LABOUR'S FUTURE - LIBERTARIAN SOCIALISM?
Peter Hain's comments last week that the government will have to take a more radical stance in order to regain its standing after the war, were treated as though such a new agenda would merely be a cynical way to win back support and that Labour would need to 'look left' again after spending so much time at the side of George Bush Jr.
But I think there is much more to Peter Hain than this. He is one of the most interesting figures in the government, and the party as a whole. I mean for goodness sake he is a New Labour minister who is not a afraid to use the 'S-word' or for that matter the 'L-word'!
In this month's edition of Progress Hain gives a more detailed explanation of what kind of radicalism he is talking about - he uses both words and calls it libertarian socialism:
Pioneers like the Levellers, Agitators and Diggers from the mid-seventeenth century – or, later, Tom Paine, the Chartists, Robert Owen, William Morris and GDH Cole – were libertarian, not state, socialists. They were committed egalitarians. But, crucially, they were also inspired by liberal values of individual freedom and justice.
Meanwhile, trade unions and political organisations evolved from a series of self-governing societies, groups and institutions not dependent upon some central apparatus. They were part of a radical democratic tradition later joined by the Chartists and still later by the suffragettes......
"We have the chance to a build a political legacy that we can look back on with pride. Our rich history shows that our movement was founded through democracy and freedom, and the decentralisation of control, ownership and decision-making. Too often, we on the left have talked as though we are about control and centralisation or about nothing. Past governments have sounded paternalistic and managerial, rather than empowering and liberating.
"It is in libertarian socialism that our true roots lie – and on its application to localism on which our success as a government will depend. In returning to those values, we can see the route-map by which we can unite around a future vision for Labour. "
posted by BA on 7:49 AM link
MEDIA BIAS AND THE WAR
"Truth is the first casualty of war" - how many times have you heard or read that old cliche in recent weeks? I'm sick of hearing it.
Of course only a fool believes the propaganda that comes out of the mouth of officials of the fascist regime in Baghdad who seem to believe that the best way to get the media to take them seriously is to wave an AK-47 at them. Likewise only an idiot fails to take Pentagon briefings without a large dose of salt. Lies, half-lies and attempts to mislead the media are to be expected and merely the fact that the information is coming from Donald Rumsfeld should be enough to instill a sense of perspective in most viewers.
This attempted manipulation would be a problem if the media just spoonfed the spin to the public - but to be honest I don't think they are. Almost every time I have heard a reporter from the Pentagon on Sky News, it has been followed by a warning along the lines of, "of course the Pentagon are going to say that" and reminders that both sides are going to try and use the media for their own purposes - and quite right too.
And yet constantly there are claims that the media is biased in its coverage.
The favoured message board of the British student/schoolkid protestors at Urban 75 is full of moaning that their protests have been ignored by a biased pro-war BBC. Anti-war mailing lists are full of posts claiming that the media is sensationalising/sanitising the war and cynically ignoring the 'peace' protestors.
Now at a time when soilders and civilians are dying and that major cities are being bombed I think most broadcasters can be forgiven for focusing on the major warfare rather than a bunch of kids running around London. But the fact is that the BBC are not ignoring these protests - look here kids!
Such complaints are fairly predictable fodder from that section of the far-left who somehow operate under the fantasy that the BBC and other media organisations are staffed by hardline, right-wingers and government stooges and who have reached such a level of cynicism that they take the old cliche "don't believe everything you read in the papers" and have turned into "don't believe anything you read in the papers".
But the right-wing are just as bad. Take one of conservative America's favourite Anglo commentators - Andrew Sullivan. whose blog bristles with suggestions that the likes of Reuters, the New York Times, the Guardian and yes, of course, the BBC are soft on Saddam or secretly willing defeats for the US.
So the BBC are annoying the conspiracy theorists of the far left and at the same time are accused of actually being the far left by the right. What does that tell you? It tells me they are probably doing about OK.
Yes I know that there are a lot of 'liberal lovies' at the Beeb, yes I know they had to send a memo out to staff before the Feb 15 demonstration and there are times when my eyebrows have been raised by some of the coverage of the pre-war debate. But I really do feel the reporters out their in the field for all the major news organisations are doing their best to bring us good information on what is going on.
Let's be honest, the much vaunted 'Blogosphere' is made up of people sat safely behind our PCs with 24-hour news channels in the background, posting smartass comments to websites. Meanwhile scores of reporters are out in the desert somewhere, liable to be shot at, in order to feed us the information we need.
Just watch all those pro-war bloggers post the pictures of liberated Iraqis triumphantly - pictures taken by a photographer who has entered a war zone knowing he could become a target or a prisoner.
Just watch all those anti-war bloggers post stories of civilian casualties written by journalists who have risked becoming one themselves to bring them the story.
There are real ethical questions to be asked about how close reporters have got to the military but I think they deserve a bit better than to be accused of working for biased organisations or having some hidden agenda.
Update: If you think I was exaggerating Sullivan is calling the BBC the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation .
posted by BA on 6:58 AM link
MEDIA AND WAR
I'm watching Sky News most of the time. It really is the best 24 hour news channel around and far preferable to CNN these days, although I have been flicking to Fox News to get a, ahem, different perspective on things.
Actually, in terms of reporting Fox is not really as bad as people make out. The political punditry in the run-up to war and the hilarious O'Rielly Factor do live up to their rabid Republican reputation but they have people well 'embedded' with the forces and also there is that blonde woman who presents the news bulletin.....
One of the good things about Sky is because of the Murdoch link-up if Fox get a breaking story then they can plug into it - so you really don't miss much. The tone of Sky is pacey with the need for speedy coverage of breaking news but it also has the ability to take a 'broadsheet step back and look'. And they allow people with accents to be on their programmes as well.
The true info junkie has the tv coverage buzzing in the background while browsing the web. But if this is going to be the war that makes the weblogs I haven't seen any sign of it yet - among Britblogs at any rate. However it is interesting that the BBC has started a warblog based on input from their reporters in the field - it is very good and well worth tracking.
posted by BA on 8:22 AM link
NO FLAGS PLEASE, WE'RE BRITISH
That US flag I was talking about has been removed from Umm Qasr
posted by BA on 6:51 AM link
WHO CAN STOP THE PROTESTS?
These people can - and do you believe the spokesman's version of events?
posted by BA on 1:53 PM link
WE WILL NOT FLY OUR FLAGS
"We go to liberate not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country" Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish.
Our allies are predictably less sensitive.
posted by BA on 1:19 PM link
LIB DEMS - UNITED IN OPPORTUNISM?
I think I can be excused for (mistakenly?) describing blogger Nick Barlow as a 'leftie' when he is in fact a Liberal Democrat can't I?
After all did his party leader not share a platform with the Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party on the Feb 15 demo? Did Lib Dem MP's not support Jeremy Corbyn and co in parliament when it came to the vote over Iraq on Tuesday?
Blair has consistently simply laughed at the Lib Dems but the Tories are worried about their growing popularity and so they really went for Charles Kennedy in Tuesday's debate in the house, heckling and disrupting his speech throughout.
This approach has been replicated in Blogland by Peter Cuthbertson, who gets all worked up and accuses the Lib Dems of "hating Britain" and in doing so uses one of the oldest political tricks in the book : "I don't use the word "traitor" lightly, and I will not use it here," he says. You just did Peter.
Not surprisingly Nick is not impressed. "In the same spirit I would like to state that I don't use the words 'Peter Cuthbertson is a drug-dealing Nazi who regularly pimps member of his immediate family to pay for his crack habit' lightly, and I won't use them here."
Good stuff and glad to see the spirit of student politics has finally reached the far too polite world of blog debate.
But what is going on with the Lib Dems? Are they strategically re-positioning themselves as a new, radical voice in left opposition to Labour? Or are they opportunistically trying to ride the wave of discontent about war? Or, heaven forbid, are they actually taking a principled position?
Chris Bertram pops over to Matthew Turner's blog and writes this comment to defend his view that the Lib Dem MP's might not all be taking a principled rather than opportunist position.
"My point is this. The Iraq war, like all the major international conflicts since Yugoslavia, has divided not left from right but rather has caused divisions right along the traditional spectrum. People on the left, like Nick Cohen, have supported war and some Conservatives have opposed it. There's a complex issue of great moral significance and people in both of the main political parties have examined their consciences and have decided that they must disagree with one another.
The Lib Dems have 50-odd MPs. It may be that they have all considered the issue and come to the same conclusion as one another; alternatively, some of them have disagreed but have given greater weight to the need for party unity and advantage and so have suppressed the fact of their disagreement. Which explanation of LibDem unanimity do you find more compelling? "
Well, having had some experience of Lib Dem 'community politics' over the years I have never for one moment doubted their opportunism.
British Spin understands the realpolitik of what Kennedy is up to, even if of course he doesn't agree with their position. He also makes another appeal for a job from Alistair Campbell: "Where is the file contrasting (Paddy) Ashdown on Kosovo with Kennedy on Iraq? That's what we need. Go on, Spin write him one, you never know!
My view is that while probably some LibDem MP's have consciously taken an opportunist position (for the reasons Chris Bertram outlined) their position is entirely in keeping with their role in British politics. In short they represent the same constituency as the Trotty left.
The Lib Dems have always appealed to and drawn their members from the left-leaning public-sector middle-class, in particular those elements of it who who couldn't face the straight talking working class members and the 'beer and sandwiches' atmosphere in the Labour Party and who feel that the problem with the ultra-left is that "their hearts are in the right place but they are a bit loud".
It is surely no coincidence that the most irritating elements of the far left are drawn from the public sector middle class and share the same social background as most Lib Dems. They are the people who I suspect despise John Prescott and David Blunkett as much for their 'awful' working class accents as their supposedly 'social authoritarianism'.
So we really shouldn't be surprised at this sudden alliance of the Lib Dems with the far left. The truth is that the anti-war movement is a largely southern middle class movement - it is the natural home for both Trots and Lib Dems.
Both factions contain people unable to take tough, difficult discussions, people who are never able to translate their much vaunted 'internationalism' into any form of concrete action, people who never actually have to take responsibility for anything other than trying to block any meaningful reform of the public services they are paid by the working people of this country to deliver.
I don't use the phrase 'Guardian-readers' lightly and I shall not do so here.
Update: Views of Liberal Democrat dissident Richard Moore in the Spectator
posted by BA on 10:13 AM link
'COMEDIAN' MARK STEEL
Just isn't very funny is he?
posted by BA on 7:43 AM link
KANAN MAKIYA - IRAQI DEMOCRACY WATCH
Kanan Makiya, a leading Iraqi dissident and intellectual and one of the key figures in the bid to ensure the US takes the democratic road in a post-Saddam Iraq will be reacting to developments in Iraq over the next several weeks in a "War Diary" for The New Republic. Well worth keeping a check on but you will need to register.
posted by BA on 5:14 AM link
I forwarded the Johann Hari item from the post below to the Red Pepper Debate list in the form an 'appeal to the anti-war movement' to see if there were any among the leftist supporters of the Stop the War Coalition who would back the switching of slogan to Democracy for Iraq.
As I said below, I think many mainstream anti-war activists could be won to such a position, but clearly the Trotskyite element will not.
Here are excerpts from three of the first responses to the call to back a call for Iraqi democracy:
1. Democracy for Iraq is the pointless slogan - Democracy with a US Military occupation? CIA sponsored democracy under the figleaf of the
United Nations? What colour are the skies on your planet?
Stop the War is more relevant than ever - once we are at War it willbecome a battle cry of Youth and the disenfranchised of Britain to attempt to bring down the Government and stop the war.
There is no choice - all choice has been removed by the actions of Bush and Blair. The only choice now is between supporting Imperialism or fighting actively against it.
2. If indeed "Stop the War is now a pointless slogan", it would be more to the point, would it not, to unite around demands for democracy for
the United Kingdom?
3. Johann Hari is a pro-war activist. How dare he tell those who are opposed to this criminal war how they should proceed.
Tory Boy links to some of the real nasty stuff from the Guardian Talk boards with the nastier wing of the anti-war movement hoping for large scale casualties.
posted by BA on 9:59 AM link
WHAT NOW FOR THE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT?
The anti-war left now faces a major problem.
It was of course perfectly logical for them to continue to call for opposition to war as long as there was a chance that war could be avoided but while they may not accept, with some reason, that they have lost the arguement in Britain, they must accept that 'Stop the War' is now a useless slogan.
The anti-war movement know that they must adapt to the new situation but will they? One of their leading propagandists Paul Foot argues in the Guardian today against the 'now-you-should-back-our-boys' argument and mocks the Liberal Democrats for taking a line of opposition to war but then support for troops in action.
Foot says:This political doublethink seems to have struck down all sorts of people in high places. They see no case for war. They know that the war was planned long ago in the Pentagon and the White House, and that all the wrangling in the UN has been a cynical irrelevance. They know that their arguments, and those of millions of people all over the world, have been contemptuously ignored by their elected leaders. But as soon as "our fighting men" go into action, they argue, all opposition should cease and our fighting men backed to the hilt of their bayonets in their bloody work. This seems to me utterly perverse.
Personally I cannot for the life of me see how anyone, even someone viruently opposed to the rationale for this war, would not want a swift victory for the allied forces. That does not mean, as the likes of Foot pretend, that the only choice is between wrapping yourself in a Union Jack or calling for the war to be halted.
It is predictable that Foot chooses to present the choice as one of commitment to the cause or submission to jingoism - if that is the line that the Stop the War Coaltion, led by Foot's Socialist Workers Party, choose to take, their support may vanish as quickly as it emerged. It is though, an example of the depressingly simplistic sloganising that has characterised much of the anti-war movement.
Another Guardian writer Jonathan Freedland has been the voice of the more reasoned anti-war position, more of a doubter than a rigid 'anti' and he presents a different approach to the new situation than Foot.
"Should those who have argued against this war want it to go well or badly? " asks Freedland - and does it not speak volumes that he even needs to ask this rhetorical question to the left?
Freedland says that is perfectly acceptable for opponents of this war to continue to defend their position, to continue to offer a critique while at the same time he chastens those on the left who might find it emotionally difficult to witness a British-US victory:
Only the pettiest and most small-minded peacenik would want American or British troops to die just to bring the satisfaction of saying "I told you so". Those who wish this war had never happened should now want it to end as swiftly and painlessly as possible - in a US-British victory. The ideal outcome would be an instant decapitation of Saddam and his vicious regime, leaving the body of Iraqi society intact. The longer the war drags on, the more pounding that is inflicted, the more Iraqi civilians will die.
I think the vast majority of the 750,000 people who marched on February 15 in London will probably go along with Freedland on this. They will remain critical but they will also hope for the best. The result will be that the Trotskyist leadership of the Stop the War Coalition, clinging to their utterly stupid notion of 'revolutionary defeatism', will be isolated from their temporary supporters. Should they fail to change their slogans and their approach they will find themselves returning to the political ghetto where frankly most of them belong.
For the mainstream left though there is a real chance for the division between the 'pro' and 'anti' camps to be healed and for us to come back together in a common cause.
That cause is, as Johann Hari eloquently describes in the Independent, democracy in Iraq.
Forget trying to stop George Bush and Tony Blair's war plans, that game is over. Instead focus your energy on making sure that a post-Saddam gets humanitarian support and that those who support a democratic post-Saddam Iraq win the day.
This is the choice that Hari believes Clare Short has taken. She realised that war was going to happen and she realised that she had a chance to boost the chances of a progressive end scenario by staying in government rather than joining the ranks of the one-day opposition.
That should be an example to the rest of the anti-war left says Hari:
For the sake of the Iraqi people, whatever your views on removing President Saddam, join her in trying to move this situation in a constructive direction rather than wishing it wasn't happening. If only all of the people who joined the anti-war movement had instead fought to turn this into a humanitarian intervention à la Kosovo, the conflict would already look very different. It is not too late: there is plenty you can do now to help Iraqis.
If you are going to march, ditch the old, cheap slogans to "stop the war". Call instead for democracy in Iraq. The Bush administration and its allies are divided on this issue. There are big players calling for post-war democracy, like Paul Wolfowitz, Tony Blair and Clare Short, and others like Dick Cheney and Colin Powell calling for another dictatorship, albeit a less horrific one.
We, as people who live in democracies, have the capacity to strengthen the hand of the democrats and weaken the autocrats. Another march against the war will achieve nothing now, but marches across the world calling for democracy could tip the balance in this direction. Now is the time to stand in solidarity with the Iraqi democrats, who have called all along for intervention and need our support.
So I appeal to the Stop the War coalition: shift your energies now to post-war Iraq, as Ms Short has. Listen to the Iraqi exiles and to the aid agencies who will be working in the country, and act as they are begging you to. My friend Sama Hadad is one of the leading figures in the Iraqi Prospect Organisation, a group of Iraqi exiles and their children, who have been trying to help people to understand that their Iraqi relatives – still trapped in the prison of President Saddam's Iraq – want and need this war. She says: "Whether you are pro-war or anti-war, what my Iraqi relatives and friends need now is help once the monster Saddam is gone. If only all the energy put into trying to stop this war could be put into helping Iraqis now to build democracy – that is my dream."
Hari then makes a direct appeal to the anti-war movement:
When, after the war, the Iraqi people are crying out for help – will the anti-war movement still spend its energies pointing out out that the US president is an oil-loving moron? Or will they take up the Iraqi cause? If raging against Bush proves more urgent than rebuilding Iraq, they will indeed have been proved to be motivated by hatred rather than compassion.
I do not think it will happen: I have more faith in my friends in the anti-war movement than that. They will surely see that the urgent priority now must be to ensure that the people who die in this war – and there will be thousands of them – lose their lives not to clear the way for another American-approved tyrant but for the noble cause of Iraqi democracy and freedom. That fight is not over: it is only just beginning. Side with the Iraqi democrats – and Mr Blair and Mr Wolfowitz and Ms Short – and we are more likely to get through this to an honourable, democratic and – at last – peaceful Iraq.
Perhaps Hari is being over-confident about the anti-war movement but I hope not and he is absolutely right about what should be done.
What he doesn't say, but is equally true, is that those of us on the left who have supported war on the grounds that it will benefit an oppressed people and will liberate them from a fascist regime, have a big responsibility now to make sure that those who carry out this war do keep their promises to the Iraqi people.
There can be no 1991 betrayal again. There can be no sell-out to some Saddam-free Ba'ath Party regime. There can be no military regime. There may be a great temptation on the parts of the US/UK powers to cut a deal at some stage in the war with anti-Saddam plotters who have no interest in democracy. There are still some in the US administration who do not wish to go down the democratic route in Iraq.
We can, as Hari rightly does, urge the anti-war movement to rejoin us in support of democracy for Iraq, but we must make sure that having presented ourselves as the champions of the Iraqi people's cause, we live up to our responsibilities.
posted by BA on 1:57 AM link
AARONOVITCH ON LINE CHAT
David Aaronovitch, whose articles I have frequently linked to, will be doing an online chat on the Guardian site from 2pm (UK time) on Wednesday.
I did post a question myself but for some mysterious reason it has disappeared from the list on the site. Anyway, work permitting I will try and pop in on the discussion. I am sure Reactionary Pete will also be paying a visit.
posted by BA on 3:50 PM link
Time for an update to the Republic of Blogs links section as it has been a while since I added to the collection. Some people link to blogs because they like/agree with them, others simply as payback for links rendered. I try to do both but do let me know if I have missed out someone who has linked to here.
So here goes - Blogs of War , as you would expect, covers news and views on matters military-political, Freedom and Whisky titles itself ' A libertarian returns to Scotland' .
Biased BBC dedicates itself to convincing the world that the Beeb is some bastion of leftism (it isn't of course but that's another story), What You Can Get Away With is the smart blog of leftie Nick Barlow, who leaves his mark in the comments here from time to time.
posted by BA on 3:24 PM link
SHORT AND COOK
Robin Cook's resignation speech is being hailed as a great parliamentary moment but frankly such eulogies are indulgent introspection at a time like this. It matters not whether Cook is a good speaker - he is - but whether he is right or not. Obviously I think he is wrong. But if his speech is to go down history then lets see whether this little phrase will stand up in a few months time:
"Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target."
I'll leave the analysis of what this resignation means for Blair to the far more able British Spin but I have to disagree with Stephen Pollard's view of Clare Short's decision to stay.
Stephen says: "Good to see that the famously witty Clare Short has managed once more to keep us all in stitches. Clearly, her interview last week, in which she held out the hope that she would leave the Cabinet if Britain attempted to remove Saddam and liberate Iraq, was yet another of her well-known comedy routines.
Why else would she have to decided not to resign from the Cabinet? It couldn't, after all, be because she is a hypocritical egomaniac. Of course not. "
Short's decision to stay and to back Blair in today's vote is a major boost for the government. As the most traditionally left member of the cabinet she has shown that this is not a left-right issue (after all there are plenty of Tories against the war) and she has shown that it is possible to support this action even if one feels that the diplomacy has been a mess and regrets the absence of UN support.
On top of that the timing of her decision has had the effect of dampening the impact of Cook's decision to go - it was probably unintentional but welcome nonetheless.
Meanwhile Blogland's own MP Tom Watson was sat close to Cook during his resignation speech and wishes he was sat elsewhere.
He also tells us of the words that really moved him in London yesterday:
"To hear his (Cook's) moral case for no conflict contrasted to the moral case for a conflict put to me earlier in the day by the PM of the Kurds in Northern Iraq. "We have had 35 years of tyranny, and this is our last chance" he told me.
I also met a woman who had witnessed her sister drenched in petrol and set alight by Saddam's Republican Guard. 100 people were made to witness the event and threatened with being shot if they tried to extinguish the flames. She talked about the acid pools and the torture chambers. She told me how 21 members of her family died in the chemical attack at Halabja.
Why am I writing this? Well, it's because I'm now convinced there is not a moral case for inaction.
posted by BA on 3:21 AM link
Nice piece in the Guardian today from the usual suspect, David Aaronovitch, addressing the BBC coverage of the war and opposition to it.
"In fact, with one exception, the impression has been given, on the BBC in particular, that public and expert opinion is strongly and almost exclusively opposed to military action. This expectation has entered the cultural stratum that the majority of broadcasters exist in, and so dominates that it has become that most dangerous of wisdoms - not so much orthodox, as axiomatic. "
Yet, as he points out the latest polls do not show overwhelming opposition to Blair's position.
Aaronovitch also tries to cheer up the supporters of Iraqi liberation up. We are unfashionable but we are in the right.
"So they find themselves at odds with the assumptions and prejudices of their friends and colleagues, and seemingly isolated - as though they were in some way eccentric. What Katherine Hamnett T-shirt are they going to wear?
This isn't the way they (or I) would have wanted it. We would have preferred a second resolution, which would have conferred more legitimacy on the war, and (just as important) given a more multilateral dimension to the efforts to rebuild a democratic Iraq after the shooting is over.
Even so, it is one thing (and far from dishonourable) to refuse to support the war because it has not been given the official seal of approval by the UN. It is quite another actively to oppose an operation which will have the effect of removing one of the worst and most violent tyrannies in the world. Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs should forget axiomatic wisdom this week, and think like Iraqis."
Meanwhile Bill Clinton tries to cheer up Tony Blair.
posted by BA on 2:00 AM link
TALKING 'BOUT LIBERATION
Freed from the need to appease the appeasers at the United Nations the talk has turned away from resolutions and material breaches and towards what for many of us on the left consider the key issue - liberation of Iraq.
This is where the debate on the left gets very interesting. I still spend a bit of time debating anti-war lefties on mailing lists such as Red Pepper Debate (you are welcome to come and join the minority of one!) and on the issue there is some genuine and serious discussion.
Putting aside the anti-Americans, the cranks, conspiracy theorists and the pacifists, the debate comes down to whether or not western forces are the right people to carry out the liberation of Iraq.
In an open letter circulated last week, the left-wing activist Peter Tatchell, who does support the idea of liberation for Iraq but opposes war, made some strong criticisms of the lack of interest in the fate of Iraqi democracy shown by the left.
"By offering no alternative strategy for overthrowing Saddam, anti-war campaigners are turning their backs on the Kurds, Shias and other Iraqis who are suffering under Saddam. This do-nothing policy borders on appeasement. It colludes with the Iraqi regime. The Stop the War movement largely ignores Saddam’s murderous human rights abuses. Its leaflets and placards rightly demand ‘Freedom for Palestine’, but not ‘Freedom for the Iraqi people’. This is a shameful betrayal of Iraqis struggling for democracy and human rights.
"We have witnessed leftwing appeasement before, when sections of the left initially denounced the war against Hitler as an ‘imperialist war’ and pursued a strategy of ‘revolutionary defeatism’. George Orwell denounced these de facto fifth columnists who had once ferociously denounced the Nazis and then, when war broke out, opposed military action against the Third Reich. An allied counterattack was the only option after Hitler invaded neighbouring nations.
He then put forward his own alternative to war:
"But today Saddam is invading no one. Moreover, there is a credible alternative to a US-UK war on Iraq. We could provide military aid to the Iraqi opposition. There are already 70,000 Kurdish troops in the north of the country, and at least 5,000 more Shia fighters in Iran. Both armies need more and better weapons. Today, as Iraqi democrats plead for help, we should arm a popular uprising to depose Saddam."
I see no moral difference between the west sponsoring an armed uprising against Saddam or doing the liberating themselves with the support of the Iraqi opposition. The problem with Tatchell's arguement is that in practice such an approach would have much less chance of success. Indeed against a heavily-armed fascist dictatorship there is a real danger that the insurgents would be annihiliated as they were in 1991.
Nor would Tatchell's alternative reduce the risk of heavy loss of life among civilians. Guerrilla war, which is what Tatchell is proposing, carries a very high risk of being protracted and risky to civilians.
The other anti-war arguement often made is that the west will not introduce democracy to Iraq. Those concerns increased after Kanan Makiya, a leading intellectual in the Iraqi National Congress last month publicly attacked the Bush administration for not subscribing to the opposition's democratic plans.
According to this Washington Post article Makiya believes that the democratic solution has won. "They are beginning to structure a relationship with the new leadership council we have developed. The need for an interim Iraqi authority is becoming clearer to them. They are asking the right questions about involving the inside."
Indeed the phrase "interim government" was used by both Bush and Blair on Sunday as they made a strong commitment to democracy in Iraq.
Today Tony Blair has issued this welcome pledge to the Iraqi people.
It is not enough for this clear pledge to be simply used to challenge the anti-war position. The job of democrats now is to ensure that our government's keep their word about post-Saddam democracy in the coming months and years.
posted by BA on 6:24 AM link
Edge of England's Sword
Look Back in Anger