‘The failure of the international community to intervene in this mass slaughter still represents a monumental failure of the “civilised world” …instead of acting to save lives, the UN Security Council drastically reduced the presence of UN troops’ Counterpunch, 2 April 2004
Just another American warmonger trying to wrap up invasion plans in the crass disguise of ‘humanitarian intervention’? Well, yes, except this warmonger is Scottish: Emma Miller, wife of SpinWatch editor and Strathclyde University Professor David Miller, writing about Rwanda. You might think that in the year after the Gulf War, you would have worked out that the ‘international community’ is a euphemism for western intervention, and that western troops on the ground is not a good thing.
In a book Tell Me Lies: Propaganda and Media Distortion in the Attack on Iraq, edited by David Miller that year, one Mark Curtis quoted a government document saying that ‘public support will be to the conduct of military interventions in the future’. The report takes heart from ‘a public desire to see the UK act as a force for good’ (p 70) – meaning, presumably, groups like SpinWatch.
It was not just over Rwanda that the SpinWatchers thought that western intervention was needed to deal with ethnic violence. Mark Curtis pointed out that the campaign in Kosovo depended on keeping ‘on side the public and political support for the campaign’ and that it was important to exaggerate the threat to ethnic Albanians (78). But in 1999 SpinWatch editor David Miller was one of those who talked up the dangers of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo: ‘It is the same process in racism and with ethnic cleansing in Kosovo – the attitude that ‘they are going to take our jobs’.”
Indeed so adamant were the SpinWatchers that western intervention was a good thing that they viciously condemned those who made the mistake of being ‘totally opposed to armed intervention’ – namely the magazine Living Marxism. SpinWatchers Claire Robinson and Jonathan Matthews poured scorn characterising LM’s their position like this:
The portrayal of the Tutsis and the Bosnian moslems as victims of horrific atrocities could fuel demands for greater intervention not only in those conflicts but elsewhere. Those behind LM and the RCP therefore fought to undermine such perceptions.
The record, is, then, that SpinWatch’s contributors, David Miller, Claire Robinson and Jonathan Matthews were all in favour of military intervention in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Kosovo. It was only in 2003, confronted with the enormity of the war against Iraq that they recoiled from the horror of western imperialism.
Still, better a sinner that repenteth, you might say. Since the SpinWatchers have accepted that they were in the wrong, and in fact it was Living Marxism that was right about being ‘totally opposed to armed intervention’ after all, that is all to the good.
Except the SpinWatchers never did accept that they were in the wrong. Where people of principle would have admitted their error, the SpinWatchers just tried to shout out their opposition to the Iraq war as loud as they could, the better to avoid thinking about why they had only just woken up to the horrors of western imperialism.
To cover up their guilt, the SpinWatchers turned viciously on all their old allies in the campaign for humanitarian intervention who had not managed to Spin around to fight the war. Nick Cohen and Martin Bright had been on the SpinWatch side over Bosnia and Rwanda, but now they were in the wrong, so they had to be denounced as loudly as possible – the better to prove the SpinWatchers’ doubtful loyalty to the anti-War cause.
Also, the SpinWatchers had to re-write the history of western imperialism. To avoid owning up to their mistakes, they had to pretend that the trend towards western intervention was a new departure. They could not admit that the intervention in Iraq was the bloodiest chapter in a long story of intervention running from Somalia, through Bosnia, Sierra Leone and Kosovo. To admit that much would be to own up that they had been among the imperialists’ cheerleaders throughout.
So Miller and his friends made up an imaginary push towards war. The war was a secret plot cooked up by Jews in the neoconservative movement. The war was driven by a need for oil (Rowell, Tell Me Lies). The war was a secret plot by the Foreign Office (Miller, Tell Me Lies).
‘There is very little public debate on the propaganda apparatus and very few people know of the extensive machinery which has been built up’, wrote Miller (Tell Me Lies, p 80). One reason why there was ‘very little debate’ was that most of the left, including Miller, were right behind the UK government’s war propaganda.
In 2004 David Miller said that ‘the strategy of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is to fundamentally misrepresent the British role as consisting of benevolence and respect for human right’. (Tell Me Lies, 84). But in 2000 Miller and his wife were part of that propaganda campaign, writing briefs for the UK’s Department for International Development about how best to promote Britain’s role abroad.