Paul Foot writes yet another weary piece in the Guardian about a friend leaving the Labour Party due to their disgust over the removal of Saddam Hussein.
As leaving-Labour people tend to do, Foot’s friend wrote a letter to Tony Blair:
I am totally opposed to the war in Iraq and feel that the justification now being used (that we have removed an evil dictator) opens the door to other such adventures and interventions in the future. Saddam Hussein was not by any means the worst of the dictators in charge of a country in the world today. Are we to make war on them all?”
I find this the most curious reason to oppose the war of all. I can understand someone feeling betrayed by the absence of WMD or by the failure to win 100 percent UN security council backing for action. But to oppose the war because it removed an evil dictator and that might set the precedent of removing other evil dictators is a pretty bizarre position for someone who presumably considers themself to be a democratic socialist and internationalist isn’t it?
Surely the ‘reasoned opponent of the war’ would be able to feel that the removal of the evil dictator was at least one positive by-product of the war, even if they think that war was a dangerous, imperialist adventure?
Anyway, Foot’s friend got a letter back from Ian McCartney, chairman of the Labour party. According to Foot:
McCartney’s reply bore all the marks of a cyclostyled circular for dissident party members. Its section on the Iraq war, for instance, repeats the obvious fact that Saddam Hussein is a dictator who went to war on Iran (without mentioning that he was supported in that endeavour by the US and British governments)
Now, aside from the fact that I think even New Labour officials can be spared responsibility for British foreign policy during the Thatcher years, Foot presumably thinks it was wrong to back Saddam in the Iran-Iraq war and I suspect most people would now agree.
But what Foot himself fails to mention is that when Ayatolloh Khomeini was sending thousands of Iranian youngsters to certain deaths as ‘human waves’ in that war against Iraq, Foot’s own political party, The Socialist Workers Party, actually supported the Ayatollah.
The SWP regarded Khomeini’s Iran as fighting an anti-imperialist battle because Saddam was being backed by the west. Forget the thousands of innocent dead, forget the Ayatollah’s slaughter of Iranian communists, socialists and democrats – he was fighting Saddam so deserved our support. It was a mirror image of the US cold war policy of support for ‘our son of a bitch’.
Foot and co, who have spent the last year masquarading as pacifist friends of innocent Iraqis, gave their backing to a horrendous war which claimed thousands of Iraqi and Iranian lives. They didn’t take a neutral position of peace or a plague on both Saddam and Khomeini – they supported the ‘anti-imperialist-Ayatollah.
This is what the SWP mean when they plead that they long ago opposed Saddam – ignoring the fact that Iran fought a war against the Iraqi population not aimed at regime change but mass destruction.
Yet these ‘socialists’ who were prepared to get in bed with the Ayatollah, are the same people who couldn’t bring themselves to support the actuial armed overthrow of Saddam’s regime this year because it was Americans who did the deed.
So when he runs out of friends leaving the Labour Party perhaps Paul Foot might like to reflect on his own party’s position on the Iran-Iraq war in a future Guardian column?