Watch out for these sinister ideologues

While keeping a wary eye on the Bush administration, are we failing to watch out for neo-cons here?
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Paul Wolfowitz, arguably the most wolfish of the right-wing pack around Bush Junior, this weekend found himself caught worryingly close to yet another violent attack in Iraq. Wolfowitz explained away this latest blast with typical neo-con nonchalance - the attackers are losers and the victorious allies are morally superior beings who know what is best for the people they have "liberated".

He is with Rumsfeld and Cheney and others who have an evangelical mission to make this century belong to America. Most of us around the world who are not US groupies dread and sometimes mock these avid American, Christian buccaneers with ambitions that take us back to the days of Spanish and English piracy, when officially blessed adventurers set off to butcher and loot the world.

They are a scary lot, US Democrats will tell you, as will the left in Britain. But are we, while keeping a wary eye on the Bush administration, failing to watch out for the neo-cons in our own country?

It was the keenly attentive John Kampfner of the New Statesman who first asked this question. Observing the unpredictable alliances forming over support for the war, he warned that a new breed of Blairite militarists had emerged, "disdainful of their critics. They see the future as theirs". I would add, they also see the world as theirs for the taking and remaking, which is why they want to hitch our nation's future to whatever ruinous regime is pulling strings in the White House.

Now this new political development is immensely more complicated than it may appear. Not every left-of-centre person who supported the war on Iraq is a tacit British neo-conservative. Nick Cohen, Johann Hari, Ann Clwyd and some others obviously genuinely felt this was the only way to stop Saddam's unquestionable barbarism. (Cohen, though, has unscrupulously claimed that the left didn't care about these victims and is in thrall to militant Muslims, although most of us who opposed the war cried out for the people of Iraq and against sanctions for a decade and more, and have always condemned Muslim hatemongers).

Then there is the issue of interventionism. Those of us who were against the war on Iraq are not all against military intervention in every case. The criminal indifference of the Tories to what was happening in Bosnia, and the betrayal of the victims of Rwanda were both recent examples where the left was screaming for involvement. For some of us, Afghanistan was also long overdue for engagement. None of these missions were sold to us as lies. The countries were not starved and drained for years by our policies so they would be easy to cut down.

Third, most of us on the left believe that in a globalised world, within the framework of equality and human rights, the West can and should play a proactive role in seeding real democracy and freedoms. We don't want countries such as Saudi Arabia and Burma to be protected under the rules of sovereignty.

But so far we can see only double dealing and cruel self interest masquerading as morality. The West works to keep other countries down; democracy is often a fig-leaf for continued exploitation. The lawless actions of the US and UK governments - Guantanamo Bay, anti-terrorist legislation, arms selling, instigating small wars (the US in the Congo for example), nuclear proliferation - are glaring examples of duplicity on a grand scale.

British neo-cons do not question this. Instead their leaders promote reprehensible ideologies to back the new empires. John Lloyd, a neo-con guru, sneers that we on the left are "relativists", but fails to address his own relativism when it comes to our actions and those of the US on the world stage.

When he comes here next month, will these warniks be asking George Bush to release victims in all those other countries where there is a dictator (probably very friendly with Bush) but no oil?

Robert Cooper, the British diplomat who works for Javier Solana in Brussels, is another warrior espousing the rhetoric of "enlightened" colonialism. Let us go forth and civilise them, he calls, let us pre-empt, take over lands, make ourselves safer. He does not care to comment on the number of lives that have been lost as a result of US policies, or how much evil is still fostered in the name of western national interests.

There are three other areas where the neo-cons are making real inroads. They constantly attack the BBC, dissenting journalists and true internationalists as a threat to democracy and the country. They actively promote the old Powellite agenda - to its shame, Prospect magazine this year actually gave an award to Anthony Browne for a venomous anti-immigration pamphlet. When I meet some of these neo-cons, I can feel their intense discomfort that someone like me is now in their corridors. The fact that I am Muslim makes it worse. For them.

And finally, I think Kampfner is right when he says that our neocons "share a deep-rooted conviction that virtually all criticism of Israel must, by definition, be inspired by anti-Semitism".

We have ignored these sinister new ideologues for long enough. Time, I think for the enlightened left to answer and fight back. Before it is too late.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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