Of Ambassadors and the enforcement of Free Speech

So I’m here in southern California and I can’t lie, it’s fabulous. The weather is perfect. This morning was almost too perfect. I drove down from a meeting at Pepperdine University in Malibu, former residence of the witch-finder general, Judge Kenneth Starr, taking in the fantastic views from the Pacific Coast Highway, through LA, Santa Monica, Long Beach and other such places that I had long heard off from one classic rock track or another, but never gave much thought to ever driving through…

So I arrived in Irvine about an hour south of LA. I’m here for the International Studies Association regional conference addressing security issues. I’m delving a paper in the morning on the development of the UK national security council and the parallel rise of the transatlantic body set up by Obama and Cameron in the summer.

This evening I was invited to a reception with former US Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, something I anticipated very much. I was expected an evening of fascinating personal insight drawn from his career in the service of his country overseas in some of the most vital postings available.

Disappointed doesn’t cover it…

Instead of what could have been an erudite performance, we were treated to a bland, colourless and limp discourse on the state of the world today. No attempt was made to address his own insight, based on his experiences or engagements with the great and the good, or with the truly rotten.

The real low point however, came when he stated that the situation in Iraq was essentially the fault of, guess who, the British, since we had created the ethnic conditions that allowed for Saddam to be in power! How easy it is to have the Brits to kick whenever necessary. How easy it is to forget America’s own woeful tale in Iraq, or their sending of Donald Rumsfeld as President Reagan’s emissary in the early 1980s, or the curious case of arming both sides when circumstances suited in the eight year Iran/Iraq War. Shocking doesn’t come close to covering it!

To compound matters the ambassador was late arriving, not realising apparently that traffic in LA tends to get somewhat congested in rush hour. One wonders how long he has been in his diplomatic bubble?

Late,bland, boring. Other than that it was a great experience!

Needless to say the sycophants were running around congratulating him on a magnificent job. The tell-tale sign was the mass exodus of students from the well guarded auditorium. That’s right, the auditorium was being patrolled by a uniformed member of university security, looking for all the world like a police officer. I cannot confirm whether he was armed with a firearm not. The students left, deciding that they had less important things to do, leaving us under the watchful glare of the failed police officer, there apparently to ensure freedom of speech! Past experiences had apparently led to protests that had prevented speakers from talking, thereby denying them their first amendment rights.

Can you see the contradiction here? We have apparently reached a point whereby security is being employed on university campuses to ensure the enforcement of first amendment rights for invited guests, whilst denying them to attendees. Does this strike anyone as odd?

Land of the free and the home of the brave.

Right.

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