Saturday, February 26, 2011

For Me But Not For Thee - This Week In Decency

(Being part of my continuing attempts to alienate my few readers by focusing on Scottish football, obscure fifties novels and even more obscure political cults).

With uprisings throughout the Middle East by millions of democracy-hungry Arabs, this week produces a bumper crop of Decent wibble on Libya, military intervention, tiny irrelevant microsects and the odd piece of fluff about Tony Blair.

Let's start with Dangerous David Aaronovitch* in Thursday's Times, who was - of course! - very keen to see no-fly-zones over Libya, although rather less specific on where the necessary warplanes would come from.  Having said his piece yet being stuck with another four columns to fill, he then turned to the urgent task of explaining away Tony Blair's embrace of Colonel Gaddafi...

In retrospect it is becoming clear to me what happened (when Blair got all touchy-feely with Gaddafi)... The lib-int demons were moments in history, such as Munich in 1938, when inaction spelt disaster. Never mind the ghost of Vietnam, the lib-ints argued, it's Rwanda and Bosnia that should haunt us... But somewhere along the way the desire to neutralise Gaddafi as a pro-terror threat, together with a quiet pessimism about change in Libya, combined to create, not wariness, but a toothy embrace, big deals and even arms sales... 

Never mind the quasi-admission that Dave and his mates cheerfully blew off the prospect of modern Vietnams in the Middle East, feel the naivety!  I love the idea that British companies have been making a mint by flogging weapons to Libya and cutting megabucks oil deals because, Dammit, the UK government were just too damn keen on neutralising the terrorist threat!  

Unconsidered - the idea that perhaps What Tony Blair did was in some unfathomable way connected to What Tony Blair had always intended to do. 

The unwary reader could be forgiven for concluding that, at some point in 2006, the former PM stumbled out of the back of a Number Ten wardrobe and emerged blinking into a tent in Tripoli, where he had a ripping adventure and returned with great armfuls of business contracts, but no idea of how he came to be carrying them.

Bonus comedy, as Aaro explains what happened to "liberal interventionists" that caused them to cuddle Gaddafi and to squash investigations into corrupt arms deals between BAE systems and the Saudi royal family...

Perhaps everyone was just exhausted by the reaction to the Iraq war, I don't know, but ambivalence had entered the soul.

We made a packet because we were spiritually exhausted by the reaction to the Iraq disaster;  They pursued business interests at the expense of human suffering via cynical realpolitik, and You collaborated with tyranny.  Truly, the cup of human kindness overfloweth with sympathetic understanding for the world's misguided sinners, provided they're on the right side.

In the wider Decent world, charity may have added a respectable sheen to the former Prime Minister's actions, but no such largesse was forthcoming for Venezuelan basket case Hugo Chavez, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega or retired dictator Fidel Castro, none of whom appear to have made money off Gaddafi but, uh, have instead said idiotic, supportive things about him.  Evil, dictator-fellating bastards to a one!   From Hell's heart, I stab at thee! 

Of course, there remained the all-important task of somehow linking "the left" to Gaddafi. Clearly, photos of the former leader of the Labour Party playing tonsil-tennis with the Libyan despot wouldn't do.

Thankfully, Google produced some joker comparing David Cameron to Gaddafi in the Morning Star, and a quick trip to the archives turned up the Worker's Revolutionary Party, a microsect that split into total irrelevance when I was seven years old.  Not only that, but some article that a WRP hack wrote in 1976, a year before I was born!  And let's not forget Ken Livingstone, George Galloway and, for reasons that elude me since he's hardly a socialist, SNP leader Alex Salmond!

The fiends!  For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!

Readers might ask whether all of this frantic scrambling was a way of spreading the blame and avoiding the topic of Tony Blair's post-retirement corporate advocacy jobs in Libya.  I'll leave that question to you, and allow you to weigh the evidence and form your own conclusions.

But the answer is "Yes". 


Meanwhile, the increasingly comical Chris Hitchens observes the Americans' lukewarm response to the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak and concludes, not that the Americans wanted Mubarak to remain in power, but that Barrack Obama is weak.

Absent this time - the idea that the United States is usually motivated by self-interest, like every other country on Earth;  that the Americans have cheerfully supported despots across the Middle East for sixty years and may have been quite happy to continue doing so.


In non-Libya news, the snotty but generally reasonable Professor Norm took a surprising step down Memory Lane in a piece that, controversially, began "God spare us the Guardian's pet Azzajews".

The term "AsaJew" features regularly in the wackier outposts of Decent discussion, meaning roughly "Jewish person who mistakenly believes that their religious affiliation will allow them to criticise Israel's horrible policies without being accused of praying for genocide".  When I featured it in the Encylopedia, I defined the term as a "Bizarre ethnoreligious insult used by wackadoodle wingnuts to demean and disregard the opinions of non-wingnut members of the Jewish faith that this writer, for one, is not touching with a fucking bargepole". 

Well, I think it might be time to get the bargepoles out. Bluntly, I see little difference between "Pet Azzajew", "Uncle Tom" and "House Negro", all of which evoke shameful subservience and obsequiousness.  If anything, "Pet Azzajew" is significantly worse, carrying as it does the implied accusation of some kind of fucked-up, ethnoreligious treason.

One wonders what the Professor is thinking when he puts this stuff out there.  Given that half of his blogging career has been spent lecturing other bloggers on what they should say and how they should say it, to avoid giving aid and comfort to racists, you'd think he'd be a bit more cautious about rehabilitating some of the last century's nastier racial slurs.

In fact, it's damn odd that a political tendency that bases a large part of its analysis on the idea that incautious word choices are tantamount to wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase Arbeit Macht Frei don't smell a rat here.  Given that most consumers of Decent discourse these days are furious Yankee wingnuts, though, I'm assuming that this is one of those cases of owners coming to resemble their dogs.

Decency in brief this week -

Decent ingenue Ian Birrell, the Guardian:  Once more into the breach, somebody else, for purposes that I will leave opaque, in pursuit of an objective that even I confess may be unachievable!

Danny Ayalon, Israeli Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs:  Arabs are paranoid and backward.  Israel is awesome because it doesn't machine gun protestors in the streets.

Melanie Phillips, The Spectator:  It's scandalous that the UN took ten days to condemn Libya, yet it has spent the last three decades condemning the Israelis for taking land from their neighbours by force.

Melanie again:  Britain is now a Gestapo toilet of Jew-hatred so foul, depraved and all-pervading that only I can detect it.

Update!  Nasty Nick Cohen casts a baleful eye over the violence in Libya, considers its implications for the country and the wider region, and then accuses the "liberal left" of "Jew obsessions" and blindness to the plight of the Arabs.  Only Nick could unironically accuse "the left" of trying to make absolutely everything about Israel, in a column that's theoretically about Libya.

In a piece denouncing elite collaboration with the Gaddafi regime, Nick manages to assail BP, the Worker's Revolutionary Party (again), Vanessa Redgrave, the London School of Economics, Human Rights Watch and Peter Mandelson, while somehow using the word "Blair" only once.  He also manages the difficult achievement of discussing foreign collaboration with horrible regimes such as, say, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, without once using the words "United States of America", lulzwut.

What an honest, pleasant and relentlessly serious man he is, well worth the paycheques the Observer keep giving him.  I've long expected that sooner or later, he'd be fired for submitting a column scrawled in his own faeces, yet he continues to surprise with his clear-eyed insights.

*David's article is behind the paywall, but I have the article here if anyone wants clarification.  Decent bingo points awarded too, as Aaro invokes the wisdom of Michael Totten, an American writer who's spent most of the decade travelling around the Middle East, miraculously discovering that the opinions he arrived there with were even more correct than even he'd believed them to be.

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