The Blanket

Bush War

Anthony McIntyre • 19.09.02

When the Iran-Iraq war broke out in 1980 we learned of it on the blanket from somebody coming back from a visit, a priest at mass or as a result of something shouted over from H5. The latter’s ability to inform to any extent was invariably determined by wind direction and the willingness of the person tasked with shouting the news to bellow loudly enough so that H4 would pick it up.

For us, there wasn’t a great deal to choose between the two warring nations. We were republican protestors, deprived of reading material and normal intellectual stimulation, so picking either Iran or Iraq was a case of IRA with a Q stuck on to the end of it or alternatively IRA with a N. We knew nothing about Saddam or Iraq. We did know that Iran had undergone a revolution the year before. That it was of a fundamentalist type didn’t seem to matter greatly - revolution was a nice word. It had overthrown the Shah who was a friend of the Americans, not all that long booted out of Vietnam; American servicemen had died in a helicopter collision trying to rescue some of their captured comrades or hostages and this suggested to us ‘anti-imperialists’ that ‘IO Tolie’ couldn’t have been that bad. Maybe even a bit like Ortega. We had no access to newspapers, books or television so didn’t know what he looked like. And in our minds’ eye his name was spelt phonetically.

This was all back in the 1980s, the decade in which we opposed the US government as in every revolutionary situation it backed only Contra governments. It still only backs Contra governments but because many of us who raved so loudly about American imperialism and labelled ‘contra’ anybody who disagreed with us are now in the Contra government up at Stormont our outspoken opposition to ‘US imperialism’ is much more muted. Many of us now like to perform Mexican waves for American presidents after they have bombed Sudanese pharmaceutical factories, an act described by Christopher Hitchens as a war crime. And we are happy enough to let Andrew King of the Socialist Workers Party lead ethical opposition against such people. But in our brave new world of doublethink this is the revolutionary thing to do and only contras refuse to support Contra governments.

A memorable phrase from the days of the Iran-Iraq war was that of the war criminal Henry Kissinger: ‘pity they can’t both lose’. Such sentiment has instinctively shaped the way I have thought about the war that may soon be launched by America and Britain against Iraq. But the victims in this war will be innocent Iraqi men, women and children. And awareness of that prompts me to feel it is better that this war does not start rather than vainly hope that both sides lose in one which is fought. Bush or Blair are hardly concerned with upholding international law or mounting humanitarian intervention in the region otherwise they would surround Tel Aviv and oust Sharon.

For that reason I ventured down to the Culturlann last night for the second in a series of Marxist Forums organised by the Socialist Workers Party, where Barbara Muldoon was to deliver a lecture on the background shaping the growing momentum towards war. Normally, I avoid the ‘far left’ like the plague due to their sloganising, bombastic rhetoric and strategic myopia. But people like Barbara Muldoon and her colleagues in Belfast have been at the forefront of all those issues I had long thought we republicans should have been immersed in. Often isolated, speaking at miniscule meetings, and subject to unpleasantries from hecklers, they have never opted for respectability and the easy life. It is not a student fad for many of them - some have been at it as long as I was in prison; enough time to get six degrees back to back. Talented, they will hardly go places within their own careers due to their political outlook. As a party I do not support them, and I find their democratic centralism anathema. But as conscientious individuals they do protect a socialist discourse at a time when an ideological assault in defence of capitalist values is being driven home even in local and formerly radical papers.

Last night’s event kicked off with Barbara Muldoon reminding her audience that a war will take place regardless of what happens in the coming weeks. She claimed it will be a war completely without justification. America has cobbled together a tissue of lies in advance of attack 'just like they did prior to invading Kuwait’ when they alleged that invading Iraqi troops were pulling babies out of incubators. Part of the lecture urged people to be alert to a series of buzzwords in the media which number among them 'humanitarian intervention', 'rogue states' and ‘known terrorists’: they are simply code for America preparing to attack some poor country. The chief purveyor of this target-setting, the US media, was criticised severely for its central role in demonising Iraq.

Operation Desert Storm was addressed in some detail during the evening. Comparison was drawn between the behaviour of US forces who buried Iraqi troops alive and the SS who inflicted similar atrocities on their opponents during World War two.

UN imposed sanctions came under particular scrutiny. It was stated that there were now one million Iraqi citizens dead as a result of these. Furthermore, the levels of radiation in the country are 84 times the safety level and child leukaemia is up by 500% all of which the UN remains indifferent to. The audience was urged not to be taken in by the ruse that any forthcoming UN backing for the war would in some way make it justified. Its role is one of player posing as referee.

Barbara Muldoon argued that oil greases the West’s interest in the region. She pointed out that there little in the way of humanitarian concern was on display when America backed Saddam Hussein against the newly installed Ayatollah Khomeni in Iran despite it being public knowledge that Saddam had gassed 180, 000 Kurds. Most interesting of all she ended her lecture by drawing attention to a strategic think tank document reported on in this week's Sunday Herald. Put together before the inauguration of George Bush as president this report amounted to a call for US domination on a global scale, part of which meant crippling Iraq. Ominously some of those involved in the think tank are now in the Bush government.

This lecture was not as well attended as the previous Marxist Forum sponsored event on Che Guevara. That was the sole disappointing feature of the evening because the delivery was every bit as powerful as Brian Kelly’s on the Cuban revolutionary. Those who were there engaged in a robust exchange of views at the end. One thing that was certain was the knowledge as we left the hall that we would need to do much more. If the anti-war movement in Belfast can refrain from going to war on each other, as it did last December, the possibility exists that pressure will emanate from that quarter and flow into a wider pool of opposition that might just save the lives of innocent Iraqis. As for Saddam Hussein in all of this - if he finds his way to sharing a cell at the Hague with Henry Kissinger, then progress will have been made.







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The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.
- Tommy Smothers

Index: Current Articles

19 September 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Belfast's "Poor White Trash" and the Dead Dogmas of the Past
Brian Kelly


Top Cat

Anthony McIntyre


Lower Than The Lowest of the Low
Liam O Ruairc


Civil Rights Vets Launch Status Campaign
Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh


Peace Rather than Pipedreams
Sean Smyth


Bush War
Anthony McIntyre


15 September 2002


Suppression of Dissent: What it is and what to do about it
Brian Martin


Chief Constable Orde
Terry O'Neill


Yes, Yes, RUC, It's The Force to Set Us Free

Anthony McIntyre


2 Quit Human Rights Commission
October Fifth Association


What's Good For the Goose
Anthony McIntyre


A Burning Issue
Davy Carlin




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