I’ve been putting this off, but it will be put off no longer. Disappointingly, the current Democratiya does not contain Marko Attila Hoare explaining how the Serbs sank the Titanic and kidnapped Lord Lucan, nor Oliver Kamm droning on about
his older brother’s penis the charlatan Chomsky and how he prevents our Ollie from being rightly recognised as the world’s most important intellectual. In the absence of the obvious targets, however, there are still a few zingers.
There is a letter about the repression of trade unionists in Iran. A worthy cause, but it’s notable that about the only time Democratiya shows any interest in the labour movement anywhere in the world is when you can bash Ahmadinejad.
Todd Gitlin writes a not entirely coherent piece on anti-Americanism, which somehow winds up with a denunciation of “Chomskyites” for opposing intervention in Bosnia, which apparently they saw as “an assault on decent socialists”. Not surprisingly, Gitlin does not quote Chomsky himself on Bosnia, because he couldn’t find anything approximating that.
One David Adler writes on Amitav Ghosh. Ghosh has of course written many interesting things about many subjects, but what interests Adler is Ghosh’s opposition to political Islam, which he can then use as a stick to beat Arundhati Roy, who is brought into the argument at a dubious tangent.
There is an extract from Barry Rubin’s new book on Syria. I don’t know if Rubin has been faithfully excerpted, but he seems to be arguing that Washington is straining every sinew to create a Palestinian state, and has been for two decades, only to be thwarted at every turn by the Assad regime. Why do I not find that convincing?
Irfan Khawaja writes on international law and war. His conclusion is that, for the good of all, international law should be ripped up. No, I tell a lie. International law should only apply to the Third World – the Empire should have a special dispensation to do whatever it pleases.
Gerard Alexander asks, Why aren’t we hearing all the good news from Iraqi Kurdistan?
Mark Gardner, press supremo for the Community Security Trust, writes on anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Not surprisingly for someone working at the CST, he believes British society is awash with anti-Semitism, as exemplified by hostility to the Israeli state. The best summary of this is in the old joke that the Engageniks are worried about anti-Semitism because it might lead to criticism of Israel. Gardner also sees something sinister in the SWP’s description of Israel as the US’s attack dog in the Middle East, and asks why the SWP protests the dog and not the master. Perhaps he’s missed all their anti-war activity. [Update 2.10.07: Mark is keen to point out (see comments below) that he is referring specifically to boycotts, and not to protests more generally. I still think the question is a loaded rhetorical one, and I don’t believe the SWP to be an anti-Semitic organisation, although I do think they could save themselves a lot of grief on this issue by being more subtle.]
Dave Rich, Gardner’s sidekick at the CST press office, reviews Ed Husain’s The Islamist. Bearing in mind that Husain hasn’t been involved in Islamist politics for a dozen years, and has spent most of that time outside Britain, we might wonder what Husain can tell us about present-day political Islam in Britain, even assuming that he’s being honest and accurate. Nonetheless, Rich (they couldn’t have got a tame Muslim to review this?) loves it, not least because Husain provides lots of ammo for anyone looking to
smite the enemies of the Jews call for the banning of Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the marginalisation of the MCB. This is really a slightly more sophisticated rehash of the Ratbiter column in Private Eye. All we need is a plug for the neocon farmhands of the fraudulent “Sufi Muslim Council” as representing “decent Muslims”.
Dan Erdman has a swipe at the American palaeoconservatives, a group who I rather prefer to the Decent Left. Dan writes, “The website antiwar.com is another popular outlet. The site’s title and amateurish design have led more than one confused commentator to mistake it for a left-wing site – an effect which may not be wholly unintentional – but the brains behind the operation belong to an old-right libertarian by the name of Justin Raimondo.” Nothing gets past Dan – I would never have guessed it myself, if Raimondo didn’t write a weekly column for antiwar.com. Michael Crick had better look to his laurels.
Evan Daniel calls for the Yanks to box smarter in their drive to overthrow the Cuban regime, considering that the embargo and Congressional funding for the ultra-right yo-yos in Miami may not be a good idea.
Tristan Stubbs writes on the slave trade, contrasting civilised Britain with barbaric Sudan. That’s for the benefit of anyone who thought Sudan wasn’t a repressive hellhole. Never mind, Tristan, wait till the next issue and Todd Gitlin will be claiming the “Chomskyites” support the Sudanese regime.
Jean Bethke Elshtain posthumously enlists Sidney Hook in support of the invasion of Iraq. Well, perhaps Hook in his dotage might have done so.
There is also a short review of Primo Levi, which doesn’t really fit with the rest of the journal but I assume is there for connoisseurs of Judaica. It’s not bad.
Finally, Alan (Not The Minister) Johnson conducts a rambling interview with Anne-Marie Slaughter about ethical foreign policy. The essential points are: America – yo! Genocidal dictators – boo! International law – maybe, as long as the Big Moral Empire still gets to be the enforcer of values. Armed intervention – can we get back to talking about high-flown values?
And that’s the house journal of Decency for this quarter. We read it, so you don’t have to.
More from Aaro Watch on the Scoopies’ turn at the Labour conference.
Update 30.9.07: Barry Rubin points out to me that of course Washington was opposed to the idea of a Palestinian state before 1993, and the failure of the Oslo process had other causes than the Damascus regime. I look forward to reading his book, which no doubt will have more nuances than I picked up from the extract.