Dear Comrades, Andrew Murray has written to all StWC branches to rebut the letter from myself and others from Labour Friends of Iraq.
Andrew’s first accusation is that we are “cynically using the murder last week of Iraqi trade unionist Hadi Salih to attack the anti-war movement.”
I was a keen opponent of the war and supported the Stop the War Coalition. I wrote very positive things about the million strong march in February 2003 and was very proud to march with everyone else.
We also had the privilege to meet and work with Hadi and considered him to be a comrade. Is it cynical to remember a murdered comrade and trying to avert further murders or is that what the labour movement is all about?
We thought that your leaders mishandled their response to this murder which is clearly part of a strategy by the “resistance” to eliminate the leadership of the emerging Iraqi labour movement.
Since Hadi was murdered on January 4 we have been working hard to encourage solidarity from the international labour movement.
The response of your leaders to Hadi’s murder was, at the very best, niggardly. It is in sharp contrast to that of the StWC’s sister organisation, US Labour against the war (USLAW).
Noticing that the StWC leaders had made no such statement, we wrote an
Open Letter asking them to condemn the murder as a collective body.
Frankly, it was reasonable to expect that such a statement would have been issued voluntarily and not in passing in a line in a letter to a paper. You need only look at the IFTU web site (www.iraqitradeunions.org) to see how this should have been done, and was by so many groups.
Andrew claims that LFIQ is a “campaign in support of Blair’s Iraq strategy.” This is just cheap. Please take a look at www.labourfriendsofiraq.org.uk to see for yourselves.
You will see that we seek to unite people in the party who may have taken different approaches to the war but, whilst staying true to their positions, unite to support the Iraqi labour movement since the most important thing is to help a democratic Iraq emerge from the years of Saddam, sanctions and war. We make no apology for having members and supporters who took different positions.
Some of us opposed the war and were active in Stop the War groups. Some of us led those branches, organised and addressed school walk-outs, blocked roads, occupied town centres, ran 24 hour vigils and teach-ins. I myself voted against the war in the Commons on every occasion. Some of us did not oppose the war, taking the view that the internal Iraqi opposition could not overthrow the tyrant Saddam.
We run a series on the website titled ‘Bush Does Not Get It’ and we have criticised the US administration sharply on the issues of prisoner abuse, economic reconstruction, civilian deaths and the military action in Falluja. You will also find information on the rise of democratic political parties in Iraq, the enthusiasm for democracy, the organisations of women struggling to establish women’s rights, the growth of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, and the struggles for social justice. We work with democratic forces inside Iraq from trade unions to political parties to bloggers to community groups.
We support the UN-backed elections and democratisation process as do the Shia, the Kurds, the Communists, the socialists, the trade unionists, various Sunnis and most Iraqis. We support the election of a sovereign Iraqi government and the speedy withdrawal of troops from Iraq as part of a political solution.
We don’t support “Troops Out Now,” whatever is happening on the ground, whatever the nature of the ‘resistance’, whatever the character of the UN backed election process, whatever the support that election process has inside Iraq, whatever the progressive and democratic organisations of Iraq are saying about the timing of the removal of the troops.
We run campaigns in support of threatened Iraqi trade unionists. Nozad Ismail, IFTU organiser in Kirkuk has twice escaped assassination attempts by the resistance. Our solidarity campaign for Nozad has secured pledges of solidarity from workers and unions in Britain, Europe, North America and, Australia.
Clearly our two organisations do not agree on some matters. But the need for a clear condemnation of the campaign of assassination against trade unionists being waged by the resistance, and a ringing message of solidarity for the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions should not be a matter for dispute between us.
We welcome anyone who would like to work with us or has ideas about how to help the democrats in Iraq. We are open to new ideas and certainly don’t have all the answers. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yours, Harry Barnes MP, Joint President Labour Friends of Iraq
Some of you have received a communication from a group called Labour Friends of Iraq soliciting support for a letter cynically using the murder last week of Iraqi trade unionist Hadi Salih to attack the anti-war movement.
The authors did not have the courtesy to send this email to the StWC office.
This is a group established to campaign in support of Blair’s Iraq strategy, and against the StWC. A glance at its website will show that it is less a friend of Iraqi labour than a friend of the British government’s occupation policy.
The devastation of Fallujah, the killing of Iraqi civilians by the US forces (19 last weekend alone) and the fact that US-British troops are, according to the Iraqi government, responsible for two-thirds of civilian deaths in Iraq are among the issues these “friends of Iraq” ignore. Their initiative is supported by leading pro-war campaigners like Nick Cohen and David Aaronovitch, and MPs who have backed the government throughout like Meg Munn and Wayne David.
The Stop the War Coalition has condemned the murder of Hadi Salih, and
its perpetrators. We have not been silent. I sent the following letter to The Independent on the matter, in response to an article by Johann Hari. Mr Hari has so far blocked publication of the letter in the paper – so much for his commitment to free speech! The letter, along with other correspondence, can be found on our website.
Stop the War Coalition