The amorality of my enemy’s enemy

The pro-Iraq war Left has bitten back with the launch of the Euston Manifesto. A statement of 15 principles that outlines a commitment to human rights, freedom, equality, democractic pluralism and support for Palestine as well as a rejection of anti-Americanism and racism. It is a fundamental rejection of the anti-war’s left willingness to embrace anyone in their coalition of interest regardless of their actions.A key supporter of the Manifesto is Christopher Hitchens, one of the best polemicists of our generation and most prominent pro-war leftist. His debate with George Galloway in New York, the grapple in the big apple, one of the rare examples of a no-holds barred political debate on a key issue (video / transcript). (A debate that changed my personal views from mild opposition to support for the Iraq war.)

The neo-conservatives partially succeeded in making the right face up to the reality its past policies of propping up corrupt and dictatorial regimes had monumentally backfired. What success will their counterparts on the left have?

  • kensei

    The problem isn’t one of idealism. Everyone on the Left should be able to agree with those aims.

    The problem is pragmatism. War is a blunt tool for solving problems, and nearly always results in unitended consequences worse than the original problem. Iraq being a case in point. Every war starts with people thinking it will over by Christams, that’ll be easy. Neary every war ends with that idea completely exposed. The question is why we still fall for it.

    Invading every country and building democratic nations is beyond our power. The challenge of the Left is to find effective alternatives for populations who are often angry and frightened. The statement of ideals is important, but it’s the easy part.

  • willis

    Probably a good time to remember

    J.K. Galbraith

    For Soviet Union read Iraq.

    Also as it says on page 6 of the manifesto

    “The founding supporters of this statement took different views on the military
    intervention in Iraq, both for and against. We recognize that it was possible
    reasonably to disagree about the justification for the intervention, the manner
    in which it was carried through, the planning (or lack of it) for the aftermath,
    and the prospects for the successful implementation of democratic change.”

    So it is wrong to characterize the manifesto as being pro-war, although Christopher Hitchens certainly is.

  • abucs

    The thing is people go to war for different reasons and for different injustices.

    A lot of the discussion in the linked debates centre on Saddam or even Gadaffi.

    There’s a lot of people doing killing in Iraq now who couldn’t give a toss for or against either of them.

    War is not something you can control because too much shit happens in them. I agree with Kensei, it doesn’t matter how powerful you are you can’t control reactionary violence, its methods, its duration or its consequences.

    To argue for something so destructfully and uncontrollably evil as war should be a last resort. It is a blunt hammer and the U.S. being so wealthy and influential should have less hypocritical instruments to use if its purpose is really to bring peace and good will.

  • Rory

    This is as clear an apologia for imperialist intervention as I have yet encountered. Indeed it smacks of the very ideology of the old CIA funded magazine Encounter. It is hardly surprising that Christopher Hitchens is an ardent supporter. Since 9/11 the role of left wing British social dilettante had become increasingly uncomfortable for his preferred NYC lifestyle and his lurch to support Bush and the neo-cons mad adventures has become weekly more pathetic to observe.

    But then I always reckoned that, like Stephen Spender, he was ever a bit of a stinker and did not just become so recently. I know it is true that his drinking is widely regarded as out of control and that is plain to see but hardly an excuse for becoming a hack for all he formerly professed to despise on general principles.


    I know it is true that his drinking is widely regarded as out of control

    Isn’t there some rule on this site regarding Man and Ball?

    Pathetic Rory, truly pathetic.

    As for the Euston Manifesto, it’s a welcome breath of fresh air.

    Hear hear.

  • DCB

    As if his drinking has anything to do with it.

  • “Christopher Hitchens, one of the best polemicists of our generation and most prominent pro-war leftist”

    Christalmighty Mick, when did you drink the Kool-Aid?

    Make that “apostate leftist” and I’ll spare you the syringe of thorazine. Google that phrase with “hitchens” and you’ll get a several thousand hits.

    Every rightwing troglodyte from William F’Buckley to Horowitz has become a made man with the ritual attack on Noam Chomsky. By means of that ritual, Hitchens has been a buttonman for the right-wing establishment mob since Christ was a corporal. Hell, he even ratted his buddy Blumenthal out to the Ken Starr Family in ’99 order to do the hit on Clinton.

    Right wing junior G-men BRAG about recruiting him.

    Polemicist, I’ll believe. He is better than Kevin Meyrs. Diogenes still can’t take a coffee break.

    Damned good manifesto, though. Great ideals.

    Are the kids that typed it up going to carry their own water or do me and mine get to die for their ideals on this one too?

  • Harry Flashman


    The part that you quote is relevant but you fail to follow it through. The manifesto states that whilst it was perfectly legitimate to oppose the war, once Saddam fell the issue was moot. Once Saddam fell there was no alternative for the Left than to seek to build a better Iraq, to continue to harp on about the whys and the wherefores of the invasion was playing into the hands of the monstrous and deeply reactionary forces opposed to creating a new and just society in Iraq. I mean ferchrissakes it sometimes appears that those on the Left actually want Saddam restored to power! (Actually with Galloway that is of course not an appearance but a fact)

    It really is simple for the progressives now, whose side are you on at this moment, whatever about how we got to this point, who do you want to see win now? The trades unionists, the election workers, the sewage engineers, the doctors, the teachers who desperately want to create a new democratic nation in Iraq or are you with the head choppers, the mosque bombers, the holy warriors, the trogladytes who wish to see Iraq condemned to medieval barbarity?

    The choice couldn’t be any starker so it is truly repulsive to see how many people on the Left who championed freedom and human rights for decades now sound so ambivalent about the jihadis of Al Queda and the Ba’athist thugs whom they call the resistance. Bush Derangement Syndrome seems to have taken such terminal hold of the body politic on the Left that they will sign up with any murderous, homophobic, mysogynistic, anti-semitic, seventh century, barbarian psychopath who just happens to be opposed to a US president who will be gone in three years anyway. This new Nazi-Communist pact that the Left seems intent in creating is even more shameful than the original.

    In ten years from now, with the Bush presidency a passing memory and, with the help of God, Iraq and Afghanistan slowly rebuilding their civic societies in peace, the peoples of those two countries will look at the influential “progressives” who wished them to fail and who allied themselves with their deepest enemies. They will spit in the faces of the Left who would have consigned them to their mass graves and decapitation rooms. I hope the progressives will then feel comfortable explaining how their demonisation of an utterly unremarkable Texas oil maintenance company meant they could not support ordinary Muslims who wanted peace and liberty.

    I know whose side I’m on, I hope you on the Left can sleep at night thinking through the results of your anti-Bush hysteria.

    This is the choice.

  • willis


    Much of what you say I completely agree with. If you think I am a supporter of George Galloway, you have got me wrong.

    That is why I referred to J K Galbraith. He represents that part of the left which did not idolise the Soviet Union, while still criticising the U.S. governments.

    I agree with the Euston manifesto but it is inaccurate to characterize it as pro-war. Pro-a decent democratic future despite the reasons for the war – certainly.

  • bootman

    “The neo-conservatives partially succeeded in making the right face up to the reality its past policies of propping up corrupt and dictatorial regimes had monumentally backfired. What success will their counterparts on the left have?

    Fair Deal @ 12:03 PM”

    Rubbish they just decided they were of no use to them any more.

  • Garibaldy

    Fair deal,

    were neocons not recently involved in supporting a coup to overthrow chavez? Hardly a shining beacon of democratic action.

    Both the neocons and many of those who signed the euston manifesto supported people who even the americans said were drug dealers, women traffickers and terrorists in yugoslavia. I thought a fundamental aspect of modern democracy was national self-determination. Neither the neo-cons nor the euston people seem to acknowledge that. After all, the Iranian government was elected in free and fair elections, and still the americans discuss regime change. The new emphasis on human rights etc is another way of covering for US interests. At least Kissinger has the honesty to acknowledge that’s what he wants america to openly pursue.

  • Rory

    TAFKABO, since Hitchens is part of the subject matter of the original blog then he is by definition a “ball” and fair game for scrutiny and attack. If I were to comment on your drinking that would be an attack on the man, and also without foundation as I’ve never knowingly encountered you drunk on Slugger.

  • The Beach Tree


    Unless you can show that C. Hitchen’s published opinions are directly affected by his alcohol intake, whatever it may be, then your argument about his ‘drunkeness’ reads only as an attack on his character, not his arguments, Hence, man not ball. And presumably only his employer and his physician are in a position to do that.

    Perhaps a better tack for you is to suggest that Fair Deal’s blog relies on the Appeal to Authroity fallacy, in the form:

    Chris Hitchen’s says X
    Chris Hitchen’s is GOOD/CLEVER/COMABATIVE
    So X is true.

    and that this does not an argument make, thus hopefully forcing Fair Deal to defend his views on stronger ground.

    Unfortunately you’ve replied with

    Chris Hitchen’s says X
    Chris Hitchen’s is BAD/DRUNK/INCOHERENT
    So X is false.

    The latter is just as unconvincing as the former, except it also carries a personal insult. Better to stay clear, and argue the merits, not the measures (or hal-measures).

  • micktvd

    harry flashman, your portrayal of the armed resistance to the US invsion is simplistic at best and perhaps as self serving as the neo-con protestations of support for democracy (note Giribaldi’s comment about US govt. support for the recent attempted military coup in Venezuela).

    The anti US armed groups are clearly multifaceted and also consist of informal local Sunni formations as well as former Baathists, Jihadists and doubtless a few of the more radical Shiites. There are other armed groups operating with merciless effect in Iraq, too, including our boys in Khaki and the death squads of the shiite paramilitaries. There is also a murderous bombing campaign underway at present, brought to you by the best in the business.

    But it has been the unarmed resistance to US occupation which is equally significant, and seriously downplayed in Western discourses on Iraq. Serious and sustained opposition from broad sectors of the Iraqi population (like Sistani and Sadr’s formations as well as trades unions and others) forced the US to more democratic measures and has seriously compromised their original intentions in Iraq.(largely consisting of a permanent military presence and a neoliberal designed carve up of the economy).In short, US attempts to install a complient, dependent regime in Iraq are not going well, but not simply because of the armed resistance.

    I, like most of the Left am certainly with he democrats and progressive forces in Iraq. This does not include the occupation forces and imperial grand designers from the Pentagon and Westminster. It is a sad and sorry mess. Our troops are making it worse. Get them out.

  • DK

    Hurrah for this manifesto. Iraq war aside, it blasts fresh air across those on the left who are apologists for everyone from Stalin through Mao to Hamas.

    The attempt to analyse conflict in order to apportion blame, and then pick sides based on the past blame is a fallacy: Israel invades Palestine. Palestine becomes impoverished and radicalised. Therefore Israel is to blame for suicide attacks on cafes (or America, as they fund Israel). So, therefore the organisation responsible for cafe attacks is the one we should support????? Even worse is the tendancy picked up in the manifesto where anything America does is assumed to be bad and must be opposed.

    How to apply this to NI though? Stop the lazy “it’s all Britain’s fault” and any assumptions that because the British Govt does something it must be bad. This applies to Unionists too – stop assuming that everything Sinn Fein do must be bad.