The disaster of NATO’s legacy in Libya

Map_Libya_BBC_1There is almost an air of desperation in the recent unanimous adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2259 that seeks to bring together a critical mass of Libyan factions and actors  to support a new unity government of national accord that will oversee a peace process.

Libya’s new Presidency Council will form a government within 30 days of the UN resolution, and the resolution stipulates that this government will be the only authority recognized as sovereign by other states, but with no consequences for states that ignore that stipulation. Currently, in addition to the myriad militias and warlord factions in Libya, there are two rival “governments” in Libya, the House of Representatives based in Tobruk, and the General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli.

The prospects of the new government of National Accord can be judged by the fact that on 15 December, Agila Saleh Essa Gwaider and Nouri Abusahmain, presidents of the House and the GNC respectively, met in Malta in an attempt to broker an alternative deal that excludes international actors, and they have both refused to endorse the UN deal; indeed many other politicians and militias still remain outside and opposed to the process. The alternative proposal intends to form a new temporary legislative body composed of GNC members and 100 tribal leaders from the eastern region. [Abdel Qader Huweili, a member of the GNC] told Middle East Eye that the latter would be selected through the sponsorship of the tribes “to maintain the Libya unity”.

The UN itself has been widely discredited following the revelation of emails proving that the UN’s special envoy to Libya until November, Bernadino Leon, had been effectively working as an agent of the UAE, and far from being an honest broker, was following the UAE’s agenda seeking to promote the House of Representatives and delegitimize the GNC. Since he left his UN post he has been appointed to a highly remunerated position in UAE.

The situation in Libya is beyond catastrophic. For example, Abdul Hakeam Al-Yamany reports how in the Eastern city of Benghazi the health service faces complete collapse, with 60% of the hospitals completely closed, and the remaining health centres unable to meet even the basic needs of the population. Benghazi Medical Center, with only 260 beds, is now the only hospital serving a metropolitan district of 1.1 million people.

“The security situation is now even worse than what we saw during the Libyan Revolution four years ago,” said Leon Tombo, a Philippine national and a nurse in the emergency room of the Benghazi Medical Center, in May 2015. He added, “I will resign at the end of this month, and many of my colleagues have already left. We are no longer safe inside the hospital; bombs and bullets are hitting the building, and a number of my colleagues have been injured in these attacks.”

In another report Al-Yamany, describes how the education sector has collapsed.

Over a year ago, on May 16, 2014, General Khalifa Haftar launched the so-called Operation Dignity against extremist militias in Benghazi. Since that time, the city has been engulfed in an armed battle that has ravaged its infrastructure, destroyed most of its institutions, and led to the displacement of entire neighborhoods of the city. The crisis has particularly affected the education sector in Benghazi. Only 60 of the 400 schools in the city escaped damage and are able to accept students. … …

Mohammed al-Barghathi, a 12-year-old from the [Banina neighborhood, which has largely been destroyed], added, “My friends and I tried to clean our school multiple times so that it could be used for education, but the random shelling continues to fall on our region. Three of my friends died when they stepped on an unexploded shell hidden in the school yard.”

Meanwhile, the schools in safer neighborhoods have mostly been transformed into shelters for internally displaced persons who have left their homes in nearby areas of conflict. The Benghazi Crisis Committee is trying hard to develop solutions to displaced persons using the schools as temporary housing until the war ends in the city. Essam al-Hamali, the official in charge of social affairs in the Benghazi Crisis Committee, said, “We have 13,000 displaced families in Benghazi. We have temporarily placed them in schools located in relatively safe areas, because we have no other place to house them.”

General Khalifa Hifter is a onetime confidante of Muammar el-Qaddafi, now turned warlord leader, who is waging war on the Jihadis in Benghazi. The conflict has taken on the aspect of a war economy typical of failed states, where armed conflict has “destroyed the local legitimate economy so that many people have no other source of income except through joining an armed group, and in which access to resources depends on violence”

As Frederic Wehrey recounts:

Many of the pro-Hifter forces — their leaders say anywhere from 40 to 80 percent — are in fact neighborhood militias. The struggle in some areas has taken on a vicious familial and even ethnic quality, marked by the settling of ancient scores, between the east’s Bedouin Arab tribes and families from western Libya, some of whom have distant ties to Turkey. “This is about fighting the Turks and Freemasons,” the leader of one tribal militia told me. Another described children as young as 14 or 15 fighting in his ranks. I heard stories of summary executions of prisoners, forcible eviction of families and destruction of property.

Ultraconservative Salafists are said to be among the most competent fighters in General Hifter’s ranks; they too fight out of local and sometimes tribal solidarity, confounding the notion that this is a purely ideological war between secularists and Islamists.

On the other side, the composition is equally murky. To be sure, the Islamic State is present and growing. But one military critic of General Hifter, who wishes to remain anonymous, estimates that many of the opposing fighters are not hardened jihadists, but youths from Benghazi’s marginalized families who got caught up with Islamist militias and are now looking for a way to stop fighting.

The UK government published a summary in July:

Armed groups on all sides of the conflict have disregarded civilians and committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and violations and abuses of human rights, including abductions, extrajudicial executions, unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment. Armed groups have targeted Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) seeking to document and denounce such violations and abuses. Moderates who have supported the UN-facilitated efforts for a ceasefire and political dialogue have also been targeted by armed groups. … …

A series of savage attacks by extremists took place during the reporting period. In January at least 9 people, including 5 foreign nationals, were killed in a terrorist attack on an international hotel in Tripoli. In February, ISIL-affiliated terrorists claimed responsibility for the abduction and beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians, prompting retaliatory air strikes on Dernah by Egypt. In February, nine were killed in an attack at Mabruk oilfield southeast of Sirte, and three oil workers were kidnapped. On 6 March, terrorists killed eight oil workers and kidnapped nine workers at Al Ghani oilfield, south east of Tripoli. Car bomb attacks in public areas in Tripoli, Tobruk and Benghazi caused many casualties. In April 2015, two groups of Ethiopian Christians were executed by ISIL in Libya in two locations. … …

The UN, NGOs, and the media reported summary executions by a Sharia “court” in Dernah, and killings of security officials and current and former civil servants including judges, HRDs, media workers, and a female member of the General National Congress. …

Armed militias, mostly from Misrata, continued to prevent about 40,000 residents of Tawergha, Tomina, and Karareem from returning to their homes as a form of collective punishment for crimes allegedly committed by some Tawergha residents during the 2011 revolution. Those displaced continued to seek safety and shelter in makeshift camps and private housing in many areas, but they remained subject to attack, harassment, and arbitrary detention by the militias … …

The condition of prisons and treatment of prisoners under the jurisdiction of the different sides in the conflict remained a serious concern throughout this period. HRDs continued to report arbitrary detentions, mistreatment, torture and extrajudicial killings in detention centres on all sides.

Libya has, since 2011, suffered a collapse of civic infrastructure, with the health and education sectors decimated, with the productive, peacetime economy replaced by brigandage, and with a catastrophic collapse of womens’ rights. The rule of law has completely collapsed, with all parties in Libya refusing to cooperate with jurisdiction of tthe International Criminal Court: for example, the trial that resulted in the death sentence for Saif Islam Gaddafi was held in absentia as he himself is rotting in a extra-judicial militia run prison, and no prosecution evidence was presented, the court moved straight to judgement. Even by 2012 the UN was reporting

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay … raised concerns about detainees being held by revolutionary forces, saying there were some 8,500 prisoners in about 60 centres.

“The majority of detainees are accused of being Gaddafi loyalists and include a large number of sub-saharan, African nationals,” she said. “The lack of oversight by the central authority creates an environment conducive to torture and ill treatment”

What is therefore odd, is that supporters of the NATO intervention which destroyed the Libyan state don’t accept that the adventure was misjudged.

In October 2011, Seumus Milne described in the Guardian how the NATO intervention had been a disaster. I refer to Milne as he has become a bête noir of the pro-war lobby.

In response, Daniel Knowles wrote in the Telegraph:

In Milne’s view, without Nato’s support, Gaddafi would have entered Benghazi, murdered a few thousand people and order would have been restored. In actuality, without Western support, Libya either would have endured a much longer and more brutal civil war (with a much stronger chance that the most violent rebels would win out), or else it would have finished with Gaddafi still in power, only now forced to use far more repressive measures to maintain his grip. …

It is absolutely in the West’s interests to overthrow despotic, disgusting regimes like those of Gaddafi, and to encourage more pluralistic, liberal ones in their place. It is also good for those people, who now have a chance to build a better society.

Already when Knowles wrote this, the promise of a “better society”, was a macabre insult to the tens of thousands of lives broken by a society teetering on the abyss, as the state was destroyed and rival militias fought over the spoils. It has become a lazy caricature of those seeking to hold to account the folly of British military misadventures that this is due to knee jerk “anti-imperialism”, but perhaps as a Conservative Knowles might reflect on the wisdom of Edmund Burke in his reflections on the French Revolution.

The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please. We ought to see what it will please them to do before we risk congratulations, which may soon be turned into complaints. Prudence would dictate this in the case of separate insulated private men; but liberty when men act in bodies is power. Considerate people before they declare themselves will observe the use which is made of power; and particularly of so trying a thing as new  power in new persons, of whose principles, tempers and dispositions, they have little or no experience.

More extraordinary is that as recently as October 2015, the Labour Party’s own cheerleader for war, Kate Godfrey, wrote in the Telegraph that

I was in Libya as Colonel Gaddafi very deliberately fostered a refugee crisis in which thousands of people died on ghost transports, on buses and on trucks that couldn’t take the strain of their carriage. Gaddafi was opening up passes to Africa’s south in a great scheme to blackmail the EU. I was there as the migrants died of thirst. But really they died of a vindictive, bloody blackmailing policy. They died because of Gaddafi.

Seumas Milne says the Nato intervention in Libya is “a catastrophic failure”. He thinks that Gaddafi would never have enacted a brutal repression against the protesters of the Arab Spring. He thinks that “if there were global justice, Nato would be in the dock over Libya.” I was there, and Milne was not, and Milne is wrong.

He is wrong on Libya, and he will be wrong on Syria

Elsewhere, Godfrey wrote

The Gaddafi regime fell in weeks – as it were always going to fall. Within three days of the start of anti-government protests, the opposition were in charge of the country’s second capital, Benghazi. Six weeks and UN Security Council Resolution 1973 had been adopted, a no-fly zone was in place, and a coalition of 27 states from Europe and the Middle East sent in strikes against pro-government forces.

Six months after the start of protests and Tripoli fell. Gaddafi died, and Libya disintegrated into areas under control by separate more-or-less Islamist militias. And this is more-or-less where Libya remains.

Why?

Because Libya was never a cohesive country. It was, and is, barely a country at all but a scattering of six million people in a vast desert, with almost all of them concentrated in a thin coastal strip. The capital, Tripoli sits at the top left, the second city – and virtually the second capital – Benghazi, at the top right. With the exception of that coastal strip, the rest is sand, and one-Toyota towns.

During Gaddafi’s day the powerful kept an occasional politic presence in Tripoli and dwelt in their tribal areas and in loathing. The moment they had the opportunity to go after Gaddafi, they went after him. Given the intensity of feeling, the three days to take Benghazi looks restrained.

There was no depth to the Libyan state. The only question was, would the regime have the chance to use their control of the air? … …

People say Libya under Gaddafi worked. It was a police state. It was a wretched grey murder-state with basic dental. I spent a lot of time there, and I saw hunger, and fear, and Mukhabarat, and those on the good days.

At the best of times, Gaddafi’s regime was a stretched and grubby sticking plaster over a country that didn’t work.

There was no Save the Dictator option, and neither should there have been.

I lack Ms Godfrey’s talent for divining the opinions of the population of an entire country.

Nor can I speak for her experience of meeting people in Libya who were hungry, but according to the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), in 2010 Libya had the highest HDI in the African continent, and in 2012 had a GDP of $US 14000 per capita, equating to a spending power per head of $11900; the highest standard of living in Africa. Libya under Gaddafi also had free health care and education, around a quarter of the population were university educated, and more than half of graduates were women.

As Hugh Roberts explained in the London Review of Books in 2012

The socio-economic achievements of the regime can be attributed essentially to the distributive state: that is, the success of the hydrocarbons sector and of the mechanisms put in place early on to distribute petrodollars.

The comic opera absurdity of the so-called Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriyya, the puppet uniforms, and Gaddafi’s Bedouin chic did indeed provide a grotesque façade for a state that endorsed and encouraged terrorism, and brutal internal repression. It was a particularly absent state, lacking any political party or parties, and while it had a functioning bureaucracy with some degree of popular participation, it had neither the culture nor institutions for allowing political differences to be aired or resolved. We need to understand that the murder, torture and repression of political opponents is the attribute not of a strong state, but of a weak state.

The stronger state is one where there is sufficient culture of respect for the rule of law in civil society; political institutions that allow the resolution of disputes; and the willingness of governments to renounce power to their political opponents via constitutional means. Constitutionality is the hallmark of a state whose sovereignty rests upon popular consent.

Godfrey’s argument fails on a number of particulars. Firstly, she fails to distinguish between the stability of the Libyan state, and the particular expression of the government of that state. Governments and states are not the same thing, and governments can be changed by political process while still maintaining states. The military action by NATO in assistance of the rebels destroyed the state itself, and thereby destroyed the monopoly of armed force from the state and also the bureaucratic institutions which allowed the administrative and distributive economic functions of the Libyan state to function for its population. Even a repressive state plays a public safety role through excluding other actors from exercising war and brigandage on its territory.

Speaking in June 2015, the Tunisian Human Rights activist Amira Yahyaoui, emphasized the importance of public safety:

Security is a top priority. [Tunisia is] a very small country threatened by al Qaeda from Algeria and [the Islamic State] from Libya — that’s a huge mess, right? And more than that, one of the keys of success of Tunisia is that we don’t have Egypt’s military. Ben Ali was a dictator, and he made the choice to weaken the military, to avoid a military coup. But it’s now becoming a huge problem. Today the Tunisian military is really unequipped. The terrorists are very tech-y today, they use social media to organize, so this is one of the reasons I’m doing this.

But the second reason is that, for human rights activists, security is a taboo. Security means you are anti-human rights. But that gives space to those who are not very keen on human rights to take care of this topic. I think that people from a human rights background should be more involved in security issues, and stop thinking that security is a taboo. If we want to defend people’s rights, the first thing we need to defend is their right to live and not to die. That’s the first step.

Godfrey is blasé about the collapse of the Libyan state, saying that it was inevitable. It was only inevitable once NATO destroyed the armed forces defending that state. This created the security vacuum that was itself a human rights catastrophe greater than any furious dogs of war that Gaddafi could let slip.

She is also simply wrong that there was not a political alternative. Arguably the NATO intervention curtailed any prospect of a process in Libya leading to a stable resolution. It is worth quoting Roberts at length:

The claim that the ‘international community’ had no choice but to intervene militarily and that the alternative was to do nothing is false. An active, practical, non-violent alternative was proposed, and deliberately rejected. The argument for a no-fly zone and then for a military intervention employing ‘all necessary measures’ was that only this could stop the regime’s repression and protect civilians. Yet many argued that the way to protect civilians was not to intensify the conflict by intervening on one side or the other, but to end it by securing a ceasefire followed by political negotiations.

A number of proposals were put forward. The International Crisis Group, for instance, where I worked at the time, published a statement on 10 March arguing for a two-point initiative: (i) the formation of a contact group or committee drawn from Libya’s North African neighbours and other African states with a mandate to broker an immediate ceasefire; (ii) negotiations between the protagonists to be initiated by the contact group and aimed at replacing the current regime with a more accountable, representative and law-abiding government. This proposal was echoed by the African Union and was consistent with the views of many major non-African states – Russia, China, Brazil and India, not to mention Germany and Turkey. It was restated by the ICG in more detail (adding provision for the deployment under a UN mandate of an international peacekeeping force to secure the ceasefire) in an open letter to the UN Security Council on 16 March, the eve of the debate which concluded with the adoption of UNSC Resolution 1973.

In short, before the Security Council voted to approve the military intervention, a worked-out proposal had been put forward which addressed the need to protect civilians by seeking a rapid end to the fighting, and set out the main elements of an orderly transition to a more legitimate form of government, one that would avoid the danger of an abrupt collapse into anarchy, with all it might mean for Tunisia’s revolution, the security of Libya’s other neighbours and the wider region. The imposition of a no-fly zone would be an act of war: as the US defense secretary, Robert Gates, told Congress on 2 March, it required the disabling of Libya’s air defences as an indispensable preliminary. In authorising this and ‘all necessary measures’, the Security Council was choosing war when no other policy had even been tried.

The proposal for a cease fire and negotiations could not allow the absent state model of the jamahiriyya, to survive. The jamahiriyya lacked the civic institutions and political traditions to engage in negotiations, and so would have needed to generate them. There is evidence that the jamahiriyya was reformable, and the compelling impetus of a peace process would have accelerated support for the reforming current led by Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, who had been previously praised by among others Tony Blair, and was well placed to use the crisis to its advantage to create civic institutions. This option needed to be explored, and powerful voices within the African Union were urging Gaddafi to participate.

As Hugh Roberts explains:

It was the fashion some years ago in circles close to the Blair government – in the media, principally, and among academics – to talk up Saif al-Islam’s commitment to reform and it is the fashion now to heap opprobrium on him as his awful father’s son. Neither judgment is accurate, both are self-serving. Saif al-Islam had begun to play a significant and constructive role in Libyan affairs of state, persuading the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group to end its terrorist campaign in return for the release of LIFG prisoners in 2008, promoting a range of practical reforms and broaching the idea that the regime should formally recognise the country’s Berbers. While it was always unrealistic to suppose that he could have remade Libya into a liberal democracy had he succeeded his father, he certainly recognised the problems of the Jamahiriyya and the need for substantial reform. The prospect of a reformist path under Saif was ruled out by [NATO’s intervention].

Paradoxically, because the rebellion arose in the Libyan context without pre-existing civic and political institutions, the opposition also needed time to coalesce and develop. The military victory of NATO not only ruled out reform of the jamahiriyya, but it also ruled out the opposition going through the process of political evolution and clarification, the development of institutions, mechanisms of accountablity and self-discipline. The state was destroyed without anything else to fill the void.

Back in 2014, Thomas Friedman argued in the New York Times that the wave of global protests – what he calls the “square people” has broadly been contained at the level of protest.

Behind massive street demonstrations there is rarely a well-oiled and more-permanent organization capable of following up on protesters’ demands and undertaking the complex, face-to-face, and dull political work that produces real change in government. This is the important point made by Zeynep Tufekci, a fellow at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University, who writes that ‘Before the Internet, the tedious work of organizing that was required to circumvent censorship or to organize a protest also helped build infrastructure for decision making and strategies for sustaining momentum. Now movements can rush past that step, often to their own detriment.’

It is worth considering how Tunisia became an exception, again to quote Friedman:

Daniel Brumberg, a democracy expert at Georgetown University and the United States Institute of Peace, points out that the most successful Square People in the Arab world, who forged a whole new constitution, are in Tunisia, which is the Arab country that had “the most robust civil society institutions — especially a powerful labor union federation, as well as business, human rights and lawyers associations — that could arbitrate between the secular and religious factions,” who had come together in the square to oust Tunisia’s dictator. Tunisia also benefited from an army that stayed out of politics and the fact that the secular and Islamist forces had a balance of power, requiring them to be inclusive of one another.

The crucial feature in the development of stable political institutions is that they have legitimacy based upon popular engagement. Respect for the rule of law, especially constitutionality, cannot be imposed from outside; and even the successful German experience was domestically driven, in conjunction with protracted nation building support by the occupying powers. Conspicuous successes in conflict resolution, for example the end of South African Apartheid, or the process started by the Good Friday Agreement in Ireland, have involved long term commitment from the protagonists themselves to resolve their differences.

Kate Godfey is quite explicit that she believes that those like myself and Seumus Milne who argue that NATO’s intervention in Libya was a failure are wrong. She therefore presumably believes it was a success.

It is therefore worth comparing her views with those of Sir John Sawers, who was Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, for five years until November 2014.

“When crisis erupted in Libya, we didn’t feel it right to sit by as Gaddafi crushed decent Libyans demanding an end to dictatorship.

“But we didn’t want to get embroiled in Libya’s problems by sending in ground forces. After Gaddafi was ousted, no-one held the ring to help manage a transition to something better … …

“Libya had no institutions. Who or what would take over? The answer? Those with the weapons. Result? Growing chaos, exploited by fanatics.”

James Robbins, the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent comments on Sir John’s views as follows:

Most foreign policy analysts seem to agree that the major Western powers, Britain included, are now caught in a sort of policy no-man’s land between intervention and non-intervention.

Politicians are trying to satisfy citizens who continue to expect security and protection, but who also seem increasingly unwilling to tolerate the sort of defence spending that protection might require, and, more importantly, the scale of sacrifice in soldiers’ lives which ground combat inevitably brings.

What Libya got was neither full intervention nor complete non-intervention, but a sort of limited intervention.

That limited intervention, sanctioned by the UN, led by David Cameron for Britain and President Nicolas Sarkozy for France, was based on the new-ish doctrine of the “Responsibility to Protect”. … …

The huge difficulty with limited intervention, of course, is the unpredictability of outcomes.

That fickle and unfathomable “law of unintended consequences” delivered catastrophic results in Libya.

Western policy relied on maintaining the unity of anti-Gaddafi forces once they had dealt with their shared enemy.

Light-touch Western efforts to help Libyans put aside their tribal and factional differences forever and embrace power-sharing through representative government based on national unity, have comprehensively collapsed.

The doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect” (RtP) is certainly not an unchallenged one, and it is viewed by – for example – India, China and Russia with some skepticism. At the heart of RtP is the concept that state sovereignty is constrained, and that it can be lawful for another state to intervene to avoid humanitarian disaster. Certainly, using examples of the Rwandan genocide, or Pol Pot’s Cambodia, it is clear that outside military intervention can be a necessity, though there should be a high threshold of violence to overcome, an emphasis on caution, the exploration and preference of non-military options, consensus and shared responsibility through the UNSC, the involvement and indeed primacy of regional actors, and follow through and civic and economic capacity building to ensure that the outcome is not a failed state.

The prime difficulty is that the type of military action advocated as a success in Libya by Kate Godfrey was one that would almost inevitably lead to disaster. Whatever the merits of the exercise of RtP in any particular instance, any resulting military action needs to be integrated in a workable political system that works towards stable outcomes.

Warfare is a brutal business. Von Clauswitz famously observed that war is the continuation of diplomacy by other means. Just contemplating the incongruity of this statement with the modern reality of wars involving warlord polities like ISIL, and the descent into anarchy, reveals an entire sea change from war as traditionally understood in Europe as the organized exercise of violence by states in pursuit of political aims.

The exclusion of non-state actors as legitimate participants in war derived in Europe from the widespread introduction of firearms, but in particular through the social codification of laws of war, derived from Huigh de Groot’s (Grotius) work “The Laws of War and Peace”, that became adopted across Europe by professional practitioners of war, seeing the mutual benefit of self restraint. Even from the outset, Grotius’s work was ignored during the expansion of European powers into the colonies, and was later challenged by the citizen armies of the Napoleonic era and increasing destructive power of armaments; but for some extensive period, the exercise of military power was regarded as deliberately conservative of social stability.

Whereas seventeenth Europe, particularly Germany, had endured war of the same brutal totality as consumes, for example, modern Syria, the military historian, Robert O’Connell observed that the codification of rules of war meant that “for two centuries these men succeeded in capturing and integrating the gun into a workable political system”.

What NATO’s intervention into Libya reveals is an exercise of military might where the means do not match the will; and that was socially regressive in destroying the institutions of social stability thus destroying the civic foundations of a peacetime economy. In so doing, it has allowed the creation of a war economy, where access to economic resources is directly dependent upon the exercise of violence. Such a breakdown of civil society and public safety are exactly the conditions into which a warlord polity like ISIL can advance. Indeed, while other Jihadi actors like Boko Haram are merely franchise holders of so-called Islamic State (ISIL), according to the UN, ISIL in Libya is integrated with their confederates in Iraq and Syria.

NATO’s action did not locate itself within a framework of seeking political stability, and indeed it undermined and forestalled a political peace process from the African Union. Indeed, contemporary with the Libyan war, the state of Bahrain unleashed a wave of repression not dissimilar to that which prompted NATO intervention in Libya. The British government took precisely the opposite view to that which they took in Libya, believing that political stability in Bahrain outweighed other considerations, and that reform could be encouraged through dialogue and engagement.

Military action should never be engaged in unless there are clear, realizable political objectives, that the risks are considered, where there are clear exit conditions, and where the consequences of failure as well as the consequences of success are factored into the decisions. What is more, embarking on war where the military means and will are insufficient, and are known to be insufficient at the outset, to ensure that the political objectives can be met guarantees failure. What is more, any exercise of RtP must ensure commitment to a political process that emphasizes social stability as an outcome – destroying states and letting anarchy reign may satisfy the liberal interventionists, but the left is right to oppose and hold such vanities to account.

85 comments on “The disaster of NATO’s legacy in Libya

  1. Superb article, Andy, which deserves to be widely read. I think you cover everything to the extent that only a delusional fool, such as Kate Godfrey, could argue that the toppling of Gaddafi by NATO was a good thing.

    The reality is that the Gaddafi regime could have been negotiated with, but the West panicked in the face of the momentum of the Arab Spring and decided it was an unstoppable force which they needed to support in order to maintain any control over its outcome.

    I’m currently working on a book on the Arab Spring and its wider geopolitical context. Researching the Libyan disaster a French think tank revealed that from the outset in Benghazi there was a strong jihadi presence in the original 2011 uprising.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/270293/al-qaeda-and-libyan-rebellion-john-rosenthal

  2. jock mctrousers on said:

    Thanks for that. I actually read it on New Year’s Day, but I didn’t feel like getting serious then (dont’ much now either) .. That represents a sizeable effort. It’s handy to have a recap of the Libya story as presented to us in the media – useful to have it all in one place like that; and that’s an excellent piece by Hugh Roberts from the LRB; and I suppose Kate Godfrey is a particularly typical specimen of that sort of thing…

    But I think again you err too much on the side of diplomacy in your summing up. I’d guess that you’ve read Andrew Carnegie’s profound collection of common sense, ‘ How to Win Friends and Influence People’ . I recall his advice about always offering your opponent a way out, a way to back down without losing face… That springs to mind when I think of Corbyn’s talk about ‘engaging’ with the Blairites… Fine, it may be politically expedient or even proper to accept at their own estimation that the pro-war Labourites really ‘believe’ the stuff they come out with (I wouldn’t be the first to note that Blair could sincerely believe anything convenient), but not to the point of taking say the Right to Protect as what it says on the tin.

    Forces that are interested in protecting people have zero influence politically, so R2P could only ever be a front for… well, the usual suspects… I know you know that, from your writing on Syria, so I’m just not clear where you’re going here…

  3. jock mctrousers,

    I’d point out that ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ was written by Dale Carnegie, not Andrew Carnegie — except that one of its many pieces of good advice is never to correct people on minor matters in conversation.

  4. jock mctrousers on said:

    Ken MacLeod,

    Yes, of course you’re right – it was Dale, not Andrew. Andrew had his own recipe for winning friends and influencing people, which seemed to work pretty good for him – shoot strikers and build libraries!

  5. jock mctrousers,

    Well if we consider the extreme example of the Rwanda genocide, who could argue that if the preconditions i outline could have been met, intervention would have been better.

    The question you raise is a good one though, I see no evidence whatsoever that recent exercise of RtP is anything other than a pretext for war without end couched in terms acceptable to liberals.

    But note that the skepticism of the BRIC countries has been quite pragmatic, and sought to constrain with preconditions not opposition

  6. jock mctrousers on said:

    Andy Newman,

    Ah, Rwanda … try this recent Counterpunch article:
    December 28, 2015 The Media’s Rwandan Fairy Tales by Yves Engler
    http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/28/the-medias-rwandan-fairy-tales/

    Even the BBC’s catching up:
    The Kagame-Power Lobby’s Dishonest Attack on the BBC 2’s Documentary on Rwanda by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson
    http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2014/hp011114.html

    And look at Haiti! I mean… if we were living in a world of genuine citizens’ democracies…

  7. jock mctrousers,

    I would refer you to the substantive work by Mahmoud Mamdami, “When Victims become Killers”, that is a serious piece of scholarship by an anti- colonialist writer who researched in Rwanda, as an aLternative to those works you have referred to which look like conspiracy theory flim flam to me.

  8. jock mctrousers on said:

    Conspiracist flim-flam? Ed Herman (co-author of Manfufacturing Consent) is a different kettle of fish from Alex Jones. But I certainly couldn’t argue his case on Rwanda here and now. Enough to note the difficulties in establishing what you’re intervening in – like for instance to help Al-Qaeda take over Syria?

    I came across this reasonably short piece that is generous and critical to all schools of thought on Rwanda, and at very least might persuade you that there IS a debate:
    Polarising the debate over Rwanda By Oliver Kearns
    https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/polarising-the-debate-over-rwanda-by-oliver-kearns/

    But I have to note that Kearns gives too much credence to some straw-man critiques of Herman, so a brief quote from Ed:

    “ Caplan is a careless reviewer.  He accuses us of neglecting to cite a lengthy list of 45 authors (“Except for [Alison] Des Forges, plus Linda Melvern, . . . not a single one of the following authors is cited by Herman and Peterson”), at least seven of whom we actually do cite, four positively: Gérard Prunier on the Gersony affair in Rwanda, Fergal Keane on the Bruguière report, and Alex de Waal and Mahmood Mamdani on the conflicts in the Darfur states of the western Sudan.  The fifth and sixth are William Schabas and Philip Gourevitch, both on Rwanda, neither positively.  The seventh, Ingvar Carlsson, we mention in passing. “

    [from Genocide Denial and Genocide Facilitation: Gerald Caplan and The Politics of Genocide by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson
    http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/hp040710.html ]

    I’ve owned Mahmdani’s book for many years, even read bits of it. Yes, he seems a very decent man and a serious authority on the history, ethnography etc of the Great Lakes region etc… and that’s what the book’s about – only about 30 pages cover the events around the massacres. I must re-read that. Given when it was written, I wonder if he’d modify some of that chapter now.

  9. jock mctrousers on said:

    Handily, that Kearns article I linked to above actually contains a quote from Mahmdani that is pertinent to this discussion:

    ” This image of U.S. non-intervention in Rwanda has been forcefully criticised by Mahmood Mamdani, who writes: “the U.S. did intervene in Rwanda, through a proxy. That proxy was the RPF… Instead of using its resources and influence to bring about a political solution to the civil war, and then strengthen it, the U.S. signalled to one of the parties that it could pursue victory with impunity. This unilateralism was part of what led to the disaster”.

    Having re-read the Kearns piece, I have to note again that I consider it seriously misrepresents Herman, but is overall quite useful.

  10. jock mctrousers: ” This image of U.S. non-intervention in Rwanda has been forcefully criticised by Mahmood Mamdani, who writes: “the U.S. did intervene in Rwanda, through a proxy. That proxy was the RPF… Instead of using its resources and influence to bring about a political solution to the civil war, and then strengthen it, the U.S. signalled to one of the parties that it could pursue victory with impunity. This unilateralism was part of what led to the disaster”.

    Yes, I think you should read Mamdani’s book. He is no dewy eyed liberal, and caused some controversy a few years ago by his robust defence of Mugabe and the land redistribution policy by ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe.

    Mamdani is no torch bearer for RPF or Kagame, and discusses the extent to which the RPF invasion of Rwanda contributed to the growing crisis.

    However, I think Mamdani presents sufficient evidence that all Hutu political parties, including the Greens and the Socialists, included substantial “Hutu Power” (pro genocide) sentiment. Also that the genocide actually did happen, pretty much consistent with the mainstream understanding of it.

    The question of US support for RPF is consistent with my argument that there were things that could have been done to defuse the situation before it spun catastrophically out of control. These need not necessarily have been military measures
    Kagame himself has pointed out that at the point where Rwandan radio was advocating genocide, it was outwith the technical capacity of the RPF to jam the frequencies (not having the equipment), but that could have been done.

  11. jock mctrousers on said:

    Andy Newman: However, I think Mamdani presents sufficient evidence that all Hutu political parties, including the Greens and the Socialists, included substantial “Hutu Power” (pro genocide) sentiment.

    Well, if you remove the loaded ‘pro-genocide’ qualifier, why shouldn’t they include substantial ” Hutu Power” elements, under the circumstances? I can’t really argue this anymore till I’ve reread the relevant bits of Mamdani, but at a glance I doubt that he would support the ‘standard model’, and he’s been as you note quite brave in calling out the R2P bullshit over Darfur…

    I’m working my way through Herman’s booklet I linked to above . I assumed it would just be a recap of stuff he’s already said elswhere but it’s more detailed. I have to say – maybe it’s age, but his writing style is getting harder, sentences longer, sub-clauses on sub-clauses… not an easy read. but like I said, he’s not Alex Jones.

    Andy Newman: Also that the genocide actually did happen, pretty much consistent with the mainstream understanding of it.

    Here’s a good ‘un:

    Davenport and Stam argue quite reasonably that if there were approximately 600,000 Tutsi in Rwanda in 1991, as the 1991 census found, and if, “according to the survival organization Ibuka, about 300,000 Tutsi survived the 1994 slaughter,” then “out of the 800,000 to 1 million believed to have been killed then, more than half were Hutu,”19 and could not have been otherwise — and were not, as Jones states in his 2006 textbook, “overwhelmingly Tutsi.”20 Indeed, both Jones’s and the standard model’s contention that the vast or “overwhelming” majority of the likely one million deaths in Rwanda at the time were Tutsi would have required a number of Tutsi deaths that exceeded the number of Tutsi who were alive at the start. Clearly no Tutsi would have been left in Rwanda to help Kagame rule that country and win 95 percent of the vote in the 2003 election!
    Adam Jones on Rwanda and Genocide: A Reply
    by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson
    http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/hp140810.html

    Andy Newman: Kagame himself has pointed out that at the point where Rwandan radio was advocating genocide, it was outwith the technical capacity of the RPF to jam the frequencies (not having the equipment), but that could have been done.

    Good grief! Are you saying, after all this, that you think the US should have given even MORE help to the RPF ?

  12. John Grimshaw on said:

    jock mctrousers: Davenport and Stam argue quite reasonably that if there were approximately 600,000 Tutsi in Rwanda in 1991, as the 1991 census found,

    Sorry jock I’m no expert so you could be right but on what basis do you say “quite reasonably” and why should I trust the census?

  13. John Grimshaw on said:

    jock mctrousers:
    For a bit of light relief, I was looking (unsuccessfully) for something recent by Mamdani on Rwanda, when I came across this perfect example of why Louis Proyect hates Stephen Gowans.It’s Gowans’ defence of Mamdani’s defence of Mugabe.
    Cynicism as a substitute for scholarship
    https://gowans.wordpress.com/2008/12/30/cynicism-as-a-substitute-for-scholarship/

    I read this Jock. Thanks. Very interesting. But did you read the comments? Obviously I don’t know where they came from but some of them were in detail. One person clearly agrees that the MDC are stooges but also says, quite rightly in my view, that ZANU-PF is run by thugs. Whilst I agree that land controlled by the colonialist settlers should eventually have been returned by and large to the majority population the manner in which ZPF has gone about this most recently has been catastrophic. It’s own stooges have been aggrandised and bought off by Mugabe with no noticeable increase in production and the economy has been in free fall for some while. I was in Zim some years ago (1993) and whilst people were poor there was general stability. I have a nice photo of me stood outside the TGWU HQ in Bulawayo. I get the impression from my close friends who live in Gaborone that this is no longer true. Of course there has always been an issue between the Shona and the N’Debele, of which Bulawayo is the southern capital, but I have to say in those years I never saw any open conflict but coded comments were often made. I suppose what I am saying is that whilst appreciating the points made in your article I don’t believe that the recent “chaos” in Zim has been soley brought about by western interference whilst Mugabe is obviously a jolly pleasant chap. I also believe that Mugabe has changed over the years. He has gone from being feted freedom fighter to power clinger.

    You may not agree with me. However, in addition, it’s worth saying that there’s no point in having a discussion about modern sub-Saharan Africa without a discussion of the nature of Chinese policy in that area. I note that the other day the Mugabe government has legalised the Yuan in Zim. I presume this is because Mugabe recognises the value of the support he gets which he doesn’t get from the West (anymore?). I also presume that given the US government’s general antipathy for China that that antipathy now extends in a great way to the Mugabe regime. My friends who live in Botswana have a non simple view of Chinese intervention in Southern Africa. They are suspicious of Chinese intentions and there have been incidences of racism directed at Africans which doesn’t help. That being said they also admit that unlike the old colonial farming/mining regimes which simply extracted stuff and took it back to Europe with very little infrastructure investment, the Chinese are building things.

  14. Andy Newman on said:

    John Grimshaw: That being said they also admit that unlike the old colonial farming/mining regimes which simply extracted stuff and took it back to Europe with very little infrastructure investment, the Chinese are building things.

    Another substantial difference is that the Chinese live there alongside Africans, without building compounds that transpose a few hectares of Europe or North America onto African soil.

    Deborah Brautigam’s book “The Dragons’ Teeth” about the Chinese in Africa is a good read.

  15. #19 I just re-read it. I say re-read because I remember reading it at the time because I found it so interesting (not to mention refreshing).

  16. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: Deborah Brautigam’s book “The Dragons’ Teeth” about the Chinese in Africa is a good read.

    Thanks for this Andy I will search out this book. I have many book tokens as that’s all my reletavives can think to buy me at Christmas. I don’t suppose you have an ISBN?

  17. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: I haven’t read it again and I am not sure how well it stands the est of time:

    Well I have just read it and obviously it is a little out of date. However I have to say this is a good piece and is largely on the ball.

  18. jock mctrousers on said:

    John Grimshaw: Davenport and Stam argue quite reasonably that if there were approximately 600,000 Tutsi in Rwanda in 1991, as the 1991 census found,

    Sorry jock I’m no expert so you could be right but on what basis do you say “quite reasonably”

    Does that not seem reasonable to you?

  19. jock mctrousers on said:

    John Grimshaw: Cynicism as a substitute for scholarship
    https://gowans.wordpress.com/2008/12/30/cynicism-as-a-substitute-for-scholarship/

    I read this Jock. Thanks. Very interesting. But did you read the comments?

    Yes, there are some interesting comments. I was hoping to find one from Alex De Waal, one of the other big-name academic authorities on the region. I recall reading a comment from De Waal many years ago on one of Gowans’ posts. I’m curious to read it again. He considered Gowans was considerably whitewashing Mugabe; in fact he said Gowans didn’t know what he was talking about. De Waal is not just ungenerous, but plain wrong there. Gowans does indeed over-egg it sometimes and get carried away with his rhetoric, but overall he shows an attitude to Mugabe which is warts and all much the same as Andy Newman presents.

    But I’ve never found that thread again. I wanted to see if there were any stylistic giveaways to suggest it might have been Louis Proyect pretending to be Alex De Waal.

  20. John Grimshaw on said:

    jock mctrousers: Does that not seem reasonable to you?

    How do I know was my point. Just because two people assert that there were “approximately” such a number of, in this case Tutsis, living in an area and that a census proves it, to my mind doesn’t necessarirly do anything of the sort.

  21. John Grimshaw on said:

    jock mctrousers: Davenport and Stam argue quite reasonably that if there were approximately 600,000 Tutsi in Rwanda in 1991, as the 1991 census found, and if, “according to the survival organization Ibuka, about 300,000 Tutsi survived the 1994 slaughter,” then “out of the 800,000 to 1 million believed to have been killed then, more than half were Hutu,”19 and could not have been otherwise — and were not, as Jones states in his 2006 textbook, “overwhelmingly Tutsi.”20 Indeed, both Jones’s and the standard model’s contention that the vast or “overwhelming” majority of the likely one million deaths in Rwanda at the time were Tutsi would have required a number of Tutsi deaths that exceeded the number of Tutsi who were alive at the start. Clearly no Tutsi would have been left in Rwanda to help Kagame rule that country and win 95 percent of the vote in the 2003 election!

    I have read around some of this now. From what I can gather the following is approximately true.
    1. The relatively moderate leader of Burundi was blown up with his staff in an airplane. At the time the Hutu extremists accused the RPF although other sources argue it was an inside job by the Presidential gendarmes and/or the Interhamwe.
    2. Whilst the above may have been the trigger for the genocides the Hutu extremists had already begun to prepare the Hutu population for their version of the “final solution”. It seems clear that Bill Clinton and the US establishment were informed what was likely to happen beforehand but had made very little attempt to do anything. Some argue the US regime was “confused” because of what had happened in Mogadishu.
    3. When the genocide started the “kill” rate in the first days was faster than that of the Shoah. Crucially I can find no agreed figure for deaths but most sources seem to agree about 800,000. It is also clear that deaths related to the genocide continue to rise as women mostly suffer from the effect of STds like HIV/AIDs. In some cases they were raped spontaneously, however in many cases these attacks were pre-meditated. In one case over 500 HIV positive males were released from a hospital and organised into a rape squad.
    4. It is clear that moderate Hutus were also the victims of the genocide particularly where they were accused, whether rightly or wrongly, of protecting their Tutsi neighbours. There seem to be no figures for these Hutu deaths. The majority of deaths however seem to be of ordinary Tutsis i.e. not those fighting in the RPF.
    5. It is considered that the population of Rwanda at the time was just under 8 million of whom about 15% were Tutsis and 2% Twa (I think they are the original aboriginal population). This must mean that about 1.2 million of the population was Tutsi. Therefore it is possible that more than 600,000 Tutsi’s could’ve been killed or even 800,000. It is widely accepted that over 2 million Hutus left Rwanda/Burundi for the Congo and/or Tanzania as the RPF advanced. Therefore whilst not conclusive a significant number of Hutus were not killed as they were able to depart.
    6. However. Unlike say in Nazi Germany or Pol Pots regime documentation on murderes were not kept and the situation was extremely chaotic. In my view it may never be possible to know exactly how many were killed.
    7. The role that the French played in the whole affair is “curious” to say the least. Operation Turquoise was supposedly about escorting ex-pats out of the country and securing airports. It’s quite clear however that French troops did nothing to stop killings that they new about and may very well have assisted them by turning a blind eye. Srebrenica and the UN ” peace” forces comes to mind.

  22. John Grimshaw on said:

    John Grimshaw,

    I should also have said in point 7 that the two American academics you quote are not the only “revisionists”. At least two others are/were French academics and given, as I have said, the curious role of French parachute marines, I would need more evidence than I can see being provided before I concluded that they had a point. That being said the Kagame regime doesn’t like people who divert from their version of the “truth”. People seem to have a habit of disappearing. As far as I can see Davenport and Stam have never denied the genocide just the numbers and ethnic make up of people involved. I understand they have also been threatened with a shortening of their life spans by unknown persons.

  23. Andy Newman on said:

    Andy Newman: Deborah Brautigam’s book “The Dragons’ Teeth” about the Chinese in Africa is a good read.

    My mistake, this is called “The Dragon’s Gift”

  24. Andy Newman on said:

    John Grimshaw: The relatively moderate leader of Burundi was blown up with his staff in an airplane. At the time the Hutu extremists accused the RPF although other sources argue it was an inside job by the Presidential gendarmes and/or the Interhamwe.

    And the president of Rwanda.

    There was also a long term civil war in Burundi that was resolved by an African Union sponsored peace accord led by Nyrere and Mandela.

    This is currently unraveling, over a constitutioal crisis of whether the president is entitled to stand for a third term; and according to the man who until very recently was UN representative in Rwanda, Tutsi refugees in Rwanda from Burundi are being conscripted into a militia, prompting concerns abut an invasion of Burundi.

  25. John Grimshaw on said:

    John Grimshaw: The role that the French played in the whole affair is “curious” to say the least. Operation Turquoise

    My mistake also. I am referring to Amaryllis. Turquoise was not until 1994. Doesn’t get round my central point however.

  26. jock mctrousers on said:

    John Grimshaw: How do I know was my point. Just because two people assert that there were “approximately” such a number of, in this case Tutsis, living in an area and that a census proves it, to my mind doesn’t necessarirly do anything of the sort.

    Well… if you don’t know how many were there in the first place, and you don’t believe we can ever know how many died…. emmm, so what happened to who? I think that sort of makes my main point here which is that Rwanda is not an unarguable case where intervention would have saved the day, thus justifying forever … you know how it goes.

    I should have linked to this earlier, but I forgot about this one – I think this is the best intro, though it doesn’t tell you all you need to know – reasonably short and readable:

    Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Propaganda System
    by David Peterson and Edward S. Herman
    http://monthlyreview.org/2010/05/01/rwanda-and-the-democratic-republic-of-congo-in-the-propaganda-system/#gsc.tab=0

    The new longer booklet, Enduring Lies, I linked to above IS very readable ( I said otherwise) and fully up to the standards of his co-authorship with Chomsky of Manufacturing Consent, and the Political Economy of Human Rights vols 1 & 2, all of which should be grafted onto the brain of every concerned citizen.

    John Grimshaw: over 500 HIV positive males were released from a hospital and organised into a rape squad.

    Worse man! They had hordes of hiv-carrying mosquitoes trained to burrow up Tutsi assholes! Apparently they smell different – sort of classier…. Pulllleeeaase!

    That list of points you (John Grimshaw) give above misses a couple of not so small points – the ongoing invasion, since 1990, from Uganda by Kagame’s RPF, their occupation and ethnic cleansing of at least a half million refugees from northern Rwanda; the 1993 Tutsi military coup in Burundi ( large majority Hutu again) overthrowing the first Hutu democratic government, with up of 50 thou massacred, and up to half million Hutu refugees fled to Rwanda…

    Another time on all that, but in the meantime you might find this entertaining – it’s quite long but an easy read – short questions and answers ( and the answers will surprise you – I recommend Snow’s longish intro, but you could skip it):

    Keith Harmon Snow talks with Paul Rusesabagina, the ordinary man who inspired the film Hotel Rwanda.
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-grinding-machine-terror-and-genocide-in-rwanda/5507

  27. John Grimshaw on said:

    jock mctrousers: Well… if you don’t know how many were there in the first place, and you don’t believe we can ever know how many died…. emmm, so what happened to who?

    Jock well I think, if you read my comments above, that I probably more than allude to the difficulty of being entirely sure who died in Rwanda and who did what to whom. That was the point I was trying to make to you because you seemed absolutely certain that there was some kind of cover up (western inspired?) going on to make only the Tutsi’s the victims. I don’t see how you can know this. However as I have said most sources agree that most victims of the genocide were Tutsis. It seems to me to be undeniable that a large number of Hutus were prepared by the Interhamwe/Hutu military for a final solution to the “Tutsi issue”. Of course in reality what this meant was ordinary Hutus storing up primitive weapons such as machetes, stones and agricultural tools which then when the much better armed RPF advanced into central Rwanda, the way in which they were so quickly defeated by the way. I think I also allude to the fact that RPF was clearly not representative of all Tutsis it just became so by de facto. Otherwise how do we explain why so many Tutsis in effect became sitting ducks? What I did do was do some basic research on population figures and percentages which anyone can do (see above) and it is clear that the figure of app. 800,000 Tutsis killed (and Hutu moderates/collaboraters) could be true.

    Two things occur here. First I presume you wouldn’t use the same logic when talking about the Shoah? Secondly, and more importantly, as I suspect I already know the answer to my first question I hope, I don’t think we should let our political views, however well meant, interfere with a cold assessment of the facts. Your initial response was to Andy’s assertion that the US could’ve blocked Hutu radio signals. I don’t know whether this would’ve been possible or not, however I think Andy is right to pose this question. It is a difficlut one for us on the Left to deal with. In general I will always agree with you when you say nothing good came out of western intervention, however if the scale of a genocide could be prevented with such a simple non-military intervention would we march through London to express our opposition? Even though we know that the West will always do these things for its own reasons?

    I think the problem is that Western influence and the arms trade in particular is so pervasive that it is hard to disentangle the elements on the ground. I mentioned the malign influence of French foreign policy above which I trust you accept. I should of course to balance the equation, have mentioned British support for the RPF. Both of these things mirroring “traditional” spheres of influence. However we can’t deny people agency and treat them like children. At the end of the day it was ordinary Hutus who, like in a lethal seventeenth witch-hunt type moment, did the killing in the villages.

    jock mctrousers: Worse man! They had hordes of hiv-carrying mosquitoes trained to burrow up Tutsi assholes! Apparently they smell different – sort of classier…. Pulllleeeaase!

    This is what I mean. Is this denial because you want to make the facts fit your ideology?

    jock mctrousers: – the ongoing invasion, since 1990, from Uganda by Kagame’s RPF,

    I agree with you that this was ongoing and I was remiss to to miss it from my points above. However why were the RPF there in the first place? Or do you believe that they were soley an Imperilaist construct?

  28. jock mctrousers on said:

    John Grimshaw: you seemed absolutely certain that there was some kind of cover up (western inspired?) going on to make only the Tutsi’s the victims. I don’t see how you can know this.

    Where did I say that I was absolutely certain about anything but that Rwanda is NOT a clear-cut case where intervention would have been justified? (noting of course that the US/UK WERE intervening to support the RPF in many ways)

    John Grimshaw: First I presume you wouldn’t use the same logic when talking about the Shoah?

    What logic? What are you talking about? Are you saying that once the telly has told us a genocide happened we must never question it, because if we can question ONE holocaust…?

    John Grimshaw: At the end of the day it was ordinary Hutus who, like in a lethal
    witch-hunt type moment, did the killing in the villages.

    There you go again – are you evoking that Goldhagen shite ‘Ordinary Germans’ ?

    John Grimshaw: However why were the RPF there in the first place?

    To try and end democracy in Rwanda by reimposing the rule of the Tutsi (sort of Brahmin caste) minority. And we should obviously support this why?

  29. John Grimshaw on said:

    jock mctrousers: What logic? What are you talking about? Are you saying that once the telly has told us a genocide happened we must never question it, because if we can question ONE holocaust…?
    Andy said:
    “Also that the genocide actually did happen, pretty much consistent with the mainstream understanding of it.”

    You said:
    “Davenport and Stam argue quite reasonably that if there were approximately 600,000 Tutsi in Rwanda in 1991, as the 1991 census found, and if, “according to the survival organization Ibuka, about 300,000 Tutsi survived the 1994 slaughter,” then “out of the 800,000 to 1 million believed to have been killed then, more than half were Hutu,”19 and could not have been otherwise.”

    In other words you are denying the “mainstream” argument that there was a genocide and, if I understand you, insisting rather that there was a communal internecine conflict. Or you are insisting that the killings in Rwanda were a Western backed conspiracy. Which to me, as I have said above, rather sounds like fitting the facts to the ideology.

    jock mctrousers: There you go again – are you evoking that Goldhagen shite ‘Ordinary Germans’ ?

    You have me at a loss here. I don’t know who Goldhagen is/was? By ordinary Hutus I meant ordinary people of all walks of life rather than say committed extremists or the military. I think that’s pretty clear. If you want to draw the analogy however I think its pretty clear that the German Nazis couldn’t have done what they did without a substantial support of “ordinary” Germans.

  30. John Grimshaw on said:

    jock mctrousers: To try and end democracy in Rwanda by reimposing the rule of the Tutsi (sort of Brahmin caste) minority. And we should obviously support this why?

    Do you not believe this to be a bit simplistic? I see the malign influence of Western Colonialism as the issue. If I understand correctly Rwanda was handed over to the Germans in 1884 and then to the Belgians after WW1. Both colonial powers favoured the Tutsi minority. After the next war the Hutu majority asserted it’s authority with the backing of France etc. and to some extent the Catholic Church. There were Rwandan Tutsi refugees going across the borders since 1959 of which some then coalesced into the RPF in the 1980s.

    If you read above I wasn’t arguing for the support of any “side”.

  31. jock mctrousers on said:

    John Grimshaw: In other words you are denying the “mainstream” argument that there was a genocide and, if I understand you, insisting rather that there was a communal internecine conflict

    Firstly you didn’t answer me what logic here could and shouldn’t be applied to the Third Reich ?

    Where did I deny there was a genocide? ” insisting rather that there was a communal internecine conflict “.

    First, the mainstream narrative centres on only 100 days after the shootdown of the president’s plane. I don’t insist anything but that the evidence for a genocide of Tutsis even during this time is far from unarguable, See what Paul Rusesabagina (the ordinary man who inspired the film Hotel Rwanda) says about this. He says the killers were mostly refugees from northern Rwanda ( both Hutu ANDTutsi ) who had lost everything to Kagame’s men, and felt that the final betrayal was upon them and just lost it – that they attacked EVERYONE, both Hutu and Tutsi… But what does he know? He was shut up in his hotel all the time….

    Some say deaths from civil war ( or Ugandan invasion), some say Hutu genocide, some say Tutsi genocide, some say both; some like Paul Rusesabagina say there was one big Paul Kagame genocide (including the Congo) of practically the human race ( the most persuasive model to me) …

    John Grimshaw: To try and end democracy in Rwanda by reimposing the rule of the Tutsi (sort of Brahmin caste) minority. And we should obviously support this why?

    Do you not believe this to be a bit simplistic?

    Simple works for me. We could split hairs over whether the Kagame’s RPF were an invading Ugandan army, or a ‘special’ humanitarian mission to aid an uprising of the oppressed Tutsi within Rwanda… We could split hairs over many things, but 2 things are not contestable – the RPF’s bloody record from the start of the 1990 invasion, and the USA’s diplomatic and economic support for it. Can you point to any comparable misdeeds on the side of the Rwandan Hutu government before the 100 days?

    My simple conspiracy theory is that Kagame showed the USA his mojo worked, he was their kind of guy; he persuaded them he had built a machine which could go on to do the stuff he later did, and still does, in Congo

    The appearance of that BBC documentary suggests that Kagame has now offended the boss, probably by dealing with the Chinese.

  32. John Grimshaw on said:

    jock mctrousers: Where did I deny there was a genocide?

    Well you have me confused then. It seemed to me that you had strayed into the terrain of genocide denial, but maybe I have misunderstood you. It seems to me that in your commendable determination to critique the USA’s foreign policy in particular (presumably by extention the Brits and the French, although you haven’t commented on that. I have) you were willing to excuse virtually anybody else of having the agency to act for themselves. And I don’t think you seem to do this only in the case of Rwanda. I seem to remember us having a similar debate about the intentions of Putin’s intervention in Syria. You know the good guys versus the bad guys. As regards the Third Reich, well the only people I know who deny the extent of the genocide are the far right. Are you saying you question what happened there? I didn’t think you would. Maybe a better example would’ve been some of the Serbian Nationals I’ve read about who deny that there was a massacre at Srebrenica and say that it was the Bosnians backed by the Americans who caused the problem?

    jock mctrousers: He says the killers were mostly refugees from northern Rwanda ( both Hutu ANDTutsi ) who had lost everything to Kagame’s men,

    jock mctrousers: the RPF’s bloody record from the start of the 1990 invasion, and the USA’s diplomatic and economic support for it.

    You see what I mean? Does your critique of the USA cloud your views of other matters?

    jock mctrousers: He was shut up in his hotel all the time….

    Well if he was in his hotel what did he see?

    jock mctrousers: some say both; some like Paul Rusesabagina say there was one big Paul Kagame genocide (including the Congo) of practically the human race ( the most persuasive model to me) …

    Where is your evidence that Paul Kagame’s RPF wanted to destroy the “human race”? If you read above I have not been uncritical of the Kagame government.

    jock mctrousers: invading Ugandan army,

    I haven’t denied Ugandan involvement we just haven’t talked about it yet.

    jock mctrousers: The appearance of that BBC documentary suggests that Kagame has now offended the boss, probably by dealing with the Chinese.

    This may very well be true but virtually every government in the Southern and Eastern parts of Africa has to deal with the Chinese now.

  33. jock mctrousers on said:

    John Grimshaw,

    That has absolutely nothing to do with anything I said, whether it’s from laziness or it’s misrepresentation, straw men, slander… it’s what I’ve come to expect from you.

    I’m not going to waste my time with you anymore. I always considered you another Sam64, clogging up every thread with an unending stream of right-wing NATO propaganda, under a mask of a chummy ingenue trade unionist, who just hasn’t got the time to read past the MSM… Well, if you’ve got time to churn out all this shite every day… I’ve come to respect most of the regulars here – they’ve mostly stuck to the straight and narrow over Libya and Syria, whereas the Trot groups have been flocking to NATO like flies to a shit – but I’ve been bewildered that they give you so much of their time and attention. You show no interest in or sympathy with the issues, causes, of ‘the left’. I don’t know why they let you write here. It tiakes time, research, thought, effort to make an argument; but to do as you do, churn out reams of straw men, innuendo and just plain nonsense is easy – and it makes it so much harder to discuss anything here.

    As John Wight said of Sam64 – if they want NATO propaganda, there are plenty of other places to go, in fact, just about EVERYWHERE else…

    John Grimshaw: some of the Serbian Nationals I’ve read about who deny that there was a massacre at Srebrenica and say that it was the Bosnians backed by the Americans who caused the problem?

    You’re such an ignoramus. ” you’ve read”? I wonder where you do this reading if you haven’t read that there’s more than some Serb nationals dispute ‘the Srebrenica massacre’. It isn’t even controversial anymore that the standard MSM narrative is a propaganda fiction – there is NO evidence whatever to support it!. Try reading Ed Herman, Diana Johnstone, Noam Chomsky, Neil Clark, Harold Pinter – some of the greatest, most respected writers of ‘ the left’, the REAL left!

    But I’m not going to waste my time going into that with you.
    Enough to note that one of the main point of Andy’s post was the role of the ‘humanitarian intervention’ claim as a front for interference against targeted states. This has been a pattern which started with Yugoslavia, then Iraq, then Libya, then Syria…

    Do yourself a favour and read these oldish books:

    New Generation Draws the Line: Kosovo, East Timor, and the “Responsibility to Protect” Today by Noam Chomsky

    THE NEW MILITARY HUMANISM: Lessons from Kosovo
    by Noam Chomsky

  34. Andy Newman on said:

    jock mctrousers,

    JOck.

    I think John Grimshaw is a good guy, who does enter into real debate. I think that you and he are just talking at cross purposes, over this issue. Also it seems that you are actually disputing the facts, rather than interpretation of facts, which takes a lot more work and research than most of us have time for.

    I also think that your latest comment directed towards John Grimshaw is unhelpfully rude. Actually, it would be better to just agree to disagree rather than both of you be determined to have the last word.

  35. Andy Newman on said:

    jock mctrousers: Try reading Ed Herman, Diana Johnstone, Noam Chomsky, Neil Clark, Harold Pinter

    I am not sure that *everyone* regards Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky as among the greatest, most respected writers of ‘ the left’

  36. jock mctrousers on said:

    Andy Newman: I also think that your latest comment directed towards John Grimshaw is unhelpfully rude.

    Thanks for pointing that out to me Andy. And here was me thinking I was bending over backwards to be civil after this exchange deeply embedded in the above…

    jock mctrousers: John Grimshaw: First I presume you wouldn’t use the same logic when talking about the Shoah?

    What logic? What are you talking about? Are you saying that once the telly has told us a genocide happened we must never question it, because if we can question ONE holocaust…?

    jock mctrousers: you didn’t answer me what logic here could and shouldn’t be applied to the Third Reich ?

    John Grimshaw: As regards the Third Reich, well the only people I know who deny the extent of the genocide are the far right. Are you saying you question what happened there? I didn’t think you would.

  37. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: I think John Grimshaw is a good guy, who does enter into real debate.

    Thank you for the compliment Andy. You are right. I do try and I certainly don’t have a personal axe to grind with Jock (whoever he is). Obviously we have different politics and therefore different views on certain matters but then I guess on a blog like this and given the nature of the British Left that’s inevitable. As I have said elsewhere I come on your site because I value the exchange of ideas/information and the obvious knowledge of some of your posters. I could of course restrict myself to facebook where I could spend all my time agreeing (well sometimes) with the Trots (of various hues), ex-Trots and anarchists that I know. But where would the fun in that be. 🙂

  38. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: Harold Pinter

    Incidentally I’ve never been convinced about Harold Pinter either. I know he’s a very respected play wright etc. However I wrote to him several times in the 1990s as part of a campaign to unsuccessfully keep his former Hackney school open (Hackney Downs Boy’s School) but he never responded and was negative with others from my union who had conversations with him. He of course was an “old boy” of the school from the 1950s when it was a successful grammar school. It was difficult to avoid the assumption that his not wanting to get involved was because the school had since moved on to become a comprehensive (in the 1960s), initially very innovative and successful in it’s own right but later in trouble. The Old Boys Club (the Clove Club – the original name of the school was the Merchant’s Company School) which still exists (I don’t know if Pinter is/was a member) still exists shorn of the school and I believe has considerable funds stashed away. They of course didn’t support the school either as it was very clear that they didn’t approve of comprehensives.

  39. John Grimshaw on said:

    jock mctrousers: I’m not going to waste my time with you anymore.

    As you have said the above Jock I’m not sure my responding is worthwhile and I am inclined to take Andy’s advice.. However since you have been somewhat intemperate, after mulling, I thought I would have a go. I’m going to ignore your obvious insults such as “ignoramus” etc. but I would remind you that I have never used the same language with you. Mind you I quite like ingénue it makes me feel French and sophisticated.

    Before carrying on Jock I think it’s worth pointing out some things. First, surely you must understand that the different people/groups on the fragments of the British Left have different views on some/a lot of things. It is only right and proper that we should debate in an honest and forthright fashion where we can. That’s why I come on this blog because that seems to happen mostly. I don’t know what your issue is with this Sam64 character, I personally didn’t find him/her offensive, but then I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes. Which brings me to the second point. Unless I’m mistaken this blog isn’t run by you (my apologies if it is) so therefore surely it’s not up you to decide who is excised. I’m sure the owners will terminate me rapidly if they wish to do so which would be a shame but I doubt I would lose sleep over it.

    And thus on to the specifics.

    jock mctrousers: an unending stream of right-wing NATO propaganda,

    jock mctrousers: whereas the Trot groups have been flocking to NATO like flies to a shit

    Where have you any evidence that I am pro-NATO? Where is your evidence that various Trot groups (as I have said before I’m no longer in a Trot group) have been supporting or even applying to join NATO? I know there were some in the thirties and forties who in their consuming dislike of Stalin shifted politics to the right and there maybe one Schactmanite-style group in the UK that has some controversial views but I don’t know of any grouplet that goes round proselytising for NATO or Western Imperialism. Of course there are always individuals on the Left who become more conservative later on but that could happen to any of us. It’s usually despair I think.

    jock mctrousers: of Andy’s post was the role of the ‘humanitarian intervention’ claim as a front for interference against targeted states. This has been a pattern which started with Yugoslavia, then Iraq, then Libya, then Syria…

    I agree with you and Andy, although I suspect it started somewhat earlier than Yugoslavia.

  40. John Grimshaw on said:

    John Grimshaw: It’s usually despair I think.

    Although in the case of Aaronovitch or that comedian who’s name I can never remember, it’s seems to be their parents and then money.

  41. John Grimshaw: Where is your evidence that various Trot groups (as I have said before I’m no longer in a Trot group) have been supporting or even applying to join NATO?

    I assume this refers to things like the support given by certain trotskyist groups to the Maidan protests in Ukraine and the subsequent overthrow of the then government, or the fact that some gave various degrees of explicit or implicit support to the intervention in Libya. Or the fact that one group (or alliance of groups) criticised (in a leaflet given out at anti-war rallies) the western governments for not giving enough support to the rebels in Syria.

    Jock’s hyperbole doesn’t exactly help the point he’s making but a point he has nevertheless.

    On the other hand I have to say I find it bizarre that Jock’s outburst against John Grimshaw seems to have been provoked by him linking to an article attacking the west for supporting Kagame.

  42. George Hallam on said:

    John Grimshaw: He of course was an “old boy” of the school from the 1950s

    ?
    Pinter was at the school from
    1944 to 1948; evacuated to Cornwall during the war.

  43. John Grimshaw on said:

    George Hallam,

    I thunk i must be getting early onset. Yeah he was they’re in those years. My story is still true. The school was the Grocer’s back in the day not merchants. Hence Clove Club. Grocers sell spices i suppose. I notice that one former student of the school became head of Mossad. And that Morris Beckman went there. I got the date wrong about converting to comprehensive as well. It was in fact 1974. Duh.

  44. Andy Newman on said:

    John Grimshaw: I’m sure the owners will terminate me rapidly if they wish

    Sadly we don’t have that power, we can only stop people from commenting here on the blog.

  45. John Grimshaw on said:

    Vanya: On the other hand I have to say I find it bizarre that Jock’s outburst against John Grimshaw seems to have been provoked by him linking to an article attacking the west for supporting Kagame.

    That bit Vanya I admit does seem odd. I included the link to the Independent because I was reading around the subject but also because I was trying to be balanced. I would’ve thought a lot of the substance of the article agreed with Jock’s point of view?

  46. John Grimshaw on said:

    Vanya: I assume this refers to things like the support given by certain trotskyist groups to the Maidan protests in Ukraine and the subsequent overthrow of the then government, or the fact that some gave various degrees of explicit or implicit support to the intervention in Libya. Or the fact that one group (or alliance of groups) criticised (in a leaflet given out at anti-war rallies) the western governments for not giving enough support to the rebels in Syria.

    You and I should talk more often. However on this I think it would be worthy of dissecting Vanya. Stop being so coy, you should name names of these groups. Although I can guess.

    There are an interesting selection of Trot groups out there. More than I’d ever thought 25 years ago. I’ve never been associated with virtually all of them. However suffice it to say a quick perusal shows that they often have quite different views in this case on Maidan and the whole Ukraine thing. None of them as far as I can see support fascism (a standard Stalinist critique of Trotskyism since… well the thirties…as I’m sure you know?). Some minimise the impact of Ukrainian fascism (which I don’t disagree with you it does exist) and emphasise the oppression of Putin’s regime. Some on the other hand go the other way and emphasise the influence of Ukrainian fascism and call for support for a workers “third way”. I see none that call for uncritical support for Putin’s regime, although I could’ve missed something.
    Whilst I abhor people like Svoboda etc. I don’t see enough evidence to support the notion that the entirety of the Ukrainian system is a fascist state. Yet! And as I have pointed out before Putin’s non fascist but authoritarian state does have a healthy fascist minority, some elected.

    On the subject of Libya I don’t know who you are referring to but certainly the people I know including Counterfire/SWP/SP etc. were all against intervention. Their maybe be some who were but how far have they shrunk from where they may have started? Or again maybe I have misunderstood.

    The other thing I should say is that you refer to the overthrow of the then government. That isn’t evidence in and of itself of a fascism overthrow otherwise we wouldn’t both be supporting the Bolshevik revolution. Surely the aim of the working class movement is to overthrow the bougeios government if they can? Nt saying sadly that’s what happened in this case but you get my point.

    I’ve never seen this leaflet but I’ve heard it referred to. If it says what you say it said then clearly it is wrong. Don’t suppose you’ve got a copy knocking around somewhere?

  47. jock mctrousers on said:

    John Grimshaw: ’ve never seen this leaflet but I’ve heard it referred to. If it says what you say it said then clearly it is wrong. Don’t suppose you’ve got a copy knocking around somewhere?

    The petition: http://pulsemedia.org/2013/04/29/solidarity-with-syria/

    An excellent account of its origins, and critique:
    http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/05/11/isos-m11.html

    The ISO WAS the sister organisation of the UK SWP, but the SWP expelled them from THEIR international socialist org a couple of years ago – I’m fuzzy about all that. But the UK SWP’s main mideast spokesperson, Simon Assaf, is still promoting the view that Libya and Syria were ‘people’s uprisings’ …

    Vanya: On the other hand I have to say I find it bizarre that Jock’s outburst against John Grimshaw seems to have been provoked by him linking to an article attacking the west for supporting Kagame.

    No, NOT the independent article; that’s fine (read the interview I linked to far above with the Hotel Rwanda guy)! I thought I had been as clear as day about what annoyed me – this:

    jock mctrousers: John Grimshaw: As regards the Third Reich, well the only people I know who deny the extent of the genocide are the far right. Are you saying you question what happened there? I didn’t think you would.

    See if you can see why I might find that a little annoying. This is like arguing with pigeons. No-one like a smartass?

  48. John Grimshaw on said:

    jock mctrousers: The ISO WAS the sister organisation of the UK SWP, but the SWP expelled them

    H’mmmm. I’m very fuzzy about these matters too, although I notice that the SWP high command has a habit of expelling their international groups if they have the initials ISO. I will re-read these peitions and leaflets although I suspect we may disagree on certain matters. 🙂 I note for the record that Cameron was quoted in the Times the other day admitting that the “70,000” don’t in fact exist and that they are in fact members of Al-Nusra. I’m not quite sure why he’s chosen this time to admit this.

    jock mctrousers: No, NOT the independent article; that’s fine (read the interview I linked to far above with the Hotel Rwanda guy)! I thought I had been as clear as day about what annoyed me – this:

    Oh I see. I didn’t think you could find much issue with the Independent article. By the way I have read the interview with the “Rwanda Hotel Guy” and other stuff as well. I should say that strange accusations have since been made about him although I am in no position to say whether they are accurate or not. As regards the matter of the Third Reich I apologise if I came across as being a bit cheeky, but if you note above I do say I can’t beleive that’s true (on two occasions). From my point of view what I was taking issue with you about was your seeming insistence that everything “bad” that happens around the world is a direct result of US military and political intervention with the seeming implication that if the Americans just went away and blew themselves up everything else in the world would be hunky dory (topical phrase eh!).

    Mind you that being said there are some weird things going on just recently. The Americans “let” two small boats stray into Iranians waters. The Americans say that it was because the engine broke down and then yesterday the Iranians say that was true and say they are more than happy to let the sailors go home and then the American sailors are shown on TV apologising for any inconvenience. I can’t imagine the Saudis are happy about that!

  49. jock mctrousers on said:

    Vanya: Jock’s hyperbole doesn’t exactly help the point he’s making

    OK, I DID overstate the case unfairly when I said that ALL the Trot groups are flocking to NATO – obviously the ISWS (Socialist Equality Party) are not, and I doubt if SPEW or Socialist Appeal have ‘got with the program’ though I don’t read their stuff because as many have noted they’re just plain boring (though I quite like them); I read the Weekly Worker but I can’t recall if they have taken a position on the Assad government, which suggests that they are trying rto distract attentionfrom the fact that they don’t want to commit to a position, but if anyone can link to their position…The rest – the AWL (all 6 of them, who cares?) what you’d expect; Socialist Action ( what’s that? A secret society?) – don’t know; Workers Power? Do they still exist? Who else you got?

    But the biggest and most influential Trot groupings – the American ISO and the UK SWP have gone seriously wrong since Libya. (Earlier is arguable)

  50. john Grimshaw on said:

    I can’t speak for some of the others. I think you’ll find that WP has a not dissimilar view to yours on the Ukraine however on the issue of Syria they vary.

  51. John Grimshaw on said:

    jock mctrousers: The ISO WAS the sister organisation of the UK SWP, but the SWP expelled them from THEIR international socialist org a couple of years ago – I’m fuzzy about all that.

    I’m confused here. Is the ISO the ex-US sister organisation of the SWP? I thought they were kicked out some years ago. Anyway jock I have read the FI article you linked to in more detail. Obviously it makes some quite significant criticisms of this ISO. I have no reason to doubt them but I have to say the link provides not very much evidence. Some of it is assertion it seems to me. I have read the ISO statement that it links to and I have to say that that is even more tenuous by far. It is largely flim-flammery. It seems to be a pseudo-well meaning statement but which doesn’t mean anything and provides no idea of any concrete way forwards. Most of the signatories I have no real knowledge of but they sound like a very “worthy” bunch. That’s sarcasm by the way. It may very well be, as the WSWS article says, that some of these people simply didn’t read the statement before they signed up, but obviously I’m not in a position to comment on that. This however is just ridiculous and you think they’d have read it before putting their moniker down.

    “The Syrian revolution has confronted a world upside down, one where states that were allegedly friends of the Arabs such as Russia, China, and Iran have stood in support of the slaughter of the people, while states that never supported democracy or independence, especially the US and its Gulf allies, have intervened in support of the revolutionaries.”

    Since when did the US and it’s Gulf Allies ever intervene in support of revolutionaries? Does this prove however this ISO’s complicity with Imperialism and Arab reactionyarism or their complete naivete? Who knows?

    I note however the article’s critique of the Assad government. I think they refer to it as a sub-bourgeious regime i.e. one where the bourgeoisie has proven too weak to set up “normal” forms of governance. Much of this down to the malign influence of European/Western influence. The article goes on to say that the only way to resolve this is for the working class to take matters into their own hands. Clearly and sadly that is not happening at the moment.

  52. Andy Newman on said:

    John Grimshaw: The article goes on to say that the only way to resolve this is for the working class to take matters into their own hands.

    Generally, this is untrue. Most states that have evolved towards “normal” forms of governance have nor done so because of pressures from the working class.

    It is interesting to speculate what they mean by “normal forms of governance”? I would certainly myself be very much in favour of the rule of law, constitutionality, the peaceful resolution of political differences, freedom of speech and freedom of association, etc. But those objectives can be achieved in a number of ways, and with different political and economic systems.

    There is a very interesting article ( an extract from his recent book) in the latest London Review of Books by the late Benedict Anderson pointing out how the American political system is often considered normative by North Americans, including radicals.

  53. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: It is interesting to speculate what they mean by “normal forms of governance”?

    Since the WSWS, which I am not really familiar with, is a an FI organisation I think it makes sense what they are saying in their context. They are followers of Trotsky’s theories of Permanent Revolution. So I assume that they are saying that the Assad regime is a “failed” bourgeious state, hence sub. What they mean is that the Syrian regime of the past many years is simply incapable of creating a Western style liberal democracy and that therefore only the working class taking matters into it’s own hands can resolve the conundrum.

  54. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: Generally, this is untrue. Most states that have evolved towards “normal” forms of governance have nor done so because of pressures from the working class.

    “Not” I assume you mean. I would disagree with you on this. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries working class movements may not have succeeded in in achieving power but they certailnly changed the landscape for the better. Of course things changed all the time. There were low points and high points. In the last 35 years we have a seen a rolling back of gains made since the second world war. I don’t know whether this is just a historical blip or a paradigm shift.

  55. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman:
    John Grimshaw,

    SOcial progress has certainly been driven by the left and working class, but constitionality has been driven by Whigs, liberals and even those like Bismark and Kaiserin Maria Theresa

    In order to equip themselves for the modern world the major capitalist powers had to ensure that there was a semblance of offer for all their populations. Otherwise they feared either insurrection or the inability to mobilise sufficient of their population to compete in the “new” world. And in the case of Britain it was done by degrees. I was thinking of 1832 etc. Whether there would have been any 1832 without, lets say the Peterloo Massacre, any further reforms without the Chartists is moot to my mind. !848 in Prussia and the rest of Europe had a similar role. But I accept what you say with reservations. The big capitalist powers are happy to allow constitutionality, formal democracy etc. as long as it doesn’t interfere with the important business of their respective ruling classes which is self aggrandisement and the exploitation of those below them. I note that today Oxfam is saying that the top 1% of people now hold as much wealth as the other 99% which apparently is the first time they think this has been true.

  56. John Grimshaw: The big capitalist powers are happy to allow constitutionality, formal democracy etc. as long as it doesn’t interfere with the important business of their respective ruling classes

    I didn’t include democracy per se in my list:” the rule of law, constitutionality, the peaceful resolution of political differences, freedom of speech and freedom of association”

    These are the conditions for strong and stable government system, whether or not it is a formal democracy, and the drivers for those processes have often come from social or economic elites who want stablity and social order

  57. jock mctrousers on said:

    Andy Newman: There is a very interesting article ( an extract from his recent book) in the latest London Review of Books by the late Benedict Anderson pointing out how the American political system is often considered normative by North Americans, including radicals.

    Yes, that was very interesting. I’ve known of ‘imagined communities’ for sometime, and know that a lot of people swear by it, but reading that lrb piece got me interested. He’s much more original than I expected.

  58. John Grimshaw on said:

    john Grimshaw,

    I’m correcting myself here. just shows how easy it is to get out of date especially with grouplets. It would seem that Workers Power has indeed disbanded itself (temporarily or permanently?) to enter the LP. My point about their position on Donetsk and Lugansk is still valid I suspect.

  59. Andy Newman on said:

    jock mctrousers: e’s much more original than I expected.

    And unlike his younger brother Perry, Benedict mastered the basic idea that the reader is supposed to be able to understand the language you write in.

  60. Of course Perry Anderson had mastered that idea!

    How could anyone forget his classic statement:

    ‘By contrast [with Marx’s published work], the extreme difficulty of language characteristic of much of Western Marxism in the twentieth century was never controlled by the tension of a direct or active relationship to a proletarian audience. On the contrary, its very surplus above the necessary minimum quotient of verbal complexity was the sign of its divorce from any popular practice. The peculiar esotericism of Western Marxist theory was to assume manifold forms: in Lukacs, a cumbersome and abstruse diction, freighted with academicism; in Gramsci, a painful and cryptic fragmentation, imposed by prison; in Benjamin, a gnomic brevity and indirection; in Della Volpe, an impenetrable syntax and circular self-reference; in Sartre, a hermetic and unrelenting maze of neologisms; in Althusser, a sybilline rhetoric of elusion.’

    Can’t say plainer than that.

  61. George Hallam on said:

    Ken MacLeod,

    Great quote.

    By the way you were right about The Restoration Game’ I did enjoy it.

    Not that it matters, but I think you made some errors in your biography of Avram Arbatov. He didn’t resign from the Communist Party in 1927; you seem to have confused him with his cousin Alexander Arbatov.