regional and national elections is a civic duty. A national referendum on whether we wish to not be fully governed by a foreign power is folly when it is accepted that the colonisers of the foreign power, who colonise continually in massive numbers, consider it honourable to take part directly in that vote.

        1. Jamsie says:

          So people who have made their lives in Scotland and pay their taxes in this country but are not born here are not entitled to vote?
          Are you serious?

          1. Davie says:

            I’m more with MD on this one.

            My close English friend in work said he could not support independence but would not vote against it as it meant so much to so many he knew.

            My daughter’s friends uber middle-class parents, a teacher and a researcher at a Uni enjoying much of the best Scotland has to offer in terms of employment and conditions, were solidly no and even had their precocious wean telling everyone in class they were not going to allow their grandparents to live in a ‘different’ country.

            I know which one is honorable, which one is colonial.

          2. Jamsie says:

            Sorry Davie but you need to adjust your thinking.
            As a good European as all nationalists are you will be familiar with the ECHR.
            It is a basic right to be able to vote.
            Why would you deny them this?
            Does this mean Irish people who have settled in Scotland should also be denied the vote?
            Or is it only English people who don’t support your view?
            If you pay your taxes surely you should be entitled to vote?
            The nationalist desperation is really coming out now and people smell racism no?

  4. McGillicuddy Dreams says:

    Jamsie, this is a discussion. No need to feel desperate. No need to tell others, who can obviously articulate themselves, that they need a thought adjustment. Most people are bright enough to honour the strength of another’s argument while acknowledging the weakness in their own. English people are colonising Scotland. The numbers are too great to deny. What is known as the UK government is the English government. A referendum cannot legislate against residents voting in the referendum. I am asking those who have the right to vote to question themselves on their motives to vote and are they honourable. English people convincing themselves that they are motivated in an honourable spirit would have a hard time. I say that from a perspective of putting myself in an English persons shoes. If they could turn the tables around and consider Scottish people voting to have all England governed by Edinburgh interests first then they may begin to get the idea of abstaining for their honour.

  5. Jamsie says:

    Absolute nonsense!

    The desperation of the nationalist is becoming beyond belief.

    If you live in Scotland you are entitled to vote.

    End of.

    1. McGillicuddy Dreams says:

      Jamsie, I did say most people.

      1. Jamsie says:

        McG D
        Your argument or discussion reflects your position.
        Racism is a terrible thing.
        I do not think that most people agree with your argument, in fact I strongly suspect that the only people who hold with your view are nationalists who are in the minority.
        That aside I suspect you would be happy to accept that a person born in England who resides in Scotland and supports nationalism should be entitled to vote or that people born in the Republic of Ireland who reside here are entitled to vote?
        Or from anywhere as long as they would only vote yes?
        Do you see where I am going?
        Your argument has nothing to do with an honourable position but is wholly predicated on the assumption that people who have migrated to live in Scotland, work here and pay their taxes here but do not share your views on nationalism somehow because they choose to exercise their right enshrined in all sorts of ways to vote in the place where they live that this is dishonourable and should not be allowed.
        So I ask you would most people consider that perspective reasonable or extremist?
        Now all good nationalists are supposed to be good Europeans, well except the 33% who voted leave obviously but that aside as Europeans should the right to vote not be looked upon as sacrosanct?
        Furthermore wee Nicola is always telling us that Scotland needs more immigration to keep the wheels turning.
        But not people born in England is that what you are saying?
        Sorry but most people will find that extremist and unacceptable, thankfully!

        1. Davie says:

          It’s not that difficult Jamsie, no need for the hysteria.

          I would not go to work in another country (and I have a few times) and vote against that country and its people securing their independence. I don’t think that is a right or reasonable thing to do.

          I think all the EU citizens who were working in Scotland at the time who voted NO for their own selfish (and Labour encouraged) reasons need to look at themselves very closely given they originated from independent countries and would deny Scotland the same.

          I think English people who voted NO so that Scotland continue to be run from and by their homeland were especially dishonourable.

          I’m very far from being a racist.

          1. Jamsie says:

            I am hysterical laughing at your views.
            Neither legal nor honourable.
            We are in the twenty first century and here we are suggesting people who qualify to vote legally and morally should not be allowed to and worse because the exercise their right to do so they are dishonourable.
            Yet you are happy obviously to accept those that voted for Indy.
            Are they not dishonourable?
            Tell you what why don’t we just bar anyone from voting who won’t vote yes?
            If another referendum occurs it will probably be neither legal nor binding but simply a face saver for a politician who cannot accept that Scotland neither wants another one nor indeed independence.
            Palpable desperation will not persuade people that the country could afford Indy.
            Racism comes in various forms and degrees and despite your protest you clearly demonstrate yours.
            Perhaps a wee bit of introspection and honesty with yourself would help you see that.
            Or you could seek an opinion from someone who is not Scottish and votes no.
            There are many who legally reside here after all.

          2. McGillicuddy Dreams says:

            Aren’t these healthy arguments in a realm of decorum? I like the healthy feeling we have here. On the script of honour, if we take the theatre or analogy to another place and time can we imagine Italy populated by 20% German born residents who moved there as no borders forbade this, where there are another 20% of the population born of German parents who moved there 2 generations ago. A legal referendum comes around where Italy must vote to be governed or not by Berlin. Is this an attempt of colonisation?

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