The occupation of Iraq

Bobbie at PolitX has a problem with those who call for a end to the occupation of Iraq:

Now, you can argue all you like about the reasons for going to war. Were there WMDs? We haven’t found them, but Saddam was doing his best to make us think they were there. Were we lied to? Difficult question. Were we knowingly lied to? I think it’s unlikely. Discussing these can go on all day, but in the end they don’t get us anywhere. We need to look at the problem in hand.

Now that the war is ostensibly over, and the occupiers should be looking. What do the Stoppers want?
All coalition troops to immediately pull out of Iraq? That would leave the country in a bigger hole than ever, prone to bandits, civil war and wannabe dictators. Surely only an agenda-driven fool could support such action?

A progressive, pragmatic left must realise that what’s done is done. Stamping feet and throwing tantrums is no good now: what will most help the people of Iraq is if we take this chance to help mould and foster democracy in the country – take this chance to be part of the process, not outside it.

At first glance this looks reasonable. Only at first glance, though. The problem with this analysis is that it supposes that Bush ‘n co actually care for the people of Iraq, that they are rational competent people actually wanting to built a better Iraq. More offensively it supposes that democracy can be imposed from above, that Iraq has no chance to develop into a democracy on its own, without outside interference.

This is dangerous nonsense. Historical evidence shows that it is in fact the other way around. Every time either the UK or the US interfered in Iraq, it has lead to dictatorship and repression. The UK “liberated” the country from the Ottaman Empire, only to form its own protectorate kingdom, first having to guess the unruly natives. The US was the country that actually put that dangerous madman psychopath dictator Saddam Hussein in power and gave him the resources to once again gas Iraqi people.

So why should it be any different this time? Should we trust the high moral standards of mister Bush and Blair, who lied and lied to get this war started and are lying still about why they did?

I think not.

Bobbie’s fears are reasonable ones, but the country already is prone to “bandits, civil war and wannabe dictators” –most of the latter now serving on the socalled Iraqi National Council. The occupation is only making matters worse. To equate calling an end to it with “stamping feet and throwing tantrums” is just grossly offensive.

Justice is served?

From 1976 to 1983 Argentina was ruled by a military junta, which waged a dirty war against their own subjects. During that time tens of thousands of people were disappeared: arrested, tortured and killed. In 1986/87, several years after the fall of the junta in 1983 (partially caused by their ill fated attempt to conquer the Falklands Islands) two laws were passed giving immunity to those responsible for the Dirty War and those who participated in it. Not only did these get immunity in Argentine courts, but also from extradition requests from foreign governments.

Fortunately, this does not mean that these torturers and murderers can walk the streets freely, as this Washington Post article shows:

Women have spit on him. Men have chased him with crowbars. While he was waiting for a bus a few years ago in the Patagonian city of Bariloche, Argentine media described in a well-known case, a man walked calmly up to him and in a conversational tone asked:

“Are you Astiz?”

“Yes I am,” Astiz answered.

The man punched him twice in his face and kicked him in his groin before Astiz ran away. Every year since, on the anniversary of the assault, the townspeople hold a block party in the exact spot where the punches were thrown, to celebrate humiliation of Astiz.

I’m not one to argues in favour of mob violence, but here you have not a situation where people take the law into their own hands even though there is a functioning justice system present, but because these people are unpunishable by it, are above the law. In such a situation I find taking the law into your own hands to be commendable. These people need to be punished one way or another, not to escape scott free.

(Meanwhile, the Dutch crown prince saw nothing wrong with marrying the daughter of one of Argentine’s leaders during the dirty war. But hey, it’s alright, he said he hadn’t know what happened then and he wasn’t invited to the wedding anway, the poor guy.)

Is this *your* life?

I expect this job ad has been blogged all over the world by now, as it has shown up in #afp already, but it’s too funny not to post. This could’ve been my life, if things had worked out a little different… I still got the Adminspotting t-shirt.

So you were a top Web Developer, once, many years ago, until the “correction”. Now nobody cares and you are shunned in public, much as lepers were in the fifteenth century. Your modern-day equivalent of the chiming bell and vile burbling exclamations of “Unclean! Unclean!” is the obnoxious ringtone on your expensive mobile. There’s a good chance you listen to either Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus or elaborate Paul Oakenfold remixes, with a bit of bootlegged Chemical Brothers thrown in for good measure. Maybe you find yourself missing the ashtray completely, and your ESC through F3 keys are thoroughly clogged up with burned, cancerous grey flakes. For better or for worse, you’re familiar with such repugnant images as and know what STFU means. In all probability your beverage of choice is Jolt/Columbian Cola, and you have the weeping stomach ulcers to prove it. You give copies of Photoshop 7.0 to your friends, thereby depriving a fat CEO somewhere of a heated driveway. You have a world-crushing collection of MP3s. Your author of choice: Neal Stephenson or William Gibson. You have every volume of Gaiman’s Sandman series, though you decided after Volume III that it`s all a bit of a wank. Sometimes, you pretend you are in The Matrix. Your half-elf mage/rogue is at Level 9, and has actually worked out how to put a Bag of Holding within another Bag of Holding without imploding Ravenloft. You can pronounce “Urotsukidoji” without hurting yourself, and can rocket-jump better than anyone you know. You have a bit of an attitude when it comes to Windows XP, and you like to recompile kernels.

No Sisters of Mercy or Bauhaus, but lots of KMFDM and Rammstein, as well as more “classic” metal. Don’t smoke but did drink more coke than is possible for a healthy body. Yes to and STFU or RTFM even, no to giving away copies of photoshop and indeed my mp3 collecting style cannot be beat. (three words: off-site backup storage) Don’t do roleplaying, always knew there was more to comix than overpraised goth boy and Gibson only wrote one good novel, while Stephenson is excellent but annoying at times. Can pronounce “Urotsukidoji” though and yes, I do have an attitude about XP. Until the fucker fucking stops fucking up, I fucking will.

You gotta laugh

This is how the Guardian described Alister Black’s blog in their latest article on political blogs:

A neatly designed blog with extensive photo galleries. Alister Black’s site has many good points, and covers “conspiracy theory” stories the mainstream media doesn’t usually touch.

Conspiracy theories?

The icing on the cake? He was located in the centrist section…

The Lucy Parsons Project

The Lucy Parsons Project (not to be confused with the Alan Parsons Project) website is dedicated to Lucy Parsons, a late 19th century/early 20th century anarchist labour activist, one of the founders of the Industrial Workers of the World, as well as the widow of one of the Haymarket martyrs. A remarkable woman, not in the least because she fought for workers’ rights at a time when the United States was still an extremely sexist and racist society.

[…]Born in Texas, 1853, probably as a slave, Lucy Parsons was an African,Native and Mexican-American anarchist labor activist who fought against the injustices of poverty, racism, capitalism and the state her entire life. After moving to Chicago with her husband, Albert, in 1873, she began organizing workers and led thousands of them out on strike protesting poor working conditions, long hours and abuses of capitalism. After Albert, along with seven other anarchists, were eventually imprisoned or hung by the state for their beliefs in anarchism, Lucy Parsons achieved international fame in their defense and as a powerful orator and activist in her own right. The impact of Lucy Parsons on the history of the American anarchist and labor movements has served as an inspiration spanning now three centuries of social movements.

While most people remember Lucy Parsons in relation to the events surrounding her husband, Albert
Parsons, and their comrades’ executions (known as the Haymarket affair), Lucy’s own legacy and passions have a long and courageous life history all their own. Lucy was known for her writings, her courage as a dissident woman of color, her unbending commitment to social justice, and, most of all, her powerful, fiery public speeches. She led tens of thousands of workers into the streets in mass protests, drew enormous crowds wherever she spoke and was considered a dangerous, explosive and robust threat to authorities across the United States. For over 30 years her lectures were shut down by the police, often arresting her before she ever reached the podium. Hearing Lucy speak at all was a rare opportunity that sparked a passion for rebellion in working and poor people from coast to coast. The Chicago police labeled Lucy Parsons “more dangerous than a thousand rioters.” [1]

The Haymarket Massacre happened on 4 May 1886 when during a police raid on a meeting of labour organisors somebody threw a bomb which killed one police officer. After this the police went wild and in the ensuing riot several more police men were killed, as well as an unknown number of civilians. During the police reprisals which followed, Lucy’s husband Albert Parsons was arrested and later condemned to death

[…] Following the bomb at Haymarket the police responded the next day by rounding up several of the city’s leading anarchist labor activists, including Lucy & Albert Parsons and several of their associates, none of which had anything to do with the bombing – most were not even at the event. Lucy was jailed several times for the event and eventually released, but her husband, Albert, and 7 other anarchists were sentenced, not for the bombing, but for their beliefs in anarchism. Lucy went on a nationwide tour gathering support across the US for her husband and comrades in jail, delivering powerful speeches and reaching hundreds of thousands of people within a couple of months, but it was not enough. In the end, 1 of the anarchists, Louis Lingg killed himself in prison. 2 others, Michael Schwab, and Samuel Fielden, were sentenced to life in prison, while Oscar Neebe got 15 years; and the other 4, Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolph Fischer, and George Engel were hung. [2]

The IWW, or Industrial Workers of the World was one of the first American unions to push for a broad union, wanting to organise all workers, not just the ones in a given craft Its ultimate goals was not as much to improve condiutions for its members as it was revolution. Lucy herself had also helped found an earlier union, the International Working People’s Association, of which the IWW would take over several principles.

The IWW was born in Chicago in 1905, a product of more than 200 trade unionists, socialist, anarchists and industrial unionists. From its inception the IWW offered a radical strategy and perspective counter to mainstream labor unions of the day. Unlike the American Federation of Labor, for instance, the IWW set forth to organize women, people of color, immigrants and unskilled workers into one big union, organized along industry lines instead of by craft, and many prominent people of color and women took leadership roles in the IWW such as Ben Fletcher, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Frank Little. The IWW believed “the working class and the employing class” had “nothing in common” and urged direct action on the job to win demands and build working class power. [3]

It’s quite inspiring to read about Lucy Parsons and know that no matter how bad the current situation is, things were once worse, that it was due to the hard work of people like Lucy Parsons that we got the freedoms we have today. If she could overcome racism, sexism and class prejudices to do what she did, surely we can do no less.

Please check out the website as it provides an excellent overview of Lucy Parsons’ life, as well as the struggles she was involved in, from workers’ rights to civil rights for black people. If only there were more of this sort of social(ist) history websites.

[1] From the biographic summary at the Lucy Parsons Project.
[2] From the Lucy Parsons Project pages on the Haymarket Massacre.
[3] From the Lucy Parsons Project pages on the IWW