The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] Write to the Observer

Dear folks,

Nick Cohen had the following piece in Sunday's Observer. List members will
recall Cohen's earlier contributions. Here he writes that '[w]hat is
dishonourable - indeed insufferable - is the pretence of everyone from Trots
to archbishops that their animating concern is the sufferings of the peoples
of Iraq.'  It'd be good if the Observer received some letters: These should be sent off this evening and you should
include your address and telephone number.

Best wishes,

voices uk

Who will save Iraq?
Not the bishops nor the Left, who seem to have forgotten the real victims of
Saddam's regime

Nick Cohen
Sunday August 11, 2002
The Observer

The bad faith of the anti-war movement is revealed in what it doesn't say.
For all its apparent self-confidence, the Left, reinforced by a small army
of bishops, mullahs and retired generals, lacks the nerve to state that the
consequence of peace is the ruin of the hopes of Iraqi democrats. The
evasion is on a Himalayan scale. Unsurprisingly, the religious, with
centuries of training in casuistry, are the most adept dodgers of the
uncomfortable question: how can the peoples of Iraq overthrow their tyrant
without foreign help?
Many pious men and women signed the declaration of Pax Christi, the
'International Catholic Movement for Peace', which was presented to Downing
Street last week. If the Prime Minister read it, he would have noted that in
only one sentence did they accept that Iraq was a prison state. 'The people
of Iraq,' Pax Christi said, 'must not be made to suffer further because they
are living under a dictator who in his early years in power enjoyed the
collusion and support of Western nations.' Pax Christi deserves credit for
its scanty acknowledgement - Richard Harries, the Bishop of Oxford, managed
to oppose war for 1,000 words on these pages last Sunday without once
alluding to the nature of the Iraqi regime. But I would have thought that
the dopiest theologian might have grasped that the people of Iraq are
suffering, and will suffer further, precisely because they live under a
dictator. The faithful can't say as much because the issue would then become
whether the civilian casualties of a war would justify the removal of the

As important would be the nature of the new government after the likely
victory. The Foreign Office, US State Department and CIA appear to favour
the replacement of one goon with another. In that instance, war would
probably not be worth fighting. But the moral calculus would change if the
West met the demands of the Iraqi National Congress, a loose coalition of
Kurdish, Sunni and Shia opposition groups, and for once supported democracy
and secularism in the Middle East.

The battle by the INC and others to win American backing for a democratic
Iraq is being fought in Washington and London as I write. On Friday Colin
Pow ell told opposition leaders 'our shared goal is that the Iraqi people
should be free'. Whether his warm words were anything other than propaganda
remains to be seen. His State Department had refused to talk to the INC for
a year. Meanwhile George Tenet, the director of the CIA who, astonishingly,
was not fired for his failure to protect his country on 11 September, has
been an unyielding opponent of Iraqi democracy since he advised Bill Clinton
in the mid-1990s.

I'm not saying Iraqi opposition is perfect. Generals who want a pro-American
dictatorship form a part of it, while the two Kurdish factions in the INC
were engaged in a civil war as late as 1996. Nevertheless, the heroism of
many dissidents can't be doubted by those who are prepared to do what the
Bishop of Oxford won't do and look at Saddam's regime with clear eyes. Among
Amnesty International's voluminous accounts of executions and amputations in
Iraq are descriptions of the collective punishment of their families. The
fate of al-Shaikh Nazzar Kadhim al-Bahadli was 'typical', we are told. His
wife, father and mother were tortured in front of him until he confessed to
organising protests against Saddam. The latest grim dispatches from Iraq
brought news of the execution of Abd al-Wahad al-Rifa'i, a retired teacher,
who was suspected of having links to the opposition through his exiled

The opponents of Saddam therefore include many brave men and women who are
paying dearly to uphold the values of at least a part of the liberal-Left.
They champion human rights and the protection of the Kurdish minority. Yet
when they ask their natural allies to pressure Blair into supporting a
democratic Iraq they are met with indifference or the preposterous slander
that they are the stooges of the CIA.

A part of the explanation for the bad mouthing of freedom fighters lies in
the belief that Muslims cannot handle and do not want freedom. On Friday yet
another bishop - Colin Bennetts, the Bishop of Coventry, this time - wrote
in the Guardian that he opposed war because 'Muslim communities here in the
UK would perceive a UK attack on Iraq as evidence of an in-built hostility
to the Islamic world'. I bow before the Right Reverend's superior knowledge
of the views of the superstitious, but can't for the life of me understand
why he believes the rejection of appeals from Muslims for help in removing a
secular dictator is anti-Islamic.

The greater reason for hostility is the ground shared by Left and Right.
Noam Chomsky and his supporters have become the mirror image of the
hypocrisies of American power. If the US encourages the persecution of
Palestinians, but belatedly fights against Serbian ethnic cleansing, they
will support freedom in the West Bank but not in the Balkans. In Britain the
supposed extremes have gone a stage further and merged. It was as
predictable as Christmas that the voices of Douglas Hurd and Sir Michael
Rose would be among the loudest crying to leave Saddam alone.

As Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the former Polish Prime Minister, said of the
struggle to persuade Europe to stop Milosevic: 'Any time there was a
likelihood of effective action, Hurd intervened to prevent it.' Rose, while
refusing to contemplate decisive intervention by his troops in Bosnia,
decided that denunciations of the rape and murder of Muslims were the work
of 'the powerful Jewish lobby', and chummily regarded General Ratko Mladic,
the butcher of Srebrenica, as a fellow officer 'who generally kept his

Both have warned that an invasion of Iraq will destabilise neighbouring
states. By this they must mean the theocracy of Saudi Arabia. You might have
thought the prediction that war would set on fire a repellent Saudi monarchy
whose religious police terrorise the population - and which sponsored the
most brutal version of Islamic fundamentalism until one minute to midnight
on 10 September - would have been met with the cry 'let it burn'.

But the Left appears as anxious to keep the lid on popular fury in the
region as the Right. In their Commons motion, which is rallying Labour
opposition, Tam Dalyell and Alice Mahon write, 'an aggressive war by Britain
and the US would destabilise Iraq, risk provoking further conflict in the
region and, inevitably, alienate the Arab states'.

There are honourable grounds for upholding the authority of the United
Nations and opposing American global domination. What is dishonourable -
indeed insufferable - is the pretence of everyone from Trots to archbishops
that their animating concern is the sufferings of the peoples of Iraq.

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]