In the name of decency: the contortions of the pro-war left

Issue: 113

Richard Seymour

In January 2005, following the torture and murder of the Iraqi trade unionist Hadi Saleh, ‘Labour Friends of Iraq’ issued an open letter demanding the Stop the War Coalition condemn the murder (which it already had1), and drop its support for the right of Iraqis to resist the occupation. Among the signatories were former members of the New Left Review editorial board Branka Magas, Quintin Hoare, Norman Geras and Chris Bertram. Columnists Nick Cohen and David Aaronovitch, as well as Paul Anderson of the Labour left Tribune, also signed. Not all of the signatories were in favour of the war on Iraq, but all were agreed that support for the anti-imperialist resistance was out of question.2

This was the first of a series of initiatives in which left wing supporters of the ‘war on terror’ sought an alliance with those of its opponents who had no principled objection to imperialism. Later initiatives such as Unite Against Terror and the Euston Manifesto confirmed this alliance, gaining the support of such figures as Christopher Hitchens, one time International Socialist. Indeed, many of the pro-war left’s most strident adherents were both anti-imperialists and revolutionaries in the past. For a variety of reasons, these people are now united by the conviction that in the current geopolitical realities, support for imperialism is a left wing position. In this, they are allied with liberals and social democrats who have a history of support for imperialism.

After 9/11, the deluge

Within weeks of the attacks on New York and Washington a small number of liberal and left wing pundits were rushing to offer their services. The implicit promise in their declarations was that they could police the left, while persuading left wing readers that there would be something in the ‘war on terror’ for them. ‘Can there be a Decent Left?’, wondered Dissent’s Michael Walzer in 2002. He observed that ‘most leftists had criticised the invasion of Afghanistan while providing no clear alternative of their own and ‘without any visible concern about preventing future terrorist attacks’.3 Marc Cooper berated the left for ‘self hatred’, unable to see fellow citizens as having been the victims on this occasion.4 Christopher Hitchens, with inspiring biliousness, averred that the left was guilty of ‘fascist sympathies’.5 He angrily disaffiliated from the left and ceased writing for American left liberal magazine The Nation.6 John Lloyd described a struggle between ‘the decent left, which is on the side of those willing to fight Islamic fascism, and the rigidly anti-American left’.7 He blamed Noam Chomsky and the ‘anti-globalisation’ movement that he so despises for spreading ‘anti-Americanism’,8 and eventually ceased writing for the New Statesman.9 Martin Amis, with characteristic loquacity, attacked Chomsky with the bruising assessment that ‘the moral equivalence line just didn’t work. Anti-Americanism doesn’t impress me as a very rational position’.10

Norman Geras, a sometime ‘liberal Marxist’ and an admirer of Michael Walzer’s theses about ‘Just and Unjust Wars’, compared the left’s assertion that the 9/11 attacks were caused in part by US foreign policy with German historian Ernst Nolte’s claim that the Nazi Holocaust had to be understood as a ‘pre-emptive’ anticipation of a threat from the Soviet Union.11 This raises the hitherto unheard of possibility that Norman Geras has a vivid imagination. David Aaronovitch accused the left of ‘political cretinism’ for having allegedly hinted that there was ‘some kind of relationship between a Mandela and a Bin Laden’.12 Whatever else can be said about such a rebuke, it is neither precise nor to the point. Aaronovitch, of course, is not paid well because he writes well, but because he reflects the prejudices of a segment of liberal opinion. Michael Ignatieff declared that ‘either we fight evil with evil or we succumb’. ‘Terrorist movements like Al Qaida or Hamas are death cults’, he added, in another theme that has become ubiquitous.13 Paul Berman explained that the left should support the bombing of Afghanistan, and the spreading of ‘liberty and democracy’. The left should simply ‘behave correctly under the circumstances’.14

Behaving correctly is precisely what the pro-war left does best. And increasingly hysterical demands on others to behave well ensued in the five years after 9/11, especially once the invasion of Iraq had become widely recognised as a catastrophe for the purportedly liberated populace.

In 2005, following the 7 July tube bombings, a statement called ‘United Against Terror’ was launched, organised by Jane Ashworth of ‘Labour Friends of Iraq’, formerly of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.15 The statement is very selective about which terror it opposes. It opposes that carried out by a variety of groups inspired by a reactionary kind of Political Islam. It doesn’t oppose that carried out by far right Colombian militias. It doesn’t show any solidarity with trade unionists and peasants being murdered by those terrorists. It doesn’t oppose the terrorism of states against civilian populations: the targeting of civilians by the Russian government in Chechnya; the massacre in Fallujah; the use of death squads in the ‘new Iraq’; the repeated assaults on Palestinians. About these, it is wordless—and culpably so. It also insists that Western foreign policy shares no responsibility for the attacks it addresses, and invites readers to endorse a two-state settlement for Palestine and condemn ‘terrorism’ there—not Israeli terrorism, but the resistance of the Palestinians.

A new initiative called ‘The Euston Manifesto’ was launched by the same confederacy of bloggers and commentators from the soft left in April 2006.16 Its pioneers formulated their creed in a pub in Euston, and it shows. The introduction, co-written by Nick Cohen and Norman Geras, dispenses a series of stern charges against the anti-war left—anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, apologetics for totalitarianism and fanaticism etc—and complains, without a trace of irony, about those who devote ‘most…energy to criticism of political opponents at home’. It contains the proposition that a racist state that has come into existence through ethnic cleansing and theft and sustained itself through war and expansion must perpetuate itself: ‘There can be no reasonable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that subordinates or eliminates the legitimate rights and interests of one of the sides to the dispute.’ Its proposed solution negates the legitimate rights and interests of Palestinians, while upholding an entirely illegitimate and spurious claim by Zionists based on biblical exegesis and racial domination.

These people profess to oppose racism and religious fundamentalism, by the way. Its authors espouse ‘universal principles, for the establishment of which the democratic countries themselves, and in particular the United States of America, bear the greater part of the historical credit’. If one supports ‘humanitarian intervention’ and ‘liberation’ by imperialist states as a socialist or a liberal, one must see such states as the bearers of one’s values. As Scott McLemee rightly remarked, ‘The Eustonians seem to be issuing blank moral checks for whatever excellent adventures George Bush and Tony Blair decide to undertake’.17

Afghanistan: a successful example of what could happen to Iraq

The invasion of Afghanistan was justified in several ways: as an attempt to capture Al Qaida leaders; as an overthrow of a state that housed them; and as liberation for the people of Afghanistan. All of these were cited as benefits of the invasion by Christopher Hitchens and others.18 New Labour MP Ben Bradshaw asserted the official position, which was that the war was only ‘against bin Laden, the Al Qaida network and those who protect him, to bring those to justice who are responsible for 11 September’.19 These excuses were contemptible enough. The US has a well-known history of sponsoring overseas terrorist movements that have killed tens of thousands—in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Cuba, etc. It has recently released from custody a notorious terrorist leader named Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA affiliate who carried out aeroplane and hotel bombings in Cuba, despite requests for his extradition.20 None of the apologists for the bombing of Afghanistan have ever suggested that the US or any of its military installations or governmental facilities be bombed, or that any military penalty be applied in any shape or form. The implication is the racist one, that the death of several thousand civilians in Afghanistan is acceptable, but not even the slightest offence to the US.

The excuses for invasion were entirely bogus. What in fact happened was that the US bombed Afghanistan, dislodged a regime with a tenuous grip on power, replaced a largely Pashtun elite with a largely Uzbek elite, and caught no significant Al Qaida leaders. Alec Station, the CIA unit assigned to hunt down Bin Laden and his confederates, has since been quietly dismantled.21 Bush remarked shortly after the topple of the Taliban that ‘I don’t know where Bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care’.22 Catching those alleged to be responsible was not a top priority for the Bush administration. It was not, in fact, necessary for the US to bomb Afghanistan if they had simply wanted to capture those they alleged were responsible for the attacks. The Taliban had offered to hand over Bin Laden, a proposal that was not pursued.23 If the US had wished to dislodge the Taliban and the networks they housed, there was an internal oppositional movement that was working to bring down the Taliban—but it was opposed to the US bombing.24

Those who argued that ‘liberation’ would be a beneficial side-effect of the occupation were mistaken. Those who thought that this was what the US intended were purblind. The UNHCR had warned that ‘we are facing a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions in Afghanistan with 7.5 million short of food and at risk of starvation.’ The response of the United States to that crisis had been to demand the ‘elimination of truck convoys that provide much of the food and other supplies to Afghanistan’s civilian population’.25 Whatever else could be said about such a decision, it was not taken with the interests of those 7.5 million civilians at heart. Although the catastrophe was avoided, up to 10,000 civilians died as an immediate result of the bombing.26 Many supporters of the war cited the return of refugees to Afghanistan as evidence of liberation—yet, at the height of the Taliban’s authority, in 1998, the UNHCR was helping 107,000 refugees to return to Afghanistan,27 and a large number of those refugees who did return after 2001 did so because they were forced back by the British and neighbouring states, despite their extreme reluctance to return.28 Kate Allen of Amnesty International wrote that ‘with two thirds of the country unstable and covered in up to 10 million unexploded bombs and landmines’, Afghanistan was not a safe country for those being forced to return.29

Since the overthrow of the Taliban, a government has been installed comprising war criminals such as General Abdul Rashid Dostum, and headed by Hamid Karzai, a former Taliban supporter with no social base in Afghanistan.30 A network of bribed warlords31 as well as like figures, ‘implicated in murder, torture, intimidation, bribery and interfering with investigations into misconduct by officers directly under his control’, help hold Afghanistan together for the occupiers, while repeated and bloody war crimes have been inflicted on the civilian population by the US forces.32 The condition of women in Afghanistan doesn’t quite match the glowing pre-war rhetoric: stonings, child marriage, massive physical, mental and sexual violence all continue.33 From their base in Kabul the occupiers have run a series of torture prisons,34 while extending courtesies to Uzbekistan, a dictatorship across the border every bit as vicious as the Taliban. You would think that Bush’s attempt to kill the War Crimes Act could be related to his administration’s conduct, and that this would be important.35 Yet among the pro-war left little attention is paid, except to note those atrocities that are attributable to the Taliban while steadfastly ignoring those committed by the occupiers and their surrogates. Our Boys are only ever associated with things like protecting schools for girls.36

And a remarkable thing has begun to happen. The Taliban, five years ago a discredited and marginal political force in Afghanistan, are making a come-back in the south of the country. Lieutenant-General David Richards recently explained that ‘we need to realise we could actually fail here’.37 This is not because the Taliban have an appealing political programme, but rather because of the failure of the occupation to resemble anything close to ‘liberation’, because of mass starvation, and because of the ongoing and intensifying attacks by the occupiers on civilians.38 None of the apologists spotted the cruel humour when Donald Rumsfeld remarked that Afghanistan was ‘a breathtaking accomplishment’ and ‘a successful model of what could happen to Iraq’.39

Iraq: laptops and liberation

The episode of the ‘war on terror’ that has generated the most opposition also produced the most rhetorical frenzy from the pro-war left. Nick Cohen, who had opposed the war on Afghanistan,40 was converted to the cause of imperialism during the build-up to the attack on Iraq because he was convinced that the Iraqi National Congress wanted to ‘replace minority rule with a multiracial, devolved democracy which stands up for human rights’.41 Indeed, Cohen was eager to see ‘how Noam Chomsky and John Pilger manage to oppose a war which would end the sanctions they claim have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of children who otherwise would have had happy, healthy lives in a prison state’.42 Those are lines that ought to shame him, but the pro-war left’s attitude to murder at the hands of Western states is astonishingly blasé. Cohen cites, as the key influence in changing his attitude to the ‘war on terror’, Paul Berman’s slender polemic Terror and Liberalism. The book brought on a minor epiphany: ‘He convinced me I’d wasted a great deal of time looking through the wrong end of the telescope. I was going to have to turn it round and see the world afresh.’ Berman belongs to something Cohen calls the ‘anti-totalitarian left’ and the ‘central point’ of his book ‘is that Islamism and Baathism are continuations of Nazism and communism, not only in their fine points…but in their fundamentals’.43 And so Cohen is resisting ‘totalitarianism’. Christopher Hitchens claims that he was anxious for war with Iraq following a ride in a jeep with some pro-Bush Kurds back in 1991.44 His old friend Dennis Perrin points out that this is false:

I spent time with him in the period he mentions, and he never stopped criticising Bush’s ‘mad contest’ with Saddam… As late as 2002, when I asked him directly if he did indeed favour a US invasion, he waffled and said that W would have to convince him on ‘about a zillion fronts’ before he could sign on.45

In fact, in October 2002, he told Salon, ‘I don’t favour an invasion of Iraq. But I favour a confrontation with Saddam Hussein’.46 Then, he decided, there would be no war deserving the name, the attack would be ‘dazzling’ and would be greeted as an ‘emancipation’, and so ‘bring it on’.47

Hitchens threw caution to the wind when he introduced a set of essays written during the war with a monograph entitled ‘Twenty-Twenty Foresight’.48 In what did this foresight consist? Well, for example, following a series of surgical strikes, ‘a massive landing will bring food, medicine and laptop computers to a surging crowd of thankful and relieved Iraqis and Kurds’.49 You heard the man—laptops. Further, ‘Will an Iraq war make our Al Qaida problem worse? Not likely’.50 As for WMDs, he still anticipates their discovery. He asked The Nation’s David Corn during a debate, ‘Doesn’t anything ever strike you as odd,’ he asked Corn, ‘about the figure of zero for [WMD] deposits found in Iraq?… Doesn’t that suggest a crime scene that has been pretty well dusted in advance, the fingerprints wiped? Well, it does to me.’ Corn remarks, ‘Hitchens was saying that the fact that no weapons had been uncovered in Iraq (after nearly three years of searching) was evidence that there had been weapons’.51 He continues to insist on the Baghdad-Bin Laden connection (via Zarqawi), despite ample refutation.52

David Aaronovitch cut a deal with his readers on WMDs: ‘If nothing is eventually found, I—as a supporter of the war—will never believe another thing that I am told by our government or that of the US ever again’.53 However, like Johann Hari,54 he did not base his support for the war on the claims about mass destruction or on the putative Al Qaida connection, but rather on ‘humanitarianism’. Unlike Hari he did not recant once the appalling consequences made a mockery of the moralistic basis of his support for it.55 Francis Wheen, an early signatory to the Euston Manifesto, also supported the war ‘kind of, sort of, a little bit’56 on humanitarian grounds. Norman Geras is rather impatient with the discussion about the absence of WMDs, mordantly attributing such talk to a ‘global intelligence failure’.57

He argued that the war had ‘brought to an end the brutalising and murder’ of Iraqis, which even as early as mid-2003 took some denial.58 By the same method and principle, one assumes Geras will argue for a coalition to militarily overthrow the United States government, whose prolonged career in global murder and torture has actually racked up considerably more bodies than Saddam Hussein: more Iraqi bodies.

However, this is a step in the logic of ‘humanitarian intervention’ that no one ever takes. The logic doesn’t apply to ‘us’. One thing never properly engaged with by the pro-war left is the matter of agency—that is, the capacities and propensities of the institutions that they are relying upon to deliver ‘liberation’. Norman Geras has defended Rosa Luxemburg’s insistence that socialism could only come through the self-education and activity of the working class.59 But he is happy to en trust the ‘liberation’ of oppressed people to state actors whose record gives him no right to invest such trust in them. As David Chandler writes, the ideology of ‘humanitarian intervention’ is deeply conservative doctrine. Given humanity’s availability for venality and violence, the logic runs, the more states can do to constrain it, the better. This is how Lord Ashdown ran things in Bosnia, and how Bernard Kouchner operated in Kosovo, as ‘benign’ dictatorships.60 The doctrine can mean ‘good’ states restraining ‘bad’ states—it can also involve ‘good’ states restraining ‘bad’ people, so that: ‘If the Iraqis were to elect either a Sunni or Shia Taliban, we would not let them take power’.61

The quality of their mercy

Christopher Hitchens told David Horowitz’s Front Page magazine in 2003 of his ‘exhilaration’ at watching ‘the towers fall in New York, with civilians incinerated on the planes and in the buildings’ because it offered the prospect of ‘a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate’.62 He elsewhere asserted that bin Laden had done Americans ‘a service’ in attacking the twin towers because now they could have their ‘war on terror’.63 The good cheer continued when Hitchens was asked about the use of cluster bombs in Afghanistan:

It’s pretty good because those steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else. And if they’re bearing a Koran over their heart, it’ll go straight through that, too. So they won’t be able to say, ‘Ah, I was bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway through’. They’ll be dead, in other words.64

Elsewhere Hitchens remarked that cluster bombs had a ‘heartening effect’. This eliminationist fantasy is one he meditates on often. ‘We can’t live on the same planet as them’ he said of those he referred to as ‘Islamofascists’. ‘I don’t want to breathe the same air as these psychopaths and murders [sic] and rapists and torturers and child abusers. It’s them or me. It’s a duty and a responsibility to defeat them. But it’s also a pleasure. I don’t regard it as a grim task at all’.65 When Fallujah was destroyed, Hitchens complained that ‘the death toll is not nearly high enough…too many [jihadists] have escaped’.66 It isn’t as if this was his first chuckle over mass murder. About the genocide of Native Americans and pre civil war slavery, Hitchens, channelling Harry Lime, has written that it is ‘the way that history is made, and to complain about it is as empty as complaint about climatic, geological or tectonic shift’.67 Let’s give Saddam Hussein some credit—even he could invent a better excuse for genocide and slavery than that. The one virtue of Hitchens’s cheerful obscenities is that he at least expresses openly what his confederates tend to corset in moralising and disavowal—that the lives of those in non-Western states are worth less than those of Americans and Europeans.

The ‘heartening effect’ of cluster bombs is to disperse into thousands of bomblets over wide areas and detonate, sending out sheets of white hot shards that tear apart the flesh and organs of anyone within range. Recent studies have shown that 98 percent of victims of cluster bombs are civilians.68 The problem is deeper and broader than the use of particular weapons. Martin Shaw, a sociologist who occasionally embeds himself with the pro-war left, describes the tendency towards ‘degenerate’ war in which civilian populations increasingly bear the brunt of attacks, especially where they provide a community of support and encouragement for oppositional movements.

It was this form of ‘degenerate’ war that manifested itself in the discovery of rape and torture at Abu Ghraib. One victim, Manadel al-Jamadi, had died by a method known in Israel as ‘Palestinian hanging’, in which a prisoner has his arms tied behind his back, and is then hung from the wrists. His chest was crushed and he slowly suffocated as blood poured from his mouth and nose. His corpse appears in pictures with specialists Charles Graner and Sabrina Harman smiling over him with thumbs up.69 The same logic obtained when the ‘Salvador Option’ was floated in the press, suggesting that the US would make sympathisers with the Iraqi resistance ‘pay a price’ at the hands of kidnappers and assassins.70 Subsequently, reporters have found blood-splattered torture chambers in the CIA-constructed interior ministry, and the US itself was obliged to reveal and close down one chamber in which 173 people had been held and tortured, some having skin ripped off their bodies,71 a method not unknown from the US-sponsored terror regime in El Salvador in the 1980s.72 The Brussels Tribunal found that ‘92 percent of the 3,498 bodies found in different regions of Iraq have been arrested by officials of the Ministry of Interior’.73

You would scour the publications, columns and blogs of the pro-war left in vain for a hint of this. Only Abu Ghraib arrested their attention, briefly. Any serious attempt to grasp the scale of the catastrophe that has befallen Iraq is either ignored or dismissed. Hitchens advertises that he pays no attention to the casualty figures (is oblivious to the evidence in other words), yet becomes hysterical the second anyone mentions the Lancet report, describing 100,000 excess deaths as of October 2004. He has described it as ‘politicised hack-work’, a ‘crazed’ fabrication, whose conclusions had been ‘conclusively and absolutely shown to be false’.74 This extensively peer-reviewed study, which won the approbation of many independent peers,75 told the world that the occupation was worse than the combined effect of Saddam Hussein and sanctions—100,000 worse, and growing.

For this excellent reason, of course, Geras ignored it, as did Cohen and, initially, Johann Hari. David Aaronovitch would only be drawn to explain to the editors of Media Lens that ‘I have a feeling…it may be a dud’.76 In March 2006 one of the authors of the report, Les Roberts, estimated that it would by then be as high as 300,000 on a conservative estimate. In October 2006 a new study was released by the Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, which estimated that 655,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the invasion and occupation.77

Geras responded that he could not comment on the figures, but it was obvious that too many had died. He added that if he had been able to foresee such results, ‘I would have withheld support for the war without giving my voice to the opposition to it’.78 This is a curious stance indeed for someone who has devoted so much scrutiny to those who stand by in the face of catastrophe.
While Hitchens was rather cheerful about the massacre in Fallujah, Norman Geras was able to write four separates entries for his website about the brutal killings of security contractors in the city, but not one about the ensuing sieges that brutally killed thousands of civilians, subjected others to chemical weapons, and destroyed homes and the infrastructure.79 Aaronovitch was present in Iraq before the April 2004 assault on Fallujah, and had his sleep disturbed by the thought of ‘swarming’ insurgents,80 but later conceded blandly that it ‘may be disappointing’ that Blair wouldn’t condemn the US actions there.81 About the November attack on the city, he would only mention that he was sick to death of conspiracy theories.82 Nick Cohen did not mention the slaughter. William Shawcross, a sycophant of both the Queen and her crown-in-parliament, denounced the ‘Saddamites, Islamist terrorists and the murderers of Fallujah’,83 but about the US murdering sprees would only say that ‘there is no easy answer—either you appear brutal or you appear weak’.84 Only Johann Hari,85 by then moving away from his explicit identification with the pro-war left, eventually got round to mentioning the topic.

For a tendency that collectively complains in the Euston Manifesto of ‘tactful silences’, this is strange indeed.

Resistance and pacifism

The pro-war left often claims that the anti-war movement is not really anti-war, but for the other side. This is because many in the anti-war movement vocally support the right of people in occupied countries to defend themselves. Most of us are not pacifists. The historically determined capacity for organised killing cannot be undone overnight. The best that can be said is that we may eventually abolish those social structures that generate and direct the use of such violence, and in the meantime restrain the agents of it as far as is we realistically can. A little realism suggests that such restraints will themselves often take the form of violence, and this is fundamentally what characterises the Iraqi resistance, the resistance of Aristide’s followers to the multilateral destruction of Haitian democracy, and the Lebanese resistance to the recent failed Israeli invasion.

Are we not supposed to notice that when, for instance, Saddam Hussein was raping, killing, imprisoning and torturing Iraqis, resistance was deemed entirely legitimate, and yet when the present dictators of Iraq do the same, resistance is derided by the pro-war left? Is it supposed to escape our attention that the pro-war left in fact favour pacifism for the weak and militarism for the strong?

Among Hitchens’s expostulations on the topic is his suggestion that ‘where it is not augmented by depraved Bin Ladenist imports, the leadership and structure of the Iraqi “insurgency” is formed from the elements of an already fallen regime, detested in its own country and universally condemned’. Norman Geras takes a similar line on the ‘murderous “insurgency’’’,86 as does Jeff Weintraub of Dissent, who describes the resistance as an attempt ‘to restore fascist dictatorship (or an Islamist replacement)’.87 The Cohen and Geras-penned preamble to the Euston Manifesto derides support for the ‘gangs of jihadist and Baathist thugs of the Iraqi so-called resistance’.

This portrayal is largely fantasy. For sure, there is a restorationist wing in the resistance, and there is a salafist wing. There is also, unfortunately, a civil war dynamic unfolding in Iraq, encouraged by the sectarian policies of the occupiers. But the arresting fact about this is that the bulk of the resistance is neither Baathist nor salafist, nor does it, on the whole, target civilians. In repeated studies and figures released by think-tanks, the US department of defence, the CIA, the press, independent analysts and the ‘coalition’ military authorities in Iraq, the picture that emerges is of a resistance dominated by local, decentralised, disarticulated groups who overwhelmingly attack military and not civilian targets. Indeed, it is widely acknowledged that the nationalist resistance has been disciplining the salafist elements whose actions have hindered rather than helped the effort to evict the occupiers.88

This is perhaps one reason why support for the resistance has been growing, so that now fully 60 percent of Iraqis (including Kurds) support attacks on troops.89 The pro-war left, in amplifying the role of Zarqawi and people like him, may have been unwitting vectors for a propaganda campaign mounted by the US military.90 However, the acceptance of this propaganda is extremely comforting for those who still wish to believe that there is some form of ‘liberation’ going on in Iraq—even if it is not a ‘liberation’ they would choose for themselves, or one that Iraqis are inclined to accept.91

Lebanon: ‘Signed, the State of Israel’

Radio broadcasts, and leaflets dropped on south Lebanese towns and villages, warned residents to flee or face slaughter. They always signed off ‘The State of Israel’ so that no one could doubt that the threat was genuine.92 As Israel’s invasion advanced on the territory south and east of the Litani River, the population was repeatedly instructed to evacuate, while Israel prepared for a ‘civil administration’93 in the conquered part of Lebanon. This war, planned at least one year in advance,94 was launched with the avowed aim of recovering two soldiers kidnapped by Hizbollah fighters close to the Lebanese border, but it targeted the civilian infrastructure and population centres,95 killing up to 1,300 civilians96 and displacing almost a million people.97

Israel’s pathetic excuse was that Hizbollah was using civilians as human shields,98 a claim dismissed by Human Rights Watch monitors.99 By contrast, the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem confirmed that Israel was using human shields in Gaza.100 The evident aim was to conquer Lebanon as a preliminary strike in a proxy war against Syria and Iran, and the south of the country was to be annexed in the process.

Michael Walzer’s verdict: ‘War Fair’.101 Israel’s wars never cease to be fair for Walzer, but in this case he relied on a simple reversal: if the capture of two soldiers was an act of war, then an act of war in return could not be considered illegitimate. The paucity of ‘just war’ theory is thus summarised: one could equally say that Israel, having kidnapped thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese in expansionist aggression, had no right to complain of similar actions. Without a materialist analysis, instead bruiting an abstract set of moral codes for war, one can find legitimacy in almost any atrocity, even as one regrets its excesses.

Norman Geras preferred to say, ‘Israel does have just cause. This I don’t argue for, I merely assert…no other country on the planet would be thought to be obliged to endure missile attacks on its population from a neighbouring country’.102 Indeed, asserting but not arguing things is a method of his, but he may have forgotten that missile attacks on Israel’s population started after the Israeli invasion began. Nick Cohen, reluctant to defend Israel, thought it was an opportunity to complain about the demise of interventionism, perhaps not noticing that Israel was indeed intervening in Lebanon and that the US and UK were intervening on behalf of Israel.103 Christopher Hitchens signalled his reappraisal of Zionism, hallucinating that while Israeli right-wingers admitted ‘that Israeli colonisation of Arabs is demographically impossible and morally wrong’, Syria and Iran were using proxies to attack Israel. He didn’t like the war’s ‘lack of proportion’, but nevertheless blamed Hamas and Hizbollah for it.104 Such obtuse formulae! Israel has never sought to colonise the Arabs—instead it has tried to liquidate the very idea of Palestine and to expel and dispossess the Arabs.

And Israel’s ‘lack of proportion’, its deliberate attacks on civilians, its attempt to ethnically cleanse the south of Lebanon, its use of chemical weapons, its bombing of households and fleeing cars—did none of this indicate that perhaps the war was not the defensive venture that Hitchens took it to be? The cognitive dissonance involved in supporting American aggression while trying to retain some pro-Palestinian credentials evidently could not be sustained for very long: how does one oppose in Lebanon what one supported in Iraq, especially when the same scheming enemies lurk?

Totalitarianism, Islam and Enlightenment

Neoconservatives and the pro-war left are not only united on their purblind support for imperialism: they share a vocabulary, and a conceptual apparatus. This was perhaps first expressed in a statement signed by 60 academics including such diverse figures as Michael Walzer, Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington, in which the new wave of American militarism was explained as an affirmation of ‘fundamental truths’ including the wisdom that all human beings are born free and equal, seek rational inquiry, need freedom of conscience and shouldn’t murder in the name of god.105

Totalitarianism and the Enlightenment are among the favourite themes of the pro-war left. Increasingly, so is Islam. Eustonite Alan Johnson avers that every generation ‘has to re-discover anti-totalitarianism for itself’.106 Jeffrey Herf et al signed the manifesto because ‘radical Islamism’ is ‘the third major form of totalitarian ideology of the last century, after fascism and Nazism, on the one hand, and Communism, on the other’.107

Francis Wheen embraces a fetishism of unproblematised Enlightenment, and he has taken the trouble to upbraid Adorno and Horkheimer for having blamed all of modernity’s ills on the Enlightenment and not understanding its contribution to notions of human freedom. Evidently, he did not get all the way through the first page of Dialectic of Enlightenment, in which the authors write that ‘social freedom is inseparable from enlightened thought’.108 For Hitchens, it is the Enlightenment that Al Qaida is after: in a phrase, they hate our scientific enquiry. This, he describes as ‘theocratic totalitarianism’.109 The Euston Manifesto similarly defends what signatory Eve Garrard calls ‘Enlightenment values’,110 and among other glittering generalities echoes the ‘great rallying calls of the democratic revolutions of the 18th century’.111 The problem with this isn’t, as John Gray imagines, that Enlightenment values had a ‘seamy side’, or that the zealous pursuit of such values can undermine the prospects for a modus vivendi because these values can issue incompatible demands.112 It is that their invocation is in this instance platitudinous and unmaterialist.

Martin Amis, like his friend Hitchens, makes the link between Enlightenment and his hostility to Islam explicit. In his memoir Experience, Amis remarks at least twice that he thinks about Israel ‘with the blood’. He adds that he will ‘never be entirely reasonable about her’. Blood comes up quite a bit: he pines for a lost love who has gone to ‘give blood’ for Israel. To openly declare that one will never be rational about a defining political issue of the day advertises a sort of fanaticism. Yet the mysticism of blood and soil, the giving of life’s fluid back to the land itself, is converted into a liberal apologia for Zionism. He is still ‘thinking with the blood’ when he encounters a gatekeeper at the Holy Mosque in the Arab Quarter of Jerusalem and declares, ‘I saw in his eyes the assertion that he could do anything to me, to my wife, to my children, to my mother, and that this would only validate his rectitude’.113

Sam Harris, in a book purportedly celebrating the values of Enlightenment against religion, singles out Islam for particular opprobrium. He writes of Islam that ‘the basic thrust of the doctrine is undeniable: convert, subjugate, or kill unbelievers; kill apostates; and conquer the world’. Further, the West is at ‘war with Islam…with precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran’. Writing about the Danish ‘cartoons’ controversy, he wrote:

‘Muslim extremism’ is not extreme among Muslims. Mainstream Islam itself represents an extremist rejection of intellectual honesty, gender equality, secular politics and genuine pluralism… Muslims intentionally murder non-combatants, while we and the Israelis (as a rule) seek to avoid doing so…the people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.

With a billion Muslims in the world, the wonder is that only 19 of them have so far launched an attack in the United States and that the vast preponderance of Muslims has thus far decided against converting, subjugating, killing unbelievers and apostates.

Nevertheless, it is because of the omnipresent threat of Islam that Harris supports the war on Iraq and the use of torture against prisoners (citing arguments developed by Alan Dershowitz).114

The present obsession with Islam is an artefact of the racist hysteria generated to support the current strategies of imperialism, and the integration of Islam into the ‘totalitarianism’ thesis is a crude update of Cold War doctrine.

It was, of course, the collapse of that ‘anti-totalitarian’ consensus brought about by mass opposition to the Vietnam War that produced the neo-conservative reaction, whose patron saint, the right wing Democrat Henry Jackson, is still a hero for today’s liberal imperialism. The collapse of the revolutionary left in the 1970s also led many activists to embrace ‘anti-totalitarianism’ and support NATO—particularly in France, where ultra-left critiques of the PCF gradually lent themselves to lesser-evilism and accommodation with the Socialist Party, under hysterical anti-Marxist crusades led by Francois Furet and Andre Glucksmann.115 Among descendants of the Maoist left to embrace humanitarian imperialism was Bernard Kouchner, who founded Medicins Sans Frontiers, served in the Mitterrand government in 1992-93, went on to become the UN’s proconsul in Kosovo, and argued in favour of war on Iraq.116 Kouchner is Paul Berman’s hero, exemplifying the ‘anti-totalitarian’ politics that he espouses.

What is totalitarianism? To Jeane Kirkpatrick, a prominent neo-conservative and US Ambassador to the United Nations under Reagan, ‘totalitarianism’ was what distinguished the dictatorships the US opposed from those it supported, which were merely ‘authoritarian’.117

In the hands of Paul Berman, the ‘liberal hawk’, ‘totalitarian’ is whoever might be considered an enemy of the US today. He complains that it took the 9/11 attacks to ‘reopen the public discussion of totalitarianism in the Muslim world’, which includes Ba’athism and ‘Islamic fundamentalism’, but not imperialism or Zionism, for instance. Ironically, Berman cites Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, without noticing that a substantial part of the book argued that imperialism was a crucial ingredient in 20th century totalitarianism, or that she had been repelled by the ‘totalitarian methods’ of Zionism against the Palestinians.118

One of the weaknesses of the totalitarianism thesis has always been its availability for manipulation: it is, as Domenico Losurdo writes, a category possessing several distinct meanings. It refers to ideologies, movements, states—whatever you like—and can embrace a critique of imperialism, or not. It can even be a criticism of anti-imperialism—hence John Lloyd complains about the ‘totalising critique’ of US imperialism.119 If the term can therefore be stretched to cover Arab nationalist regimes and various forms of political Islam, it is perhaps beyond being useful except as a catch-all expression for the targets of American wars. Norman Geras back in the 1980s noticed the tendency to cite ‘a concept of “totalitarianism” in its familiar Cold War sense’ among ex-Marxists complaining that they seemed ‘to forget’ ‘what they once knew…that the evolution of ideas has a social and material context’.120 Hitchens mocked the use of the notion by neo-conservatives to give ‘watery notions of the strength of concrete’ and ‘petrify’ political opponents.121 Yet ‘totalitarianism’ has proven too useful for such converts to imperialism to ditch.

Life behind the iron curtain

Why are democratic and egalitarian ideals pressed into the service of imperialism by both right and left? Ellen Meiksins Wood offers a few suggestions. In the first instance, capitalism does not need formal political inequalities—rather domination and class rule are expressed as rights, specifically as property rights. Initially, these were explicitly asserted by the English in Ireland as the right to seize occupied land if it was not being put to profitable use, and you can still find this claim in Zionist apologias about how the settlers ‘made the desert bloom’.

However, modern imperialism finds this less useful, instead seeking to sustain relations of domination through market transactions, guaranteed by an orderly global system of disciplined nation-states. The American empire seeks an ideology that legitimises constant, open-ended interventions, requiring an unprecedented level of intervention and military build-up.

The available ideological resources are narrowed by capital’s formal disavowal of principles of inequality, so imperialism’s supporters are obliged to draw on democratic and egalitarian ideologies, which are supposedly threatened. The specifically American interpretation of democracy, as Wood has it, is extremely useful since it is an impoverished notion, offering many strategies for insulating the public from the state.122 One can see this happening in Iraq, where formal elections are allowed to take place (after considerable pressure), but where the state is effectively controlled by networks of patronage, unelected ‘reconstruction’ bodies, and unaccountable bodies.

‘Advisers’ from the massive American Embassy penetrate every ministry, while the basic political framework has been determined at every step by the coalition and its surrogates.123 Yet the belief that the US represents the prototype for democracy is supposed to give it the right to Americanise any regime it does not like.

Availing themselves of this ideology, the pro-war left exist in an almost impregnable moral fortress, from which they permit themselves to see only the empire’s immense charity and benevolence. Hence, nervous and bloodied from their support of the calamitous invasion of Iraq, they plead with Western states to perform merciful feats in Sudan. Predictably, the fate of Darfur is reduced to ‘Islamism’ and ‘totalitarianism’ in the hands of the pro-war left.124 In their calls for intervention there, however, they may find some supporters among liberal leftists who opposed the Iraq war. Jonathan Freedland125 and David Clark,126 for instance, have both argued that an invasion of Sudan would be a good instance of intervention. Both supported the war on Yugoslavia. In the US liberal commentators like Todd Gitlin,127 formerly of Students for a Democratic Society, have derided Bush for ‘inaction’ in Darfur, while glitterati like George Clooney and Don Cheadle have made much the same point.128

It is the segment of people represented by such commentators who the pro-war left hope to win over through such initiatives as the Euston Manifesto. In response to such initiatives, the anti-imperialist left has to argue that the state is not the bearer of the interests which liberals hope to advance, and must insist on a minimally realistic account of US strategy in the world.

The US has an iron curtain of military bases extending from Greenland, through Europe via the Balkans, into the Arab world and Africa and right through Central Asia, many of them established through violent military interventions. They aren’t there to provide creche facilities for the locals. Having got its hands on the oil spigot in Iraq, the US continues to pump thousands of barrels a day out of the Niger delta through Chevron, which is accused of murdering civilians. The State Department’s International Military Education and Training programme and similar programmes offer training to 70 percent of the world’s armies, and America’s arms industries carefully direct weapons to surrogate armies such as the warlords in Somalia and the death squads in Colombia.129 It now sustains a network of stasi-style secret prisons. Such an empire is to ‘liberation’ what Madame Guillotine was to respiration. Whether living behind America’s iron curtain or Israel’s iron wall, the empire’s fanciers are blind to what the whole world can see.

Something similar could once be said of Stalin’s admirers—and that is strange, for a tendency that sees itself as upholding ‘anti-totalitarianism’.

1: Sami Ramadani, letter to Independent, 7 January 2005;
2: Labour Friends of Iraq, ‘The murder of Hadi Saleh—why are you silent? An open letter to the leaders of the Stop the War Coalition’, 26 January 2005,
3: Dissent, vol 49, no 2 (Spring 2002).
4: Los Angeles Times, 14 October 2001.
5: Spectator, 29 September 2001.
6: New York Times, 26 September 2002.
7: New Statesman, 11 March 2002.
8: Observer, 17 March 2002.
9: Guardian, 11 April 2003.
10: Cited in above.
11: In ‘Marxism, the Holocaust and September 11: An Interview with Norman Geras’, Imprints, vol 6, no 3 (2002).
12: Independent, 16 October 2001.
13: M Ignatieff, The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror (Edinburgh University Press, 2004).
14: P Berman, ‘Terror and Liberalism’, The American Prospect, vol I, issue 18 (22 October 2001).
17: S McLemee, ‘Euston… We Have a Problem’, Inside Higher Ed, 24 May 2006.
18: Hitchens argued this case in ‘The War on Terror: Is There an Alternative?’, London Review of Books debate, Institute of Education, London, 15 May 2002.
19: K O’Brien, ‘Anthrax may be a new terrorist weapon’, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 9 October 2001.
20: The announcement was actually made on 11 September 2006, the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, suggesting that someone in the US legal system has a sense of humour.
21: ‘Al Qaeda’s Inner Circle’, New York Review of Books, 19 October 2006.
22: ‘President Bush Holds Press Conference’, White House, 13 March 2002,
23: P Bishop, ‘Pakistan Blocks Bin Laden Trial’, The Daily Telegraph, 4 October 2001.
24: B Bearak, ‘Peshawar Gathering’, New York Times, 25 October 2001 and A Haq, ‘US Bombs Are Boosting the Taliban’, Guardian, 2 November 2001, cited in N Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance (Hamish Hamilton, 2003), p201.
25: Cited in N Chomsky, ‘The Afghanistan Food Crisis’, ZNet, 4 September 2005.
26: A A Benini and L H Molton, ‘Civilian Victims in an Asymmetrical Conflict: Operation Enduring Freedom’, Journal of Peace Research, vol 41, no 4, 2004; Prof M W Herold, ‘A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States’ Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Accounting’,
27: Amnesty International, ‘Refugees from Afghanistan: The World’s Largest Single Refugee Group’, 1 November 1999.
28: UNHCR, ‘Feature: Afghan refugees who are reluctant to return’, Reliefweb, 6 October 2003.
29: K Allen, Letter in Amnesty International News, 23 June 2003.
30: ‘Afghan power brokers: International fundraiser in chief’, Christian Science Monitor, 10 June, 2002.
31: ‘Afghanistan’s civilian deaths mount’, BBC, 3 January, 2002; ‘Afghan leader says US bombed civilians’, BBC, 3 February 2002; K Connolly and R McCarthy, ‘New film accuses US of war crimes’, Guardian, 13 June, 2002; ‘Afghan: US bomb hits wedding party’, CNN, 1 July 2002; M Herold, ‘Attempts to Hide the Number of Afghan Civilians Killed by US Bombs Are An Affront To Justice’, 8 August 2002; B Dehghanpisheh, J Barry and R Gutman, ‘The Death Convoy of Afghanistan’, Newsweek, 26 August 2002; ‘US bombing kills Afghan children’, BBC, 7 December 2003; ‘Afghans understand deaths–US’, CNN, 7 December 2003; P Constable, ‘US troops shot at Afghans after crash: Military says soldiers fired in self-defense’, Washington Post, 1 June 2006.
32: ‘Afghanistan: Reject Known Abusers as Police Chiefs, Time for President Karzai to Show He Is a Genuine Reformer’, Human Rights Watch, 4 May 2006.
33: ‘Afghanistan woman stoned to death’, BBC News, 23 April 2005; Lailuma Sadid, ‘Suicide an option for desperate war-widows, UNIFEM Survey revealed: ‘65 percent of the 50,000 widows in Kabul see suicide the only option to get rid of their miseries and desolation’’, Indo Asian News Service, 14 August 2006; Haroon Najafi Zada, ‘Attack of Police’ to Girl’s Dormitory in Balkh’, BBC Persian (Translated by RAWA), 5 June 2006 (; Human Rights Watch, The Status of Women in Afghanistan, October 2004; ‘Gulbar is Burnt by Her Husband’, RAWA report, 26 January 2006 (; J Huggler, ‘Women’s lives “no better” in the new Afghanistan’, Independent, 1 November 2006.
34: D Campbell and S Goldenberg, ‘Afghan detainees routinely tortured and humiliated by US troops’, Guardian, 23 June 2004.
35: J Brecher and B Smith, ‘Senate Vote Advances President’s Effort to Kill War Crimes Act’, The Nation, 22 September 2006.
36: For instance, see D Aaronovitch, ‘All the greatest missions have crept spectacularly. This is no exception’, Times, 3 July 2006; N Geras, ‘Girls out of school’, Normblog, 13 July 2006; C Hitchens, ‘Let the Afghan Poppies Bloom: How the drug war is undermining the war on terrorism’, Slate, 13 December 2004.
37: M K Bhadrakumar, ‘Afghanistan: Why NATO cannot win’, Asia Times, 30 September 2006.
38: K Sengupta, ‘Afghanistan: Campaign against Taliban “causes misery and hunger”’, Independent, 6 September 2006; A Jones, ‘Why It’s Not Working in Afghanistan’, TomDispatch, September 2006.
39: Quoted in C Lamb, ‘Death Trap’, Sunday Times review, 9 July 2006.
40: N Cohen, Observer, 4 November 2001.
41: N Cohen, Observer, 14 April 2002.
42: N Cohen, Observer, 10 March 2002.
43: ‘Writer’s Choice 5: Nick Cohen’, Normblog, 5 July 2005.
44: Labour Friends of Iraq, ‘Christopher Hitchens and Others Debate Iraq on Start the Week 30 May 2005’, 31 May 2005.
45: D Perrin, ‘Punchy’, Red State Son, 2 June 2005.
46: E W Lempinen, ‘How the Left Became Irrelevant’, Salon, 29 October 2002.
47: Quoted in ‘Cakewalk’, Salon, 28 March 2003.
48: C Hitchens, A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq (Plume, 2003).
49: C Hitchens, ‘What Happens Next in Iraq’, Mirror, 26 February 2003.
50: C Hitchens, A Long Short War, as above, pp60-62. Unfortunately: BBC News, ‘Iraq War “Increased Terror Threat”’, 2 February 2004; A Grice, ‘Iraq War Increased the Threat of Attacks, Says Major’, Independent, 26 July 2005; B Bender, ‘Study Cites Seeds of Terror in Iraq’, Boston Globe, 17 July 2005.
51: D Corn, ‘Sorry, Hitch–You’re Wrong About Niger, Plus: Christopher Hitchens responds’, Salon, 26 September 2006.
52: C Hitchens, ‘In Front of Your Nose’, Slate, 25 October 2005; ‘Powell Claims Iraq Is Harboring Al Qaeda Terrorists, But Leaves Out Evidence Implicating US Allies; We Hear Responses From Baghdad, France and Cameroon’, Democracy Now! (6 February 2003). D Van Natta, Jr, ‘Portrait of a Terror Suspect: Is He the Qaeda Link to Iraq?’ International Herald Tribune, 10 February 2003. C Simpson and S Swanson, ‘Prisoner Casts Doubt on Iraq Tie to Al Qaeda’, Chicago Tribune, 11 February 2003. ‘Mullah Krekar Interview,’ Insight TV ( International Crisis Group, ‘Radical Islam In Iraqi Kurdistan: The Mouse That Roared?’, Middle East Briefing, no 4, 7 February 2003. Indeed, much of the ‘evidence’ linking Ansar al-Islam to Al Qaeda appears to come from PUK sources, or their prisoners: C Taylor, ‘Taliban-style Group Grows in Iraq’, Christian Science Monitor, 15 March 2002. For information on the Al Qaeda-Zarqawi disputes, see J Burke, Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam (Penguin Books, 2004). For more on the Zarqawi myth, see L Napoleoni, Insurgent Iraq: Al-Zarqawi and the New Generation (Seven Stories Press, 2005). Suffice to note that like every other bogey man of the US imperialist imaginary, Zarqawi was Hitler: ‘Rumsfeld: Zarqawi Like Hitler,’ CBS, 26 May 2005. This according to Donald Rumseld who, unlike Zarqawi, actually did meet Saddam and did exchange weapons of mass destruction in the process.
53: D Aaronovitch, Guardian, 29 April 2003.
54: J Hari, ‘WMD are Irrelevant; Iraqis Wanted the War’, Independent, 11 July 2003.
55: J Hari, ‘Was I Wrong about Iraq? Doubts and Dreams’, Independent, 14 April 2004; J Hari, ‘Abdul’s grandparents are trapped in Fal lujah. What do I say to him? Uncertainty’, Independent, 8 November 2004; J Hari ‘After three years, after 150,000 dead, why I was wrong about Iraq: A melancholic mea culpa’, Independent, 18 March 2006.
56: B O’Neill, interview with Francis Wheen, Spiked, 26 May 2004.
57: N Geras, ‘Global Intelligence Failure’, Normblog, 12 July 2004.
58: N Geras, talk given to a Workers’ Liberty summer school in London, 21 June 2003, reprinted in T Cushman (ed), A Matter of Principle: Humanitarian Arguments for War in Iraq (University of California Press, 2005).
59: N Geras, ‘Democracy and the Ends of Marxism’, New Left Review, I/203, January-February 1994.
60: D Chandler, From Kosovo to Kabul: Human Rights and International Intervention (Pluto Press, 2002).
61: Christopher Hitchens explaining to an Iraqi dinner guest, as reported by liberal American gossip columnist Michael Totten, ‘Drinking with Christopher Hitchens and the Iraqis’,, 6 February 2005.
62: J Glazov, ‘Frontpage Interview: Christopher Hitchens’,, 10 December 2003.
63: C Hitchens, ‘A War to Be Proud of’, Weekly Standard 10.47, 5-12 September 2005.
64: A Shatz, ‘The Left and 9/11’, The Nation, 23 September 2002.
65: ‘An Interview with Christopher Hitchens (‘Moral and Political Collapse’ of the Left in the US)’,, 16 June 2005.
66: M Ludders, ‘Columnist Hitchens Lectures on Political Dissent’, The Kenyon Collegian, 18 November 2004.
67: C Hitchens, ‘Minority Report’, The Nation, 19 October 1992.
68: B S Klapper, ‘Red Cross calls for end to cluster bombs’, Associated Press, 6 November 2006.
69: D Filkins, ‘Testimony ties key officer to cover-up of Iraqi death’, New York Times, 25 June 2004.
70: M Hirsh and J Barry, ‘“The Salvador Option”: The Pentagon may put Special-Forces-led assassination or kidnapping teams in Iraq’, Newsweek, 14 January 2005.
71: ‘US “troubled” by Iraq abuse claim’, BBC News, 16 November 2005.
72: Annual Report Of The Inter-American Commission On Human Rights 1989-1990, Resolution No 26/89, Case No 179, El Salvador, 28 September 1989.
74: Debate at Baruch College, New York, hosted by Amy Goodman, 14 September 2005.
75: Epidemiologists in the press quoted extensively in ‘Burying the Lancet–Part 1’, Media Lens, 5 September 2005.
76: As above.
77: G Burnham, S Doocy, E Dzeng, R Lafta and L Roberts, ‘The Human Cost of War in Iraq: A Mortality Study 2002-2006’, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland and School of Medicine, Al Mustansir Mustansiriya University Baghdad, Iraq in cooperation with the Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts (; D Brown, ‘Study Claims Iraq’s “Excess” Death Toll Has Reached 655,000’, Washington Post, 11 October 2006.
78: N Geras, ‘Failure in Iraq’, Normblog, 15 October 2006.
79: N Geras, ‘Today in Falluja’, Normblog, 31 March 2004; N Geras, ‘Falluja 2’, Normblog, 2 April 2004; N Geras, ‘Falluja 3’, Normblog, 2 April 2004; N Geras, ‘Falluja 4’, Normblog, 4 April 2004.
80: D Aaronovitch, ‘So this is Free Baghdad’, Guardian, 9 April 2004.
81: D Aaronovitch, ‘It’s diplomacy, actually’, Observer, 18 April 2004.
82: D Aaronovitch, ‘Why I hate the madness of these conspiracy theories’, Observer, 21 November 2004.
83: W Shawcross, ‘Nurture the seeds of civil society in Iraq’, Financial Times, 5 April 2004.
84: W Shawcross, ‘We’re not Bush’s poodles: we’re fighting on the right side of history’, Times Online, 17 April 2004.
85: J Hari, ‘The use of chemical weapons in Fallujah: War crimes and silence’, 15 November 2005.
86: N Geras, ‘Out of Tune’, Normblog, 19 March 2005.
87: J Weintraub, ‘Some thoughts on the terrorist strategy of the Iraqi ‘insurgency’’, Normblog, 15 March 2005.
88: W Pincus, ‘CIA Studies Provide Glimpse of Insurgents in Iraq,’ Washington Post, 6 February 2005; M Schwartz, ‘Schwartz on Why the Military Is Failing in Iraq’, TomDispatch, 5 March 2005; You can consult the graphics at and M Junaid Alam, ‘Does the Resistance Target Civilians? According to US Intel, Not Really’, LeftHook, 16 April 2005; F Kaplan, ‘Western Targets: The Iraqi insurgency is still primarily an anti-occupation effort’, Slate, 9 February 2006; ‘Iraq violence: Facts and figures’, BBC, 17 August 2006; A S Hashim, Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Iraq (Cornell University Press, 2006); L Napoleoni, Insurgent Iraq: Al-Zarqawi and the New Generation (Constable & Robinson, 2005); Z Chehab, Iraq Ablaze: Inside the Insurgency (IB Tauris, 2006).
89: ‘New Poll Says Majority of Iraqis Approve of Attacks on US Forces: An Overwhelming Majority Think US Forces Are Provoking Conflict’, ABC News, 27 September 2006.
90: See briefing slides from military commanders boasting about propaganda successes, reprinted in ‘Leverage Xenophobia’, Washington Post, 10 April 2006. Among the tactics discussed are: ‘Eliminate Popular Support for a Potentially Sympathetic Insurgency; Deny Ability of Insurgency to “Take Root” Among the People’, and ‘Villainize Zarqawi/leverage xenophobic response’.
91: ‘Iraq violence: Facts and figures’, BBC News, 26 October 2006.
92: C Chassay, ‘Info war goes personal with voicemail and text message’, Guardian, 24 July 2006.
93: A Pfeffer, ‘IDF prepares for civil administration in Lebanon’, Jerusalem Post, 23 July 2006.
94: M Kalman, ‘Israel set war plan more than a year ago: Strategy was put in motion as Hizbollah began increasing its military strength’, San Francisco Chronicle, 21 July 2006.
95: L Ohrstrum, ‘Latest targets of air blitz: milk and medicine’, Lebanon Daily Star, 19 July 2006; ‘“Many dead” in Israeli raids’, ABC Australia News, 19 July 2006; ‘Israel pounds Lebanon again’, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 July 2006; E O’Loughlin, ‘Grim proof ordinary folk are dying in the killing zone’, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 July 2006.
96: R Fisk, ‘Lebanon’s pain grows by the hour as death toll hits 1,300’, Independent, 17 August 2006.
97: H Hendawi, ‘Day 22: Bloodiest Day for Israel…1 Million Displaced in Lebanon So Far…’, Associated Press, 3 August 2006.
98: ‘Statement by Ambassador Dan Gillerman, Permanent Representative during the open debate on “The Situation in the Middle East”’, United Nations Security Council, New York, 30 July 2006.
99: Human Rights Watch, ‘Fatal Strikes: Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon,’ vol 18, no 3(E) (August 2006), p3.
100: ‘Israeli soldiers use civilians as human shields in Beit Hanun’, B’Tselem, 20 July 2006.
101: M Walzer, ‘The Ethics of Battle: War Fair’, The New Republic, 31 July 2006.
102: N Geras, ‘The rights and wrongs of Israel’s military action’, Normblog, 26 July 2006.
103: N Cohen, ‘Once we believed in intervention. Now, to our shame, we turn away’, Observer, 23 July 2006.
104: C Hitchens, ‘The Politics of Sabotage’, Wall Street Journal, 18 July 2006.
105: ‘What We’re Fighting For: A Letter from America’, 13 February 2002:
106: A Johnson, ‘No One Left Behind: Euston and the renewal of Social Democracy’, Normblog, 1 June 2006.
107: J Herf et al, ‘American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto’, Euston Manifesto, 12 September 2006.
108: F Wheen, How Mumbo-jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions (Fourth Estate, 2004); T W Adorno and M Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment (Verso, 2002).
109: C Hitchens, ‘Against Rationalization: Minority Report’, The Nation, 8 October 2001; ‘“Don’t Cross Over if You Have Any Intention of Going Back”: Politics and Literature in the Mind of Christopher Hitchens’, The Common Review, vol 4, no 1 (2005).
110: E Garrard, ‘Lipstick and Enlightenment’, Normblog, 18 June 2006.
111: ‘Statement of Principles’, Euston Manifesto, 29 March 2006.
112: J Gray, ‘Ideas: Beyond good and evil’, New Statesman, 19 June 2006; J Gray, Two Faces of Liberalism (Polity, 2000).
113: M Amis, Experience: A Memoir (Vintage, 2000), pp256-265.
114: S Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason (Norton, 2004); S Harris, ‘In Defense of Torture’, The Huffington Post, 17 October 2005; ‘Sam Harris on The Reality of Islam’, Truthdig, 7 February 2006; S Harris, ‘Head-in-the-Sand Liberals: Western civilization really is at risk from Muslim extremists’, Los Angeles Times, 18 September 2006.
115: See, for instance, M S Christofferson, French Intellectuals Against the Left: The Antitotalitarian Moment of the 1970s (Berghahn Books, 2004).
116: A Powell, ‘Kouchner: Iraqi voices remain unheard: People are the silent players amid all the talk’, Harvard University Gazette, 20 March 2003.
117: J J Kirkpatrick, ‘Dictatorship and Double Standards’, Commentary Magazine, vol 68, no 5 (November 1979).
118: P Berman, Power and the Idealists (Soft Skull Press, 2005); H Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (Harvest Books, 1971). For a discussion of this, see D Losurdo, ‘Towards a Critique of the Category of Totalitarianism’, Historical Materialism 12.1 (April 2004).
119: J Lloyd, ‘How anti-Americanism betrays the left’, Observer, 17 March 2002.
120: N Geras, ‘Post-Marxism?’, New Left Review I/163 (May-June 1987).
121: C Hitchens, ‘How Neo-Conservatives Perish’, as above.
122: E Meiksins Wood, ‘Democracy as Ideology of Empire’ in Colin Mooers (ed), The New Imperialists: Ideologies of Empire (Oneworld, 2006).
123: For a discussion of this, see E Herring and G Rangwala, Iraq in Fragments: The Occupation And Its Legacy (Hurst, 2006).
124: See, for instance, C Hitchens, ‘Realism in Darfur: Consider the horrors of peace’, Slate, 7 November 2005; N Cohen, ‘How the UN lets genocidal states get away with murder’, Observer, 29 October 2006.
125: J Freedland, ‘How to stop Hotel Darfur’, Guardian, 30 March 2005.
126: D Clark, ‘Why both Blair and the left have been silent on Sudan’, Guardian, 2 July 2004.
127: T Gitlin, ‘More on Puncturing the SOTU Balloon’, TPM Café, 31 January 2006.
128: D Cheadle and J Prendergast, ‘“Never Again”–again’, USA Today, 31 January 2005.
129: See C Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic (Verso, 2004).