The Day of the Illiberals

This is a cross-post from Futile Democracy

It’s been a bizarre few weeks for UK politics.

Today, the UK rolled out the red carpet for China. A country that sentenced 2,466 to death in 2014, and, according to Human Rights Watch, uses torture to extract confessions. But we wont be bringing up its human rights abuses, because we’re a Tory country now, and human rights just gets in the way of all that money. Unless Jeremy Corbyn makes excuses for human rights abusers, in which case, it’s a travesty.

Speaking of Jeremy Corbyn & hypocrisy, on the day the Tories are lavishing sycophantic praise on a country that uses forced abortions to enforce its laws on families, Jeremy Corbyn – who insists he’ll bring up human rights abuses with the Chinese this evening – hired Seumas Milne as his new head of communications. The same Seumas Milne who, two days after the September 11th attacks, wrote:

“It is this record of unabashed national egotism and arrogance that drives anti-Americanism among swaths of the world’s population, for whom there is little democracy in the current distribution of global wealth and power. If it turns out that Tuesday’s attacks were the work of Osama bin Laden’s supporters, the sense that the Americans are once again reaping a dragons’ teeth harvest they themselves sowed will be overwhelming.

– Imagine being a family member of one of the innocent people killed on 9/11, or imagine being liberal and Muslim, and hearing that terrorists flew planes full of people into buildings, because there’s little democracy in the Middle East. Milne bizarrely appears to be implying that the 9/11 anti-democratic Islamists were frustrated with the lack of democracy. To the families, he’s essentially saying it’s your fault, for being born in the US. Deal with it. To Muslims, he espouses a form of low expectation bigotry, in which we all must expect that the Muslim response to illiberal institutions is to murder innocent people.

On Venezuela, Milne said:

“It’s all of a piece with the endlessly recycled Orwellian canard that Chávez is some kind of a dictator and Venezuela a tyranny where elections are rigged and the media muzzled and prostrate. But as opposition leaders concede, Venezuela is by any rational standards a democracy, with exceptionally high levels of participation, its electoral process more fraud-proof than those in Britain or the US, and its media dominated by a vituperatively anti-government private sector. In reality, the greatest threat to Venezuelan democracy came in the form of the abortive US-backed coup of 2002.”

– You wouldn’t guess from this description, that Venezuela was given the label of least democratic state in South America by the Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index, or that freedoms in Venezuela dropped after Chávez’s election, according to Freedom House.

And then there was this classy little number:

– It’s difficult to know where to begin with this. Perhaps at the point where beheading a man in the street isn’t acceptable in Woolwich or Waziristan. Or perhaps at the part where Woolwich murderer Michael Adebolajo cared that much about the wellbeing of those in foreign lands, that he was affiliated with both al-Shabaab – who have no issue killing people in Kenya, as seen with their attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi – and al-Muhajiroun, a group that believed apostates should be murdered, gays should be murdered, women should be covered, and law derived from religious doctrine. One would have to go to creative apologist lengths to believe the sole motivation for wanting to execute apostates, and murder Kenyans in a mall, is the war in Iraq. Or perhaps at the part where the future head of communications for the opposition party of the UK, has essentially just said “Well, shit happens” to the beheading of a British soldier on British soil, using the victim as a vehicle to perpetuate a simplistic Chomsky-esque blame-the-west false narrative. This headline alone, should render Seumas Milne an unacceptable choice for such an important role.

Milne’s previous language defending the Soviet Union & making excuses for Islamist terrorism were highlighted by many, including blogger and journalist Timothy Stanley:

– It would seem from this that Tim Stanley does not take kindly to illiberal regimes & those who make excuses for them. And yet:

– That’ll be the same ‘great’ empire that ran concentration camps in South Africa during the second Boer War, in which thousands of children died. The shocking photo of Lizzie van Zyl testifies to the grotesque treatment she, and thousands more faced at the hands of the ‘great’ empire. Indeed, In 2013, after losing a few court cases brought by victims of its hideous policies, the British government decided to compensate Kenyans for the horror they also faced in detention camps – with the full knowledge of the Colonial authorities – during the 1950s. Starvation and forced labour, along with stamping on detainees throats, castrating male prisoners, and rape, were used as torture weapons in the camp, by Stanley’s ‘great’ empire. President Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was one of the men hideously abused by that ‘great’ empire.

Later this evening, former director of strategy for David Cameron, Steve Hilton, took to BBC’s Newsnight to refer to the visit of Xi Jinping as a ‘National Humiliation’. Hilton continued:

“I don’t understand why we’re sucking up to them, rather than standing up to them as we should be.”

“The argument is that this is a choice between squishy human rights, and hard-nosed economics, and it’s simply not true. The idea that we can only make a living, and create jobs at home is to engage with regimes like this, is completely false. Why aren’t we rolling out the red carpet for India? A country where there is more opportunity, and we don’t have to make the kind of compromises in dealing with China.”

– Incidentally, India criminalised homosexuality in 2013. Human Rights Watch notes that since Modi’s election, state censorship of publications, films, and the internet is on the rise in India, whilst a lack of accountability in public institutions protects abusers from prosecution for attacks on women and children. Not exactly a country I’d wish to ‘roll the red carpet out‘ for, and severely undermines Hilton’s point.

Since Corbyn’s election, the British commentariat and political establishment, has taken daily – and rightly so – to highlighting his excuses for extreme regimes & groups. In turn, their hypocrisy on that subject is also rightly highlighted, especially when the same Tory government referring to Corbyn as a ‘threat’ to Britain, march Saudi Arabia to the head of the UN Human Rights Council whilst they continue to export the very terror ideology that threatens us daily. Conversely, any time Corbyn mentions the human rights abuses of other nations, the point is entirely negated by the fact that he referred to Hamas – currently stabbing their way across Israel – as ‘dedicated to peace and social justice‘, and it makes for completely absurd viewing that doesn’t look likely to cease any time soon. Until then, we’re left with a Prime Minister ‘saddened’ by the death of King Abdullah – a man who was Prince of a regime that funded the Taliban as they killed British soldiers – and a leader of the opposition who thinks a neo-nazi Hamas are social justice warriors. It’s a strange old World.