Friday, 5 June 2020

Farcical Lack of Leadership Over Face Coverings



I think it's fair to say that there has been a farcical lack of leadership from the Scottish and UK governments on the issue of wearing face masks to stop the spread of Covid-19. 

The Scottish and UK governments have been dithering for weeks, but from Monday 15 June face masks will become compulsory for all passengers using public transport in England. 

The threat posed by people who are infected with Covid-19 without showing symptoms is clear, yet politicians have failed to act by insisting that face masks must be worn in shops and other areas where social distancing is difficult.   

The report below in The Herald suggests that face masks may be a problem for people suffering from asthma, but this is simply nonsense because anyone suffering from chronic asthma or a similar condition should be 'shielding' at home instead of being 'out and about' 

 




Coronavirus: Sturgeon considering 'mandatory' face coverings



By Tom Gordon - The Herald



Coronavirus: Sturgeon considering 'mandatory' face coverings

NICOLA Sturgeon has said she is considering making face coverings mandatory in shops, public transport and enclosed spaces amid fears too few people are wearing them.

The First Minister said she thought the measure would be “inevitable”, although she added no final decision had yet been made.

Earlier this week, Ms Sturgeon also threatened to legislate to clamp down on travel and socialising after mass breaches of the guidance when the lockdown eased last Friday.

Countries in which face coverings are common, such as South Korea, have seen far fewer Covid deaths than the UK.

The Scottish Government first advised people to wear face coverings in shops and on public transport on April 28 to help guard against spreading the coronavirus.

However this has always been voluntary, not compulsory.

At the Scottish Government daily briefing, th First Minister announced another nine people had died overnight from coronavirus in Scotland, taking the laboratory confirmed total to 2,395.

She said this was the first time deaths had been in single figures on a week day (when reporting is more comprehensive than at weekends) since March 27.

She also said the R number, the rate oof reproductions, had dropped slightly from a range of 0.7 to 1 to a range of 0.7 to 0.9 over the last week.

However she said the latest R number did not take into account the first weekend of the lockdown easing last weekend, when thousands of families met up and road traffic surged 70 per cent.

She stressed Covid remained an ongoing threat and urged households which met outdoors last weekend in the sun not to move indoors if the weather was poor this weekend, as the rate of transmission was far higher indoors than in the open air.

Asked if she was considering making face coverings mandatory, she said: “Yes, it is under consideration. I said when I announced the policy some weeks back that we would kep the policy under review.

"So we haven’t reached a final position on this, but it is fair to say it is something that we are considering. I think that is inevitable.

“I understand why some people may not want to wear face coverings. It’s not the most comfortable thing to do. The scientific advice and evidence on this is not overwhelming, but there is a benefit to be had.

“If you wear a face covering in an enclosed space where physical distancing is a bit more difficult, there is some evidence that you wearing a face covering can protect someone else.

“If you have the virus, and if you’re not symptomatic you may not know it, you can then protect or minimise the risk of your transmitting the virus to somebody else. Of course another person wearing a face mask is protecting you the same way.”

She said wanted to “strongly encourage people” to wear face coverings as advised.

“If you haven’t already been doing it, or if you started to do it, found it uncomfortable and haven’t continued - please, please consider this very carefully, because we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to reduce the risk of transmission.”

She said coverings could be made at home, advised the public against trying to source medical-grade masks needed by the NHS and care sector.

“These are things we encourage people to make at home. You can make these things from cloth, textiles, old T-shirts, for example and there’s plenty of advice out there to do that,” she said.

She said there would be exemptions for health reasons and for some age groups, such as young children, if face coverings did become mandatory.

She said: “For people who have asthma for example it would not be reasonable to insist that they wear face masks. So these are careful judgments and they have to be very carefully considered.

“But as we open up more, particularly as more people go back to work in the future, and more people use public transport, I think that we will want to see people where they can wearing a face covering.

"If we have to change the nature and the status of the advice we’re giving to people to make that happen, that has clearly got to be something that we are prepared to keep under consideration.”

Ms Sturgeon’s comment follow MSPs expressing concern about the number of people following the current non-mandatory guidance.

At Holyrood’s Covid-19 committee on Wednesday, Annabelle Ewing, the SNP MSP for Cowdenbeath, said: “I was at a supermarket last night. I think I was the only person in the entire shop wearing a face covering. I know the message is, that we should be doing this, but evidently more people are not yet doing that.”

Cabinet Secretary Mike Russell agreed there was a problem.

He said: “I have noticed myself, wearing a face covering at a filling station, I was the only person who was doing so. I know there’s an awful of thinking going on about that.

“I would encourage people to wear one, and to wear one when in shops.

“Sometimes I think people think they’re going to be stared at or looked at.

“We should get to the stage where, if everybody’s doing it, then the person who’s not doing it is the person who’s looked at and stared at.

“So I think you’re right, and I think we need to look at that very, very seriously.

“There has been a debate about the efficacy of it, but I think there is a growing public view that we should see it more.”

Coronavirus and Face Masks (02/06/20)



The Times reports that Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon was apparently unaware that carriers of the Coronavirus were able to spread the disease - even if they displayed none of the usual symptoms including a high temperature, dry cough, headaches, loss of taste and smell.

Now I'll be interested to see how this plays out because home carers in Glasgow were complaining weeks ago that they were only required to use PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) - if and when their clients started to display Covid-19 symptoms.  

The sensible move would obviously have been to assume that everyone was a potential carrier of Coronavirus once 'lockdown' began back on 24 March, yet the Scottish Government's advice remained firmly opposed to the wearing of face masks - see post below 'Better Safe Than Sorry' dated 08 April 2020.

"Where the person is neither suspected to be, nor confirmed as COVID positive, care at home staff carrying out personal care should wear what they have always worn – that is, an apron and gloves; and no mask.


"This applies regardless of the 2m distance. The same would apply to a community nurse visiting the same client: they too would wear gloves and apron, and no mask.

"Furthermore, home care workers and community staff going into people’s houses should only wear a mask when they suspect the person has COVID, and they cannot keep a 2m distance.

"If this is not suspected – or if they can keep a 2m distance – then they do not need to wear a mask."

Even now the wearing of face masks by home carers remains 'voluntary' whereas the wearing of hi-vis jackets and safety helmets is mandatory on building sites.    


 


https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/scotland/coronavirus-in-scotland-sturgeons-ignorance-of-science-advice-on-carriers-questioned-j82hcv6tn

CORONAVIRUS
Coronavirus in Scotland: Sturgeon’s ignorance of science advice on carriers questioned

Nicola Sturgeon and Jeane Freeman are facing calls about their treatment of care homes - 
FRASER BREMNER-POOL/GETTY IMAGES

By Mark McLaughlin - The Times

Nicola Sturgeon is facing calls for a public inquiry into care home deaths after she claimed to be unaware of evidence from her advisers that asymptomatic carriers could infect others.

About 900 hospital patients were transferred to care homes in Scotland to free up beds for the NHS but were not routinely tested until April 22. They have since become the front line of Scotland’s coronavirus pandemic.

The first minister told Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News that had she known about asymptomatic transmission earlier in the outbreak she may have made different choices.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), the UK government panel regularly attended by Scottish government scientists and officials, has warned of asymptomatic transmission since January, according to minutes that were declassified last week.

Miles Briggs, the Scottish Conservative health spokesman, said Ms Sturgeon must clarify what she knew about asymptomatic transmission and when or launch a full public inquiry.

Boris Johnson, the prime minister, is facing similar questions over hospitals discharging patients to care homes after issuing advice that infection of residents was “very unlikely” in the early stages of the outbreak.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Back then the view was that people who didn’t have symptoms, either because they were pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, didn’t shed the virus. If I were to take what we know now about asymptomatic transmission and apply that to that period [prior to April 22], we may well have taken different decisions.”

Jim McMenamin, interim clinical director at Health Protection Scotland, attended the second meeting of Sage on Covid-19 on January 28. Minutes stated: “There is limited evidence of asymptomatic transmission, but early indications imply some is occurring.”

On February 18, Andrew Rambaut, professor of molecular evolution at Edinburgh University, advised Sage that “more comprehensive swabbing of returning global travellers during isolation would be useful”.

On March 13, the day Scotland recorded its first coronavirus death, Jeane Freeman, the health secretary, told MSPs that swabbing at airports was “not the scientific or clinical advice”.

An employee from Nike’s European headquarters in the Netherlands is thought to have triggered Scotland’s first coronavirus outbreak at a conference in Edinburgh in February.

The Scottish government launched a covert effort to contain the outbreak through isolation and contact tracing, despite the advice of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling a month earlier that there was “a realistic probability” contact tracing would not contain outbreaks outside China.

Evidence of asymptomatic transmission grew and on April 7 Sage discussed a study on school closures by Joe Hallgarten, of the Education Development Trust, published one week earlier, that stated: “Unlike ebola, transmission of Covid-19 is asymptomatic.”

That day the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act came into force, empowering councils to move adults lacking capacity from hospitals to care homes, even if they or their families objected.

A requirement to conduct two negative tests before a patient is discharged to a care home was not implemented until April 22.

Ms Freeman defended her decisions at the Scottish government briefing.

“We didn’t dismiss any concerns at any point where those concerns were raised with us, in any respect whether it was around discharge to hospital or any other matter around handling of the pandemic where those concerns were evidenced.” she said.

Jason Leitch, the Scottish government’s national clinical director who last week apologised for claiming that ministers wanted to increase gradually the number of people infected in March to reach herd immunity, said: “We now know that asymptomatic carriage is a challenge and people do shed some virus, but nothing like as much as when they have symptoms. The pre-symptomatic phase is not as dangerous as the symptomatic phase.”

Mr Briggs said: “Everyone knew pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic could carry and spread the disease. Sage knew about it. Nicola Sturgeon’s advisers were there. So I’d be interested to know whose view she is promoting.

“If Sturgeon simply misspoke, I’d ask her and the SNP health secretary to correct this now. If this is being offered as an excuse as to why hundreds of vulnerable people were transferred into care homes without testing, this is a matter for an urgent public inquiry.”

Ian Murray, the shadow Scottish secretary, said: “This raises further questions about the decisions taken by the Scottish government.”



Better Safe Than Sorry (08/04/20)


The Scottish Government's official advice to Home Care staff is to wear a face mask only if a client is suspected to be, or is confirmed to be, Covid-19 positive. 

The official advice goes on to say:

"Where the person is neither suspected to be, nor confirmed as COVID positive, care at home staff carrying out personal care should wear what they have always worn – that is, an apron and gloves; and no mask.


"This applies regardless of the 2m distance. The same would apply to a community nurse visiting the same client: they too would wear gloves and apron, and no mask.

"Furthermore, home care workers and community staff going into people’s houses should only wear a mask when they suspect the person has COVID, and they cannot keep a 2m distance.

"If this is not suspected – or if they can keep a 2m distance – then they do not need to wear a mask."


What puzzles me is how individual carers are supposed to know the state of every client's health before going into their homes - and how is it even possible for Home Carers to keep 2 metres distance from vulnerable clients whom they are helping to keep out of hospital?   

So why not put everyone's safety first - the safety of both the carers and their clients - by ensuring that the official advice is changed and that face masks are worn until further notice, as a matter of course.

After all these are very scary and unprecedented times and if the carers feel safer - their clients are bound to feel the benefit as well.

  

https://www.glasgowtimes.co.uk/news/18361679.glasgow-home-care-service-accused-not-using-ppe/?

Glasgow home care service Cordia accused of not providing PPE for care workers


By Catherine Hunter - Evening Times


A GLASGOW care service has disputed claims that staff are not being provided with protective equipment as they carry out home visits to vulnerable people.

Cordia, which is delivered by the City Council under the management of Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership has been accused of not providing enough PPE (personal protective equipment) by worried Glaswegians.

Some members of the public say they have spotted staff going into homes without adequate PPE.

One concerned constituent, who doesn’t want to be identified, said: “I have a family member who works as a carer for Cordia.

“She was promised she would have protective equipment supplied as she has to care for elderly patients which also means going into their house.

“She has not been provided with a mask, gloves, hand sanitizer and was given only three aprons. She works seven days on and seven days off.

“How are three aprons going to last? She is in her mid-50s and is at an increased risk because of this.

“Cordia and putting the lives of their carer staff at risk as they are not providing the necessary equipment. I am extremely worried for my family member.”

Glasgow’s Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) has confirmed that they are following all the guidelines issues by Public Health Scotland by providing enough equipment.

No member of staff should be working without the protection that is appropriate for their role.

A spokesman said: "Glasgow HSCP is following guidelines issued by Public Health Scotland in providing staff with the appropriate PPE equipment required to safely carry out their duties in the community.

"There is currently sufficient supply of PPE so that no member of HSCP staff should be working without the protection that is appropriate for their role.

Mattis On Trump



General James Mattis explains his reasons for speaking out and describing Donald Trump as a threat to the American constitution.

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us.”


Read the full article via the link below to The Atlantic magazine.


 


https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/james-mattis-denounces-trump-protests-militarization/612640/


James Mattis Denounces President Trump, Describes Him as a Threat to the Constitution

In an extraordinary condemnation, the former defense secretary backs protesters and says the president is trying to turn Americans against one another.


By Jeffrey Goldberg - The Atlantic

Photo - CHRISTIE HEMM KLOK

James Mattis, the esteemed Marine general who resigned as secretary of defense in December 2018 to protest Donald Trump’s Syria policy, has, ever since, kept studiously silent about Trump’s performance as president. But he has now broken his silence, writing an extraordinary broadside in which he denounces the president for dividing the nation, and accuses him of ordering the U.S. military to violate the constitutional rights of American citizens.

“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” Mattis writes. “The words ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.” He goes on, “We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.”

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,” Mattis writes. “We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.”

He goes on to contrast the American ethos of unity with Nazi ideology. “Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that ‘The Nazi slogan for destroying us … was “Divide and Conquer.” Our American answer is “In Union there is Strength.”’ We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics.”

Mattis’s dissatisfaction with Trump was no secret inside the Pentagon. But after his resignation, he argued publicly—and to great criticism—that it would be inappropriate and counterproductive for a former general, and a former Cabinet official, to criticize a sitting president. Doing so, he said, would threaten the apolitical nature of the military. When I interviewed him last year on this subject, he said, “When you leave an administration over clear policy differences, you need to give the people who are still there as much opportunity as possible to defend the country. They still have the responsibility of protecting this great big experiment of ours.” He did add, however: “There is a period in which I owe my silence. It’s not eternal. It’s not going to be forever.”

That period is now definitively over. Mattis reached the conclusion this past weekend that the American experiment is directly threatened by the actions of the president he once served. In his statement, Mattis makes it clear that the president’s response to the police killing of George Floyd, and the ensuing protests, triggered this public condemnation.

“When I joined the military, some 50 years ago,” he writes, “I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”

He goes on to implicitly criticize the current secretary of defense, Mark Esper, and other senior officials as well. “We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate.’ At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict—between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.

Here is the text of the complete statement from General James Mattis

IN UNION THERE IS STRENGTH

I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words “Equal Justice Under Law” are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.

When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.

We must reject any thinking of our cities as a “battlespace” that our uniformed military is called upon to “dominate.” At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict—between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.

James Madison wrote in Federalist 14 that “America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat.” We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law.

Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that “The Nazi slogan for destroying us…was ‘Divide and Conquer.’ Our American answer is ‘In Union there is Strength.’” We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics.

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.

We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s “better angels,” and listen to them, as we work to unite.

Only by adopting a new path—which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals—will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.

Trump On Mattis



Donald Trump is a stone-cold liar; a shameless man with zero integrity who has become an embarrassment to the American people. 

In this video Trump praises General James Mattis to the skies, but now describes him as 'the world's most overrated general'.

Donald Trump is also lying with his claim to have fired General Mattis when the truth is the general resigned from his post as America's defence secretary.   

   

Trump the Betrayer ('Great People' vs 'Not Angels') (18/10/19)

Donald Trump condemns himself out of his own mouth with his ugly, lying words about the Kurdish people.

   

Trump the Betrayer (08/10/19)



The New York Times explains how Donald Trump has betrayed the Kurdish people in a behind the scenes deal with President Erdogan of Turkey.

   

Defend the Kurds (143/06/14)



When I lived and worked in London (in the 1980s) there was a large group of exiled Iraqi Kurds on the political scene, mostly members of the Communist Party, who were a fine bunch of people and completely obsessed, understandably, with the fight to establish an independent Kurdistan.

One of the few good things to emerge from the war in Iraq is the establishment of the Kurdish Autonomous Region (KAR) - not an independent country, but the only part of Iraq that has lived in relative peace and security for the past 10 years, and a degree of religious tolerance which is so obviously missing from the Sunni dominated west and the Shia dominated south east of Iraq.

So, I agree completely with this opinion piece by David Aaronovitch because it is without doubt the right thing to do - the Kurds were abandoned after a murderous attack on Halabja by Saddam Hussein whose army used poison gas to kill and maim thousands of Kurdish citizens, including women and children.

The same thing should not be allowed to happen again, in the face of a murderous assault by sectarian religious extremists and if you ask me, this is a valid reason for the west to use air power to defend one of the few examples of a tolerant society that currently exists in the Middle East.     

Forget the past. Iraqi Kurds need our help now


By David Aaronovitch - The Times

The 2003 invasion is irrelevant to what is happening in Mosul now. What matters is preventing the advance of Isis

Late on Tuesday afternoon the phone rang. “You can come on the show”, invited the affable voice, “and tell us whether, in light of the fall of Mosul, you’ve changed your mind about the invasion of Iraq.”

I said no for three reasons. The first was that I knew how the argument must go. The US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 had partly been justified on the grounds that it stopped a jihadi power base developing in the Middle East, but here we are now with the estimated 15,000 men of Isis (the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham) occupying Iraq’s second city.

Isis loosely controls a big stretch of territory in eastern Syria and western Iraq and has captured millions of pounds of cash in Mosul banks and tonnes of Iraqi military equipment donated or sold by the United States. It threatens the existence of a unitary Iraq, the safety of the Kurdish autonomous region and the stability of the whole area.

So wasn’t this all down to the toppling of Saddam Hussein who, bad as he was, had held all this religious extremism in check? Wasn’t this a practical lesson in the folly of intervention?

The incisive John Humphrys, on the BBC Today programme yesterday, put this case as if it was a simple paraphrase of the Universally Agreed Truth. And, I suspect, most people would broadly agree with it. I don’t.

In response I would have pointed out the attractions of my own entrenched position. By the time of the Arab Spring in 2011 the elected Iraqi government, although not composed of regional Abraham Lincolns, seemed to have reached agreement with Sunnis in the west of the country that politics, not violence, was a better way of settling problems. There were lawless places, badly governed towns and cities, and corruption, but with a breathing space and good will Iraq itself was a going entity.

Although the high-handedness of Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, towards representatives of the Sunni minority has been disastrous, what actually led to the Isis catastrophe was the chaos and war in Syria.

The inability of the Syrian opposition to take on an Assad regime armed with helicopters, planes and heavy artillery led to an attritional war in which extreme elements became more powerful as time went by.

During this time, western policy was not characterised by intervention. Far from it. As in 1991, at the end of the first Gulf war, the West offered rhetorical encouragement to the enemies of the dictator, but no practical help. Into the resulting void stepped the jihadis — determined, courageous, supplemented by foreign fighters and supplied by people in the Gulf. All of this was predictable and all of it was predicted.

And in any case (I might throw in, just for jollies) how do you know how the 77-year-old Saddam, or his succeeding sons, would have handled the fall-out from Syria if his regime was still in place, as it probably would have been?

This argument leads us nowhere. We did invade Iraq and — much more recently — we didn’t intervene by taking out Assad’s air force in Syria. Whichever trench you want to occupy, sticking in it and lobbing verbal shells at the other side seems self-indulgent to me.

My second reason for declining to shoot my mouth off on late night telly was straightforward lack of expertise. And not just mine. I do my best to follow developments in Iraq and Syria as reported by brave journalists on the spot or as analysed by regional specialists, but it is practically impossible to get a good idea of what goes on in areas “controlled” by groups such as Isis.

Do they have the capacity actually to run — as opposed to terrorise — a city the size of Birmingham? What are the logistics of taking on the core of the Iraqi armed forces as they approach Baghdad?

Fifteen thousand fighters is a small basis from which to challenge a state, otherwise Isis might be in Damascus now, and remarkably little has been seen so far of the Iraqi air force.

Is the objective just to control a strategic slice of territory from which to launch terrorist attacks on anyone Isis doesn’t like? Or is it a fully fledged pre-2001 Afghan-style theocracy? And whose objective, exactly, are we talking about (how does a group like Isis make decisions anyhow)? I don’t know and I’m not picking up many convincing answers.

And third, given the above, I’m confused about what can be done about it. I mean, what realistically can be done about it, within the limitations of public opinion?

The nations of the “West” (by which I mean the liberal democracies) discuss defence in a peculiar way, as if the world had not changed in 30 years.

We quibble about the role of Nato and decide our defence budgets and force capabilities with minimal reference to each other. When the National Audit Office laid into the government over the reduction of the size of the Army yesterday, you would have thought that the rest of the world had simply vanished. It was just about us.

In fact most of our strategic interests are held in common and we — all of us — have some very big stakes in what is happening right now around Mosul. And it should be possible to work out together where we draw our lines in the sand.

The US State Department has already committed to “a strong, co-ordinated response to push back against this aggression”, which I imagine may mean helping, with the use of air power, to prevent further Isis movement. If so, a quid pro quo must be a renewed attempt at cross-sectarian peace-making.

Last week in the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq (KAR), peaceful for nearly a decade, relatively prosperous and relatively democratic, there was a report of protests by some villagers against Exxon Mobil exploration — peaceful protest, aimed at elected officials. The KAR and its 4.8 million inhabitants represent the one incontrovertible gain of the last Iraq war. We must do everything short of putting boots on the ground to help the Kurds to defend themselves against Isis and similar groups.

Britain and France should give President Obama whatever encouragement he needs to take this action, and render whatever assistance the Americans might require.


We don’t have to agree on anything else — 2003, WMD, Syrian red lines, whatever — just this.