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Support for Iraqi Democrats

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This comes from the weblog of SIAW (Socialism in an Age of Waiting")

Hak Mao says:

...let`s put it together - not a formal organisation or party, or another blog, but some public means of directing support for Iraqi democrats, and equally as important, attempt to exert pressure on the US administration to lift their game."

Harry at Harry`s Place agrees:

"... the hundreds of people reading, posting and commenting on blogs, e-mailing etc. could produce something more substantial in terms of concrete solidarity ... let`s see if we can`t turn all our noise into action."

Best of luck to them both (and especially to Hak Mao for her What Can You Do ...? webpage of contact information). However, we really can’t see it happening.

At risk of being denounced, yet again, as “sectarian”, “neoconservative”, “social imperialist”, “Kautskyite”, or whatever other epithet saves certain people the trouble of thinking carefully about the real world, we’ll try to explain why.

The problem is that “support for Iraqi democrats” can mean one of two very different and not very compatible approaches, and the form that acts of solidarity or support may take will differ accordingly. We’ll call them, for convenience, the narrow view and the broad view. There are, of course, exceptions to all the generalisations in what follows - and, crucially, nobody, in Iraq or elsewhere, can be entirely sure about who the “Iraqi democrats” are until national elections have been held - but they serve their purpose as an outline of what’s at stake.

The narrow view is the one taken by some of those who opposed the liberation of Iraq last year, but now can’t bring themselves to accept the logic of their own position. Unlike Tariq Ali, John Pilger, Michael Moore, George Galloway, the SWP and other fellow-travellers of dictators and terrorists - whom, tellingly, they still find it hard to dissociate themselves from - they can’t quite grasp the fairly obvious point that opposition to the Coalition in Iraq logically requires support for the Islamofascist/Ba’athist “resistance” in Iraq.

When it comes to building democracy and preventing the restoration of a dictatorship - or the installation of a potentially even worse one -there can be no “third camp”, except in the fevered imaginations of the totally marginalised.

But moral and intellectual incoherence is hardly a new departure for these people. If their wishes had prevailed last year, the Ba’ath would still be in power, Iraqi democrats would be dead, in jail, in hiding or in exile, and there would be no point in talking about democracy in Iraq at all. What standing can they possibly have as sources of reliable support for anything?

Nevertheless, here they still are, one year on, now proclaiming their version of “support for Iraqi democrats”: arguing that the Coalition is morally equivalent to the “resistance”; denouncing any Iraqi - democrat or not - who works with the Coalition as a “collaborator” or a “quisling”; and giving apparently unconditional support only to those groups in Iraq that share their view of the world. Yet those groups - namely, the Iraqi Communist Party, the Worker Communist Party of Iraq, and their various “fronts” - originated, not very long ago, as Stalinist sects, and have yet to prove that they have entirely abandoned Stalinist views, methods and goals. They may well be “Iraqi democrats” - we’d be glad if they turn out to be, but only time will tell - yet they are hardly the only ones.

Take a look at some of the comments on Hak Mao’s post: these are people whose animus against Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi Prospect Organisation and other Iraqi democrats whose views differ from theirs is far stronger than their animus against Saddam or Al-Qaeda. Just when Iraqi democrats need to unite against all the anti-democratic forces that are intervening in their country - not just those elements of the US administration that the “anti-war” crowd make so much of, but also the dictatorships of Iraq [no, no, no - Iran] and Syria, and their well-paid and well-armed agents - these people advocate further division. Their “support for Iraqi democrats” is narrow, sectarian, dishonest and unreliable, and any genuine Iraqi democrat would be well-advised to treat everything they say and do with grave suspicion.

In contrast, the broad view is - or should be - the one taken by those who supported the liberation of Iraq (and no, we’re not going to go over all the details and nuances of last year’s arguments yet again). “Support for Iraqi democrats” should mean exactly that: support for the efforts of all groups of Iraqis seeking to work together to establish democracy in their country, regardless of whether they call themselves socialists, liberals, Islamists, nationalists or anything else, and regardless of what theoretical position they adopt towards the Coalition in general or the United States in particular.

In practice, the transition process, which necessarily involves negotiation, compromise and, yes, collaboration between Iraqi democrats and the Coalition authorities, requires the support of all who genuinely care about the establishment of a stable democratic polity in Iraq - as opposed to those who seek mainly to exploit Iraq for the purposes of political point-scoring in their own countries.

Of course, the Coalition authorities have made some stupendous mistakes, and must be constantly monitored and criticised. Of course, there are elements within the Coalition governments (all of them, not just the US administration) that have no interest in building democracy in Iraq, and they must be exposed. Of course, the motives of these governments are not pure or altruistic, any more than anyone else’s motives are. Yet it’s a simple matter of fact - however regrettable - that no other route to democracy in Iraq is available, and that the alternatives to holding our noses and supporting the transition process, faute de mieux, are all far, far worse.

In this situation the analogies with Vietnam or Algeria that the “anti-war” crowd are so stupidly eager to propagate are entirely misleading. Support for Iraqi democrats now is much more like support for German, Austrian and Japanese democrats after the Second World War. True, the end-result - partly, of course, because the right were better-organised and better-financed than the left - was the election of right-wing governments in West Germany, Austria and Japan alike. But that’s what support for democracy necessarily entails: respecting the wishes and judgements of the majority of the people, even if you disagree with their wishes, and even if you suspect that their judgements have been corrupted. In the absence of majority support for socialist revolution - and in the presence of clowns who are doing their best to ensure that socialist revolution never does receive majority support - liberal democracy is the least appalling option available. For all its grave faults and dangers, now is not the time to be fantasising about going beyond it. On the contrary, given the obstacles, building it in Iraq would be an achievement in itself.

Can the gulf between these two views be bridged? Should it be? Above all, would a show of “unity” among individuals and groups who are not, in fact, united be of any practical benefit to anyone in Iraq? We think not.

# posted by SIAW 25.4.04

Created by keza
Last modified 2005-01-04 04:43 AM

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