The Limits of Debate 48

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.

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48 thoughts on “The Limits of Debate

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  • mark_golding

    If Greenstock did not join you under the circumstances to support you against the use of terror in the ‘war on terror,’ then in my book he is NOT a ‘good man’ – he did not respond to my reports on infant mortality in Iraq – he is weak and irrelevant in my opinion – sorry.
    The debate on 6th September 2011 by IQ2 is propaganda, a false negative. IQ2 ‘learning by debate’ in English schools undermines attempts by me and others to educate +16yrs students in the history of using deception to jump-start wars and destruction culminating in the genocide of innocent Iraqi children before they had a chance to love.

  • mary

    I meant to add ‘and now he’s taking a cut on the Iraqis’ oil, the coup de grâce on those poor people.’

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Jives, hello, good to see you again.
    The Young People’s Question Time on this evening was far better than the Dimbleby one.
    Yep, mostly there is news management, dbate management, thought management. Though the latter doesn’t work as well as its purveyors might like. Can thought change anything? Yes, absolutely. Ourr meinds are ours. And Jives, let’s gig to that!

  • tony_opmoc

    You try holding the hand of your 88 Year Old Father-in-Law at 3:00 am trying to bring him to a State of Peace when All Hell Is Going On Outside…

    But anyway, and yes Peter Oborne said it all…

    I said this when I got home tonight after one of the most Stressful Weeks in My Life…

    The World Needs You AMERICANS to Help Bring The World Back To Sanity

    My Wife and I Have Had an Enormously Stressful Week The Details Of Which I Won’t Bore You With…

    On the bright side, hardly anyone died, and there were relatively small number of injuries.


    You should see the photo of them completely exhausted

    But when I got home tonight I wrote some stuff where it is likely to get read in The UK

    The consensus from my soft soppy liberal friends seems to be


    Personally I think they have been watching too much SHAMELESS.

    God Knows what The Right Wing Think.

    I have never known such massive public support for The Police & The Firemen

    You Do Not Do THAT

    Us Common Ordinary ENGLISH People


    Of The Civilised World

    And We Have a Very Long History Of It Being OBEYED

    One Way Or Another







    Just Look What YOU Have DONE


  • John Goss

    Intelligence Squared. Sounds like a masonic mantra. Don’t know what it’s called now, but when I did some work for Birmingham City Council in 2001 their in-house magazine was called “on the level”. Jobs for the boys!

  • Vronsky

    “how’s the music going?”

    Hi Suhayl. Still can’t hold a guitar (or an oud), but on the mend.

  • mary

    Azra You are joking aren’t you. This is a PR stunt by a PR man.
    This shining white knight has been called to this ‘sceptred isle’ by El Supremo. El S is quietly revealing his knuckle dusters. You might have heard Pilger saying our ‘public’ schools are schools for killers. Pilger is right. El S went to the one where the creme de la creme doth go, Eton. I am sure that the temple of Milton Shulman and his Chicago acolytes has a lot to teach in the subjugation of the proles in ‘neo-liberal’ nirvanas.
    Why a CBE from Her Maj already?

  • mary

    I have heard this morning that the Question Time on September 8th from London will be a special discussing 9/11. Hope it’s better than the one on the riots this week.
    wait… do I hear the gears cranking up in Mason, Ohio?

  • Azra

    Everything is a PR stunt here, from the speeches or to those most stupid suggestions that the benefits of rioter should stop (no doubt Mr C was thinking ..over 100,000 signed the petition, that will be, how many vote??).. but all the same the guy talks sense. Nothing new or enlightening and nothing which has not been said by many before but sense all the same.
    Did you read this which someone had posted here? it is well worth reading even if it means getting soiled by going to that website..​8/09/most-of-the-kids-are-alri​ght/#more-57838

    EL S is well educated, but he and many are well educated in Imperialism.. but maybe if the young could read, write and communicate, just maybe we will get few more off the streets and into work place. I am an eternal optimist 🙂

  • Azra

    Mary : ameron is alienating himself from the British police
    ” No honour among thieves” 🙂

  • mark_golding

    ‘Question Time’ is a managed illusion. Write your question on a piece of paper before the show and a young aspiring graduate assigned to the unit collects them. I wrote, ‘Does the panel agree the US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN charter’ – I knew I had the backing of Robin Cook PBUH on the panel (in truth I wrote two questions). The questions were reviewed by another charming post-graduate and a selection handed to a producer/editor? – My question did not get look-in.
    It was after the show while Robin Cook’s driver was impatiently waiting outside I gained important insights into British/American intelligence sharing when Robin was foreign secretary 1997-2001, some of which I have revealed here.
    Robin appeared a very frightened man revealing Gaynor had told him to ‘get out of politics now’…

  • Jaded.

    ‘I have heard this morning that the Question Time on September 8th from London will be a special discussing 9/11. Hope it’s better than the one on the riots this week.’
    Oh, that little chestnut! Darn those damn Al Qaeda guys. 🙁
    ‘wait… do I hear the gears cranking up in Mason, Ohio?’
    Methinks the Lamby doth protest too much… 🙂

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I’ve posted this link before on this site. Barker critiques esp. the way in which liberal foundations control and direct dissent.
    In the ‘developing’ world, much dissent has been channeled into NGO work – another means of controlling and re-directing dissent.
    So this process is extremely well-developed, both in the ‘developed’ and the ‘developing countries’. It’s much cleverer and more difficult to tackle than in the days when the CIA would simply fund civil society/media/arts organisations directly. Now it’s much more subtle and systemic. Much harder, therefore, to fight. Especially when so many genuinely good people have been co-opted (even if they don’t know, or won’t admit, it).

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