Wed, Jul 07, 2004 - Page 9 News List

Iraqi `resistance' offers only chaos and bloodshed

Back the attempt to build democracy, not the men of violence, argues the UK's special envoy on human rights in Iraq


Iraqis used to tell me that they never believed that former president Saddam Hussein and his henchmen would ever face justice. But the new interim government is keen to prove that the rule of law is established and will be central to the new Iraq. Only this morning I received an e-mail from Baghdad confirming that the evidence Indict, the campaigning organization I chaired, had collected from hundreds of those who suffered at Saddam's hands will be used in his upcoming trial. Genocide will be one of the charges he faces.

For those of us who have campaigned for over 20 years to topple the regime of Saddam, his performance in the witness box last Thursday, jabbing his finger at the judge, insisting that he is still president of Iraq, justifying the invasion of Kuwait; was predictable. As the charges were read out, we were reminded that this was a regime which had complete disregard for human life.

In 1987 the Committee against Repression for Democratic Rights in Iraq published a pamphlet on torture in Iraq. It included the testimony of an Iraqi doctor who said he had been forced to take part in one of the more sinister practices that took place in Abu Ghraib prison: the forced draining of political prisoners' blood before their executions, so that the reason for subsequent death could be recorded as "heart failure." Only a regime like Saddam's could possibly think of turning a life-saving humanitarian practice into a cruel method of murder.


Seumas Milne, writing in The Guardian last week, believes that putting Saddam on trial is an attempt to retrieve "retrospective justification for last year's unprovoked invasion" and then argues that because of the torture of prisoners by US and British soldiers all moral authority has been drained from the coalition. This is surely a distortion.

It has become commonplace to argue that the new interim government "lacks legitimacy." The words "quislings" and "puppets" are widely used, while anti-coalition violence is said to represent the "real war of liberation." This ignores a recent poll that showed widespread support for the new interim government. The poll was commissioned by the Coalition Provisional Authority but was conducted by the same organization that discovered widespread disapproval of the coalition only a couple of months ago. This time, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi was found to have approval ratings of 73 percent, while President Ghazi Al-Yawar received 84 percent.

The unwillingness to concede that the interim government might be a popular one shows the continuing frustration of some of those who opposed the war. They view any progress made toward democracy in Iraq with suspicion -- a view more honestly expressed by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown writing in the Evening Standard: "The past months have been challenging for us in the anti-war camp. I am ashamed to admit that there have been times when I wanted more chaos, more shocks, more disorder."

Having known and worked with the opposition to Saddam for over two decades, I find the description of brave individuals as "puppets" deeply offensive. Allawi was nearly killed in 1978 in the UK when he was attacked by a Baathist assassin with an axe. Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih was imprisoned at the age of 16 for his political activities. The Deputy Foreign Minister Hamid Al-Bayati was imprisoned in Abu Ghraib and had five members of his family killed by Saddam's regime. Eight thousand members of Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari's family clan disappeared in 1983 and have never been seen since.

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