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

By Ann Clwyd  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Every day, these individuals and others face the knowledge that they are targets for assassination. But they continue to work, just as the policemen return to their jobs every day, despite the suicide bombs targeted at them. As one told The Guardian at the beginning of the week: "Our job is to protect the Iraqi people ... There are bombings, but we are not scared of these terrorists. These people are cowards who are damaging our country."

Those who champion the "resistance" as the real voice of Iraq do not offer an alternative political program, merely an opposition to an existing strategy. They are silent about what they want for Iraq apart from getting the US out.

They are opposed by the emerging civil society of Iraq. On June 21, Abdullah Mushin of the Iraqi Federation of Workers' Trade Unions (IFTU) addressed the national conference of UNISON, the UK's biggest public service trade union. The IFTU had opposed the war. Last December its Baghdad offices were raided by coalition forces. Despite this, he was clear that what was required now was "solidarity" to defeat those who would deny Iraqis democracy.

"It is only a few days before the handover of power on June 30 and IFTU and Iraqis need your support and solidarity to make this happen and stop attempts by terrorists and Saddam's supporters to derail the transfer of power to Iraqis. This is a crucial step forward to end the occupation, regain full sovereignty and enable the Iraqi people to determine their own political future through democratic elections," Mushin said.

The alternative to the violence of the "resistance" is already in place. In mid-July there will be a national conference in Baghdad that will be the starting point for a process concluding with the agreement on a permanent constitution and national elections. Do we really believe that this would be an option if the so-called "resistance" won?

No one would deny that the Coalition Provisional Authority made some fundamental errors in policy in its 14 months of power. And no one should be blind to the dangers that lie ahead. But at this point in Iraq's history the choice is a stark one. Either we support those who offer the chance of a democratic Iraq, with laws that protect the rights of all Iraqis and a civil society that ensures the country never returns to the evil days of dictatorship, or we embrace the gunmen and the bombers, who have already demonstrated their contempt for human life.

iraqi democracy

While we can still argue over the reasons for the conflict, the more pressing argument is what we do now. Opinion polls have consistently recorded that the vast majority of Iraqis want democracy. They also want the Americans to leave. But asked what Iraq needs at this time, more than 70 percent told Oxford Research International they want "an Iraqi democracy."

The debate in the UK will be a reflection on us and on our values. Are we capable of the maturity displayed by the Iraqis who are working in the most difficult circumstances to build a new democracy?

Or will we be represented by those who despise Bush and Blair so much that they are prepared to offer support and succor to the "resistance" which has no alternative or agenda other than more bloodshed and chaos?

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