Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bluster Bombs

The Albanian flags were out in force in central London on Sunday evening as the city’s Kosovar community celebrated their declaration of independence. Congratulations, then, and good luck, to Europe’s newest nation state. It’s been a long, hard road for them.

Bringing a breath of stale air to the proceedings is Labour backbencher George Foulkes, who according to the Daily Record is demanding apologies from the SNP for tabling a motion congratulating Kosova and for our previous scepticism about the 1999 NATO bombing campaign. Ah, George, and there was me thinking that with the British government having recognised Kosova, the SNP falling in behind that decision might be something you would welcome.

For what it’s worth, I’ve never regarded George as particularly ‘old’ or ‘new’ Labour, but more as slavish Labour. And on no topic has he been more slavish over the past few years than on the subject of ‘screwing up’ [his words] international affairs, with his ludicrous and uncritical freelance defences of the Iraq invasion and the dodgiest of dossiers.

Many people, not just in the SNP, pointed out in 1999 that bombing Belgrade seemed an odd way of trying to protect Kosovan civilians from the armed goons of Slobodan Milosevic. We were right. We pointed out that without ground troops, civilians couldn’t be protected, and certainly not by dropping unguided 40 year old cluster bombs from 30,000 feet. We were right. And what of those of us who were rubbished for pointing out that Kosovan independence (which NATO opposed at the time), not just autonomy, would follow any military intervention as surely as night followed day? Once again, we were right.

I’d like to think that some harder heads were at work behind the scenes, but having struggled through a book written by General Wesley Clark a few years ago on his involvement in Kosova, I very much doubt that there were. However, the ‘Janet and John’ justification offered for public consumption at the time was that the Serbs would be bombed into submission; the bloodshed would stop; the Serbs and Kosovars would all live together happily ever after as part of the same state; and anyone who dared to harbour the slightest doubt was an apologist for genocide.

What price some humility then, George, from you and those like you who were more interested in falling in behind Tony Blair’s ill-conceived intervention than in exercising even a modicum of critical analysis? As a result, Blair got away with presenting his Kosovan adventure as a triumph. We were then entreated to the noxious, self-serving, retrospective self-justification that was his doctorine of ‘liberal interventionism’, which in turn helped lead us to the quagmire of Iraq.

Screwing up international affairs was it George? There's none so blind...

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