It must be something in the water: or, perhaps, “Mad Cow” disease is spreading much faster than anyone realizes. I had to read the headline on this news story from the London Independent at least three times, early this [Tuesday] morning, just to make sure I wasn’t still asleep and dreaming: “British protester charged with racist abuse for dragging US flag on the ground“! It seems that, during a demonstration against the deployment of “Star Wars” in England, one Lindis Percy was arrested and charged, under the “Crime and Disorder Act of 1998,” with causing “harassment, alarm, and distress” to US military personnel coming out of the base during a demonstration which took place last December. Ms Percy was originally charged with simply obstructing the highway, but after looking at film footage of the demonstration, lawyers for the Crown decided to add the charge of “racism” an offense that carries with it a 2,500 fine. Ms. Percy’s “crime” was apparently having draped a flag across the road at the gate to the US base, which was then driven over “by a member of the American Legion,” the Independent helpfully informs us, “a staunchly patriotic ex-servicemen’s association based at Menwith Hill.”
The marriage of political correctness and “Star Wars” who could’ve seen it coming? We had a hint of the uses of PC in foreign policy, in 1999, when Bill Clinton declared war on “racism” in Kosovo and handed that former province of the former Yugoslavia over to the militantly racist Kosovo “Liberation” Army. But now, in the action of the British Crown’s prosecutors, we see the final, awful culmination of a trend: it is now a “hate crime” to oppose the foreign policy initiatives of Tony Blair’s government. Oh what I wouldn’t pay to see that trial! Can you imagine the arguments that will be mustered by prosecutors? Ms. Percy, we will doubtless discover, is an “extremist” advocate of “anti-Americanism.” Oh, but the Americans are not exactly a race, you say? A trifling detail, prosecutors will doubtless argue, because the really defining characteristic of a hate crime is, of course, evidence of hate. And what could be more hateful than demonstrating in front of an American military base, protesting what is supposed to be George W. Bush’s gift to the British people: a “missile shield”? Oh, the ingratitude of it all! Surely this was a hateful and, therefore, prosecutable act on the part of Ms. Percy. I rest my case. . . .
In the increasingly totalitarian state of Great Britain, where the “Disorder” Act has so far been used to prosecute right-wingers opposed to immigration, the meaning of this attack on the pathetic remnants of the antiwar Left will no doubt be completely lost on its latest victims. The far Left, which since the fall of the Soviet Union has been totally invested in identity politics, has been in the vanguard of the push for “hate crime” legislation: in Great Britain, Canada, and much of Europe, whose peoples groan under the growing tyranny of the “Third Way,” they have succeeded in enacting an outright ban on “hate speech.” As long as these laws were used against the Right, militantly “multi-cultural” lefties cheered. Now what will they say, when the same weapon is being used against them? Cover your ears: the silence is going to be deafening.
It was Richard Nixon who first instituted “affirmative action” programs in the US federal government, while his secret political police spied on the antiwar movement and tried to shut it down. Considering his legally innovative record, I wonder why he never thought of passing laws against “hate.” Just imagine, ‘ol Tricky Dick could’ve shut the whole antiwar movement down on the grounds that they were “haters” America-hating, South Vietnamese-hating, Nixon-hating “bigots”! And surely the charge of “anti-Americanism,” at least in certain cases, could’ve been proved beyond doubt.
Yet more evidence that that they’ve gone a bit balmy over there in the Motherland is the tract written by Robin Cook, Blair’s foreign minister, in which he argues that the “strategy” of his government in bombing the Iraqis is “to protect the people of Iraq.” Yes, says Cook, “that is why our pilots patrol the no-fly zones to protect the Iraqi people.” How can one respond to such an outrageous lie? One feels rather like Winston Smith, in George Orwell’s 1984, who, under torture and faced with a demand that he acknowledge the “truth” that 2 + 2 = 5 if the Party says it does could only answer:
“‘How can I help it?’ he blubbered. “How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.'”
His inquisitor answered:
“‘Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.'”
In the Orwellian world of Tony Blair’s England, where a remark overheard in a pub can get you fined and perhaps jailed on charges of “racism,” is it really all that surprising that the foreign minister is literally telling us that war is peace? After all, with the passage of such laws as the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act, freedom has already become slavery: and it won’t be long now before the Blair government informs its subjects that ignorance is indeed strength, perhaps by escalating its increasingly frequent attacks on the freedom of the press.
Gee, says Cook, ever since the UN imposed sanctions and blessed the bombing campaign, “Iraq has not used chemical weapons against the Kurds, or against Iran, and it has not invaded its neighbors all of which it did before.” Perhaps this is because Iraq was disarmed years ago, just as former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter asserts, and is not a military threat to its neighbors. But Cook seems to realize the self-canceling illogic of his position: if Iraq is in such poor shape, then we needn’t impose draconian sanctions and continue bombing right? Of course not! Why “only a few weeks ago,” wrote Cook, “he reasserted his claim to Kuwait. If we allowed him to build up military capacity, Saddam would plunge the whole region back into war.” Of course, no one can accuse Great Britain and the United States of plunging the region into war those bombs they are dropping are love bombs, designed to “protect the Iraqi people” including, no doubt, the three Iraqis who were killed by this fusillade of pure love..
In seeking to hide his crimes under the cloak of a phony “legality,” Cook avers that the so-called no-fly zones “are justified under international law as a proportionate response to a situation of overwhelming humanitarian necessity.” Ah yes, what we have here is yet another “humanitarian” intervention, as in Kosovo: here, too, the sovereignty of a nation that had never attacked either the US or Great Britain has been targeted. Here, too, the breakup of a nation is in progress, with the “allied” vultures circling overhead, waiting for their intended victim to either expire or surrender.
Cook accuses Saddam Hussein of all sorts of crimes for example, “systematic” torture which have been regularly committed by our regional allies, notably Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt. Cook brings up Saddam’s use of helicopter gunships against Iraqi dissidents in 1991 and 1992, but the Israelis have recently used helicopter gunships against their Palestinian helots. By this standard, shouldn’t we be bombing Tel Aviv?
As for Saddam’s bad tempered behavior when it comes to the Kurds, what has Cook to say about the 40-year Turkish campaign to literally eradicate the Kurdish separatist movement, a systematic effort culminating in numerous massacres on an even greater scale than the Iraqis? When Madeleine Albright was asked this question by one of her questioners at the famous “town hall” meeting on American foreign policy, televised by CNN a couple of years ago, she could only stutter out an evasive non-answer, and Team Bush will do no better except perhaps by never appearing in a forum where such a question is likely to be asked.
There are no limits to what Cook and his equivalents in Washington will say in defense of the indefensible. “In the southern no-fly zone,” says Cook, “we have limited Saddam’s repression and bloodshed against the Shi’ite population and the Marsh Arabs by preventing aerial attacks. If Saddam allowed the people of the south a vote, they would vote to keep the no-fly zone.” As long as we’re voting, why not subject the sanctions and bombing campaign to a referendum including the whole of Iraq? Or, better yet, we’ll submit the question to a popular referendum in the United States and Great Britain then we’ll see if the great defenders of the Iraqi people, these self-styled champions of “democracy,” will finally abandon their crazed crusade to “protect” Iraqis by bombing them on a daily basis. Somehow, I don’t think so.
Yes, it must be something in the water, or perhaps in the very air, that is poisoning British brain cells and provoking this bout of madness in its public officials. The only thing to be done about it is to take measures to make sure that the epidemic doesn’t spread to the general public if isn’t too late, that is. What’s required is nothing less than a total quarantine on all members of the current government and also the Conservative opposition, just to make sure. Unfortunately, the quarantine will have to be permanent or, perhaps, until a cure is found. I’m afraid, however, that the affliction which we might call Mad Cook’s Disease has already jumped the Atlantic and infected American officials, albeit in a somewhat milder form. Didn’t I hear that Pentagon general claim that US forces were only acting in “self-defense”? It’s only a matter of time until the American form of this bizarre ailment achieves the virulence of its British counterpart. As we gather our forces to “take out” Saddam Hussein and, in the process, take on the entire Arab world Mad Cook’s Disease will have half the population feverish for war, with the other half too sickened by the constant profusion of lies to do anything but look on in silent horror.
One more loose end to tie up: In the case of the Crown vs. Lindis Percy, if you’re wondering why this overseas member of the American Legion isn’t also facing the same charge after all, he drove over the flag then you don’t understand how “hate crimes” work. You see, a hate-crime is always preceded by a hate-thought say, the idea that unlimited immigration is not necessarily a good thing, or, perhaps, a secret admiration for the Boys Scouts. The idea is to punish the thought even more than the deed.
It would be hard, however, to accuse our staunchly patriotic driver of anti-Americanism, since this is obviously not the case. He may have seen the flag, ostentatiously draped over the pavement, and decided to drive over it in spite of his fervently patriotic soul and yet still he is not guilty of a hate crime. He may have hated Lindis Percy, at that moment, but not the flag and what it stands for, and certainly not Americans, of which he is undoubtedly one. With hate crimes which are, above all, political crimes it’s not only the thought that counts, but also whom is thinking that particular thought. In this bizarre but all-too-real development, in which a totalitarian principle is applied rather innovatively, we see the culmination of a years-in-the-making trend designed to criminalize political opposition to government policies. It is a startling development, one which presages an era in which life imitates art, to ominous effect. How long before Britain is renamed Oceania, and the streets of London now “Airstrip One” are plastered with posters warning “Big Tony Is Watching You!”?
Mr. Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com