Liberal illusions on terror

Nick Cohen in the Observer examines the liberal self-delusion on the causes of terrorism and concludes that Yet the masochism – Kill us, we deserve it – the subliminal dislike of democracy and the willingness to turn al-Qaeda into the armed wing of every fashionable campaign from sustainable tourism to the anti-war movement will in the end disgrace the liberals by making them ridiculous.

Communist Party says yes to the draft constitution

To Vote for the Constitution and Strengthen its Civil – Democratic Elements
The National Assembly has, at last, adopted the version of the draft constitution to be presented to our people in a public referendum on 15th October 2005. By endorsing this draft, our people will fulfil an important requirement of the on-going political process in the country. It will be a significant development in the direction of consolidating democracy and its institutions and completing the transitional phase. Furthermore, it will be a big step towards restoring security, stability and normality, in order to launch the process of reconstruction, revive the national economy and build a state based on the rule of law and institutions.
Our Party has dealt with the draft constitution, taking into account the difficult, exceptionally abnormal current conditions in our country, as well as the balance of forces that dominated the process of its formulation. While positively evaluating it, the Party stated our reservations regarding many of its articles and items. We also stressed that the draft constitution, despite its importance, must not be as a final document, especially as it contains mechanisms and rules that allow for changing what we consider to be contravening the desired civil – democratic character of the constitution, limit women rights and vagueness of some of its articles rendering them open to interpretation. This requires building up the necessary prerequisites to transform it into a civil constitutional document for a modern democratic state.
Based on this assessment of the draft, we call upon our party members, our supporters, and all our people to vote “yes” for the constitution that would be the first Iraqi constitution to be ratified in a public referendum.
On this occasion, we reiterate our position in support of the political process, looking forward to its completion, and to the forthcoming elections taking place on time. We want these elections to be characterized by transparency, integrity and free competition on the basis of political programs and free choice, without any kind of coercion and pressure. Shortcomings and faults that marred the previous elections must be eliminated.
This requires that the government, its bodies, and the Independent Higher Commission supervising the elections be neutral and provide the necessary prerequisites and conditions, especially security, to conduct the forthcoming elections and ensure its success. This will create a climate of confidence and calm, contributing to security, defeat of the forces of terror and their wicked schemes, and moving forward to provide the prerequisites for ending foreign military presence and building a unified federal democratic Iraq.
The forthcoming elections also require that all patriotic and democratic forces coordinate their efforts and develop joint actions to mobilize the broadest sections of the people and prepare them for participating in these elections. The aim is to ensure that the election results will be truly representative of the political and social balance of forces in our country, putting an end to the sectarian and ethnic polarization and its disastrous consequences, and to the odious policy of sharing the monopoly of power. This will contribute to consolidating the civil – democratic rights stipulated in the constitution, enabling Iraq to achieve security and stability, strengthen its national unity, restore its full sovereignty and advance along the path of construction and development.

Our fringe meeting at Labour Party Conference in Brighton on 28 September

Solidarity with Grassroots Iraq: equality, labour rights and new thinking on foreign policy
Labour Friends of Iraq, Unison, the Iraqi Community Association and Demos fringe meeting at the 2005 Labour Party conference
This meeting is an opportunity to hear from those who are struggling to help rebuild an independent labour movement and civil society in Iraq and to hear from a key organisation of Iraqis in Britain.
Chair: Dave Anderson MP
Dave was previously the President of Unison and is the newly elected Labour MP for Blaydon as well as Joint President of LFIQ.
Abdullah Muhsin
Abdullah is the International representative of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), the leading organisation of the new Iraqi labour movement.
Jabbar Hasan
Jabbar is the Director of the London-based Iraqi Community Association which is the main established registered Iraqi charity in the United Kingdom and promotes the success of Iraqis here, and its diverse colourful cultural identity. Since late 1930’s, Iraqis have been coming to Britain. It is estimated that over 250,000 Iraqis live in the United Kingdom that characterised by different periods, which reflects Iraq’s turbulent history.
Rt Hon Ann Clwyd MP
Ann is the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to Iraq on Human Rights and also a Joint President of LFIQ
Keith Sonnet
Keith is the Deputy General Secretary of Unison and participated in a fact finding trade union delegation to Iraqi Kurdistan earlier this year
Jane Ashworth (LFIQ)
Gary Kent (LFIQ)
Clarence Room, Hilton Metropole Hotel, 6.30-8.30pm, Wednesday 28th September
Participants require a conference pass and, unfortunately, we cannot supply these.

Iraqi unions getting their act together

Alex Gordon, an RMT activist, examines developments in the Iraqi trade union movement
There have been dramatic new developments within the Iraqi labour movement, which has grown enormously in confidence and strength since the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003. Keith Sonnet, Deputy General Secretary of Unison, which actively organises practical solidarity action with the Iraqi movement, told last week’s TUC that “Iraqi unions are getting their act together.”
The Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) has since its foundation
conference on 16 May 2003 insisted on the need to refound the Iraqi trade unions movement, not on an ideological basis – as with the state-run unions of Saddam Hussein’s regime – but as a genuine democratic and national union federation independent from both the state and from political parties.
Months of detailed discussions have taken place between the IFTU and local workers’ committees, particularly in the Baghdad area, some of whom were represented by the General Federation of Iraqi Trade Unions (GFITU), a union formation that emerged following the invasion when officials of the former state-run union, the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU), left to seek a political pact with the Shia parties SCIRI and al Dawa, but who are dissatisfied with the lack of progress achieved since its formation.
In July, the first meeting took place between IFTU officials and leading figures from the GFITU, whose leaders made clear their organisation’s wish to merge with IFTU leading to a united trade union movement centre in Iraq.
They also clearly indicated their disappointment with the sectarian agenda and reactionary social policies of the current government, which is headed by the Shia political parties and led by al Jaafari, the head of al Dawa.
A joint statement was issued from the meeting calling on all Iraqi workers and their committees and organisations to come together at this critical time for Iraq’s future.
A lively debate opened up among trade unionists in Iraq, which has brought together many worker activists from divergent traditions.
In August, the IFTU Executive authorised a formal meeting with GFITU
officials and those of the GFTU, one of whom was a former national official under the regime of Saddam, both of whom now openly disassociate themselves from the former regime and its supporters who are inflicting the horrific wave of terrorism against Iraqi workers.
The meeting agreed on principles for a merger to form one united national labour federation, which is the IFTU. There will be no changes to the membership of the IFTU Executive until a further national conference has been held. All IFTU officials are subject to election by union members whether in workplace ballots or at open conferences and there are no appointed officials. This has been a founding principle of the IFTU and contrasts with the top down practices of trade unions both under the former regime and elsewhere in the Arab world.
The IFTU insists that where workers have previously had a recognised GFTU official they will now be subject to workplace elections.
A joint statement signed by IFTU, GFITU and GFTU announced a unification meeting to formally merge into the IFTU, which was this week hosted by the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions in Damascus.
The IFTU President Raseen Alawadi addressed a Unison fringe meeting at the TUC last week on these developments. Raseen Alawadi joined the
Construction and Woodworkers’ Union in 1957 and by 1959 had already been arrested for trade union activities. By 1968 he had become International Secretary of the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) and also Vice President of the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (ICATU).
In 1979 he was arrested in a purge by the new Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein that included the murder of GFTU President Mohamed Ayish.
Raseen and others accused of plotting against the Iraqi dictator were imprisoned but escaped from Iraq in 1991, returning in April 2003
after the fall of Saddam’s regime to establish the IFTU.
Raseen reminded the meeting that Iraq’s people continued to bleed from
wounds inflicted by terrorism. Earlier that same day the TUC heard the terrible news of yet another car bomb in Baghdad, deliberately targeted at Iraqi workers queuing outside an employment agency for desperately needed jobs.
This horror followed the great tragedy a few weeks previously that saw a terrorist-inspired panic lead to the deaths of more than a thousand people in the stampede on Al Khadamiya bridge.
Such terror attacks fall on trade unionists on a regular basis, Raseen said: “When we go to our offices in the morning, we don’t know whether we will be coming home again.”
Yet, Raseen insisted that despite the existence of the fundamentalists who attack working class people in their homes and workplaces and in the street, the IFTU remains optimistic. The foreign intervention feeds such extremism and that is why the IFTU reiterates its position of calling for an end to the occupation of Iraq by foreign armies.
On the furious debate that is taking place in Iraq over the new draft
constitution, Raseen said; “In general we support the need for the new
constitution, although we have great reservations about the current
draft being proposed to the Iraqi parliament.”
The IFTU’s reservations are firstly the references to Islam and religion as the source of the law under the constitution, secondly the draft constitution’s relegation of the position of women, thirdly the crude references to de-Ba’athification, which fail to distinguish between the bloody criminals of Saddam’s regime and the many thousands of ordinary Iraqi people who may have joined Saddam’s Ba’ath Party because of fear, or to protect a relative, or in order to access higher education or employment. Fourthly, the IFTU supports the principle of federalism in the draft Constitution, but opposes the sectarian way that this is being used by Islamists in the south to divide Iraq.
Raseen said: “We are working for national unity on the basis of equality under the law. We have worked for over two years now for the creation of one united, democratic trade union movement in Iraq and we have now achieved this goal.”
It is now more vital than ever that British trade unions and others increase solidarity work with the new, united Iraqi labour movement as a bulwark of non-sectarian values that can help to build a united, democratic, secular, sovereign and federal Iraq.
Alex Gordon is an RMT member who has visited Iraq as part of his union’s solidarity work

In cold blood: abuses by armed groups

This harrowing report from Amnesty International details abuses by human rights by armed groups in Iraq saying amongst other things that Many of these killings by armed groups, in Amnesty Internationals view, constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity. As such, there is an obligation on both the Iraqi government and the international community at large to ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes are identified and brought to justice. There can be no excuse for such abuses; international humanitarian law clearly distinguishes certain acts as crimes irrespective of the causes of a conflict or the grounds on which the contending parties justify their involvement.

ICFTU backs free unions in Iraq

Guy Ryder General Secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, 14 September 2005 told the TUC that Iraqi workers who paid again today a tragic price need our solidarity to build free trade unions in the aftermath of a war opposed unanimously by all ICFTU affiliates and to secure decent labour legislation.

No easy answers in Iraq

The Guardian leader examines the arguments over the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and says that It is true that an immediate pullout might please the very many people, in Britain and elsewhere, who so adamantly opposed the war in the first place and would like to be vindicated by a implicit admission of failure. But it is hard to argue with the proposition that a precipitate withdrawal would make a bad situation even worse, in that the Iraqi security forces would find it harder to tackle an increasingly sophisticated and brutal insurgency. It is entirely right to be angry in the face of daily horrors and privations in an Iraq that is now a deadly laboratory for jihadi terror. But that does not help anyone provide easy answers.