Vote 2005

Don’t mention the Iraqis

Writing in The Observer Liberal Democrat Deputy leader Menzies Campbell urges an anti-war vote for his party.

I think we can all live without yet another reworking of the debate over the rights and wrongs of the Iraq war but there are some points I want to make in relation to Campbell’s column.

There is not a single indication from Campbell that there might have been some positive results from overthrowing the Ba’athist dictatorship in Iraq. Not even the obvious one – he doesn’t even manage the usual anti-war throat clearing comments about “Of course everyone is glad Saddam has gone”

The nearest he gets is this abysmal phrase: Despite the election of an interim government in Iraq, the tyranny of Saddam Hussein has been replaced by the tyranny of the suicide bomber.

There is not a single word of support for those Iraqis involved in the democratic process. Not one suggestion as to how the security, reconstruction and democratisation process might be handled better (surely the job of a liberal and democratic and internationalist opposition party?)

For a party that never tires of reminding us of the importance of the United Nations there is not even a passing reference to the fact that the current transitional process in Iraq has the mandate of and support of the UN.

Instead we get this:

Iraq has become a crucible of militant terrorism, and the nationalist insurgency shows no sign of fading away. Even if the new government is successful in bringing together the religious, tribal and racial groups of Iraq under one constitution, for years to come its inhabitants will face the threat of civil unrest and terrorist attack.

The nationalist insurgency? No wonder Tariq Ali is voting Lib Dem.

Of course this is an election article and it remains focused on the main message – Blair lied to you, he agreed with the hated Bush, so punish him by voting for us.

To be fair, I am sure that if I were to meet Menzies Campbell and ask him if he really thought nothing good at all came of the liberation of Iraq he would clear his throat with his happiness at Saddam’s departure. He is not, of course, like the far-left leaders of the anti-war movement who allied themselves with Saddam and I am sure he really does wish Iraqi democrats well.

But there is a reason why he is afraid to raise those issues. Recognising that there is a struggle for democracy in Iraq means accepting that we, including Tony Blair, are on the right side and that the war was and still is an ongoing process of liberation for millions of Iraqis.

That complicates the message a bit doesn’t it? It makes it harder to get those protest votes. And it inevitably raises the further question that if there is now a struggle for democracy in Iraq instead of a struggle for survival under a fascist tyranny perhaps there has been, despite the whole WMD fracas, despite the bungling incompetence and indeed crimes of the occupation, a positive side to this war?

The opposition parties and parts of the media have been chuckling about the Fawltyesque ‘Don’t mention the War’ restriction on Labour’s campaign and that indeed is the price Labour is paying for the failure to find WMD.

But the Lib Dems and their media friends are guilty of their own deception – don’t mention what the resistance consists of, don’t mention that eight million people voted for the first time in their lives and don’t mention that the Kurds who faced genocide are now in the government of the country.

In fact, as Menzies Campbell shows, to avoid complicating matters, just don’t mention the Iraqis.

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