Sunday, April 29, 2007

An Invitation

Hello all,

Sorry for the lack of blogging recently. To make up for it, here’s an invitation to a party.

Well, not quite. But I’ve been made aware of it, and have been told to make “you” aware. So here goes:

Humanitarian Intervention post-Iraq, Monday 30th April.

Jubilee Room, Westminster Hall, Houses of Parliament, London.

A Euston Manifesto Forum

On Monday 30th April, a panel of leading Ministers, MPs, and thinkers will come together to discuss the future of humanitarian intervention, after the conflict in Iraq.

As a Euston Manifesto signatory blog, we would like to give your readership the opportunity to ask questions directly to the panel. We would really appreciate you and your readers’ contributions to this important debate, and would be grateful to you if you could raise awareness of the event, which we hope will raise nationally and internationally the importance of humanitarian intervention.

The speakers include: -

Rt. Hon. Hilary Benn MP, Minister for International Development and a candidate for the Labour party deputy leadership.

Prof. Brian Brivati, Professor of Contemporary History and Human Rights at Kingston University.

Nick Cohen, journalist for the Observer and New Statesman, and author of ‘What’s Left? How Liberals lost their way’.

Gary Kent, Director of Labour Friends of Iraq.

Pat McFadden MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Cabinet Office

Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust (tbc.)

In a first of its kind, the forum will be broadcast on Youtube and, hopefully, simultaneously these clips will be placed on blogs sympathetic to the Euston Manifesto across the internet, globally.

Please ask your readership to submit questions to the panel, once you have a list of questions (perhaps from the comment boxes of your blogs) forward them to: euston.manifesto@googlemail.com . Note: this email address shouldn’t be placed directly on your blog due to the volume of responses it will (hopefully!) generate.

We would also be grateful if you could embed the Youtube clips we will be producing directly on your blog, if you’d like to do this, please email euston.manifesto@googlemail.com and the embedding code will be sent to you the moment the clips are online.

The greater the number of blogs who distribute these Youtube videos, the greater the audience, and in the period before the Euston Manifesto Conference on May 30 th, it is an excellent time to raise the profile of both the Manifesto and its values.

Kindest regards,

Michael Harris

Parliamentary Assistant and Researcher to Louise Ellman MP

Professor Alan Johnson

Editor, Democratiya

My gut feeling is that humanitarian intervention post-Iraq is up shit creek without a paddle, but I’ll wait til I’ve seen these Youtube clips. And Nick Cohen is always good value for money.


Cory

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Shame, Repentance and Iraq

George Orwell, something of a literary hero of mine, wrote in his 1946 essay ‘Why I Write’:


I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, and I felt that this created a sort of private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life.

This ‘power of facing’ was arguably his greatest asset as a writer. It must have come in handy whilst he fought his battles against his three great foes. Imperialism; which his rejection of cut any ties he might have had to his family’s old cash cow. Communism; against which he fought his longest and most bitter struggle, remember, nothing is as hate-filled as a Comrade scorned; and Fascism – a disgusting ideology against which he saw fit to grab a rifle and hurl himself against.Central to this ‘power of facing’ is to admit when you have got things wrong. It is difficult, it is humiliating, and it is harder to do the longer you ignore it; But like an elephant in the room, it bears down on you, demanding attention and acting as a dam to your intellect, preventing you from addressing any other issue until the omnipresent pachyderm is dealt with.

We got it wrong. We all got it terribly wrong. All the columnists, pseudo-intellectuals and ‘experts’ who backed the war in
Iraq (I almost said Bushes war, but it was Our war as well) should feel cowed and intimidated by the magnitude of their mistake. It was never going to work, and the true experts said so. All the hubris and self-righteous squawking about the ‘flowering of democracy’ ignored history, ignored evidence and ignored reason.

I am talking here not of the upper echelons of the Bush administration. Cheney, Rumsfeld et al. are old school nationalist Conservatives who never gave a damn about the Iraqi people and had no interest in seeing Iraq become a country for and of its people rather than a state lording it over them. Rumsfeld just wanted to go in and bomb the crap out of a few Arabs. Blow some shit up. Show ‘em who is boss. American Iron, American Steel, American hegemony. Might makes right. Never having been a fan of Bush and Rumsfeld and the rest of the junta and not believing for a minute their bullshit about Weapons of Mass Destruction, I looked elsewhere for justification. My search led me to the writings of Christopher Hitchens, the famous journalist and polemicist. Well spoken, incredibly intelligent and possessed with an acid wit and sharp turn of phrase, Hitchens seemed the ideal advocate for this noble enterprise I was supporting. It helped that the most vocal opponents of the war were the repulsive neo-fascists of RESPECT and their demagogue-in-chief, the slobbering and spitting and drooling George ‘Slug’ Galloway. I had no wish to associate myself with such people. No, instead I would read the work of this gentleman man-of-letters and take my position alongside him accordingly. (Incidentally, for those who think Hitchens is as boorish and rude as Galloway, remember this phrase: ‘a gentleman is never rude except on purpose’.) Hitchens’ polemics in favour of regime change were convincing and his essays about the plight of the Kurds and the brutality of Saddam had me enthusiastically signing up for his removal. So on it went for several years afterwards. As things rapidly deteriorated in Iraq I read more and more pro-war literature in a desperate effort to shore up my rapidly declining confidence in the whole adventure. Paul Berman, Thomas Friedman, Nick Cohen. Even Tony Blair, a man who I respect and admire as Prime Minister, had a lot of stirring rhetoric to deliver about Freedom and democracy and all the rest of it. The blogsphere also made its contribution – Harry’s Place, Normblog and Oliver Kamm were all articulate and effective proponents of the war. Andrew Sullivan in America also had much to say about Iraq that I found inspiring and persuasive.But they were all wrong. As was I. It was never going to work. The thinkers who supported the war should have realized several things.

1. Saying ‘You go to war with the President you have’ represents a gross refusal to face reality. The fact was, Bush was President and Rumsfeld was Defence Secretary and the war was designed and carried out by them. Wanting to see the end of Saddam was the only moral position to take, but to then ignore all other factors when someone proposes to remove him represents a sacrifice of reason and a profound lapse in judgment. Bush was not the President to do it. The time was not right. What was the right time? Not then, not now, not with the Junta in charge.

2. For a while I thought that sending more troops was the answer. Supporters of the war (once again, I include myself amongst them) dodged their own culpability by throwing out the charge of incompetence at the Administration. Of course, this charge is completely true, but it came too late. We should have been saying it before the war started. We should have realised that the Junta had no interest in doing the right thing. We should have doubted. Many of us did, but we thought we would give it a shot anyway. We dealt in possibilities, in what might happen and wishful thinking overtook us. We looked at the successful society that surrounds us and expected others to rush to build it straight away. They would understand that we were there to help them. Ours was the language of hopes, dreams and vagueness. Orwell spoke of the danger of such thinking in his Politics and the English Language:

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were instinctively, to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics.” All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia

Undoubtedly many were sincere in their wish to see the Iraqis succeed, but as things spiraled into the abyss we started muttering increasingly meaningless phrases such as ‘staying the course’ and ‘no cutting and running’ with no thought as to what they meant. Our euphemisms were resulting in people being killed. Our idealism had already cost the lives of thousands upon thousands.

There is seldom something as dangerous as a zealous idealist infected with a sense of ‘destiny’. History is littered with examples of tragedies being wrought by those who had ostensibly noble aims. The French and Russian Revolutions are perhaps the two best examples of this. Hitchens is perhaps the worst offender here. So convinced is he that his cause is right and his fight just, that he sweeps under the carpet the death and destruction the war in Iraq has sparked. His ideological fervour is something that I do not share, having never been a revolutionary Marxist. His belief that America under Bush has become a Jeffersonian-Thomas Paine-esque ‘Empire for democracy’ which spreads freedom with power is flawed. I admire America very much, but it is still a nation-state; and nation states have interests and, no matter how much Hitchens wishes it were so, those interests are not based on any good sense of morality. Kissinger may be an odious man, but he is closer to reality than Hitchens. Being able to change your mind is a very precious thing. I was wrong. I turned into an idealist, perhaps even an ideologue. A better appreciation of the limits of my own judgement and of the ability of government to effect change in such a drastic way in a part of the world we little understood would have resulted in a more reality-based position.

-posted by Adam

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Thursday, October 5, 2006

The Conservative Soul

I would not consider myself a conservative in any sense of the word, but I do recognise that conservatism is an important and coherent (at least as coherent as socialism and social democracy) political philosophy. I support the Euston Manifesto’s attempt to build bridges with certain conservative groups over the war on Islamic fascism and the threat it poses to both our political traditions. Any attempt by moderate conservatives to rescue their philosophy from the religious fundementalists in America has my full support. 

One of these principled persons is the blogger and public intellectual Andrew Sullivan. He has a new book out entitled The Conservative Soul.

Andrew discusses his new book in this talk at the Cato Institute in Washington. David Brooks, columnist at the New York Times, provides a cogent and piercing critique of his thesis, which Sullivan deals with ably and eloquently. An excellent discussion. More of this type, which creates more light than it does heat, are sorely needed in our politics.

-posted by Adam

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Balls!

I had been wondering when the first Euston Manifesto meeting in the North would take place. Now one has been announced. For September 17th, in Manchester, by which time I will already be in Birmingham.

Damn and blast!

 

Posted by The golden strawberry in 22:31:16 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Debate on the Euston Manifesto

An article in Front Page, in which Norman Geras and Nick Cohen debate the Euston Manifesto with a couple of prats – David Horowitz and Jamie Glazov.

Their central argument seems to be that all the left is totalitarian in nature. Not like conservative right-wingers, who are all as pure and democratic as the driven snow.

Still, it provides a few useful counter-arguments for the nutty, ill-informed intellectuals who may try and argue about the Euston Manifesto. It’s added to our Recommended Reading list.

-posted by Roy

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Friday, May 26, 2006

The Beginning

”It’s a beginning, that’s all.”

 An admirable summary from Prof. Geras about the launch of the Euston Manifesto last night, which I attended. Good speeches all round with a special mention for Alan Johnson who, I thought, did the best job of rooting the Manifesto and its ideals in the real world and crystallising its opposition to the demagoguery of Galloway and his acolytes.

I see this as a long term project – I can see it igniting a debate in the mainstream left which will rage for a long while to come. Our opponents are legion and hysterical but, in time, we can hope that, thanks to the efforts of all the first rate people involved, the sort of reasoned debate the Manifesto calls for will win out in the end.

In conclusion – Great Start, much still to do, everything to play for.

-posted by Adam

 (quick rant against the train system – On the way back to Birmingham I was fined £54 by some t****r conducter on a power trip because I got the 9:10 a.m train and not the 9:40. a.m one. Ok, so I didn’t go and check if my saver return ticket would be acceptable at the ticket desk, but give me a break here. I had slept (badly) on my friends (very hard and dirty) hall of residence floor for less than 2 hours and wanted to go home. Goddamned privitised New Labour claptrap. No spirit of public service!)

Posted by The golden strawberry in 19:24:27 | Permalink | Comments Off

Former left-wing Zionists for imperialism?

As far as I know, nobody has taken the time to make a detailed criticism of this critique of the Euston Manifesto, written by some chaps from the World Socialist Website. The general response seems to be to laugh at it, and that a more detailed discussion of the article would be pointless.

But I’m used to doing things that are pointless. I’m writing a blog, for heavan’s sake. So here goes:

The manifesto was drafted by a number of former left and liberal academics and journalists.

That’s my emboldening. Hmm, I’m not so sure about that one. I’ll let it pass, as the “you’re not right wing” argument is getting a little tiresome. Being to the right of mad revolutionary socialists does not make you necessarily “right wing”.

Many come from a left-Zionist background

What’s this got to do with anything? Don’t just cry “Israel”, it’s not sensible or clever.

Most of its prominent supporters defended the Iraq war based on the premise that US and British imperialism should be entrusted with opposing dictatorship and spreading democracy.

No, sorry. Norman Geras’ remarks on “imperialism” can be found in this Golden Strawberry post.

Any signatories who may have opposed the Iraq war now have no difficulty in aligning themselves with the pro-war majority within the group.

That’s because you didn’t have to agree with the invasion of Iraq to agree with the basic priniples in the Manifesto, as said in the very first post on the Golden Strawberry.

Even Amnesty International is attacked for making a “grotesque public comparison of Guantanamo with the Gulag.”

That’s because it is a silly comparison to make. The Gulags killed 16 million people, Guantanamo Bay, although repulsive, has not killed 16 million people. It’s like saying the crimes of Fred West are comparable to those people killed in the Second World War.

“Leftists who make common cause with, or excuses for, anti-democratic forces should be criticised in clear and forthright terms,” they state, portraying opponents of the occupation of Iraq as de facto allies of Islamic fundamentalists.

Don’t get me started on this one…

The US continues to be “the home of a strong democracy with a noble tradition behind it and lasting constitutional and social achievements to its name,” the manifesto declares, obscuring the fact that these very “achievements” are under ferocious assault by the US administration and ruling elite.

But nevertheless, the US and UK are still “better” (despite their faults which need to be rectified) than Iran, Iraq under Saddam, North Korea etc etc…..

That will do for now. I used to wish those at blogs such as Harry’s Place would not post as much about the antics of the far left. It all got a little repetitive and tiresome. But now I find that once you’ve started chronicling the antics of Respect and the like, it’s very hard to stop. It’s addictive, but necessary.

-posted by Roy

Posted by The golden strawberry in 17:34:56 | Permalink | Comments Off

The morning after the night before

Some of you may have noticed from posts on this blog, and various others, that the Euston Manifesto was launched last night. Adam’s promised hot-off-the-press-report hasn’t materialised. My fear is that he overdid the informal session in the bar afterwards, and is still in bed with the mother of all hangovers. It wouldn’t be the first time this week. For now, the Manifeto unveiling is covered by Norm, with the complete text of his launch speech, and Clive Davis, complete with pictures.

And as if we didn’t need any more reasons to disassociate the Eustonians with other sections of the left, this came to my attention in the Independent.

The Respect MP George Galloway has said it would be morally justified for a suicide bomber to murder Tony Blair.

In an interview with GQ magazine, the reporter asked him: “Would the assassination of, say, Tony Blair by a suicide bomber – if there were no other casualties – be justified as revenge for the war on Iraq?”

Mr Galloway replied: “Yes, it would be morally justified. I am not calling for it – but if it happened it would be of a wholly different moral order to the events of 7/7. It would be entirely logical and explicable. And morally equivalent to ordering the deaths of thousands of innocent people in Iraq – as Blair did.”

You can tell it’s bad when even STOP THE WAR criticises the indefatigable one.

There’s also something in the article about the indefatigable one’s fawning of his newest favourite dictator.

Mr Galloway yesterday made a surprise appearance on Cuban television with the Caribbean island’s Communist dictator, Fidel Castro – whom he defended as a “lion” in a political world populated by “monkeys”.

And this passage came right out of a Mills and Boon novel. 

Looking approvingly into each others’ eyes, the pair embraced.

All this homo-eroticism is making my head hurt. Back to the cricket.

-posted by Roy

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Euston Manifesto Update

I knew I’d crack eventually, and post something. I’ve a good excuse though. We’re in the middle of updating the blog, adding our favourite blogs, books and whatever. If you have a blog and a website you’d like us to link, e-mail us at coryh_at_btinteret.com. All we ask is that you link to our site in return.

The Euston Manifesto is launched tomorrow. It already has over 1500 signatories, and the number has more than doubled since this blog was started. Though the part the Golden Strawberry played in achieving this doubling is dubious to say the least. It’s now available in seven languages, so those outside the UK and US can show it to their friends, and agree that the document is indeed marvellous.

There’s been plenty of criticism of the Euston Manifesto, most of which is detailed by Norman Geras. He rebuffs these in the various Euston platforms, which I cannot find at the moment but will link to the moment I do.

Some have said that the Euston Manifesto documents nothing new, and that it was pointless. From the article by Daniel Finkelstein:

The Euston Manifesto is a gigantic waste of time and energy.

I’d have to disagree. It’s important that we show there is a section of the left not in bed with the various Islamist terrorists and extremists, like the Iraqi resistance; and one who does not pledge solidarity with the regime of North Korea. The Manifesto marks a new progressive direction for the left, and it is important that we find out how many people agree with the thrust of its policies. At the time of writing, it looks like there is a broad consensus for the Eustonian ideas. Which would make the launching of the Manifesto a success.

-posted by Roy

UPDATE – Here is the full list of Norm’s platforms, including the newest, platform 11, which appears in the Guardian today.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Pointless?

Just read Daniel Finkelsteins critique of the Manifesto here. He raises some interesting points, especially this one:

Meanwhile, I wonder and I wait. I wonder when Mr Blair is going to stop being bewildered and frustrated by this failure and begin living with its consequences. I wait for the penny to drop that his war on Iraq required Tory support in the Commons, despite him having one of the biggest majorities enjoyed by a progressive party. I wonder and I wait for him to understand that while he might feel that progressives should support his views and those of the Euston Manifesto, in practice they do not.

No, they do not and many of them never will. Finkelstein is wrong however, to deride the manifesto as a waste of time because of the pig headedness of (as the drinked soaked trots call it) the ‘pseudo left’.

Do we want to ‘save the left from itself’ when the left we are referring to is in bed with Islamism and totalitarianism? Perhaps now is the time for a final parting of the ways. At least until those on the pseudo left realise their compromised position and admit their mistakes.

Not much chance of that though, is there? I think one of the best things the manifesto has done is to thrust the split on the left into the spotlight and lay bare the treachery and hypocrisy of the apologists for terrorism for all to see.

-posted by Adam

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