[Marxism] Cockburn on Galloway and Hitchens

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat May 28 13:51:31 MDT 2005


Counterpunch Weekend Edition
May 28 / 30, 2005
CounterPunch Diary
There's Their Way or the Galloway

By ALEXANDER COCKBURN

So now we have the worst of all worlds: the prospect of some rotten new 
federal judges and the survival of the filibuster, which the Republicans 
have consented not to abolish and the Democrats pledged almost never to use.

As Senator Russ Feingold said, "Democrats should have stood together firmly 
Confirming unacceptable judicial nominations is simply a green light for 
the Bush administration to send more nominees who lack the judicial 
temperament or record to serve in these lifetime positions I am 
disappointed in this deal."

Since I spent my youth reading fervent denunciations of the filibuster as 
the tool of Southern reaction I found it beyond my powers to take the 
urgent advice of liberals over the past month, shed the prejudices of a 
lifetime and promote the filibuster to the status of progressivism's stout 
bulwark.

Besides which, given the collapse of liberalism as the ideological 
framework for any vigorous advocacy for the better things (war on the 
palaces, peace to the cottages, etc.,) why should we expect Democratic 
nominees to the federal bench to offer any last-ditch relief? The culture 
that produced Douglas, Brennan and Black is long gone. Happy "accidents", 
if they come at all, will come from the right in the shape of libertarians 
like Souter.

Rather than get drawn into the recent unseemly haggling it would a rather 
more honorable course for the left to attack the entire corrupt system of 
judicial selection from top to bottom. What possible justification can 
there be for a system in which all federal judges are within the gift of 
state delegations of the Democratic and Republican parties? Let's have 
popular election of all judges.

The US Senate, on the other hand, should abandon its comical pretensions to 
be being a body reflecting any democratic mandate. Senators should be 
installed by some version of the phonebook approach. Probably the best 
method was the one obtaining at the former House of Lords, now destroyed by 
Tony Blair: incumbency by birthright, handed down the generations. Within 
not too many decades this simple method produced useful numbers of decent, 
independent-minded people. After Blair's "reforms" the place has become a 
quango, meaning a creature of the government of the day.

But these are mere dreams. Can there be anything more dismal that what we 
do have, Democrats in House and Senate apparently brain-dead, with vacant 
real estate where the heart normally resides. These are times ripe with 
opportunity. The people hold the Republicans in derision and contempt. Bush 
huddles on the ledge of a 41 per cent popular approval rating, bolstered 
only by the fact that the Republican who not long ago towered above him in 
popular regard, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is perched on an even lower, 40 per 
cent rating. The congressional Republicans' popular standing is somewhere 
in the 20s.

Day by day the news gets worse for Bush. He plunges into pits of his own 
making, like the Schiavo case. The economy turns to rubble. He nearly lost 
his main prop, Laura to a coalition of the Sons of the Prophet and the 
Friends of Jonathan Pollard.

Yet there's no sign of a vigorous Democratic onslaught. This last week 
brought us Democratic surrender in the matter of the nomination of the 
appalling John Bolton as US ambassador to the UN. Senator Barbara Boxer 
indicated Tuesday, March 24, she was lifting her hold on the Bolton 
nomination. Senator Chris Dodd added the same day that "there's no desire 
for a filibuster". This was the same day that Republican senator George 
Voinovich sent out a Dear Colleague letter assailing Bolton and urging all 
to vote against the man. It's true that later there was a last spasm of 
resistance from a few Democrats delaying the inevitable by a week, but with 
the combo of Dodd and Biden, two entirely despicable legislators, leading 
Democratic foreign policy in the Senate, we can expect nothing but 
flag-wagging in Bush's wake.

What lies on the horizon by way of a renewed Democratic party? We're 
supposed to be welcoming The senatorial candidacy in Minnesota of Al 
Franken, a man who won't let the words "Withdraw from Iraq now" be uttered 
on the Air America network? God help us. Or the other senatorial candidacy, 
in Vermont, of Bernie Sanders. At least Jeffords bucked his party. Sanders 
can't even do that.

So it's scarcely surprising that the recent testimony on Capitol Hill of 
the newly elected independent Respect MP for London's East End, George 
Galloway, had every person with any snap left in their stride cavorting in 
jubilant satisfaction. Here at last was a man who could deploy coherent 
sentences of well merited, well structured and richly detailed abuse of US 
relations with Iraq at the nearest available representative of the Bush 
administration, who happened to be Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota. This 
contemptible fellow doubtless rose that morning and gazed at himself in the 
mirror without the slight apprehension that in a few hours a genuine 
parliamentary rough-houser would give him some whacks on the back on the 
neck whose bruises won't fade for many a long year.

Another man who rose from his bed presumably no less confident of the shape 
of the day was Christopher Hitchens, who repaired to the Hill with the plan 
of garnering himself headlines by confronting Galloway. He tried to do so, 
but ran into witheringly accurate small arms fire from Galloway, chanting 
"You're a drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay. Your hands are shaking. 
You badly need another drink."

This was the biggest thing to happen to popinjays since Hemingway defined 
one in Death in the Afternoon as "a writer who appreciates the seriousness 
of writing so little that he is anxious to make people see he is formally 
educated, cultured or well bred", which is an eerily accurate 
characterization of the prose of C. Hitchens. The routed popinjay, plumage 
a-droop, fluttered wanly off to the offices of the Weekly Standard where 
Rupert Murdoch paid him to retaliate with 4,000 distinctly less memorable 
words, dedicated to showing Galloway to be a shady fellow, using the 
standard arsenal of "filthy", "mark the sequel" and other familiar 
popinjabber. At that length, using Hitchens' standards of evidence and 
innuendo, I reckon I could make a pretty good case for Hitchens being the 
Armstrong Williams of high-end punditry.

One odd bit in Hitchens' defensive diatribe was a wail about Galloway's 
"main organizational muscle" being "provided by a depraved sub-Leninist 
sect called the Socialist Workers party." In a slightly earlier incarnation 
the SWP was the organizational homeport of the former drink-soaked 
Trotskyist, C. Hitchens, also of Oona King, the Blairite incumbent Galloway 
routed in the East End. Maybe Hitchens's erstwhile comrades will the 
popinjay a ripe welcome in his upcoming tour of London with David Horowitz, 
assuming that outing hasn't perished for lack of subscribers.

So Galloway showed what a man with fire in his belly can do. The Democrats 
have no one with that capacity. They have Nancy Pelosi, whose idea of a 
constructive approach to the Middle East was to tell AIPAC last week,

     "There are those who contend that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is 
all about Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This is absolute 
nonsense. In truth, the history of the conflict is not over occupation, and 
never has been: it is over the fundamental right of Israel to exist.

     "The greatest threat to Israel's right to exist, with the prospect of 
devastating violence, now comes from Iran. For too long, leaders of both 
political parties in the United States have not done nearly enough to 
confront the Russians and the Chinese, who have supplied Iran as it has 
plowed ahead with its nuclear and missile technology....

     "In the words of Isaiah, we will make ourselves to Israel 'as hiding 
places from the winds and shelters from the tempests; as rivers of water in 
dry places; as shadows of a great rock in a weary land.'

     "The United States will stand with Israel now and forever. Now and 
forever."

She must have meant arms and cash. Israel already has the water.





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