Sunday, November 19, 2006

Iraq Occupation Focus: strategy day

Sorry about the length of the post but it was a very productive day.....
Yesterday I attended the Iraq Occupation Focus strategy meeting, which was held at the Friends Meeting House. The opening speaker was Sami Ramadani who discussed the need to end the occupation. It will be a long and protacted process and US withdrawal is a pipedream. He said that there has to be a united anti-occupation movement in Iraq and an united global anti-war movement. Sami spoke of the argument used by people who believe that troops should stay because civil war would break out. He spoke about the resistance and there was a debate about the nature of the resistance.

Prolonging the occupation means mass murder and war crimes and the argument that troops should stay is a distortion of the reality and this lie is whipped up constantly. There has to be an immediate end to the occupation and self-determination of the Iraqi people. Occupation crimes and death squads have to be highlighted and exposing who is behind them. There has been testimony from US soldiers about US death squads operating after the invasion. Who controls Iraq? Well, it is not the Iraqi people. It's the US embassy which is heavily guarded around the Green Zone. The number of CIA operatives in Iraq has massively increased. In 2004 - 05, 200,000 Kalashnikov guns were smuggled by the US into Iraq.

Nobody knows who they have been given to and 200,000 weapons are a mighty big number. This can only exacerbate civil strife. Sami made an analogy to Vietnam and that there are similar scenerios. Though there is nothing conparable to the FLN in Iraq.
Sami agreed with Milan Rai's analysis that Iraq is central to US strategy in the Middle East along with the Israeli State. And because of this there won't be a withdrawal and there will be expanding wars within the Middle East.

One of the reasons I came along was to hear Ewa Jasiewicz and Milan Rai. I heard both of them speak at the Labour Against the War AGM in early 2005 (same fateful day as the "final" Socialist Alliance conference). Neither of them spoke much which was a shame though Ewa gave a brief talk about civil resistance and that we hear so much about military resistance and hardly anything about the former. Because of time constraints she didn't expand as much as I would have hoped. Like I said I heard Milan Rai speak before about his book "Regime Unchanged" at the LAtW AGM and thought he was very good. He too spoke briefly yesterday about the need for a multi-national task force in Iraq, which I must say is utterly wrong and many other people felt the same. For me it goes against self-determination of the Iraqi people.

We were split into discussion groups to talk about the anti-occupation work and where now for 2007. I have to say I found this bizarre. We were all assigned a number (I am not a number...) and we all went to our little groups (in the same big hall, 6 of them all in all). I hate small workshoppy groups where we sit around with a marker pen and paper from a flipchart. We talked about practicalities for taking the movement forward. I don't want to go into too much detail as the proposals will be posted on the IOF website. Oh and the demo at Brize Norton was flagged up

I attended the workshop in the afternoon on getting MPs to oppose the occupation. What came out of this workshop was discussion about an Early Day Motion (EDM) for an immediate withdrawal. And Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell will be involved in this. Writing letters to MPs, postcards, legal challenges, tax strikes, peoples strike and so on. Discussions about direct action and the usefulness of just relying on parliamentary pressure. There has to be more grass roots activism and the public are on the anti-war side. Another issue was getting the message across on the web and the blogshere. It is no substitution for grass roots activism but the two can go together.

There was also a workshop about oil corporations in Iraq introduced by Ewa Jasiewicz and Greg Muttit. Greg highlighted the need to expose the way that the oil corporations are using "production sharing agreements" to rip-off the oil-wealth of Iraq. The Oil currently belongs to the Iraq people and is extremely important politcally and economically. The oil rip off will mean that Iraq will be condemned to many decades of repression to ensure that the oil profits flow towards the oil company shareholders.

Ewa spoke about the role of the oil workers union, whish is struggling to build itself as the protector of its members and of the Iraq oil industry as a publicly owned asset operated for the benefit of ordinary Iraqis. The oil workers have won some important victories but the main battle will be over privatisation via the production sharing agreements. This will be a life and death struggle (this is not a metaphor, people will lose their lives as a result of standing with their union) that deserves the full support of both anti-imperialists and trade unionists throughout the world.

Finally, Haifa Zangana, spoke about the grants the US State Department has handed out to womens organisations, which are committed to supporting Bush and the occupation. Organisations like Women for a Free Iraq and Women's Alliance for a Democratic Iraq. She describes them, interestingly, as "colonial feminists". And the cash comes from organisations like the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) where Newt Gingrich is described as a "distinguished advisor"..... One of there grants has built a women's centre in Fallujah where women are talk about their "problems". Hmmmm. Will women be "allowed" to talk about their homes being blitzed and troops committing war crimes? I doubt it.

We finished on time as well.....