Friday, April 11, 2003

Great summing up of the lessons some of the left have learnt and some of them haven't from Johann Hari which ends like this:

"The final lesson, I think, is that America can act for good as well as bad. Some of the generation of left-wingers formed intellectually during the Vietnam War have never reconsidered their then justified belief that the US is simply evil. America has not had a Damascene revelation since then: it is still doing obscene things in, for example, Colombia. But there are other American instincts and foreign-policy traditions, and some of them are good; the good US acted in Kosovo to prevent ethnic cleansing on the European continent, and it acted in Iraq this month.

Our job on the left is not to try to stop America from ever acting; one of the great tragedies of the 1990s, the Rwandan genocide, wasn't caused by too much America but by its failure to act. No, our job is to try to steer this colossus towards spreading the values of its own American revolution: the overthrow of tyranny and the birth of democracy."

posted by BA on 4:43 AM link
John Lloyd sums up the errors of the left over Iraq succinctly in this piece in the Guardian. It is taken from the New Statesman which also carries a stinging piece on the Stop the War 'coalition' from Nick Cohen. Sadly NS makes you pay for their internet version so I can't link to it - if anyone can scan a version of the Cohen piece and email it then I will post it up here.

posted by BA on 4:33 AM link

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Did you see that English woman on the telly who was telling the British soilders "You've got the weapons, go and sort them out" as the looting threatened to get out of control in Basra?

The Guardian has a little piece about her life as an expat in Saddam's Iraq - she arrived with her Iraqi husband and just six months later the Ba'ath Party took control of the country. The Mirror also talks to her.

posted by BA on 2:50 AM link
Says Christopher Hitchens.... well kind of.
His Slate piece doesn't drip with sarcasm but rather drowns it and ends like this:
"We should celebrate our common ground as well as the gorgeous mosaic of our diversity. The next mass mobilization called by International ANSWER and the stop-the-war coalition is only a few days away. I already have my calendar ringed for the date. This time, I am really going to be there. It is not a time to keep silent. Let our voices be heard. All of this has been done in my name, and I feel like bearing witness".

Read it here

posted by BA on 2:26 AM link

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

I really resisted the temptation to post a 'told you so' message to the anti-war brigade while watching the statue of Saddam being toppled as the people of Baghdad and other cities celebrate. Point scoring seems so cheap when a people are enjoying the taste of liberation. But then the Stop the War Coalition came out with the amazing statement that they plan to demonstrate on Saturdayin London. Could the contrast not be greater? The Iraqi people demonstrate their freedom in Baghdad, while the British far-left show their opposition to it in London.

The statement says they plan to commerate the deaths of civilians and (what hypocracy!) military personnel but somehow I doubt it will turn out like that - the Socialist Workers Party are not exactly known for dignified, human gestures and until today they and others in their coalition have been calling for the defeat of the coalition forces and expressing hope for a Vietnam scenerio with mass casulties. Somehow I don't think they will get such a warm reception from the people of London this time.

posted by BA on 9:02 AM link
Amazing television on Sky News for the past hour or so as David Chater wanders around the streets of central Baghdad chatting live to US marines and trying to talk to celebrating Iraqi civilians. In the background the locals are trying to topple a statue of Saddam. Then a group of four Iraqis arrived with a banner written in English - GO HOME HUMAN SHIELDS, YOU U.S WANKERS!

Freedom of expression after 25 years.

posted by BA on 6:32 AM link

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Yesterday I linked to an obscure ultra-left paper called the Weekly Worker who have carried a couple of interviews with George Galloway recently. Few outside the ranks of the sectarian and satirical left have heard of that paper but now all that is set to change. Today in the Guardian David Aaronovitch has a piece on Galloway which includes quotes from those very Weekly Worker interviews I linked to. I am sure this is just a coincidence and any suggestion that such an esteemed coloumnist might have been browsing weblogs for inspiration should be swiftly dismissed as wishful thinking, shouldn't it?

Anyway Aaronovitch's piece is, as usual, well worth a read as he also has the full (dreadful) quotes from Galloway's call to the Arab masses to rise up against the imperialist wolves etc. He also takes an interesting line on the whole issue of Galloway's membership of the Labour Party, in the light of his outright opposition to the party and lack of confidence in the ability of his supporters to bring about 'regime change'. "If Galloway is pessimistic about Labour, I thought, then now may be the right time for me to join....This is a sometimes brave if very imperfect government. As Galloway gloomily contemplates the party that sustains it (and partly because he does), I think I'll take the step that I've avoided for too long. ," he says. I like the logic.

Like Aaronovitch, I used to be a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (no relation to the current Weekly Worker impersonation by the way). Unlike him I was a member of the Labour Party before and after that fascinating couple of years during the death throes of the CPGB. As a result of that experience, including a brief and depressing spell in local Labour politics, I have counted myself as one of those lefties who are deeply cynical about party politics. But the other week I used the online form at the Labour Party website and sent off my application to rejoin.

Why did I decide to join up again? Well I first joined the Labour Party on the very day I was legally able to do so at the age of 16 back in the days of Neil Kinnock's leadership and ike most teenagers who get involved in politics I was intensely idealistic. Inevitably I found myself becoming disillusioned over time by the daily drudgery of local political activity and by the infamous in-fighting that went with eighties left politics. I left to join the Communist Party as a student to discover yet more infighting, albeit of a far more entertaining and colourful variety. Yet now, for some reason I find hard to explain, I feel idealistic again and throughout the last few months I have rediscovered the reasons why I joined the Labour Party in the first place.

If you are serious about progressive change, there really is only one game in town. And unlike when I was 16, we are now actually in power and in a position to bring about those changes. Many of us were part of a generation of working class kids who got a chance in life because of what the Labour Party achieved in the post-war years only to see so many of those roads of opportunity wrecked, just as we needed them, by Margaret Thatcher's governments. Now we have a chance to make sure our kids have a future of decent opportunities, a chance we cannot waste, I think that's why I have joined the party again.

posted by BA on 3:41 AM link

Monday, April 07, 2003

Long time readers may remember Sectarian Worker, the voice of genuine ultra-left sectarianism. Sadly I am informed that the blog the Trots loved to hate has suffered from some terminal factional infighting and has now ceased publication. The final factional 'positon statements' can be found on the site's last posthere

The bad news is that Dave Dudley, the controversial Trotskyist whose column prompted the faction-fight, now has his own weblog which will be covering many of the same issues as Sectarian Worker. Check out Dave Dudley's Dialectical Diary.

posted by BA on 3:54 PM link
Amazingly it is not Saddam who has put up the cash for George's frequent trips to Baghdad over the years - oh no, it is worse than that. Can you imagine sinking any lower than this?

Update: British Spin posts an articulate argument in favour of Galloway's expulsion from the Labour Party and also provides this link to Galloway's declared financial interests as an MP.

posted by BA on 7:54 AM link
Poor old George Galloway. The tabloids are being nasty to him, the Labour Party don't like him and even some in the anti-war movement are worrying if he is something of a liability. He has been called a "mouthpiece for Saddam" and accused of being an apologist for the Baathist regime. So today the Guardian give him a chance to defend himself and it really is tearjerking stuff.

It's true that some of my words have been harsh, but that's because I'm expressing the views of the millions who remain fiercely angry at the government's taking us into a war in defiance of the UN, in the teeth of overwhelming international opposition, on bogus and fabricated grounds, and to such disastrous effect. Not least, I'm speaking for the many in the British Muslim community - Shi'a or otherwise - who feel powerless and virtually voiceless amid the slaughter of Muslims in Palestine, Afghanistan and now Iraq.

Now in Iraq. Of course, it is only in the past two weeks that Muslims have been killed in Iraq isn't it? We have to presume that those thousands of opponents of Saddam who were murdered (communists and socialists too George) don't count as dead Muslims. What where they? Counter-revolutionaries? kulaks? infidels? Clearly they have been written out of history by the MP for Glasgow Kelvin.

The former War on Want charity activist does think he is ever so clever though. His favourite rhetorical trick is to use the language of the war, hardly an original approach but at times he takes it to ludicrous lengths, take this one example:"Last week the government enlisted the Murdoch press to launch an assault on me with the journalistic equivalent of a cluster bomb," his article is littered with such nonsense, but while there is no doubt that Galloway is a pompous egoist, it is another question as to whether or not he is an apologist for Saddam. Let's see.

First there is his infamous address to the Iraqi leader in January 1994. “Sir," said Galloway, "we salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability”.

Galloway was one of a delegation of European MPs who took it on themselves to present Saddam Hussein with a pennant from Palestinian youth in the Israeli-occupied territory, from which they had just come. Having praised “Sir’s” courage, strength and indefatigability, Galloway went on to inform Saddam Hussein that the people he had visited in Palestine were naming their children after him. And not only were the Palestinians with him.Galloway ended his speech with the words: “We are with you,” and then some words in Arabic, which the BBC translated as “Until victory! Until Jerusalem!” This was not quite three years after Saddam Hussein had rocketed gas bombs on Israel during the Gulf War, and used poison gas against Iraq’s Kurdish people. (source)

Was this just a case of our George getting a little bit over-excited in the presence of a powerful man with a moustache? Do the words "we are with you" not mean that he is with Saddam? That was nine years ago, you might say, so why was he meeting Saddam in August in Baghdad? More to the point what was he doing attending a meeting in Cairo with Baath Party officials in December of last year?

Galloway was at a conference of Middle East activists along with John Rees, a leading figure in the Stop the War Coalition and the pro-Saddam Socialist Workers Party. Keeping Rees and Galloway MP company at the Cairo Conference were, amongst others:
- Nabil Negm: former under-secretary in the Iraqi Foreign Ministry; political adviser to Saddam Hussein; leader of the Iraqi conference delegation.
- Saad Qassem Hammoundy: leading member of the Iraqi Baath Party; Secretary-General of the Iraqi Conference of Arab Popular Forces; Iraqi Ambassador to the Arab League.
- Leading members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood: allowed to attend the conference as 'private citizens', not as official delegates. (The Muslim Brotherhood advocates the transformation of Egypt into an Islamic state.) sources

Of course, Galloway is free to attend whatever meetings he wishes and holding talks with a regime that he is defending right until its death doesn't necessarily make him a traitor as the Sun have dubbed him. But is such behaviour compatible with membership of a democratic socialist party, membership of a Parliamentry Labour Party whose government has committed British forces into action to defeat the "Sir" and his regime?

George says he is keen to stay in the Labour Party, telling the Guardian: "I don't want to be pushed out of Labour politics. After 35 years, and having served at every level, I suspect I love the Labour party rather more than Mr Blair does. I hope he will eschew a witch-hunt." Of course Galloway is leaving nothing to chance. "But, just in case, my friends and I are busy building the new Glasgow central constituency into an impregnable fortress of real Labour values. Mr Blair and his peculiar allies, his army of rightwing hacks and control-freaks, may well besiege it. But they will have their work cut out to overcome it. "

So at the same time as saying he wants to stay a Labour MP, Galloway is planning a breakaway, or at least to stand as an independent. (Britain's first Ba'ath Party candidate?). Indeed for all his claims of commitment to Labour, George has been talking of a split for some time.

"Certainly, this mass movement in the country feels cheated and betrayed by parliament and they are right to feel so. Developments in the House of Commons are clearly a by-product of what we do on the streets. We mustn’t foster illusions in the parliament … or in the Labour Party, frankly.” (Weekly Worker, April 3)

"Whether New Labour can be decapitated and a renaissance of this existing Labour Party can be achieved is doubtful, I believe. The answer will probably present itself to us soon - we are talking weeks, not months.....I am not openly proselytising for them at the moment, so I would be lying if I said there was a real resonance for them at present. But I am in discussion with a number of key individuals - people who independently have been thinking along the same lines.Nature abhors a vacuum and there is no vacuum more abhorrent than a political vacuum." (Weekly Worker Feb 20)

Oh, I can think of a few.

posted by BA on 1:44 AM link

Sunday, April 06, 2003

"When people feel deeply, impartiality is bias"
Nice quote from John Reith, used in BBC Director General Greg Dyke's brief letter to the Washington Post objecting to Andrew Sullivan's increasingly obsessive crusade against the Beeb.

posted by BA on 9:45 AM link
This war has thrown people into some strange 'alliances'. Pro-Iraq democracy lefties find themselves mocked for being in the same camp as George Bush, while the Trots and the racist British National Party are joined in opposition to the war. Of course there is no suggestion that the SWP and the BNP are actually formally in an alliance - the BNP have kept their heads down on anti-war demos and the Trots prefer Islamists as their official partners.

Some of us have been pointing out for a while the dangers involved in the ultra-lefts flirtations with anti-semitic religious bigots and it seems that in France those dangers are now being realised. If you flirt with anti-semitism, no matter how much you may protest that it should be called 'anti-zionism' you are going to end up attracting anti-semites to your cause.

posted by BA on 5:59 AM link
Freshta Raper, the Iraqi Kurd exile who and berated Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, the columnist, for her anti-war views on Question Time the other week, has been trying to meet up with George Galloway MP. The Sunday Telegraph followed her on the trail as the anti-war MP tried to wiggle his way out of the meeting. Quite a revealing little story.

Also, in the Observer, Nick Cohen provides some of the historical background to the Kurdish situation and offers a warning about dangers for the future.

posted by BA on 5:48 AM link

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