Monday, May 03, 2004

Smackdown alert

Let me register at this point the curiously unreflective way in which [Scott] Lucas appears to define dissent. It is, as far as I can see, to have views that are different to the line of the government. But Lucas cannot be bothered to deal with one obvious problem, which is the question of what constitutes dissent in a country where the government is opposed to, say, the war in Iraq. Who is the dissenter in France, or Germany, or Russia? Let alone Syria or Saudi Arabia.

Lucas confers all intellectual virtue on his friends and vice upon his enemies. Those he agrees with are invariably "cogent" or "acerbic", whereas only his opponents can be "smug" or "crude". Far worse, however, is his Olympian ascription of motive, which eventually leads to farce. At one point Lucas writes that, "By intention or convenient coincidence the War on Iraq could divert attention from the 'quagmire' on the West Bank." It is pretty daft to claim that the coalition may, "by intention", have launched a full-scale invasion of a country thousands of miles away, in the hope that it would make people forget about Palestine.

"Guardian" columnist David Aaronovitch, scathing Scott Lucas' "The Betrayal of Dissent: beyond Orwell, Hitchens and the new American century" in the "New Statesman."

Go and read the whole thing. And don't miss the conclusion:

My eventual support for the war to get rid of Saddam Hussein has earned me letters and e-mails calling me a wanker, brown-nose, arse-licker, propagandist, warmonger, Zionist, Islamophobe, neoconservative, glorifier of slaughter and murderer by proxy. Old friends say I have gone mad, old comrades that I have become an apostate and committed heresy. My father, I am told by a veteran communist who seems to know nothing about what Iraqi communists are saying today, would be turning in his grave.

And not because I have "suppressed" anything but because (and this is the real point), like Hitchens and others, I have put the other side of the argument, have argued what many Kurds and Iraqis and Sierra Leoneans and Bosnians know - that there is a leftist case for intervention, just as there is a leftist case against it. It is this second case that Lucas is unequipped, or unwilling, or too scared to make.