Dr Barham Salih, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, was in Wales at the weekend and delivered the annual Kier Hardie lecture in Cwmaman, near Aberdeare.
I haven’t yet been able to get hold of the full text of his speech but his comments that holding elections in January would be a “tough challenge” (an ‘admission’ in mediaspeak, stating the obvious to the rest of us) were picked up by the media.
Also, according to this report from the Press Association: He asked the audience of about 100 to consider what the role of the Labour Party was now that Iraq and the Islamic Middle East was at an “historic crossroad”.
“Are you going to say, ’I was against the war and want the troops home,’ or ’whether I was for or against the war I want to see free political parties, a free press, free trades union, respect for women’s rights, an elected government’?
“I recognise this can only be achieved with security so coalition forces must stay to help us finish the job. I believe the second choice is the choice of Socialist Democrats.
“If we can change the course of history in Iraq it will have a profound effect for good in the Middle East and throughout the world.”
Dr Salih said that for Iraqi people war had not been the preferred option “but rather the only option to end the terrible war of genocide and oppression waged against us by the tyranny of Saddam”.
He said: “This was a just and progressive and moral cause.”
Just reading his words it angers me that he even has to explain this when he visits a left-wing audience in Britain. If we had a genuinely internationalist left he would be thanking people for their support not trying to convince them that liberation from fascism was the right thing to do.
Two years on I still find it incredible that so many liberals and leftists in Britain were able to shamefully ignore the case made by Dr. Salih and others like him. And they were ignored. No-one dealt with the arguments, no-one wanted to listen to him or to seriously consider the pro-liberation argument he and his comrades put forward. The Iraqi and Kurdish left became invisible to the anti-war movement in the same way that Stalinists ignored the victims of the purges and the prisoners in the gulags.
Even more shamefully very few people will listen to him and his comrades today despite two years of appeals for solidarity. Instead we have this constant hysteria over Iraq and a refusal to recognise what is now at stake.