“I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”
Henry Kissinger pronounced these words at a June 1970 meeting of the CIA’s 40 Committee, which spent up to $6.5 million trying to turn that fall’s Chilean election against socialist Salvador Allende. It didn’t work, and Allende won anyway, so the CIA began working to remove him through strikes, internal subversion and ultimately, military force.
The United Kingdom isn’t about to suffer a coup. But it seems that the week after Donald Trump made his state visit to London, our countries’ “special relationship” doesn’t include much respect for British democracy. When Trump picked out Boris Johnson as his favored candidate to succeed Theresa May, at least he’d been asked to do it. In fact, the Tory leadership candidates were positively queuing up to seek the Donald’s support, as they tried to appeal to their party’s hard-right base.
But this weekend Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went much further. In private remarks recorded by the Washington Post, he insisted that the irresponsibility of the British voters couldn’t be allowed to bring Jeremy Corbyn into office: the issues are just too important. Corbyn’s record of opposition to US militarism as well as his challenge to the power of the wealthiest Brits just aren’t acceptable to Washington.
The Secretary of State didn’t directly reference all that, of course. It’s important to keep up appearances. Instead, Pompeo’s remarks drew on the latest round of spurious complaints that the Labour leader is an antisemite, who apparently risks heading what one Tory minister called the West’s first Jew-hating government since 1945. “It could be that Mr. Corbyn manages to run the gantlet and get elected. It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.”
Nevermind Corbyn’s critics’ failure to produce any evidence that he is antisemitic, the reality that under Corbyn-ally general secretary Jennie Formby Labour has waged an unprecedented campaign to purge its ranks of antisemites, or the fact that both Trump’s right-populist international friends and the European allies of the British Tories include all manner of fascists and Jew-haters.
Nevermind all that. And never mind democracy, either. The issues are too important. Pompeo insists Corbyn shouldn’t even be allowed to reach office. The Secretary of State promised an assortment of self-styled community leaders that the US wouldn’t sit back and wait for the wrong election result.
Faced with these remarks, Labour took a rather measured tone, while also telling Pompeo to go fuck himself. As a spokesman put it “President Trump and his officials’ attempts to decide who will be Britain’s next prime minister are an entirely unacceptable interference in the UK’s democracy.”
This was coupled with a robust rejection of the “antisemitism” smear, insisting the party is “fully committed to the support, defense and celebration of the Jewish community and is implacably opposed to antisemitism in any form.”
Antisemitism is a serious problem and should be rooted out wherever it is found, be that in the GOP, the Tory Party, or Labour. Precisely because it’s serious, it shouldn’t be wielded fraudulently or as a synonym for whoever criticizes Israel (which also associates Jewish people in general as responsible for the actions of a foreign state). Like the headmaster who recently compared attacks on the elitism of private schools to antisemitism, saying that any criticism of the powerful is an attack on Jews isn’t a good look.
In any case, thus far it seems that British voters have more good sense than to be led astray by this smear campaign. And we might doubt that many otherwise willing Labour voters are going to be put off by an intervention by Trump’s Secretary of State. Pompeo should wind his neck in.