See what happens when we skimp on foreign aid?

A brave, courageous, gallant, valiant, freedom-loving, democracy-supporting [insert your own modifier] Syrian rebel Khalid al-Hamad has had to resort to desperate measures.

Driven to distraction by Assad’s stubbornness and the West’s meanness, he has decided to emphasise the plight of Syrian democracy-fighters by using every advantage of modern technology.

In a video that has gone viral on the Internet, he cuts open the body of an Alawite soldier, pulls the heart out and eats some of it. He then gives a Skype interview to Time magazine, justifying his action.

Some squeamish commentators are appalled, and indeed the video is strictly 18-rated (‘some viewers may find some of the images disturbing’). Words like ‘cannibalism’, ‘inhumanity’, ‘savagery’ are still being bandied about mindlessly.

Such haters of democracy miss the point. Yes, Abu Sakkar (Khalid’s nom de guerre), a Sunni born and bred, professed hatred for the Shiite Alawite sect and, by extrapolation, the Shiites in general. Yes, he did say, as he was munching on his chosen organ meat, ‘I hope we’ll slaughter them all.’ (Presumably, all of the world’s 163 million Shiites, but who’s counting? Numbers don’t change the principle.) And yes, such actions and statements may ostensibly justify some of the outrage the video has caused.

But only ostensibly. The commentators simply refuse to go to the heart of the matter, as it were. They refuse to acknowledge that any fighter for democracy in the Middle East is driven exclusively by noble, charitable motives. What they all have in their heart, as it were, is a desire to live as free men (and women!) under conditions of universal suffrage and parliamentary representation.

As we all know, such conditions are both essential and sufficient for the universal propagation of human goodness. Any man who fights for democracy is fighting for virtue – indeed he’s the very embodiment of virtue, a sort of St Francis, Mother Teresa and Good Samaritan all rolled into one.

This means that Abu doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, nor any malice in his heart, as it were. The poor man – and I’m proud of realising this – was just peckish.

Why does he, and by extrapolation all Syrian democracy-fighters, have to go hungry, barefoot and unarmed? Look deep into your own heart, as it were, and you’ll find the answer: they are starved of our supplies. That’s what drives them to dining on things not manifestly designed for human consumption.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s all society’s fault. Our society’s, to be exact. And if you don’t believe me, listen to our PM Dave who always takes the interests of democracy – and only such interests! – to heart, as it were.

‘Look,’ he said at an American press conference, and I love every sentence that starts that way, ‘if we don’t help the Syrian opposition who we do recognise as legitimate, who’ve signed up to a future for Syria that’s democratic, then extremism will grow.’

Hear, hear. Up with democracy, down with poncy words like ‘whom’ – ‘who’ is so much cosier, closer to the people, so much more democratic and therefore virtuous.

A Foreign Office mandarin bearing the traditional stiff-upper-lip mandarin name of Reza Afshar went into greater detail but stayed in the same spirit. Mr Afshar thinks the EU weapons embargo must be lifted immediately to encourage ‘the good guys’ like Sakkar to negotiate with ‘the bad guys’ like Assad.

‘The political reality,’ explained the man who runs Syria for the FCO, ‘is that in order to get them to the table we need to amend the arms embargo. It is that simple. They need an incentive.’  All sides in the Syrian conflict have access to weapons, lamented Mr Afshar, ‘except the good guys’ – like Sakkar.

Everything Dave and the mandarin tell us is God’s own truth. But it’s not the whole truth. For it’s not only weapons that the democracy-fighters are lacking but demonstrably also food.

In fact, several other videos starring Sakkar and his friends show him handling some fairly sophisticated kit, like multi-barrel grenade launchers, not to mention Kalashnikovs. But in that part of the world these don’t really count as weapons; they’re more like children’s toys. Still, by playing with such toys democracy enthusiasts have managed to make significant advances against ‘the bad guys’.

It’s food that they most urgently need, and Abu Sakkar’s take on gastronomy drives this point home. So I hope you’ll join me in putting pressure on Dave and other world leaders to strike a blow for the triumph of goodness (and taste).

Lift the weapons embargo, by all means – and if this involves a transfer of low-yield nuclear weapons to ‘the good guys’, then so much the better. However, we must also at least double our overall foreign-aid budget, for there are many other ‘good guys’ out there whose Swiss bank accounts are going as hungry as Sakkar obviously is.

Above all, let’s campaign for an immediate airlift of food to Abu Sakkar and his friends. God only knows what they’ll eat next if we suppress our charitable impulses. Ladies and gentlemen, have a heart! As it were.



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