International

The improbable alliance

As usual on a Sunday Aaronovitch and Cohen are worth reading in the Observer.

Nick Cohen looks at the messy issue of deporting people with suspected links to terrorist groups back to countries where they could face abuses. After looking in detail at one case he concludes:

All I would say is the Youssef case shows that deals are impossible. Even when the full weight of Whitehall is thrown into trying to strike one, they can’t be made to work. The men in Belmarsh will either have to be released or put on trial as, surely, Abu Qatada, the world’s leading theological excuse-maker for Jihad, can be.

In the long-run the only solution is for the global move towards democracy to get moving again. In these strange times, the only person who believes that this is possible or desirable is George W Bush. In his inauguration address last week he announced that the ‘survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.’ And was feared and hated by right-thinking people the world over for saying so.

Aaronovitch looks at Bush’s speech last week and the curious alliances that are being formed:

Since 11 September the most bizarre alliances have come into existence. The very far left and the very far right have effortlessly coalesced in their identification of Israel and Zionism as the true animating spirits of the war for democracy, in their flirtation with 9/11 conspiracy theories and in their support for the peculiarly murderous ‘resistance’ in Iraq. Slightly further in, hard-right isolationists such as Pat Buchanan quote approvingly from the works of John Pilger. One more shift discovers Hurdite super-pragmatists, ‘old’ European strategists and sensible socialists – seemingly unscarred by Rwanda and Bosnia – effectively agreeing that dramatic action on the international stage almost always makes things worse.

Finally, there’s the improbable alliance between neo-conservatives and liberal interventionists, the meeting of the ‘something must be done’ brigade, with the ‘America’s the one to do it’ movement.

I have pitched my tent, uneasily, on the edges of this last camp. When Bush orated that, ‘America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies’, I could feel sceptical, but I preferred it – both emotionally and intellectually – to the idea that, somehow, what happens far away is either none of our business, or that anything we might choose to do about it would make things worse.

I know what he means about that uneasiness. How many times have friends who also have their tent parked around the same patch of land as Aaronovitch wondered if all this wouldn’t be a bit easier, at least on an emotional level, if it was a Clinton or even a Kerry espousing the global struggle for democracy.

But its not only the personality of Bush that makes me uneasy (in fact although he does come across as rather an odd sort I am not sure what it is about him that terrifies people).

Aaronovitch, who also looks at the Eric Hobsbawm piece we discussed here yesterday, puts it well:

So, myself now part of these weird coalitions, I’ll vote for the spread of liberty over Hobsbawm’s bleak vision. But not uncritically. Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib seem to prove that security cannot come before justice. The Bushites must reflect on the fact that the failure of anyone in a senior position to resign as a consequence of Abu Ghraib has damaged the world’s belief in the rhetoric of freedom. And they must also ask whether a large dose of social justice is not a necessary accompaniment to political freedoms.

Finally there’s the problem of arrogance, of the almost doltish clumsiness with which the powerful and confident can pursue their goals. What may start as a heroic vision of liberated cities can end in the mistaken obliteration by a frightened marine of an entire family in a badly driven car.

So, an endorsement though not a blank cheque. Even so, as they used to say in the first war, if you knows of a better hole, go to it.

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