When did the Left lose its sense of internationalism?

I recently saw a link to this article on a friend’s Facebook wall: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/man-whose-wmd-lies-led-to-100000-deaths-confesses-all-7606236.html

Following on from George Galloway’s recent victory in the Bradford West by-election, it re-ignited a burning question in my mind – When did the Left lose its sense of internationalism?

The whole controversy over the ‘sexed-up’ dossier is a sad distraction from the real and just reasons for intervention in Iraq. Both the US and the UK government handled the situation extremely badly and were exploiting language which made it seem to our own citizens that they were under threat. But there was no need for a new UN resolution specifically endorsing military intervention in any event. The USA, Britain, and Spain (proposers of the ‘second UN resolution’) were just trying to use the correct channels to force the UN out of its inaction. That three members of the Security Council declared at the outset that they would veto any such resolution (the three which had the strongest economic ties with Saddam), and that consequently any such recourse to the UN route was futile, seems to have been conveniently overlooked.

But beyond all the debates about ‘dodgy dossiers’, there were more obvious glaring reasons for action.

Iraq under Saddam had breached a number of UN resolutions, and more importantly, when it comes to legitimising the 2003 action in Iraq, had broken the terms of the cease-fire of the first Gulf War, which immediately gave the allies full rights to pursue military action against Saddam’s forces.

Interestingly, none of the anti-war Left (or New Left, as I shall call it for the purpose of this blog entry) seems to have consulted the Iraqi secular Left about their views. The Iraqi Left wholeheartedly supported military action against Saddam’s fascist regime. Those on the New Left here and elsewhere in the West seem to have put aside their Internationalist credentials (this is what stuck so badly in Christopher Hitchen’s throat) in favour of a kind of non-interventionist policy, such as that supported by the BNP.

Does the New Left really believe that the UN will deal with rogue regimes with force when necessary? If so, they are being ahistorical, or ignoring the fact that other Security Council nations which have financial interests in these regimes will always veto any suggestion of military action – and not for noble, but purely financial or political reasons. Sound familiar?

The Left in the 1930s knew that it had to stand up to oppression by force when necessary and it did so in the UK in the Battle of Cable Street, and elsewhere even more forcefully in Germany and with international forces in Spain. Why does so much of the New Left appear to have lost its internationalist fervour and solidarity in recent years and moved to a position more akin to that of the modern extreme right?

Anti-western sentiment as peddled in various Islamic nations is clearly demonstrated by hyped-up, adrenalin-filled protestations by crowds after Friday prayers. We have seen films of this. Many of the preachers of this doctrine of hatred towards the West are (by the admission of genuine, concerned and enlightened members of the Muslim community) being shipped from the likes of Saudi Arabia to rant in British mosques. Have large swathes of the New Left seen the images of such demonstrations and concluded that the participants must have legitimate grievances, in nations where there is no free press to speak of and where opinions are handed down by Mullahs in the name of a religion?

Has the New Left gone so far as to buy the Islamic extremist propaganda that the Western nations have embarked on a crusade? Does it believe that action has been targeted purposefully at Islamic nations? Surely not. Does the fact that action against tyrannies which oppress ordinary Muslims not count for anything? I have grown up in the UK, and pardon me for recognising that a war carried our in the name of our nation is, in all probability, and despite the belief of the less well-informed, NOT a religious war. We don’t do religious wars and haven’t done for quite a while now. Just because some pent-up extremists, and possibly conspiracy theorists, who will buy anything which isn’t the official story, believe this to be the case doesn’t make it so.

I’m an atheist, but to be fair, just when was the last time stauch Catholics in this country ranted in the streets and burnt effigies and flags on the basis of some seemingly unrelated incident attacking fellow ‘Christians’ in another country and the New Left saw this action as legitimate grievance for support?

The assertion proposed by Islamists and seemingly bought into by the New Left that we purposefully target Muslim nations also conveniently overlooks the fact that our forces comprised a large part of the armed forces which defended Muslims in the former Yugoslavia against ‘Christian’ forces, a country which, for the record, didn’t contain much oil. No thanks for that from the ranting Mullahs there then. And by the way, what happened when the UN was left to deal with a situation there? Inaction on the part of the United Nations Protection Force to defend enclaves deliberately established by the UN as safe zones for innocent Muslim men, women, and children; a failure to use military force which resulted in the Srebrenica massacre; an event swept under the carpet by pacifists and the worst incident of mass-murder in Europe since World War 2.

We do not conduct war against Muslims. We conduct war against regimes which oppress human rights. If the New Left believes otherwise, it has lost the plot. Furthermore, if orthodox Islam and human rights are incompatible, then perhaps the nations in question should review their adherence to the United Nations, which quite clearly sets out in its founding principles those very rights, or maybe, just maybe, the UN should get a backbone and threaten to expel those countries who hang people because of their sexual preferences or stone women for having been raped. I don’t know, New Leftists, what do you think?

What draws people of the supposed secular Left to ally themselves with the extremist crowds, assembled in the name of spreading a totalitarian religious ideology throughout the world? Is it because they are willing to go along with any old doctrine which espouses anti-westernism, and if that includes anti-Americanism, all the better?

I suspect that the New Left tends to favour the supposed underdog in any conflict, regardless of the rights and wrongs of its position. By extension, ANY enemy of the most powerful nation on Earth and its allies must be righteous. That kind of makes sense and ties in with the old politics of envy of many on the Left, which again, appears to be a relatively recent phenomenon. Powerful = bad. Simples! And yet, as one of my old left-wing lecturers commented twenty years ago, Marx’s aims of the 1840s were achieved many decades ago in modern democracies.

A favourite of the New Left is its fondness for bashing Israel, the only long-established and proven democracy in the Middle East and surrounding Arab world. We are used to seeing admittedly heart-rending footage of Israeli military action against Palestinian targets. Yes, I have seen the aftermath of these and seen the destruction caused to families and yes, it did upset me a great deal.

What we rarely hear is that these strikes, launched from Israeli military bases, not civilian areas, follow swathes of equally heart-rending rocket attacks on Israeli civilian targets (in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention), and are often preempted by a phone call to domestic properties in the target area to give warning of an impending strike. The Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel are launched deliberately from Palestinian civilian areas, effectively using their own desperate people as human shields, so that any retaliatory strike by Israel after sustained bombardment of its citizens will inevitably cost innocent lives. We aren’t too aware of the results of the attacks on Israel, since they don’t get as much press coverage for some reason. Perhaps the thinking is that Israel can handle them, so what’s the problem. Nevertheless, they make for unpleasant viewing. Ultimately, it’s ordinary people being targeted. For example… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-p6PQ-q6rmU

More disturbingly, Palestinians are fed a diet of hatred of Jews – even their children – which would make the anti-semitic propaganda of Goebbels look like a gentle joke by Mel Brooks. Israel is a nation under direct and open threat from its neighbours. And yet the very existence of Israel, whose UN-sanctioned foundation in 1948 was designed to give Jews a homeland (in the part of the world where Jews originated before Islam even existed, lest we forget) after the horrors of World War 2, seems to be up for debate by the New Left.

I suspect that many of the New Left don’t even know their history well enough to know that the ‘two-state’ solution, seemingly the only equitable solution of the Israel/Palestine problem, was accepted by the Jewish contingency, but rejected by the Arab contingency in 1947. Even Mahmoud Abbas has conceded that the Arabs’ refusal to accept the partition decision was a mistake that he is trying to rectify, and credit to him for making such a statement. The reality of the conflict in that part of the world is that you have nutters on both sides (the conservative Islamists in the Palestinian Authority and the conservative Jews in Israel). As is often the case, hard-core religionists really are to blame. Left to their own devices, the secular and mildly religious Israelis and Palestinians can get along just fine, and they have done in the rare periods of relative peace in the past. But we really do need to look at the anti-semitic propaganda being pushed at PA children, because that doesn’t bode well for the future, and such propaganda is not reciprocated in Israel – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etDb5tXPawc.

Nevertheless, this whole idea of isolationism the New Left seems to be endorsing really is growing on me. I’m not yet convinced about its tacit support of those who call for the restoration of a caliphate and the imposition of Shariah law, but I’ll think on that one.

It would certainly save our soldiers’ lives and a whole lot of money. Presumably we go along with the other similarly shared isolationist views of the BNP and, in order to prevent accusations of favouritism of other nations, we withdraw all foreign aid too. Yep, I’m coming around to the whole view of the New Left about not giving a damn about the suffering of others. Let the UN sort out the world’s problems and all will be fine, I’m sure. I’ll work on ignoring on that whole human empathy problem I have.

I jest (in part). I actually really am coming over to the isolationist point of view; partly because I’m sick of the whining of the New Left (and ahistorical commentators in the press whose output seems to be swallowed wholesale and unquestioningly by the public); partly because it would save the country a hell of a lot of money and lives; and finally, because it may take another holocaust to make the New Left revert to the old Left’s principles of compassion for one’s fellow man. And that this does, as history has taught us, regrettably entail use of force from time to time.

I’ll end this with a personal favourite piece of speech on this subject, given most eloquently and without notes by the late socialist Christopher Hitchens in a debate in 2005 with the darling of the New Left, George Galloway, which went as follows:

If you examine the record of the so-called the anti-war movement in this country and imagine what would have happened had its counsel been listened to over the last 15 and more years, you would have a world in which the following would be the case:

Saddam Hussein would be the owner and occupier of Kuwait, he would have succeeded in the annexation, not merely the invasion, but the abolition of an Arab and Muslim state that was a member of the Arab League and of the United Nations. And with these resources as we now know because he lost that war, he was attempting to equip himself with the most terrifying arsenal that it was possible for him to lay his hands on. That’s one consequence of anti-war politics, that’s what would have happened.

In the meanwhile, Slobodan Milošević would have made Bosnia part of a greater Serbia, and Kosovo would have been ethnically cleansed and also annexed. The Taliban would be still in power in Afghanistan if the anti-war movement had been listened to, and al-Qaeda would still be their guests. And Saddam Hussein, with his crime family, would still be privately holding ownership over a terrorized people in a state that’s been most aptly described as a concentration camp above ground and a mass grave underneath it.

Now if I had that record politically, I would be extremely modest, I wouldn’t be demanding explanations from those of us who said it’s about time that we stop this continual capitulation to dictatorship, to racism, to aggression and to totalitarian ideology. That we will not allow to be appeased in Iraq, the failures in Rwanda, and in Bosnia, and in Afghanistan, and elsewhere. And we take pride in having taken that position, and we take pride in our Iraqi and Kurdish friends who are conducting this struggle, on our behalves I should say.

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