31August2014

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WALKING OVER CORPSES

The New Statesman And The Guardian On Voting Labour


Writing in the New Statesman last month, John Pilger made the point that matters:
“By voting for Blair, you will walk over the corpses of at least 100,000 people, most of them innocent women and children and the elderly, slaughtered by rapacious forces sent by Blair and Bush, unprovoked and in defiance of international law, to a defenceless country.” (Pilger, ‘By voting for Blair, you will walk over the corpses of at least 100,000 people,’ New Statesman, April 25, 2005)

In the same magazine this week, at the far left of the mainstream media spectrum, the New Statesman editor declares that despite “Mr Blair's prosecution of a murderous, illegal war” two considerations “compel a Labour vote on 5 May“. Not a strategic vote, notice, not a vote to rein in and punish Blair without empowering the Tories - we are compelled simply to vote Labour.

The reasons? First, Michael Howard's campaign “deserves to fail, and fail miserably” because it made racist propaganda the central platform of a party campaign:

"‘Are you thinking what we're thinking?’ invited the response ‘Yes, let's send them home‘, the ‘them’ being sufficiently vague to encompass almost anybody with a dark skin or a foreign accent. A few weeks ago, a small rise in Tory seats and votes may have seemed tolerable. Not so now.” (Leader, ‘Whatever you do, make sure Howard fails,’ New Statesman, May 2, 2005)

A vote for Labour - with its leader up to his neck in the blood of 100,000 Iraqis - is compelled because the Tories have waged a wretched, racist campaign. We should vote for a war criminal because the campaign conducted by the ostensible opposition is immoral and deserves to fail. The argument merits no further comment.

Second, “Labour's commitment to beating poverty and improving public services demands support”. Health and education were starved of investment for 18 years, almost destroying them, “a Tory restoration now would surely destroy them for good“.

Even taking Labour’s “commitment to beating poverty” seriously, the New Statesman’s argument will presumably also apply if Blair goes on to rain cruise missiles and cluster bombs on Iran, Syria and North Korea.

What if US-UK firepower leaves a further 100,000, 200,000 or 300,000 corpses decomposing in Tehran or Damascus, with perhaps a further million victims mutilated and traumatised - will the New Statesman again urge votes for those responsible in the name of our improved public services?

And what of the eloquently observed point in Harold Pinter’s Gulf War poem American Football:

“It works.
We blew the shit out of them.
They suffocated in their own shit!

Hallelujah.
Praise the Lord for all good things.

We blew them into fucking shit.
They are eating it.”? (Pinter, American Football, Various Voices, Faber and Faber, 1998, p.157)

If we teach another Third World people to eat its own shit, will the New Statesman again urge us to vote for their tutors in the name of improved education standards at home? Is this what morality has come to mean? Is this what passes for progressive debate in our country?

In which case, what level of criminal mendacity and violence would have to be unleashed before the New Statesman rejects the idea that we should vote for our elected killers? What level of improvements in public services should we demand before we excuse a further 100,000 or 200,000 corpses? Currently, Blair is trading his dead at bargain rates. Paul Krugman of the New York Times commented last month on America‘s health care debate:

“Britain isn't the country we want to look at, because its health care system is run on the cheap, with total spending per person only 40 percent as high as ours. The countries that have something to teach us are the nations that don't pinch pennies to the same extent - like France, Germany or Canada.” (Krugman, ‘The Medical Money Pit,’ New York Times, April 15, 2005)

Pilger makes the broader point:

“By voting for Blair, you will fall for the spin, the myth, of the social reformism and ‘economic achievements’ of his government… The ballyhooed ‘boom’ and ‘growth’ in Britain have been booms for the rich, not for ordinary people. With scant media attention, the Blair government has transferred billions of pounds' worth of public services into private hands under the private finance initiative (PFI). The ‘fees‘, or rake-off, for PFI projects in 2006-2007 will be in the order of 6.3bn pounds, more than the cost of many of the projects: a historic act of corporate piracy. Neither is new Labour ‘supporting’ the National Health Service, but privatising it by stealth.” (Pilger, op., cit)

Finally, the New Statesman argues:

“Some may say the most pro-war ministers and MPs deserve to lose their seats to the Lib Dems, if only pour encourager les autres. Perhaps. But there can be no argument for risking a single Tory gain - or even forgoing a Tory loss - to spite Mr Blair. General elections are about the next four years, not about the past four.”

Yes, and the next four years are precisely +about+ the last four years. Is it not obvious that it is vitally important for anyone who cares about our democracy, liberty and humanity that Blair be politically destroyed for what he has done? Isn’t it obvious that his version of the Labour party should be heavily punished, disempowered and discredited for our sake as well as for the sake of our present and future victims? Might this not precisely empower forces for progressive change within the party? Isn’t this what democracy is supposed to be about - we indicate to them how we want them to represent us?

If there is one lesson that we, the voters, must encourage the political establishment to learn, and learn fast, it is that mass deception and mass killing in the name of power and greed will be met with unrelenting rejection, resistance and defiance by ordinary people. It is not for us to subordinate the bodies, lives and loves of others to our own well-being, to the alleged rebuilding of our public services. It is not for them to pay the price for our failings. It is for us to take control of our democracy, our media, and to create a rational and humane society.

No one is compelled to vote Labour. We are all compelled to do whatever we can to disempower Blair, a major war criminal, as far as we are able without empowering equally brutal and cynical elements in our society.

The Art Of Voting For Mass Murder

The grand, clichéd claim of the ‘liberal’ media and ‘centre-left’ politics is that, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, the public is free to cast its judgement on our leaders at the ballot box. Thus ITN’s political editor Nick Robinson asserts:

“It was my job to report what those in power were doing or thinking... That is all someone in my sort of job can do." (Robinson, '"Remember the last time you shouted like that?" I asked the spin doctor', The Times, July 16, 2004)

The allied argument - if you don’t like the people he’s reporting on, change them! Journalists tell us that +we+, the public, surely have the power to decide.

This is one aspect of the media deception - ‘It’s not our fault, we’re just neutral observers doing our job.’ This works well in pacifying public opinion until elections come around again. And what happens then?

Then, the same ‘liberal’ media organisations campaign relentlessly to convince us that we, the public, dare not risk delivering our honest judgement on our leaders. Why? Lesser-of-two-evilism demands that we ensure the equally craven, or worse, opposition remains out of power. Almost exactly mirroring the New Statesman’s argument, the Guardian editors today insist:

“While 2005 will be remembered as Tony Blair's Iraq election, May 5 is not a referendum on that one decision, however fateful, or on the person who led it, however controversial.” (Leader, ‘Once more with feeling,’ The Guardian, May 3, 2005)

The public’s “wounded anger” has “haunted this campaign”, they continue:

“But does this mean that we recommend a vote against Labour? No.

“The Conservative party is the worst answer to what is wrong with Britain. Immediately this is because of the damaging and divisive campaign on immigration that Michael Howard has run this time. For this reason alone, it is vital to stop the Conservatives.”

The paper sees nothing wrong “in principle” in voting for the Liberal Democrats. But there is too much that is unconvincing about Liberal Democrat thinking on too many important subjects.

And then, of course, there is the issue of our public services:

“Having started the work in rebuilding the health service, investing in schools and modestly redistributing, Labour has a powerful case for now going further... It is the most redistributive of all the main parties and it deserves support on that count alone.”

On that count alone? Regardless of what Labour has done on other counts? Regardless of how many people it has killed?

And this is the astonishing conclusion from the country‘s leading liberal newspaper:

“We believe that Mr Blair should be re-elected to lead Labour into a third term this week. But the spotlight of the election has underlined that he was right to pledge not to seek a fourth. We do not call for him to be elected on Thursday and step down on Friday; apart from anything else, that would be a betrayal of the democratic verdict. But we do not think it is in many interests for Mr Blair to hang on longer than is politically expedient.”

These comments put the Guardian editors well to the right of much of the rest of the establishment. George Galloway of the anti-war Respect party notes:

“As the avalanche of leaks indicates, at the heart of the British establishment people are reaching the conclusion that Blair must pay for what he has done. He misled parliament and the people - the mandarinate might have swallowed that - but he lied to the armed forces, too.” (Galloway, ‘These are Blair's last days,’ The Guardian, May 3, 2005)

The irony of the Guardian’s last sentence is bitter indeed. Blair is all about political expedience, is he not? The lending of his support for the Iraq war as early as December 2001 was about exactly that. It was expedient for him to lie about detailed and compelling intelligence that was always patchy and sporadic. It was expedient for him to lie about unequivocal legal advice that was trembling with uncertainty and doubt. It was expedient for him to support the devastation of an impoverished, oil-rich, Third World nation already devastated by sanctions, which were also expedient. The list goes on.

What will Blair be willing to do next in the name of political expedience?

The point is a simple one - Blair must be stopped now.

SUGGESTED ACTION

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. When writing emails to journalists, we strongly urge readers to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to the New Statesman editor, Peter Wilby
Email: peter@newstatesman.co.uk

Write to the New Statesman political editor, John Kampfner
Email: john@jkampfner.net

Write to the letters page
Email: letters@newstatesman.co.uk

Write to the Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger
Email: alan.rusbridger@guardian.co.uk

Write to the Guardian comment editor, Seumas Milne
Email: seumas.milne@guardian.co.uk

Write to the letters page
Email: letters@guardian.co.uk

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