Sunday, January 09, 2005

For once ...

I can wholeheartedly recommend Johann Hari's piece on the torture and murder of Iraqi communist and trade unionist Hadi Salih.

Scotsman report :

Hadi Salih, a 56-year-old labour rights advocate and official of Iraq’s Communist Party, affectionately known by friends as Abu Furat, was found strangled to death with a steel wire in his home, his face beaten to a pulp, his hands bound behind his back.

His personal files, containing the names and addresses of colleagues in both the party and the labour federation he led were also stolen, his humble home ransacked.

With its signs of politically motivated brutality and torture, the scene resembled the interrogation rooms of deposed president Saddam Hussein’s security forces, officials said.

"The people who did this are very clearly members of the Ba’ath Party from the former regime," said Mohammad Jassem al-Abad, a leader of the Communist Party, which is participating in the forthcoming parliamentary elections that insurgents violently oppose.

"The way they killed him makes it very clear they’re the ones who did this," he said. "It is their methods. His assassination wasn’t random."

Hari raises no new issues - but his points need to be made over and again.

"The IFTU has reported a pattern of attacks on trade union offices and trade union members. The murder of Salih bears all the hallmarks of Saddam's Mukhabarat - the Baathist KGB. Whatever you thought about the justice of the recent war in Iraq - and there were plenty of good reasons to oppose it - the only decent path now is to stand with a majority of Iraqis against the murderers of Salih and dozens of other Iraqi trade unionists.

Yet - I can't believe I'm saying this - a significant portion of the left is not standing with them. John Pilger - who says he has "seldom felt as safe in any country" as when he visited Saddam's Iraq - now openly supports the resistance on the grounds that "we can't afford to be choosy". The Stop the War Coalition passed a resolution recently saying the resistance should use "any means necessary" - which prompted Mick Rix, a decent trade unionist, to resign from the STWC on the grounds that this clearly constituted support for the murder of civilians. George Galloway has attacked the IFTU as "quislings" and described the tearful descriptions of one of their members of life under Saddam as "a party trick".

A few months ago, Subdhi al-Mashadani, a representative of the IFTU, came to speak at the European Social Forum in London. This is a really important gathering of left-wing campaign groups who fight on issues nobody else in the political spectrum stands up for: defending refugees, opposing the sale of weapons to tyrants, ending the international drug patenting rules that are killing hundreds of thousands of Africans, and much more. So you would expect the international left to welcome him and hear him politely.

But he was an Iraqi who didn't restrict his comments to the need for occupation troops to leave once a democratic election has been held. He also insisted on talking about the nature of the Sunni "resistance" - one of the most reactionary political forces anywhere on earth, consisting of homicidal misogynists, homophobes and supporters of Sharia law. The audience at the Social Forum booed and hissed him so loudly that he had to leave the stage."

Speaking as a homicidal misogynist and homophobe, as well as a former NUR shop steward, the left in the West is a sad remnant of what it was, say, sixty years ago. But people like Harry Barnes and Mick Rix are still keeping that righteous flame cupped between their palms. They must feel awful cold and lonely, though, with only Johann, Aaronovitch, Nick Cohen and Peter Tatchell standing by them.

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