The following letter appears in a truncated form in this week’s New Statesman.
It is my personal view of the coverage in that paper of the 10th anniversary of the anti-war march and the intervention. Those who founded LFIQ in 2004 had radically different views of the intervention but came together to help support the new Iraqi forces that sought to build a democratic and federal Iraq.
We made some difference against the odds and several British unions, which had opposed the intervention, and the TUC played a good role in supporting the new labour movement in Iraq.
The unions are in a bad way in Iraq and the country, while far less violent, has yet to resolve major issues concerning the deepening of democracy and civil society as well as relations between Shias, Sunnis and Kurds. The jury is still out and solidarity is still needed.
A major problem with the ever vivid controversy over the intervention in Iraq is we simply cannot know what would have happened without it: revolt against Saddam or consolidation of his regime.
The past should be clearer. But Mehdi Hasan ignores Saddam’s multiple crimes: a 50 year genocide against the Kurds including the chemical weapons attack on Halabja in 1988 and thousands of destroyed villages: 200,000 Kurds massacred in 1987/1988 alone and untolled numbers before. The genocide could have continued without the no-fly zone which sheltered the Kurds until what they see as liberation in 2003.
Hasan doesn’t mention other major crimes before 2003: the 250,000 Dawa members and relatives murdered in retaliation for the party trying to assassinate Saddam, the Marsh Arabs, Kuwait, 1.5 million killed in the Iraq-Iran war and 500,000 who died through UN sanctions.
Hasan highlights Iraq’s faults today. But violence is dramatically down though terrible. Iraqis are rightly furious over bread and butter issues: why an oil-rich country manages just a few hours of daily power, while it is almost continuous in Kurdistan. Iraq’s fledgling democracy, including high turnouts in three national votes, is shallow. An authoritarian and divisive Prime Minister is severely straining federalism, vital after decades of centralisation and no civil society. I urged the PM in Baghdad to free trade unions but his warm words fizzled out. Iraq could yet splinter or implement democracy and federalism. The jury is out but most Iraqis are optimistic.
Hasan also ignores the Kurdistan Region today, now safe with about 200 terrorist victims since 2003. It is booming and pioneering warm relations with Turkey but Baghdad is sabotaging its energy sector, recently built from scratch. Kurdish success could be the model for the rest of the country.
The Statesman’s conclusion that we should perhaps be grateful that the west has neither the will nor the capability to mount such interventions makes a mockery of tackling human rights abuses such as genocide in real time rather than after the fact.
Opponents and supporters of intervention won’t agree anytime soon but can honourably sink their differences in favour of providing solidarity to Iraqis seeking to overcome their long nightmare.