Please support Books to Iraq, launched today

Books for Iraq can be found here. The new web site explains its purpose.
In addition to the recent conflict and the continuing violence, two wars and twelve years of sanctions have had a crippling effect on Iraq’s pharmacy education and practice. These events have severely affected access to information resources such as books and journals, and imposed a total isolation from the scientific community.
Iraq has an important position in the history of pharmacy. Baghdad was a prominent centre for science and culture; enlightened Caliphs created an atmosphere where Arab, Jewish, Alexandrian and Indian scholars could all contribute to intellectual life. Talented scientists translated and preserved ancient Greek, Persian and Indian manuscripts. In the 9th century, one Baghdad institution, Bayt al-Hikma (House of Wisdom), translated a vast number of medical texts, including the works of Galen.
In future years, the lost Greek knowledge was re-established in the Western world, through the introduction of Latin translations of these Arabic texts. Yet, Baghdad did not merely hold this knowledge in safekeeping – it was added to, and Latin translations of Arabic medical texts were used in Europe for centuries.
Books to Iraq has been created by Iraqi and UK pharmacists in order to help raise funds for the supply of new academic textbooks to the eight Schools of Pharmacy within Iraq. We wish to help support Iraqi Pharmacy educators and students, and by their efforts the nation of Iraq.
Iraq has given the world a great legacy of pharmaceutical and medical knowledge and the world can, in return, help them rebuild their knowledge and infrastructure. Your donation can help replenish the knowledge that Iraq held for humanity in the past.

Purple fingers crossed for elections

Blogger Salam Pax has a fascinating piece in the Guardian on the run-up to the Iraqi election in which he says we go to vote again hoping that we will not be blown to pieces. And I really believe that we Iraqis do deserve a bit of credit for having done that twice now. I don’t think there is a better demonstration of the will to get this political process rolling and keeping it rolling than participating under the threat of violent death. I know I make fun of it all the time but this is not to be mistaken for belittling the courage of all those who participate. He concludes that The insurgency is doing its best to defy all the security measures and has blown up the electricity generator that feeds the main water pumps to Baghdad. Most of the city is without running water and the municipality says they hope to get everything running again by tomorrow afternoon. Let’s hope that’s the only thing insurgents are going to blow up for the next two days.
Whoever you talk to says they think voter turnout will be just as good as last time. I do believe that for many Iraqis the fact that this time we are voting for people who are staying in government for four years has sunk in. We’ve been through three trial runs and this time it’s for real. Keep your fingers crossed for us, will you?

Stick to anti-fascism

Nick Cohen examines the contradictions of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament which he says is tying itself in knots with its position on Iran and should stick to anti-fascist principles. Here is the full article.
Before you go to a left-wing meeting, brace yourself for the likelihood that everyone you meet in the hall will be standing on their head. Do not be surprised to see communists supporting fascism, feminists throwing their arms around misogynists and liberals volunteering to be advocates for tyranny. It’s been like this since 9/11 turned the world upside down, and the temptation for a journalist is to play the cynical reporter and pretend to be unshockable. I try my best to be a hard man, but the shocks keep on coming. Take the fates of two venerable left-wing institutions, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Searchlight.
For 18 months I’ve had CND workers telling me how they have been forced out by the same people who disgraced the anti-war movement – the Socialist Workers Party, Ken Livingstone’s homeboys from Socialist Action, the Jeremy Corbyn wing of the Labour Party . . . the friends of the indefatigable George Galloway, in short. I couldn’t see how to write about it. How could I prove that they were victims of a political purge rather than guilty of poor performance? In any case, there was always an element of a Quaker-communist alliance about the old CND, and the ideas it produced weren’t always wrong. CND’s policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament was political poison for Labour because it was so clearly in the interests of the Soviet Union, but CND had a second argument that was truer than its legions of critics in the 1980s admitted. Nuclear power breeds nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons breed more nuclear weapons, CND’s argument ran. Unless proliferation stops, they will get into the hands of men who are prepared to use them.
That was then. Anyone who now believes CND is as much against proliferation as for unilateral disarmament would have been surprised by this autumn’s annual conference. Among the guests was the startling figure of Dr Seyed Mohammad Hossein Adeli, the then Iranian ambassador. Iran is building the nuclear power stations CND once protested against – an odd project for a country with one of the largest reserves of oil in the world. Not only the US government but the United Nations and the European Union suspect the Islamic Republic wants the bomb. The obvious course for those sincere about nuclear disarmament is to oppose Tehran as vigorously as they oppose a replacement for Trident. But there’s the rub. Standing by its principles would, if only for a moment, have put CND on the same side as George W Bush and Tony Blair, and that would never do.
Betrayal has defined the liberal left since Iraq because anti-Americans find their comrades in the Kurdish socialist movement or the Iraqi Communist Party or Arab liberal parties an embarrassment and cannot stick by them or even acknowledge their existence. Given that record, I guess it was inevitable that CND, whose governing council is stuffed with people who call themselves “socialists”, “workers” and “communists”, would take the next step and betray the Iranian left.
The Islamists murdered tens of thousands of leftists, perhaps up to 100,000, after the 1979 revolution, which socialists had supported – somewhat unwisely as events turned out. Trade unionists, atheists and women’s rights activists can expect floggings and jail sentences. Members of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran exiled in London gazed with astonishment on CND’s dalliance with a “fascistic” state. The invitation to the ambassador was an “outrage”, the party said. CND was insulting “the people of Iran who are struggling to get rid of this brutal regime”, and the countless thousands who have died in the attempt.
Iranians went to the conference to protest. CND stewards threw them out when they heckled the ambassador, just as Labour party conference stewards threw out CND’s Walter Wolfgang when he heckled Jack Straw the previous month.
CND’s Kate Hudson told me she opposed the Iranian nuclear programme. She was not shouting “rah-rah Iran”, and had invited the ambassador, she told me, merely to hear what he had to say. In her small way, I’m sure she’s sincere. But if CND doesn’t invite speakers from the Ministry of Defence or American embassy – and it doesn’t – and never issues a press release condemning Iran – ditto – people are entitled to look at the burden of the evidence Hudson is presenting and consider her opposition to Iran to be little more than throat-clearing.
The conference over, Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, gave every indication that if he had the bomb he would press the button. His threat to “wipe Israel off the map” got the headlines, but what was as interesting to anyone who knows the history of totalitarianism was his apocalyptic world-view. He saw history as a Manichaean fight to the death stretching back over the centuries.
“We are in the process of a historical war between the World of Arrogance [the west] and the Islamic world, and this war has been going on for hundreds of years. The situation at the fronts has changed many times. During some periods, the Muslims were the victors and were very active and the World of Arrogance was in retreat . . . During the period of the past 100 years, the walls of the world of Islam were destroyed and the World of Arrogance turned the regime occupying Jerusalem into a bridge for its dominance over the Islamic world . . .” He does not sound like a man the Foreign Office can calm down with a little “quiet diplomacy”.
This is the Messianic ideology of religious fascism, and the truest friend of British anti-fascists over the past 25 years has been Searchlight magazine. The police use it and centre-left political parties rely on it. If you read a story about the violent criminal record of a BNP candidate, or how Combat 18 is recruiting football hooligans, the chances are it will have come from Searchlight. Dealing with neo-Nazis is dangerous work, and its journalists need physical courage as well as detective skills. They have displayed both magnificently and I cannot think of another left-wing campaign that has been so consistently brave and effective. Now its staff are wondering what has happened to the left they served so well. Searchlight has had to pull out of Unite Against Fascism – a supposedly “broad-based” campaign, run by the usual crowd – because of a whispering campaign against it. The Trots are accusing the magazine of “Zionism” because it stands up for universal principles by condemning Holocaust denial and attacks on Jews, regardless of whether the deniers and attackers have white or brown skins.
The turmoil in small groups may seem trivial but it reflects the fracturing on the wider liberal left. In classic socialist terminology, we are seeing a fight between “anti-imperialists” and “anti-fascists”. The anti-imperialists see US power as the greatest threat of our day. The reckless brutality of the Bush administration appals them, as does Tony Blair’s willingness to go along with it. This view so dominates the mainstream liberal press and parts of the BBC that it often seems like the only left-wing view. The danger for the anti-imperialists is that they will end up on the far right. A few are already there. The anti-fascists see totalitarianism as the greatest threat of our day and say that in the struggle against it any democracy is better than every dictatorship. Our voice dominates only the left-of-centre weblogs.
The danger for anti-fascists is that we are stuck with George W Bush, who is not a general any soldier should want to follow into battle. They call us neoconservatives, armchair generals and Zionists. We call them the pseudo-left, the red-brown alliance and empty-headed liberals on an ultra-leftist binge. You can see the argument going on in the splits in the Stop the War Coalition when it abandoned the Iraqi democrats, or the slow realisation by CND activists and Searchlight journalists that they can no longer take the goodwill of the people around them for granted.
Although we are in a minority, we believe we will win in the end. As democratic socialists, we are optimists. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, we believe there is only so much rubbish the human race can swallow.

LFIQ mentioned in despatches in Commons

Mrs. Sharon Hodgson (Gateshead, East and Washington, West) (Lab): If he will make a statement on the development of the Iraqi security force.
The Secretary of State for Defence (John Reid): We are continuing to build the capability of the Iraqi security forces so that they are increasingly able to take responsibility for delivering law and order themselves. The Iraqi security forces will provide the immediate security for the planned elections this Thursday and oversee the whole event.
Mrs. Hodgson: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that this Thursday’s elections will further marginalise the violent forces and increase the prospects of victory and of liberation by Iraqi democrats, especially the new trade unions, which need solidarity from the international community and the British Labour movement, including groups such as Labour Friends of Iraq?
John Reid: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. This Thursday’s elections will be a huge step forward for the people of Iraq, the country of Iraq and the middle east as a whole. Despite all of the threats, 8.5 million people turned out in January, 10.5 million people turned out in October and 15 million people are now registered. I only hope that the people of this country pay attention on Thursday to what the overwhelming majority of Iraqis are saying by coming out to use their new-found freedoms in the same way as some commentators in this country continually pay attention to the minority who are attempting to destroy Iraqi democracy and Iraqi lives.

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.

Toby Dodge on rebuilding Iraq

Dr Toby Dodge in the Independent writes that calling for speedy troop withdrawal in the vain hope that things will somehow miraculously get better once British and American troops have gone cannot deliver this. He concludes that An honest and sustainable approach to the unfolding tragedy would be, first, to admit that the situation is very bad and getting worse. Second, it would admit that the rebuilding of the Iraqi state and reconciliation of its population is beyond the resources or capacity of any one state, even the world’s sole remaining super power. Once these two things have been recognised, the only possible way out of the Iraqi nightmare is not a dishonourable abdication of responsibility, but the creation of a new truly international coalition to share the burden of helping the Iraqis move towards a brighter future. This would involve a multinational effort, organised through the United Nations, and an honest declaration to both the Iraqis and the wider world that this will take many years and a great deal of money to achieve.

Irish lessons for Iraq

The Irish Times (via reports that Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari is studying the Northern Ireland peace process “very closely” to see if the same approach could help resolve the conflict in his own country but recognises that that the problem was the greater intensity and viciousness of the Iraqi conflict and that the insurgents had no political dimension. He said that the motto of those who are fighting us is very simple: Either we rule Iraq or we burn Iraq.’