I went to the Iraq Occupation Focus day school today Justice for Iraq. I really like the IOF day schools because they tend to have a more intellectually honest approach to discussion. It seems to me that it's healthy not to tie ideas too tightly to action (shock) because you end up with the cart leading the horse. I tend to think of IOF as a bit of a think tank for the anti-war movement although I've absolutely no idea if that's anything like the way they see themselves.
One of the things that distinguishes them is a concentration on the actual news coming out of Iraq rather than selecting those bits that might suit a preconceived agenda. It's not as if you have to apply any spin to see what a catastrophic idea the war has been from start to will-it-ever finish. So I'd recommend signing up for their ultra-regular newsletter which always contains far too much info to easily digest in one sitting.
Sami Ramadani spoke first, and as ever he was brutally honest. Firstly, in recent months Iraq has been getting far less attention in the press and the simply fact is this is because less US and UK troops are coming home in body bags. As one speaker mentioned later on, we may see a shift in emphasis away from killings and torture perpetrated by occupying forces, with a weak client state looking on, and move far more towards an authoritarian Iraqi state. In that circumstance the emphasis will need to shift from the withdrawal of troops towards the human rights of Iraqis.
Ramadani pointed out, rather carefully, that the actions of "Al Quaida like groups" in Iraq have been extremely useful for the occupation. It allows them to paint Al Quaida as the resistance, essentially gives whole areas to the occupation, stokes fear in the populace and brings the occupations natural enemies together under the auspices of fighting Al Quaida.
What's clear is that US forces are not going anywhere anytime soon and with every passing day Iraq sinks deeper into the quagmire of internal division and impoverishment.
A number of other speakers talked about the handing over of Iraq's economic resources, and the incompetent mismanagement of the post-invasion economy. In fact there was a lot of detail on this in one of the sessions, which I felt was extremely useful in outlining how malfunctioning and weak Iraq's economy had become - and how this was the inevitable outcome, if not intention, of the US policy. But if the US came to liberate Iraq why is it dictating economic policy? Why does the Iraq Development fund sit in the Federal Bank of New York?
We don't want to reflect this colonial attitude in our movement. Discussions on whether water boarding is torture, or when the right time to withdraw troops are not questions we have a right to ask - we shouldn't even be attempting to tell Iraqis what to do or give ourselves options about how long we stay or how we treat prisoners we had no right to take. We're not a charitable movement looking after the needy Iraqis - but a solidarity movement working with and for our mutual benefit. Nor do we pretend we have a blue print for a utopian Iraq - just one free from imperialist occupation.
That means not just the troops but their corporate friends too. These outside companies have been intensifying the conflict, both through the social impact of their behaviour but also very directly through their use of mercenaries who seems to be unaccountable to anyone. The perfect neo-con state in fact.
I'll let John Hillary of War on Want sum up the tasks of the anti-war movement for me. Partly because he was very clear - but also partly he chose not to pull his punches.
- A long term occupation means a long term resistance, here.
- We have to support the Iraqi resistance (discuss).
- We have to provide solidarity with those, such as Iraqi trade unions, who are working to build an alternative civil society.
- We need to oppose the privatisation of the occupation.
- We need justice for the victims.
- We need to rebuild Iraq, on Iraqi terms, not ours.
- We need to end the occupation itself.