Friday, 27 November 2009

The Denial of Legitimacy by the Forces of Democracy

The United Kingdom's representative to the United Nations is a very different kind of clever from the ambassador in Washington. And as he pointed out, what goes on in New York is also very different from what goes on in Washington. Washington is driven by its own agendas and, to a lesser extent, by its need to explain itself to its wider domestic audience. He also pointed out, from the off, that the first question, Usha Prashar was leading the questioning this morning, was excluding the long run to 20o1/2002 from where she was starting. She may have started, but after the break the chairman took over. He asked the crucial question:

When the Prime minister's foreign affairs adviser took his bundle of instructions, his 'secret' instructions from Downing Street to the ambassador in Washington, before the meeting between Bush and Blair at Bush's Crawford ranch, was the representative at the United Nations copied in? In any way informed?


In a single word everything that has been heard so far on the dual foreign policy, the first being run from the UK Government openly and normally, and the other from the Blair cabal in Downing Street determinedly secret, is confirmed. The activity in the United Nations, the publicly practised diplomacy in support of the publicly diffused and understood foreign policy of the United Kingdom was not, however, merely a Potemkin operation.

Iraq's fate was sealed, it was to be invaded and laid waste, but at least the good fight for the legitimate democratic sanctioning of international action, that could only emanate from the United Nations, was going to be put up. Parts of the US Administration had decided to invade Iraq, supported by parts of the UK government, but they would be, and were, denied legitimacy even if their acts of war were (barely) legal. The democrats fighting for UN sanction of the use of force were aided by the people of the United States, that wider domestic audience spoken of at the opening of the session, whose expectation that international legitimacy be conferred on acts of force by any part of their government forced at least Bush to try for United Nations acquiescence.

The majority of the Security Council, even the majority of its permanent members had no intention of granting any such thing. They wanted Saddam to conform to the UN resolutions on ceasing rearmament and developing chemical and biological WMD (nuclear WMD were no longer credible, as Lawrence Freedman had noted), and they wanted smarter sanctions, real co-operation with UN inspectors, and a route for Iraq to emerge from the sanctions/inspection regime as soon as the UN was satisfied. They also wanted something else.

As the witness stated when invited to add anything the questioning had not covered: the United Nations is a good international institution of reasonable people; a forum where a good argument based on evidenced facts will receive a decent hearing and where there is a quick recognition of any other kind of argument and pressure and an appropriate reaction to it. [This is a paraphrase; go to the transcripts for the actual words, the witness's words are worth their weight in gold, every one of them.] The United Nations was asserting its claim to control not just Saddam, but the United States in a policy imposed by a part of the US Administration, too. The opposition from France, Germany, Russia, and China was whole-hearted, ie no dual policies from different factions within their administrations was displayed. Bulgaria, Aznar's Spain, stood with the invade Iraq sector of the US administration, as did Blair's Britain.

To its eternal credit some parts of our country's government fought on, not just for the people of Iraq and against the horror that engulfed them, but for our democracy as well and against what was engulfing us.


Odin's Raven said...

There's nothing new about a difference between the publically advanced arguments of a democracy and the private words of its leaders.

The hard words of the Athenians to the Melians are always relevant.

At least Bush and Blair didn't kill all the men and enslave all the women and children of Iraq, replacing them with their own colonists.

hatfield girl said...

I've never felt completely happy with comparisons of our modern democracies with the Greeks They weren't the model; our democracies were produced post enlightenment and from a constant interaction between pressure for a fair society and resistance by privilege under conditions of rapid technological change. Apart from these differences our study of earlier models of democracy are highly coloured by what we are looking for and want to argue. In our democracy public words - manifestos - are supposed to be pursued, even if by means that are not at all times public. We vote for programmes, not people except insofar as we judge particuar people to be honest and competent to deliver the programmes we choose.

Certainly Bush and Blair didn't institute a version of the Plantation, they reduced Iraq modern society to smithereens and took control of Iraqi wealth.

Odin's Raven said...

Ah yes, manifesto promises - like the referendum on the EU that was promised by the current government, but won't be permitted by them or their successors!

hatfield girl said...

Precisely Raven; three manifestos promising. Labour won and Labour denied its own electoral platform. Not the Conservatives - Labour. At any future election those who now wish to have a referendum on withdrawal from the European Union, Lisbon being under the bridge, should vote for the party offering one.

I want a referendum on whether the UK withdraw from the EU. And I would vote yes. Others might want a referendum and vote for remaining within the Union. But any party at any coming general election that does not offer such a vote as a binding policy choice is not being serious about democracy.

Odin's Raven said...

Parties not serious about democracy?
It seems we are entering the post-democratic era. An era wherein lip service continues to paid to the pieties of the past, but the politicians are really most interested in their own economic and social advancement. The expenses scandal and the failure to anything substantial about it revealed their naked hypocrisy and greed. Despite the alleged devotion to democracy we are increasingly ruled by the un-elected and the unspeakable. The Prince of Darkness, like some demonic anti-Christ, rises from his political tomb for the third time in order to become Lord of All and grant some semblance of life to a zombie government. A communist nobody becomes Britain's representative in the EU and its foreign minister. EU laws supercede those of Britain. The Political Class and their media shills assert their right to rule - at our expense - and to limit what may be said or done, via a cancerous set of bureaucracies and control of a media which has replaced organised religion - and relentlessly promotes it's fantasies such as man-made global warming even after it has been exposed as a scientific fraud and political scam. Parliamentary seats are gerrymanded so that only a few are marginal without a massive swing. The electoral process is becoming corrupt, with strong suspicion of postal voting fraud. The electoral register goes missing at Glenrothes after a surprising result and nobody influential cares, whilst the public slumbers. We're getting to the Stalinist attitude to voting. There's little difference between the main parties, and it's carefully kept that way, whilst the Bugginses clamour for a turn at the trough administering the public like a herd of animals in accordance with the wishes of their owners.
Just as the British Constitution retains ceremonial aspects from times of monarchical power, and aristocratic and mercantile influence, so the popular voting shibboleth of democracy could and probably will be enshrined in all this ceremony - but those running things for those who really matter will quietly ensure that the right results are obtained and the right people elected and the right laws and policies implemented; regardless of the flummery which gives the diminishing percentage of the public who care a false impression of choice and influence. Welcome to post-modern, post-democratic post-Britain.

Elby The Beserk said...

Found this on another blog, can't remember which, so a hat tip to an unknown blog.

From "Screwtape Proposes A Toast"

"Hidden in the heart of this striving for Liberty there was also a deep hatred of personal freedom. That invaluable man Rousseau first revealed it. In his perfect democracy, you remember, only the state religion is permitted, slavery is restored, and the individual is told that he has really willed (though he didn't know it) whatever the Government tells him to do. From that starting point, via Hegel (another indispensable propangandist on our side) we easily contrived both the Nazi and the Communist state. Even in England we were pretty successful. I heard the other day that in that country a man could not, without a permit, cut down his own tree with his own axe, make it into planks with his own saw, and use the planks to build a tool-shed in his own garden.

"Democracy is the word with which you must lead them by the nose. The good work which our philological experts have already done in the corruption of human language makes it unnecessary to warn you that they should never be allowed to give this word a clear and definable meaning. They won't. It will never occur to them that Democracy is properly the name of a political system, even a system of voting, and that this has only the remote and tenuous connection with what you are trying to sell them. Nor of course, must they ever be allowed to raise Aristotle's question: whether 'democratic behaviour' means the behaviour that democracies like or the behaviour that will preserve a democracy. For if they did, it could hardly fail to occur to them that these need not be the same.

"You then make a stealthy transition in their minds from this political ideal [that men should be equally treated] to a factual belief that all men are equal.

"The feeling I mean is of course that which prompts a man to say I'm as good as you.

"No man who says I'm as good as you believes it. He would not say it if he did.

"Yes, and therefore resents every kind of superiority in others; denigrates it; wishes its annihilation. Presently he suspects every mere difference of being a claim to superiority. No one must be different from himself in voice, clothes, manners, recreations, choice of food.

"Under the name of Envy it has been known to the humans for thousands of years. But hitherto they always regarded it as the most odious, and also the most comical, of vices.

"The delightful novelty of the present situation is that you can sanction it - make it respectable and even laudable - by the incantatory use of the word democratic.

"Under the influence of this incantation those who are in any or every way inferior can labour more wholeheartedly and successfully than ever before to pull down everyone else to their own level. But that is not all. Under the same influence, those who come, or could come, nearer to a full humanity, actually draw back from it for fear of being undemocratic.

"Meanwhile, as a delightful by-product, the few (fewer every day) who will not be made Normal and Regular and Like Folks and Integrated, increasingly tend to become in reality the prigs and cranks which the rabble would in any case have believed them to be. For suspicion often creates what it suspects.

"As a result we now have an intelligentsia which, though very small, is very useful to the cause of Hell.

"But that is a mere by-product. What I want to fix your attention on is the vast, overall movement towards the discrediting, and finally the elimination, of every kind of human excellence - moral, cultural, social, or intellectual. And it is not pretty to notice how Democracy (in the incantatory sense) is now doing for us the work that was once done by the most ancient Dictatorships, and by the same methods?