I’m getting a bit sick of the design and layout arond here. Thinking about a change. Also, the content: more righteous indignation, less paranoid speculation. Or was it the other way around?
Actually, I’ve been reading Nick Cohen’s interesting criticism of the left in today’s Observer. He makes a number of salient points in his dissection of everything that is wrong today with liberal-left politics and its general failure to adapt to the 21st century. I don’t agree with him on everything. But he does remind me why I decided some time ago never to align myself with any political group or party because there are simply none who seem to have the right approach to things. Spain is a classic example: I’m not a Catalan nationalist but I’m sympathetic with those who would like more autonomy for Catalonia. At the same time, I couldn’t support any of the parties who push for greater autonomy here because their memberships and leaders seem to be conniving, divisive pricks to a man. Besides, if greater autonomy means more laws banning me from drinking calimotxo or Xibeca and smoking weed at the beach with my mates, then perhaps it’s not such a hot tip?
The Iraq debacle is another good example (and this is what Nick Cohen is focused on): I’m naturally a Labour man but how can I vote for that party when Tony Blair still insists that it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t. Saddam was an awful, murderous bastard but the hell which has been unleashed on ordinary Iraqis does not justify his removal. Nick Cohen’s main argument seems to be that the left has lost its way because in its opposition to illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, curtailed human rights at home, rendition and Guantanamo, it has failed to condemn the evil which so called ‘neo-conservatives’ are determined to defeat. There’s a lot of ammunition for this argument and those employing it get a very real thrill from expounding the claim that the left wing is stuck in a bygone age when it could rely on being morally superior and nothing more. And it is true that numerous anti-American and anti-Semite worms have crawled out of the woodwork just in time to make us all look bad.
But the problem with Cohen’s position is that all he’s doing is claiming the moral high ground for the neocons. Basically, he seems happy to tell the left that they don’t recognise that the world has changed and things aren’t as clear cut as they once were, while at the same time he’s stating quite firmly that this is a simple case of moral imperative: we had to remove Saddam at any cost. Clearly, he wants to have his cake and eat it.
He continues by drawing attention to the millions of left wingers who demonstrated against ‘the overthrow of a fascist government’. To emphasise his point, he makes trite references to Rome, Madrid and Berlin – as if the residents of cities which had once lived under the shadow of a dictator should somehow ‘know better’. The problem is that opposing the war was never the same as appeasing Saddam. Who cares if he was happy about the protests? The point of the demos was to let our governments know that we weren’t going to be hoodwinked into an illegal war which would end up killing tens of thousands of civilians. And we were absolutley right.
The problem for those who were (and, carazily, still are) in favour of the war is that they really did think they were going to get things over and done with pretty quickly. They didn’t realise that they were going to visit on Iraq a state of murderous destruction not seen since the dark days of Saddam’s purges. Or if they did, they didn’t care.
The point of all this is, I suppose, to say that in the case of Iraq, there is no moral high ground. We on the left had nothing to suggest in the way of alternatives to getting rid of Saddam. We need the oil, the Iraqis need democracy and the world is a better place without that awful man. At the same time, supporters of the war must accept that they have made a colossal mistake in Iraq, causing the deaths of many tens of thousands of civilians, enraging an already volatile muslim community, establishing the dangerous precedent of pre-emptive attack and handing vast strategic power to a much more dangerous country: Iran.
In the end, Nick Cohen’s article is more or less spot on, insofar as it discusses the facts of the dispersal of the left-wing in Britain… (I only wish he’d write another about modern conservatism). While there are aspects of his argument which I find I can’t agree with, he’s correct about two important things: the left wing has lost its way horribly and we have failed to display any reasonable degree of solidarity with the Iraqis: the true victims of all this mess. Think on.