Reading all the diatribes from Washington, London and other EU capitals after Hamas’s crushing victory has got me thinking. How do they do it keeping a straight face? Do what, you ask, how do they actually maintain a straight face while consistently contravening their very own principles. But don’t they have a point you ask; surely a party that has now been elected to government must eschew violence and renounce its belief in regime change. The irony of such fallacious arguments fails to be appreciated by supporters of George Bush’s neoconservative Republican Party who have done nothing but engage in perpetual violence since 2001. Is it really credible to complain about regime change in Tel Aviv while simultaneously working to initiate regime change in Tehran and Damascus? Of course the fact that Israel has violently swept away the existing unitary Palestinian state that existed in 1948 off the map is neither here nor there.
However the above points aren’t the key ones, what is more serious is the ubiquitous depredation of principle we are seeing these days, whether its Google’s surrender to China, the ethical vacuum in Washington or the roll back of fundamental values in the War on Terror. This is important because the key strength of a principle is to gauge its resilience when faced with difficulties and challenge, the acid test being that a principle is only a principle if it’s inconvenient to apply it. Principles that constantly have to be diluted are clearly then a barometer of the parlous state of a particular way of life. As each day goes by in the War on Terror, more and more cherished cows are now being slaughtered on such a regular basis that it is difficult to know what to do with all the beef. Western governments used to believe that people had a right to a fair trial but then came Guantanomo Bay. Western governments used to believe that people should not be subject to arbitrary arrest but then came Extraordinary Rendition. Western governments used to believe that the rule of international law was sacrosanct but then came the unilateral invasion of Iraq. Western governments used to believe that people should not be subject to torture in any circumstances but then came the outsourcing of prisoners to Egyptian and Syrian dungeons. Western governments used to believe that prisoners of war should not be subject to inhumane treatment but then came Abu Ghraib. Western governments used to believe that individuals had the right to privacy but then came unauthorised wiretaps and surveillance. Western governments used to believe that individuals had the right to be told what they were charged with but then came 28 days pre-charge detention. Western governments used to believe in the freedom of speech but then came the planned offence of the ‘glorification of terrorism’ and the proscription of non-violent groups. Western governments used to believe that people could defend themselves if they were invaded but then came the labeling of Afghan and Iraqi resistance as terrorism. Western governments used to believe that civilians should be spared the horrors of war but then came the use of white phosphorous and depleted uranium. Western governments used to believe that nuclear non-proliferation was for all states as contained in the NPT but than came mini nukes and plans for a replacement for Trident. Western governments used to believe that free and fair elections provided absolute legitimacy but then came the Palestinian elections and Hamas.
Of course there are one or two ideals still left, the pursuit of expediency over principle for instance.