[Marxism] The consequences of "humanitarian intervention"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Mar 23 09:43:01 MST 2006

The pro-war left in Great Britain and the USA has frequently argued that no 
matter how bad imperialist intervention is, it is not as bad as what it 
replaced in Afghanistan and Iraq. Very often there is some overlap between 
this camp and what might be described as the "anti-antiwar left," which 
includes people like Marc Cooper, Todd Gitlin and Penn State professor 
Michael Bérubé who have written articles assailing Ramsey Clark, Noam 
Chomsky, and anybody else who strays too far to the left of acceptable 
liberal discourse. In particular this means a failure to denounce with 
sufficient vigor Islamic intolerance, especially against nonbelievers, 
women and gays.

Saddam's Iraq, which despite its despotic character demonstrated a 
commitment to gender equality, has been accused of systematic homophobia. 
Journalist Doug Ireland, who retains a certain amount of radical integrity, 
has occasionally echoed the sentiments of the anti-antiwar left around this 
question. As a gay man and as somebody who writes eloquently about gay 
issues on his blog, Ireland has had a particular affinity for the writings 
and activism of Peter Tatchell, a British pro-war leftist who has tried to 
mobilize support for imperialist intervention on the basis that it is more 
enlightened than the Islamic enemy.

In a blog entry last November that falsely accused George Galloway of 
homophobia, Ireland relied heavily on the word of Peter Tatchell. Ireland 
wrote, "Galloway has long made common cause with despicable, homophobic 
dictators, from Saddam Hussein to Syria's Bashir Al-Assad, without ever 
denouncing the reign of terror and repression their despotic regimes have 
visited upon gay Arabs and Muslims in their own countries." 

Three years ago, when the drums of war were being beaten in Great Britain 
and the USA, Tatchell urged all out support for the Kurds and the Shia:

"ARM the Kurds and Shias.

"Give them the weapons they need to overthrow Saddam Hussein: tanks, 
helicopter gun-ships, fighter planes, heavy artillery and anti-tank and 
anti-aircraft missiles.

"With military aid, the Iraqi opposition can demolish Saddam’s dictatorship."


Now that the Shia exercise power in Iraq, having reached this privileged 
status partially through the public relations effort mounted by people like 
Christopher Hitchens and Peter Tatchell, they are making life hell for 
Iraq's gays. This, at any rate, is now what Doug Ireland tells us on his blog:

March 22, 2006


I wrote the following article for the new issue of Gay City News -- New 
York's largest gay weekly newspaper -- which hits the newsstands tomorrow:

Following a death-to-gays fatwa issued last October by Grand Ayatollah Ali 
al-Sistani, death squads of the Badr Corps have been systematically 
targeting gay Iraqis for persecution and execution, gay Iraqis say. But 
when they ask for help and protection from U.S. occupying authorities in 
the “Green Zone,” gay Iraqis are met with indifference and derision.

“The Badr Corps is committed to the ‘sexual cleansing’ of Iraq,“ says Ali 
Hili, a 33-year-old gay Iraqi exile in London who, with some 30 other gay 
Iraqis who have fled to the United Kingdom, five months ago founded the Abu 
Nawas Group there to support persecuted gay Iraqis (Abu Nawas -- right 
--Abu_nawas was a great 8th century classical poet of Arab and Persian 
descent who is known throughout Middle East cultures, and is famous for his 
poems in praise of same-sex love.)


Meanwhile, turning our attention to "liberated" Afghanistan, we learn that 
a Muslim who has decided to convert to Christianity faces a 5 year prison term:

"An Afghan man is being prosecuted in a Kabul court and could be sentenced 
to death on a charge of converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime 
under the country's Islamic laws, a judge said yesterday.

"The trial is thought to be the first of its kind in Afghanistan and 
highlights a struggle between religious conservatives and reformists over 
what shape Islam should take here four years after the ouster of the 
Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime.

"Abdul Rahman, 41, was arrested last month after his family accused him of 
becoming a Christian, Judge Ansarullah Mawlavezada said. Mr. Rahman was 
charged with rejecting Islam, and his trial was held Thursday.

"During the one-day hearing, the defendant confessed that he converted from 
Islam to Christianity 16 years ago while working as a medical aid worker 
for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in the 
Pakistani city of Peshawar, Judge Mawlavezada said."


In a March 20 Nation Magazine review of Todd Gitlin's "The Intellectuals 
and the Flag," Daniel Lazare dwelled on the retreat from reason found among 
intellectuals after 9/11. For people such as Tatchell, Cooper and Gitlin, 
rallying around the flag (which is basically the raison d'etre of Gitlin's 
book) has gone hand-in-hand with a failure to think critically about U.S. 
or British foreign policy. When the Enemy is cast in Orwellian terms as 
inimical to the values of one's own society, there is enormous pressure for 
the professional intellectual to bend reality to fit the exigencies of the 
national security state. For some like Hitchens, it is too late to turn 
back. For others caught in the middle like Doug Ireland, who have decades 
of personal ties to the pro-war intelligentsia, one hopes it is not too late.



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