Thursday, 21 February 2008

Proud to Be a 'Stopper'

If you haven't come across John Rentoul before, he's the chief political commentator for 'The Independent on Sunday', author of the first biography of Tony Blair and was an ultra-loyal courtier in defence of the former Prime Minister, not least in the internecine warfare with Gordon Brown. Last Friday he was at it again, writing on Blair's suitability for the new post of president of the European Council. Sniping within New Labour usually bores me, but I couldn't help noticing that Rentoul has coined a new insult - the 'stopper'.

He describes stoppers as people, "named by the pro-war left of Harry's Place and the Euston Manifesto, who want to stop the war, stop globalisation, stop the world, stop Blair... These are the people whose only foreign policy over the past six years has been not to intervene in Iraq and to refuse to accept the possibility that this might have had adverse consequences. They exist all over the world.."

They do indeed. It's been hard for the so called muscular liberals (lets not pretend they can ever again be described as part of the 'Left'). They simply refuse to accept that Iraq has been anything but an unmitigating disaster and that outside of the political elites, Blair is loathed by millions of people, not least in the Middle East. All they have to cling onto is an argument that failing to invade Iraq might have had "adverse consequences", as though the actual consequences have been wholly positive. But at least, they sneer, their side had a foreign policy, rather than just being against everything - even if that policy has been an abject failure.

It's nonsense of course, another example of the Blairite impulse to be seen to be taking action rather than having a world-view. And coming from a 'chief political commentator, it's surprisingly apolitical.

Politics, as a study of power, is about taking sides. For the (thoughtful) Left, it also means taking sides alongside those without power against those who do. Inevitably, in a world controlled by a tiny minority who control military and economic power, much of our time will be spent reacting to the actions of the powerful. It's not as though we have much choice - the only alternative is to do and say nothing. So we want to stop the exercise of America's imperial might and to prevent the obsequiousness of our government in acting as its cheerleader. We want to stop the brutal and devastating impact of capitalism's global mission. We are 'stoppers' - and we wouldn't have it any other way.

And it's not as though our opposition doesn't take sides too. Commentators like Rentoul would rather we forget that Saddam was a creation of the West, funded by the US and Europe to act as a bulwark against the theocractic regime in Iran, the source of some much venom from muscular liberals but itself a creation of Western support for the the corrupt dictatorship of the Shah. They selectively ignore, too, that the foreign policy they advocate continues a long process, set out brilliantly in Robert Fisk's book The Great War for Civilisation, of acting as midwife to everything from al-Qaida to increased support for Islamists like Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah.

The problem for the pro-war camp is that when they came to make choices about which side to back, they were so caught up in the wave of hysteria after 11 September 2001 that they had a 'Diana-moment'. Reason, defended so vigorously by the likes of Christopher Hitchens, went out of the window. There can be no other explanation for backing a war based on what they must have known were shameless lies, with an absolute refusal to accept the possibility that this might have had adverse consequences on their credibility. All they are left with now is railing against the growth of religiosity that is a direct result of the fatal, immoral decisions they backed in 2002 and 2003.

I think that secretly, this keeps Rentoul and his kind awake at night. What really bothers them is that history will not vindicate them, that Blair will be remembered not as a suitable candidate for president of the European Council but as a potential candidate for a war crimes court, and that our side won the argument.

Face it, John, the stoppers won. When we marched back in February 2003, we were right and you were still too upset by 9/11 to think straight.

But now there are millions more of us stoppers.And we not buying the crap you try and spoon feed us ever again...

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