At his speech in Glasgow on Saturday, Tony Blair quoted from an email by 19-year-old Rania Kashi, whose family fled from Saddam’s Iraq and who now studies at Cambridge University.
The response has been predictably malicious – the Sunday Mirror said that giving a voice to someone whose family were forced to flee Iraq was a “cynical stunt” and there have been plenty of people, including Tony Benn, who have criticised Blair for giving this young woman’s views an airing.
I find this reaction very disturbing.
One of the most sickening element’s of the ‘anti-war’ movement is its failure to criticise Saddam’s regime or make even the slightest suggestion that Saddam might be able to help avoid war – a point well made by Rania herself.
Perhaps we should not be surprised when there are leaders of the Stop the War coalition, like the SWP’s John Rees and supposed Labour MP George Galloway, who are happy to share platforms with Baathist leaders.
To be fair, every one I know who is involved in ‘anti-war’ activities says they are against Saddam and want to see democracy in Iraq – I believe them – yet there was little if any sign of this view on Saturday’s march. There were plenty of “Free Palestine” banners but the slogan “Free Iraq” was restricted to a lone counter-demonstrator.
But the criticism of Rania Kashi’s email reveals that the ‘anti-war’ movement is very uncomfortable indeed with the views of Iraqis – whether they be ordinary people like Rania, whose family have had direct experience of Saddam’s regime or the voices of the organised Iraqi opposition.
And of course we all know why they squirm when they are faced with the views of Iraqi’s who desire liberation – the student herself makes the point well enough:
I say to them: do not continue to allow the Iraqi people to be punished because you are “unhappy” with the amount of power America is allowed to wield in a faulty world. Do not use the Iraqi people as a pawn in your game for moral superiority – when you allow a monster like Saddam to rule for thirty years without so much as protesting against his rule, you lose the right to such a claim.
Do not get me wrong. I am not saying that war is a good thing and that all should happily support it, but I feel that the current anti-“war” movement has been hijacked by an anti-Americanism that ignores the horrors and realities of living under Saddam’s rule.
If you want to make your disillusions heard then do speak out. But I urge you to put pressure on Blair, Bush & Co to keep to their promises of restoring democracy to Iraq. Make sure they do put back, in financial aid, what they have taken out over the years. Make sure that they don’t betray the Iraqis again. March for democracy in Iraq, be part of ensuring that America doesn’t just install another dictator after Saddam.