An organisation called Intelligence Squared recently sent me an email asking me to promote their next debate, on the War on Terror. Speakers are General Musharaff, Colleen Graffny (ex senior Bush diplomat), Jeremy Greenstock and Bernard Kouchner.
But who, I inquired, is on the other side? The rather surprising answer I received is that Musharaff and Graffny are speaking for the War on Terror, and Greenstock and Kouchner against.
Which just about sums up the current lack of political debate in this country. Jeremy Greenstock is the Ambassador who assisted Straw in presenting the lies about Iraqi WMD to the UN. Bernard Kouchner is the intellectual poster-boy of “liberal intervention” and fan of Tony Blair. “Liberal intervention” is the highly fashionable theory that bombing brown people is good for them, as currently on show in Libya and Afghanistan.
Now Jeremy is a good man, but if he was against the “War on Terror” he signally failed to do anything about it when he was UK Ambassador to the UN. He did in fact tell one of his staff morning meetings in New York that one of my telegrams from Tashkent, condemning US support for Karimov and other dictatorships, was just the kind of thinking and reporting we needed. But he received every one of my telegrams condemning the use of torture in the War on Terror, and did not join in to support me on any of them.
Like many in the FCO, Jeremy would not himself have instituted the attack on Iraq or extraordinary rendition, but did nothing serious to try to dissuade ministers from them either.
It is quite extraordinary that an organisation like Intelligence Squared, which is happy to invite along extremist neo-cons like Douglas Murray to participate in debates, cannot contemplate giving a platform to an actually anti-war, and anti-war on terror, speaker (like Ray McGovern, for example). I am of course reminded of the New Statesman’s refusal to allow any whistleblowers on the panel of their “debate” on whistleblowing.
These are small straws in the wind, but as our society becomes increasingly dysfunctional, the scope of “respectable” or “acceptable” thought ever narrows.