This piece of mine appears on the Guardian's Comment is Free website.
I love the Yiddish word chutzpah. I first came across it while working at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Budapest in the mid-1990s. My favourite chutzpah joke - and there are some very funny ones - concerns a man who goes to a lawyer and asks for advice.
Man: How much do you charge for legal advice?
Lawyer: A thousand dollars for three questions.
Man: Wow! Isn't that kind of expensive?
Lawyer: Yes, it is. What's your third question?/blockquote>
But, audacious as the lawyer in the joke was, some people are doing all they can to outdo him in the chutzpah stakes. A group of pro-war bloggers is playing a prominent role in a campaign to grant asylum to Iraqis who have been working as translators for the British forces in Iraq. Not all who back the campaign were in favour of the war, but some of its most strident supporters are.
Harry's Place, the favourite watering hole of the pro-war "left", urges its readers to write to their MPs over the issue. "If government policy has not changed by the time parliament returns from the summer recess, we will need to think about a face-to-face lobbying effort," the site warns.
Other pro-war bloggers are backing the campaign, too, including the arch-hawk Stephen Pollard, who once labelled opponents of the Iraq war as "mindless, deluded or malevolent". And yesterday, the Harry's Place contributor Adam Lebor, via an opinion piece in The Times, offered "advice" to Gordon Brown, exhorting him to overrule the bureaucratic "desk murderers" who would deny the Iraqis rights of entry.
It seems the Iraqis in question live in real fear of their lives in their newly "liberated" country. Surely, this can't be right. Weren't we told five years ago by the same pro-war bloggers that the Iraqi people were simply baying for a US/UK invasion, and that the "liberators" would be greeted with bouquets of flowers and cucumber sandwiches? Now the cakewalk brigade is telling us those who collaborate with - oops, sorry, work for - the liberators may not actually be the most popular guys and gals in town.
The whole thing would be comical if it weren't so tragic. But the chutzpah of those now exhorting people to write to their MPs to grant asylum to Iraqis who have been put in danger by the very interventionist policies they still enthusiastically support is truly astounding.
The most nauseating aspect of the campaign is the way we are repeatedly told that the Iraqi interpreters worked for "us".
Who exactly is meant by "us"? In common with millions of other Britons, I did not want the Iraq war, an illegal invasion of a sovereign state engineered and egged on by a tiny minority of fanatical neoconservatives whose first loyalty was not to Britain but to the cause of Pax Americana. NHS doctors and nurses, firemen and the police force work for "us", but in no stretch of the imagination do Iraqi interpreters, who are employed by British forces that have no right or cause to be in Iraq.
Analogies with the 44 Gurkha veterans who fought for Britain in the Falklands war and who are yet to receive citizenship rights are absurd. In that conflict, Britain was responding to an illegal act of aggression by Argentina; those who took part in the war cannot be said to have participated in a criminal enterprise. But in Iraq, it was Britain that was the aggressor, and all those who aided the occupation are
complicit in what the Nuremburg judgment laid down as "the supreme international crime": the launching of an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign state.
The interpreters did not work for "us", the British people, but for themselves - they are paid around £16 a day, an excellent wage in Iraq - and for an illegal occupying force. Let's not cast them as heroes. The true heroes in Iraq are those who have resisted the invasion of their country.
As Seumas Milne wrote in yesterday's Guardian: "More than any other single factor, it has been the war of attrition waged by Iraq's armed resistance that has successfully challenged the world's most powerful army and driven the demand for withdrawal to the top of the political agenda in Washington."
If more Iraqis had followed the example of the interpreters and collaborated with British and American forces, it is likely that the cities of Iran and Syria would now be lying in rubble.
Before you rush to condemn Iraqis who feel ill disposed towards the interpreters, ask yourself a simple question: how would you view fellow Britons who worked for the forces of a foreign occupier, if Britain were ever invaded? History tells us that down through history, Quislings have - surprise, surprise - not been well received, and the Iraqi people's animosity towards those who collaborated with US and British forces is only to be expected.
Those who cheered on a brutal, murderous assault on a third-world country that was always going to result in mass loss of life would now like us to believe they are concerned over the fate of 91 people. But what I suspect worries the pro-war brigade most is not the future of the interpreters but that future military "interventions" may be jeopardised unless Britain promises citizenship rights to locals who collaborate.
"Let's not overlook a practical military issue here: who will ever work for the British army in a war zone if they know that later they will be tossed aside like a spent cartridge?" asks Adam Lebor.
There is a simple answer to that "practical military issue": let's do all we can to keep the British army out of war zones. And in the meantime, let's do all we can to keep self-centred mercenaries who betrayed their fellow countrymen and women for financial gain out of Britain.
If that means some of them may lose their lives, then the responsibility lies with those who planned and supported this wicked, deceitful and catastrophic war, and not those of us who tried all we could to stop it.
UPDATE: It seems those so keen to spread freedom of speech and freedom of expression around the globe are not so keen on it at home.