Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Too late, it was, too late . . .

Better late than never? No. There are episodes of history when speaking out too late is just—too late. This is an example of one of them:

“. . .the foundation for solidarity between peoples and nations should be based not on who we are against, but on the idea of who we are and the values we share. Terrorists succeed when they render countries fearful and vindictive; when they sow division and animosity; when they force countries to respond with violence and repression. The best response is to refuse to be cowed.”

Why did no British minister say this, obvious to so very many of us, historians or not, European ministers or not, long before January 2009? Why should it only be said now, after another 'vindictive' attack by another 'fearful' country?

Because Blair, in his love affair with the US and Bush, would not, presumably, permit it amidst all the control-freakery for which his government became notorious.

And why did Blair so willingly subsume himself to the American Neocon war agenda? It puzzled a great many people eight years ago after it suddenly dawned on everyone that justifiable and explicable sympathy was about to develop into support and assistance for war.

People have searched for complex psychological and political reasons. I, too have worked my way through many of them, including one of the most obvious: that if military support for the US’s intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq was not forthcoming, then neither would the (American) replacement of Britain’s nuclear deterrent. Blackmail, after all, is in every country’s foreign policy arsenal, and for all its self-vaunted altruism, the US uses it against both its enemies and its allies.

If that is part of the explanation for engagement in wars that cost a Prime Minister his popularity, respect and finally his job, we shall not know for at least fifty more years, or probably a hundred, until a curator at Kew unties the red ribbon from the cardboard archive boxes. Or unless, of course, some forgotten carelessly unerased email between some Pentagon official to another in the State Department surfaces unexpectedly before that through a tangential Freedom of Information request.

I think there is a simpler, even banal, explanation. Some people, of little consequence in themselves, or of little talent, or eager to inflate it, seem to have a desperate need to associate themselves, however slightly, with those who are famous. I mean famous for more than fifteen minutes or for being in Big Brother.

I knew a young man like that. A newly graduated pyschologist, of all things, he would insinuate himself at every event he could find to be photographed within arm’s reach of some celebrity. He had the plausibility of the true conman: he could get through a cordon I would have had difficulty penetrating with a Scotland-Yard-issued press pass. He did it often, I think, not just to gratify his own desire, bolster his ego, but also, just like the schoolboy his behaviour resembled, to look big to his girlfriend.

The whole tenure of New Labour in Downing Street had Blair and the Blairites desperate to consort with the rich and famous. Footballers, rock stars, Indian industrialists. But anyone, if they are as persistent as that psychologist, can be photographed with them. But to be photographed with the ‘most powerful man in the world’? To appear to be his friend and confidant? ‘My’ psychologist would have creamed his jeans at the mere thought. That is the summit of the fame-seeker’s desire.

And that, I suspect, is all that led us into this disastrous ‘war on terror’. It was incidental to a politician's vanity and the furtherance of his self-image. And that is why it is very, very, late to say what Miliband* has said now.

*David Miliband's full article in the Guardian.

1 comment:

dceilar said...

Agreed. A wee bit too late for the thousand or so civilians murdered by the IDF.

Found this on John Pilger's website which you may be interested in (apoligies if you have already seen).