Oliver Kamm complains that I misrepresent him (letters, below; Humanitarian interventionists dig in, 16 December).
I don't. I quote him. If he does not want to be held to account for his arguments that democracy and civil liberties are expendable in the war in Iraq, he should not say those things. And though it is a digression (his, not mine), if Kamm will insist on writing that the Republican cause in Spain was a greater danger than Franco, he must expect to be understood to prefer Franco's victory over Caballero's.
Martin Bell's candidacy in the Tatton election was an important turning point. I wrote at the time that, by turning the election into a question of the sitting MP Neil Hamilton's character, the electors had been denied the chance to vote against Conservative policies (and for the record, LM magazine did not support any of the candidates in Tatton). Oliver Kamm was the pioneer of that anti-political approach, boasting that he had drafted Bell's manifesto so far to the right that Hamilton could not outflank it. In 2001 Martin Bell lost the Tatton Constituency to Tory George Osborne by 8,611 votes.
By his silence on it, I assume that Kamm accepts the main argument of my review of his book: that put into practice, humanitarian intervention involves just as many grubby compromises as cynical realism.
I have sent back the following letter for publication:
Dear Sir or Madam,
One of my historian friends who has debated with 'Heartfield' (presumably a nom-de-keyboard) on the Balkans warned me that he was not the sharpest tool in the box; I should have taken the advice and left well alone. Apart from manufacturing two further arguments that appear nowhere in my book, Heartfield draws an important political lesson from Martin Bell's defeat in the 2001 general election in "the Tatton constituency to Tory George Osborne by 8,611 votes".
Martin Bell did not stand in the Tatton constituency in the 2001 general election.
While on the subject of Heartfield - for the second and last time - I'll deal just with his "holding me to account" for my arguments about civil liberties. From my book, Anti-Totalitarianism, here are the paragraphs he refers to. I have begun by saying there are limits to how far international law can deliver collective security. I go on to say, in a section entitled "The importance of legal precepts" (the sentence Heartfield quotes is in bold):
[T]here can be no dispute among progressives that a sovereign democratic state, acting alone or in concert with allies, must have a regard for due process and its own legal precepts. The most grievous failing of the Bush Administration in its foreign policy has been an indifference to those preconditions of legitimacy.
The anti-totalitarian struggle is one that will probably last decades. What are initially designed in wartime as emergency measures may, therefore, last indefinitely. The inevitable abridgements of liberty that a military campaign requires are not sufficiently well designed to allow us to maintain for long the appearance – and reality – of fairness and due process. Non-governmental organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International overreached themselves in the Iraq controversy by (in the first case) presuming competence to judge the justification for war, and (in the second) complaining that the British government was publicising Saddam’s human rights abuses. But they – and more particularly the Red Cross, whose warnings about Abu Ghraib were not treated with the weight they merited – have an important role to play in shaping policy in this respect. It is essential in the short term that the US administration order a formal system of inspections of detention centres, in which the NGOs should be involved, establish a code of rights for prisoners, and provide for judicial review in cases of terrorist suspects.
According to Heartfield, these paragraphs say "democracy and civil liberties are expendable in the war in Iraq". I hold to the convention that where an intelligent general reader fails to grasp an author's point, the fault lies with the author. For reasons I am too polite to state, I absolve myself of responsibility for any inference Heartfield may draw from my book.