Tuesday, March 15, 2005


War, Hitchens, etc.

The post-facto justifications for the clusterfuck that the war in Iraq turned out to be are slowly beginning to become a little wild.

First of all, the war in Iraq is retrospectively justified by events in Lebanon. You see, the Lebanese are inspired by the fledgling democracy in Iraq to dispose of the Syrians. (Nevermind that the street protests were induced by the murder of a former prime minister, that Lebanon has always been politically quite lively, that some of the largest street protests have been organized by Hizbollah - that's something only the - what was it again? "Reality-based community"? - would worry about). And this is just the beginning: soon, the whole Middle East will become a vibrant, flowering meadow of democracy.

However, even more bizarre is a line that Christopher Hitchens is taking in Slate. Referring to an article in the New York Times in which two reporters, it appears, interview the Iraqi Deputy Ministry of Industry, Hitchens reveals the scoop. Iraq had WMDs:

How can it be that, on every page of every other edition for months now, the New York Times has been stating categorically that Iraq harbored no weapons of mass destruction? And there can hardly be a comedy-club third-rater or MoveOn.org activist in the entire country who hasn't stated with sarcastic certainty that the whole WMD fuss was a way of lying the American people into war. So now what? Maybe we should have taken Saddam's propaganda seriously, when his newspaper proudly described Iraq's physicists as "our nuclear mujahideen."

Of course, there's a small detail. All the sites where these supposed faculties for the production of nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, anthrax weapons, anti-matter weapons, what have you were located have been systematically looted. So right know no one has even a clue where they are.

If the American army actually had gotten those weapons of mass destruction, instead of letting whoever took them run away with them (supposing of course that this story is true), Christopher Hitchens' point would be, well, a lot stronger than it currently is. I am reminded of the quip involving one's homework and one's dog.

There's an interesting political phenomenon which for an odd reason seems to be virtually confined to the British islands - namely that of a part of the left in support of the Iraq war and the subsequent occupation. I've been wondering why this seems to be a particularly British phenomenon. Part of the reason may well be the stranglehold that the ghost of the Tory Party still seems to exert on the British left, and the way a big swath of the left tries to ward the spectre off by supporting the Labour Party - which of all European social-democratic parties seems to be the one in the most advanced state of decline. The most interesting exponent of the pro-war left must be Socialism in an Age of Waiting, which quaintly combines the time-honoured Trotskyist/Stalinist/Maoist tradition of unrestrained pompous self-important vituperation against any perceived opponent with remarkably sensible positions on, say, animal experiments, environmentalism, etc. - anything but imperialist wars.

SIAW is waxing lyrical over a tearful article of one Robin Cook, commenting in the Guardian on the surrender of Ramus Haradinaj. Robin Cook, if you remember, was the hysterical Foreign Secretary of England during the Kosovo War. As the war in Iraq was clearly less politically correct and salonfähig to the moderate left than that in Yugoslavia, Cook resigned from Blair's cabinet in protest at British involvement in Iraq. Quoth SIAW:

Cook, amusingly, risks arousing the incoherent rage of his new-found friends in the anti-war/pro-dictatorship movement, as well as fervent Serbian nationalists (of whom there are probably as many in the West as in Serbia itself these days), and all the other vociferous but, happily, ineffectual fans of “stability”, “sovereignty” and the rest of the tired liberal/right-wing shibboleths of international relations that the pseudo-left so stupidly and revealingly upholds. Unlike most of them, of course, Cook has actually met Milosevic and many of the other players in the Yugoslav tragedy, and he has at least a residual awareness that the real world is not as pure or simple as the Manicheans of the anti-war crowd would like it to be. Accordingly, we look forward, with puerile but (oh, go on) forgivable glee, to the ritual denunciations of the Cookie monster that will shortly pop up all over the internet.

For clarity's sake, I would oppose Haradinaj's surrender to the Hague Tribunal - just as I oppose Milosevic's. The reason being that I don't have much faith in a Tribunal designed and directed by one of the main participants in the Balkan wars, and current occupier of large swaths of former Yugoslavia. Such a thing has been and will be used for ulterior political motives. Both should have been tried by their own people. The chance that Milosevic would have been convicted of war crimes in Serbia may be slim, that of Haradinaj convicted in Kosovo absolutely laughable, of course. Then again, neither the conflict in Bosnia nor that in Kosovo has seen a stable peace yet.

But the very fact that a group (?) calling itself "Marxist" and thereby supposedly on the left of the Labour Party will praise a Labour politician when involved in an imperialist war (yes, I am going to stick to using that word, primitive and unsophisticated anti-imperialist that I am), and denounce him when he repudiates his support for the next one, convinces me that monikers such as "left" are beginning to become meaningless.

I've long felt I have a lot more in common - at least on issues of war and peace - with libertarian outfits like Lew Rockwell than with leftist ones like SIAW or the whole bunch of "progressives" - from Susan Sontag to Daniel Cohn-Bendit and the odious Joschka Fischer - that became the most vociferous supporters of imposition of peace and democracy by cluster bombs in the nineties. In the Netherlands, we had Mient Jan Faber, who was a driving force behind the anti-cruise missile protests during the eighties, then began to issue blood-curdling cries for the levelling of Belgrade only to come to his senses almost immediately after the bombing began; and the (ex-?)anarchist Roel van Duijn. Oh, and most of the burnt-out empty shell that the Communist Party regrettably decided to liquidate itself into in the early nineties, known as the Green Left party.

During the bombing of Kosovo, the anti-war left either bent over backwards to disassociate themselves from Milosevic to such an extent that it was sometimes difficult to see whether they were actually opposed to the bombings or just wanted slightly different bombings; or they supported Milosevic's supposedly "socialist" regime wholeheartedly (this excludes of course some Trotskyist groups who have admirably pushed their own political program just as they have been indefagitably pushing that boulder up that mountain ever since 1938). The anti-war right often steered way too close to wholehearted support of Serbian nationalism. Nonetheless, parts of the libertarian anti-war right at least came up with internally consistent rationales of opposition to imperialism that sounded extremely refreshing to me.

Far as I am concerned, the division between "left" and "right" is dead and should be shovelled under the ground as quickly as possible. There are only two notable political poles right now: that which opposes imperialist military ventures and the expansion of the state, erosion of civil liberties and ultimately militarization of society that is inevitably, inextricably connected with war - particularly totalitarian wars against vague concepts such as the War on Terror; and that which supports them.

- Merlijn de Smit

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