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Re: Methods of Campaigning Against Sanctions on Iraq

I profoundly disagree with Alan Bates’ statement that “the primary responsibility for the suffering of the Iraqi people lies with Saddam Hussein”. As a recent leaflet by Sheffield Campaign Against War in the Gulf (the town from where I am writing) argued: “The main problem in the Middle East is not Saddam Hussein, but the determination of the US, and its junior partner the UK, to maintain its domination over the peoples and natural resources of the region. So long as it served this aim, the US and UK governments armed and protected the Saddam regime…”
We must finesse the “Saddam = Satan” argument. The relationship between the so-called “western democracies” and the likes of Saddam, Pinochet, Suharto, Batista, Somoza, Marcos, Duvalier… [several pages deleted for reason of space] … is like that between a suave, manicured Mafia boss and the street-corner sadists whom he hires to perform his dirty work. Who is the more evil?
I am not trying to make out that Clinton or Blair is Don Corleone, they are just his chief Public Relations Officers. The difference between Saddam and the rest is that this henchman wanted a bigger cut and thought he could get it.
The analogy can be extended further, and can help explain the psychology behind the acquiescence of many in the US and UK to the bombs and sanctions which have killed 1.5 million of our Iraqi brothers and sisters: any challenge to the military supremacy of the dominant Mafia clan threatens to undermine the “general public”’s  false sense of security.  The reflex of many, when confronted by insubordination (as in the case of Saddam) or insurrection (Vietnam, Ireland, Cuba, Palestine, Kurdistan etc) is to cower behind the US/UK (nuclear) umbrella, and hope that our masters can restore “peace”.

Alan Bates states “In certain circumstances, it is inevitable that people will suffer in order for a necessary end to be pursued.  If you don't believe that then you would have to condemn the allies in World War II, when many German and Japanese civilians lost their lives because there was no other way to halt Hitler's fascist army.”
How can Mr Bates pretend to be part of the movement against sanctions when he trots out the same totally false arguments which the US and UK governments use to justify their actions against Iraq? The “allies” deserve to be condemned for their decision to slam the door in the face of Europe’s Jews, for their carpet-bombing of working-class neighbourhoods of German cities, for the fire-bombing of Tokyo and the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All of this had nothing whatsoever to do with “stopping fascism” (if that was their concern, why did they connive at fascism’s victory in the Spanish civil war?) and everything to do with Britain’s aim of securing its empire and America’s aim of securing its century.
Mr Bates’ comment is actually full of irony: the civilian bombing of German cities (which prolonged the war but prevented revolution) was carried out by Bomber Harris working directly under Churchill’s War Cabinet. If Goering first practised blitzkrieg against the Basque people during the Spanish civil war (immortalised in Picasso’s Guernica), then Harris first devised his civilian bombing strategy in the 1920s in Iraqi Kurdistan, when he was also working directly under Winston Churchill (then Minister of State for the Crown and Colonies). Unfortunately, there was no famous painter around to depict the screams of mutilated and poison-gassed children. There is a straight line connecting the 1920-22 bombing of Iraqi Kurds; the massacre of women, children and old people in German cities (the men were at the front) during WW2; and the systematic destruction of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure during the 1991 slaughter. [I have surveyed and mapped this straight line in an article I wrote after the 1991 war, which I will send to anyone at their request].

Finally, please let me state my opposition to “direct action”/ individual acts of heroism and sacrifice, a la Andrea Needham’s paint job in Whitehall. My opposition is purely tactical. There are no short cuts. Such actions lead the most self-sacrificing and militant defenders of the Iraqi people away  from the course of mobilising masses of people in peaceful and disciplined protest. They are dangerous to our campaign: giving the state a pretext to attack us, to criminalise us, to immunise the undecided against us.
I hope that all participants in CASI’s wonderfully impressive discussion forum will work for and be at the April 17 National Demonstration (“Stop Bombing Iraq!” “Lift the Sanctions!”). Sheffield Campaign Against War in the Gulf was one of the organisations which met a few weeks ago in Birmingham and issued the call for this demonstration. We also decided at that meeting that in order to protect the security and peaceful character of the protest there would be no place on this march for any unlawful or “direct” actions.

Greetings to all CASI members and supporters from Sheffield!

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