LFIQ Joint President Harry Barnes examines options for the British labour Movement on Iraq

I initially make 10 propositions on what has happened in Iraq. I then draw conclusions on how Labour Movement activists can respond.
(1) Iraq suffered from extreme forms of military and political exploitation under Saddam Hussein and his totalitarian Ba’athist Regime.
(2) The economic and social conditions of the great bulk of the Iraqi people then collapsed as a consequence of the lengthy Iraq-Iran War, the Gulf-War and the United Nations economic sanctions. This was extended by Saddam’s reactions in deepening his exploitive controls.
(3) The US-led invasion created further deaths, destruction and turmoil and helped to to the stimulate and bring to the surface Iraq’s deep religious, tribal and social divisions.
(4) What has essentially been an American and British occupation has been two-sided in its consequences. Whilst seeking to fashion Iraq into a U.N. sanctioned form of democracy, it has had an unhappy record of prisoner abuses and a some heavy-handed responses to terrorists and others; whilst furthering Western free-market interests.
(5) Circumstances in the Middle-East, especially the Palestine crisis, have produced a wave of terrorist activity which has stimulated associated responses from Ba’athist elements.
(6) The main political parties which have emerged in Iraq tend to have strong
ethnic, regional or religious links, so that economic and other interest groups have so far found limited scope in the developing on a national scale.
(7) In order for democracy to become firmly embedded in a nation, it normally requires to be pressed forward over a period of time by indigenous interests who initially are excluded from the political nation, but then mobilise to achieve a breakthrough. This hasn’t taken place in Iraq.
(8) To prevent the developing constitutional arrangements in Iraq from throwing up a puppet regime or see diktat by elitist groups, democrats throughout the world need to give verbal and practical support to those brave people in Iraq who press for civil liberties, equality of treatment, freedom of speech and social justice.
(9) The people who need our backing are those who are struggling to develop effective avenues for the expression and realisation of the above views and interests. These are existing and potential self-governing organisations for women, youths and for workers (including the great numbers of unemployed.). They also include those struggling for specific improvements in areas such as health, housing, water and electricity provisions, welfare, education and access to the arts and culture.
(10) The fact that various economic, military and political interests inside and outside of Iraq will seek to subvert its potential democracy into something of a sham is no reason for us abandoning genuine democratic interests and potentials in Iraq.
A problem we face is that although many is the British Labour Movement share aspects of the above analysis, they often still seek to look for straightforward and simple “solutions” to Iraq’s problems. There are two main variants of this response.
(A) Some want the “Troops Out” urgently as the answer. The sending-in of the troops they feel was the main source of the problem, so remove the cause and somehow the effects will evaporate.
(B) Others just want to leave everything to the electoral process in Iraq. They clutch at every straw to show that everything is on track. So they will stress evidence to indicate that terrorism may be on its way out.
And indeed there are some welcome signs; especially the widespread reaction in Jordan against the suicide bombings at three hotels in Amman. Whilst the Economist (24th November) reports that “150,000 Moroccans marched in Casablanca—( last month)— to protest against al-Qaeda’s threat to kill two junior diplomats kidnapped on the road to Baghdad”.
But even the Economist has to qualify its List of Hope by adding ‘Iraq is a nasty and dangerous place, where even a widening commitment to political solutions may not prevent disintegration into civil war. Recent revelations about police death squads targeting Sunnis, and the bombing of Shia mosques, have intensified sectarian animosities.”
My conclusion is that whatever the future holds for Iraq, the forces I stressed in point (8) above are those we should learn from and encourage. It is extremely difficult to see a reasonable form of democracy soon being established throughout the whole of Iraq. Yet this is as good an opportunity as we are likely get for some time. It is also easier for Labour Movement activists in this country to assist those who are seeking to build a practising democracy in Iraq then it has ever been in the past.