The Guardian (London) - March 30, 1999

Mark Steel

Not just any refugee gets on television news. They must hold auditions.
Kurds, for example, are obviously not photogenic enough. It's a shame,
as they've worked so hard to get the part.

According to the Turkish parliament's own investigation, in 15 years 4,000
Kurdish villages have been destroyed by Turkish security forces,
leaving 30,000 dead, and 3 million driven from their homes. But they don't
even get a cameo. Still, that's showbiz.

It's difficult to intervene in every conflict, but there is something the
West can do about other humanitarian disasters. In East Timor, where
hundreds of thousands have been slaughtered by the Indonesian army, there
is one military strategy which might just help. They could stop
supplying the weapons.

Maybe the Foreign Office feels this would be extremely risky, in a
mountainous area with an unpredictable climate, but surely it's worth a
try. In Iraq, where 6,000 a month are dying as a result of sanctions, they
could try lifting the sanctions. It may just work. If Blair and
Clinton refuse to agree, they could phone each other up, both come on TV
wringing their hands about a grave humanitarian disaster, and
threaten to bomb themselves.

'If I refuse to listen to reason, we have a moral duty to compel me to back
down with force,' they could say in their broadcast.

And with Turkey, they could stop being an economic and military ally. If
only the Kurds had a better agent.

There are other clues as to whether the West has developed a conscience
over Kosovo. As the Kosovars flee, New Labour are hammering
through legislation to restrict refugees coming to Britain. Which could
make for some peculiar government statements . 'As the appalling flood
of tragic refugees hits our borders, we have to stiffen our resolve against
Serb atrocities. Mind you, how do we know they're not making the
whole thing up? Don't think you can ride in here on the back of a cart and
get accommodation, mate.'

And what an unconvincing double act which takes place every day, to
convince us the bombs have hit their targets. None of the ones they show
us ever miss. Even George Robertson admitted that 60 per cent of smart
bombs in Iraq missed their target, so surely they should occasionally
say: 'Here's the weapons factory we were aiming for. And here goes our
cruise missile - wallop, a direct hit of a furniture store on the other
side of the road. Never mind.'

So it's a shame that so many liberals have proved that they're marvellous
at opposing wars, as long as they ended at least 15 years ago. The
first world war and the Falklands they berate as a waste of life, but this
time it is a just war, they plead, just as their counterparts did in
1914 and 1982.

Their argument is that we have to do something, which is true. But cheering
on a military machine designed for carving up the planet is a
worse a