The United Kingdom has entered into the war against the Islamic State in a direct way. Parliament has approved air strikes but with the caveat that the strikes are in Iraq only.

Clearly Prime Minister David Cameron was afraid to push for strikes in the whole area taken over by the IS because of his humiliating defeat on the issue in the House of Commons in August of last year. This has led to a situation where British military efforts are undermined by their own refusal to recognize the fact that the border between Iraq and Syria no longer exists. Having said that the British contribution is so small in military terms that having the Royal Air Force concentrate only in Iraq won’t affect the overall strategy. The British decision to get involved in the war, even in this limited way is important diplomatically. The US needs as many major European allies contributing to the war effort as possible.

Cameron has been very clear on the strategy for Syria itself, speaking on the BBC he said;

We have a Syria strategy which is to build up the Free Syrian Army [and] the Syrian National Coalition to achieve a political transition in Syria. But I wanted to take the House of Commons proposals that I could achieve consensus with to make sure Britain was playing its role in this coordinated action across both parties.”

But this is only really half the story. The newspaper the Daily Mirror has reported that British intelligence officials have been in contact with Assad’s representatives for months already. It makes sense, there are British hostages being held in Syria, Cameron has already said that if there is a good chance of being able to rescue them he’ll authorize the operation. Assad is well placed to be able to provide the intelligence the British are looking for. While it makes sense it displays a breath taking amount of cynicism. While purportedly fighting against the Islamic State because of the danger it poses to people the British are negotiating with the man who is the biggest butcher the world has seen since Mao.

Despite all of his words about strategy with the Free Syrian Army taking on Assad it is clear that the British are simply looking for a dictator to bring back stability. They are giving him a license to kill so long as he doesn’t kill anyone with a British passport. Remember the people Assad killed with poison gas? All he needed to do was give up his supply of chemical weapons and the world let him off the hook. I haven’t heard anyone talking about a war crimes trial for Assad when all this is over.

In the rubble of what were once the states of Syria and Iraq crimes are being committed to which we all bear witness. The genocide taking place is not being concealed, quite the opposite, it’s being flaunted before us. And there are more crimes lying beneath the beheadings and the crucifixions and other miseries being perpetrated by the IS in the name of Islam.

When the American sponsored government of al Maliki in Iraq inflamed support for al Qaeda in Iraq by massacring Sunnis no one said a word. Sunnis who then turned to and strengthened the monster that is now IS. No doubt many of them now regret their decision. But it’s too late for them, in the same way that it’s too late for the hundreds, if not thousands of deluded young Muslims who left their homes in the West to fight for this so called Islamic State.

Everyone knows that Assad murders tens of thousands, nigh hundreds of thousands of his own people using bullets and bombs and gas and missiles. No one wanted to get involved until a monster emerged from the ashes of Babylon and started beheading Westerners on television. Now everyone wants to get involved. With barely a whisper of how to ensure that the killing stops or of stopping the man with the most blood on his hands.

We sit and watch this unfolding tragedy while shrugging our shoulders. It occurs to me that we have the answer to the question often asked of the Holocaust “how could this happen?”

It’s because while genocide happens it’s easy to watch uncaring. They aren’t our people, the political situation is unfavourable and the military situation is unfavourable. All are excellent reasons not to get involved and only one to intervene; people are being massacred without end.

It makes me realize just what a hollow refrain the words “never again” are. If you want to know how genocide happens simply pay attention to what’s going on around you right now and ask yourself how it’s possible that the politicians who speak the loudest about human rights are now arguing most vocally against helping those who are most in need.