Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Iraq and the Pro-Forma Article

Alan Johnson does a splendid guest post at Harry's Place, "Iraq and the Missing Social Democratic Narrative". In it he discussess the The Single Transferable Article about Iraq (STAI).
The STAI has three points: Blair is a liar, Iraq is worse off, vote Respect or Lib Dem. The columnistas (Robert and Yasmin, Seamus and George, but also Peter and Simon, for the STAI comes in a right-wing version) have been writing the STAI for two years now.

There are three simple steps to writing the STAI. Step 1: bracket out every single positive development in Iraq. That’s right, just ignore every one. Pretend they have not happened. Close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and hum loudly. After all it’s not your job to set out a real-world policy for Iraq. Step 2: play up every single error, set-back, crime, and cock-up you can find. Step 3: treat every set-back as the fault of Bush and Blair and ‘the war’ [admitting you are inwardly glad when an outrage occurs in Iraq because you think it is a poke in the eye for Bush is optional: only Yasmin has taken that option so far].

The STAI reduces the political complexity of Iraq to a simple story of cowboys, poodles and freedom fighters. Mood music for your real interest: the attack on Bush-Blair. [Definition of irony: columnistas who daily ‘sex up’ Iraq in this way complaining about spin! In truth they have been the most disciplined on-message spinners, dicing and slicing Iraq to fit their ‘project’].
He then spots the missing date from all articles: January 30 2005.
the day eight and a half million Iraqis, most very poor, voted for a democratic future after thirty years of totalitarianism, war and misery, and danced with joy, purple fingers held aloft in pride. You see the STAI doesn’t do January 30 2005. It would spoil a good story.
Johnson then calls for
This same social democratic narrative is the basis for a critique of events in post-war Iraq: an anti-fascist discourse about the so-called ‘resistance’ (‘They Shall Not Pass!), a social –democratic demand for a Marshall Plan for Iraq and social justice in the new economy (Sennian ‘Development as Freedom!’), democratic socialist solidarity with the third camp in Iraq: free trade unions (‘The Union Makes Us Strong!’), democratic political parties, progressive civil society (‘Solidarity Forever!’).
as the only real "end to terrorism".

He then refers to The West Wing episode "Let Bartlet be Bartlet" in which Leo, the Chief of Staff is asked
"You have a strategy for all this?"
"I have the beginning of one."
Leo writes out on a legal pad, "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet".

Leo then talks to his staff:
"Listen up. Our ground game isn't working. We're going to put the ball in the air. If we're going to walk into walls, I want us running into 'em full speed. We're going to lose some of these battles. We might even lose the White House. But we're not going to be threatened by issues. We're going to put them front and center. We're going to raise the level of public debate in this country. And let that be our legacy."
That's how this election campaign should be played. Ignore the "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet" but putting issues "front and centre" and "rais[ing] the level of public debate" beyond the moronic "Blair is a liar, Iraq is worse off, vote Respect or Lib Dem".

Raise the level of discourse. That's what we want. And we want it now.

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