I hesitate to add to the thousands of words already written about the Euston Manifesto. We had two good posts here yesterday, but the best so far is probably this one. Anyway, I hesitate essentially because I only read it today, and the damn thing is deathly dull, a collection of anodyne pronouncements, platitudes, and mostly a whole bunch of self-justifying shite that just about anything with a pulse could sign up to. Wet western wank, as the catchphrase goes.
So, I only stop by to pose one question I haven’t seen asked yet: could one be “pro” the Iraq War, situated vaguely on the political liberal-left, and yet firmly agin’ the Manifesto? Specifically, those bits that deal with war and things, I mean, not just all the other problems with it? The answer is Yes, because that’s me that is.
Like the Manifesto, I don’t have much to say, but unlike it, I’ll therefore keep it brief. I suppose I ought to explain my “pro” Iraq War stance (elaborated in more detail here for all of you with your fingers on the “chickenhawk” trigger: read it first before jumping in). In three sentences: though those with BushHalliburtonHitler fantasies clearly need professional help, I’m also not daft enough to think that Blair and Bush (and Aznar Ã¢â‚¬â€ remember him?) care much about Iraqis. But I do think we owed them big time, in a collective sense, and had the power to do something. It looks a mess now, but it’s too early to tell whether something good will emerge, and I reckon on balance a democratic-ish (federal or tripartite), capitalist-ish Iraq will be a vast improvement over Baathist state tyranny while we await the revolution, or at least until the Uday/Qusay handover (and inevitable bloodbath) sometime next decade. Let’s call this my “law of possible unintended positive consequences” attitude to the invasion. It’s not an “I’m with George” endorsement. More, “on balance it’ll probably be a good thing”.
So, curiously, I don’t defend cluster bombing infant schools or tying prisoners to leashes. I realised Saddam wasn’t on jihad with Osama, but that after the invasion some of his subjects would be. I didn’t condone hoodwinking the UNSC or the fabrication of hyperspace nuclear torpedoes aimed at Cyprus, or whatever it was that a shit-poor country like Iraq was supposed to have been developing. I utterly condemn the disrepute, the lying lies of Blair and his cabal, and so on and on. And, even though I don’t give a hoot about claims, counter-claims and counter-counterclaims of racism-imperialism-neocolonialism, I certainly don’t endorse the gung-ho attitude to international law that the Eustonoids brandish about like a badge of honour. From the Manifesto:
We stand for an internationalist politics and the reform of international law Ã¢â‚¬â€ in the interests of global democratization and global development. Humanitarian intervention, when necessary, is not a matter of disregarding sovereignty, but of lodging this properly within the Ã¢â‚¬Å“common lifeÃ¢â‚¬Â of all peoples. If in some minimal sense a state protects the common life of its people (if it does not torture, murder and slaughter its own civilians, and meets their most basic needs of life), then its sovereignty is to be respected. But if the state itself violates this common life in appalling ways, its claim to sovereignty is forfeited and there is a duty upon the international community of intervention and rescue. Once a threshold of inhumanity has been crossed, there is a Ã¢â‚¬Å“responsibility to protectÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Which is precisely and totally the wrong way round. First we should seek to put in place a legitimate system of international law. We could start with insisting that the hegemon agree to bind itself and its citizens under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. No action ought ever to be encouraged that breaches this general case, barring exceptional circumstances. The duty upon the international community of intervention and rescue, if it is to be valid, ought to be embedded in and conditional upon that. Egg first, then chicken. To seek to grant that permission in advance, to hand out carte blanche for unilateral political violence without any knowledge of the hypotheticals or counterfactuals, is the real lunacy of the Euston Manifesters. Not so much neo-conservative, as utterly passive to hegemonic aggression. It is, as much as it’s anything at all, an objectively pro-war document. And not one I could ever sign.