Eric Lee of Labourstart writes about meeting Rasem Al Awadi, president of the Iraq Federation of Trade Unions, at this year’s TUC conference.
Before we even had a chance to begin asking questions, Rasem wanted us to all know about the terrorist attack today in Baghdad in which a tremendous number of people – initially we thought 200 – had been killed. Rasem emphasized that these were ordinary labourers, people looking for work in construction for example, trying to earn some money to buy food for their families.
In a country where suicide bombers strike on a daily basis, the views of Iraqi trade unionists will differ considerably from those of their comrades who live in the comfort of countries like Britain. When we asked Rasem about his views on the withdrawal of British, American and other occupying troops, he replied that the current Iraqi security forces were not yet able to ensure stability. Furthermore, he blamed the interim government for not building up a proper army and police force. This kind of thinking is a far cry from the demands being made by many in the left – and even at the TUC conference – for an early, or even immediate, withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq.
An hour later, when a leading figure in the AFL-CIO addressed conference and mentioned the need to withdraw foreign troops from Iraq, she was greeted by an ovation. Whether Rasem applauded or not, I couldn’t tell.
(Hat tip: Arieh.)