Dead Men Left

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

"With friends like these..." (predictably)

It is a shame, shortly after his insightful article on the Asian tsunami, that Johann Hari has flollopped straight back into the gutter. (I should have seen this coming: Hari's article was merely a teaser for Blair's subsequent conversion to Bonoite messianism: only the Great White Man, or possibly his Great White Chancellor, can save Africa now. Not that Hari has any particular insight on Blair's thinking; he's just showing his usual propensity to, as Deep Throat put it, "follow the money".)

A few days after the murder of Hadi Salih, international officer of the Iraq Federation of Trade Unions, Hari opined thus:

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.

During a lucid moment at the end of a barely comprehensible article, Nick Cohen, writing in the Observer, made an identical claim:

The Stop the War Coalition, which organised one million people to march through the streets of London, told the kidnappers and torturers from the Baath Party and al-Qaeda that the anti-war movement 'recognises once more the legitimacy of the struggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary'.

Should we go through this slowly? The Stop the War Coalition did not tell "kidnappers" any such thing. The actual text of the public statement, made concerning IFTU's intervention at the Labour Party conference last year, is here. It does not contain the phrase "by any means necessary".

The Stop the War Coalition is called a "Coalition", because it is a coalition: any organisation aiming to represent Quaker pacifists, Labour-voting Muslims and Trotskyist revolutionaries does not have much choice but to be careful in its public statements and political opinions. Its current campaign - troops out of Iraq - is deliberately left as broad as possible.

Repeatedly, the Coalition has condemned civilian deaths, whether of the British hostage Ken Bigley, or in this case of Hadi Salih. Andrew Murray, chair of the Coalition, wrote to the Independent the following day:

Johann Hari falsifies the position of the Stop the War Coalition in relation to the recent brutal murder of Hadi Salih. We condemn this killing and its perpetrators, whoever they are. The Coalition has never adopted a resolution or issued a statement as outlined by Mr Hari, and we have repeatedly denounced the murder of civilians. Also, we did our best to ensure that the Iraqi trade union speaker invited to the European Social Forum was able to be heard, and publicly criticised those who disrupted his meeting.

Mysteriously, the Independent chose not to print the letter. Perhaps this would explain the confusion of an organisation calling itself "Labour Friends of Iraq", who, in near-hysterical tone, have more directly claimed the Coalition's responsibility for Salih's murder. Whilst their concern for the death of an Iraqi trade unionist is affecting, one may wonder how many Iraq trade unionists are amongst the 100,000 excess deaths the invasion brought about: perhaps a clear statement, condemning this mass murder, would be in order. As Murray says in his conclusion:

We differ from Hari in two respects. Firstly, we condemn all civilian deaths in Iraq, including those tens of thousands which are the responsibility of the occupying forces he supports. And we recognise the right of Iraqis to resist that unlawful occupation, which is at the root of violence in Iraq and is the consequence of the war which Hari promoted. It is time those liked him faced up to their own responsibility for the situation in Iraq, rather than smearing the millions who marched for peace with the Stop the War Coalition.