The Liberal Defence of Murder
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A war that has killed more than a million Iraqis was a “humanitarian intervention”, the US army is a force for liberation, and the main threat to world peace is posed by Islam. These are the arguments of a host of liberal commentators, including such notable names as Christopher Hitchens, Kanan Makiya, Michael Ignatieff, Paul Berman, and Bernard-Henri Lévy.
In this critical intervention, Richard Seymour unearths the history of liberal justifications for empire, showing how savage policies of conquest—including genocide and slavery—have been retailed as charitable missions. From the Cold War to the War on Terror, Seymour argues that colonialist notions of “civilization” and “progress” still shape liberal pro-war discourse, concealing the same bloody realities.
In a new afterword, Seymour revisits the debates on liberal imperialism in the era of Obama and in the light of the Afghan and Iraqi debacles.
against the rebellion. In this context, ‘African’ meant ‘black’. The rumours were largely unfounded, but a series of lynchings, beatings and mass arrests of black workers and migrants began in rebel-controlled areas. After Gaddafi’s downfall, the process seemed to accelerate, with gruesome killings, thousands of black workers and immigrants being rounded up, and even ethnic cleansing in some areas taking place.72 Unfortunately, this related to a wider tendency to racialize the conflict, as
period of intelligent and enlightened rule in the interests of the colonized. Republicanism and the civilizing mission The colonization of Algeria in the 1830s was welcomed by much of the French left. The Saint-Simonian Philip Buchez argued that France should take the opportunity to dominate the Mediterranean, as it would provide a holding base for ‘direct communications with the interior of Africa’. Charles Fourier had hopes that the communal societies he was proposing for Europe could be
opposite. The government made no serious effort to stir up anti-colonial feeling, and, from the moment Franco’s forces launched the coup, the government was cautious to the point of lethargy about the response, refusing to arm the CNT and UGT, and advising citizens that ‘this absurd venture’ was going nowhere.80 Very soon, they discovered that their Popular Front allies in France were co-sponsoring a Non-Intervention Pact with Britain. The Soviet Union, which was both anxious to avoid making
of Palestine by the Zionist movement in the British Labour movement. Ramsay MacDonald, for example, had been a consistent supporter of Zionism since the publication of his pamphlet, A Socialist in Palestine, in 1922. British Labour leaders such as Arthur Henderson had declared in favour of Zionism even before the Balfour declaration, and the party had had a significant role in getting the Zionist Marxist group Poalei Zion admitted to the Second International. In 1944 the Zionist leadership had
resolution could mean de-recognition, he later noted, citing the example of Rhodesia.99 It hardly mattered to Moynihan that Israel would become more democratic by abandoning Zionism, in the same sense that Rhodesia would be more democratic by abandoning white rule. He became the neoconservative favourite as candidate for president. Midge Decter recalled that ‘He was our horse’, until Ronald Reagan became the ‘Cold War Democrat’ of choice. In fact, it would be interesting to consider what