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January 11, 2005

Death Squads in Iraq and the Murder of Hadi Salih

Elections where major social leaders have been gunned down in the streets can't be taken seriously. Even if the bullets stop long enough for voters to drop ballots off at armored election offices, there can't be a meaningful campaign in such an atmosphere.

The murder of trade unionist Hadi Salih reflects the fact that insurgent attacks in Iraq go beyond targetting American forces and Iraqi officialdom, but extends to anyone outside the bunkered military of occupation and resistance. What room is there for democratic civil society where elections would be meaningful?

The Bush administration should be condemned for this electoral fantasy -- which has been echoed even by the establishment likes of Brent Scowcroft -- but the general silence by the antiwar movement over the targetting of grassroots leaders like Hali Salih is disturbing as well, as Doug Ireland and Marc Cooper have emphasized. As Ireland says:

The Newsweek report of U.S.-sponsored death squads makes the silence of much of the anti-war movement here about the assassination of Iraqi trade union leader Hadi Salih at the beginning of the week even more painfully embarrassing. To borrow Talleyrand's famous phrase, this silence is worse than a crime, it is a mistake--for it removes any moral authority from the anti-war movement when it will begin to criticize the U.S. death-squad plan reported by Newsweek.
Some left analysts have distanced themselves from the internal factionalism of the Iraqi trade unions and the Iraqi Communist Party which dominates it, but they are operating in a country where Islamists hate secular activists like unionists and the Bush puppet government has kept in place Saddam-era laws banning strikes. And as Ireland says in his bitter denunciation of the failure of the antiwar movement to articulate a clear stance in support of secular democratic forces in Iraq:
One can -- and should --oppose the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and consider the coming elections of dubious legitimacy at best, or a fraud at worst, without abandoning one's critical faculties to cheer unconditionally the Iraqi "resistance" (I prefer the word insurgency) or remaining silent in the face of crimes committed by that resistance's death squads, like the one against Salih.
"Bring the troops home" is not good enough as a left goal. What is left behind matters and even where we think US troops are not the best vehicle for needed change, we still need to bear witness and promote solidarity with the forces like the Iraqi trade unions most likely to build a democratic alternative both to the Bush puppets and the Islamic jihadists.

Posted by Nathan at January 11, 2005 06:59 PM