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A question mark continues to hang over Bono's motivations for associating with sundry right-wing politicians. Plus: why there has to be an alternative to the dogmatic positions adopted by the Provos and the Indo on the Northern issue.
Eamonn McCann, 15 Apr 2005
We knew who I was at that time, because I had a reputation as a writer. I knew he was part of the Bush dynasty. But he was nothing, he offered nothing, and he promised nothing. He had no humour. He was insignificant in every way and consequently I didn’t pay much attention to him. But when he passed out in my bathtub, then I noticed him. I’d been in another room, talking to the bright people. I had to have him taken away” – Hunter S. Thompson describing an encounter with George W. Bush at Thompson’s 1974 Super Bowl party in Houston, Texas.
The hullabaloo over who was and who wasn’t admitted to an audience with Bush on March 17th may have been the reason another US-Irish encounter on the same day didn’t attract the coverage it deserved.
Paul Wolfowitz, nominated by Bush as new president of the World Bank, made a Patrick‘s Day phone call to Bono.
Wolfowitz was one of the key architects of the Iraq war and of a “reconstruction” strategy based on handing the conquered country over to US multinationals.
His nomination was controversial far beyond predictable circles. Outgoing Bank president James D. Wolfensohn was reportedly “dismayed” (NY Times). Britain’s International Development Secretary, Hilary Benn, was “furious” (Observer) that Tony Blair had endorsed the nomination without giving his cabinet a chance to object.
The nomination did have one perversely positive aspect. It made explicit the connection between the pro-war crowd and the free-market globalisers and thus underlined the argument for greater coordination between anti-war and anti-capitalist campaigns.
It was Wolfowitz’s office which informed wire services of the conversation with Bono. At a time when his nomination was the focus of angry denunciation, the involvement of the Irish rock star helped envelop Wolfowitz in a fuzzy humanitarianism.
On March 18th, the Bono camp issued a statement to CNN – it authorised the network to attribute the sentiments to “a colleague” of the singer’s, exactly the way furtive politicians allow their thoughts to be conveyed via “friends” – saying that, “Bono thought it was important that he put forward the issues that are critical to the World Bank, like debt cancellation, aid effectiveness and a real focus on poverty reduction.”
Derrick O’Keefe, a long-time admirer of U2, suggested on Counterpunch.com that “egomania and naivety” had led Bono genuinely to believe that he could persuade a leading representative of corporate gangsterism to adopt a humanitarian approach to world affairs. Possibly so. Bono wouldn’t be the first millionaire rock star to lose the run of himself and develop an awe of his own image.
But this perp had previous. As O’Keefe sorrowfully conceded, Bono’s legitimising of right-wing politicians is “egregious and now consistent.” His endorsement of the liar and war-monger Blair at last year’s British Labour Party conference comes to mind. As does his serenade to the corporate plunderer of the wilderness, the Liberal Party’s Paul Martin, as he took over as Canadian premier. Many will recall the excruciating “good will tour” of Africa in the company of then Bush sidekick Paul O’Neil. Not to mention a stomach-churning liaison with the racist bigot Jesse Helms. And we could go on.
The only defence of these creepy associations Bono has ever offered is that he hopes to influence those he dallies with. He affects to be entirely unaware of the possibility that these operators seek association with him solely because he can provide a sheen of rock-star glamour to cover their repulsive real role.
It could be that Bono, nobody’s fool, fully understands the impact of his political interventions; that, simply, he is a rich and powerful man who, naturally, wants the world to continue to be shaped in a way which serves the interests of the rich and powerful.
It’s hard to believe that that could be so. Personally, I prefer the benign to the malign scenario. But since Bono feels no necessity to offer answers or adequate analysis himself, we cannot be certain.
P. O’Neill and the Sunday Indo have more in common than either will admit. And it’s not just that each vastly overestimates its own importance.
Each would have you believe that a stark choice has emerged between backing the Provos and endorsing Bush-Blair-Ahern: that is, between retail and wholesale criminality and violence.
This perspective ignores the possibility of mass action against what Bush, Blair and Ahern represent – as opposed to reliance on a secret army skulking in the shadows with head full of delusions and hands twitching for action.
Paramilitary organisations offer no way forward. Never did. They are inherently elitist and undemocratic. Necessarily, they operate out of sight of the people in whose name they purport to act. Of their nature, they belittle the role of the masses in their own liberation.
Whatever arguments might linger about the roles they may have played, or believe that they played, in the past, paramilitary organisations are now clearly an obstacle to the advance of the working-class communities in which, more or less exclusively, they are rooted. Their very presence, to put it gently, encourages a dependence upon them. Or a reluctance to organise in ways it might be expected they’d disapprove of. This is the case in Protestant as well as Catholic areas and estates.
Paramilitaries discourage political organisation other than in the frame-work of rivalry between Catholics and Protestants. Every paramilitary organisation effectively claims to be the champion of “its own” community vis-à-vis the other. They thus perpetuate and intensify communal consciousness and hamper the emergence of politics constructed on any other basis.
This isn’t why every establishment voice is raised against the Provos. The Indo crowd don’t attack them for basing themselves on a communal model of politics. What irks them is that the Provos won’t undertake – not to the Indo’s satisfaction, anyway – henceforth to express their communal politics in exclusively legal ways.
If they ended their iffyness on constitutionality, the Shinners would be instantly acceptable to the political establishment in both jurisdictions. The reason is that, armed struggle apart, there is nothing fundamental to distinguish them from the establishment parties. Same as ever.
Bush, Blair and Ahern shout out to the Shinners – give over with notions of struggle. Encourage acceptance of privatisation, poverty wages and water charges at home, and imperialist adventurism abroad. Do this, and a bright future shall beckon.
The Provo leadership complains in response that it’s doing all it can but is being thwarted by “securocrats” determined to rub volunteers’ noses in it.
For all the fury of the exchanges, this is a shallow disagreement.
Pinnochi O’Neill and the Indo are not the only options.
I had hoped to get around this issue to the latest from the teas singer of San Francisco; the unfunny farce of the Morris Tribunal; Eoghan Harris and Kim Il Sung: the truth at last; and a remarkable Subtitles/Moondogs anti-war gig at the Nerve Centre. Next time, maybe.
In the meantime, to track the lost voices of the Irish working poor who spread sparkle on the American language, check out cool California cowgirl Karen Ellis’s Cyber-Playground website at www.cyberpg.com/Linguistics/irish.html.
And remember. The Moondogs. They havn’t gone away, you know.
And fuck me if those Kaiser Chiefs aren’t nearly as good as everybody says.