Tuesday, August 27, 2002
Well known America- and Israel-lover David Clark (see him in action here) discusses in London's The Patroniser the planned American attack on Iraq. While course he cannot resist a dig at Israel ("Nor will it do to argue that Iraq should be invaded because it has a nuclear weapons programme and stands in systematic violation of international law - not at a time when Israel, also guilty on both counts, continues to enjoy American patronage. One doesn't need to accept moral equivalence to see the double standards"), he correctly points out the Britain's left has let its anti-Americanism run away with itself. As long as Saddam was regarded as an American stooge (during the Iran-Iraq war) the British left did not cease to criticise him; now suddenly he's a proud "ethnic" fighting off American imperialistic aggression.
Some of Clark's arguments are misleading; he likes to think of himself as something of an expert in military matters and since September 11th has been desperately trying to convince people that he's an expert on the Middle East. For example he writes:
"Suggestions that Iraq sponsored September 11 or that it poses a direct threat to the US lack credibility. Saddam Hussein is an old-fashioned practitioner of state power. The nihilism of Osama bin Laden is almost as alien to his strategic outlook as it is to ours. Saddam is undoubtedly seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction, but he will be dead of old age before Iraq acquires ballistic missiles capable of reaching the American homeland."
This assumes that Osama bin Laden is a nihilist rather than a deeply devout Muslim who takes seriously the Qur'an's commandent for Muslims to fight non-believers, particularly those who have encroached upon Islamic lands; that Saddam does not sponsor terrorist movements such as Bin Laden's (in fact, he openly does, not regarding them as "terrorists"); and that Saddam would not need long range ballistic missiles to launch a nuclear offensive against America, which, as we have seen, is not necessarily the case.
All these niggling little details aside (they would be less significant were Clark not to present himself as an expert on the Middle East and military affairs; in fact, he has an MA in military history from the University of London), it's nice that somebody who is identified with "the Left" in Europe (and more "left" than Lionel Blair's New Labour) can still recognise a genocidal tyrant. I am reminded of the former communist Michael Foot, then leader of Britain's Labour Party, who supported Thatcher's strong stance against Argentina's Galtieri following the Falklands invasion, arguing that fascist dictators must be fought, not appeased. Foot belonged to the generation that grew up on the Spanish Civil War and the fight against Hitler. Some of his younger contemporaries in the Labour Party thought that appeasement was by far the better policy, and that in order to atone for its colonial past, Britain should allow modern dictators a free reign, provided they came from third world countries.
However, Clark concludes:
"There is no shortage of strong arguments for doubting the advisability of a military adventure to change the government of Iraq, but denying that there is a problem that needs to be dealt with is not among them. The anti-war movement would be altogether more effective if it acknowledged some of these uncomfortable dilemmas and dropped the easy sloganising of the past."
From this I take it that he identifies himself as part of the anti-war movement, though he is an enlightened member of that movement who knows that Saddam is a vicious bastard. Like all good-hearted folk, Clark is opposed to war and opposed to oppression. Unfortunately, he does not provide an alternative answer. It would be nice if the master strategist Clark would inform us simple folk just how he would deal with the militaristic dictator Saddam Hussein when the people in charge are interested in hearing his advice again. Let us not forget: Clark is a FORMER foreign office special adviser, to none other than the much loved Robin "out at the cabinet reshuffle" Cook.
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