Posts Tagged ‘Saddam Hussein’

We can disagree over Iraq but we should stop vilifying Tony Blair

10/02/2015, 09:01:23 PM

by Simon Bartram

Tony Blair was arguably one of the boldest and most talented politicians of the late 20th and early 21st century. Domestically he is widely credited with delivering vast swathes of progressive legislation across the country, introducing the minimum wage, allowing civil partnerships, and strengthening employee rights. Britain’s social values radically changed during his time in office – the values of the older generation were swept away, and a new morality gained greater acceptance.

Whether legislation was the enabler or the consequence of these changes is up for debate. Yet it is Blair’s foreign policy which overshadows what would have been quite a progressive legacy. From being characterised as a saviour by the British press in 1997, Blair’s image as a war criminal was frequently propagated by the press, and, as the coverage on the Chilcot Inquiry reveals, it still endures to this day.

When confronted with media reports of loud, clamouring protests over his foreign policy, it’s easy to forget that more people actively voted for him than his opponents in successive general elections, even after his, and Parliament’s, disastrous decision to enter Iraq (undoubtedly a clumsy and calamitous execution, in hindsight). A silent but substantial number of people voted for him. No doubt a good number of these people had inanimate political views, or would have been more interested in parochial matters, such as their local health services, or were Labour tribalists, or were simply uninspired by a Tory leadership that was more interested in niche topics like Europe than bread-and-butter issues like Education. And yet still, it appears that these people would have been at worst ‘neutral’ on Iraq and, indeed, there would have been people who supported Blair’s intentions in Iraq. We seldom hear about these people.

One of the unique features of opposition is that there is always a platform for the rebel – it is never inappropriate to speak¬†against¬†the status quo, whilst, conversely, supporters of it rarely feel the need to randomly unleash polemics in praise of what’s occurring. There’s no incentive to do so, for a start. Why speak when change is not needed? There are far more opportunities to criticise than to defend.

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Kurdistan is an Iraqi success story. But it needs our support to stay that way

15/01/2014, 07:00:13 AM

by Gary Kent

News and images from the Middle East are dominated by doom and gloom: from the horrific slaughter in Syria to the dangerous deepening of the Sunni-Shia schism. Yet there is one place where tragedy is being overcome and which is keen to connect to Britain and the wider world, as part of an ambitious reform programme – the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Yes, I know that the very mention of the word “Iraq” usually gives people the wobbles, summoning up the bitterness about the decision to invade in 2003 and accompanied by almost daily scenes of gore and mayhem from Baghdad and Anbar.

But I fear we are missing out on a very positive story. The Kurdistan Region is different and far, far safer than the rest of the country but, of course, not perfect and a work in progress.

Its history of oppression at the hands of successive Baghdad regimes and Saddam Hussein used to be meat and drink for the international left. A previous generation was very aware of Halabja in 1988, when Saddam’s forces used chemical weapons and killed thousands in seconds. Many of us remember Saddam’s goons in Britain beating up opponents in the NUS and universities.

Much of that awareness has been lost or overtaken by the divisions over the war. I supported intervention but most comrades didn’t. This is a divide that will last forever but one that shouldn’t stop us working together in solidarity with those who are seeking peace, pluralism and prosperity.

Today, the Commons will debate UK relations with the Kurdistan Region in a fairly unusual debate which is accompanied by the launch of a report on the latest fact-finding and cross-party parliamentary delegation to the Kurdistan Region. The delegation included Labour MPs Meg Munn and Mike Gapes as well as Conservatives Nadhim Zahawi and Robert Halfon. I drafted the report which can be found in full here.

My focus here is on political capacity. For decades, the revolutionary struggle of the Kurds demanded military skills and making do with whatever was to hand to satisfy the daily needs of the people. This persisted after Saddam quit Kurdistan in the wake of his defeat in Kuwait in 1991 and was added to by a bitter internal civil war whose shadow is long.

The liberation of Iraq in 2003, as it is usually described there, started a new phase which is only now picking up the pace with some remarkable success.

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