Saddam is sent to rendezvous with a judge in The Hague,
or a rope on a lamppost, the democratic opposition
in Iraq will need help. It has many enemies: Turkey,
Saudi Arabia, the CIA and the Foreign Office want
to replace the old tyrant with a new, compliant dictator
- a Saddam without a moustache. As the moment of decision
arrives, Iraqi democrats and socialists have discovered
that their natural allies in the European Left don't
want to know them. They must add the shameless Stop
the War coalition to the enemies list.
is the only country in the Arab world with a strong,
democratic movement. Yet I wonder how many who marched
yesterday know of the dissenters' existence. The demonstration's
organisers have gone to great lengths to censor and
silence. How else could the self-righteous feel good
about themselves? The usual accusation when whites
ignore brown-skinned peoples is that of racism. It
doesn't quite work in the Stop the War coalition's
case. The Socialist Workers Party, which dominates
the alliance, was happy to cohost the march with the
reactionary British Association of Muslims. The association
had blotted its copybook by circulating a newspaper
which explained that apostasy from Islam is 'an offence
punishable by death'. But what the hell. In the interests
of multi-culturalism, the SWP ignored the protests
of squeamish lefties and let that pass. The Trots
aren't Islamophobes, after all. The only Muslims they
have a phobia about are secular Iraqi Muslims who,
shockingly, believe in human rights.
Iraqis made a fruitless appeal for fraternal solidarity
last month. The Kurdish leader Barham Salih flew to
a meeting of the Socialist International in Rome to
argue for 'the imperative of freedom and liberation
from fascism and dictatorship'. Those marchers who
affect to believe in pluralism should find his arguments
attractive, if they can suppress their prejudices
long enough to hear him out. Salih explained that
the no-fly zones enforced by the RAF and USAF had
allowed his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdish
Democratic Party to build a fair imitation of democratic
state in liberated northern Iraq. The Kurds promote
the freedom of journalists, women and religious and
racial minorities. Naturally, the local supporters
of al-Qaeda agree with Baghdad that this intolerable
liberal experiment must end, and the Kurds are having
to fight both Saddam and the fundamentalists.
was prepared for that: what he wasn't prepared for
was the enmity of the anti-war movement. Foolishly,
he tried to reason with it. He pointed out that the
choice wasn't between war or peace. Saddam 'has been
waging war for decades and he has inflicted hundreds
of thousands of civilian casualties.' Indeed, he continued,
the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds who are still under
Baghdad's control continues to this day. 'I do not
want war and I do not want civilian casualties, nor
do those who are coming to our assistance,' he said.
'But the war has already begun.'
he then asked, about the strange insistence of the
anti-war movement that Iraqis must not be liberated
until Israel withdraws from the occupied territories?
Would the converse apply? If the Palestinians were
on the verge of seeing Israeli rule overthrown, would
hundreds of thousands take to the streets of London
and bellow that Palestinians could not get rid of
Sharon until Iraqis got rid of Saddam? Salih doubted
it and also had little time for those who say war
should be opposed because 'it's all about oil'.
what? he asked. 'Iraqis know that their human rights
have too often been ignored because Iraqi oil was
more important to the world than Iraqi lives. It would
be a good irony if at long last oil becomes a cause
of our liberation - if this is the case, then so be
it. The oil will be a blessing and not the curse that
it has been for so long... So to those who say "No
War", I say, of course "yes", but we
can only have "No War" if there is "No
Dictatorship" and "No Genocide".'
with access to the internet can read the whole speech
at www.puk.org. I urge you to do so because you're
never going to hear democratic Iraqi voices if you
rely on the anti-war movement. For most of the time,
the comrades pretend the Iraqi opposition doesn't
Pinter is the most striking member of a British Left
with its hands over its ears. In 1988 he staged Mountain
Language, a play about the banning of Kurdish in Turkey.
The conceit was all too realistic: the world would
never know of the suffering of the Kurds because the
Kurds would never be allowed to speak. ('Your language
is forbidden,' an officer bellows at Kurdish women.
'It is dead. No one is allowed to speak your language.
Your language no longer exists. Any questions?')
2003 when Iraqi Kurds found the words to ask for aid
in an anti-fascist struggle, Pinter turned Pinteresque.
He refused to hear the mountain tongue he had once
defended and became a noisy supporter of the Stop
the War coalition. The current issue of the left-wing
magazine Red Pepper takes evasion into outright falsehood.
It condemns journalists - well, one journalist, me
- for being conned into believing the Iraqi opposition
supports war. Only American stooges in the Iraqi National
Congress want war, it announces with mendacious self-confidence.
The main Iraqi parties - which Red Pepper lists as
the Kurdish Democratic Party, Supreme Council for
the Islamic Revolution and the Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan - are with the peace protesters.
a convincing case, spoilt only by the fact that the
Iraqi National Congress is an umbrella organisation
whose members include the Kurdish Democratic Party,
the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution and,
indeed, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, whose leader
flew to Europe to beg the Left to get its priorities
right and support a war against tyranny.
evasion and lies won't do, vilification is the last
resort. The writings of the Iraqi intellectual Kanan
Makiya have inspired the opposition and brought him
many enemies, not least Saddam Hussein, who wants
him dead. Edward Said has been only slightly less
forgiving. Makiya, he wrote recently, is a man 'devoid
of either compassion or real understanding, he prattles
on for Anglo-American audiences who seem satisfied
that here at last is an Arab who exhibits the proper
respect for their power and civilisation... He represents
the intellectual who serves power unquestioningly;
the greater the power, the fewer doubts he has.'
like a good polemic and used to have some time for
Said. But he too has fled into denial. Like the rest
of anti-war movement he refuses to acknowledge that
Makiya, Salih and their comrades are fighting the
political battle of their lives against those 'Anglo-American
audiences' in the powerhouses of London and Washington
who oppose a democratic settlement. (See Makiya's
article on page 20.) The democrats are struggling
without the support of Western liberals and socialists
because they don't fit into a pat world view.
why. The conclusion the Iraqi opposition has reluctantly
reached is that there is no way other than war to
remove a tyrant whose five secret police forces make
a palace coup or popular uprising impossible. As the
only military force on offer is provided by America,
they will accept an American invasion.
is their first mistake. American and British power
is always bad in the eyes of muddle-headed Left, the
recent liberations of East Timor, Sierra Leone and
the uppity wogs compound their offence and tell their
European betters to think about the political complexities.
The British and American governments aren't monoliths,
they argue. The State Department and the CIA have
always been the foes of Iraqi freedom. But they are
countered by the Pentagon and a US Congress which
passed the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998 - a law which
instructs the American government to support democracy.
Not one Iraqi I have met trusts the Foreign Office.
However, they have had a grudging admiration for Tony
Blair ever since he met the Kurdish leaders and gave
them a fair hearing - a courteous gesture which hasn't
been matched by the Pinters, Trotskyists, bishops,
actresses and chorus girls on yesterday's march.
Iraqis must now accept that they will have to fight
for democracy without the support of the British Left.
Disgraceful though our failure to hear them has been,
I can't help thinking that they'll be better off without
article first appeared in the Observer and is carried
here with permission from the author.
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