Monday, July 31, 2006

More Successful By The Day

Last year, Bush supporters found it convenient to paint a selection of largely unrelated events as somehow resulting from George Bush's glorious strategic vision for the Middle East. Behind those squinting eyes, we were informed, was a grand plan that was only beginning to unfold.

Since it's always difficult to argue the case for the Iraq invasion while actually looking at the chaos it caused there, it's useful to be able to point to something more positive. Almost anything will do, which is why we've heard that toppling Saddam resulted in, variously, the end of Pakistani nuclear proliferation, the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine, Libya giving up on its WMD, Mubarak's multi-party elections, Saudi Arabia's municipal elections -- and, perhaps most popular of all, the expulsion of Syria's puppet government from Lebanon.

This last was a great testament to the soundness of the Bush strategy, we were told. Even though the obvious cause was the assassination of Hariri, it was actually down to George Bush's fetish for democracy. Melanie Phillips, for instance, detected that the anti-Syrian demonstrations were sparked by a presidential pronouncement:
"Soon after Hariri’s assassination, President Bush declared:

‘We want that democracy in Lebanon succeed, and we know it cannot succeed so long as she is occupied by a foreign power, and that power is Syria.’

The Lebanese, paying close attention, took to the streets and demanded Syrian withdrawal."
This being the case, she castigated David Hirst for his "exemplary omission" of enlightened Washington policy from his analysis of the situation.

Even keener than her to sell the Lebanon success story was Stephen Pollard. As soon as the Karami government stepped down he knew whom to thank for the surge of democratic feeling. It was "real man of peace", George Bush:
"[T]oday's resignation of the Lebanese Syrian quisling government is but the latest demonstration of something which the Bush-hating fanatics (by which I mean the BBC and the rest of bien pensant opinion) will continue to ignore whatever the evidence: that Bush's foreign policy is not merely wise, but grows demonstrably more successful by the day."
The explanation was clear:
"None of this happened by accident. It happened as a result of one common factor: the exercise of American power in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the consequent fear amongst terror-supporting regimes that they too would go the way of him and it."
So America's "wise" and "successful" democracy spreading policy was the direct cause of regime change in Lebanon -- leading, within months, to the Siniora government now in power. In 2005 we were instructed to congratulate Bush for this feat.

Now it turns out this wonderful democratic government, arising out of "fear amongst terror-supporting regimes" instilled by Bush's activities, is in fact an Israel-hating, terror-supporting regime unwilling, rather than unable, to rein in Hezbollah. The president remains disgracefully attached to Hezbollah. Presumably it's no longer evidence that Bush's foreign policy "grows demonstrably more successful by the day".

Expect continuing demonisation of the Lebanese government, a total silence on last year's extravagant claims that Lebanon vindicated the Bush doctrine, and a search for some new ex post facto justification for the Iraq invasion.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Kamm's Defence

A commenter Owen has this to say about the Kamm post below:
Pick an argument with Kamm about the perhaps cavalier way in which he summarises arguments, but credit him for the essential, which is that he refuses to condone obfuscation of the truth, which is what LM, Deichmann and Johnstone are all about. If Chomsky is unable to take an unambiguous stance on the issue of their mendacity his reputation deserves to live with the consequences.
While much of Owen's comment is too vague to be answered, his attempt to suggest that, in spite of what I wrote, Kamm still has some sort of case against Chomsky regarding Trnopolje warrants a response.

Although Owen has not disputed any part of my argument that Kamm falsely accused Chomsky of misrepresenting Knightley's views, he attempts to brush off Kamm’s own misrepresentation as “perhaps cavalier” summarizing.

I accuse Kamm of more than this, because his case derives entirely from what he left out of Knightley’s testimony: he didn’t provide a summary at all. If he had any knowledge of what Knightley said – and he certainly made a pretence of this – he would have known that the Guardian report he cites does not begin to encompass what Knightley “really said about the case”. Why did Kamm think LM would call a defence witness to lecture the court on the Spanish Civil War?

Charitably assuming Kamm to be merely ignorant, his self-righteous pronouncement about he who “obfuscates and denies the crimes at Trnopolje” is nonetheless baseless. Given this, I find Owen's comment hard to fathom.

Firstly, Kamm’s own performance here entails “obfuscation of the truth”, regardless of his alleged refusal to condone it elsewhere. Until this is disputed, Kamm is not in a position to be an exemplar of historical accuracy. As I have pointed out, he is an obsessive pursuer of Chomsky, and this is only one of a stream of questionable allegations he’s levelled.

Secondly, I have yet to see evidence that Deichmann did substantively misrepresent the truth at Trnopolje. LM lost the case because they were unable to show that ITN had deliberately misrepresented conditions at Trnopolje as being like a concentration camp. There was little dispute that the coverage had been misleading, and that the barbed wire did not serve the purpose that reports implied. The judge said this:

“Clearly Ian Williams and Penny Marshall and their TV team were mistaken in thinking they [the TV crew] were not enclosed by the old barbed wire fence. But does it matter?”

That is, he essentially accepted what Knightley said, and what Chomsky mentioned in the interview. If Kamm had had a passing familiarity with the case he would have known this.

The unqualified accusations of “obfuscation of the truth” are impossible to address because they have no specific content. Who denied what? And what does that have to do with Chomsky? Johnstone, of course, has nothing at all to do with this case.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Double Standards

Stephen Pollard doesn't like double standards. Nor does he like racism. And he's most exercised about anti-Semitism, most recently detecting it in a Martin Rowson cartoon that had the Star of David in it. What to make of his recent sidesplitter then?

Even the most dedicated regurgitator of Republican newsletters needs a break. And Stephen gets his entirely non-racist kicks from "light relief" fantasising about urinating in Arabs' drinks. Or, that's how it seems. In his words, it's "up to those who have seen it to judge for themselves".

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Blair Manifesto

Entertaining that Harry's Place linked to this interview at FrontPage magazine.

Geras and Cohen presumably thought their now extensive history of fawning to the right would secure an easy ride. Sadly, Horowitz and co. felt unable to accept even the slightest measure of decency in these decentists, as long as they continued to identify themselves with the Left.

This makes Harry's Place happy because, as with the BNP, it gives them something, anything, to point to in their struggle to convince anybody that they're left-wing:

“For all that those associated with projects like HP, or supportive of the ideals of the Euston Manifesto, and so on, get accused, by some of being 'right wing' or 'having betrayed the left', etc, etc, ad infinitum, it's interesting to note the complete lack of comprehension that there can be any such thing as a 'decent left' on the part of the FrontPagers.”

Unfortunately FrontPage's fixation on Pol Pot gave Geras and Cohen an opportunity to largely evade the one question they have never properly answered about the Euston Manifesto. As Horowitz said:

“If you had Blair social democrats in mind in writing the Manifesto, you would hardly need a manifesto. You would just be Blair Laborites. And if this is the case, Blair has already provided all the manifesto you need.”

The Manifesto writers always claim to be sticking up for an underrepresented view on the nominal left, ignoring the fact that their views are held by the bulk of the parliamentary Labour party and the Prime Minister (not to mention practically everybody else in parliament, and the bulk of the media).

All we get in response is this, from Geras (Cohen says nothing):

“I'm not a Blair Labourite, to answer your direct question with a direct answer, because I'm a socialist and Tony Blair isn't.”

That is, he draws the distinction personally, wisely ignoring the Manifesto entirely – wisely, because the Manifesto isn't socialist. If Geras believes in the redistribution of wealth, or the nationalisation of industry, or anything else identifiably socialist, he certainly doesn't appear moved to mention them in his blog. But even if he did hold these beliefs, it would have no relevance to his absurd Manifesto, which says nothing meaningful on economic policy. All it contains are platitudes that could have been copied from the first draft of a Blair conference speech:

“The benefits of large-scale development through the expansion of global trade ought to be distributed as widely as possible in order to serve the social and economic interests of workers, farmers and consumers in all countries. Globalization must mean global social integration and a commitment to social justice.

Oh, and they're fans of “Make Poverty History” just like Tony and Bob Geldof.

If the distinction that Geras draws between himself and Blair is limited to the Socialist tag – and he raises nothing else – then it seems clear there is no difference at all between Blairism and the Euston Manifesto. That's probably why, despite widespread media coverage, it has been such an abject failure.