Keith Parkins | 29.11.2004 15:18
A long-winded introduction by the chairman. When there is someone worth listening to, why cannot these people just open the meeting with an introduction to the speaker, and then pass over the microphone?
The talk by Naomi Klein was in two parts, the first looked at the US elections and the US failed peace movement, the second at what was happening in Iraq today and why.
The analysis of the US elections very much tallied with my own thoughts, and what follows is a blend of both as difficult to separate the two.
A useless candidate was put up against Bush. He failed to challenge anything Bush was doing. I would add he failed to challenge big business and the corporate takeover of American politics. But then when both candidates are dependent upon big business for funding and thus beholden to big business, we cannot expect anything better.
John Kerry was no less a warmonger than Bush. The only argument was who was to be the most effective at promulgating the war.
There were better candidates, but they were eliminated very early on in the running by the mainstream media.
What I find amazing was the cretinous statement by John Kerry that 90% of the casualties in Iraq were American. A claim repeated in the vice-presidential debate, and it was left to of all people Dick Cheney to correct the claim and point out the Iraqi casualties!
The US peace movement was little better, focusing as it has done on US casualties. What is happening to Iraqis, seems to be completely off the agenda.
Bush now re-elected feels he has a mandate. In terms of the popular vote no, but the fact that he got re-elected when people knew his appalling policies yes.
This made Naomi Klein fearful for the rest of the world.
The troops in Iraq are stretched very thinly on the ground. Were the UK and Poland to pull out, the US would be forced to bring in conscription. In Canada, they are already looking at the possibility of bringing in refugee status for those who refuse to serve.
If conscription, or the draft as Americans call it, is brought in, it will politicise US society against the war, very much as it did against the Vietnam War.
At the moment US citizens can safely ignore the war in Iraq as it only affects those in the armed forces, not wider society.
Interesting as it was, I found the discussion of the US political scene an unnecessary distraction and time would have been better focused on Iraq. But it did provide a lead in to what the US is doing in Iraq, looting the country of all its assets in the name of corporate greed.
In Iraq, the US is taking neo-liberalism to the extreme. It could not do this anywhere else as there would be opposition. Yes there is opposition in Iraq too, but it is brutally suppressed.
Those Iraqis who thought their liberators/occupiers were bringing them democracy, have been sorely disappointed.
The Iraqis were promised elections last November, but they never materialised. Why? The US was raping and pillaging the country. An elected Iraqi government would not have tolerated that. Therefore the US, with the connivance of the UN, put elections on hold, and in its place a puppet regime headed by a CIA thug. The excuse, there were no voter lists and it was not safe to hold elections.
There were lists. The UN held lists of the population which it used in its oil for food programme. Since then the security situation has rapidly deteriorated. And what are the US to use in lieu of voter registration lists? The UN lists they could have used a year ago.
The Iraqis thought they were getting democracy, that is what they were told. They took their liberators/occupiers at their word, and found they were lied to.
When Baghdad fell there was no fighting in Fallujah, so what triggered the uprising?
Under a dictatorship, Iraqis could not practice direct action, but they have been learning fast – sit-ins, demonstrations, petitions.
When the US army occupied a school in Fallujah, the kids were denied their education. The Iraqis mounted a peaceful protest to ask them to leave. The response of the occupiers was to fire on the peaceful protesters killing 18. When they protested again, this time against the killings, two more peaceful protesters were killed. The Iraqis then fought fire with fire.
Little pockets of resistance are leading to a general uprising against the occupiers.
Al Sadr spoke out against the occupation, against the puppet government, against a brutal Saddam loyalist who the Americans installed as a local governor, against the constitution imposed by the Americans. His paper spoke out. The Americans decided to target him. They attacked and shut down his newspaper, targeted his associates. Peaceful protest was brutally put down. Eventually al Sadr said he could not send out his people as lambs to be slaughtered and authorised them to resist with arms.
Funding for the resistance is coming from Iraqi business who wish to see their country rid of the occupiers.
When the US attacked Fallujah for the second time this month, the first was in April, they first attacked the hospital. They did so because in the words of the Americans it was a centre of propaganda. Translated into plain English, during the attack in April the medics were reporting on civilian casualties.
The US attack on Fallujah was launched within less than an hour of Bush's acceptance speech!
The comments by Naomi Klein on the uprisings, very much tallied with the observations of Peggy Gish the week before. She spoke of the brutality of the occupation, the disappeared, the collective punishment.
The Paris Club has offered to wipe out debts incurred by Iraq under Saddam Hussein if IMF restructuring is agreed. The Iraqis have said no. The debt was illegitimate as it was incurred by Saddam Hussein not the Iraqi people and it is not for the Iraqi people to repay.
Corporate looting has also hit a snag. Apart from the illegality of it and that any Iraqi government elected by the people will demand back what has been stolen, no insurance company at any premium will insure the risk.
Naomi Klein argued we should move on from the reasons for going to war, the lies and who to blame. We should now be pushing for democracy in Iraq, a withdrawal of troops, for an end to the corporate rape and pillage of Iraq (which is what the war was about) and to help the Iraqi people determine their own fate.
In response to a question from the floor, as to what do you mean by democracy, do you mean Western democracy. Naomi Klein replied no. She suggested we look to Argentina, where people are determining their own fate. Some time in the near future she will release a documentary on Argentina.
I would agree, and would humbly refer to my own thoughts on the matter which were put in a detailed briefing paper on democracy, A sense of the masses - a manifesto for the new revolution:
Question time was taken up, with a few rare exceptions, by the nutters who get on their favourite platform, rant and rave and pour out a diatribe. Usually it is only one or two, but not this time. This is getting to be a serious problem and is causing a lot of damage. If nothing else, it quickly emptied the hall. There were a lot of people who wanted to speak, maybe they had something useful to say or some interesting point to raise, but we shall never know as they never got the chance to speak.
People may have wanted to have had a chat with Naomi Klein afterward, but because of the time wasters, there was not a chance for a discussion with her. People were able to drop off stuff to her, get their books signed, and that was it.
From the numbers who attended, and the fact that tickets could have been sold many times over, it shows political activism and radicalism is not dead.
The talk was hosted by Jubilee Iraq, War on Want, Voices UK and Iraq Occupation Focus.
Proceeds from the talk will go to the Fallujah Centre for the Study of Democracy and Human Rights and the Southern Oil Company Union.
Iraq Occupation Focus are running an all day workshop on Iraq. Speakers include: Jo Wilding, Milan Rai. Occupation and Resistance in Iraq: international teach-in. Sunday 5 December 2004, University of London Union, Malet Street, London. £5/£2 Please note the date of this meeting has changed, it was originally scheduled for Saturday.
For an excellent eyewitness account of life in Iraq under occupation please read
Peggy Faw Gish, Iraq: A Journey of Hope and Peace, Herald Press, 2004
I hope to post a review of this moving account in the near future
also see a report of a talk Peggy Gish gave in London
recent articles, newsletters and pamphlets
Global Terrorism, Human Rights and Democracy: Tony Blair's latest lies about the war in Iraq, Voices UK briefing, 9 October 2004
Ewa Jasiewicz and Pennie Quinton, Protesters insist on trial as government and ‘plunder promoter’ drop charges, Wildfire, 25 November 2004
Naomi Klein, Die, then vote. This is Falluja, The Guardian, 13 November 2004
Onslaught: The Attack on Fallujah, JNV Anti-War Briefing 69, 11 November 2004
John Pilger, Fallujah,the US elections and 9/11: a matter of normalising the unthinkable, New Statesman, 13 November 2004
Sami Ramadani, Falluja's defiance of a new empire, The Guardian, 10 November 2004
Paul Rogers, Fallujah fallout, OpenDemocracy, 11 November 2004
Voices, issue 37, Voices UK, Oct/Nov 2004
Haifa Zangana, What drives the fighters in flip-flops, The Guardian, 17 November 2004