Thursday, January 25, 2007

Don't You Know Your Left From Your Right?

It's Thursday night and I've been steadily making my way through the Sunday newspaper, which is how I think it should be. Sunday newspapers are like big dossiers you can leave lying around on the kitchen table all week and just dip into whenever it takes your fancy. So long as you've cleared it all away by the next Sunday, it's fine. Anyway, I've been reading the long featured extract from Nick Cohen's new book in The Observer, and it's left me a little bit agitated.

It's called 'What's Left?: How Liberals Lost Their Way' and is all about what Cohen views as the liberal left's loss of direction and hypocrisy, specifically relating to the (last) Iraq war. In short, he says that those involved in the modern day anti-war movement were, and are, contradicting all of their liberal values by opposing the invasion. Opposition which equated to supporting a fascist regime stay in power. He blames a dogmatic 'anti-Americanism' for distorting the left's sense of direction and identity, and for causing it to find strange bedfellows with militant Islam as a result. Liberals don't know their left from their right, he says.

In opposing war on Iraq I always had inner tensions surrounding Saddam Hussein - as everyone would have done. He was a despicable tyrant, and someone Iraq would be far better off without. That much goes without saying. But what Cohen elects to paint as 'anti-war = pro-Saddam' is utter piffle. For someone with over twenty years' journalistic experience at a top level he gives a remarkably two-dimensional, black and white picture. A million people didn't march through the streets of London to demonstrate their support for the Baath Party. And neither did they do it through some overly simplistic anti-American agenda, where any enemy of the US is 'the left's friend'. That's a cheap shot wheeled out time and time again by neo-Cons. The London demonstration, and all the others across the world on the same day, was full of people simply outraged at the blatant hypocrisy of an imperial hegemon using unilateral power to muscle its way into an area long identified as a strategic battleground, both militarily and economically, as part of its 'New American Century'. All justified with what appeared to be a set of exaggerated intelligence claims. Claims which now, of course, we know were just plain false.

What Cohen omits from his book - or at least the extracts in The Observer - are the 650,000 Iraqis killed as a result of Bush's playground antics. Three thousand American soldiers, and 130 British troops. The completely botched aftermath that's plunged a country into effective civil war, rendering the streets far more hostile and divided than under Saddam's regime. Increased resentment of the west across the Arab world. All the things many on the left saw coming all along, and warned against. I'm not for a minute trying to suggest there were any simple answers from the beginning, but maybe, just maybe, those who opposed the war did so after attempting to properly understand the complexities of the country we were about to storm into, and by listening to the international warnings from experts about the dangers involved. A bit of thought and understanding. Just a few of the things the American neo-Cons would clearly have benefitted from trying in the first place. It wasn't anything to do with knowing your left from your right - it was about knowing a dire, unwinnable battle being fought on false pretenses when you see one.

Nick Cohen article

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

well said young man.

January 26, 2007 9:17 pm  
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