When this blog was posted,(Thursday, 29 October 2009) Barack Obama had been President for just under a year and Alex Salmond and the SNP were still a minority government. Tom Gallagher popped up again yesterday in Scottish review, defending the notorious Paxman interview. This clip is now approaching 9000 hits, high by my modest standards, and there seems to be pretty much a consensus in the comment – and elsewhere in the media- about this little episode, which reflected no credit on Paxman, but did the SNP a lot of good. (Interesting to note Gallagher was attacking the Bannockburn theme way back in 2009.)
Tom Gallagher got one thing right, although not as he doubtless intended it -
“ Lots of people are scrambling around trying to find the elusive artefacts of Britishness which will enable them to derail the nationalist juggernaut. It occurred to me that the mercurial and choleric Mr Paxman exemplified one of the strands that have defined Britishness in the eyes of the rest of the world. “ TOM GALLAGER
It would be too kind to call the unionist opposition a juggernaut so far – more of a rickety empire wagon with the wheels coming off – but the Paxman interview undoubtedly caused to to jolt dangerously as it ran into yet another Paxo rut …
BLOG FROM 2009
Thursday, 29 October 2009
Prof. Tom Gallagher, Alex Salmond - and the NED?
I sent the following letter to the Herald as a response to yet another misconceived attack by Professor Tom Gallagher of the Bradford University Peace Studies department. It wasn't published, and, in fairness to the Herald, I was really responding to Prof Gallagher's earlier attacks on Alex Salmond, and not the ridiculous charge of Anglophobia directed against him yesterday, and to that degree, I was 'off thread'.
Today's letters include a number of robust and effective responses to the Professor Gallagher, and I am content that balance has been served, however I reproduce my unpublished letter below because it refers to something that tends to be skated over in embarrassment by the Scottish media, and I am bound to say on occasion by the SNP itself, namely the hostility by America to Scotland's ambitions for independence on strategic - and covert - foreign policy grounds.
America's appalling - and murderous - record of interfering in democratic processes in other nations, notably in Latin America, is well known, or at least it should be to anyone who has not had their head firmly in the sand for the last half a century or so. In the Reagan era, a certain embarrassment set in over the egregious nature of the CIA's brutal suppression of democratic regimes, and an organisation was set up to sanitise this arm of America's foreign policy, called the National Endowment for Democracy.
The criticisms of this organisation are numerous, coming both from Americans and from the rest of the world. It has two aspects - a smiling public aspect of good works and worthy initiatives, and another, secret aspect of covert operations and the channelling of money to politicians and groups deemed to be favourable to American interest in countries that are deemed to be strategically important to America, which means just about anywhere on the globe. It uses a complex, concealed money trail as the conduit for these funds.
It also sponsors carefully selected academics from other countries deemed to be sympathetic to its public aims, and what ambitious academic could quibble with the aims of a foundation that endows democracy?
Professor Tom Gallagher is a Research Fellow of the National Endowment for Democracy.
UNPUBLISHED LETTER TO THE HERALD 29th October 2009
Tom Gallagher (Letters 28th October) remains entirely consistent, if increasingly intemperate, in his attacks on Alex Salmond, the SNP, and his interpretation of what he calls “ethnic politics”. He seems to wilfully ignore the fact that all political parties are engaged in ethnic politics, and have to embrace within their policies and their activities the realities of ethnicity, ethnic groupings, religious belief and its complex relationship to national identity, colour, and ethnicity.
Alex Salmond faces the reality of a Scotland where three large faith groups exist, together with a large secular block that professes no faith. He faces the reality of faith schools within the state sector for two Christian faiths, but not currently for the Muslim faith. I am personally opposed to faith schools, and believe that they can contribute to ethnic division in communities, but unless we are prepared to dismantle them for Christian religions, I cannot see how in equity we can deny them to Muslims. The vital thing is that they should not be faith schools of the fundamentalist, Christian Zionist type that Blair endowed, nor the extreme Islamicist type that propagate a violent version of Islam that is alien to the vast majority of Muslims
However, Professor Gallagher, as an acknowledged expert on ethnicity and religion as it affects politics, seems to be highly selective in what he attacks, and he displays a remarkable capacity to ignore the rampant militarism, religiosity and celebration of imperial values that characterises Britishness, and seems totally blind to an even more militaristic religious nationalism displayed by America. Perhaps the fact that he is a research fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington D.C. contributes to his myopia in this regard, because the NED is a very odd body indeed.
Founded in the Reagan era, this organisation was designed to sanitise the brutal suppression of Latin America democracies by the CIA – its purpose was, in the words of former CIA operative Philip Agee, “seeking to promote free, fair, transparent democratic elections, but in such a way that power went to the elites and not to the people.” We can see its dubious operations in Afghanistan and its spectacular failure in Iraq.
Alex Salmond and the SNP are resolutely anti-nuclear, and committed to the removal of weapons of mass destruction from Scotland. One would expect this to sit well with a Professor of Peace Studies, but perhaps not so well with a Research Fellow of the NED, an organisation that uses a complex system of directing money to shadowy political forces in ways that make it impossible to “follow the money”.
Scottish nationalism represents a threat to the kind of American foreign policy epitomised by the Bush, Cheney and Blair years, a bitter destructive era that we may be painfully emerging from under Obama. Prof. Gallagher can find better targets than celebrations of Bannockburn if he wishes to further this vital process.