There are tyrants and there are tyrants, despots and dictatorships, friends and enemies.
Those we bomb, those we lovebomb, those we set out to topple those we prop up and provide the means to topple others, often at our behest.
The loudest, clearest examples of type right now are Saudi Arabia and Syria. The loudest in every sense, what with all the explosions and cries of human suffering, the clearest solely in so far as they are apparent – for little is clear in terms of knowing precisely what is afoot in either closed, murky land.
Take our pals Saudi Arabia. They buy our weapons, buy prime real estate by the acre in our former capital now city state London, enjoy Royal visits to and fro, have flags flown at half-mast when their great and good leave this mortal coil...
Meanwhile, we all get glimpses of medieval terror. An oppressive regime of beheadings (hundreds every year, more than ISIS in 2015), torture (floggings, amputation), routine arrest and imprisonment of dissidents, including Christians (a key reason Westminster Abbey’s half-mast flag upon the death of King Abdullah caused such upset).
Then there is the Yemen. Since March, Saudi Eurofighter Typhoons have pounded this long turbulent small nation – now in the grip of civil war – with lethal consequences for thousands of non-combatants.
Two weeks ago the UN Human Rights Commissioner said at least 941 civilians had been killed as a direct result of these airstrikes, and UNICEF estimate on average eight Yemeni children die every day.
Yet our friends they remain. Not so, bad President Bashar Assad, son of the dictator Hafez al-Assad, who led Syria for 30 years, until junior picked up the reins in 2000.
Twice ‘elected’ (no opposition), he has proved himself his father’s son, continuing without skipping a beat the reign of repression, torture, and political assassination.
Since 2011 battling an enormous US -sponsored insurgency, and now ISIS, too, Assad has prosecuted the war with maximum prejudice.
Thus around 200,000 have died, mostly combatants on both sides, along with guessed at thousands of civilians. A bad man in a terrible situation can only lead to tragedy.
Yet the logic we apply in each case is inconsistent, and this has troubled me for years.
Then suddenly I remembered. Orwell had explained our leaders’ approach in this regard 70 years ago!
He called it ‘doublethink’.