17 April 2006

Why I can't support the Euston Manifesto.

I think its good to reaffirm the following aims;

Secularism, Universal Human Rights, Equality, Anti-racism (in all its forms), etc...

For this I congratulate the Eustonites, in generating publicity and discussion about these issues.

I also applaud them for criticising those on the left who use blanket anti-Americanism.

To all of this I can sign up.

What I can't sign up to however is the following;

A dismissal of the criticism of the present system as irrelevant or prejudiced and trying to close down legitimate debate on the root causes of terrorism (particularly in relation to Israel by cheaply dismissing criticism of Israel as anti-semite).

The Eustonites say they are open to debate and believe in historical truth, they should start with a reappraisal of their own culturally relativist assumptions (the dismissal of the 70 invasions and coups organised by the US since 1945).

Saying all this, their pro-war position could be honest if they acknowledged the US's murky motives.

As my dad says;

"Who would the Iraqis rather have ruling them, President Bush or President Saddam?"

It's a pathetic choice but most would probably plum for President Bush, but we cannot pretend this war wasn't about oil (at least in part). More honesty from the pro-war left would win them more support.

As for my position, I think the Iraq War was probably a mistake. In the midst of the current civil war the invasion looks a disaster. Only time will tell if democracy will take hold and prosperity restored to the Iraqis. The US have their 23 permanent bases there as well, which will continue to agitate the whole region, just like the troops based in Saudi did. Just as predicted, anti-western terrorism has been given a tremendous boost by this invasion and continues to benefit Al Qaida recruitment.

Then what about the numerous other brutal dictatorships around the world? Why no action on them? Why single out Iraq and Iran? Saudi Arabia is at least as bad in its human rights abuses and there are many African and Asian regimes that are worse. What about Mugabe? Why the kid gloves with North Korea?

But what about nuclear proliferation in Iran?

Well the US is quite happy to allow the dictatorship in Pakistan (a very unstable undemocratic Islamic state) to have nuclear weapons without any serious consequences. They are also quite happy for Israel to have them despite destabilising the whole region. Also where was the invasion of North Korea?

Let's not have blanket criticism of the US, but also let's not pretend their policies are all hunky dory.

16 comments:

  1. I can't tackle all of this now, but who could consider attacking North Korea - a nuclear power with limited respect for human life?

    Iran isn't being singled out for special treatment, expect for the fact that they're in the process of becoming a nuclear power and are publicly committed to destroying another country.

    You seem to be missing the point: rather than helping make the case for tackling these rogue regimes through all practical means, you're more interested in the fact that America are inconsistent.

    Why don't the anti-Eustonites make the following plea: there's a moral case for intervention, let *us* (or Europe) take the lead, and show America how to do it.

    ? Then we could be sure that they really did care about Zimbabwe, and weren't just anti-American.

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  2. I'm quite sceptical of this document because what it says is so very uncontroversial. Pretty much everyone would agree with what's in there, I think; it's when you try to put what's written down into practice that people start disagreeing. But I wonder how many people who've commented on this document's reference to Israel/antisemitism have actually read it. What it says about antisemitism and criticism of Israel is this:

    "Some exploit the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people under occupation by Israel, and conceal prejudice against the Jewish people behind the formula of "anti-Zionism"."

    I don't read this document as "cheaply dismissing criticism of Israel as antisemitic". I'm not sure how anyone can. The document clearly states that the Palestinian people have a legitimate grievance and are under occupation, and it advocates a solution that does justice to the interests of both sides. How can that be read as a blanket dismissal of all criticism of Israel?

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  3. "a nuclear power with limited respect for human life?"

    Vietnam? Cambodia? Isn't that the US as well? I'm sure they would attack North Korea if oil was involved and China showed their ambivalence.

    North Korea didn't have nuclear weapons 5 years ago. The US knew they were developing them and were far more advanced than Iraq, yet they chose to attack Iraq instead, why?

    "Why don't the anti-Eustonites make the following plea: there's a moral case for intervention, let *us* (or Europe) take the lead, and show America how to do it."

    If we accept that military action is the only realistic option (and I don't) then you do have a point.

    I suspect that the US is so all powerful and the EU so divided that the US is the only realistic global military power. In fact I would go further and say that the US would be against European military action, just like they was with Suez (which incidently won them a friend in Egypt which lasts to this day).

    I think it is you missing the point. Do you think it is possible to raise children properly without beating them?

    It is military action and the backing of unscrupulous extremists by the US that has created The Taliban, the Islamic regime in Iran, Saddam Hussain, Pol Pot, and various brutal dictatorships in South America, Asia and Africa in the first place.

    The US could win many friends by being on the side of democracy for a change (and not just its economic interests). The US was immensely popular across the third world after WWII, it is all the invasions and coups and terrorism they have supported that has made them unpopular. Look at how backing Egypt won them a friend. This is what the US should be doing and what we should be encouraging, not encouraging them to invade. We should be encouraging democracy in Iran (they have universal elections) not discouraging it by threatening them. We are playing into the extremists hands by doing that.

    At the end of the day, the US will throw its weight about no matter what we think - (unlike us the US administration doesn't care about equality), but by influencing public opinion we can restrain their worst excesses. What you are doing is encouraging the next human rights abuses by the US.

    There are benefits to the capitalist globalist system, but it also needs a radical overhaul.

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  4. Katy: "I don't read this document as "cheaply dismissing criticism of Israel as antisemitic".

    You are right, the manifesto can be read in this way. The problem is that by knowing what has been written on Harry's Place and by Norman Geras in the past, I can see their true motive behind this statement. To closedown ALL criticism. I hope I'm wrong about this.

    I particularly dislike the way they smear Ken Livingstone, who condemns all racism and terrorism,, but any excuse to label him anti-semite has been taken to ridiculous lengths by these people.

    If the manifesto equally stated they reject easy accusations of racism and apologism, then maybe I could accept their sincerity on this point.

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  5. Can I just quickly point out (to all) that a full list of signers, complete with declarations, is now on the site.

    Reading some of those statements should at least make people who go on about Norm/Harry's Place, think twice.

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  6. It's not either or. I am in the middle between the two extremes and proud of it. I am not signing the euston manifesto.

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  7. I'm not trying to ram it down your throat, Neil, I just want people to keep an open mind.

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  8. we cannot pretend this war wasn't about oil (at least in part). More honesty from the pro-war left would win them more support.

    If the (or a) main concern of American Foreign Policy was oil when it figured on invading Iraq can you explain why it wouldn't have been simply a whole lot easier to get the the international community to lift or amend the sanctions on Iraq, to help boost oil exports? Saddam wanted to export more oil. Arguably the French wanted to increase Iraqi oil exports. The Chinese are generally keen on more oil. We usually go along with the USA and that only leaves the Russians. And which would have been easier to sell to the international community? A possibly illegal war or an expansion of the oil for food programme?

    The problem with conspiracy theories about oil is that they don't stand up to scruitiny.

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  9. It is military action and the backing of unscrupulous extremists by the US that has created The Taliban

    I do wonder whether you appreciate exactly how serious a fight the Cold War was. Dealing with the unpleasant legacy of the West's actions will take generations, whether that means cleaning up the Hanford site or fighting Islamic extremism; that doesn't mean however that those actions were wrong at the time, merely expedient.

    The ruinous cost to the Soviets, in material and prestige, of the war in Afghanistan played a part in the eventual fall of communism. Why do you feel that a (clumsy, ineffective and largely regionally contained) Islamic insurgency is not a fair price to pay for achieving this goal?

    I suppose that complaining about the methods one's own side employed, whilst enjoying the fruits of victory is a popular pasttime. Consider, for example, the interminable Monday-morning quarterbacking of Bomber Harris.

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  10. Anon: "can you explain why it wouldn't have been simply a whole lot easier to get the the international community to lift or amend the sanctions on Iraq, to help boost oil exports?"

    I've already explained how Saddam's switch from petro-dollars to pricing his oil in Euros had started to threaten the 'magic chequebook' (reserve currency status) of the US (where everybody has to use dollars to buy oil and these dollars never return to US banks - it's a licence to print money that funds their massive trade deficit). The invasion of Iraq was effectively a public punishment beating to warn Venezuala, Iran and anyone else who prices their oil in Euros.

    Also why pay top price for oil when you can have it much cheaper if you invade? Of course the West had lost trust in a secure supply from Saddam as well. If he suddenly decided to turn off the taps it would leave the ever oil hungry US in trouble.

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  11. eben: "I suppose that complaining about the methods one's own side employed, whilst enjoying the fruits of victory is a popular pasttime."

    I totally agree with you. If the establishment used this level of honesty in explaining foreign policy instead of pretending it is 'freedom and democracy' they hanker for then I couldn't complain. Of course if they did use the truth they would never be able to win support for their actions which is why they lie.

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  12. B4L: "I'm not trying to ram it down your throat, Neil, I just want people to keep an open mind."

    Just to remind you Andrew you also said this;

    "one of the purposes of the Euston Manifesto, as I see it, is that by presenting a document that - even if it is incomplete, and work in progress - only unreasonable people could oppose, it's becoming more and more obvious that there are people I cannot honestly call 'comrades', whatever their association with the Labour Party, and whatever section of the Left they might include themselves within."

    So basically just because I don't completely support your manifesto, I am 'unreasonable' and not a comrade anymore. Talk about an open mind, sounds more like something the Stalinist supporters you profess to hate might come up with.

    Include in the manifesto something that points out that Islamophobia is the biggest form of racism we face, that the US supports terrorism when it suits their interests and that the Iraq war was about US economic interests and maybe I can sign up.

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  13. > Just to remind you Andrew you also said this

    Well, I did, though (a) I did imply in my next post that perhaps I'd overdramatised, (b) I stand my what I said, but (c) the peope I referred to were NOT everyone who doesn't sign (or even agree with) the Manifesto.

    No, the example I gave afterwards illustrated the point I was making. You have questions, genuine concerns, and a moral awareness, while the guy I referred to exhibited a kind of festered, bitter anti-Americanism that put politics before people. I made the point that there are plenty of people who exhibit these views and will claim to belong on the Left, or in a 'real' Labour Party. Well, not my Left, and not my Labour Party.

    > Islamophobia is the biggest form of racism we face

    Maybe, but blame the Islamophobes, not people who expose those who peddle insularity (in any community) and who are prepared to sell democracy short and be quiescent about theocracy.

    > US supports terrorism when it suits their interests

    There's no doubt at all that the USA has, in the past, pursued terrorist tactics themselves and by proxy. The evidence suggests, however, that the Bush administration has an unnatural faith in democracy, and has picked the right enemies. By suggesting that no dictator is safe, it might frighten some people here in the West, but is morally right.

    What really influenced me, Neil, was the realisation that the Left I was a part of really wasn't radical at all. Iraqis generally suffered, and change was unsettling for us, as a group. Look at the Left: where are the radical and reforming ideas? A big chunk is simply determined to stop all change (especially anything invoked by Tony Blair) in favour of some mid-90s comfort zone.

    > that the Iraq war was about US economic interests

    Well, you could take the long view and say that democratisation is in everyone's economic interests, but the vast number of $bns spent on the war doesn't suggest an economic campaign.

    We can also go back to the 'radical' point. I'd suggest that the mere mention of 'oil' is enough for lots of people. It confirms their prejudices, allows them not to look deeper/think about the more interesting issues, and - of course - it lets us maintain the status quo in the Middle East.

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  14. B4L: As I have already said, a lot of the Euston Manifesto is a welcome reaffirm-ment of basic principles that we all should adher to and I thank you for that. But the whole tone of the manifesto in emphasising how much you like the US administration and only emphasising anti-semitism when Islamophobia is a much bigger problem makes me uneasy about signing. (I also ought to state what I mean by Islamophobia - vilifying Muslims and attacks on Muslims as opposed to just a dislike of the Islamic religion).

    I know this is slightly unfair but some of the people behind the Manifesto also make me suspicious of it's purpose. Harry T and Norman Geras have ran a scurrulous smear campaign against someone I admire enormously. Ken Livingstone is for me, one of the best things about the Labour Party. Don't get me wrong but even your ideas of what is left can actually end up being a bit rightwing on occasion. For example, you once thought Stephen Pollard was on the Left, despite the fact he only espoused rightwing policies - education vouchers etc..

    I would like you all to make it more clear what the Manifesto is for.

    "The evidence suggests, however, that the Bush administration has an unnatural faith in democracy"

    Not the evidence I see, I suppose Bush's record on the death penalty, fixing elections in his favour, rising inequality in the US, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and flying torture victims around the world don't count? And then there are still covert operations going on interfering in democratic elections all over the world - smearing candidates, making public threats that 'if so and so is elected' there will be trade sanctions etc.

    I would like to hear more condemnation of US attrocities rather than just describing them as a 'diversion from universal principles' which a lot of people find as offensive an apologism as those who defend Islamism.

    I do get your point that we should recognise that the US led invasions and threat of invasions might partly have our best interests at heart but you need to also acknowledge how the invasions and threat of invasions have increased terrorism and the militancy of Islam in the Middle East. They have been a terrible blundering failure that is losing the war on terror.

    I actually believe that if we hadn't have invaded Iraq, Saddam could have been removed in a lot less messy way, although admittedly it would have taken longer. But he never would have had the capabilities to make WMD that was a threat - that was a lie.

    I think Blair had an impossibly difficult decision to make over Iraq. Whichever way he went he would have been penalised.

    My defence of Blair involves the idea of leverage over the Bush administration curtailing it's worst excesses (the truth is yet to be revealed on this) and also that Blair's decision made no difference to whether the war actually went ahead as the US had made up it's mind.

    Overall I think it is quite obvious the situation in Iraq hasn't improved no matter what spin you put on it.

    "the vast number of $bns spent on the war doesn't suggest an economic campaign"

    Do you realise the many trillions of dollars in oil the US now has its hands on? Also the US has stolen $23bn that Iraq had in bank accounts and in cash that was supposed to be for the Iraqis. In terms of protecting the global western system that we benefit from, the US administration may be on our side, but they are still fairly nasty and we should remember that.

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  15. As my dad says;

    "Who would the Iraqis rather have ruling them, President Bush or President Saddam?"

    Your Dad must love you. There's no other reason for putting up with your tosh.

    Everyone, everywhere always prefers their own bastard to the foreign bastard.

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  16. Neil - you're wrong about the Israel thing. To say the identification of anti-semitism is always and everywhere an attempt to deflect criticism of Israel presupposes that anti-semitism has no independent existence outside of a response to Israeli policy vis-a-vis the Occupation and the Palestine question. This I'm sure you'll agree is historically untenable to say the least.

    This is not to say that no-one ever cries "anti-semitism" wherever Israel is mentioned but my own concern is that there is an increasing tendency for people to cry "Israel" whenever anti-semitism is identified.

    As far as the Manifesto is concerned, one of the aspects that I felt fully supportive of was that it recognised the right of self-determination for both Israelis and Palestinians. This position by definition cannot preclude criticism of Israel because the Palestinians do not have a state.

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