Friday, December 24, 2004

LI will be largely on hiatus until Jan. 6. We are off to Mexico. Our advise is still the same for the celebration of these Holidays that were so unjustly hijacked from the Romans and put in the service of a rather pallid myth by the extraordinary cult that, much to Mr. Gibbon's regret, undermined the Empire: that is, be a true conservative and return to the Saturnalian fundamentals. Have sex, let slaves be masters and masters slaves, turn the world upside down. Your slogan should be: what would Heliogabalus think? Or, to quote Artaud: "I do not like poems or languages of the surface which smell of happy leisures and of intellectual success – as if the intellect relied on the anus, but without any heart or soul in it. The anus is always terror, and I will not admit that one loses an excrement without being torn from, thereby losing one’s soul as well..."

Next year should be a good one for us. We look forward to thefts on the American scene -- especially the trillion some dollar robbery of Social Security -- whhich will rival in savagery Russia in the nineties; we look forward to the New York Times explanation of the election results in Iraq (today the NYT cautiously ventured that perhaps the winning of the hearts and minds of Fallujans was not accomplished by knocking down their houses, spreading shit in their streets, and torching their mosques, while refusing to provide them with any shelter or food as they wend their laissez faire way through the Sunni triangle, comforted by the fires of liberty the Bush gang has lit across the landscape -- there really is nothing funnier than watching the American media delicately handle reality after their various ideological orgies -- and then watching them quickly embed themselves in the imperialist fantasy once more, to grub and snooze); we look forward, on the environmental front, to the Bush gang's less noted but always frothy fantasies -- for instance, the recent support given by the Americans to the Saudi demand that any environmental policy that was directed towards minimizing the use of petroleum in any way be compensated for by payments from the G-8 to the petroleum producing countries -- in other words, fining any conservation effort and sending the fines directly to the House of Saud, a policy which went unremarked, in general, since we know these people are insane anyway. Oh pioneers! we foresee a luridly amusing landscape opening up for us in the land of the free and the home of the brave!
A bientot!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The making of the enemy.

“The question of the qualification of the enemy is at the heart of the modern law of war. Without a doubt, since antiquity one has distinguished the private enemy (inimicus) from the public enemy (hostis), and that last from the brigand and the criminal. The distinctions were taken up by theoreticians of the rights of man in the 18th century. The question, thus posed, is not only who is one’s enemy, but what type of enemy one is dealing with.”

LI is a sucker for the magisterial opening line – and these lines by Michel Senellart are nothing if not magisterial. They introduce an article, “The Qualification of the enemy in Emer de Vattel” in the July Astérion, which devoted an issue to the civilizing of warfare in the eighteenth century.

“I want to examine, in this article, the way in which the division between a combattant force and a non-combattant population was established in the law of modern war, and what consequences ensued. This distinction, as we know, is the foundation of the laws of war formulated for the first time by the Brussels conference in 1874 and then that of the Hague in 1899 and 1907, with the view of “serving the interests of humanity and the progressive demands of civilisation.” It cannot be separated from another distinction, the object of bitter controversies, between legitimate and illegitimate combattants. It is in the work of jurisconsul Emer de Vattel (1714-1767), author of a celebrated treatise on human rights (droit des gens), that their articulation appeared most clearly. However, it gave rise to two opposed readings, the conflict between which manifested the tensions inherent in the modern law of war.”

A timely enterprise, this, given that inimicus and hostis are so inextricably mixed up in Iraq. An unintentionally hilarious article by the Washington Post’s Josh White, yesterday, explained that Americans in Samarra are facing a ‘wall of silence” erected by the inhabitants, who are refusing to finger insurgents. Shades of the Viet Cong terrorizing villagers and bogging down the goodhearted American effort – White begins with the ritualized search of a quarter of the town:

“SAMARRA, Iraq, Dec. 22 -- The soldiers kicked the wooden doors open and swarmed through the houses, rolling up rugs, looking through cabinets, searching boxes, pushing aside couches. Within minutes, they had lined up the Iraqi men they had found inside. The men were taken outside and made to squat in the late-night darkness, their breath streaming out in faint, wispy clouds as their hands pushed flat against a concrete wall.”

He then moves on to the wall of silence problem, which he attributes solely to the vicious enemy:
“The Sunday night raid was what soldiers here call a "dry hole." They received an intelligence tip, and it led to nothing. They broke down doors and interrogated people who appeared to have no connection to the war the United States is waging. The soldiers paid the families in U.S. dollars for the broken door jambs and the splintered cabinet doors that hung askew.
The frustrating dead end was a symptom of what officers here agree is a virtual intelligence meltdown in Samarra, a city 65 miles north of Baghdad in the Sunni Triangle, an area where the insurgency runs deep. Rebels have intimidated the local population, launching attacks from neighborhoods where residents now fear the consequences of helping the American occupiers.”
One of the deep structural factors in racism is the unwillingness to recognize the Other’s imagination even to the degree of recognizing the other’s humiliation by the culture of violence and subordination visited upon him beyond the Pavlovian exterior marks that come with electroshock and reward. Sense, in the Other, doesn’t develop into sensibility. That the Samarran men might resent having to squat uncomfortably while American kids, basically, search their houses (exposing those houses to, among other things, theft) simply never occurs to White. Just as, in Jim Crow days, the segregationist White made up for stealing the civil rights of the adult Black by making a cult of the cuteness of black kids, so, too, White’s story ends, predictably, with the Samarran children who witnessed the humiliation of their parents being given treats by the soldiers:
“Schacht, the battalion commander, said the campaign to win the Iraqi people over -- one that is proving more successful with the children here, who are plied with candy and soccer balls -- is moving slowly. The lack of cooperation among residents is making his job tougher, he said.”
Vattel, according to Senellart, “marks a progress from Grotius” insofar as his forumulation of the rules of war – a formulation that amounts to, in some ways, a distribution of roles, a dramaturgy in which the enemy and the citizen are sorted out – depends not on morality, but “from his conception of war as a inter-state relationship. He thus ties the spirit of humanity to the historic process of the centralisation of power.”

Vattel’s epistemic procedure is obviously contoured by the 18th century context of a modified monarchial power. In fact – and this is LI, not Senellart -- that context hasn’t changed that much – foreign policy in republics is still the province of monarchial governance, since it is rare that the constituency-building necessary to create democratic governance will emerge in the rarified atmosphere of foreign policy discussion.
Senellart pushes his discussion of the readings of Vattel (which are characteristically polarized between a normative version that goes through Bluntschli, and a “decisionist’ version that goes through Schmidt) to another division – between the power of the state and the power of the people, between the state’s organisation of war and the insurrection.

Read the essay.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Go to the History Today for October and read the article by Mark Goldie on John Locke. About John Locke? No, more specifically, it is about the vagaries of Locke’s reputation. This has become quite a little subgenre: the bio of the reputation. Orwell’s reputation has had, we believe, at least two bios. We rather like the idea – it is so reminiscent of the story of Peter Schlemiel’s shadow – the detachment of that purely negative space, and its adventures as it retains a shape to which it is no longer owes the loyalty of absolute physical proximity.

Locke, according to this informative survey, was a secretive soul.

“He was indifferent to biography and reticent, even secretive, about himself. When the philosopher Damaris Masham wrote her memoir of him, she could not report his year of birth, though they had lived together for fourteen years from 1690. Like another of his friends, Sir Christopher Wren, whose epitaph in St Paul's Cathedral invites us to 'look around', Locke's epitaph at High Laver in Essex invites us to 'learn from his writings' rather than engage in 'dubious eulogies'.”
This is the first time we ever encountered the evocative name, Damaris Masham (one isn’t quite sure whether fiction isn’t infecting the past, here – surely Damaris Masham is a wholly fictitious name made up by Neal Stephenson?), and we are noting her for future investigation. Goldie, in accordance with the epitaph’s invitation, shows that the dubious eulogies accorded Locke have come from ideologically diverse quarters. In the eighteenth century, as one might expect, Locke was damned by the tories – rather ironically, since, Goldie notes, “in contemporary America Locke or, rather, an imagined heritage 'Locke', is mascot of right-wing think-tanks.” Contrast with this:
“The first pictorial representation of 'Locke on government' appeared in 1710 in a Tory cartoon attacking the Whig pamphleteer Benjamin Hoadly, where Locke appears on the bookshelf behind Hoadly's desk. In one version, Oliver Cromwell stands over Hoadly's shoulder, with regicide's axe in hand; in another, it is the devil who stands there. Ironically, in the reign of Queen Anne Tory hatred of Locke served to make his name better known as a theorist of politics. One of his critics was the Tory feminist Mary Astell, who attacked Whig philosophy because it deposed monarchical tyrants while leaving husbandly tyranny intact. 'If all men are born free, how is that all women are born slaves?'”
We imagine Locke was the kind of leveler that Swift would have targetted (perhaps there is some anti-Lockian tone in the Modest Proposal), but Goldie concentrates more on Locke’s reputation among political types. Although there are artistic touches.

For instance,
“Lord Cobham transformed his estate at Stowe near Buckingham into a rural allegory of the fate of political liberty under the rule of perverted Whiggery. In his Elysian Fields he built a sturdy Temple of Ancient Virtue and a ruinous Temple of Modern Virtue. The ensemble culminated in the Temple of British Worthies. Here he placed busts of Elizabeth I, William III, John Hampden, Milton, and Locke. To these he added the Black Prince, a model for the current Prince of Wales, Frederick, who, it was hoped, would restore liberty when his father died. [circa 1730] Lastly came King Alfred, whom Cobham called the 'founder of the English constitution'.

The article goes on to explicate, entertainingly, the tangle between Locke and whiggism and anglican latitudinarianism, and the creation of a right and a left schools of Lockeans.

Tomorrow, if we have time, we will discuss this important article that appeared in Asterion. We recommend the whole issue. And after that – we are taking off for two weeks. Going to Mexico. Adios, have a good holiday including lots of sex – we recommend, between consulting adults, violating those precepts of good Christian sex and discovering the Saturnalia of pleasure that lies right on the surface of your skin. Best done under the blinking illumination of the Christmas tree lights. Santa gives Saturnalia a thumbs up!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Shakh Mat

Chess came to Europe through Persia. The pieces were re-configured, the moves changed, from the Indian original. Europeans also inherited the phrase, check mate, from the Persian phrase ‘the shah is dead’ – Shakh mat.

LI has no inside information, but we believe that Sistani, at one time, must have been a hell of a chess player.

After reading our last post, a friend asked us what analogy we were drawing between the Pazzi conspiracy and Iraq.

We cited Machiavelli because, a., the events he records in the History of Florence – the shifting combinations that play across the Florentine political landscape and that involve self organising norms rather than set principles – are broadly similar to the shifting combinations in Iraq; and b., the spirit of Machiavelli – his ability to perceive that history – was an act of imaginative virtue. That is, he considered the combination by considering the perspectives of the players and leaving a large space open for sheer collision – for the accidents of fortune that emerge to shape, obviate, or unexpectedly advance the progress of a project.

It’s only by using that same imaginative virtue that one understands the game Sistani has played, and its brilliance.

After the fall of Baghdad last year, Sistani faced several unknowns. On the one hand, the Ba’athist structure as Saddam had built it was in ruins. On the other hand, the Americans were an unknown force. Were they serious? Would they leave right away? Would they govern?

Sistani’s response to these variables was to wait. What he saw unfold helped him decide about the Americans. They seemed unaware that the Ba’athist structure, while in ruins, was by no means harmless. Allowing the looting to go on – allowing, as Sistani must have known, arms depots throughout the country to be raided, as well as allowing electric power plants to be stripped of their equipment, etc – while guarding the Oil Ministry with comic opera seriousness must have given him a vivid sense of American limits.

As a rule of thumb, if you are dealing with the Americans in a third world country, it is always good to remember that eventually, they will go home. Third world leaders, however, never quite grasp the dimensions of American indifference. While this is a country that jolts enjoyably from moral panic to moral panic, it is also strangely indifferent to the moral panics of the past. At the moment, for instance, hundreds of thousands of Americans debate Iraqi democracy. As soon as the last American soldiers depart from the country, however, the interest will as completely evaporate as, for instance, the interest in a democratic Kuwait that animated Americans in 1991. Since the end of the first Gulf war, approximately .0000000002% of American media attention has been directed to an issue that, at one time, American soldiers were supposedly dying for. LI, for instance, had to look up whether women could vote in Kuwait on Google yesterday, since we had no vague notion from newspapers or radio or Internet. It is a dead issue. Women, by the way, can’t vote. Do you care?

This combination of heated passion and cold indifference is what makes Americans such interesting players.

Sistani’s patience was soon rewarded by the attacks on Americans. The second phase of the war was beginning, and the winning side in the first phase didn’t even know it.

The attacks came from no friends of Sistani’s. However, at that point, friendship was a matter of cancellation – the enemy of my enemy – rather than of affirmation. The Americans were still floating the trial balloon of rule by exile militias, such as Chalabi’s, without seeming to realize that there were much tougher militias out there, trained in Iran. And so the board soon became dotted with different squares.

Sistani’s patience obviously left a gap in the struggle for power. It was here that Sadr made a series of moves that, while seemingly putting Sistani more and more on the spot, actually benefitted him. Sadr attracted the American enmity that Sistani was able to avoid, even as Sistani avoided siding with the Americans. This is why Sistani’s original call for elections, in the summer of 03, increased his stature with its every reiteration.

We think the turning point in Iraq came this spring, when the Americans moved against Sadr in Najaf. If you will remember, the battle against Sadr evoked calls of solidarity from the Sunni groups arrayed against the Americans, while Sistani checked out of the country. But only until Najaf had been trashed by both sides to the extent that he felt he could end his wait. He did this by marching into Najaf – or leading a sort of peace convoy into Najaf. In that one stroke, we think he began the process of making the Americans irrelevant in Iraq.

It isn’t that they don’t have the largest force in the country. And they certainly make up laws and then have their president pass them. What the Americans don’t see, however, is that they have been subsumed, by circumstances, into the tool, rather than the puppet master, of various factions in Iraq. The strongest of which, by virtue of what he did in Najaf (driving the Americans out of a major urban center without firing a shot), has coalesced around Sistani’s plans for Shi’ite rule.

The next play on the board was, truly, a chess play. The taking of Fallujah was motivated by a combination of several fantasies. One fantasy comes out of the deep wellsprings of American military culture, which has considered winning a war, since 1865, to be the equivalent of taking Richmond. They are always, in other words, looking for Dr. Evil’s hideout. This is a good strategy for, say, winning World War II, and a bad one for winning a guerilla war. Another fantasy came out of the American political advisors. This is a pure Bush campaign fantasy. The way to win hearts and minds is to target an enemy and stomp on it. The idea here is that Allawi, who the Americans were dimly aware was leaking popularity (even the American’s own IRI poll showed him neck and neck with Sadr), needed to be washed in some Sunni blood. The third fantasy was the insurgents’. This is much harder to penetrate. One of the great triumphs of the war against the insurgency, actually, has been to wed the Ba’athist remnant to the qaeda-ist violence of Zarqawi types. Nothing, we think, has more alienated a population that might be inclined to revolt, for nationalistic reasons, but that is repulsed by the attempt to reproduce Saudi cultural norms among the alien fields of Mesopotamia. Qaeda-ists have a blow them up strategy, and would be quite willing to sacrifice the citizens of Fallujah en masse to achieve that orgasm a la plastique by which they imagine they will be enfolded in the bosom of providence.

But one fantasy was absent, here. It soon became clear that this attack on Fallujah was different from the assault in the spring, or the assault on Najaf, in that there wasn’t an echo of support in the Shiite community. Even from Sadr. This is a measure of the disaster enacted in the alliance between a qaedist group that is oriented towards anti-Shiite pograms and a cynical Ba'athist group that is oriented towards retaking power -- and restoring an economic order that, after all, benefited a large class of Sunnis.

The Americans were probably pleased by the lack of Shi’ite support – but it did rather doom their program of cleansing Allawi in the blood of the Sunni. Allawi still bears the mark of collaboration and the mark of weakness. Tyranny is a harsh master -- just as God spews the lukewarm out of his mouth, tyranny makes a similar demand on its potential incarnations. Allawi is in the excrutiating process of being spewed out of the mouth. This will last for some time.

Great rulers are rarely great chess players – but they are often good ones. Sadr, we imagine, is a terrible chess player. The limits of Sistani’s play are coming up. Assuming a Dawa led coalition comes into power in January, the question of how to get rid of the Americans and the insurgents will take on a new twist. Simply having the Americans go is unacceptable – it would replay the stupidity of Bremer’s unilateral disbanding of the Iraqi army. It is, at the present, to the advantage of all players that the Americans have no recognition of their objective irrelevance in Iraq – in this, they have become perfect tools. But tools of force in Middle Eastern history have a latent dangerousness.

It is as difficult to see these things, sitting here in America, as it would be to make a map of New York city from watching repeats of Law and Order on A and E. The American press is fixated solely on the American p.o.v. in Iraq. But one thing that the Americans are structurally unable to consider is that they might have become irrelevant in Iraq. Such is the national vanity, such is the manic wavering between passion and indifference.

Monday, December 20, 2004

The government of the Medici having subdued all its avowed enemies in order to obtain for that family undivided authority, and distinguish them from other citizens in their relation to the rest, found it necessary to subdue those who secretly plotted against them.

This is how Machiavelli, in The History of Florence, begins the narrative of the Pazzi conspiracy.

The Pazzis rivaled the Medicis in wealth and power in Florence. The Pope, who was an enemy of the Medicis, favored them. Lorenzo, in 1466, was the head of the Medici clan. He was, as Machiavelli puts it, “young and flush with power”. Jacobo was the head of the Pazzis. He had a natural daughter – whose marriage to a Medici had been arranged by Lorenzo – and a number of nephews.

Lorenzo, who feared the power of the Pazzis, began against them a campaign of petty affronts. It is by such half measures, such trivial breaks in the normality of the everyday, that power crystalizes. Trotsky found this out very well in the Soviet Union after Lenin’s death. The crowd that wasn't there when he was to address them -- the newspaper article that didn't appear -- the supporter who was suddenly arrested by the police -- troubles with the phone. Kafka had a prophetic sense of this, which is why, next to The Prince, the best book on power and politics in the Western canon is The Trial.

Out of small injuries an idea arose among the Pazzi nephews: the idea was that their fortune would be better if Lorenzo was dead. The first instigator of the idea lived mostly in Rome, and communicated with such powers as were, for one reason or another, disposed to dislike the Medici. From that dislike, they projected a latent dislike of the Medici in Florence, an ambiant williness, on the street level, to see the Medici family ruined.

Jacobo wasn’t so sure.

The idea became a plan, nevertheless; the pope was attracted to it, various of the enemies of the Medici were attracted to it, and it took on money and dates, as plans like this have a tendency to. However, when the conspirators got together in Florence, they kept having the problem of bringing together Lorenzo and his brother, Giuliano, in one spot for killing. If the brothers were separated, the Medici had the possibility of countering the Pazzi assassins.

“With this intention they appointed Sunday, the twenty-sixth of April, 1478, to give a great feast; and, resolving to assassinate them at table, the conspirators met on the Saturday evening to arrange all proceedings for the following day. In the morning it was intimated to Francesco that Giuliano would be absent; on which the conspirators again assembled and finding they could no longer defer the execution of their design, since it would be impossible among so many to preserve secrecy, they determined to complete it in the cathedral church of Santa Reparata, where the cardinal attending, the two brothers would be present as usual.”

So, the problem here becomes very specific: how to assassinate two guarded leaders in a church. The Pazzis, at the last moment, were deserted by the man they were counting on to lead the assassination squad, and so had to induce two priests to assail the Medicis. Machiavelli coolly comments: “for if firmness and resolution joined with experience in bloodshed be necessary upon any occasion, it is on such as these; and it often happens that those who are expert in arms, and have faced death in all forms on the field of battle, still fail in an affair like this.”

Indeed. The morning of the 26th, the conspirators get their game going: “The conspirators proceeded to Santa Reparata, where the cardinal and Lorenzo had already arrived. The church was crowded, and divine service commenced before Giuliano’s arrival. Francesco de’ Pazzi and Bernardo Bandini, who were appointed to be his murderers, went to his house, and finding him, they, by earnest entreaties, prevailed upon him to accompany them. It is surprising that such intense hatred, and designs so full of horror as those of Francesco and Bernardo, could be so perfectly concealed; for while conducting him to the church, and after they had reached it, they amused him with jests and playful discourse.”

Machiavelli displays that rhetorical touch that makes him so enigmaticly fascinating. A more superstitious (i.e., religious, or American) writer would find the murderers behavior suprising on moral grounds, since after all, human behavior just comes down to good or evil. Machiavelli, however, is more interested in the concealment. The mask is psychologically difficult, so one does want to know how those who successfully mask their thoughts proceed. How do you create the psychological state that would allow you to do this? That is his concern. Instead of good and evil, we are dealing with the norm and its exceptions.

At a signal from the cardinal – the elevation of the host – the attack was mounted. The Pazzi successfully brought down Giuliano. However, the priests only wounded Lorenzo, who made it out of to another part of the church. Meanwhile, other conspirators (the Archbishop de’ Salviati and Jacopo di Poggio) went to the signory – the counsel that officially ruled Florence – thinking that they would destroy the Medici adherents and cow the others. It didn’t work out that way. The counsel and its guards attacked the archbishop and di Poggio’s men. Soon the body of the archibishop was hanging from a window of the signory.

Lorenzo, it turned out, was popular in Florence – Machiavelli makes several ironic comments about the people’s sense of liberty having been suitably put to sleep by the people’s sense of greed, which was fed well by the Medici prosperity. The Pazzis failed to stage a revolt, and so the conspirators each tried to escape as they could. Here’s what happened to Jacobo:

Jacopo de’ Pazzi was taken while crossing the mountains of Romagna, for the inhabitants of these parts having heard what had occurred, and seeing him in flight, attacked and brought him back to the city; nor could he, though he frequently endeavored, prevail with them to put him to death upon the road. Jacopo and Rinato were condemned within four days after the murder of Giuliano. And though so many deaths had been inflicted that the roads were covered with fragments of human bodies, not one excited a feeling of regret, except that of Rinato; for he was considered a wise and good man, and possessed none of the pride for which the rest of his family were notorious. As if to mark the event by some extraordinary circumstance, Jacopo de’ Pazzi, after having been buried in the tomb of his ancestors, was disinterred like an excommunicated person, and thrown into a hole at the outside of the city walls; from this grave he was taken, and with the halter in which he had been hanged, his body was dragged naked through the city, and, as if unfit for sepulture on earth, thrown by the populace into the Arno, whose waters were then very high. It was an awful instance of the instability of fortune, to see so wealthy a man, possessing the utmost earthly felicity, brought down to such a depth of misery, such utter ruin and extreme degradation. It is said he had vices, among which were gaming and profane swearing, to which he was very much addicted; but these seem more than balanced by his numerous charities, for he relieved many in distress, and bestowed much money for pious uses. It may also be recorded in his favor, that upon the Saturday preceding the death of Giuliano, in order that none might suffer from his misfortunes, he discharged all his debts; and whatever property he possessed belonging to others, either in his own house or his place of business, he was particularly careful to return to its owners.”

Machiavelli always tells the moral of his stories before he tells the stories. Our modern habit is to reverse that order. So I retain for last what Machiavelli told first:

“But after the … government became so entirely centred in the Medici, and they acquired so much authority, that discontented spirits were obliged either to suffer in silence, or, if desirous to destroy them, to attempt it in secrecy, and by clandestine means;; which plots rarely succeed and most commonly involve the ruin of those concerned in them, while they frequently contribute to the aggrandizement of those against whom they are directed. Thus the prince of a city attacked by a conspiracy, if not slain like the duke of Milan (which seldom happens), almost always attains to a greater degree of power, and very often has his good disposition perverted to evil. The proceedings of his enemies give him cause for fear; fear suggests the necessity of providing for his own safety, which involves the injury of others; and hence arise animosities, and not unfrequently his ruin. Thus these conspiracies quickly occasion the destruction of their contrivers, and, in time, inevitably injure their primary object.”

We have our own object in bringing up this old story. We see certain lessons from Machiavelli which apply to Iraq. We will draw them in another post.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Via Harry’s Place, LI became aware of the Labourfriendsofiraq site. This seemed like our cup of tea. So we went via link to an article (by Peter Tatchell) criticizing the left for supporting the resistance in Iraq. It was the usual barrage – full of heated accusations, aimed at a foe that is never named. We know we are in for general bombardment when we begin, not with the current occupation of Iraq, but with – we kid you not – clitorectomies:

“Over 100 million young girls in Africa and the Middle East have had their clitorises excised and / or their vaginas sown up. We would not tolerate this patriarchal abuse in Britain. Why should we tolerate it in other countries? Female genital mutilation is a crime against humanity. Don’t we have a duty of international solidarity with the victims?”

Apparently, Tatchell believes that if we hold democratic elections in Iraq, the clitorectomy issue in Africa will be solved… But that is unfair. He sin’t as braindead as his rhetorical ploy. He does have something to say. Two things:
1. That it is alright to criticize jihadist movements;
2. That “…right now, the STWC supports “the resistance” in Iraq by any means necessary…” He is referring to the Stop the War Coalition.

Now, undoubtedly there are those on the left who support jihadist movements. However, their voices only seem to reach those on the right who want to accuse those on the left of supporting jihadist movements. Thus, Christopher Hitchens seems to be an eager reader of every pamphlet that recommends following the path of Zarqawi. The interesting thing about this, of course, is how wonderfully it provides cover for the right, since the legitimacy of the right would be a bit wobbly if we remembered that the jihadist movements were spawned by anti-communism; that the U.S. and its ally, Saudi Arabia, spent perhaps a billion dollars building up the most extreme Moslem movement of the twentieth century throughout the eighties, ardent drummers for the crusade in every backwater of Algeria or Egypt, in spite of being warned as to what was happening; that Osama bin Laden’s model of attacking the “infidel super-power” was surely influenced by memories of Bill Casey, Reagan’s best buddy, going to Pakistan in 1984 and chortlingly suggesting that jihadist groups penetrate the soviet union and commit acts of terror there; that the U.S. continues to be the leading donor to Pakistan, thus, de facto, sheltering probably the most effective radical Moslemist agency in the world, Pakistan’s ISI, as well as blessing the spread of nuclear weaponry around the world (continuing a policy initiated by Reagan, who made strenous efforts to keep Pakistan from being at all injured when, in the early eighties, it became evident that the Pakistanis were developing atomic weaponry). And on and on.

The dirty secret about the ‘war on terrorism’ is not that poverty causes terrorism, or the war between Israel and Palestine causes terrorism – no, we can be much more specific than that. We have the history, if we want to look at it. The terrorist network was set up, physically, financially, intentionally, by the US, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan in the eighties. It was a specific, long range operation, with a specific goal in mind: defeat the atheist infidel. Because, in the U.S., the triumphalist school of Cold War scholarship has prevailed, a very blind eye has been turned to a very dirty history. Thus the curious silence that has surrounded, for instance, the first attempt to blow up the WTC, which had the spiritual seal of approval of a blind Newark mullah who came to the U.S. on a visa signed by a CIA officer after having had his travel bills paid for by the CIA in their jolly attempt to move the wogs against the nasty Russians. Payback for Vietnam was the theme back then, and damn the consequences.

Now, since the same people who gave us the terrorist network and support for Saddam when he was gassing Kurds are assuring us that this time they only want to see democracy flower in Iraq, perhaps your average lefty could be given a little slack in the doubting the good intentions of the giver.

But no – the danger, as Tatchell sees it, is those peaceniks out there supporting the terrible people who want to behead NGO employees and sew up vaginas. Is this what the SWTC is all about? With trepidation, we went to their site. Oddly enough, there are no recommendations to the kids in Stepney to fill their cars with plastique and blow themselves up outside Parliament. In fact, the organization has a bland and ecumenical, not to say shapeless, program of “stopping the war on terrorism.” There was no jubilation over the resistance on the site that we could see.

Tatchell then heats up the bong and goes for another toke:

“Motivated more by hatred of the US and British governments than by love for the Iraqi people, many so-called leftists support a “resistance” that, if victorious, would bring to power Baathists, Islamic fundamentalists and pro-al-Qaeda militants. Is that what the left now stands for? Neo-fascism, so long as it is anti-western?”

Well, cards out on the table: LI does not have love for the Iraqi people. We don’t have love for the Kazakhs either. We don’t love the Jews. We don’t love the Canadians, the Eskimos or the Ainu. In fact, for us, love is pretty much a one to one operation.

However, we do like the Iraqi people. We like them enough that we don’t want to see their cities smashed, their wedding parties bombed, or family members trundled off in the night to be subject to the tiresome whims of post adolescent American torturers.

We like them enough to think that elections, which are now upon us in Iraq, would not be upon us if the original U.S. plan was still in operation – which would have put off elections until 2007, at the earliest. We like them enough to remember how the U.S. changed its policy – which was not due to the pleadings of such as Mr. Tatchell, still foaming from his rescue mission in Africa (all those vaginas to save, personally). No, it was due to the armed resistance and the prospect of it becoming general if the Americans didn’t negotiate with Sistani. That was it – that was the whole and entire reason that the election process came about. It wasn’t that Social Democrats for a more Swedish Iraq had a head to head with Bremer. He confined his head to heads with members of the Heritage Foundation.

So we would respectfully ask (knowing that, for the prowar left, he who asks for bread will be given a little polemical stone) for a little less nonsense from supposed leftist supporters of democracy and trade unions in Iraq. Especially pleasing would be some real calculation of the forces that are in play in Iraq, which don't include the pro-terrorist British or American left, who've had zero influence as far as I can see on any turn of the events there.

This is, undoubtedly, too much to expect from a culture that was raised on charging the straw man. It must be one of those Oxford things, much like the Monty Python episode where the village idiots tear the knickers off the mannikens. Hitch must have been quite good in the old days at that. Perks you up for resolutely charging against, say, George Galloway, and you've done your doubty deed for progressivism. Meanwhile, the only leftist pro-war person who actually tried to ward off the truly reactionary plans of the original occupying junta was Peter Galbraith – not a man much quoted on sites like Harry’s.


  “In brief, cultural history only represents a surface strike against the insight [of historicism], but not that of dialectics. For it lack...