Tuesday, March 15, 2005

anti-war people

John Simpson, in a book written in October 2003,  had an interesting analysis of the political reasons for the British policy on Iraq: to have not adopted the US line
would have had serious repercussions at home. The Conservatives, demoralized and divided, would immediately have discovered a function for themselves as the saviours of the Atlantic alliance. ...

Hard though it was for many people in Britain to understand why their government had to follow the United States so closely, Tony Blair had no real alternative.
(The Wars Against Saddam, P257-8)

Of course, in the event some of the right-wing press attacked Blair for precisely the opposite reason - for following too closely the US line. For example, Corelli Barnett in The Daily Mail Saturday, on the second anniversary of Blair's eve-of-war speech to Parliament, says that he either lied or showed bad judgement and then put the blame on France. Never mind that some of the French rhetoric, especially de Villepin's, was extravant and unhelpful. Certainly Blair and Campbell did seize on this as a lifeline. My recollection is that even The Daily Mail did buy this anti-French angle for a while. But then the imperative to attack Blair and Labour reasserted itself. Similarly, at the time of the Hutton enquiry, sorely tempted as it was to beat up the BBC, the Mail eventually came down on the side of supporting the (exaggerated) claims of some of its journalists.

Another curious thing: when Channel 4 showed a debate on immigration on Sunday, on the anti-immigration side they had Andrew Green and Rod Liddle. Green was one of the ex-diplomats who signed a critical letter to Blair on his Iraq policy. Liddle was frequently heard  at the time of the Hutton enquiry, speaking in favour of Andrew Gilligan. He has apparently produced a documentary  critical of immigration (which I did not see) and written an article in the Radio Times (cut-out and keep). On the other side was David Aaronovitch. Dave A's bombshell, or surprise piece of evidence, was a recording of the leader of the British National Party supporting the other side.

What is interesting is that people can be found from within the supposedly left-liberal spectrum to support this position. Green at least passes the consensus-view test by being anti-the Iraq war.

There is a danger of sliding from the secularism of Harry's Place or Crooked Timber, the insistence on 'Enlightenment' values (i.e. an obsessive anti-clericism, rooted in 18th century France), to a generalized hostility to Islam - Liddle cites the murder of Theo van Gogh - and then to the overt racism of a Pim Fortuyn kind.


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