maandag, januari 10, 2005

On Hadi Salih, or, how Johann and Nick give a master-class in slander, elision

There I was thinking that the Independent's Johann Hari was coming around to a decent perspective on the war, having written a half-readable article over Xmas against the neo-liberal economic shock therapy the occupiers are applying to 'Free Iraq'. But now he - and the Observer's frothingly rabid Nick Cohen - goes and has a tantrum over how the left is once again 'objectively' siding with fascists for supposedly having said nothing over the murder of Hadi Salih, the international officer of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions.

Hari writes:

"On Tuesday night, a masked gang broke into Salih's home in Baghdad. They bound him hand and foot and they blindfolded him. They beat and they burned his flesh. Once they had finished torturing him, they strangled him with an electric cord. As a final touch, they riddled his body with bullets…

"The IFTU has reported a pattern of attacks on trade union offices and trade union members. The murder of Salih bears all the hallmarks of Saddam's Mukhabarat - the Baathist KGB. Whatever you thought about the justice of the recent war in Iraq - and there were plenty of good reasons to oppose it - the only decent path now is to stand with a majority of Iraqis against the murderers of Salih and dozens of other Iraqi trade unionists.

"Yet - I can't believe I'm saying this - a significant portion of the left is not standing with them…

"The Stop the War Coalition passed a resolution recently saying the resistance should use 'any means necessary' - which prompted Mick Rix, a decent trade unionist, to resign from the STWC on the grounds that this clearly constituted support for the murder of civilians. George Galloway has attacked the IFTU as 'quislings' and described the tearful descriptions of one of their members of life under Saddam as 'a party trick'."

Then, repeating Hari almost word for word, Cohen writes in the Observer:

"I shouldn't be shocked that there hasn't been a squeak of protest from the anti-war movement at the killing of a brave socialist, but I am.…

"The Stop the War Coalition, which organised one million people to march through the streets of London, told the kidnappers and torturers from the Baath Party and al-Qaeda that the anti-war movement 'recognises once more the legitimacy of the struggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary'. Its leading figures purport to be on the left, but have cheered on the far-right and betrayed their comrades by denouncing Iraqi trade unionists as 'Quislings' and 'collaborators'."

I must say I am getting a little hot under my boxer-elastic at this repeated elision used by the pro-war left to attack the anti-war movement.

On 3 January, Iraq's national intelligence chief, General Mohammed Abdullah Shahwani, told Agence France Presse that the number of resistance fighters in Iraq has grown to more than 200,000 active fighters and sympathizers: "I think the resistance is bigger than the US military in Iraq." According to the general, the number includes at least 40,000 militants with the rest part-time fighters and volunteers who provide rebels everything from intelligence and logistics to shelter.

So let's be clear here: Cohen and Hari, and others who are pushing this line, are saying that all 200,000 of those fighters are fascists. They are saying that anyone who would pick up a gun to defend his home from occupiers is a fascist. That is what they are saying here.

The repugnant acts such as the murder of Hadi Salih, and that of Margaret Hassan, and dozens of the 'spectacular' beheadings and other assassinations are exactly that: a few dozen. This does not excuse them. I feel quite comfortable denouncing them. I do not even feel the need to note that Salih was a member of the Iraqi Communist Party - collaborators of both the Saddam regime and Allawi's Vichy on the Tigris regime - in order to denounce his murder [but, if you're interested, Sami Ramadani, of Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation has written elsewhere forcefully exploding the myth of IFTU as a free trade union central]. Whether a quisling or not, he did not deserve to die. But the more than 120 attacks on US forces a day easily dwarf in number such sickening deeds.

And I also feel quite comfortable saying to the majority of the insurgents: Yeah - go on! Get some! - which is, according to Evan Wright's impressive new book, Generation Kill, the story of a platoon of US marines of the First Recon battalion during the second invasion of Iraq, what marines say to each other when they attempt to beat a personal fitness best, get laid in a whorehouse in Thailand, or thump a house full of women and children with a burst of .50-calibre machine gun fire.

In supporting the resistance - this huge some-time army that eclipses the US presence in the country - the anti-war movement is supporting those fighting to free their homes from occupation. Supporting the resistance does not mean supporting the murder of trade unionists, collaborationist or not.

The reality is that Cohen, Hari and co. are happy to see war crimes such as the Srebrenica-style forcing of Fallujah's male residents to remain within that city limits while allowing women and children to escape the bombing two months ago.

The reality is that for them the 100,000+ Iraqi civilians killed since the start of the war mean nothing next to the murder of a handful of western aid workers. [At some point here we really do need to begin speaking of the unreconstructed racism of this position] Both are horrific, but at least the anti-war movement has the clarity to say so.

They denounce us for saying nothing when Salih was tortured and murdered. Perhaps they're right. Something should have been said. But where are Hari and Cohen's column inches about our government's murder of hundreds of thousands? They attack the Stop the War Coalition over our apparent quiessence at the murder of one man, but the vast, noiseless vacuum of space could not contain the silence of the pro-war hypocrites in the face of their own governments' devilry.