George Monbiot had a moving piece in yesterday’s Guardian in which he reflected on the UK government’s efforts to arrest and charge returning British subjects who have gone to fight the Assad regime in Syria. As Monbiot said in his very opening:
‘If George Orwell and Laurie Lee were to return from the Spanish civil war today, they would be arrested under section five of the Terrorism Act 2006. If convicted of fighting abroad with a “political, ideological, religious or racial motive” – a charge they would find hard to contest – they would face a maximum sentence of life in prison. That they were fighting to defend an elected government against a fascist rebellion would have no bearing on the case. They would go down as terrorists.’
Let us ignore for now the way in which this misrepresents history and turn instead to the way in which it misreads the present day.
For interestingly enough, just this morning footage has been released of these latter-day Orwells and Laurie Lees appearing to torture and execute their fellow ‘rebels’ from the Free Syrian Army [FSA]. Footage includes a fellow ‘fighter’ being tied to a car tyre and hit repeatedly with an iron bar. The British jihadist says that this was done because the miscreant had ‘insulted his brothers.’ He says:
‘Some FSA are starting to feel they run things! This FSA scum never thought we wud jump out at them and pick them up after saying some abusive words to our brothers. Two then got ahead of themselves and swore at Allah, at this point there was no stopping us LOL [laugh out loud] although we where told to jus leave them.’
The Mail’s report continues:
‘The prisoner is heard protesting his innocence as he is apparently beaten across the legs with a metal bar, and is stamped on. He shouts that he is not a ‘kuffar’, a non-believer, and that he is a ‘mujahid’ – a Muslim fighter – and begs them not to kill him.’
Elsewhere one of these noble young British ideologues posts a photo of three blindfolded prisoners alongside the words:
‘Got these criminals today. Insha’Allah [God willing] they will be killed tomorrow. Can’t wait for that feeling when u just killed some1′.
Now many of us – including the British government – would be wary of allowing this British torturer to wander among us after his violent vacation in Syria. George Monbiot, however, seems to believe that when this semi-literate sadist returns to the UK he is most likely to write Cider With Rosie.