Saturday, December 22, 2007

Rubble barney

The Euston Manifesto (April 2006):

We are also united in the view that, since the day on which this occurred, the proper concern of genuine liberals and members of the Left should have been the battle to put in place in Iraq a democratic political order and to rebuild the country's infrastructure, to create after decades of the most brutal oppression a life for Iraqis which those living in democratic countries take for granted—rather than picking through the rubble of the arguments over intervention.

Norman Geras (December 2007):

All the wise souls, so many liberals amongst them, who wilfully misconstrue what Blair has said on this score reveal only their own failure to accept that there might have been reasons on the other side from the one they took.


A useful project for insomniacs or obsessives might be to count the number of posts on Normblog devoted to "picking through the rubble" in the time since the good Professor injuncted the world that this was not a "proper concern".

25 Comments:

Blogger Martin Wisse said...

But then you'll only be reminded of how much of a grade a nimrod and wanker the dear old professor is and why waste precious time on him?

12/22/2007 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I don't think there can be any moral equivalence between Professor Geras and the apologists for barbarism who try to hold him to their diminished standards...

12/22/2007 01:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

It *is*, of course, a proper concern of Norman Geras to ensure Norman Geras retains the moral high ground and can thus carry on posting blog articles in that haughty condescending tone of his, and it's much easier to do that with reference to articles that have appeared in the Guardian's op-ed page than with reference to events that have taken place in the real world.

And of course, reading Geras's blog, no-one could possibly get the impression that he holds a bitter intolerance of opinions contrary to his own.

12/22/2007 03:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman Geras (suggest leave the out the patronising "Professor") is a big disappointment to those who admired his work in his New Left Review days, combatting Althusserian terrorism. Now he seems stuck in a set of grooves: critique of The Guardian middle pages, cricket memories, Country & Western lyrics, Manchester United, Jane Austen, now and then a movie, the very occasional ritual and tight-lipped condemnation of US or Israeli excesses when they become completely indefensible, and increasingly unconvincing solidarity with Nick Cohen, Oliver Kamm, Christopher Hitchens. If challenged he retreats into "you are free not to read me". As for philosophy, he illustrates the poverty of it: stuck in the moral conundrums with really no attempt to grasp what actually happens in this world. Close the blog down for a year and go on a world tour: please do, Norman!

K

12/22/2007 03:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Chris Baldwin said...

What is Althusserian terrorism?

12/22/2007 06:24:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Well, Althusser's missus might have been able to think of an example.

12/22/2007 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger Malky Muscular said...

Totally off topic, but I'm totally redundant - HP has now started satirising itself.

http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/archives/2007/12/22/antiimperialism_no_laughing_matter.php

Perhaps they hate my stuff so much, they now feel compelled to write it themselves. Honestly, how am I supposed to compete with that?

P.S. I reckon this is a damning piece of evidence that Decency is just American right-wing Culture War with a British face. Surely it can't be long before someone starts attacking Clinton for being blown...

...Oh, I forgot - Hitchens already did that.

12/22/2007 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Remarkable. I wasn't aware the far-left had made such inroads into hedge funds.

12/22/2007 07:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow - what a stunning "gotcha". You sure showed Norm Geras a thing or two.

What's disturbing about this particular post and its comments is not so much the abysmal reasoning of the premise (Geras' blogpost is not, in fact, contradictory to the Euston Manifesto quote)

It's the fact that not a single second's thought has been given to the subject of Geras' post. Just the fact that Geras wrote about people "wilfully misconstruing what Blair has said..." was enough for him to be damned.

You do realise that you've all behaved exactly as predicted? That you've all "revealed... own failure to accept there might be reasons on the other side"...

Pretty ugly stuff, guys.

12/22/2007 08:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Couldn't read the link, but if you meant ""Anti-imperialism" - no laughing matter", I think it's a sign of too much Christmas cheer, he needs to sober up a bit. I've heard more coherent rants in my local saloon bar.

"And another thing ..."

12/22/2007 09:24:00 PM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

Yes, well we've had to put up with nearly two years of self-pitying whining now, about how people aren't generous enough to see how he might have had his reasons, interspersed with endless bile and vicious misrepresentation of those who actually opposed the war he now concedes was a disaster.

12/22/2007 09:28:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

HP has now started satirising itself...

Only just started?

12/22/2007 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

You do realise that you've all behaved exactly as predicted?

I'm as yet unpersuaded that this behaviour could reliably have been foreseen.

12/23/2007 12:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, well we've had to put up with nearly two years of self-pitying whining now, about how people aren't generous enough to see how he might have had his reasons, interspersed with endless bile and vicious misrepresentation of those who actually opposed the war he now concedes was a disaster.

Is this a justification or an explanation?

Do you really not see how ugly this stuff is?

12/23/2007 01:17:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I don't see a name attached to the question, which is a minimum for taking the question seriously.

12/23/2007 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

OK Anon, I hope this is the result of more than "a single second's thought ... given to the subject of Geras' post".

Others, likewise, make much of the fact that Blair sometimes says he did what he thought was right. The scandal!

Well, yes, but since everyone does what they think is right, it's a trivial reason and one would expect better from a leader (as Blair styles himself) in a democracy. Anyway, the phrase people like myself make hay with is I only know what I believe. He continued:

There are two views of what is happening in the world today.
One view is that there are isolated individuals, extremists, engaged in essentially isolated acts of terrorism.
That what is happening is not qualitatively different from the terrorism we have always lived with.
If you believe this, we carry on the same path as before 11th September.
We try not to provoke them and hope in time they will wither.
The other view is that this is a wholly new phenomenon, worldwide global terrorism based on a perversion of the true, peaceful and honourable faith of Islam; ...


I believe that the only unique thing about 9/11 was that it was televised. Why didn't the al-Qaeda bomb in the WTC in 1993 qualify as a signifier of "worldwide global terrorism based on a perversion of the true, peaceful and honourable faith of Islam"? Same people, same target, same intent.

I like the idea that terrorism from Islam is worse than other kinds - how nice of Tone to get Keith Vaz off the hook.

But I digress. Blair's reasons for going to war in Iraq, and specifically ignoring the UN have never been convincing. The Onion correctly called the Iraq War when Bush was elected. The reasons given at the time still read like excuses rather than arguments. I know what Blair and Bush said at the time; like everyone else, I followed the debates. I know Blair gave reasons, they never seemed to adequately answer the objections of Robin Cook or Hans Blix, and nothing anyone can say will convince me that the post-war reconstruction was thought out, when that was the ostensible reason for the whole affair. The US made a much better job in Germany in 1945 after a war it entered out of self-interest rather than spreading democracy. Professor Geras has conveniently forgotten the whole 'dodgy dossier' debacle. As someone wise (probably D2) said (I have to paraphrase because I can't find the original) "If you have a good reason for doing something, you don't need to trawl the internets for a 10 year old PhD thesis in search of bad ones."

12/23/2007 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

Ugly? We haven't even started adumbrating yet!

12/23/2007 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Being rude to Norman: ugly. A pile of 600,000 dead Iraqis: objectively something or other.

Why don't they like us, Hermann?

12/23/2007 01:13:00 PM  
Anonymous bruschettaboy said...

you wanna see ugly, Marko? (from now on, I am going to call all anonymous drivebys "Marko", particularly if they copy his writing style). Let's look at what Professor Emeritus Norman Geras' actual reasons for a) not opposing the Iraq War and b) not wanting anyone to "pick over the rubble".

Basically, it's political vanity. In so many words, in the post where he originally gave up the ghost, he said that although the Iraq War was a great big megadeath-causing disaster, he still would merely have abstained from giving it the wholehearted support he gave, because he felt that the actual opposition of those who got it right was unseemly in its implicit support of the status quo.

So in other words, let a million people die, the important thing is that nobody ever be able to accuse Professor Emeritus Norman Geras of having been on the same march as some people who supported Saddam Hussein. Similarly, let Fallujah be reduced to ashes, let the women of Basra be forced into burkhas, but as long as there is a single MAB placard in Hyde Park, the beautiful souls of the Decent Left must stay at home.

All the responsibility for Norm and the gang being on the wrong side of history between 2003 and the present day, naturally, belongs with "the liberal left", who "allowed themselves to be led by George Galloway", rather than organising the imaginary march of Ian McEwan's mind, where the COuntryside Alliance shambled sadly down the Mall with banners containing a thousand clauses of Will-You-COndemn-A-Thon followed by a tiny postscript saying "On balance therefore, we find ourselves unable to support this war". We're meant to believe that if only we'd been more Decent and organised such a march, Norm et all would have been right behind us, rather than finding yet another bullshit excuse to join what at the time they believed to be the winning team. Shall we say that history does not really provide much evidence for this point of view?

Strangely, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle don't emanate this peculiar kind of moral pollution - you can invite them to address your Society and still remain opposed to bombing Iran, or to US adventurism more generally.

That's what the rubble looks like mate. That's what "engaging with the arguments" looks like and it is no surprise that Norman Geras would rather people didn't do it, because the results look decidedly more ugly than if we just ignored this crap and threw insults.

It's a common howler that "Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa" means "I have sinned". It actually means "through my error, through my greatest of errors". The lack of a mea culpa from the Decent Left in this sense is much more irritating than the lack of any contrition about the fact that they were, in fact, wrong.

12/23/2007 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope this is the result of more than "a single second's thought ... given to the subject of Geras' post"... Well, yes, but since everyone does what they think is right, it's a trivial reason and one would expect better from a leader

But the subject of Geras' post was the wilfull misrepresentation of Blair's reasons for going to war - specifically, A C Grayling's tired and obvious sneer about Blair's faith.

I suppose the point or, rather, the question, is - Do you agree or disgree with Norm's point or is it irrelevant as Norm's no longer permitted to make such observations?

It's interesting that your reply amounts to an explanation of your opposition to Blair's reasons for going to war. This was never the issue (in this thread).

Norm wasn't defending Blair's arguments - he was simply pointing out that some people willfully misconstrue what Blair actually said. Isn't this the case?

And if it is - isn't it wrong?


I believe that the only unique thing about 9/11 was that it was televised.

Well the use of passenger jets as missiles was unique, but your point is taken. It's also pedantic to the point of absurdity.

Did you really watch the events unfold and think "You know - so what? This isn't really that big a deal. Business as usual"

No, of course not. You were, like everyone else, shitting yourself because, suddenly, anything was possible; everyone and everywhere was a target; and no one knew what the US might do in response.

In that sense, September 11th was unique - it demanded a longterm response. Shrugging your shoulders because it's 2 years later and it's about Iraq isn't a good enough reason for pretending that Sept 11 wasn't all that big a deal.

You can disagree with Blair's longterm response; disagree with Iraq's place in that response - but to deny that Sept 11 demanded a major shift in attitudes and policy is head in the sand stuff.

I know Blair gave reasons, they never seemed to adequately answer the objections of Robin Cook or Hans Blix,

Again - the issue is not whether you know Blair gave reasons. No one's asked you to explain yourself on that score (in this thread).

The issue is about those people who DON'T address the actual argument and, instead, wilfully misconstrue other people's words.

You should, if anything, agree with Geras on this point as it's people like Grayling who undermine the anti-war argument by appearing afraid of the actual debate.

12/31/2007 02:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blair's reason for going to war on 18th March 2003 was that he knew that Iraq had WMD. When it turned out that this was untrue Blair said that it didn't matter because Saddam had been removed. Since then it has become clear that the removal of Saddam has turned Iraq into a failed state. So the UK and the USA ignored international law and have turned Iraq into a chaotic failed state where hundreds of thousands of people have died. Despite the enormity of what has been done in our name, Blair gets TV air time to say that he thought that he did the right thing and this is greeted with polite silence.

Perhaps Grayling misconstrued what Blair said (if someone tells me where I can read this I will judge that for myself). However it does seem to be nitpicking compared to the general acceptance by our political class of Blair's lame excuses.

12/31/2007 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blair's reason for going to war on 18th March 2003 was that he knew that Iraq had WMD. When it turned out that this was untrue Blair said that it didn't matter because Saddam had been removed.

But of course this isn't exactly true. Blair's case for regime change in Iraq was made as early as 1999 and was always part of his overall case in the lead up to the war itself.

To represent Blair's reasoning as changing (and, therefore, not in good faith) after the fact is simply false.

This is the point. Why on earth do you have to misrepresent the facts? You can argue there was not enough evidence of WMD to justify war. You can argue that removing Saddam was not a justification for war.

But why pretend Blair's reasonings were not in good faith? Why lie? It's bizarre.

12/31/2007 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you wanna see ugly, Marko? (from now on, I am going to call all anonymous drivebys "Marko", particularly if they copy his writing style).

I'm not Marko Hoare. Anyway, doesn't he post under his own name?

I just can't be bothered with my Blogger Id.

Let's look at what Professor Emeritus Norman Geras' actual reasons for a) not opposing the Iraq War and b) not wanting anyone to "pick over the rubble".

Fine. But I don't see what any of it has to do with Norm's post about wilfully misconstruing people's words.

That's what the rubble looks like mate. That's what "engaging with the arguments" looks like and it is no surprise that Norman Geras would rather people didn't do it, because the results look decidedly more ugly than if we just ignored this crap and threw insults.

You're quite bitter aren't you?

Another possibility is that you don't want to engage with arguments on the way forward because, like the Iraq war, you don't have an argument (alternative) to present.

Maybe that's why the Euston Manifesto gets quoted and attributed to just one of its authors in a rather strange attempt to make Norm Geras look hypocritical.

12/31/2007 05:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Do you agree or disgree with Norm's point or is it irrelevant as Norm's no longer permitted to make such observations?

You've worked your way back round to the actual point of the post, which was that Norm and friends had very publicly disdained any discussion of the arguments over intervention - which includes engaging with opponents of intervention. A Eustonian response to Grayling would have been to ignore him completely, in favour of a continuing discussion of the battle to put in place in Iraq a democratic political order and to rebuild the country's infrastructure.

Show me a Eustonaut who has written more words, over the last couple of years, about the reconstruction of Iraq than about the arguments over intervention, and I'll show you someone who's not a hypocrite.

1/01/2008 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

To represent Blair's reasoning as changing (and, therefore, not in good faith) after the fact is simply false.

Er, no it isn't. He claimed it was about WMDs. There were no WMDs and there were no good reasons to think that there were. And when the claims become impossible to sustain, he simply stopped talking about them and shifted the emphasis on to something else entirely. This is not the conduct of a man of honesty and candour.

Why pretend Blair's reasonings weren't in good faith? Well I dunno, why call an enormous liar a liar? Why indeed?

You were, like everyone else, shitting yourself because, suddenly, anything was possible; everyone and everywhere was a target

"Like everyone else"? "Shitting yourself"? I certainly wasn't and I don't know anybody else who was. This was not because I thought it was business as usual, but because I am not an hysteric. Perhaps it is for this reason that I am able to argue rationally and under an identifiable name. Why not give it a go?

1/02/2008 03:50:00 PM  

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