Part I of the President That Didn’t

At the very least, all schoolboys know that Cromwell killed the king, Lincoln freed the slaves, and Hitler caused WWII (while possessing one ball). It’s strange practice – and in many cases an unwise one – to condense the life of one of humanity’s great men – or monsters – into a single pithy phrase. How unfair that one of History’s elect or leads (that’s “moulders” for crustier readers) should receive nothing but a sentence for their efforts! But we are endowed with minds that categorise and simplify as a matter of course; and I’m not so bloody-minded to think I can counter that.

We just witnessed the end days of the Obama’s White House (if not the end days, period) and are forced to ask, “how will the 44th President of the United States be remembered?”

(Of course, I’m presuming two things: 1) classrooms and schoolyards of the future won’t be subsumed by hoards of cockroaches seeking substance and shelter in a post-MAD world; and 2) “first black president” won’t suffice.)

Ineloquent as my bid may be, Barack Obama will always be the president that didn’t…

 

Apparently We Can’t

Seldom has the world set itself up for such crushing disappointment as it did in 2008. Obama promised change we could believe in, and “we” bought it. Even Christopher Hitchens, no stranger to heady nights turning into sour morns, allowed himself to be swept up in the general buzz – or, as he was later to admit, hubris.

Obama had a great many of us hoping – “audaciously” so (Ed.: groan) – and for what? He:

  • Promised to close Guantanamo Bay, and he didn’t
  • Promised to make Wall Street pay, and he didn’t
  • Promised to loosen the lobbyist stranglehold on the Capitol, and he didn’t
  • Promised to bring transparency to government machinations, and here, resoundingly, he did not

(There was also the implicit pledge that he wouldn’t be George W. Bush, and, thanks to the basic laws of the physical world, he managed to hold to that.)

 

Bay of Horrors

If your concept of failure happens by the part of your cortex where Obama’s impression resides, the resulting synapse will likely scream Gwentemeno, Guantelemo or Guantanamo, or however it’s pronounced. (Do you remember just how awful Bush was at everything?)

This blot on Western civilisation remains open today still, now with 40 detainees. Guantanamo Bay, a place of anal rape and constant degradation, where solitary confinement is used frequently, and where the terrible extremes of sensory bombardment and sensory deprivation are imposed. So too, was (is?) anal feeding – which may seem comparatively slight. But remember: starvation is the last – and you’ll have to excuse me here – avenue of protest and/or escape left open for Guantanamo’s detainees. This base, which, thanks to a historical absurdity, resides on Cuban soil, invites suicide and then cruelly denies it.

As far as it’s possible to discern, Obama really was sincere about closing Guantanamo, and really was disappointed that the legislative branch wasn’t conducive. Even if some cynical observers have suggested if only because he missed out on a golden PR opportunity on the international stage. (His 2008 campaign was granted America’s most esteemed advertising award, we ought to remember. For those still unclear about what the Clinton Effect on US politics was, and how it sucked out both conviction and principle leaving only power play and image, this fact hopefully lays a foundation of healthy scepticism.) And, should he have cared, it might’ve gone some way to making the Noble Prize Committee look less ridiculous.

Obama would’ve like nothing more to have had all detainees disappear into the, frankly not too much better, penitentiaries of the Deep South and Midwest. Because, after-all, Guantanamo’s main function is symbolic: Of Obama’s ineffectualness and of the Republican torture fetish.

 

Conqueror of the East

It has been discovered that many of “Gitmo’s” detainees are in fact fodder in the petty tribal disputes of Afghanistan, and not of bin Laden’s gang.

Both American and British forces have allowed themselves to be used by warlords and charlatans: Is your neighbour causing you problems? What better way of enacting Stalin’s maxim than by telling Coalition forces that he’s with Al Qaeda, a bad sort who harbours jihadi intent. In goes R boys and, if he and his family are lucky, he’ll be in an orange jumpsuit and tranquilised by sunrise. It recalls to mind my reading of the first English colonists’ contact with America’s natives, and how exploitation can – and did – work both ways.

Patrick Cockburn has done an excellent job over the years of documenting how local realities – primarily, but not limited to the sectarian – have had the paradoxical effect of dividing “conqueror” too. With squaddies left questioning a commander class which is never quite sure if the Taliban is to be quashed entirely or granted, with gritted teeth, ‘partner’ status. Brits, too, are left envious and dependent on superior American air and logistical support. And now we’re witnessing that war be exported (or is that imported?) home.

To that extent we can say that the Islamist outrages in Paris, Brussels, Turkey, etc., were successful – ISIS achieved their goal of dividing the “West”. Gone are the “we are the 99%” placards and a grudgingly sympathetic Middle England. Now, one is either the 52% or 48%; Red State or Blue; proud Aryan or some variant of the N word, or far, far worse: race traitor.

(Class is no longer the go-to gauge of voter intent. William James wrote of how you can learn all you need to about a man by familiarising oneself with his temperament. Are his sensory filters grey or rose-tinted, and which passions are most likely to surface in response? It’s these implicit emotions which are the gate keepers too often of logic and reason.)

I’m not suggesting Obama is to blame for any of this – even the world’s most powerful man is subject to History’s whims. But it is “blowback” of a sort, and Obama seemed clueless as how to respond.

Foreign policy wonks from across the spectrum have grimaced at his unfocused response to the Syrian disaster, and claimed, if anything, it has made the West’s lot worse. Alluding to WWII (as they always do) strategists have argued that Obama would’ve been better of knocking off the greater evil even if it meant aligning with a lesser for a time. But I have a sneaking suspicion that many of those drawing this comparison would have no interest in fighting Assad once the chessboard had lost some of that clutter. The Pentagon was quite happy with the “normalising influence” of a “stable” Syrian dictatorship once, and would be again given the chance.

So, just for the record, I was one of the few within my ‘corner’ of the Left who had agreed with the spirit of Obama’s two-pronged assault against both Assad and Islamic State. Fascism – or Ba’athism – is no easier to abide if it has state apparatus and a seat at the UN. And if he had decided to join Putin in crushing the revolt – that wasn’t and isn’t entirely Islamist whatever the self-righteous pundits squawk – I have a hunch Galloway and his cultists would be now condemning Barrack for aligning with a fascist despot (Assad, not Putin, to clarify). Or perhaps not, is he still in the pay of Russia Today? Spudhead, isn’t it?

As it happened though, neither were defeated, and one – Assad’s forces – are shaping up to be a powerful player in the Middle East. As well as, quite unintentionally, beyond.

The Mid-East Legacy

Perhaps it’s unfair to focus on the Middle East. Obama did try to pivot the eyes of the world toward the south-east Asia, along with American destroyers. But there’s certain truths I would be uncomfortable omitting:

  • American troops remain in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Obama’s drone program, celebrated by liberals of the lesser-evilism variety, had a 10% success rate (according to one of those dreaded whistleblowers)
  • Though the slight chiding of Netanyahu at the UN has been completely overblown, Obama’s actual Israel policy has been one of lavish military spending and objectively pro-the illegal settlements. The prospect of a Palestinian state that doesn’t constitute in toto Gaza seems, tragically, an impossibility
  • The Egyptian counter-revolution was successful, thanks in large part to American subsidy of Egypt’s state-within-a-state: its military
  • The Saudi elite remains untouched, even though it provides ISIS with financial and ideological support (something the Podesta’s emails revealed Clinton knew about and did fuck all about)
  • His one success – the Iran Deal – came only after brazen lying which implicated Turkey and Brazil and support for Israel’s terroristic murder of nuclear scientists. And it looks set to be undone by Trump. (What was it we were saying about hubris?)

In a boring but highly-publicized 2009 speech, replete with platitudes and euphemism, Obama cleverly aligned the United States with the forces of “democracy” without getting down to specifics. And, again, “we” allowed ourselves to be duped. Imagine how ready to the mind the above facts would be if a Bush Jr-Jr was in the White House up until 2017.

It is his enemies which have outlived him in every case but bin Laden’s. (Helped by, in no small measure, US support for states which don’t have elections.) In the histories of Egypt, Israel, Syria and Iraq Obama may just about warrant a footnote. And if ISIS is ever allowed to mutate into a nation state, he wouldn’t even get that.

 

Paddy

Debating the Iraq War: The Extent of Reason

 

Anon #1: I do genuinely also think the war was a horrible idea.

 

Paddy: The stated goals by Blair just prior to invasion were 1) regime change, and 2) uncovering WMDs for neutralization. The second of those aims resulted, of course, from institutional self-deception, but still. (And, to be fair, the British state had good reason suspect Saddam of maintaining a WMD stockpile – after all we still held the invoices re: chemicals employed against the Kurds and Iranians.)

Now, even if you add securing oil for corporate exploitation here (the majority of which were not American or British-based), I can imagine far worse reasons for war.

 
Anon #1: Right, but just because you can imagine a more ignorant motivation, this doesn’t make the actual rationale any more sensible.

The “principled” face of Stop The War

 

Paddy: Okay, George I-haven’t-met-a-dictator-I-didn’t-like Galloway.

 

Anon #1: Yeah, because George Galloway was, and still is, the only person who ever thought going into Iraq was a bad idea.

 

Anon #2: A reasonably common joke at the time was “We know Saddam has WMDs because we’re the ones he bought them from.”

Rumsfeld and Saddam: Entirely true the the US and UK courted the big man during some of his worse crimes. Hell, the CIA aided his ascent to power! Would the anti-war activists have liked this to continue?

 

Paddy: And not a single one of them could have convinced me that maintaining Saddam’s grip on Iraq, its people and its neighbours was a good thing. There were principled and convincing strategic arguments for opposing that war (Patrick Cockburn springs to mind, as do some academics who suggested such force and funds would be better employed to combat poverty) but I seldom heard them. Definitely not from anyone carrying one of those placards.

Most leftists thought “it’s all about oil” was a sufficient argument, others sought to compare it to Vietnam – which was truly sickening to anybody who knows anything about that region and its history.

And to #2:

I remember. I also remember a lot of sentences starting with “Saddam’s a bad guy and stuff, but…”. I was – and am now again – sick of the whole bloody lot.

 

Anon #1: Wow, you’re like a caricature of someone who bought into all the propaganda they were ever sold. I didn’t know anyone like you actually existed. At least most of the Remain voters weren’t deluded about the fact they voted that way to get rid of all the dirty foreigners. How much would it cost to hire you to display as a circus freak?

[Note: You can see views on that issue here and here.]

It’s uncanny

 

Paddy: And not a single substantive thing in your post…

If I decided I was going to go full ad hominem I would have had made sure it was going to be bloody good, rather… rather than that.

“How much would it cost to hire you to display as a circus freak?”

Really, lad?

 

Anon #1: And what’s substantive about pretending everyone opposed to the war was George Galloway?

Also, learn what an ad hominem is before you throw the term around.

 

Anon #3: There are a multitude of “bad guys” in the world, that doesn’t mean every country burdened with one needs a military intervention cast at them like a brick through China shop window. Not least one lacking any meaningful knowledge of the social or political history of the region into which it’s staggering.

 

Paddy: This is another one I used to hear, and really I expect better.

What you are suggesting is this: if you cannot fix all the world’s problems you shouldn’t even bother trying to fix one.

Humbly, I disagree.

“And what’s substantive about pretending everyone opposed to the war was George Galloway?”

Did I? Um, no, I didn’t. I responded to your specific comment, addressing you specifically (if you really are a collective of a million or more people, I will apologise).

You suggest deposing a dictator who had a history of committing genocide, torture and aggressive war was not “sensible”. I disagreed, so compared you to the leader of the Stop The War coalition, somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Mainly because you gave me nothing else to go on.

“Also, learn what an ad hominem is before you throw the term around”

How was I throwing around such a term, and how have I misunderstood its meaning? I directed it at specific target – you.

You have an unfortunate tendency of passing-the-buck… suggests you’re not, well, confident with your position.

And, again, nothing substantive in the rest. I’m really not going to get anywhere with you, am I?

(NOTE: just to be clear, by “you” I mean you, as an individual.)

 

Anon #2: Regardless of how passionately you oppose the evildoers, that alone isn’t enough to make it sensible, no. There are other considerations. “Will this massively destabilise the country and greater region for a generation?” is a pretty important one.

“How was I throwing around such a term, and how have I misunderstood its meaning?”
http://laurencetennant.com/bonds/adhominem.html

Someone insulted you. That is not the same thing as an ad hominem.

 

Anon #1: Except literally nothing, not one thing, is better for the people of Iraq now than it was 15 years ago.

I swear some people use this place solely to hone their debating skills.

 

Paddy: “Someone insulted you. That is not the same thing as an ad hominem.”

He insulted me instead of actually responding to my argument… I don’t quite get why you’re choosing to ignore this? If you’re trying to turn this into a tedious semantic debate, I really don’t have the time.

How about I put it in another, more British way: I was always taught, growing up, that you tackle the ball instead of the man. “You belong in a freak show” sort of falls outside that for me.

Thankfully though, I did receive something of substance this time:

“There are other considerations. “Will this massively destabilise the country and greater region for a generation?””

Yes, an important consideration. But seeing as it doesn’t actually address any of my points made so far, and it is lacking context, I’m not entirely sure how to respond.

I mean plenty of conservatives were making that point at the time based on Hobbesian rationale, and I would have to say, as a leftist, I prioritize progress over order. But, again, seeing as your point really was just thrown out there, I can’t really say more.

 

Anon #2: He insulted me instead of actually responding to my argument” 
Which is not an ad hominem.

“as a leftist…”
Then understand that not everybody is quite so convinced of the merits of military force as a tool for progress.

 

Paddy: Except literally nothing, not one thing, is better for the people of Iraq now than it was 15 years ago.”

Now that’s just silly.

I don’t have anything to swear on nearby, so you’ll have to take me on my word. I was much more ambivalent about the Iraq War until I met a visiting Kurd (at Speakers Corner actually) who told me he fully supported what he called “the intervention”. It had turned a place where the earth was permanently scorched and its people permanently scared into place worth living (and worth defending, but ISIS “happened” after we met). They were thriving off the oil money and participating, for the first time, in elections.

The Kurds were the largest ethnic group without a state and now they have the beginnings of one. That’s something.

That’s the funny thing: the people who have actually been affected by what seems to us rather vague and distant, can sometimes have a better idea of what’s going on.

I swear some people use this place solely to hone their debating skills”

I’m not entirely sure what your point is. Is it that hard for you to accept that there are those who sincerely disagree with you? And can actually defend their position?

I have a feeling I just wasted my time trying to discuss this issue.

Don’t you find it funny that I was the one accused of being brain-washed, when in fact my contributions are the least dogmatic?

 

Anon #1: The “dogma” of the people you’re arguing with is called reality mate.

 

Paddy: Great, good to see another Stephen Colbert fan. (And someone who apparently has never heard of the Kurds.)

Honestly however, I don’t have much time for anyone who attempts to make Henry Kissinger look like a “fun guy”

 

 

Anon #2: Action like this should only be taken if there’s multilateral agreement, there are clearly defined goals, and it has minimal chance of worsening the situation.

 

Paddy: This actually took me back. I mean… really.

I’m sorry, but you really come across as someone who knows very little about the Iraq War and even less about international relations.

Coalition Members

Look at the pic, how much more multilateral do you want?

The UN supported disarming Iraq and had condemned again and again the Saddam regime. Suggesting that his power grip had to be “removed anyway necessary“.

And there were clearly defined goals: regime change and neutralization of Iraq’s WMDs. The success or failure of their outcomes does not change the fact that these objectives existed.

“…has minimal chance of worsening a situation”

What does this even mean? It’s so vague it almost doesn’t deserve ridicule. For who? Worsen in what ways?

But, more broadly, its clear you’ve never held a position of power. And, in politics, if you do want to wait for the “perfect moment” an entire people could be wiped out in the interim. (In some quarters, governments that have participated in military interventions have been pilloried for enacting the “right to protect” principle while not doing it elsewhere. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. See Mark Curtis, who, bizarrely, has been praised by John Pilger.)

Brexiteers: No, Your Opinions Aren’t Just as Valid

  1. Economy = downgraded to that of a “developing” country.
  2. Society = ridden by fear and abuse.
  3. Our politics = seized by cynicism, opportunism and mutually assured destruction.
Et tu, Watson? The Blairite Revenge

This, all of it, our country chose.

We, those on the Remain side of the argument, seriously misjudged our neighbours and compatriots: many of them really are that stupid. And, no – they cannot be given the benefit of the doubt. Figures from the left, right and centre warned them, the economic institutions and trade unions warned them, the professors and cultural figures warned them, NATO, USA (Trump excluded), Norway’s PM warned them. Warned them what our country would become.

Gone are the As: Sterling plunges

And, nay again, they themselves cannot suddenly pretend that their political analysis is just as deep and deserving of respect as the above.

(In fact, the only figures of note which supported Brexit appeared to be Putin – a long and bitter hater of the EU – and ISIS. The latter has since praised Britain’s move.)

As much as I cannot abide the cult which has slivered up upon and about the grave of that vicious fat dog, Churchill’s words are playing on repeat in my inner ear,

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter

This may help you make sense of Michael Gove’s insight:

…People in this country have had enough of experts

You really have met a cultural incline when expert has become a dirty word, sewn into our porch alongside those other faux-pas (excuse my French) “‘ealth and safety” and “political correctness”.

Of course I’m being unfair: 52% is barely a majority of the voting population, and fairly meaningless of the whole. But it is demonstrative of that cultural strain, long nurtured by demagogues and flustered Cameroons, in this United Kingdom: anti-Brussels, anti-immigrant, anti-Other – becoming something more than a nuance. A new and dangerous voting block that Westminster has no idea of how to counter-act (and may soon not wish to).

A good number of those who put a cross next to Leave seem to have sincerely thought their choice meant, “send the Poles, Pakis and… uh, Polynesians home” (whatever that means). Taking “their” country back so they can set it back on course to backwaterdom, which Britain momentarily detoured from post-WWII. There in the swamp that results they can fester and congeal, filling the pungent air with their pungent thoughts.

Byron, Blake, Paine… are these the heroes of the Britain Firsters?

And it’s this demographic which knows the least about the history and culture of Britain. When they talk of defending its culture they are almost certainly referring to football hooliganism, shit larger and trash TV – and not the domains of Tolkien, verses of Auden, those skyscapes of Turner. Nor do they acknowledge the Levelers, Chartists and the heroes of the Enlightenment, without which their suffrage would be denied.

(I mean really, just take a look at Britain First’s take on the Peasant’s Revolt here)

Ezra Pound may have been writing of his country of birth, but there is something in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley which does apply here and now, in this Blighted realm where the 52ers reign:

No, hardly, but, seeing he had been born
In a half savage country, out of date;
Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn;
Capaneus; trout for factitious bait
 

Paddy

Defining Terrorism

Paddy: Broken bodies, bloody walls and burnt beds. Paris? No, this is Kunduz.

Kunduz. See: www.doctorswithoutborders.org

It’s not often history treats us with a social experiment but recently we were fortunate enough to find two atrocities, comparable in bloodshed, on our newsfeeds and as a result given an insight into how the world thinks.

Kunduz General Hospital was bombed on 3rd October, killing at least 30 patients and staff, leaving that same number lost and dozens injured. CNN barely mentioned it and, when it did, saw no reason to mention who caused it.
In Paris, this month, 130 people were killed on the streets of Paris. CNN sent several correspondents to the scene where one of their number urged harsh military reprisal.

The difference between these two events (and the reason you’re unlikely to have heard of one of them) is Westerners were the victim in the latter and the perpetrator of the other. President Obama, following weeks of evasion, finally admitted, unconvincingly, his forces’ “mistake” in the bombing – over several hours – of a well-known medical facility run by Médecins sans Frontières. (Some were half-expecting a justification, one offered in the past, that the Americans were merely neutralizing a “propaganda” centre, whose inhabitants were committing the heinous crime of releasing casualty figures.)

New York Times reports on US Marines shutting down Falluja General Hospital

The definition of terrorism is violence committed for political ends. Only it isn’t. Only when They carry out such attacks do we employ the word, and only when We do it do we pretend nothing happened at all.

 

Pole: You have simplified the definition of terrorism by omitting “the unofficial, unauthorized use of violence for political reasons/needs”. Here lies the origin of the whole problem. This definition is the underlying reason why we classify what the U.S. and its allies are doing as an act of war, and what ISIS is doing as acts of terrorism. The issue of legitimate authority and official use of violence is very problematic. What is classified as a legitimate or official use of violence?

The bombing of the hospital in Kunduz would be seen as a justified act, properly authorized by the legitimate power of the President of the United States (The Good Guys). The Paris attack is seen as an act of barbarism committed by an organization whose legitimacy is denied by the international community. Therefore, anything that ISIS does cannot be properly authorized and justified.

Now try to look at it from the perspective of the other side. For ISIS, the U.S. doesn’t hold any legitimate power, while they see themselves as the only right authority. Do you see where I’m going with this? From our side, we’re the good guys and they’re the terrorists; from their side we’re the terrorists and they’re the good guys.

The term terrorism holds no value, outside its propagandist use. Opposing sides have always sought to demonize the enemy. Thus during World War I, stories of German soldiers raping nuns or crucifying Allied soldiers were spread in the trenches. Ancients Romans portrayed Carthaginians, their ultimate enemies, as savages who kill babies and sacrifice them to their dark gods. They also coined the term barbarians to describe ‘uncivilized’ peoples (which pretty much included everyone non-Roman).

Fighting the Barbarians

Nowadays we do the same thing. When ISIS kills civilians, it’s called barbarism or terrorism. When a drone strike kills some civilians, it’s called a legitimate use of force in war against terrorism. Both instances are a war crime, but only one of them is disguised as just.

Now, calling ISIS the barbarians is not wrong, they are barbaric. But we have to see that so are we, because I would argue that any war in any shape or form is an act of barbarism. No matter who’s fighting or why.

Paddy: And off our boys set to shower more Arabs with Amatex in solidarity with its old imperial rival…

Iraq and the Left: Part One.

As I write this the seemingly unstoppable force of ISIS (or, should you prefer: Islamic State, ISIL, SEC, Da-ish or, simply, Jihad) is tearing across a valley that once cradled civilisations. These modern-day black shirts burn books they cannot read and deface art which provided enlightenment during an age better known for its darkness.

It is the Sunni Muslims, emboldened by the collapse of the state and fuelled by Saudi money, that are filling ISIS’ ranks with their young and weaponry – both state-of-the-art and Medieval. The Shia population, unwilling to lose recent gains, are re-establishing their own criminal gangs, none of which seem to be especially discriminatory in their retaliatory assaults. The Kurds, key witnesses to the recent calamities, look set to flee without leaving investigators a forwarding address. It certainly seems that the days when Iraq can be considered a workable idea are gone.

The spark which set alight the Texas tea in this strained analogy is widely considered to be the “intervention” of 2003. At that time large sections of the Left warned unsympathetic leaders that no good could result from their imperial ambitions. Worse than an insatiable appetite for oil, for Brits anyway, it was suspected our forces’ contribution to the Coalition’s war effort had more to do with ego than anything else. We watched as Blair, attempting to distract the electorate from his immense blandness, put down his copy of A Study in Greatness and set off toward the world’s greatest Trouble Spot aboard a $3.5 million Chinook, alongside that august leader of the Free World.

The bringer of the Third Way never looked back even if his rivals do little else, for all the good that has done our tendency. The Iraq War and political ramifications are instructive in analysing the post-1989 Left. Here we can find something praise-worthy, although there are difficult lessons to face.

As with any great political event it’s worth delving into the record on the look-out for comparisons. History does not reside in the clean simplicity of a laboratory, rather it throws out curve balls and inconsistencies which make any comparison between this or that event a tedious task at the most. But for many leftists in the early days of Iraq, the equivalency with Vietnam was obvious, if only because both exist in the common imagination for no other reason than gaining the suffix “War”.

From the vantage point of 2015, we can ask the following question with less angst and more reason: what separates the Vietnam War from the Iraq War? Any leftist worth his or her salt would surely reply by attacking the premise, “there is very little, comrade, both being obvious exercises of Western Imperialism”.

But put such offal to one side and we can get to the real meat of the question: the latter received targeted bombing while the former nation saw almost every square centimetre of its soil laden with lead, the latter also saw no concentration camps, no mass-rape, no “covert” invasion of neighbouring states, and no wide-spread culling of indigenous democracy movements. There was also none of that hellishly infectious Agent Orange (a chemical weapon, we civilized European types must not forget, the British government first experimented on human lungs in Malaysia several years prior).

I write this not to praise British and American elites but to highlight a key difference: a very sudden interest in humanitarian considerations at the top levels of war-planning.

On that count, those on the Left which opposed the war against Indochina should take a great deal of credit. No Western policy maker would dare plan a resumption of one of the 20th century’s worst crimes lest they initiate a resumption of the domestic cultural-revolutions it did so much to enflame.

So what were those principled, well-developed anti-war slogans of the Iraq era? No to a war for oil. Bush is worse than Bin Laden. No more death (I assure you that I did not make this up, some cretins actually vandalised cardboard sheets with these impossibly vacuous statements). When voicing our outrage, we of course began with the admission that, of course, Saddam’s a bad guy only to follow up with a but

(Source: Wikipedia)

The only consistency between the two wars which can be properly spoken of was the overwhelming opposition by the Left that they initiated, if delayed first time around (not including those liberal hawks for whom that apocalyptically-mad JFK conjures up a respectable image).

Among thinkers, we heard sneers and cries of outrage about our governments’ interference with the internal politics of developing nations, a ludicrous sentiment which should be confined to the reactionaries. (Show me borders in which we are nobly abstaining from interfering within and I’ll show you North Korea.) Even the courageous Alexander Cockburn, whose opposition seemed genuine on anti-militarization grounds, employed language about respecting the “internal politics” of other nations. A tinge of 1930s Toryism about that.

Alexander’s brother Patrick, well-respected and considered an authority on those ramshackle nation states now occupying Mesopotamia, wrote convincingly long before and directly prior to the invasion of how ordinary Iraqis were actually begging for outside interference in their politics. Anything to give that monster Saddam pause.

A monster the Left (George Galloway aside) rightly condemned when he was our government’s “man” in the region. Not just any man, a “source of stability”.

Ironically, stability was another consideration of the anti-war camp. A curious stance for any radicals among them considering reform, let alone revolution, has never taken place without the social sphere experiencing something of a tremor.

Paddy