Monday, May 02, 2005

Department of Obscene Historical Analogies

In the Tuesday, April 26, Guardian, author Richard Gott condemned British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a new Neville Chamberlain:

Blair has followed in his footsteps, and is destined for the same place in history's hall of infamy. Like Chamberlain, he is an arrogant and God-fuelled appeaser, the unseemly ally of an unbridled country that presents a global threat similar to Germany in the 1930s.

Instead of seeking a grand alliance to confront this new danger - "a coalition of the unwilling" that would include the Europeans, the Russians and the Chinese - Blair has sided with the evil empire. He has taken up a role as its principal cheerleader, obliging Britain to become a participant in its wars of aggression. Today's Labour party has been a supine collaborator in this policy of appeasement, just like the Tory party in the 1930s. Blair's war party must be defeated at the polls.

Yes, when Gott says "evil empire", he's talking about America. It's not the murderous terrorist fanatic who wants to unite the Islamic world into a single despotic "Caliphate" that worries Gott. It's not the mustachioed, genocidal dictator who hates Jews and committed mass murder using poison gas that inspires Mr. Gott to make comparisons to the Third Reich. No, it is America and its "wars of aggression" that are Gott's concern. For standing by the United States as it brutally prevented 50 million Afghans and Iraqis from continuing the lives of happy contentment they lived under the delightfully rustic Taliban and kindly, benevolent Saddam Hussein, Tony Blair is an "appeaser" who must be defeated. If only Blair had acted like the French and Russians and allowed himself and his government to be bought off by Saddam, then he would undoubtedly enjoy Gott's full support.

America and its actions are not above criticism. The kind of moral and intellectual obtuseness exhibited by Gott, however, are typical of a pathological anti-Americanism. Opposing America is the only principle, because the US is always wrong regardless of the actual circumstances of any given situation. Allowing Saddam Hussein to continue murdering his people and destroying the UN sanctions that supposedly kept him "contained" is a small price to pay for stopping the "evil empire". In fact, for the Gotts of the world, it is the US that needs containing, not Saddam. Norm Geras addresses Gott's nonsense far more eloquently than I can:

In connection with Tony Blair's alleged criminality Gott makes reference to 'history's hall of infamy'. Well, he and the rest of his present-day ilk are set fair to join that very hall in their own right: those senior figures on what once saw and represented itself as a new, democratic, anti-Stalinist left, but who have lately caved in and gone politically berserk; people who have been on the wrong side of nearly all, or indeed all, of the key international conflicts since the first Gulf War, resolutely anti-American and ready in this with cheap and grotesque Hitler-Nazi references, but somehow a little bit less resolute in what their alignment might mean with respect to the likely future of the most noxious movements and lethal regimes there are; 'democrats' in everything except a proper recognition of the democracy that exists in the US and other Western nations, and of what the absence of democracy means for those peoples for whom it is in fact - daily, ruinously - absent; loud denouncers of the abuses and crimes or alleged crimes of the US, or the UK, or Israel, but more tactful and tactical in relation to other and much worse; people for whom George W. Bush is a more hated figure than Saddam Hussein or anyone else is or was, and for whom the discontinuation of that monster's rule in Iraq today seems to be of less importance morally than the failure to find WMD there or an 'international law' to which many of them have never shown any visible attachment hitherto.

What is it that has led to this intellectual and political debacle of so much of the left of (roughly) my own generation? The pathology of anti-Americanism? The failure to call certain political phenomena by their proper names? A loss of nerve and/or moral perspective in face of a capitalism seemingly everywhere triumphant? Perhaps (three times). But a debacle is what it is - the loss to progressive opinion of half a generation or more of those who might otherwise have been expected to pass on a mature wisdom to younger others. Instead, this shameful legacy.


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