Is international law for all, except for Britain and the USA? Andrew Murray replies to the Economist article, Britain and Ukraine: Fisking Stop the War

FiskingThe Economist is the high priest of Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy – it preaches a free market for all, but backed “socialism for the banks” when the City needed a bailout.  It is no more consistent on world politics – international law for all, except for Britain and the USA.  In response to the recent article written by Stop the War Convenor Lindsey German (10 things to remember about the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea), an Economist blogger identified only as “JC”, decided to “Fisk” Stop the War (Britain and Ukraine: Fisking Stop the War).  It was quite revealing.  Here are ten things JC got wrong:

  1. “Neither Mr Cameron nor Mr Kerry ‘invaded’ Afghanistan or Iraq,” JC begins.  No, but Britain and the USA did – and it was an invasion, no quotation marks are necessary.  The Iraq war, like the Yugoslav one in 1999, was undertaken clearly in violation of international law, against countries making no threats to the USA or Britain, and without any UN sanction.  The Economist may take a view that these bloody violations of international law are acceptable, while Putin’s so-far bloodless occupation of the Crimea is an outrage, but not many outside the snug circles of the Anglosphere elite will be found to agree.  If the magazine genuinely wants a law-based world with all disputes resolved through negotiation and the United Nations, then it cannot continue to make exceptions for the likes of Bush and Blair – at least not if it wants to be taken seriously.
  2. JC’s description of Yeltsin as a “modernising” premier (he was in fact President not premier) is perhaps the most absurd contention.  Under the stewardship of the inebriated Yeltsin, Russia’s economy shrank by half, its state assets were handed over to the emerging oligarchy in a corrupt privatisation process, no functioning party-political system was created and in the end Yeltsin could only be persuaded to leave office under cover of an amnesty for himself and his family for his venal crimes.  His foreign policy choices also stored up immense trouble for his successors, as is being seen today.   If this is modernisation, it sure makes the case for tradition.
  3. JC is most concerned to minimise the role of the Far-Right in the new Kiev government.  But a leader of Svoboda, an overtly neo-nazi party which has been likened to Greece’s Golden Dawn, and which speaks of Ukraine being in the grip of “Jewish-Bolshevik”, Russians is Deputy Prime Minister.  Another party member holds the top post in the legal system.  Two others control ministerial portfolios – the first return of neo-nazis to government in Europe since 1945. A further far-right group, Right Front, has apparently replaced the police on the streets of Kiev.  Of course, there are other less noxious forces involved, if that description fits the corrupt clique around Yulia Tymoshenko, but strain as it might, The Economist can hardly pass this new, unelected, regime in Kiev off as a Reform Club outing.
  4. The Economist deludes itself that MPs left “military action on the table against Assad”, when they voted against war last August.  That seems like neo-con wishful thinking.  But surely the salient point is that in rejecting a further attack on a Middle Eastern country, MPs were expressing a strong, settled and cross-party majority in the country.
  5. The Economist critic can’t understand why Lindsey German raised the matter of US use of drones against targets in Pakistan and elsewhere.  Surely if the violation of national sovereignty is the matter of concern, then this is a clear example of it (which the Economist supports).  And as for it being of a different order of priorities to the Crimea crisis, this says more about Economist values than anything else.  Drones have killed hundreds at least, including many entirely innocent and unintended targets.  Happily, Russian troops in the Crimea have killed nobody yet.
  6. On the basis of who knows what evidence, the Economist attests to “the overwhelmingly liberal attitude of most Maidan protesters”.   So the police killed in the square were done to death by readings of John Stuart Mill?  Even the Estonian Foreign Minister, no friend of Russia we can assume, has now been recorded telling EU Foreign Policy chief Cathy Ashton that the snipers were most likely involved with the opposition, as well as elements of the departed regime.
  7. Apparently the EU is “the antithesis of….economic stagnation”.  Tell that to those enduring EU (and IMF) ordered slump in Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain etc.  And as for corruption, let’s revisit that issue when the EU can get its annual accounts signed off by the auditors.  Don’t hold your breath.
  8. JC exercises himself to prove that John McCain, leading the hawks over Ukraine, is no neo-con. Alas, all his examples of McCain’s relative reasonableness are of considerable antiquity.  For the last several years he has been leading the charge for a military response by the US to almost every crisis – Georgia most notably, Iraq, Libya, Iran.  He is for sure a war-monger.  As his friend, Time journalist Joe Klein wrote recently:  “There was a time when John McCain was a reasonable man. It was a while back, but I remember it well.”
  9. There is, the Economist assures us, no threat to Russian-speakers in the Crimea.  Then why the vote in the Kiev Rada to downgrade the official use of the Russian language.  Why the introduction of a bill to decriminalise Nazi propaganda?
  10. A big power intervenes in a neighbouring state to put down a movement for democracy and support a corrupt autocracy in violation of international law, with loss of life and considerable arrests, torture and imprisonment.  Oh, wait… That was Saudi Arabia invading Bahrain…  And no, JC didn’t mention it.

From Stop the war coalition

Tagged under: