War is sport, sport is war

I feel like I’m spoiling all the fun, but I find it distasteful to reduce the Libya campaign to a fo

IT'S WAR. The Sunday Mirror headline said it all. It wasn't quite the barely restrained glee of Chris Morris's presenter on The Day Today announcing the opening of hostilities, but it wasn't a bus ride away from it, either.

You can get a clue to how we see war by how newspapers are selling themselves through their front pages. The news-stands are covered with more explosions than human faces; the bombs are the story, and the message. One cloverleaf-shaped explosion in particular so beautifully conveys the story that it's on five front pages today. The bombs are the stars.

The Sun veered close to "Gotcha!" territory with today's headline, "TOP GUNS 1, MAD DOG 0", superimposed on the blast. This is war as a football match, war as a thing that can be counted in terms of a score. One-nil to us! "We", the Allied forces, are the "Top Guns"; we are Tom Cruise on a brave but necessary mission against one man, The Mad Dog, Muammar al-Gaddafi.

Other newspapers take a different approach. The Independent and Guardian sell themselves on human faces and, in the Guardian's case, the result of those pretty orange bomb clouds: dead bodies. And that brings the reality home. All of a sudden it isn't a cup tie, or a film with a stirring soundtrack where the goodies defeat the baddies, or a distant kaboom on a strip of desert: this is something very real.

Whatever the arguments, or the case for intervention, or the case for intervening in Libya instead of, say, Bahrain or Yemen, this isn't a football match. This isn't a Hollywood film. This isn't one-nil. This isn't half-time. Those beautiful cloverleaf explosions will have people inside them . . . I feel like I'm spoiling everyone's fun, but there it is. I find it a little distasteful to reduce the military campaign to a football score, an away win, a penalty kick.

The Sun was just carrying on the good work from the News of the World yesterday, whose front-page "BLOWN TO BRITS" explosion and cut-out missile carried the same message. Just in case you had any lingering doubts about who was The Bad Guy, the subs helpfully put Gaddafi's face in bright red cross-hairs. To further stoke the jingoism, we were told it was "our boys" who were making the things explode.

This, then, is the tabloid glee of war. Our Boys are attacking The Mad Dog, and it's one-nil already. How can we not support it? How can we not be shocked and awed by the beautiful photos of explosions, the family-friendly pictures, without mangled corpses or that messy business that gets left behind when the clouds disappear? IT'S WAR. War is sport, sport is war. Look away now if you don't want to know the score.

Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media
Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

The government's motion on bombing Syria

Read the full text.

That this house:

Notes that Isil poses a direct threat to the United Kingdom

Welcomes United Nations Security Council Resolution 2249 which determines that Isil constitutes an ‘unprecedented threat to international peace and security’ and calls on states to take ‘all necessary measures’ to prevent terrorist acts by Isil and to ‘eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria’;

Further notes the clear legal basis to defend the UK and our allies in accordance with the UN Charter;

Notes that military action against Isil is only one component of a broader strategy to bring peace and stability to Syria;

Welcomes the renewed impetus behind the Vienna talks on a ceasefire and political settlement;

Welcomes the Government’s continuing commitment to providing humanitarian support to Syrian refugees; underlines the importance of planning for post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction in Syria;

Welcomes the Government’s continued determination to cut Isil’s sources of finance, fighters, and weapons; notes the requests from France, the US and regional allies for UK military assistance;

Acknowledges the importance of seeking to avoid civilian casualties; using the UK’s particular capabilities;

Notes the Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations;

Welcomes the Government’s commitment to provide quarterly progress reports to the House;

And accordingly supports Her Majesty’s Government in taking military action, specifically airstrikes, exclusively against Isil in Syria;

And offers its wholehearted support to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.