In-laws arrived at the weekend, so I didn't get round to posting. But I did read that article.
Earlier this year the American political philosopher Jean Bethke Elshtain wrote, of a type of argument alleging American culpability in September 11:
This sort of inflammatory madness exists outside the boundary of political debate and festers instead in the fever swamps of conspiracy theory.
Professor Elshtain is a brilliant ethicist but she clearly hadn't reckoned with the strange world of Michael Meacher. In Saturday’s Guardian, this former minister in the British government from 1997 till three months ago, once a serious contender for Labour’s deputy leadership, charged the Bush administration with colluding in the murder of 3000 civilians in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The administration's rationale, apparently, was to establish a pretext for the advancement by war of the foreign policy goals of a small pressure group (let's call it a cabal), the neoconservative Project for a New American Century.
Conspiracies do happen. The Tonkin Gulf Resolution was one, Watergate another and Iran-Contra a third. All unravelled speedily and inflicted political damage on their perpetrators. American government is neither so centralised nor so closed nor even so powerful that what starts as secret can be assured of remaining so.
America does seek access to oil, and does wish to prevent oil-exporting nations from engaging in coercive economic diplomacy. The easiest way to pursue those aims would have been to deal directly with Saddam Hussein, lift sanctions, and allow Iraqi oil to flood the world market and depress prices. Moreover Afghanistan has no major oilfields and the fabled pipelines foreseen by anti-war campaigners have never been built.
Neoconservatives such as Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz did advocate the overthrow of Saddam Hussein long before September 11. In the past 20 years they have also urged the departure of Marcos in the Philippines and Pinochet in Chile, representative government in South Korea, and the defence of a multi-ethnic democracy in Bosnia. The common theme is not a plan for world domination but what used to be called Wilsonian liberal democratic internationalism. However you characterise that philosophy, its rationale extends further than crude economic determinism.
Osama bin Laden has not been captured, but his mortal remains are unlikely to share Meacher's knowing insinuation of deliberate lassitude on the part of US military operations. Meacher declares:
None of this assembled evidence … is compatible with the idea of a real, determined war on terrorism.
So he clearly believes al-Qaeda was seeking all along its expulsion from Afghanistan, the death or capture of half its leadership, and the overthrow of its host regime.
Yet such observations are almost beside the point. Meacher's accusations posit an American administration so bent on political and strategic advantage that it was amenable to:
1. the mass murder on American soil of American citizens possibly – had the Towers fallen differently – in far greater number than actually died;
2. the destruction of one building, perhaps the Capitol, that was in fact spared by the heroism of the plane’s passengers;
3. the risk of becoming known as the most evil and cynical democratic government in history;
4. possible suicide, for the Defence Secretary was at his desk when the Pentagon was struck.
You expect politicians to play politics. But Meacher's argument isn't politics so much as pathology. It is obtuse, tendentious, ignorant and malign. It is base. It is squalid. It is indecent. It is, scarcely in the metaphorical senses, deranged and blasphemous.
Meacher attempts to evade moral responsibility for advancing his thesis by employing disingenuous rhetorical question and idle truism in preference to direct assertion. But no Guardian reader will have misconstrued his argument. His assertion that he is merely in favour of putting the facts doesn't even have the merit of deviousness: it's transparently dishonest, being easily checked against what he wrote a few days before the anniversary of the slaughter of thousands of innocents.
How matchless a combination of timing and turpitude. And how permanently debased a political reputation.