I know this blog is meant to be a place to throw some dirt around, but perhaps this is too much information: one of the books that is by the crapper in our house is a collection of Alistair Cooke’s Letters from America. Pithy, perfectly lengthed pieces on everything important from 1945 to 2004. And the memories of that relaxed, mid-Atlantic drawl is so relaxing it…. I’ll stop there and get to the point, which is a head of steam that has been building since I sat this morning and happened upon his broadcast for 24th March 1968.
Discussing the US administration’s justification for continuing operations in Vietnam – where the US now had over half a million troops – he discusses how some had made analogies to the war in Korea. This he rejects: “there was clear aggression, so defined by all the sitting members of the United Nations Security Council”, and continues:
“I myself keep thinking of Napoleon’s disastrous adventure in Haiti. The ideology and the excuse for this overseas expedition were quite different from ours. On the contrary, Napoleon moved to denounce and destroy the extension of self-government to the natives. But strategically, the adventure so far from home has a lesson for us. To put down the native peoples he dispatched an expedition of seven warships and forty-five thousand of his crack soldiers. But there was a native general, Christophe, who revived […] the practice of guerrilla warfare. Not all the armament and skill of the most modern army in Europe could suppress those roving guerrillas who never stood and made a front, who pounded prepared positions and dissolved into the earth. A ragged native population whipped the best of France.”
Expensive wars creep up on people. With no definable act of aggression to start them, and fought in a far off place against an invisible enemy, popular support in the theatre of operations is going to be hard to come by, and accusations of imperialism are going to get made.
What are we fighting for now? “Freedom of speech”, a Labour hack said this morning, after I’d read these words. Not the weapons of mass destruction that can’t be found. Not against a tyrannical maniac able to blow up Cyprus in 45 minutes. The war of words now states that we are fighting for the right for people to express themselves freely.
So yes, I find it outrageous, yes I find my blood boiling, yes I want to spit expletives and post excrement to Number 10 when I see an 82 year old man, a faithful party member, being yanked, tugged, pulled, pushed, grabbed, threatened, man-handled out of a Labour party conference speech. For what? For shouting ‘nonsense’ when Jack Straw spouted his guff, broke wind up his vocal cords, and flabbed his usual bollocks about why people are continuing to die. This freedom of speech doesn’t even extend to the ranks of his own party. The man was thrown out, his security pass invalidated, and then held under the prevention of terrorism act when he tried to re-gain entry.
Should we withdraw immediately from Iraq? Probably not. Was Saddam a great guy? Clearly not. But should we have got into this mess? No. Are we safer as a result? No. Should we stand for all these lies and deceits and erosions of a free society? No. Will we ever look back at Napoleon exasperated in Haiti, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon run ragged in Vietnam, Bush and Blair embattled in Iraq and learn not to do it the same way again? I doubt it. Rant over? Yes.
Respect Walter Wolfgang.