Dead Men Left

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Typical Livingstone

The best comment on Ken Livingstone's widely-praised statement about the London bombings was provided by Blairite columnist, Andrew Rawnsley:

The response of Ken Livingstone was, to my mind, particularly striking. Unbelievable as Tony Blair might have once found this in the days when the mayor of London was his bete rouge, Mr Livingstone took one of the most crucially supportive stances on the bombings. Downing Street has always feared that an atrocity in London would provoke a massive public backlash against Britain's participation in the war in Iraq...

That was why Mr Livingstone's intervention was so crucial to the shaping of the public mood. He was an opponent of invasion of Iraq. He is a loather of George W Bush. He was one of those who warned that the war would expose Britain to a heightened risk of terrorist attack. He had experienced as acutely as anyone the 24-hour swing from euphoria to horror as London's Olympic gold was followed by the black day of the bombings. He could have done a George Galloway and told Londoners that they had 'paid the price' for the Blair alliance with Bush. Rather than blame the attacks on the war, Mr Livingstone blamed the bombings on the bombers: 'A criminal attempt at mass murder.'

Livingstone's was a sufficiently eloquent statement that one might think it had been prepared some time ago. With some rhetorical skill, it bundled up what many of us, especially in London, felt. It did not, however, say what we thought. As Rawnsley says, Livingstone's clarity provided the best possible cover for a government with a nervous memory of Madrid. To duck the issue of Iraq, given Livingstone's own clear anti-war position, was a failure of political responsibility on his part: when put to the test, he buckled.

That cover has now been blown. Livingstone, no doubt sensing the mood, has said what he should have said earlier:

...he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think we have just had 80 years of Western intervention in predominantly Arab lands because of the Western need for oil.

"We have propped up unsavoury governments, we have overthrown ones that we didn't consider sympathetic.

"And I think the particular problem we have at the moment is that in the 1980s the Americans recruited and trained Osama bin Laden, taught him how to kill, to make bombs and sent him off to kill the Russians in Afghanistan and they didn't give any thought to the fact that once he had done that, he might turn on his creators."

Update: Bat, in the comments, supplies a conclusion for this post:

Livingstone's warbling is too little too late to salvage his reputation on the left. I'm sure I wasn't the only one to think "ha! serves you right" on seeing today's Daily Telegraph front page (which sandwiches his mugshot between Omar Bakri Mohammed and Anjem Choudary under the headline The Men Who Blame Britain).

And if he is going to tack left, is it too much to ask for a bit of frigging accuracy? While the US were doubtless only too happy for OBL & Co to operate in Afghanistan during the 1980s, it is silly to claim that the Americans "recruited and trained Osama bin Laden, taught him how to kill, to make bombs" etc.

This sort of piss-weak fact-free conspiracy mongering can be easily demolished by any semi-intelligent rightwinger armed with a history book. It adds nothing to the genuine anti-imperialist case, and only serves to distract attention from Livingstone's accelerating trajectory up Blair's back passage.