In view of what I wrote about about the death of Bin Laden, the demonstration of triumphalism, how clues as to his whereabouts were indirectly gained by the use of waterboarding at Guantanamo Bay and how the description of Bin Laden’s last moments changed overnight, I think it is only fair that I add a few comments. As usual, they will not be particularly original, but they will still have the virtue of being true.
In many ways, the U.S. can arguably be said to have behaved very badly in the whole of it existence. But in that it is no different to any other country. But where it, and all other ‘Western’ states do score rather well is that they are true democracies. Bush was by no means to everyone’s tastes, but he was eventually voted out of office. Well, strictly speaking he could not have continued in office as he had already served two terms as president, so let me put it another way: when the times came to chose another president after the Republican Bush had served his terms, the U.S. went for the Democrats. That is not possible in, say, Syria, and it is debatable as to just how ‘democratic’ post-Soviet Russia is.
My point is that for all its faults, at the very least the mechanisms are in place in America for the ordinary Joe to get justice and to voice his dissatisfaction with the state. Try doing that in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, increasingly Venezuela, China or many other states around the world. Because of the size of its economy, the U.S. cannot but have a high profile in the world, and not only does it see itself as the country which, because of its resources and principles, is obliged to right what it regards as wrongs around the world, much of the rest of the world sees it in the same role. I am all too aware of a rampant anti-Americanism among those who lean to the left in Western Europe, and I would not want to be included in their number. I find them largely to be a thoroughly dishonest bunch, if only because they refuse to acknowledge that their freedom to dissent is based on the likes of America fighting to defend it. America is by no means flawless, but we have a lot to thank it for.
Similarly, I get rather impatient with many who attack Israel for its behaviour over the Gaza strip and its reactions to Palestinian bombings. I don’t recall anti-Russian demonstrations out side Russian embassies around the world when at Putin’s behest the Russians went into Chechnya and virtually razed Grozny to the ground. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I can’t but help detect an anti-Semitic nature the criticisms of Israel. I must admit that I always respect anyone - an individual, a minority group or a country - which stands up for itself, and that is what Israel does. Furthermore, it, too, has the kind of political system in which the voters can - and do - get rid of a government which is no longer to its liking. I’ll repeat: try doing that in Saudi Arabia, until recently Egypt, Iran or any other the other countries surrounding Israel. And to portray, as some often do, the Israelis as the guys in black hats victimising the poor Palestinians in white hats is laughably naive.
. . .
The big news is, of course, that British voters have rejected changing their voting system. They were asked in a nationwide referendum – Lord, it does sound important – whether they want to change from the the one we now use in which whoever got the most votes in a constituency, even if it was only one, won that constituency’s seat in Parliament to on called the alternative vote system which meant you listed the candidates in the order you liked them and votes were distributed – I think ‘m falling asleep. If you want to know how it worked, please look elsewhere. All I can tell you is that it was the one last hope of the Lib Dems of ever garnering enough votes to form a government in their own right (rather than, as at present, as the junior partner in a coalition) and now they have lost, but a substantial margin, they are cutting up rough.
A nice old codger called Vince Cable, who is once worked as some kind of beancounter for BP and is reckoned to know a little bit about economics (and ballroom dancing, apparently, although he doesn’t brag) is now cutting up rough and describing the Tories as ‘ruthless, calculating and very tribal’ which is a bit rich coming from the bloody Liberals, who are known for playing very dirty indeed come elections time. In fact, nice old codger Vince is, in fact, making a play for the leadership of the Lib Dems which would become vacant if, but more likely when, the current leader, a clean-cut middle-class sort of chap called Nick Clegg is told by the Lib Dems troops to sling his hook. Another codger, though not quite as old, is a chap called Christopher Huhne, who in years gone by might well have been described as a bit of a rum cove, in that he very rich, having made a mint in the City, and recently abandoned his wife for a lesbian pole dancer or bus conductor or something. The Tory Lib Dems will pretend they don’t mind, but actually mind quite a bit, and the Labour Lib Dems will award him double brownie points for doing so.
Huhne, who got some kind of ministerial Cabinet post in the coalition government, has also spent quite a bit of time calling the Tories all kind of nasty names and demanding all the things cherished by the true believers - ensuring that all domestic dogs and cats are on the Pill, shifting the capital of Britain from London to Brussels and generally making damn sure the Lib Dem faithful know that he isn’t at all happy with the present set-up, not one bit. (In political jargon it is called ‘dog whistling’ though I really don’t know why.) The only advantage he has over Vince Cable is that he is younger, and the disadvantage is that he know nothing about ballroom dancing. Huhne is still smarting from the fact that he lost the leadership battle to Nick Clegg and shows no sign of coming to terms with it.
So bugger Libya, bugger Syria, bugger firefights in Bin Laden’s bedroom, bugger whatever is going on in South America, let the world take note: this was the Lib Dems big chance to engineer the voting system more in their favour, but good old Johnny Bull gave them a big, fat and very loud raspberry. Not only that, but they also lost more than two million council seats in the Home Counties alone and bunny rabbits and guinea pigs up and down the land or not happy.
Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party has increased the number of seats it holds in the Scottish Parliament and now has a real majority (as opposed to the last election when it formed a minority government). In Wales, Labour did rather well, but – this being Wales – the result means it is just one seat – make that one damn seat – short of forming the government or whatever it is called in Wales.
NB. I am happy to report that a team of election observers from Zimbabwe, Iraq, Myanmar and the Ukraine report that they were happy with the way the poll was conducted and as far as they could tell there were no irregularities of any kind. Well, there’s a relief.