What is the world's most powerful and violent "ism"? The question will summon the usual demons such as Islamism, now that communism has left the stage. The answer, wrote Harold Pinter, is only "superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged", because only one ideology claims to be non-ideological, neither left nor right, the supreme way. This is liberalism.
In his 1859 essay On Liberty, to which modern liberals pay homage, John Stuart Mill described the power of empire. "Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians," he wrote, "provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end." The "barbarians" were large sections of humanity of whom "implicit obedience" was required. The French liberal Alexis de Tocqueville also believed in the bloody conquest of others as "a triumph of Christianity and civilisation" that was "clearly preordained in the sight of Providence".
"It's a nice and convenient myth that liberals are the peacemakers and conservatives the armongers," wrote the historian Hywel Williams in 2001, "but the imperialism of the liberal way may be more dangerous because of its openended nature – its conviction that it represents a superior form of life [while denying its] selfrighteous fanaticism." He had in mind a speech by Tony Blair in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks, in which Blair promised to "reorder this world around us" according to his "moral values". At least a million dead later – in Iraq alone – this tribune of liberalism is today employed by the tyranny in Kazakhstan for a fee of $13m.
Blair's crimes are not unusual. Since 1945, more than a third of the membership of the United Nations – 69 countries – have suffered some or all of the following. They have been invaded, their governments overthrown, their popular movements suppressed, their elections subverted and their people bombed. The historian Mark Curtis estimates the death toll in the millions. This has been principally the project of the liberal flame carrier, the United States, whose celebrated "progressive" president John F Kennedy, according to new research, authorised the bombing of Moscow during the Cuban crisis in 1962. "If we have to use force," said Madeleine Albright, US secretary of state in the liberal administration of Bill Clinton, "it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future." How succinctly she defines modern, violent liberalism.
Syria is an enduring project. This is a leaked joint US-UK intelligence file:
In order to facilitate the action of liberative [sic] forces . . . a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals [and] to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria. CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main [sic] incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals . . . a necessary degree of fear . . . frontier and [staged] border clashes [will] provide a pretext for intervention . . . the CIA and SIS should use . . . capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.
That was written in 1957, though it might have come from a recent report by the Royal United Services Institute, A Collision Course for Intervention,whose author says, with witty understatement: "It is highly likely that some western special forces and intelligence sources have been in Syria for a considerable time." And so a world war beckons in Syria and Iran.
Israel, the violent creation of the west, already occupies part of Syria. This is not news: Israelis take picnics to the Golan Heights and watch a civil war directed by western intelligence from Turkey and bankrolled and armed by the medievalists in Saudi Arabia. Having stolen most of Palestine, attacked Lebanon, starved the people of Gaza and built an illegal nuclear arsenal, Israel is exempt from the current disinformation campaign aimed at installing western clients in Damascus and Tehran.
On 21 July, the Guardian commentator Jonathan Freedland warned that "the west will not stay aloof for long . . . Both the US and Israel are also anxiously eyeing Syria's supply of chemical and nuclear weapons, now said to be unlocked and on the move, fearing Assad may choose to go down in a lethal blaze of glory." Said by whom? The usual "experts" and spooks.
Like them, Freedland desires "a revolution without the full-blown intervention required in Libya". According to its own records, Nato launched 9,700 "strike sorties" against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. They included missiles with uranium warheads. Look at the photographs of the rubble of Misurata and Sirte, and the mass graves identified by the Red Cross. Read the Unicef report on the children killed, "most [of them] under the age of ten". Like the destruction of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, these crimes were not news, because news as disinformation is a fully integrated weapon of attack.
Words as cover
On 14 July, the Libyan Observatory for Human Rights, which opposed the Gaddafi regime, reported, "The human rights situation in Libya now is far worse than under Gaddafi." Ethnic cleansing is rife. According to Amnesty, the entire population of the town of Tawargha "are still barred from returning [while] their homes have been looted and burned down".
In Anglo-American scholarship, influential theorists known as "liberal realists" have long taught that liberal imperialists – a term they never use – are the world's peacebrokers and crisis managers, rather than the cause of a crisis. They have taken the humanity out of the study of nations and congealed it with a jargon that serves warmongering power. Laying out whole nations for autopsy, they have identified "failed states" (nations difficult to exploit) and "rogue states" (nations resistant to western dominance). Whether or not the regime is a democracy or dictatorship is irrelevant. The same is true of those contracted to do the dirty work. In the Middle East, from Nasser's time to Syria today, western liberalism's collaborators have been Islamists, lately al-Qaeda, while longdiscredited notions of democracy and human rights serve as rhetorical cover for conquest, "as required". Plus ça change.