Obviously, it is a wicked thing to attempt violently to overthrow a sovereign head of state, even if he is as corrupt, murderous and loathsome a monkey as Obiang. We’re clear where we stand, morally, about regime change, aren’t we? Even when the regime to be changed is unspeakably foul?~ Rod Liddle, The Spectator

The story about this attempted coup had not really held my interest before now, though the implication of Margaret Thatcher’s son was an amusing detail, but Mr. Liddle has taken an interesting view of the subject that commands our attention. The inherent contradiction between the official stance of the U.S. government regarding regime change in Iraq and its reaction to the attempted coup against the government of Equatorial Guinea is striking, though not surprising. No more does the bold notion that war and revolution bring stability to a region circulate in Washington when it comes to this country, at least not when established oil contracts are at stake, and there is certainly no prattle about democracy involved in any deliberations about this small, wretched place in west-central Africa. Government abuses and the looting of the country are quite irrelevant to Washington’s decision. Of course, it is almost redundant to point out the glaring inconsistencies and frauds in current policy, but this is an excellent example.

Perhaps it is because Mr. Thatcher’s mercenary army was so plainly mercenary, while our military in Iraq only hired mercenaries on the side, and because his effort made no pretensions to democratic reform while our government could not stop pretending that the war had something to do with freedom and democratisation, that he had to be bailed out in South Africa rather than feted in Whitehall. Poor Mr. Thatcher. Had he arranged all of this through the proper channels and spiced it up with fake representative government, lobotomised pundits on FoxNews might now be hailing him as a new Churchill.

The story about this coup very nicely puts the lie to the Blairite idea, advanced by some liberal interventionists to assuage their brutalised consciences after Iraq, that a government cannot topple all the bad regimes but should do so when it can. Setting aside for a moment the impossibility of humanitarian or genuinely principled interventionist wars, Equatorial Guinea demonstrates very well the real reasons why major powers tolerate dictators and oppose efforts to depose convenient dictators while being simultaneously engaged in an effort to depose one that has become inconvenient. It inevitably pulls away whatever whitewash of principle or goodness the invasion of Iraq had, because if our government mooted the Guinea coup for such sordid reasons then it also launched the invasion of Iraq for motives no more pure or justifiable in the light of day.

It would seem as if Equatorial Guinea is ripe for a coup by the standard of the liberator-pundits, and Mark Thatcher was helping to prepare one. Why then is he regarded as a criminal, and Messrs. Bush and Blair are supposed to regarded as decisive and good leaders for supporting what is basically the same approach to very similar problems?