by Austin Bay
April 19, 2006
On July 7, 2005, at 9:47 a.m., a terror bomb destroyed London's
number 30 bus en route from Euston Station to Russell Square. The bomb
murdered 13 people.
On May 7, 2005 -- two months before the terror attack -- a group
of British scholars, intellectuals and political activists met in a central
London pub to discuss the War on Terror. Later that year, they would meet
again, in a pub not far from Euston Station, to draft what has become known
as "The Euston Manifesto." The name comes from the pub's location, but the
connection to the terror attack -- and what to do about jihadist
terrorism -- is not coincidental.
The pub crowd included Norm Geras, professor emeritus of
government at the University of Manchester. In a recent article in Britain's
New Statesman, Geras and columnist Nick Cohen described their group as "of
"Many of us were supporters of the military intervention in
Iraq," Geras and Cohen wrote, "and those who weren't -- who had indeed
opposed it -- nonetheless found themselves increasingly out of tune with the
dominant antiwar discourse. They were at odds, too, with how it related to
other prominent issues -- terrorism and the fight against it, U.S. foreign
policy, the record of the Blair government, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
and, more generally, attitudes to democratic values."
The News Statesman article doesn't name names, but I'll wager
"dominant antiwar discourse" serves as short-hand for the public rant of
such "left-wing" luminaries as filmmaker Michael Moore, activist Cindy
Sheehan, British member of Parliament George Galloway and websites like
www.myleftwing.com (featured in a recent Washington Post article).
"The Euston Manifesto" offers an encouraging alternative
"progressive" counter-point to the loud Left crowd. It rejects those who
"indulgently 'understand' reactionary regimes and movements for which
democracy is a hated enemy -- regimes that oppress their own peoples and
movements that aspire to do so."
Its smackdown of knee-jerk anti-Americanism is long overdue,
rejecting "without qualification the anti-Americanism now infecting so much
left-liberal (and some conservative) thinking." U.S. failings "are shared in
some degree with all of the developed world." The United States "is the home
of a strong democracy with a noble tradition ... ." The manifesto abhors
"generalized prejudice" against either the United States or its people.
Perhaps writing a manifesto sounds like a quaint, romantic
gesture rife with 1930s socialist or 19th century populist nostalgia.
Arguably, manifesto is also another Karl Marx-damaged word deserving repair.
James Madison's Tenth Federalist paper is an essay, but it's
also a manifesto of sorts, one with manifest historical impact. George
Orwell's "progressive" intellectual opposition to Stalin and Stalinism
certainly helped solidify liberal resistance to Soviet expansionism.
"Containment" and the Truman Doctrine had the support of America's
center-Left, and they were the philosophical and strategic foundations for
prosecuting the 20th century's Long War, the Cold War.
"The Euston Manifesto" deserves attention for other reasons,
journalist Marc Cooper (formerly with The Nation magazine) told me. "I think
it is important that there be a viable and principled opposition to the Bush
administration," Cooper said.
Free-marketeers (like me) will quibble with the Eustonites'
socialist economics -- but so what? An honest intellectual attempt to focus
on essential democratic principles deserves praise, for these are value we
Cooper isn't convinced the manifesto is a seminal document.
"This is, after all, a statement by writers and not some organizing plan,"
Cooper observed, though he argued it is indicative of diversity of
I see it as an unusual example of fact-based and principled
discussion from the political Left. The Eustonites "reject the double
standards with which much self-proclaimed progressive opinion now operates,
finding lesser (though all too real) violations of human rights which are
closer to home ... more deplorable than other violations that are flagrantly
worse. We reject, also, the cultural relativist view according to which
these basic human rights are not appropriate for certain nations or
Read that last line as saying Iraqis and Arabs can handle
The Euston Manifesto is a courageous expression of support for
the "liberty" and "liberating" components of classical liberalism.
(Note: The manifesto can be found on the Internet at
http://eustonmanifesto.org/joomla/. Norm Geras' prize-winning Website is