One of “Blair’s bastards” has rebelled against the hard left Labour Against the War (LATW) group in a split that will call the group’s future into question.
The veteran left-wing MP Harry Barnes, who helped launch LATW, has resigned from the group because “Labour Against the War hasn’t adopted a creditable analysis of the changed position and adopts an approach which aids terrorist, religious extremist and anti-democratic forces in the Middle East.”
The North East Derbyshire MP opposed the war in every Commons vote but says that the group, which includes Commons warhorses such as Alice Mahon MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP and Alan Simpson MP, has failed to understand the new realities of Iraq: “Unfortunately, the invasion took place but this led to a situation where the options facing the Iraqi people changed.”
Mr Barnes says that “I thought it was right to oppose the war. But history moves on and the Iraqi people now have a golden opportunity to take back their country and build a decent non-sectarian democracy based on social justice. There are huge obstacles but I hope that parts of the left don’t make themselves part of the problem by ignoring the urgent need to back the new Iraqi labour movement. Labour Against the War is standing in the way of solidarity and I have resigned to help alert the wider movement to the need to support Grassroots Iraq.”
The MP has also issued a blistering attack on the Lancet figures of the numbers of civilians killed in Iraq.
He said: “I don’t follow Stalin’s dictum that ‘A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.’ Every death of a human being is an immeasurable loss to all humanity. But we must tell the truth about Iraqi deaths. The Lancet figure of 100,000 civilian deaths is so often used by some anti-war figures that it is commonly but wrongly accepted as a fact. The Lancet figure is wide of the mark. It’s bad enough that, say, 20,000 people have died but the use of
exaggerated figures shows that some anti-war leaders are more concerned to win points, regardless of truth, than to make an intellectually rigorous assessment.”
The MP also slams the anti-war movement over “their attempts to rubbish the elections.”
“One can have been strongly opposed to the war and yet recognise that Iraqis have shown that they wish to take back their country from both the “resistance” and foreign troops. Both motivations were present. And who can blame the Iraqis for wanting democracy free from foreign interference, after so many decades of one of the most awful regimes on earth.”
He adds that “whilst it’s understandable to call for troops out now, it does buck international law, which says that the Iraqis should decide on this matter.”
Mr Barnes has helped form a new group, Labour Friends of Iraq with Ann Clwyd, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to Iraq on Human Rights to unite those who took different positions on the war.
Mr Barnes said: “None of us who opposed the war likes how we got here but we must face the facts if we are to provide solidarity to Iraqi democrats in their hour of utmost need. My plain message to those on the left who abuse statistics and rubbish Iraqi democracy because they cannot stand the idea that Tony Blair or George Bush get some sort of credibility from them is to get real and do so quickly.”
Mr Barnes will today table this Commons motion deploring the latest murder of an Iraqi trade union leader
That this House unreservedly condemns the murder of Ali Hassan Abd, a leading member of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Union’s (IFTU) Oil and Gas Union, who led the way in rebuilding independent unions after the fall of Saddam Hussein and who was assassinated on Friday 18th February 2005 by terrorist extremists while returning with his children to his home in close to the Al Dorah Oil Refinery in Baghdad; supports the statement issued by the IFTU Executive Committee, which “condemns this cowardly act and resolves to continue to organize for free, democratic and independent unions” and “pledges to its martyred hero Abu Fahad to carry on organising workers and also for a new and democratic Iraq;” and strongly supports the IFTU’s call for the
international labour movement to condemn this atrocity against a brave
trade unionist, which once again confirms that the so-called resistance is deliberately targeting leaders of the Iraqi labour movement in order to prevent the growth of a new civil society in Iraq, after the brave defiance shown by millions of Iraqis in the last elections.