I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Over the last couple of days the second story on the news after the floods has been that of Abdul Waheed Majid, the first known British suicide bomber. According to a Jihadist video on YouTube, he drove an armoured truck packed with explosives into the walls of the prison in Alleppo. The reaction of both the authorities and the media has been universal.

Moral panic.

His actions have been seen as those of a radicalised, crazed nutjob. What makes it all the worse is the fact that the security forces seem convinced that there are at least 400 other Brits taking the fight to the Assad regime. What abject havoc will these maniacs wreak once they return home to our fair shores? The idea has caused a collective shudder and no doubt any funding cuts targeted at MI5 and GCHQ will have been put on hold.

The reaction to Abdul Waheed Majid’s supreme act of self sacrifice has of course been entirely predictable. Anyone who does or says anything in the cause of extreme Islam is by definition an enemy and a threat. It is completely inconceivable that the authorities and the media could even think of using any other lens to view this issue. As far as they are concerned, these cases are as black and white as any cases can ever get.

These are very, very mad and bad men and we should be very, very afraid of them. They are the new ‘Enemy Within’. They are dangerous madmen. They have been brainwashed by the 21st Century equivalent of James Bond bad guys. They need to be interned and surveilled and banged up for ever and a day.

All of which of course is exactly what Osama Bin Laden intended when he came up with the idea of 9/11.

The whole thing becomes rather more interesting when you take a step back and look at the facts in a spirit of neutrality. Without preconception. Without prejudice.

Here’s a timeline.

For decades a particularly horrible family has held sway in Syria. They have one of the most brutal secret police forces in the Middle East to crack the whip and a blank cheque from the Kremlin to enable them to crack it. For year after year, the Assad family has killed and tortured its civilians in eye watering numbers. Almost unbelievably they have done this with such a high degree of success that the family has been able to re-direct two thirds of the GDP of the whole country into their Swiss Bank Accounts.

Basically these are very, very bad people indeed.

Then came the Arab Spring and the oppressed masses of Syria sensed that their moment had come. They took to the streets in their thousands to demand democracy and freedom from having their doors caved in at four in the morning by the secret police. At this point I should admit to having something of a personal loathing for the Assads. On 27 occasions they arrived at the house of my good friend Ghazi and carted him off into the night to be tortured and locked up. Never once did he appear in front of any kind of court. They just did it. Why? Because he was a Palestinian and a school teacher.


I digress.

Did the Assad family take note of just how many people spilled out onto the streets to demand freedom? Did they dive an inch?

Of course they didn’t. Dictators almost never do.

And did Vladimir Putin waver in his unswerving support for his ghastly Middle Eastern puppet? Nope. Instead he upped the ante and poured in as many cluster bombs and napalm canisters as the Assads wanted.

And what did HM Government in London make of all this? Well they certainly made a lot of noise about it. They said that the Assads were very, very bad people and Putin was a very, very bad man for giving them so many cluster bombs to drop on defenceless civilians. In fact HM Government got so cross about it all that our Prime Minister asked Parliament for the right to sent our Military down there to crack the whip. Had Parliament given him the mandate, he would have done exactly that and maybe things might have been different. Had Parliament given him the mandate, maybe it would have been a squad of SAS guys blowing a hole in the walls of Alleppo prison rather than Abdul Waheed Majid.

It didn’t work out that way of course. Parliament said ‘no’ and Cameron sulked off to Chequers to lick his wounds and sink a couple of stiff gins before making the dreaded call to the White House.

So as things turned out, instead of the might of what is left of the British military going to Syria to put the Assads back in their box, the job was left to 400 volunteers like Abdul Waheed Majid.

In another time and another place, maybe our media might have seen these guys as being pretty heroic. Abdul Waheed Majid was no kind of Jason Statham sort of guy. He was a 41 year old road worker employed by the Highways Agency. He took unpaid leave to make his way to the worst place in the world right now to make a stand against oppression.

How odd that everyone seems so determined not to see that there is something truly heroic in what he did.

Is this because this is something that is completely new and our media finds it hard to get their collective heads around the idea? Well it isn’t new actually. It is uncannily similar to something that happened seventy something years ago. That something was called The Spanish Civil War and we now remember it mainly care of George Orwell’s ‘Homage to Catalonia’ and Ernest Hemingway’s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’.

Here is a bit of compare and contrast.

After years and years of oppression the people feel empowered to take to the streets and demand democracy and freedom

Then – Barcelona and Madrid.

Now – Alleppo and Homs.

Instead of granting freedom, the regime cracks down and starts killing its own civilians. The freedom fighters beg and implore the Governments of the free West to come and help out. But the Governments of the West choose instead to turn their backs. Why?

Number one, they are weary of war

Then – the Great War.

Now – Afghanistan and Iraq.

Number two, the coffers are empty in the wake of a huge recession.

Then – the 1929 Wall St crash

Now – the 2008 Wall St crash.

But of course not everyone takes the same view. The oppressive regime can look to the unwavering support of a superpower to make sure they have plenty of tanks and planes and munitions to get stuck into some wholesale slaughter.

Then – Adolf Hitler and his ghastly Nazi regime that viewed homosexuals and black people as sub-humans.

Now – Vladimir Putin and his ghastly United Russia regime that views homosexuals and black people as sub-humans.

So the horrible regime is able to use its huge advantage in terms of high tech weaponry to deliver death and carnage on its terrified population.

Then – Then the town of Guernica in the Basque country, where the planes of the Lutwaffe’s ‘Condor Division’ rained hell from the skies and slaughtered 400 civilians.

Now – The Damascus suburb of Ghouta is subjected to a gas attack where shells fired from Putin’s artillery did for 1300 civilians.

In the light of the monstrosity of the regime’s actions, volunteers from all over the world make their way to the war zone to put their lives on the line in the cause of freedom.

Then – The International Brigade made up of Trade Unionists and socialists and artists and students. In the words of the much missed Joe Strummer, ‘Trenches full of poets: a ragged army.’ Maybe even a road worker or two? Maybe even a few idealists from Crawley in West Sussex?

Now – The various Jihadi groups of Freedom Fighters which are made up by similar young men from similar places driven by a similar idealism.

The problem for the idealistic volunteers is that once they arrive in the war zone they find that things are not what they thought it said on the tin. They discover that their side is more or less as bad as the regime. They find that atrocities come from both sides of the line. They find that there are also dodgy countries backing their side of things.

Then – The Soviet Union.

Now – Saudi Arabia.

And then, as the killing and the torture and the bombing reach new levels of  primordial cruelty, the Big Brother backer of the regime looks to distract the world’s attention from what their cluster bombs are doing to human flesh by splashing the cash and staging the most expensive Olympics in history.

Then – Berlin 1936

Now – Sochi 2014.

Let’s just imagine for a moment. Let’s imagine that a 41 year old road worker from Crawley, West Sussex had given up his job and family to head down to Spain in 1936 to sign on the dotted line to take on Hitler and Franco. A family man. A staunch socialist. A union man. A man who had never broken a law in his life. And let’s imagine that he volunteered to give up his own life to try and free 3000 lost souls locked behind the high walls of one of Franco’s prisons.

Would we have described him as hero or villain? I guess back then the media might well have looked into the Bible and come up with John 15- 13

‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’

There is one major difference.

Franco’s prisons were pretty brutal places, but I very much doubt if he ever came close to matching the medieval cruelty of the Assad family. After what the Assads did to Ghazi, I find it impossible not to see Abdul Waheed Majid as a hero. That doesn’t mean that I support Al Queda and I am about to convert to fundamentalist Islam. It simply means that there are always two sides to any story and it would be nice if once in a while the media were willing to give air time to both.

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