A few weeks ago was Remembrance Sunday, a time when people in Britain and many other countries across the world, take a couple of silent minutes to remember our war dead and the sacrifices that they made for us. Some however use this time to promote the glory of war, as well as their own sense jingoism and pride. In my mind this is not what Remembrance Sunday is about, it is about remembering the horrors and futility of war, it is a message from the past; a warning to us that we should not make the same mistakes again.
The day before hand one of my favourite shows, Doctor Who, was airing the conclusion of one of its two-part serials. To me, the story for the most part was pretty run of the mill, there were typical monsters, some funny and thought provoking moments and bit of wonky CGI, which is what I have generally come to expect from this show. However for the final 10 minutes, of this particular episode, me and everyone else watching Doctor Who at that moment, sat and stared in a stunned silence as the Doctor poured out his soul in a desperate attempt to avoid the beginning of a violent war. He spoke about the need for peace and forgiveness, he challenged the minds of extremists and cried over the terrible things he himself had done in war and the pain it had wrought. Not only was this one of the finest moments of acting that I’d ever seen in Doctor Who, (Peter Capaldi really gives it his all) but this is also one of the greatest and most relevant speeches ever produced in my opinion. At the moment of me writing this the British government is making a case for bombing Daesh militants in Syria. The vote is likely to pass and I cannot help but despair over it, have we learnt nothing.
‘Because it’s not a game’. The Doctor, The Zygon Inversion
Don’t get me wrong, I detest Daesh and its horrific and brutal attacks on innocent civilians across the globe, from Paris to Yemen. But to respond to violence with even greater violence will not solve the issue. Daesh may be defeated for awhile, but 3-4 years from now another group with a different name will appear once more too take up the mantle and more people will die. This happened in Iraq and Libya and even after World War One, the victors dusted their hands and headed home, satisfied that their job was done. Meanwhile the defeated were left without homes, schools, security, hospitals, jobs and effective government, there was nothing to prevent these nations from sliding back in violence.
‘Maybe you will win. But nobody wins for long. The wheel just keeps turning’. The Doctor, The Zygon Inversion
Through bombing these cities and villages in Iraq and Syria are we any better than Daesh? We may view death by beheading and crucifixions as brutal and inhuman, but surely death from bombings and shrapnel is just as horrendous. According to human rights groups over 100 civilians have already been killed by Coalition air strikes and that is with some of the best laser guidance bombs and missiles in the world.In addition civilians casualties caused by Russian and Syrian bombings reach into the tens of thousands. No matter what technology exists there will always be innocent deaths in war and as more nations are drawn into Syria these deaths will only continue to grow as will the number of refugees fleeing the conflict. As for Daesh itself, this group has endured bombings and missiles for over 4 years now and it has failed to deter them, if anything it has only served to increase their brutality. In Iraq the Coalition has failed to prevent Daesh from expanding its control over cities such as Ramadi in Iraq so I doubt any new strikes in Syria will serve a decisive blow. In the end it will be the civilians who suffer the most, as is always the case.
‘Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die. You don’t know who’s children are going to scream and burn. How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered!’ The Doctor, The Zygon Inversion
We often forget that, despite their brutality, these militants are still humans, they are people filled with complex emotions and reasons as why they do what they do. Some joined Daesh because they felt isolated and prosecuted by society, many have had family members who were arrested, imprisoned, tortured and murdered. Others have joined because they believed that Daesh represented the best chance of defeating Assad, a man who’s army has killed considerably larger numbers of innocent civilians than Daesh ever possibly could. Some have done so out of fear and a sense of necessity to protect their family, while others are brainwashed into believing that they are fighting in the Apocalypse. Some just fight because there is nothing else left after 4 years of brutal and dehumanizing warfare and they know no other life. With western nations racing into Syria looking for justice and revenge can we really say our motives are all that different from those of Daesh.
‘You just want cruelty to beget cruelty. You’re not superior to people who were cruel to you. You’re just a whole bunch of new cruel people. A whole bunch of new cruel people, being cruel to some other people, who’ll end up being cruel to you’. The Doctor, The Zygon Inversion
Despite the pain and suffering Daesh have caused across the world, the only way we can move on is if we are prepared to forgive, we must be prepared to move on and realize that violence will only breed more violence, death will create more death and the wheel will keep on spinning. Daesh sustains itself through war, its message is one of constant battle, any escalation of violence only plays into their narrative. But what if we didn’t fight them, what if we refused? Would Daesh lose as the violence that sustains them disappears? I believe that without this war Daesh’s state would collapse in a matter of months. Without the appeal of constant warfare Daesh cannot maintain its support base and therefore its manpower, there is also no systematic government, little infrastructure and no monetary system to keep that state functioning in the long term. But no matter how Daesh’s defeat comes about there will always be the second challenge, making sure it doesn’t happen again. In this battle, education, infrastructure, health and employment are the guns while forgiveness and conciliation are the bombs, its these and only these weapons than can finally stamp out Daesh’s brutal mindset.
‘And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight… Til it burns your hand. And you say this — no one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will ever have to feel this pain’. The Doctor, The Zygon Inversion
But perhaps the thing that disturbs me most about this war in Syria and Iraq is futility of it all, because in the end we all know how it is going to end. One day every nation and faction with a stake in this war will sit down and talk it out. And it will be over, more or less, it may take a lot of talking but that’s how it’ll end and that is how almost every war ever fought has ended. Not with the total annihilation of one side but by simple discussion and agreement between two enemies. The only reason this war continues to rage is because neither side is willing to seriously talk to each other, not yet at least. But one day they will and how many more will have to die before that day comes.
‘How much blood will spill until everybody does what they’re always going to have to do from the very beginning — sit down and talk!’ The Doctor, The Zygon Inversion
Well rant over, sorry for this, I usually try to keep politics out of my blog but this time I just couldn’t help myself. I hope it doesn’t happen again and now I have History work to get on with, so I shall leave you with some last final words from The Doctor.
‘The only way anyone can live in peace is if they’re prepared to forgive. Why don’t you break the cycle?’ The Doctor, The Zygon Inversion