We have to face facts about Syria

Monday 16 February 2015

Credit: @WNTonight

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, goes the old adage. Examples of this wisdom abound.

President John F Kennedy and his attorney general brother Robert loathed the venal, corrupt and malicious head of the FBI J Edgar Hoover every bit as much as he loathed them. But in an aside later wrongly ascribed to Lyndon Johnson, JFK was heard to murmur he would "rather have that b****** inside the tent p****** out than outside p****** in".

Britain, standing completely alone against Hitler's stormtroopers after the collapse of France in 1940, was appalled to learn of the F├╝hrer's non--aggression pact with the Soviet Union. Much as Churchill detested and despised Stalin's brutal communist regime (which liquidated its own people on a scale to rival the Nazis' own prodigious efforts) he had been counting on the wily dictator to help turn the tide.

When a year later Hitler invaded Russia Churchill launched a huge PR campaign to bolster public support for "Uncle Joe". Arctic convoys were dispatched to Murmansk at the cost of many British lives. Nothing was too good for the man who barely a year earlier had stabbed us in the back.

Which brings us to the ghastly President Bashar Assad of Syria, the lisping tyrant who this week graciously granted an interview to the BBC in which he calmly lied through his teeth. No, his forces didn't use barrel-bombs against defenceless civilians, let alone hospitals. Heavens, they didn't even have any barrels! What's that? Poison gas deployed? By him? Perish the thought. And so on.

Assad is no more and no less evil than a 20th--century monster such as Stalin. He's certainly not as effective: however long he clings to power the number of innocents he manages to slaughter won't come close to the industrial carnage carried out by good old "Uncle Joe". But however repugnant, Assad is not our enemy. He doesn't threaten our interests.

The so-called Islamic State does. Blatantly. Whether it is beheading hostages or burning them alive, and sending us the videos to prove it, Jihadi John and his cohorts in IS want nothing more than our destruction. If they could lay their hands on a nuclear weapon they'd use it on us in a finger-snap.

And they feel the same way about Assad's regime. Every day in Syria the two sides slug it out and the brutal fact is that every time one of Assad's thugs takes out an IS fanatic, one of our enemies has fallen. It's as simple as that.

Churchill once said: "If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons."

The US-led coalition is already bombing IS targets inside Syria and that must mean that covert co--operation with Damascus has been under way for months.

The time has come for us to grasp the nettle, admit that we and Assad have a shared enemy and get to work to defeat it. We must extinguish the insane evil of Jihadi John and his fanatical friends, and then do our level best to address and punish the Syrian regime's crimes against human rights.

Sorry, but it's called prioritising.

Read Richard and Judy's Express column in full here.
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