Monday, January 22, 2007

What’s Left?

Nick Cohen is a British leftist on a mission to confront fellow leftists who have strayed from the path. His primary concern is for those who have ended up either embracing or making excuses for reactionaries and opponents of liberal democracy in Third World countries simply because they are anti-American or anti-Bush – i.e., the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

His book, What's Left? How Liberals Lost Their Way, has just been published in the U.K. and will available in the United States in a few weeks. Here is an excerpt from the book in the Observer:
Why is it that apologies for a militant Islam which stands for everything the liberal left is against come from the liberal left? Why will students hear a leftish postmodern theorist defend the exploitation of women in traditional cultures but not a crusty conservative don? After the merican and British wars in Bosnia and Kosovo against Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansers, why were men and women of the left denying the existence of Serb concentration camps? As important, why did a European Union that daily announces its commitment to the liberal principles of human rights and international law do nothing as crimes against humanity took place just over its borders? Why is Palestine a cause for the liberal left, but not China, Sudan, Zimbabwe, the Congo or North Korea? Why, even in the case of Palestine, can't those who say they support the Palestinian cause tell you what type of Palestine they would like to see? After the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington why were you as likely to read that a sinister conspiracy of Jews controlled American or British foreign policy in a superior literary journal as in a neo-Nazi hate sheet? And why after the 7/7 attacks on London did leftish rather than right-wing newspapers run pieces excusing suicide bombers who were inspired by a psychopathic theology from the ultra-right?

In short, why is the world upside down? In the past conservatives made excuses for fascism because they mistakenly saw it as a continuation of their democratic rightwing ideas. Now, overwhelmingly and every where, liberals and leftists are far more likely than conservatives to excuse fascistic governments and movements, with the exception of their native far-right parties. As long as local racists are white, they have no difficulty in opposing them in a manner that would have been recognisable to the traditional left. But give them a foreign far-right movement that is anti-Western and they treat it as at best a distraction and at worst an ally.
All of this is worth keeping in mind for those attending the anti-Iraq War demonstration in Washington this weekend. It is one thing (actually, the right thing) to oppose the idiocy of the Bush administration’s policy in the Middle East but it is another to applaud apologists for extremist Islamic actions.

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