They don’t have neocons in Britain: over there, they’re called Blairites, or New Labourites. But it’s essentially the same thing: they love the State, they love themselves, and, most of all, they love war – in the name of idealism, you understand, which, in Blairite circles, amounts to what passes these days for "humanitarian" interventionism. In any case, I suppose it was inevitable that the British wing of the species would one day deign to notice Antiwar.com’s existence – and in the same vehemently uncomplimentary vein as their American cousins – but David Aaronovitch, writing in the Guardian, doesn’t even come close to matching the virulence of our very own Davids – Frum, Horowitz, take your pick. I expected rather more from the author of a book entitled Arson, Rape, and Bloody Murder.
However, the theme and subject matter of Aaronovitch’s 2002 memoir – his trials and travails as the son of dedicated Communist Party members, and a Commie youth leader himself in the 1970s – might have given me a clue as to what to expect. The Communists have always had a characteristic way of arguing, one that manages to avoid confronting – or even mentioning – their political opponents’ views, while linking all such “enemies of the people” together in a vast conspiracy of White Guards, Hitlerites, and top-hatted capitalists. Having reached middle age, these types often change their views radically – becoming, in the case of Horowitz, at least, Bizarro World versions of their old political personas – but the overall pattern of their thinking remains pretty constant. Their polemics, once pointed like an ice-pick at dissident Trotskyites and other deviationists, are directed at new enemies: yet they remain true to form in shaping their argument in conspiratorial terms.
Aaronovitch’s ire is directed at anyone who has dared challenge the cult of Viktor Yushchenko, around which transnational progressives and neoconservative internationalists are converging in an intellectual Ribbentrop Pact of mutual convenience. His primary target is John Laughland, the politically unclassifiable Euroskeptic author and publicist, whose book The Tainted Source is a panoramic and revealing historical overview of the European Idea and its dubious origins in prewar fascist thought:
“Whenever, as this past week, eastern Europe is on the news, so too is a man called John Laughland. Last Sunday he was playing Ukrainian expert on the BBC’s The World This Weekend, the day before he was here in the Guardian defending the Ukrainian election ‘result’, and at the beginning of the month he was writing for the Spectator – also on Ukraine.
“Laughland’s great strength is that he sees what no one else in the west seems to. Where reporters in Kiev, including the Guardian’s own Nick Paton-Walsh, encounter a genuine democracy movement, Laughland comes across ‘neo-Nazis’ (Guardian), or ‘druggy skinheads from Lvov’ (Spectator). And where most observers report serious and specific instances of electoral fraud and malpractice on the part of the supporters of the current prime minister, Laughland complains only of a systematic bias against (the presumably innocent) Mr Yanukovich.”
One has to note, first of all, that Aaronovitch starts out his indictment with an expression of sheer annoyance that Laughland is even allowed to voice his opinion on major media outlets: This, according to the moral strictures of the neocon-neocommie mindset, is his real crime. Why, Aaronovitch wants to know, is everyone paying so much attention to this upstart?
As for seeing what no one else sees – millions were sent to the Gulag for less! When Laughland reports the very real presence of neo-Nazis in the ranks of Ukrainian “reformers,” Aaronovitch, rather than come right out and accuse him of lying, wonders why no one else has noticed this. Then again, no one but a few Russian émigrés and isolated right-wingers noticed the Soviet gulags when they were filling up with victims.
The accusation that Laughland’s complaints lack specificity, on close inspection, appears to be utterly specious. You can’t get much more specific than this:
“We are told that a 96 per cent turnout in Donetsk, the home town of Viktor Yanukovich, is proof of electoral fraud. But apparently turnouts of more than 80 per cent in areas that support Viktor Yushchenko are not. Nor are actual scores for Yushchenko of well over 90 per cent in three regions, which Yanukovich achieved in only two. And whereas Yanukovich’s final official score was 54 per cent, the Western-backed President of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, officially polled 96.24 per cent of the vote in his country in January. The observers who now denounce the Ukrainian election welcomed that result in Georgia, saying that it ‘brought the country closer to meeting international standards’. We have become dangerously tolerant of blatant double standards in media reporting.”
Go here for the Wikipedia map, and note their comment:
“Although a 75 percent turnout was recorded in the initial vote, observers reported many irregularities, particularly in the regions where Yushchenko’s support was seen to be strongest. It was unclear how much of an impact this had on the result.”
But Aaronovitch has no interest in the facts, which is why he fails to cite any. All he cares about is upholding the media-generated myth that we are all supposed to accept without question: the utter goodness of Saint Yushie, and the demonic evil of the dastardly Yanukovich. The idea is to smear Laughland, not refute him, and Aaronovitch does this by positing what he terms “the Laughland pattern.” He establishes this by means of “a quick trawl,” taking the reader through a long litany of crimes against political correctness – Laughland has “criticized the International Tribunal in the Hague,” for example. To Comrade Aaronovitch, this is “defending Slobodan Milosevic” – although no words of praise for old Slobo are cited, because there aren’t any.
Certainly Laughland has been a major critic of an institution that is little more than an international kangaroo court – along with the U.S. government, for one, which refuses to subject its own soldiers and agents to The Hague’s authority. But I don’t recall a single word of political support or admiration for the imprisoned Serbian strongman on Laughland’s part, and Aaronovitch never produces any. That’s what “a quick trawl” will get you.
Laughland, says Aaronovitch, has “generally argued that the problem in countries normally associated with human rights abuses is, in fact, the intervention of western agencies.” What is the purpose of using the word “normally” in this context? What can the good comrade mean? “Normally associated” – by whom?
By organs of the State, of course, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the EU, and, of course, commentators with the same views as Aaronovitch. What else to expect from a neoconnish neo-commie? This is the source of Commissar Aaronovitch’s vendetta against the British Helsinki Human Rights Group, which has documented election abuses on both sides, albeit while highlighting the underreported shenanigans of the Yushchenko camp. You see, they aren’t an officially sanctioned, government-created-and–directed group of outright partisans, like the OSCE election “observers,” but a completely private and politically independent agency.
The Eurocrats have set themselves up as the guardians of “democracy” in the 50-plus countries of the OSCE/EU superstate, but who will watch the watchers? The answer is: the BHHRG and local affiliates, and that’s an answer that enrages Aaronovitch. There will be no private initiative in his neocon dystopia – especially not in the realm of foreign affairs.
With millions of taxpayer dollars at their disposal, and platoons of European and American “advisors,” “observers,” and front-group NGOs, Western governments got their boots on the ground in Ukraine, deploying prefabricated propaganda, barrels of cash, and enough tents to house a giant circus in the middle of Kiev. What happened in Serbia – or, rather, to Serbia – and in Georgia, was merely a rehearsal for what is today taking place in the streets of the Ukrainian capital. However, the newer model – the “orange revolution” – is sleeker, flashier, and even more facile than its predecessors. There is the innovation of the exit polls – in effect, substituting them for the real elections. In order to claim “fraud,” all one has to do is point out the discrepancy between the actual results and the preliminary polling numbers crunched by your very own bought-and-paid-for “experts.”
The BHHRG is suspect, by Aaronovitchian standards, because it
“Writes reports which – along Laughlandish lines – almost invariably dispute the accounts given by better known human rights organizations.”
Better known – to whom? Most ordinary people couldn’t name a specific human rights organization, except in some vague sense: maybe the UN, perhaps Amnesty International in some rare instances. But certainly no one associates governments – any government – with human rights: no one, that is, except for Aaronovitch and his fellow neos, for whom the governments of the West are the liberators of all mankind.
Can’t you hear the tone of the Commissar, the secret policeman’s voice raised to a high pitch as Aaronovitch demands to know:
“So what on earth is going on here? I know nothing about BHHRG’s finances, but the ideological trail is fascinating….”
It’s a detective story, in Aaronovitch’s eyes, because a crime – a thought crime – has been committed: an unapproved dissenting view has been admitted into the public’s purview, and the idea is to trace the conspiracy all the way to the end, so as to identify the ringleaders. The trail leads him to former Antiwar.com columnist Christine Stone, BHHRG co-founder, and this leads him to …
“A US website called Antiwar.com where, for a while, Stone had a regular Thursday column. But Antiwar.com was not a leftwing site opposing the Iraq war. It was a rightwing site set up to oppose the Kosovo intervention in 1999. Its ‘editorial director’ was a man called Justin Raimondo who was active in the small US Libertarian party before joining the Republican party. In the 1992, 1996 and 2000 elections he supported the campaigns of Pat Buchanan, the far-right isolationist candidate.
“Raimondo is also an ‘adjunct scholar’ with the Ludwig von Mises Institute. This is a libertarian think-tank in Auburn, Alabama, founded by one Lew Rockwell, who describes himself as ‘an opponent of the central state, its wars and its socialism’. A contributor to Rockwell’s own site is Daniel McAdams, who is – in his own words ‘honoured to be associated’ with the British Helsinki Human Rights Group.”
Aha! It’s a rightwing conspiracy! How thrilling for the leftish readers of the Guardian to know that the premier antiwar site on the internet, with 60,000-plus readers daily, recommended by such leftie worthies as Michael Moore, is really “rightwing.” Of course, as anyone who reads our statement of principles and mission can easily learn, we aren’t rightists or leftists but libertarians. The rightist label, however, serves certain purposes: in the Orwellian world of Tony Blair’s England, where left-wing political correctness is a kind of secular religion, it evokes images of Sir Oswald Mosely, the BNP, and skinhead gangs. It all reads like some shoddy little pamphlet by Harry Pollitt, except this isn’t the 1930s and we’re not talking about Communism but about another (rival) form of Jacobinism – and yet, the methods are the same.
It’s all very tired, yet Aaronovitch manages to come up with at least one minor innovation: instead of being the editorial director of Antiwar.com, I’m the “editorial director” – as if the addition of ironic quotes automatically strips the title of any legitimacy. And that’s what Aaronovitch’s whole piece is really about: BHHRG isn’t legitimate because it isn’t government-approved, and Antiwar.com is, after all, a mere website – not a cheap broadsheet like the Guardian.
As it turns out, however, Antiwar.com is just a small cog in a vast machine of subversion, as Aaronovitch makes all too clear to the reader when he follows “Trail 2” to the insidious European Foundation – “(patron, Mrs M Thatcher),” Boo! Hiss! – “which – judging by its website – seems to spend most of its time and energy sending out pamphlets by arch-Europhobe Bill Cash.”
I love this bit of neo-commie rhetoric – or is that paleo-commie? To old-style class warriors of a Stalinist mentality, the really bad ones weren’t just plain ordinary reactionaries, they were black reactionaries and arch-reactionaries – the very worst of the worst! To be an “arch-Europhobe” – it sounds like some exotic sort of racist (the Anti-Nordic League, perhaps?) or an exponent of Oriental Despotism. This is another familiar method of the Communist character assassins of yesteryear: almost never cite your opponents’ actual words, except in brief snippets, and never ever argue with them, since the briefest possible statement of their hateful views is enough to condemn them out of hand. In this spirit, Aaronovitch avers:
“A synopsis of one of Laughland’s own books, however, notes his argument that, ‘Post-national structures … and supranational organisations such as the European Union – are … corrosive of liberal values (and) the author shows the ideology as a crucial core of Nazi economic and political thinking.'”
“Beginning to get the picture now?”
Well, uh, no. What picture is he waffling on about?
By the time we get to “Trail 3,” Sanders Research Associates, a risk consultancy firm that Laughland writes for, the trail has become rather sparse and overgrown with all sorts of indirect and strained connections. Through the Sanders group, we are led to the writings of one Chris Black, who asserts that both sides committed atrocities in Rwanda, not just the Hutus.
The problem with this kind of linkage – a device often employed by Commies, ex-Commies, and their neoconservative heirs and legatees – is that it projects the habits of Communist-style party discipline onto the other side. But this is not at all how normal people function: that degree of coordination doesn’t exist anywhere outside a Commie cell or the American Enterprise Institute. Aaronovitch constructs a fictitious amalgam, and drives his central point home:
“What we seem to have in Laughland and his associates is a group of right-wing anti-state libertarians and isolationists, suspicious of any foreign entanglements, who have somehow morphed into apologists for the worst regimes and most appalling dictators on the planet.”
Oh, I don’t know that Viktor Yanukovich has bombed any civilians in his career: he hasn’t done to Kiev what we have done to, say, Fallujah. He hasn’t killed close to 100,000 of his enemies in a war of “liberation,” now has he? Perhaps Aaronovitch doesn’t find such behavior sufficiently appalling. That would hardly be surprising. After all, anyone who was a member of the Communist Party after 1956 must suffer from some sort of basic moral deficiency – a kind of moral blindness. Anyone can have a change of heart, but one wonders to what extent Aaronovitch has recovered from his childhood affliction.
Is it really necessary to explain that, because we oppose the alleged duty of the U.S. and Britain to right every wrong, dethrone every despot, and undertake “regime change” from Tehran to Timbuktu, it does not follow that we endorse the status quo in every nation? Antiwar.com dares to raise the essential question: who has the right to impose a new status quo, and at what price? To Aaronovitch, this is siding with the enemy. To the Commies of old, and their descendants, the old Leninist maxim still holds: Those who are not with us are against us!
Behind the vapid rhetorical flourishes of Global Democratism, and the gimmicky public relations campaigns, is a well-oiled propaganda machine funded by self-interested governments, which are intent on pursuing their own geopolitical, economic, and ideological agendas. These often have less to do with human freedom than they do with other, more tangible objectives, and exposing this reality is a noble cause – one that we proudly share with John Laughland, whose work we have been privileged to run. As for the BHHRG, it represents the one thing governments at all times and everywhere despise: private initiative. That’s why we love it.
Neocons everywhere share one thing in common, aside from a warlike tendency and a penchant for smearing their opponents, and that is a special warmth for Israel: the socialist Sparta is, for them, an exemplar of a “democracy” that is nonetheless tough enough to measure up to their warrior ethic. Because so many of them are ex-Communists or former Trotskyites of one sort or another, they have a habit of mind that reserves a special place in their hearts for some foreign utopia as an exemplar and guiding star. The Commies had the Soviet Union, the “workers’ fatherland,” as they used to call it, and the neocons have Israel, which they defend just as adamantly and unconditionally as Aaronovitch’s parents once stood by Red Russia. Any hint of disrespect, or even an honest appraisal of the Jewish state, causes them to fly into a rage and froth at the mouth with anger:
“And where does it all end up? A couple of weeks ago Sanders commended to his clients ‘John Laughland’s series of articles [showing that] the attack on Iraq is just the southern offensive of a larger campaign to tighten the noose on Russia.’ And he continued, ‘What is less well understood are the risks that the unravelling political compact in Israel poses for the United States and Great Britain, whose political processes, intelligence services, military, media and financial establishments are so thoroughly enmeshed with Israel’s.'”
“Read that last sentence again and then ask yourself: in what way are Britain’s media and financial interests ‘thoroughly enmeshed’ with Israel’s?”
Isn’t it interesting how Israel’s amen corner continually assures us that Israel isn’t like those other Middle Eastern countries, and needs to be supported because it’s really part of the West: yet Aaronovitch takes Sanders to task for making precisely this point. Who can doubt that Israel is the major ally of the U.S. and Britain in their seemingly perpetual “war on terrorism”?
What has Aaronovitch on the warpath is the contention that this ongoing conflict seems to have morphed into a war to level the Middle East until only Israel is left standing – and seize control of the world oil supply in the bargain. Sanders is hardly the first to suggest the Israeli angle to the war: and it isn’t just notorious right-wingers like Pat Buchanan and myself, but the Guardian‘s own Julian Borger as well as General Anthony Zinni, former CIA official Michael Scheuer, and intelligence expert James Bamford who point to the oddity of our Israel-centric foreign policy.
Are all these people part of a sinister and far-reaching conspiracy against all that’s good and holy? Like our own neocons here in the U.S., the British variety are intent on smearing their opponents as anti-Semites, but this is a bit much coming from someone who dismisses the very real influence of organized anti-Semitism in the Yushchenko camp.
Like his neocon comrades on the other side of the Atlantic, Aaronovitch supported the Iraq war on the grounds that “the Yanks” have a moral duty to “liberate” the downtrodden Iraqi masses and lift them up to the level of a province in the “democratic” Empire of the West. To oppose the war was to support Saddam. Now we are told that to oppose Western intervention in Ukraine is to support Yanukovich – and tomorrow, when they’ve finally encircled the inner core of the former Soviet Union, and are moving in on the Kremlin, opposing intervention in Russia will be tantamount to supporting Putin or some other thoroughly Saddamized Russian strongman.
That is complete malarkey. It is the old Commie-style smear methodology, applied to new circumstances, but still employing the same tired old tricks. It hasn’t worked so far in the U.S., where the neocons have been pushing the same smear campaign for years, and it isn’t likely to work any better in Britain.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
Speaking of Israel’s amen corner, what were the cretins over at littlegreenfootballs (rightly deemed a “hate site“) up to on Thanksgiving? These people are celebrating the holidays … in their own pathetic, twisted way. Ugh.