Let's call the whole thing off.
Yep, the big fight in parliament this week has been over what the BBC calls Islamic State. The fiends in charge of news at Auntie have been calling Islamic State Islamic State, with the reasoning that's what Islamic State is called. Apparently though this name is deeply discomforting, not to Muslims who know full well they're not being tarred with the same brush by a broadcaster referring to a terrorist group by its actual name, but to politicians who instead insist on calling Islamic State Isil. Which is an acronym of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Or there's others who insist on referring to Islamic State by the acronym Daesh, which is arrived at via Islamic State's literal Arabic name, al-Dawla al-Islamiya fil Iraq wa’al Sham. Only this was mainly adopted in the first place because it sounds like the Arabic term Dahes, which means to sow discord, and so is meant pejoratively.
The debate is, all but needless to say, unbelievably fucking stupid. All of the names have problems: calling the group by what it calls itself should be the obvious thing to do, but then the media have almost never done so previously. IS originates from the group started by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which fairly swiftly pledged allegiance to al-Qaida, and so became known as al-Qaida in Iraq, the name it was almost always referred to as by the media up until last year. It in fact went through two more name changes, becoming the Mujahideen Shura Council for a time, before changing to the simple Islamic State of Iraq at the height of its (then) control of Iraqi territory. The Guardian, for instance, tends to split the difference and call it Isis, which makes something approaching sense as referring to Syria as either the Levant or Sham, both archaic terms, is exceptionally daft.
According to David Cameron, calling Islamic State Islamic State is misleading and potentially damaging as it is neither Islamic nor a state. To which one response should be: how about you go and tell Mr al-Baghdadi to his face that his group isn't Islamic and the territory it holds doesn't amount to a state, Dave? I envision a scene akin to the one from Mars Attacks, where President Jack Nicholson delivers a why can't we all be friends speech with such passion it brings tears to the Martian leader's eyes. They shake hands, then a contraption pierces Nicholson straight through the heart and a little Martian flag pops out the end. Even if you agree with Cameron, that doesn't alter the fact that if you use Isil or Daesh you're still calling it Islamic State, you're just not spelling the damn thing out. If we're going to be precious about it, we might as well just call them Those Murderous Jihadist Cunts and be done with it.
Part of the reason our leaders have been squabbling about what the BBC is doing is, predictably, because they haven't gone the first clue about what to do to respond to the attack in Tunisia. If you start claiming there's going to be a full spectrum response against a group that poses an "existential threat" while not actually doing anything new you are rather asking for it. Hence the feelers put out today about extending airstrikes into Syria itself, which to give the government its due, isn't as cretinous an idea as it once was. It's fairly pointless being opposed to ourselves chucking bombs at IS in Syria when the Americans have been doing it for nigh on 10 months now, especially when it's long been obvious they have been informing the Syrians of where they're going to be targeting.
It's also fairly pointless to be opposed because just chucking bombs at IS has been shown to be fairly pointless. IS controls more territory in the two countries now than they did when the airstrikes began: the only times they've had an effect has been in Kobane, where the Kurds were effectively allied with the US and calling in strikes themselves, in breaking the siege on Mount Sinjar, and in softening up the IS forces on the ground ahead of advances by the Iraqi "army", i.e. the Shia militias that are now the de facto army. As the new chair of the foreign affairs committee Crispin Blunt said this morning, joining in the strikes now adds up to nothing more than sharing the burden of attacks with the Americans, while putting the country into a legally grey area. IS cannot be defeated from the air: the gains against it have only been won in partnership with ground forces. Without a stronger ally in both Iraq and Syria, and neither the Kurdish militias or the Shia equivalent can be that ally, IS isn't going anywhere.
The Americans have been complaining for a while there is no strategy for defeating IS, and that's because the current stalemate seems preferable, terrible as it is to the alternatives. If we swallow our pride and ally with Assad now despite everything, we risk driving the jihadis fighting IS back into their arms. Even if IS was pushed back into Iraq solely, that won't change the fact the country's Sunnis in the main welcomed the jihadis because of the discrimination and contempt they faced under Maliki, which hasn't gone away. Nor do they rate their chances of survival when faced with the militias that previously acted as death squads at the time of the all out civil conflict. The only realistic solutions are federalism or complete partition, with three separate states, something that would be opposed by all sides (excepting the Kurds), all of whom still believe everything can return to how things stood this time last year without explaining how. Faced with these options, it's not surprising politicians would rather chide the BBC than explain how desperate the situation is for the people in the region, if not in truth for us. That Iraq war, eh?
Staying with that thought, here's some number crunching:
187 - number of Syrian refugees so far granted asylum in the UK under the Vulnerable Person Relocation scheme
664 - number of children Nicholas Winton, who died yesterday, helped to escape the Nazis in 1939