Monday, October 03, 2005

Who does George Galloway blame?

I argued here that the opponents of the Iraq war are partly implicated in the government's support of it. And regular visitors to this blog may recall that I think the point of campaigning is to change the minds of the public. Politicians will rarely confound an electorate who have been persuaded on a particular issue.

So when a large part of the anti-war movement saw the war as just another opportunity to advance an old agenda, they increased their complicity in what followed.

This has set me thinking about the wider question of blame and root-causes. Take the discussion around the July bombings in London for instance. There was a predictable row about who was to blame for them. I'm broadly with Norman Geras on this: When you detonate a bomb, you are largely responsible for the consequences.

Apologists for the bombers have argued that they were trying to change the UK's foreign policy the only way open to them. The one bomber who has expressed a view on this justified his indiscriminate slaughter by told the British public that....

"your support for (your democratically elected governments) makes you directly responsible."

In his own warped way, he has a point. We all pay taxes, we all have the option to campaign or stand for election. Democracy brings a collective responsibility that we all share.

But George Galloway has repeatedly laid the blame at the feet of George Bush and Tony Blair. While George and the bomber agree that Britain's foreign policy explains why Londoners were blown up, they are disagreeing on exactly who is to blame for that policy.

But is George really only blaming Tony Blair? Would one well-placed bullet absolve Britain of its perfidy? Surely he'd include the Foreign Secretary as well? Or does he include The Cabinet? What about those who argued against the war but didn't resign? (George isn't alone here - Ken Livingstone's post-bombing statement implied that politicians could be a more legitimate target).

What about pro-war MPs? And what about anti-war Labour MPs? They helped win the election that placed Mr Tony in charge of the army, so surely they are a bit to blame?

George himself stood as a Labour candidate in 2001 (and would have done so again if he hadn't been expelled). Maybe he blames everyone who has supported Labour since his expulsion? Or maybe just those who voted for a pro-war Labour MP.

What about those who voted Labour without knowing the candidates views? Which is it?

Either way, he probably blames Tory voters as well. Most Tory candidates supported the war, apart from the grandees who thought Iraq to be a distant land that was not our concern. And what about people who didn't vote? They could have voted against Labour. Surely, in George's book, they deserted Iraq in it's hour of need?

So maybe they were all responsible well?

And do people who discredited the anti-war cause with their incompetent opportunistic campaigning deserve some kind of upbraiding? Perhaps George is doing this in private?

And what about the government (the real one - the one we get whichever way we vote). Does he blame the civil service? Or the forces? His praise for Iraqi 'martyrs' would suggest that soldiers deserve whatever they get. Has he mentioned this to Cindy Sheehan? Would he say "Sorry Cindy, I support your campaign, but your son had it coming."?

And are all public sector workers part of the government? The IRA regarded anyone who emptied the bins of a police station as an organ of the state, so maybe George does too? (Did George support the IRA? I can't remember.)

And where does this leave common-or-garden taxpayers? Even George's biggest detractors probably don't claim that he blames everyone. Obviously, the closer you get to his views, the less you are to blame. But it would be interesting to know at what point someone becomes implicated. There must be a line somewhere?

My own view is that - in return for the right to vote and all of the benefits we enjoy living in a liberal democracy - we bear a collective responsibility for the policies of our governments. If you justify violence as a response to the policies of democratic government, you are justifying an attack on yourself and your own neighbours.

Any other position is an insult to every one of us. We are not cannon fodder that can just be blown up in order to send a signal to our political leaders. If you want to change the policy of our government, you must persuade us.

Not the government.

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