So the Westminster establishment has begun air strikes in Syria alongside its band of neocolonialist thugs. David Cameron has warned that this will be no rapid intervention; the bombing will be sustained, the attacks ‘long term’. We have heard many guarantees about the precision capabilities of UK firepower, (Brimstone; the irony will not be lost upon us that a thoroughly biblical and hellish symbol is being used in an attempt to tame religious fundamentalists) and received assurances that civilian casualties will be kept to a minimum as Da’esh strongholds are targeted. Sadly we’ve been here before; rhetoric is not reality. There will be civilian casualties. As the news of this intervention slips from the headlines, countless bodies will be left marked. Rarely if at all considered, people with physical and mental disabilities will be created by this conflict. They will survive and remain as legacy, the living archives of war; though not an archive many will choose to acknowledge. They will be cast invisible by the political and corporate agents of this ‘intervention’.
We should be aware of the enormous death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan, and certainly for those who have cared to consider the reports received in the West, it will not have escaped your notice that these reports predominantly feature the loss of lives from within Western forces and organisations. As with the outpouring of support and grief for Paris, while global empathy did not flow so freely in the directions of Yola, Beirut or Ankara; our collective sympathies are steered (without too much question) in a colour coded, imperialist direction. A dangerous agenda can be read here. Not only are citizens in the West being spoon fed highly racialized information which focuses our attention on loss of life in and from regions (mainly Euro-American) deemed worthy of our solidarity by the powers that be; we are also being denied the possibility to acknowledge, and therefore demand action for those who become disabled as a result of the conflicts our government plays an instrumental role in.
Do disabled lives and the lives of people of colour really mean so little to the hyper capitalist imperialist project? I think most of us know the answer already, surely by now we can see it? There is no escaping the reek of postcolonial/neocolonial desire for power, and if I’m honest the current neoliberal narrative with its select absences, has overtones of eugenics. Bodies of little worth to Western rulers are rendered invisible not only by the corporate media but also militarily, with unmanned combat aerial vehicles/drones reducing people on the ground to digital representations; to coordinates. The inconvenient body is effectively disappeared from the conflict zone.
It’s too easy to resign in apathy as people the world over are rendered invalid; powerless and voiceless. It’s too easy to slip in to a ‘what can I do?’ mentality. There is no denying the privelege many peoples in the West enjoy, and there is also no denying how overwhelmeded many of us feel. However, I contend that this is a further luxury and privelege that we should not indulge. Simply by right of birth and/or residence, as citizens in the UK we have a degree of privelege which, for the moment, permits us to act. I am not suggesting a naive belief that the government can be sent off course and we can ‘change the world’. I am suggesting that if we discuss, write, protest, organise; read between the lines, read the missing parts, seek out the missing voices; we can at least try to erase our own blind spots, and the blind spots of others. Invisibility is lethal, we have to start talking about race and disability and war.
As internally displaced peoples (IDPs) and returning refugees attempt to navigate the shattered remains of their country in the years to come what infrastructure will be put in place, particularly for those with disabilities who are left with complex needs? How will public health infrastructure be reinstated? Will health and social care provision be addressed? Sanitation, food, water, housing, medical supplies and education; rehabilitation and care services, psychosocial support? These reports will never come, and the UK government will predictably carry on its rhetoric alongside its bloodthirsty rampage as it spills beyond Iraq and Syria.
We need to start understanding this behaviour and calling it out for exactly what it is: a fascist agenda which has allocated a hierarchy of worth to people’s lives, and furthermore has effectively mastered the art of rendering bodies it deems of no value, invisible.