A picture of Omran Daqneesh, the five year old boy who was pulled from the rubble that used to be his home in Aleppo, Syria yesterday, has hit the news media by storm and made headlines across the world. Tears have rightly been shed and righteous indignation has been overflowing on a scale unsurpassed since the body of three year old refugee Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach in September 2015.
According to The Daily Mail, a month before MPs voted to begin air strikes in Syria, 60% of Britons believed we should send in the RAF to bomb cities such as Aleppo. I met with a small group of people, quiet supporters of the campaign, in The Bottomless Pit pub in Witney, Oxfordshire.
“Yes, but that was to stop the ISIS wasn’t it?” asked Daily Mail reader Don Derhead, owner of local business Pandora’s Box. “When I came in this morning to open up I had no idea any of this was going to happen, why would I? All we have left now is hope isn’t it? I mean, if anyone had an idea that little children might get hurt then the vote would’ve gone the other way wouldn’t it? They wouldn’t send our boys over there without a good reason would they? It’s not like nobody’s going to be making no money out of it are they? Anyway, this was the Russians wasn’t it? Our boys wouldn’t ever be involved in something like this would they?”
An ardent supporter of the war in Syria who would only identify himself as Lucifer told us that we should steel ourselves against events such as these.
“We need wars to sort the wheat from the chaff,” he told me. “Without things like war, famine, conquest and death where would the world be? Now we have all four in the same place things can only go forward as far as I’m concerned. So a few kids get hurt, is that really any skin off your nose? It’s not in your back yard and after all, 60% of Britons supposedly supported air strikes so it kind of makes your whole country complicit in the affair. Isn’t that what your Leave campaigners and your tabloids describe as democracy?”
I reminded him that this was surely down to the Russians and that British involvement had been branded a non-event by The Daily Telegraph.
“Yes, I’m sure the millions of people fleeing for their lives would agree. What was it your former Prime Minister called them? A swarm? and that kid on the beach in Turkey. Heartbreaking, truly heartbreaking but if he’d stayed at home… well, I’m sure I don’t need to spell it out for you. It’s just pictures. If pictures actually made a difference you would have learned years ago. Look at the photo of Phan Thi Kim Phuc in Vietnam in 1972. The US had bombed her village with napalm. The world was appalled, did it change anything? No. You’re still looking at pictures of children getting caught up in wars through no fault of their own and you will continue to do so until the people in power decide war is not the answer.” He added with a wry smile, “Good luck with that. I hear Donald Trump is a keeper.”
Another voice at this meeting was the shadowy figure of Belial El Zebub, a hedge fund manager from Slough-of-Despond, who told me;
“Listen. You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. Look at the bigger picture, we need a bit of blue sky thinking here. In my business, if you make a deal you have to stick by the terms of the agreement. When a deal is made, payment must be forthcoming. Just look at the names of the gear the RAF have on board. Reaper. Hellfire. Where do you think they get those names? Dave C, we call him Dr Faustus for obvious reasons, it’s our little joke. Anyway, he came to my firm of image consultants Abbadon, Apollyon and Mephistopheles looking for something to give him an edge in the polls. It worked for a while, just as it did for Big Tony B, but you know, we’re not in this game to give stuff away. He didn’t read the small print and we pulled the rug out.”
It seems that, while pictures such as those heartbreaking shots we have seen recently of dead and brutalised children pluck at the world’s collective heartstrings as if we were playing one big golden fiddle, that image will surely fade from memory and those inclined towards war as a solution will continue to persuade the masses that it is the only possible answer. At the same time those keen to explore more peaceful, diplomatic solutions will continue to be lampooned and labeled idiots or traitors. War, after all, is big business.
Perhaps it’s a comment on the human condition that, whilst we forge forward with medical science and ways in which to prolong life and strive to help those in desperate need across the globe, we spend trillions of dollars worldwide to create new and increasingly more ingenious ways of killing each other and the world’s children continue to become ensnared by the mess we create.
To quote a headline in The Sun – Wham, Bam thank you Cam!