Mandela Adviser Seeks Iraqi National Reconciliation

Nelson Mandelas former legal adviser Nicholas Haysom has spent much of the last year attempting to teach the Iraqi political classes about South Africas reconciliation process. The 1991 SA peace accord was signed by 26 political parties and organisations in the face of increasing violence. He is now attempting to replicate this form of settlement in Baghdad. (David Spector)

The Euston Manifesto

The Euston Manifesto is launched today. It is the product of discussions between a variety of bloggers and activists, including some involved in Labour Friends of Iraq, and proposes a Renewal of Progressive Politics.
Its conclusion is that It is vitally important for the future of progressive politics that people of liberal, egalitarian and internationalist outlook should now speak clearly. We must define ourselves against those for whom the entire progressive-democratic agenda has been subordinated to a blanket and simplistic ‘anti-imperialism’ and/or hostility to the current US administration. The values and goals which properly make up that agenda – the values of democracy, human rights, the continuing battle against unjustified privilege and power, solidarity with peoples fighting against tyranny and oppression – are what most enduringly define the shape of any Left worth belonging to.
Gary Kent

Freedom is not free, first report from LFIQ trip to Iraq

Freedom is not free is the inscription on a major statue here in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. This part of Iraq surely knows the cost of war and repression. It’s often not mentioned much but Saddams genocidal Anfal campaign murdered nearly 200,000 Kurds and razed hundreds of villages before the uprising and what everyone here calls the liberation in 2003.
Yesterday we also visited the Red House in Sulamani which was the secret police headquarters under Saddam and where hundreds of people were tortured and murdered. It’s grim but not the worst one can find. It’s being maintained as a memorial to Saddam’s victims.
The legacy of Saddam’s fascism is everywhere: shattered and ramshackle infrastructure, a culture of dominance from schools onwards and, literally, in the hearts, lungs and bodies of so many here in Iraqi Kurdistan where chemical warfare has resulted in increased cancers and leukemia but where there are no specialist health facilities to deal with them.
This part of Iraq has great potential as the Switzerland of the region but desperately needs investment and tourism.
I am here as part of a Labour Friends of Iraq delegation which includes senior representatives of the British labour movement to meet trade unions, civil society organisations and ministers. It is a breath of fresh air for those who opposed the war but moved on to embrace solidarity .
Not everyone can come to Iraq but should take care to listen to the progressive and non-sectarian voices we have met this week.The highlight of our visit, which was hosted by the Kurdistan Workers Union, was a meeting with the leaders of the wider Iraqi labour movement from Baghdad and Basra. A fuller report will come later but we will shortly launch a major campaign to help our comrades build unions free from government interference.
Gary Kent
LFIQ Director
Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan

Civil war or Civil Society?

With recent reports concentrating on whether there is/will be/
is not a civil war in Iraq the more obvious benefits of reconstruction tend to be ignored. Here is news about over 600 Community Action Groups throughout Iraq and here is how the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific research is attempting to bridge the gap in science and technology, which previously separated Saddam’s Iraq from the rest of the world, by sending over 1,000 students to the most prestigious overseas universities to complete their Doctorates. (David Spector)

Nick Cohen on Kember

Nick Cohen examines the Kember affair and concludes the following – Yet at least Kember and his colleagues made a commitment to Iraq. They may have done no good, they may have put better and braver men in danger, yet they strike me as preferable to the majority of European liberals who have sat out the conflict.
Civilians are massacred at random: silence. Al-Qaeda hits as many Shia mosques as it can in the hope of provoking a civil war: silence again. No condemnations of barbarism are offered for fear of giving the smallest support to George W Bush and Tony Blair.
The price that has already been paid is a shrivelling of the liberal conscience. If you refuse to take sides in Iraq, you can’t take them anywhere else. From Burma to Darfur, crimes against humanity that would have produced outrage in the Nineties are met with indifference today.

Three Years On…(Continued)

The third anniversary continues to focus pro and anti-invasion views. Here is a review of Iraqi problems and possible solutions, from both sides of the argument.
Dlawer Ala’Alduen at openDemocracy argues that Iraq will only become stabilised once Iran and Syria stop attempting to influence the political and military situation.
Senator Edward Kennedy argues that President Bush should immediately convene a summit of Iraqi groups and leaders to support the creation of a broad-based national unity government and encourage the leaders to give the highest priorities to the compromises essential to avoid civil war. The Arab League should be encouraged as well to continue to facilitating dialogue between Iraqis. We also strongly support the United Nations’ effort to establish a regional contact group of Iraq’s neighbors. It’s essential to find effective ways to increase trust between Iraq and its neighbors, and to minimize their intervention if conditions continue to deteriorate.
A National Review Online symposium offers an alternative American interpretation. Peter Brookes argues against a withdrawal, saying that it will leave a vacuum for al Qaeda, Iran or Syria to fill.
Laurie King-Irani concentrates on the historical context of the invasion. Although Iraq’s
infrastructure needs repair, and the population need social and psychological healing and regeneration there are many possibilities for a highly literate society with a wealth of natural resources. (David Spector)

Johann Hari and his critics

Johann Hari of The Independent says that he was terribly wrong to have supported the war in the first place.
He tells us that he had a colossal response to this article and cites as a typical response one from Abdulkhaliq Hussein which says Your article in the Independent today, 20/3/2006, was really disappointing to all of your admirers. You let them down. You changed your mind and switched from pro-war to join the anti-war campaigners, means that you gave in bowed to the aggressors. So instead of blaming the terrorists for this mass killing in Iraq at the hand of the terrorists, you put the blame on Bush and Blair for liberating Iraqi people from the worst dictator in history. If your new stance is right, then it was wrong to stand up against Hitler in the WW II, because that war caused humanity 55 million casualties. So it was better not oppose the Axis sates. Is that fair? Is this is the justice that we are looking for? If the tyrants were left to do as they like because of the possible revenge from their followers, then our glob will be place for the tyrants only and the whole planet population will be living like sheep.
Mohammed from Iraq The Model disagrees with Johann. He is happy to show cynical contempt for the weepers, whiners, teenagers and half educated naive people and their silly rallies. It sometimes appears that if you come from Iraq you are more likely to consider that the suffering may ultimately be worthwhile. (David Spector)

Views on and from within the anti-war movement

Many people have used the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion to impart their opinion on the Stop The War coalition. Tim Hames argues that they may have succeeded and that no more totalitarian dictators will be removed from office and that there may be no more openings for civil and religious liberty. And Harrys Place publishes leaked e mails which show some tension within the Stop the War leadership over its orientation towards sectarian forces. (David Spector)

Progress debate lessons for Labour from Iraq

To mark the third anniversary of the Iraq war, Progress will be hosting a debate on the lessons of the conflict for Labour. The next issue of Progress magazine will also feature a special report on the subject. Three years on: the lessons for Labour from Iraq, will take place on Tuesday 21 March in Committee Room 16 in the House of Commons between 6 and 7.30pm.
The panel will comprise of
Sadiq Khan MP;
Gisela Stuart MP;
Gary Kent, director, Labour Friends of Iraq;
and Oliver Kamm, author of Anti-Totalitarianism: The Left-wing Case for a Neoconservative Foreign Policy.
Stephen Twigg will chair the event.
Registration is essential.
For more details and to register e-mail or call 0203 008 8180.