Aaronovitch administers the hatchet

Anyone who has read this site will know that I’m not a big fan of the UK’s little band of neocon/liberal interventionist journalists.  It isn’t just the fact that I don’t agree with them.  I can live with disagreement.   It isn’t even  their total obliviousness to the discrepancies between their militarist proposals and the actual outcomes of the wars they support. It’s just that they are such a horribly self-regarding, obnoxious and downright disreputable bunch, in their reliance on straw man arguments, cheap smears, condescension, character assassination,  and sneering innuendo to dismiss their opponents.

Few people demonstrate these tendencies more clearly than David Aaronovitch. Someone once said of Trotsky’s remorseless debating style that he could take his opponent’s head off and shake it to demonstrate that there was nothing inside.  Aaronovitch has a different technique.  What he does is construct a papier-mache head to represent his intended target, the cruder the better, and then he stamps on the pieces he’s constructed with a kind of gleeful schoolboy spite, to the sniggering satisfaction of  a readership that likes to watch such little spectacles.

Craig Murray, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and numerous others have all been subjected to this treatment.   And now Aaronovitch has turned his skills on the Green MP Caroline Lucas, in a review of her book Honourable Friends?  Parliament and the Fight for Change, that is one of the most vitriolically nasty pieces that I have read in some time.

I haven’t read Lucas’ book, but Aaronovitch clearly read it with the sole intention of writing a hatchet job, and boy, has he delivered one.   The full piece is subscriber only, but some excerpts will give you a flavour.  It begins like this:

‘Lucas is the nice Green female MP from Brighton who, like Nigel Molesworth’s classmate Fotherington-Thomas, skips around saying “Hullo clouds, hullo sky” and loves the scents and sounds of nature.’

Maybe I’m being oversensitive here but I can’t help sensing just a teeny-weeny bit of male condescension in that ‘nice Green female’ parody, which bears no resemblance whatsoever to the Caroline Lucas that I’ve seen.   And then there is this

‘It is a tome untroubled by doubt or admission of error and free of anything as necessarily complicating as wit. There is, in short, not a reflective passage in it….It is not as though Lucas is alive to her own contradictions. In fact, she glides over them.’

Anyone familiar with Aaronovitch’s work is likely to find this amusing, in a very, very dry kind of way,  because I have yet to see any evidence that Aaronovitch has ever been troubled by doubt or admission of error or any awareness of his own contradictions

As always he maintains the fiction of balance and nuance, praising Lucas for promoting renewable energy and because she ‘ got a manufacturer of cluster munitions thrown out of the morally dubious affair that is the UK arms expo.’  He then goes on to argue that she is wrong, so utterly and absolutely and dismally wrong, on everything else.  And she’s also a bit of a phony too because she claims to be an ‘outsider’ even though she was educated at Malvern College.

That’s Lucas owned then,  but it isn’t until the end of the review that the real explanation for his spleen becomes clear:

‘ But to me perhaps the worst chapter of the book is when Lucas moves to foreign policy and the “positive outcomes” of the vote not to attack Assad in September 2013, not least that it “spared the Syrian people … the inevitable death and destruction that western air-strikes would have brought in their wake”. Actually it spared Assad’s air force to drop barrel bombs on the people of Aleppo.

Never mind, because Lucas has an alternative for Syria. Which is to “promote a regional process in which those countries with a strategic interest can come together to explore a peaceful settlement that can lead to long-term stability, justice and an end to poverty in the region. That must also include an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine …”

Aaronovitch then gives the silly little woman a demonstration of what wit means:

‘Poot! As Fat Freddy’s Cat farted. This is a hippy formulation in its own way as immoral as any arms fair. “Hullo clouds, hullo sky!” it says, and “Goodbye Syrians!”

Like Fotherington-Thomas, she skips around saying “Hullo clouds, hullo sky” ‘

Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker eat your little hearts out.    My first response on reading those lines was that Aaronovitch is even more of a jerk than I ever thought he was, because it really takes a very convoluted conception of morality to dismiss an argument suggesting that war may not be the solution to the Syrian Civil War is a ‘hippy formulation in its own way as immoral as any arms fair’.    So voting against a war is as immoral as selling cluster bombs at an arms fair?

It is in Aaronovitch’s moral universe, a universe in which (western) wars are always moral and always beneficial to those on the receiving end, and always waged with no other purpose except to save people from evil dictators, and air-strikes are always intended to save people rather than bring ‘death and destruction’.

A former member of the communist party, Aaronovitch has attached the old  ‘can’t-make-an-omelette-without-breaking-eggs’ philosophy from his Stalinist intellectual heritage to the new age of neo-imperialist ‘humanitarian’ war, and the absence of omelettes or humanitarian outcomes has never led him to question his assumptions or regret his choices.

A quick look back on his foreign policy record really suggests a man who ought to be a little more humble in making judgements about other people’s suggestions and proposals.   Take his support for the Iraq war, which he once described  as ‘ the most difficult and painful judgement he had to make.’  In fact the breathtaking shallowness of his predictions suggests that it wasn’t really that difficult or painful at all.  Aaronovitch once predicted that Iraqis would greet the Anglo-American occupation with flowers.

He once cheerily predicted that the Iraq military campaign would be the ‘easy bit’, which it was for him.   When it turned out – who would have thought it? – that there were no flowers and that Iraqis actually died during the war and occupation, he rationalised the death toll by telling his readers how many people Saddam would have killed if he had remained in power, as though Saddam killed according to a yearly quota.

The result was the kind of calculus that some white men like to make about brown folk, in  which you simply add up how many Iraqis have died in any particular year, then substitute the imaginary Iraqis who you think would have died had Saddam still been in power that year, and if the latter is higher or only a little bit lower than the former, then result!  It was a good war after all!

But then the deaths kept rising, to the point when even Aaronovitch was worried that it was higher than supporters of the war like him could ‘reasonably’ have expected.   How many dead Iraqis was a ‘reasonable’ figure to make it a good war?  Aaronovitch didn’t say.  But it definitely wasn’t the 655,-000 to a million calculated by the Lancet and other epidemiological studies, all of which he dismissed.

What authority did he have to question these methodologies? None,  but his own unwillingness to accept the horrific consequences of the war that he supported.   That, and the fact that the Labour government also refused to accept them, despite the insistence of its own chief scientist that the methodologies used were ‘best practice.

Before the Iraq war Aaronovitch said that he would never believe his government again if no WMD were found in Iraq.  Yet even after no weapons were found,  he has continued to defend the Iraq war and to support every war and proposed intervention since, because like Elvis Presley he just could not stop believin’ everything his government told him.

And this is the man who now has the temerity to ridicule an MP who suggests that war is not the answer to the Middle East’s problems?   This is the man who says that Lucas lacks the capacity for self-doubt or awareness of her own contradictions?   And Lucas is supposed to be the naive ‘hippy’ wandering around her head in the clouds?

You must be kidding me.

 

Last Flight of the Liberal Bombardiers

Liberal interventionism is a serious business that requires tough, decisive men who are ready for the long haul, not sissies or whimps.   No matter how many disasters unfold, no matter how many times the outcome of these interventions departs from their original predictions and expectations, such men must always ready for the next one,  in the hope that success will wipe away the memory of all the others and that they will ultimately emerge triumphant and vindicated, hoisting tattered flags of moral superiority like the Marines on Iwo Jima.

Cometh the hour, cometh the men.     With Team Obama pinned down by a sceptical and disbelieving world under a hail of its own lies, contradictions, and inconsistencies, and with his  key ally temporarily neutralized by that previously dormant and acquiescent instrument, the British parliament,  some of Britain’s most hardened and fervent liberal bombers have once again felt the bracing and intoxicating impact of moral combat, and roused themselves from restaurant tables and liquid lunches to hit the keyboards in an  attempt to mobilize public opinion for another exemplary display of imperial violence.

These are pundits with pedigree and experience, grizzled veterans of the combat zones in Afghanistan,  Iraq and Libya,  men with an endless array of dictators in their gunsights, always ready for new monsters to slay, and new wars for other people to fight and die in, for whom every new war is an opportunity to do battle once again with those enemies of freedom and justice who come within the generic label ‘the left.’

Clearly sensing that their latest adventure is in deep trouble, these freedom fighters have in the last week launched what appears to be a collective strike or a journalistic equivalent of the US military tactic of swarming.   First up was David Aaronovitch, the blustering and credulous nitwit  who once predicted that Iraqis would welcome Coalition troops with flowers and swore that he would never believe his government ever again if WMD were not found.

In a vicious and vitriolic attack on Ed Miliband in the Times (subscribers only), Aaronovitch railed against last week’s vote,  asking ‘How has Labour ended up in situation whereby a major attack with chemical weapons could happen without a significant response by this country in concert with its allies?’

The answer, Aaronovitch concluded,  lay in Miliband’s personal character and a lack of moral compass that meant that he was nothing more than a ‘political vulture’.   This position was supported by Blair’s biographer John Rentoul, still shuffling along in his master’s footsteps, with a sneering piece in The Independent praising Cameron for his principled condemnation of ‘peacenik jaw jaw’ and accusing Labour of bad faith for opposing military strikes

In his blog Rentoul more overtly supported his comrade-in-arms Aaronovitch, and described Miliband’s supposed pusillanimity as ‘ deplorable’ and ‘ extraordinary and spineless.’

Then there was Niall Ferguson, swooping low over Damascus with a piece in The Guardian accusing the left of an ‘irrational fear of American intervention’, because according to him, when faced with human rights violations in Syria and other countries, leftists are ‘ deeply reluctant to will the means to end the killing, for fear of acknowledging that western – meaning, in practice, American – military power can be a force for good.’

Ferguson does not even begin to explain how bombing Syria can ‘end the killing’,  nor does he address the possibility that opposition to American military power might in fact be rooted in the very ‘rational’ experience of previous interventions, rather than political zealotry.

Ferguson’s main target was Obama, not Miliband.  Never one to hide his light under a bushel, he  praised himself for his ‘predictive power’ in previously describing Obama as a vacillating president, whose ‘addiction to half- and quarter-measures’ he describes as ‘complacency’ and ‘callousness.’

Whatever you can say about Obama,  there are few commentators on the Middle East who are more callous or complacent than Ferguson, who has never shown the slightest concern about the catastrophic consequences of the ‘interventions’ he supports so avidly.   For Ferguson, bombing Syria has less to do with human rights than it does with bombing Iran, in order to stop ‘the mullahs’, as he calls them, from acquiring nuclear weapons.

This is a man who earlier this year described a putative bombing campaigns as ‘creative destruction’ and whose patina of historical gravitas cannot conceal a ruthless, self-regarding and pitiless advocate of imperial warmaking.

The raid was completed on Sunday by an attack on Miliband’s lack of ‘moral leadership’ piece on by Nick Cohen in The Observer, in a piece that even by his lowly standards, was shrill, hollow, manipulative, and intellectually dishonest.  Cohen uses words like ‘moral’ a lot when it comes to supporting US/British wars,  but he increasingly resembles an angry toddler, brooding in his sandpit and pulling pieces off  strawmen and the ‘ assorted creeps, kooks, crackpots, conspiracy theorists, collaborators and criminals on the planet’ who are, for him, the only people who do not think it is a good thing for the Imperium to blitz Syria or any other country that it chooses.

Any piece that begins with a sentence like ‘It would be dishonest of me to try to out-Jew Ed Miliband’ is going downhill fast, and it isn’t long before Cohen declares that Miliband’s reluctance to bomb Syria in response to the Ghouta chemical weapons incident means that the Labour leader no longer has the moral right to criticize the Holocaust.

The most polite thing that one can say about this observation is that it is really so singularly dumb on every level that it is not even worth refuting, and is in fact a carcrash of an idea.

Readers of this blog will know that I’m not a particular fan of Ed Miliband.   But I do believe that he showed some political courage in not allowing himself to be dragooned into military action – even though, contrary to what his attackers are saying, he has not in fact ruled it out completely, but only referred the debate back to the United Nations and made it dependent on the UN Inspectors report.

Neither Aaronovitch, Rentoul or Cohen have asked any questions about the eagerness of the US and Britain to undermine and ignore that report, or manipulate the flow of information from Syria, or the numerous inconsistencies and holes in the Obama administration’s case against the Assad regime regarding chemical weapons, or the constantly shifting narratives between ‘deterrence’, ‘degrading’ and ‘regime change’ that have accompanied the US propaganda offensive.

None of them appeared to have weighed up the potential consequences of military action for Syria or the region, or considered any other response except to bomb.  But then that isn’t surprising because it was exactly the same for all the other wars that they supported, with virtually identical arguments.

One test of intellectual honesty and integrity is an ability to change one’s mind when presented with new facts or information.  None of these cheerleaders have ever done this.   They simply assume that their position is ‘moral’ and then insist that the interventions they support are moral too, and that anyone who takes a different view somehow lacks any  morality except for kneejerk ‘anti-Americanism.’   They create cardboard caricatures and charge at them like Don Quixote attacking windmills.

Worst of all, they simply believe and recycle every piece of information they receive from above without even questioning it, and then they have the gross temerity to accuse those who take a more critical view of being ‘conspiracy theorists.’

Contrary to what they believe, I don’t really find anything ‘moral’ or ‘brave’ about that.  And even though I believe that it is possible to respect one’s political opponents or people you don’t agree with, I’m afraid I can’t summon up any respect at all for this disreputable shower.

Iraq: The Liberal Combat Team is Back

‘It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation,’ General William Tecumseh Sherman once declared, when looking back on the American Civil War.

Sherman’s indictment was aimed at the civilians and politicians who he believed were largely responsible for the war,  but his words can be applied with equal force and validity to the liberal keyboard warriors who supported the Iraq war.

Some of them have been back in combat mode in recent weeks.  Like the journalistic equivalent of Sylvester Stallone and his crew in The Expendables,  age cannot wither them, and here they come with jaws jutting out to hit the keyboard or appear at tenth anniversary debates to justify the catastrophic war they once supported.

In the New Statesman, there is John Lloyd, one of Paul Wolfowitz’s nightclub pals at Annabelle’s, telling readers ‘Iraq: Why Blair was right.’     At the Times, there is  David Aaronovitch, one of the hardest and most valiant liberal interventionists of all, a man whose weight-loss experiences at health farms have never blunted his appetite for combat, with a typically belligerent piece entitled ‘Now we know it was right to invade Iraq’ (access by payment only) .

Elsewhere, the Independent‘s John Rentaghoul –  the Renfield to Blair’s Dracula, endlessly willing to eat insects for his master – is cheerfully  upbeat in his blog about his participation in a Newsnight debate on ‘ what Iraq is like now and the implications for liberal interventionism elsewhere’.

Now these are men who clearly know what war means, wise, intelligent, thoughtful men who care deeply about humanity – especially Arab humanity.  So we know that their decision to support the war didn’t come lightly.   We can take it for granted that, like Bush and Blair,  they carefully weighed up all possible options before they started churning out op eds and appearing on tv to support the 2003 invasion.

And we can also assume that such men are capable of reflecting on the complete and utter discrepancy between what actually happened and what they said would happen – as many US and British army officers did when the Iraq war ‘went wrong’ –  and perhaps expressing a certain humility and wariness about proposing future ‘interventions’.

Well, not exactly.   For these warriors are a tough breed, and not the kind to be put off by minor setbacks.    All of them are unrepentant about the war that they once promoted so fervently.   All of them are serenely indifferent to – or at least accepting of – the death and trauma that the war left in its wake.   And after all these years in the frontline, they have not lost their ability to reinvent the past or ignore inconvenient facts that contradict their arguments.

This is what liberal interventionism is all about.   It’s a long game, and anyway, Iraq wasn’t that bad, says Major-General Aaronovitch from his Hampstead base of operations.  After all:  ‘Ten years after the war began, the country is more secure and democratic. The alternative was Syria on steroids.’

Counterfactuals are a stock weapon in the apologist’s arsenal.   Aaronovitch was one of those who predicted that Coalition troops would be greeted with flowers, who believed claims that there were WMD hidden all over Iraq and that these weapons would be found.    Having been proven completely wrong on every single count in his  attempts to predict the future of Iraq, he now takes refuge by imagining an alternative past and present, while simultaneously ignoring or diminishing the impact of what actually did take place.

Like many others in the liberal combat squad, Aaronovitch takes issue once again with the epidemiological surveys that placed the overall death toll in Iraq between 600,000 to one million, even though the British government’s own scientific adviser once declared that the methods used were ‘close to best practice.’

Aaronovitch prefers the figure of 180,000 – clearly a tragic but nevertheless acceptable figure for ex-communists like him, who come from the Stalinist  ‘can’t have an omelette without breaking eggs’ tradition.  In addition, these statistics support one of Aaronovitch’s favourite arguments – that Saddam would have killed just as many people if he had remained in power.

I don’t know about you readers, but I find a gross and outrageous cynicism in this kind of calculus.  Saddam was a vicious bastard for sure, but he did not kill people by quota, and it is not for pampered Western journalists to decide how many Iraqi deaths  constitute an acceptable statistic – or dismiss surveys which don’t support their own assumptions.

John Lloyd, another ex-Stalinist, also compares Saddam to Stalin in his New Statesman piece, which argues that the Iraq war was largely based – on Blair’s side at least – on the ‘powerful moral imperative’ of the ‘responsibility to protect’.

Well, actually, no it wasn’t.  Blair did not invoke that principle before the war.   On the contrary, he insisted again and again that the war was justified by Saddam’s non-compliance with weapons inspectors. He even declared on one occasion that ‘regime change’ was not inevitable, and that Saddam could remain in power if he complied.

If ‘responsibility to protect’ was such a ‘moral imperative’, why did the US and Britain do so little to ensure that the Iraqi population were protected after the invasion?   If Blair cared so much about Iraqi civilians, why were he and his inner circle so outraged by British media coverage of Iraqi civilian deaths during the invasion, as documented in Peter Stothard’s fly-on-the-wall book?

Why did they not deploy sufficient troops?   Why did they effectively dismantle the Iraqi state?  Why, despite the experience of both the US and British military in running successful post-war occupations, was there such a monumental failure in post-war planning, something that US and British army officers have commented on many times since?

Why did US and British troops so rapidly alienate the Iraqi population?   Why did the US military open fire on an unarmed crowd in Fallujah in the first weeks of the occupation?  Why did American and British soldiers torture and humiliate the ‘liberated’ Iraqi population?   Why are women in Fallujah still giving birth to deformed babies?

If Bush and Blair really believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, as Lloyd insists, why did they feel the need to include an old Phd thesis in the ‘dodgy dossier’ and refer to faked stories about ‘yellowcake’ uranium to inflate the ‘threat’ posed by Saddam?

There are many other questions like this that could be asked, but the liberal tough guys are not interested in asking them.    For these hard-livin’, hard-fightin’  crusaders,  the Iraq war may not have had a perfect outcome, but it’s still good enough for them to argue in favour of new wars.  Thus Lloyd concludes with a ringing endorsement of liberal intervention, declaring:

‘It may work in Mali. More thought needs to be given to how it might work in Syria. For the left, the responsibility to protect should be part of a progressive view of global problems. That the principle has become synonymous with a kind of refurbished imperialism is a sign of decadence.’

Now John Lloyd, like Aaronovitch, clearly regards himself as a profound thinker, and sees some kind of inherent nobility in his willingness to urge other people to fight and die in the West’s endless struggle to make the world a better place.

But their latest interventions suggest to me that that deep, deep, deep down, these are very shallow men indeed, both morally and intellectually.  And reading their apologias, I can’t help feeling that the real decadence is not be found amongst those who criticize the misuse and manipulation of ‘responsibility to protect’ as a justification for militarism, but amongst lazy and credulous journalists who endlessly recycle the lies and delusions of more powerful people than themselves and peddle a vision of war that is essentially as hollow and fake as their own humanitarian pretensions.

 

 

We All Hate Julian Assange

I have to admit a certain ambivalence towards Julian Assange.  On the one hand I admire what he and Wikileaks have done.  At least from a distance however,   he comes over as somewhat egocentric, grandiose and reckless,  with an appetite for self-promotion that has overshadowed the collective efforts of the Wikileaks team.

And even if the so-far-reported stories concerning the allegations directed against him fall short of rape – something that has yet to be proven one way or another – they are less than edifying and somewhat creepy.

I’m also not entirely convinced by the argument that if Assange returned to Sweden to address these allegations, it would begin a process that would lead inevitably to his extradition.

That said,  I can’t help being struck by the visceral loathing directed towards him from the liberal commentariat.  Ever since the white-haired one took refuge in the Equadorian embassy, journalists have been falling over themselves to express their contempt and outraged disgust.

Last week, there was Joan Smith in the Independent dismissing Assange as ‘ a fabulist, someone who stretches and distorts the truth to make himself look exciting in the eyes of his diminishing band of followers’ and condemning ‘ the people’s champion, shopping for human rights near Harrods’.

Smith accompanied this sarcasm with a feminist critique, claiming that Assange ‘ has employed every trick in the book to avoid going back to answer serious allegations of sexual misconduct’ in Sweden, and that the authorities there ‘ have been trying to question him for almost two years’.

In fact Assange did offer to present himself to Swedish prosecutors in Sweden when these charges were first brought up, and they were initially dismissed.  It was only after he left Sweden that they were brought up again, for reasons that are not clear and which certainly contain the possibility of a stitch-up.

In the Daily Mail, Stephen Glover, formerly of the Independent, launched an equally scathing attack on the ‘cowardly and amoral founder of Wikileaks’ and his ‘useful idiot’ supporters, such as Jemima Khan and Ken Loach.

Glover accused Assange of endangering Afghan informants through Wikileaks’ revelations and also declared that ‘a true hero would relish going to the U.S. to defend his actions and show solidarity with Private Bradley Manning, the alleged source of many of the WikiLeaks documents’.

There is no evidence yet that anybody has been harmed by the Wikileaks revelations, and Glover’s suggestion that Assange  should prove his courage by defending himself in the US is laughable, coming from a journalist who has never demonstrated his courage anywhere.

Elsewhere Nick Cohen, David Aaronovitch, the New Statesman blogger David Allan Green and Oliver Kamm of the Times have been exchanging sneering and somewhat gloating tweets about Assange and his supporters, like a gaggle of vindictive teenagers engaging in text-bullying.

And yesterday Cohen wrote a typically intemperate and intellectually dishonest piece in which he labelled Assange and his supporters ‘paranoid’  for fearing that the US might seek to extradite him from Sweden, when he could just as easily be extradited from the UK.

But until Assange entered the Equadorian embassy and effectively defied an extradition order that would have returned him to Sweden, he hadn’t committed any criminal offence in the UK.

In Sweden, on the other hand, he would be placed in detention, and it is certainly possible that the US government might then seek to have him extradited if it was able to – and it is also possible that the rape allegations that have been bought against him might have been trumped-up in order to put him in jail for something.

It’s also worth pointing out that ‘paranoia’ about what might happen to him is not limited to Assange and his supporters.  Australian diplomats, for example,  have also expressed concern at rumours that the US government is seeking to prosecute Assange for espionage.   The Sydney Herald reported that

While the Justice Department has been reluctant to disclose details of the WikiLeaks probe, the Australian embassy in Washington reported in December 2010 that the investigation was ”unprecedented both in its scale and nature” and that media reports that a secret grand jury had been convened in Alexandria, Virginia, were ”likely true”.

Cohen also insists that  ‘ the incontinent leaker’ is protected by the First Amendment and America’s traditional defence of freedom of speech’ and that ‘ it would be unconstitutional for a judge to punish Assange.

This argument ignores the Obama administration’s aggressive assault on whistleblowers – or the possibility that the US government might seek to make an example of the man who has become the public face of Wikileaks and find legal loopholes that might enable it to do so.

Cohen expresses fake sympathy for the fact that the US government has held the ‘ wretched Bradley Manning’ in solitary confinement for passing information to Assange.  If Manning is ‘wretched’, it is because a vengeful government has decided to make him into a scapegoat and because he is almost certain to spend the rest of his life in jail for releasing information that he – like Assange – believed was in the public good.

Ultimately, Cohen’s attack on Assange is essentially another means of pursuing his bitter vendetta against the left, which is described with the usual strawman rhetoric.  Therefore

Reasonable doubt cannot stay the tongues of Ken Loach, Tariq Ali, Jemima Khan, Naomi Wolf, John Pilger and their comrades. They lament western wickedness with the reliability of professional mourners. For them, America is a demonic empire with supernatural power and reach.

Er yes, Nick, that’s really what they think, and just keep those parodies coming – they will always be useful substitutes for actual thoughts.

Much of Cohen’s wrath is directed at the  American journalist Glenn Greenwald, who wrote an article defending Assange’s asylum bid last week.    Greenwald is a forensic and indefatigable critic of American warmongering and the lawless swathe of violence that America has carved across the planet for the last decade, which undoubtedly explain’s Cohen’s anger towards him – and also towards Assange himself.

This is something that many of Assange’s liberal journo opponents have in common.    Oliver Kamm is a bizarre former banker-turned-neocon warmonger, whose arid, desiccated prose is notable for its nitpicking pedantry and endless cheerleading for the western war du jour, all of which is laced with a streak of adolescent vindictiveness towards opponents who he invariably regards as his intellectual inferiors.

Aaronovitch, like Kamm and Cohen,  was one of the most fervent liberal supporters of the Iraq war,  who once predicted that Iraqis would greet American troops with flowers, and that if WMD were not found he would no longer believe a word the British government said.

We all know how that one went, but Aaronovitch went on believing and continued to insist that a war launched under blatantly false pretences was right anyway.   Aaronovitch presents himself as an iconoclast and fearless free thinker, but his views on foreign policy invariably converge seamlessly with those of his government’s, in ways that suggest that free speech is too often a wasted opportunity amongst writers who have neither the guts nor the vision to actually use it.

Wikileaks, by contrast,  performed some brilliant and essential work in revealing the sewers that underpin Western foreign policy and breaking down the barriers of secret diplomacy that governments erect to conceal their intentions and machinations from public scrutiny.

Whatever his personal quirks and character flaws and possibly morbid sexual inclinations, Assange has been crucial to that process, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this is why the liberals hate him, and would like everybody else to hate him too.