The Euston Manifesto revisited


by Sunny
17th April, 2006 at 5:26 am    

I was reading the NYRB’s review of ‘Crashing the Gate’ by Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zúniga of Daily Kos the other night when I had a series of epiphanies in quick succession. Whoa. My brain did not stop that night.

I’m not going to talk about the main stream of thought yet. On a related note, I was trying to make sense of Gene’s limp comeback to Mike Marqusee’s critique of the Euston Manifesto and reading a few other blog posts on the document yesterday. So I’m mixing everything up together.

John Lloyd says the pro-war needs to go its own way, while Jeff Jarvis talks of a schism in the left. Huh? Am I missing something here?

While it is tempting to say the left should stop bickering and get on with the issues in hand, and I will come back to that, it could be an illustration of the dominance of centre-left thinking that such debates are actually had. It is not necessarily a bad thing. But I feel that any attempts to draw a line in the sand between “us and them” is either lazy or lame attempt at power-grabbing.

The pro-war and anti-war left could spend the rest of eternity slinging mud at each other to win the argument but I think there are bigger battles. I quote from the above review:

Their point is that the Republicans have prospered by ignoring ideological consistency. They’ve held together a disparate coalition that ranges from right-wing evangelists and other promoters of conservative moral values to big businesses dependent on federal subsidies and tax cuts, each of whom realize they will get more of what they want by cooperating in joint efforts.

I think this is an important point. I frequently agree on issues with David T on Harry’s Place but there are reasons why I don’t want to sign the document. So what camp do I go in? The anti-war left, true. But do I align myself with religious fanatics? Erm, no. Do I have an irrational hatred of America? I don’t know, but given I recently enjoyed spending a month partying in LA and Las Vegas, I doubt it. Anti-semitic? I certainly hope others don’t think that.

Surely a ‘schism’ would be more valid if we were part of the same organisation? As it happens we all refer to ourselves as liberal or lefties. Where is the pro-war left going to go? To the conservative right? Or declare the rest are no longer liberals?

The points made in the EM aren’t earth-shattering, they merely codify what HP, Nick Cohen, Norman Geras et al have been saying anyway. The wrangling will always be around and I see it as healthy as long as it isn’t all people do.

My suggestion: let’s not assume all the pro-war types want to drag us into the neo-con agenda, while also agreeing not all of those on the other side of the fence have en-masse befriended Hizb ut-Tahrir types.


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  1. soru — on 17th April, 2006 at 9:50 am  

    ‘Or declare the rest are no longer liberals?’

    If you read the comments at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4881474.stm, that would seem to be the best option.

    Since the 1930s, Conservatives generally know, and will be able to say, why they don’t support the BNP. They have a vocabulary that is able to express the idea that the BNP are not just ‘like us but more so’, but are racist bigots and proto-fascists.

    Labour needs the same, especially in London.

  2. El Cid — on 17th April, 2006 at 12:06 pm  

    I think this drawing of a line in the sand is tactically naive and an intellectual dead end.
    Even though I was pro-war left and despise large chunks of the anti-war left, I shan’t be signing the Euston document. This idea that you should encourage creative doubt while at the same time pretend that decisionmaking on the international stage is flawless and lends itself to a rigorously applied set of western moral codes is arrogant, contradictory and impractical. There comes a point when you have to put your hands up and ask: “Was that really the best decision we could have taken? Have we really moved things forward? Have we bettered the lives of the maximum number of people both living and yet to be born?”
    And the prominence given to anti-Americanism in this document — it’s own separate section, two places before “Against racism” too. Wtf?
    I would venture that signatories to the Euston Document leave themselves open to accusations that they are no longer of the left but imperialist lackies. I oppose anti-Americanism and support Israel’s right to exist, but this ain’t gonna drw people like me in.
    Your conclusion Sunny is a better starting point.

  3. matt — on 17th April, 2006 at 12:10 pm  

    It does seems that some people on the “liberal-left” enjoy the sectarian bickering. Whinging about some other (probably obscure) group saves you from coming up with any real solutions to the worlds problems.

    “We’d be fine if only those idiots at Party X would realise just how wrong they are!”

    As Sunny says, debate and dissent is always healthy. But when all you worry about is point-scoring it gets a bit depressing.

  4. Siddhartha Sinatra — on 17th April, 2006 at 12:10 pm  

    Great comment El Cid.

  5. Ravi4 — on 17th April, 2006 at 12:18 pm  

    Sunny – is the apparently unquestioning moral certainty contained in your rejection of the “Euston Manifesto” a true representation of your views? or is it a rhetorical device, while in fact your personal views are more nuanced and self critical? Whatever the case, it has shaken my faith a bit in this excellent site.

    I started reading Pickled Politics a few weeks ago. As a liberal generally left-leaning person originally from (ie born in) South Asia, it was a breath of fresh air to find a site run by Asians but opposed to the strain of knee-jerk, anti modernity, anti-western, relativistic thinking which seems to have gripped many in our communities. The rejection of absolutes – such as unquestioning veneration of our histories, religions, cultures and received opinion more generally – which Pickled Politics seems to be based on is I think a vital part of the process that individuals from our communities need to go through in forging our own identities.

    So I was disappointed to see in your original post commenting on the Euston Manifesto and in subsequent comments that you set out some pieces of received wisdom without even a hint of the questioning or self doubt which they deserve. To focus on the obvous one:

    “I always have been staunchly anti-Iraq-war”

    Faced with the alternatives – continuation of Saddam in power with the death, suffering, repression, torture etc that would entail vs initiation of US/UK invasion with the death, suffering, increased terrorism etc that would entail, I don’t know how anyone could come to any clear morally unassailable conclusions, either pro- or anti- war.

    My position was to support the war reluctantly – in spite of my own deep distaste for Bush and scepticism about Blair – because of all I knew about the Saddam regime due to my job. That remains my position – just about – in spite of all that’s gone wrong (due to negligence, incompetence and cruelty) with the post-war “reconstruction”. The fact is that all the main strains of opinion in Iraq (from the virulently anti-American Sadrists, Sunni Islamists, and secularists, to the more or less unconvincingly anti-American Chalabists and Allawi-ists, to the more or less pro-American Kurds) are now for the first time since 1958 taking part in a pluralistic and (mainly) peaceful competition for power based on elections.

    Everything could still descend into total chaos for the Iraqi people (things are very bad there now but it hasn’t got to total chaos yet). Yet the fact is there is a chance things might not do so. And Iraqis themselves remain optimistic in spite of everything. Under the alternative scenario – Saddam still in power – the balance of hope and despair would surely have been tilted rather further towards despair.

    All of this is subject to enormous uncertainties. Because of these uncertainties, I realise that opposition to the war is a valid and honourable position to take. My problem is that of all the anti-war people I know (ie almost all of the people I know and like/ respect), almost none show any of the uncertainty and self-doubt that position should entail. On the other hand, the few pro-war people I know are far more nuanced and self-critical in their position. That difference in mind set is I think one of the main points of the Euston Manifesto. I certainly don’t sign up to everything in the EM (it should have said more in its condemnation of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib for instance). But I think it’s an honourable and generally correctly orientated part of the debate.

    On Iraq specifically, certainty in either direction – pro or anti war – are not positions that reasonable people should be taking. I was disappointed to see you, Sunny – someone whose opinions I have grown to respect – seeming adopt just such an unreasonable position.

    I agree completely with the last line in your latest post: “let’s not assume all the pro-war types want to drag us into the neo-con agenda, while also agreeing not all of those on the other side of the fence have en-masse befriended Hizb ut-Tahrir types.” But the latter half of your sentence is I think a misrepresentation of what the EM was saying about the anti-war movement; and it doesn’t address the worryingly unquestioning moral certainty that characterises much of the anti-war movement (and most anti-war people).

    I’ve tried to find a more detailed exposition of your views on Iraq but I’m afraid I’ve not been able to do so (probably due to my technical incompetence). It’d be great if you could point me towards any relevant articles to help me understand your position better.

    Two other statements of ideological certainty that also caused me pause for thought:

    “Surely the bigger problem for the Left is the dominance of the Neo-con Right and how its tried to hijack the same progressive agenda”;

    “the support of the Neo-con right of the Middle Eastern dictatorships”

    I won’t react in detail to those. I strongly disagree with most of what is espoused by the people who are generally given the label “neo-cons”. But as someone who has professional contact with US foreign policy making and some familiarity with the thinking of the so called “neo-cons”, I can say that they’re an incredibly diverse group without monolithic opinions on either of the subjects you aver to here. Many of them are in fact deeply opposed to middle-eastern dictatorships (eg the Saudis, Mubarak etc).

    Re-reading all the above, it comes off sounding self-important and highly critical of you Sunny. Neither of these impressions is intended. Pickled Politics is an excellent achievement, and your contributions to it have been vital, entertaining and almost always well-judged. You’ve done more through this site to help our communities find their way in the modern world than I’ve done through my work. And there’s no reason why you should give a damn about what I think or even bother to respond. But I hope what I’ve said here can be taken as a well intentioned contribution to this important ongoing debate.

  6. Siddhartha Sinatra — on 17th April, 2006 at 12:26 pm  

    The theoreticians of the EM have done more to damage the idea that there is a sensible and pragmatic discourse of the role of the Pro War Left by refusing to acknowledge the failures of the Iraq War. And by choosing to remain cover up on these failures and instead fling dirt on the Left/Islamist alliances and little else, it has taken on the role of unconditional ideologues of the NeoCons. Thats not the AntiWar Left’s doing.

  7. Siddhartha Sinatra — on 17th April, 2006 at 12:40 pm  

    Once again, Mark Marquess on CIF on the Euston Manifesto is clear, calm and angry and, I hope, it finally marks the actual Left Getting its Groove Back on the issue of the War.

    When I read this I had to stand up and applaud my monitor. It is a complete dismantling of the Euston Manifesto’s illusion of the what it thinks is the moral high ground. Do yourselves a favour and read it.

  8. Chris Stiles — on 17th April, 2006 at 12:45 pm  


    Their point is that the Republicans have prospered by ignoring ideological consistency. They’ve held together a disparate coalition that ranges from right-wing evangelists and other promoters of conservative moral values to big businesses dependent on federal subsidies and tax cuts,

    Maybe – though an alternate analysis is that the Republicans by focusing on so called ‘wedge issues’ have persuaded the working classes to vote against their natural economic interests. Bush campaigns with vague allusions to ‘Gay Marriage’ and then starts to privatise Social Security the minute he comes into power.

    Thomas Frank claims in his book “What’s wrong with Kansas”, that the ‘centrist’ economic positions taken by the Clinton era Democrats set the stage for the revival of the right wing, by removing the economic reasons for tge working class voting Democrat.

    Keep that and the centrist policies of Blair in mind and the emergence of immigration as a ‘wedge issue’ makes a certain amount of sense – and the presence of a national socialist style party does not bode well at all.

  9. El Cid — on 17th April, 2006 at 1:20 pm  

    Ravi4,
    I didn’t detect the moral certainty in Sunny’s piece that you allude to. I mean he’s certain of his own views but not so certain that he is keen on a schism or doesn’t want to hold out a hand to elements of the pro-war camp, as I do to elements of the anti-war camp.
    I don’t think I’ve misread the piece but maybe I’m wrong.

  10. Sunny — on 17th April, 2006 at 3:23 pm  

    Thanks for your comments everyone.

    Ravi – And there’s no reason why you should give a damn about what I think or even bother to respond. But I hope what I’ve said here can be taken as a well intentioned contribution to this important ongoing debate.

    If I didn’t give a damn or not bother to respond then what would be the point of having a blog? Thank you for your comments and I will most certainly attempt to answer all your questions.

    I think your main question was why I have taken such a hard-line stance against the war and put myself in that camp.

    I supported the attack on Afghanistan, I’ll declare from the outset, on the basis that it was the best deal for the Afghanis and best outcome for everyone in the area that the Taliban be chucked out and not let that hotbed of fanaticism fester unchecked.

    I was against the war in Iraq for a variety of reasons, but not because I don’t want a better deal for the Iraqis. I most definitely do want to see them prosper and do well.

    Where do I start? The shoddy intelligence in the run-up to the war, exaggerated claims about WMD, chemical weapons everything, the complete lack of preparation for what would happen after, the lack of respect afforded to broadcasters that posed a thorn in their side (Al Jazeera’s bombing twice) all led me to believe that actually the UK and USA did not primarily want the best for Iraqis – they primarily wanted to be able to exercise their will without question.

    If this war was sold as an attempt to liberate Iraqis from Hussain, who I also hated with a passion, and it was shown how they would be looked after, then I’d believe it. But there are so many questions that point to something else:
    1) Why did Bush keep equating Hussain and Al-Qaeda?
    2) Why the 45 min claim about WMD?
    3) Why all the charade over WMD?
    4) Why bomb Iraq’s infrastructure out of existence and make no preparations for the aftermath if that is your primary concern?
    5) Why spend billions lining the pockets of Halliburton et al?
    6) And why, if you really do care for the Iraqis, treat their lives with such callousness? Abu Ghraib, the unwillingness to count dead Iraqis, the flattening of places like Fallujah (which achieved nothing).

    I was initially against the war because a policy of pre-emptive strikes without any consensus or any real investigation by independent bodies would lay a precedent. And they’re trying it again with Iran now.
    If they had waited for the UN to fully and unequivocally state that WMD were posing a serious threat then yes, I would have been gung ho for bombing the hell out of his ass.

    I never took the line just because most of my mates were againt the war (and admittedly while most didn’t bother thinking too deeply about it, I did have quite furious discussions with others). I made my point thus because three years on from the war I’m even more convinced that those who wanted it most cared for the Iraqis least. The problem is, most of the EM signatories try and evade the issue or duck behind their own moral certainties.

    I don’t know if that answers your question. My stated opposition to the war was a throwaway line because it’s a complicated answer and I didn’t want to confuse the above points even further with another long ramble :)

  11. Sunny — on 17th April, 2006 at 3:38 pm  

    Soru – Don’t you think the Conservatives/BNP analogy is a bit, well, far out? All of us believe in the same principles roughly…. which is more than can be said of modern day Tories and the BNP, even if at one time they had similar goals and aims.

    Chris – well, Tony Blair has managed to bring the Conservatives in from the right into the centre, which is better than Clinton managed with the American right, so I think there is that difference too.

    And as another point to add to my previous post:
    the Iraq war started three years ago, and it’s silly that it remains a huge point of argument today. Whether I opposed it or David T supported it, the damn thing has happened.

    Now we should all, as liberals, be going towards what is best for them. That may be about forcing the US and UK govts to be more transparent about their activities (see this previous post), and supporting democracy and the Iraqi people’s choices now (which admittedly some against the war have been reluctant to acknowledge).

    So having a ‘split’ three years after is a, well, delayed reaction really. Now we need to have a different set of priorities as the left.

  12. Chris Stiles — on 17th April, 2006 at 3:52 pm  


    Chris – well, Tony Blair has managed to bring the Conservatives in from the right into the centre.

    That was the claim made of Clinton too – until the republicans took control of the Senate. And actually all Blair has done is move Labour into the centre right by adopting some small-c conservative ideals – the recent education bill is a prime example of that.

    Look at the recent legislation on Terrorism and Detention without Trial, consider the governments love of privatisation. In what way are these remotely leftist – or even centrist policies. These are natural policies of the Conservative Party. The government has played the immigration card to the point where it’s seen as a major issue in each election – and where ’35% of people claim to be thinking of voting for the BNP’. By removing the economic ideals of the Labour Party, all parties have ended up in a race to the right – unfortunately in the UK we already have a party on the far right.

  13. Chris Stiles — on 17th April, 2006 at 3:53 pm  


    ’35% of people claim to be thinking of voting for the BNP’

    That’s 25% from the report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published in the last few days.

  14. soru — on 17th April, 2006 at 5:02 pm  

    ‘All of us believe in the same principles roughly…..’

    If you believe in those principles, why not sign up to them?

    If you think there are other, additional principles that need to be mentioned too, should that really a be a block to signing based on those you do agree with?.

    ‘ which is more than can be said of modern day Tories and the BNP, even if at one time they had similar goals and aims’

    There’s a good book on when and why that split hapenned: ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’, by Martin Pugh. At the start of the 1920s, there would be Tories, backbenchers and ministers, calling for troops to shoot strikers, saying that allowing women the vote had sapped the morale of the nation, and and blaming all and everything on the Jews.

    At the end of it, that kind of thing wasn’t considered ‘extreme Conservativism’ any more, there was a newly minted word which summed up, and, in the UK at least, marginalised that position.

    The 2006 equivalent of that word has yet to be coined. Until it is, the euston manifesto has to use a lot of words to make its fundamentally simple point.

  15. Ravi4 — on 17th April, 2006 at 10:20 pm  

    Thanks to Sunny for answering my post so thoroughly. I agree that all progressives should now be working for the best interests of the Iraqis and of progressive politics more generally. Given that point, I don’t understand the need to rubbish the Euston Manifesto so much, in spite of its shortcomings. I fear that the trend in the left which the EM is working against is not as marginalized as you believe. Maybe all these discussions keep returning to Iraq because it is a more important factor in the future of progressive politics than we’re happy to admit.

    I certainly agree with your last point Sunny in your second comment above about Iraq – “Now we should all, as liberals, be going towards what is best for them. That may be about forcing the US and UK govts to be more transparent about their activities (see this previous post), and supporting democracy and the Iraqi people’s choices now (which admittedly some against the war have been reluctant to acknowledge).”

    Given that point, I have a lot of sympathy with Soru. If I’ve understood Soru’s comment correctly, it’s saying that EM could serve a potentially useful role in drawing a line between progressives who will not compromise on the idea of individual rights (and from what I’ve seen I would situate Pickled Politics firmly within that tradition) and those who are so driven by an all-consuming suspicion of “Western” authority that they will make common cause with almost anyone who attacks that authority.

    Unfortunately, the latter group is not confined to the Galloway/Respect/MAB/SWP fringes; if it were then I too would share your dismissive attitude to them. But Madeleine Bunting, Seumus Milne, Martin Jacques, Tony Benn, most Guardian comment writers, significant sections of the Labour party, (not to mention most of the old fashioned realpolitik right wing – Telegraph, Mail, Douglas Hurd etc) to some extent or another and in their different ways seem to buy into the view that “these pakis/ darkies/ ragheads/ chinkies are wired up differently to us; they like strong leaders – part of their ancient culture don’t you know; we shouldn’t be so insensitive as to assume that these ‘people’ would actually want protection of their individual rights from arbitrary interference by their strong leaders or any kind of democratic say in they way they’re governed”.

    Having had my “darkie/paki” status repeatedly pointed out ever since my family moved to the UK (although not from Pakistan), I would argue that wanting individual rights, liberty, and believing in the potential for liberal democracy to at least start to deliver these values are compatible with our traditions and cultures. These are exactly the kinds of issues on which I believe reasonable human beings should hold moral certainties. Indeed, I stake my own young family’s safety and welfare on these moral certainties on a daily basis – merely by living in the UK and being an engaged citizen, rather than relocating “back to where I came from” as a small minority of my fellow Brits would like.

    The war in Iraq on the other hand is a complex, multi-facetted problem to which I find it hard to believe moral certainties should be applied. Your support for the war in Afghanistan show you’re not part of the knee jerk anti-American crowd, and the various points you make to explain your opposition to the Iraq war are (almost) all valid. That’s reassuring. And yet… the way you put your case makes it seem that as far as you’re concerned the war in Iraq really was a no-brainer to oppose – ie that those who support(ed) the war just have no rational case; and many of the points you make aren’t as cut and dried as you make them out to be.

    The consensus before the war seems to have been that Saddam had WMD – David Kelly thought so, although he didn’t think the 45 minute claim was reliable; Chirac told Newsweek before the war that Saddam almost certainly had chemical weapons, based on French (not US/ UK) intelligence; Ming Campbell ridiculed the first WMD dossier as pointing out the bleeding obvious; finding out why everyone got it so wrong is a big question the non-proliferation “experts” need to answer. Iraq’s infrastructure was not bombed out of existence – as shown by the Iraqis not dying of thirst, heat etc in the summer of 2003; most damage then and since was done by the insurgents. The second Fallujah offensive flattened the city but was almost a textbook siege according to the rules of war – getting the vast majority of civilians out before the fighting started (probably why Zarqarwi and the Al Quaeda in Iraq leadership got away); the insurgents have not taken similar control of any Iraqi city since then. Halliburton’s Iraq billions come from the US taxpayer – Iraq’s oil money is all spent on Iraqi costs eg salaries.

    None of these points necessarily make the war right. There’s no excuse for Abu Ghraib – a situation either directly or indirectly created by Rumsfeld’s questioning of the Geneva conventions; the post-war planning was incompetent – showing the over mighty influence of the military as opposed to the civilian in the Iraq planning; the first Falluja offensive caused atrocious civilian casualties; the Saddam-Al Quaeda link was virtually non-existent; the failure to count dead Iraqis is to be condemned.

    But would any of these have been different if UN inspectors had found threatening WMD and the UN security council aproval for war secured? Would you really have been “gung ho for bombing the hell out of his ass”, as you so amusingly put it, if there was a UNSCR? I wouldn’t have been much less ambiguous in my support for the war even with a UNSCR in place. Innocents, including women and children, would have died by the score, UNSCR or no.

    I have no doubt that US and UK intentions towards Iraq are not 100% pure. The certainty of your comments imply access to insight from within the UK/US foreign policy establishment; my own limited contact doesn’t paint such an unambiguously bleak picture but I don’t write a political blog for a living. Even with your insight into UK/US motives, does that really mean you can, with the kind of moral certainty that your post seems to convey, say that Iraq is a worse place now than it would have been if the war hadn’t taken place and Saddam/ Uday/ Husay still been in place? Or that it might not become a better place in future as a result of the war?

    We must push hard to get the US/UK forces to be more transparent and better behaved in Iraq. But do US/UK forces really represent the current most serious threat to democracy in Iraq? Should we not also be pressing for similar better performance from the coalition forces in Afghanistan? And is that issue the one which we progressives should be focusing most of our effort on in the push to make Iraq a better place for Iraqis? (And Afghanistan a better place for Afghanis.)

    Why keep returning to Iraq particularly in a thread about the EM? There have been lots of criticisms of the EM – that it’s bad tactics to start drawing lines between progressives; that it’s a piece of self-indulgent, self-regarding point scoring between pub-room/ academic lefty windbags; (thanks El Cid) that it doesn’t do anywhere near enough to acknowledge the failings of the US – all these make sense to me to a greater or lesser extent.

    But the criticism of EM that I’ve most often seen is Iraq: why don’t they apologise for Iraq? why don’t they realise what a mistake it all was? Well, there seem to be at least some people who opposed the war in the EM crowd – eg Francis Wheen. And the fact is, Iraq will be with us for the foreseeable future, and its fate – whether some sort of democracy does take hold, if it reverts to military dictatorship, if a totalitarian theocracy arises – is likely to have a profound impact on progressive politics, particularly for those of us from middle-eastern/ Asian backgrounds, here and elsewhere in the world. I have a feeling it’s too early to remove Iraq from the list of the Left’s priorities. I wish that weren’t the case – and I really hope I’m wrong.

    My point again – unquestioning support or opposition to the Iraq war seems to me unsustainable. And, whatever our views on the war itself, all progressives really should be working together to try and help Iraqis to overcome the real obstacles they face to making Iraq a better place for Iraqis. For the sake of Iraq – but also for the sake of progressive politics more widely.

    Sorry to go on at such tedious length. I’ll try to be more succinct & focused in future – as you can tell, I’m new to this online commenting lark. I want to say again that I really admire the work being done here – by you Sunny and by Pickled Politics as a whole.

  16. leon — on 17th April, 2006 at 11:59 pm  
  17. Siddhartha Sinatra — on 18th April, 2006 at 12:47 am  

    The Euston Manifesto even has its own theme song.

  18. Chris Stiles — on 18th April, 2006 at 11:40 pm  

    .. and this is what happens when the pro-war left goes its way:

    http://www.dansimmons.com/news/message.htm

  19. Refresh — on 19th April, 2006 at 12:39 am  

    Chris – read the piece. Enlightening and still had me in stitches.

    A rare combination.

    Sunny, don’t know if you’ve written your Manifesto, but a word of advice – don’t bother!

    You really don’t want to be in their league. Self-obsession is at play for some, but a sleight of hand from the others – obvious to the rest of us.

    More seriously, you could do better than write a ‘Bluffers Guide to……Writing a Manifesto’ – you’d get more respect.

  20. Don — on 19th April, 2006 at 1:05 am  

    Nice vid, Sid.

  21. Refresh — on 19th April, 2006 at 1:13 am  

    I liked the track too Sid – sounded similar to something I’d heard before.

    Ah yes – Billy Joel’s ‘We didn’t start the fire’

  22. Sunny — on 19th April, 2006 at 4:22 am  

    Hi Ravi4 – here’s an attempt to answer:

    it’s saying that EM could serve a potentially useful role in drawing a line between progressives who will not compromise on the idea of individual rights

    I’m not sure about that. A lot of the wording seems to be more a dig at the anti-war lot than trying to draw a line. This is perhaps why most anti-war bloggers, who have not aligned themselves with religious theocrats, have not signed the doc either. But my decision is not based on them.

    I’m going to split your post into three different subjects. One, to expand on why I have not signed up yet.

    Two, you say:
    But Madeleine Bunting, Seumus Milne, Martin Jacques, Tony Benn, most Guardian comment writers, significant sections of the Labour party, (not to mention most of the old fashioned realpolitik right wing – Telegraph, Mail, Douglas Hurd etc) to some extent or another and in their different ways seem to buy into the view that “these pakis/ darkies/ ragheads/ chinkies are wired up differently to us;

    I have a theory about that too, and I think this is deserving of a post in itself to answer. So maybe tomorrow.

    The third subject is a more considered response to my opposition to the war. HEre is my reponse on that front:

    The consensus before the war seems to have been that Saddam had WMD

    A consensus among people who did not want to be seen as asking too many questions. I don’t believe there was a wide consensus everywhere. Nevertheless, I believe the UN should have done its job. The USA and UK rushed into war without any suitable explanation as to why there was such a hurry.

    Halliburton’s Iraq billions come from the US taxpayer – Iraq’s oil money is all spent on Iraqi costs eg salaries.

    Not if you privatise Iraq’s oil and sell it to US companies and knock-dwn prices in the name of ‘investment’.
    http://www.gregpalast.com/opeconthemarch.html

    But would any of these have been different if UN inspectors had found threatening WMD and the UN security council aproval for war secured?

    Yes. If there was clear, legitimately shown threat that Saddam had the stockpiles and was planning to attack, I wouldn’t have had a problem bombing him. After all, I supported the Afghan war because I believe it was in the best long term interests of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    does that really mean you can, with the kind of moral certainty that your post seems to convey, say that Iraq is a worse place now than it would have been if the war hadn’t taken place and Saddam/ Uday/ Husay still been in place?

    This is not why I opposed the war before it had begun. At the time I suspected ulterior motives, and seem to have been proved right. We cannot say whether Iraqis are better off on the basis of some polls and without the dust having settled. Ask me the question in 10 years I’ll have more info.

    However, on the same premise I could say life for North Koreans might be better if the USA killed their prez…. maybe even for most of the middle eastern countries since the people there are constantly denied democracy. But the consequences are more wide-ranging than the controlled environment that you pose the question in. The impact of the Iraq war has not just been on the IRaqis – it has moved the whole area into the arm of religious fanatics who have been lambasting the Americans all their lives.

    Should we not also be pressing for similar better performance from the coalition forces in Afghanistan?
    I believe both the UK and USA have largely given up in trying to get something serious going there, despite promises ‘we will not forget Afghanistan’. Now they’re just looking for a quick exit route once they figure out how to stem the opium supply.

    And, whatever our views on the war itself, all progressives really should be working together to try and help Iraqis to overcome the real obstacles they face to making Iraq a better place for Iraqis.

    Exactly – which is why I find the attempt by the EM lot to dredge that up that issue as a dividing line most unfortunate.

  23. Refresh — on 20th April, 2006 at 12:07 am  

    You’ll excuse me if I don’t respond in kind or length. My days of long posts are gone (some may welcome that).

    I’ll respond specifically to the variations on a theme. All the neo-cons you mentioned are from the same program (I’ll except those who I’ve no knowledge of for now). They can argue amongst themselves on details and tactics.

    These differences that creep through from time to time are no more than cracks in the facade. Bickering – inevitable due to failures, and internal positioning for power. Everyone wants credit for success but no one for failure.

    I am much more persuaded by the history of this cabal and their predecessors. Of specific interest is their development during the cold war.

    What would be much more impressive would be a pull out of the bases that are planned to be left behind by the US. (And yes, a body count of Iraqis killed).

    The history of US intervention is the other element that informs the rest of the population, and of course the standing of the US and sadly now the UK in the rest of the world.

    The progressives’ attitude of the last century was (in my opinion) best described by the notion of self-determination.

    Clearly self-determination has never really been ‘tried’ in the middle-east (from Lawrence of Arabia to Paul Bremer).

    As an aside, I very pleased to see that Latin America is going its own way ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4861320.stm ) “In pursuit of American interests, the US has overthrown or undermined around 40 Latin American governments in the 20th Century. “.

    The links between AQ and goodness knows how many other terror groups and US agencies are there. Some have described the whole thing as blow-back.

    The use of ‘stirred-up’ muslims by the US in battles that were never in the interests of muslims – was cruel and evil. All to defeat a rival superpower.

    I have been looking at an online timeline which makes for sober reading.
    http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/timeline.jsp?timeline=complete_911_timeline

    It would also be timely to note how often Richard Perle takes the stage; his & Netanyahu’s involvment in derailing Oslo and how and who created Hamas ( read also Dilip Hiro – Sharing the Promised Land: A Tale of Israelis and Palestinians).

    So the question is should we entrust the security of our nation which had (has) so much to offer into the hands of the neo-cons (give or take a name or two)?

    The answer is a resounding NO.

    The whole childish game of producing manifestos is no more than attaching some importance to the work of the ‘decent’,'muscular’,'cryptic’ left who are probably looking for their place in the sun.

    If I read some of the blogs, its more often than not anti-Islamic (being anti-terror isn’t intellectual enough I guess). And lately there has been an odd development – where they seem to satirise the criticism they expect from the left even before it happens. Sign of insecurity of you were to ask me.

    Perhaps I can also see how their approach can readily feed into the BNP electoral campaign.

    Sorry – the post is longer than I had planned.

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