Political Hay

Going Back to Euston

Earlier in these pages Quin Hillyer introduced the anti-anti-American "Euston Manifesto" -- now learn more from one of its signatories.

By 4.28.06

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I am European. I am liberal. I am a supporter of the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq.

Sometimes it feels like a meeting attended by every person who shares those traits could be held in a closet.

But that feeling, it has transpired, is wrong. Late last month, a group of left-of-center academics, journalists, and bloggers in Britain published "The Euston Manifesto."

The manifesto -- which I played no part in formulating, but to which I am a signatory -- displays clear-sightedness, realism and moral consistency. Those are precisely the values that I believe large swathes of the Left, in the U.S., the UK, and elsewhere in Europe including my native Ireland, have abandoned.

The Euston Manifesto is not officially a "pro-war" document. The group that drew it up included some people who disagreed with the invasion. But the signatories are united in their recognition that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's "reactionary, semi-fascist and murderous" regime was "a liberation of the Iraqi people."

They also correctly insist that, whatever one's view of the invasion, the chief concern of people on the liberal-left should now be to see the establishment of "a democratic political order."

The manifesto is concerned with other issues beyond Iraq. It is a declaration of unambiguous allegiance to pluralist democracy and its constituent parts, including free elections, freedom of expression, and the separation of Church (or Mosque) and State.

It is especially strong in its condemnation of the anti-Americanism which, it notes, is "now infecting so much left-liberal (and some conservative) thinking."

The Manifesto also blasts some liberals for "the excuse-making for suicide terrorism [and] the disgraceful alliances lately set up inside the 'anti-war' movement with illiberal theocrats."

The manifesto may sound like a lengthy statement of the obvious. But, in a way, that's the point.

Much of the European Left, having long ago leapt recklessly into the embrace of anyone opposed to the U.S. in general and President George W. Bush in particular, has drifted very far from the sensible position articulated by the Euston group.

British Member of Parliament George Galloway -- who delighted American leftists with his boorish performance in front of a Senate committee last year -- is the chief figurehead of the leftwing RESPECT coalition.

This is what RESPECT has to say about Iraq:

The defeat of the U.S.-led occupation is critical if the global economic and political offensive begun by the U.S. state and its allies at the time of the First Gulf War is to be defeated.

The resistance in Iraq is engaged in a battle to liberate the country. The Iraqi resistance deserves the support of the international anti-war movement.


The Euston Manifesto's liberal critics insist that RESPECT's position is a minority one. In fact, RESPECT is candid in its desire for an outcome that many others on the anti-war Left hanker after in more subtle ways.

Whether one takes the temperature of the European Left from the opinion columns of leading newspapers or the chattering of polite society, it is all too evident that a humiliating defeat for the U.S. in Iraq is widely sought.

But who would be the agents of such an American defeat? The answer, self-evidently, is theocratic thugs like Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi.

Zarqawi released a message just before Iraqi elections last year. "We have declared a bitter war against democracy and all who seek to enact it," he said. "The voters are also part of this and are considered the enemies of God."

How can any liberal reconcile their avowed principles with de facto support for Islamic fascists like him?

Muddy thinking on this issue is, of course, not confined to Europe. The heroes of the American Left include the likes of Gore Vidal, who, when asked whether he accepted that the Iraqi people could not have overthrown Saddam on their own, responded:

"Don't you think that's their problem? That's not your problem and it's not my problem. There are many bad regimes on Earth, we can list several hundred. At the moment, I would put the Bush regime as one of them."

Vidal's comment is a concise illustration of everything that leaves me and, I imagine, the other signatories of the Euston Manifesto, utterly alienated from the anti-war Left.

I cannot contemplate supporting any movement that equates a conservative-led democracy with an authoritarian dictatorship, that regards egregious oppression as someone else's problem, and that refuses to acknowledge that threats incubated on other continents can manifest themselves on our streets.

The Euston Manifesto illuminates a different path. It shows that an internationalist Left still exists, still holds freedom's promises dear, and has not been deformed by virulent anti-Americanism.

It is also a reminder that the most important division in contemporary politics is not that which separates liberals from conservatives but that which separates democrats from fascists.

Such a reminder should not be necessary. But it is.

The beliefs expressed in the Euston Manifesto seem to only hold sway among a minority of liberals on both sides of the Atlantic.

I am proud to be among them.

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About the Author

Niall Stanage is a Belfast-born, New York-based journalist. He writes regularly for the New York Observer and also covers the U.S. for an Irish national newspaper, the Sunday Business Post.