MLAs’ welcome for war-monger US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland leaves a bad taste
Remarkably little attention has been paid to the visit of US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland to Stormont last Friday. The BBC reported that Nuland held meetings with representatives of all five Executive parties, but, that report apart, Nuland's brief sojourn at Stormont seems largely to have passed unremarked.
According to the BBC item, she welcomed this week's talks on the past, flags and parades, but cagily evaded a question about the possibility of the US providing a chairperson for another round of Haass-style negotiations. Washington "would consider any invitation from the parties" was as far as she would go.
Commentators may have had no energy left following the three-day carnival of codology occasioned by the visit of the Queen.
Or perhaps they'd missed the moment in February when Numan made front-page headlines around the world as a result of a taped phone conversation in Kiev in which she discussed with ambassador Geoff Pyatt which local party it would be most advantageous for the US to hoist into office to replace the regime of Viktor Yanukovych – by all accounts hopelessly corrupt and spectacularly incompetent, but with the slight advantage over others of having been democratically elected.
It's understandable for another reason that the substance of the Kiev conversation attracted such scant coverage locally. It went virtually unreported in the cross-channel or US media, too, where the focus was on the fact that the conversation had not been conducted on a secure, encrypted line, but on an allegation instantly produced by the State Department that the Russians had been behind the bugging.
Nuland and Pyatt had been talking on an open mobile phone line which, back in the day, a cub reporter on any tabloid would have been able to intercept easily.
The fact that there was no evidence of Russian involvement did not prevent State Department spokeswoman Jan Psaki speaking of "a new low in Russian tradecraft" – a reference to spying techniques.
There was wider publicity, brought on by her profanity, about Nuland having observed during the conversation that the EU – which wasn't convinced that a Western-sponsored coup was the best way forward – could "f*** off".
The propriety of representatives of a foreign power planning the replacement of a legitimate government by an administration more to their liking has not been a matter of serious discussion – nor have the US Government's farcical expressions of outrage at the suggestion of another country listening in to conversations between its officials.
There are further facts about Nuland which might in other circumstances have merited mention. She was foreign policy adviser to Vice-President Dick Cheney, in which capacity she defended the disastrous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
In spite of his having no formal position in the administration, she works closely with her husband, Robert Kagan, founder of the most powerful neo-con lobby in Washington, the Project For A New American Century.
Acting together in 2009 immediately after the inauguration of Barack Obama, the couple switched their allegiance from Cheney to Hillary Clinton – the strongest advocate of the Bush/Cheney wars among Democratic Party leaders.
The fact that a woman with such a toxic record of undermining democracy and shouting the odds for war can call in on the north and hold talks with local party leaders about peace is a measure of the provincialism and absence of serious ideas which characterise our politics.
There are no issues here which anybody else in the rest of the world needs to worry about. Neither the US, nor any other major (or even medium-sized) power has a vital interest in this place. Our conflict reflects no struggle for control of important resources.
If there were to be a united Ireland in the morning, neither the US, Russia, China, nor anybody else with clout in the world would care tuppence. If it were to become clear that there won't be a united Ireland until hell freezes over, that would be all right, too.
What the north has offered US administrations since Jimmy Carter is the possibility of a foreign policy success with no negative consequences if everything goes pear-shaped – that, plus confidence that even if some local parties maintain, when it suits them, that they are against the US wars, they'll keep their lips buttoned until the visitors are out of earshot.
Bet nobody at Stormont asked Nuland how she reconciles her words about peace and harmony here with her record elsewhere of war-mongering and overthrowing governments the US doesn't like. Mustn't be cheeky.