From Austin Bay .
Writer Nick Cohen:
At leftish meetings in the late Eighties, I heard that Iraq encapsulated all the loathsome hypocrisy of the supposedly ‘democratic’ West. Here was a blighted land ruled by a terrible regime that followed the example of the European dictatorships of the Thirties. And what did the supposed champions of democracy and human rights in Western governments do? Supported Saddam, that’s what they did; sold him arms and covered up his crimes. Fiery socialist MPs denounced Baathism, while playwrights and poets stained the pages of the liberal press with their tears for his victims. Many quoted the words of a brave Iraqi exile called Kanan Makiya. He became a hero of the left because he broke through the previously impenetrable secrecy that covered totalitarian Iraq and described in awful detail how an entire population was compelled to inform on their family and friends or face the consequences. All decent people who wanted to convict the West of subscribing to murderous double standards could justifi ably use his work as evidence for the prosecution.
The apparently sincere commitment to help Iraqis vanished the moment Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and became America’s enemy. At the time, I didn’t think about where the left was going. I could denounce the hypocrisy of a West which made excuses for Saddam one minute and called him a ‘new Hitler’ the next, but I didn’t dwell on the equal and opposite hypocrisy of a left which called Saddam a ‘new Hitler’ one minute and excused him the next
Why is it that apologies for a militant Islam which stands for everything the liberal left is against come from the liberal left? Why will students hear a leftish postmodern theorist defend the exploitation of women in traditional cultures but not a crusty conservative don? After the American and British wars in Bosnia and Kosovo against Slobodan Milosevic’s ethnic cleansers, why were men and women of the left denying the existence of Serb concentration camps? As important, why did a European Union that daily announces its commitment to the liberal principles of human rights and international law do nothing as crimes against humanity took place just over its borders? Why is Palestine a cause for the liberal left, but not China, Sudan, Zimbabwe, the Congo or North Korea? Why, even in the case of Palestine, can’t those who say they support the Palestinian cause tell you what type of Palestine they would like to see? After the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington why were you as likely to read that a sinister conspiracy of Jews controlled American or British foreign policy in a superior literary journal as in a neo-Nazi hate sheet? And why after the 7/7 attacks on London did leftish rather than right-wing newspapers run pieces excusing suicide bombers who were inspired by a psychopathic theology from the ultra-right?
In short, why is the world upside down? In the past conservatives made excuses for fascism because they mistakenly saw it as a continuation of their democratic rightwing ideas. Now, overwhelmingly and every where, liberals and leftists are far more likely than conservatives to excuse fascistic governments and movements, with the exception of their native far-right parties. As long as local racists are white, they have no difficulty in opposing them in a manner that would have been recognisable to the traditional left. But give them a foreign far-right movement that is anti-Western and they treat it as at best a distraction and at worst an ally.
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