Saturday, August 11, 2007

Iraqi Interpreters and Phoney Humanitarians

Many thanks to all who have written to me in support over my Guardian piece on the Iraqi interpreters yesterday.
And thanks too to those who wrote in to express disagreement with my arguments- and in particular my conclusion. Not all of those who disagreed with the article were pro-war fascists, like the crowd of serial war-mongers at Harry's Place (I think the word 'fascist' is entirely appropriate when referring to a website whose raison d'etre seems to be to propagandise for illegal wars of aggression against sovereign states).

I think the reaction to the piece has highlighted two or three things, which I'd like to comment on.

1. The fascistic, bullying nature of the pro-war 'left'(the Harry's Place blogger 'Brownie' a man who still thinks that the Iraq war, which to date has cost the lives of nearly a million people, was a good thing, has written to the Guardian urging that the 'shameful' Neil Clark be barred from its pages). I must say that I regard being labelled 'shameful' by an apologist for militarist aggression like 'Brownie' is a badge of honour.

2. The muddled- and illogical thinking of some who call themselves 'anti-war'.
As commenter John Hockey says:
"These people say: "Yes the war was wrong, illegal and immoral. We hate the war already!!! We hate the war!!! And yet...and yet....on another level they buy the neo-con line that "we" are now the good guys striving to fix the mess and also accept on some level that those resisting occupation in Iraq are nihilstically bad".

Looking at the reaction of some of the so-called 'anti-war' voices, it's hard to not to share the opinion of 'Arabella' who writes:
" I'm wondering how 'anti-war' Pickled Politics et al really are? Do the people behind these blogs come on the marches or speak at meetings? I certainly don't recognise any of their names."
One of their number, Conor Foley, a man who thinks that I should be arrested and charged for inciting war crimes for saying that people whose country is illegally invaded have a right to resist the occupiers, and that it's understandable that many Iraqis have feeling of animosity towards those who collaborate, takes me to task for another recent article I wrote calling for those who supported the Iraq war to publicly apologise for the disaster they have caused. Foley presumably thinks it's ok for the warmongers to stay in the corridors of power and carry on contributing to the public discourse as if the humanitarian catastrophe that is Iraq never happened.
The glorification of the Iraqi interpreters is another sign of muddled thinking: as I said in my piece, if all Iraqis had followed the interpreters example, and supported the illegal occupation, the cities of Syria and Iran would now be in rubble. That is of course exactly what the neo-cons want- but is it really what those who call themselves 'anti-war' want? The line "I was against the Iraq war, but now that it's started let's hope the illegal invaders win easily and no one fights back" is as absurd as saying '" don't really agree with the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union, but let's hope Hitler gets to Moscow before the winter and finishes the job quickly'. In the 1940s the Nazis HAD to be defeated. And today's neo-con war juggernaut has to be derailed too: that is the most urgent priority of our times.

3. The racism which underpinned many comments.
It's a form of racism which seems to say that countries have the right to resist illegal foreign invaders, so long as the people in question don't have dark skins and the occupiers aren't British and American. In this racist version, the 'whites' are the civilising force, bringing democracy and human rights (let's not mention Abu Ghraib or Falluja, or anything seedy like grabbing Iraq's oil wealth and plundering its assets); the 'darkies' who oppose are primeaval barbarians. Unlike the pro-war lobby, I have never condoned indiscriminate violence, the targeting of civilians, the bombing of market places etc, but, as John Pilger pointed out in a recent article, the majority of attacks in Iraq are directed not at civilians, but at military targets. For the record, I do not wish to see ANYONE killed in Iraq, (that's why I opposed the war in the first place and the genocidal sanctions that were then in place); but the best way we can bring peace to the country is to focus on the cause of the instabilility: the presence of British and US troops. British troops should be out of harm's way and withdrawn from Iraq without further delay. If neo-cons want to occupy Iraq, let them do it themselves: patrolling the streets of Basra has got to be more exciting that sitting in front of computers in London offices urging 'pre-emptive' strikes on Iran or calling for a new 'Cold War' against Russia.

What provoked me to write my article was my utter disgust with the phoney humanitarianism of pro-war bloggers such as Harry's Place and the obnoxious uber neo-con Stephen Pollard, who cheered on a war which has caused mass loss of life and a humanitarian catastrophe on a massive scale, and who now profess to show a concern over the fates of 91 Iraqi interpreters.

These pro-war bloggers have shown next to no concern for the Iraqis whose lives have been destroyed by the brutal act of international banditry they championed, or showed no remorse for the part they played in propagandising for what the Nuremburg judgment decreed was 'the supreme international crime'- the launching of an illegal war of aggression. The double standards are glaring.
As commenter 'blowback' says
"Any of you who think that we should take in these "quislings" because they fear for their lives, then surely you should also accept that we should take in all the refugees who have fled Iraq already in fear of their lives and the internally displaced who continue to live in fear for their lives as well until they can return to their country. Having not worked for the British occupation forces they are surely more innocent than the "quislings".

Blowback is right, but the blog campaign is not for all Iraqis whose lives have been destroyed by the war to be able to come to Britain, only those who co-operated with the occupying forces.

Having read through all the comments to my piece I do believe there could be a better solution to the problem of the Iraqi interpreters, and indeed the problem of other Iraqis seeking to flee from the inferno that is 'liberated' Iraq, than the one I suggested yesterday.

commenter 'frizzled' writes:

" I agree with what you're saying. However, I disagree with your conclusion. Of all the countries that can be moralistic about the Iraqi quislings, Britain and American are not included. We do have a moral obligation to protect those Iraqis who collaborated with us from harm. Of course we also had a moral obligation not to start aggressive wars and kill a million people, so it's unlikely we'll help these people anyway.
In fact, I'd draw the opposite conclusion to you: everyone in the US and UK who supported the war should be supporting the millions of Iraq refugees their crime has created. Perhaps they could pay a special tax, or have their houses given to an Iraqi refugee family. In fact, we could settle millions of Iraqi refugees in upmarket Labour strongholds and the Republican States."

frizzled's suggestion, also draws support from commenters arabella and inayat.

The idea that the British people, the majority of whom did not want the Iraq war, should have to pay the price for it, not only in terms of the billions of pounds already spent, but also in the terms of the extra-cost of resettling Iraqi refugees fleeing the hell-hole the policies of the warmongers have created, is outrageous.

So, as frizzled suggests, how about those who supported the war, paying a special 'War Tax' to help pay for the social consequences that their crime has created?
In addition to paying the tax, they would be compelled to either give or share their house to an Iraqi refugee family.

The more I think of frizzled's idea, the more I like it. It is wrong in principle that those who wanted no part of the illegal, murderous assault on Iraq should have to pay for it and its consequences- there has never been a better argument for hypothecated taxes. Let the 'Brownies', the Stephen Pollards, the Andrew Roberts, the Melanie Phillips, the Nick Cohens, the Oliver Kamms, the Niall Fergusons, the David Aaronovtiches and the 'David T's of this world - as well as the politicians who supported the conflict- pay a special 'War Tax' and agree to take personal responsibility for the welfare of individual refugees.

So, by all means allow into Britain, the Iraqis whose lives are in danger due to the illegal intervention. But let's make sure the cost of the war- and all its consequences- is paid by those who caused it.

And in the meantime, we can see just how 'compassionate' and 'humanitarian' the pro-war lobby really is.


Conor Foley said...

Neil. In my first post on CiF I stated that a number of my friends and colleagues have been murdered in Iraq and Afghanistan. I then asked you if you considered them to have been 'legitimate targets' (ie do you consider the killings to be 'understandable' in the terms that you outline here)?

Perhaps you could you answer that question because it was your assertion that a certain category of civilians working in Iraq deserved this fate, and should be denied refugee status in Britain, which caused the huge outrage that your post provoked.

The second point I made was that your grasp of international law is (to put it mildly) rather hazy.

You have demonstrated this again in the above piece because if you read my comments (slowly and carefully this time) you will see that your claim that I 'think you should be arrested and charged for inciting war crimes for saying that people whose country is illegally invaded have a right to resist the occupiers' is complete nonsense.

Anonymous said...

I note you didn't respond to my post.

Neil Clark, I'm sorry to inform you that every single premise in this article is completely wrong. The vast majority of the people of Basra do not regard Iraqi interpreters as "quislings" or "collaboraters", as you do. How could they if opinion poll after opinion poll showed they supported the foreign presence and support the democratic government? Only until very recently did they think it better that British leave - which the British largely have done in the populated areas - many years after the occupation began. Indeed, the democratic government has huge support in Basra and they of course work with international community more than any other group.

It's the wholly illegal fascist militias, backed by Iran, that want to kill Iraqi interpreters, not the Iraqi people.

Lastly, needless to say, foreign troops would have been gone from Iraq years ago if it weren't for the illegal insurgency. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis would still be alive today as well.

Hope that helps.

Mark Green

Neil Clark said...


1. You asked me:
"Do you believe that the UN staff who were killed in the Baghdad bombing of August 2003 were also legitimate targets? "

There's a simple answer to that. No.

2. You wrote yesterday regarding my piece:

"You further argue that these people, (ie the interpreters) although they are civilians whose status as non-combatants is protected by the Geneva Conventions, should be considered as legitimate as targets for attack as members of the armed forces. That means that you are advocating a war crime. I do not know enough about international criminal law to say whether this constitutes incitment, but I would say that there is enough of a case for the attorney general to consider prosecuting you."

But where in my piece did I say that the interpreters were "legitimate as targets"?

what I wrote was:
"the Iraqi people's animosity towards those who collaborated with US and British forces is only to be expected.........
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?"

Now. if I was a Briton in the above example I think it's highly likely I would feel ill-disposed towards those who worked for the occupying forces. I would probably want to have nothing to do with anyone who collaborated with the enemy. I would shun them. But I certainly would not kill them. 'Animosity' can be shown in many ways Conor. Nowhere in my piece, did I call for interpreters to be killed, or say they ought to be killed. Please don't try and twist my words.
You seem to be shocked that Iraqis might feel ill-disposed towards those who work for an illegal occupying army. I'm saying that such feelings are easy to understand.

Now you're here and I've answered your questions, perhaps you will be good enough to answer one of mine.

You wrote:
"Clark's last article was a rather inane piece about how supporters of the invasion of Iraq should be endlessly tormented until they 'publicly recant".

The implication of your comments, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that you don't think we ought to be pressing those who supported the war to apologise.

Do you think that such an approach is going to make further illegal wars of aggression, more, or less likely?


Martin said...


I don't mean to sound cruel, but the fact that 'a number of your friends and colleagues have been murdered in Iraq and Afghanistan' isn't really going to keep me off my dinner.

You're flying a very dangerous kite here, my man.

Anonymous said...

I posted this previously and you neglected to publish it - I can only assume you don't have an answer.

Please provide the statute / reference for the legal code under which this was is being labelled illegal. I'd like evidence of the democratic under-pinning of that statute (i.e. which elected body passed it) and proof that the US / UK have made a legal commitment to abide by it.

The entire ethical & moral basis of your argument rests on your ability to answer this - were I in your shoes I'd be eager to do so.

Anonymous said...

Neil, I had intended to comment on your post on CiF, however, as it was closed down rather early...

I too marched against this stupid war, which is the sum total of my credentials, or come to that yours, when it comes to commenting on this mess.

I think we, and by that I mean the people who marched against this war, do have a duty to care. It is not good enough to use loaded words like 'quisling' about folk that were quite possibly naively optimistic about the outcome. These people are being murdered right left and centre. They and their families deserve something better from peaceniks like us than to be left to hang out to dry.

You said:

"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."

You have allowed your disgust at your political enemies to blur your moral stance. To be clear, I did not march against the war so that you could write Pontious Pilate pieces on CiF.

Not in my name.

Anonymous said...

I did ask this question before and I'd really like to hear your answer.

'Can I ask you a straight question? Would you rather that the interpreters came to Britain and stayed safe or returned home and were killed? It's your answer to that which will say a lot about you...'

Anonymous said...

It's a shame for the Guardian to close the debate on your last article, they did it before and closed another piece for Mr Tamimi, but ironically, they published an article for an Israeli soldier, talking about his experience and providing link to a conscription internet site. I failed to notice any difference between that article of Seth Freedman's and any other paid for advert presented in the form of a short essay.

I agree that Guardian is not a public body like the BBC, and they have the right to run their website the way they like, but I also have the right to go where I can choose what to read and comment on, not according to the editor's choice. secondly they can't claim to be representatives of the wide spectrum of ideas, the freedom of choice appears to be similar to that of FORD's , when he said you can choose any colour for the car providing it's black.

I would like to give the interpreters the benefit of the doubt, did they really have any choice? what other work is available in Iraq? and since we started thinking of their safety, other refugees who have fled with their life and have been languishing in the desert with no where for them to go are as deserving of help.

Supporters of War, have washed their hands from the sectarian war in Iraq, their infamous defense is that ( Iraqis killing Iraqis). if so, the interpreters are also Iraqis threatened by Iraqis.
By accepting responsibility for the potential threats to the interpreters, they are also responsible for creating the atmosphere where Iraqis are now killing Iraqis.

Anonymous said...

Neil Clark, why do you believe that the majority of Iraqis in Basra wanted the British to stay until very recently? Why do you think they disagreed with your view that people helping train their police and establish democracy, under a UN mandate, are the enemy?

Please explain why you disagree?

Also, do you support a military coup against the democratic government?

Anonymous said...

I have asked you obefore and you seem loath to answer.
Did your wife collaborate with the Soviet occupation of Hungary?

Neil Clark said...

tim, your analogy is absurd, if you don't mind me saying so.
My wife was born over 20 years after the Red Army moved into Hungary in WW2. She did not work for the Soviet forces in any capacity.

Anonymous said...

And opposed the Soviet occupations in Eastern Europe?

Anonymous said...

I've posted an anonymous comment to this effect on Friday and I posted as myself again yesterday Neil - in both cases a fairly straightforward question about the basis of your assertion that the war was illegal.

You've neglected to publish any of these comments and not provided any explanation which, of course, is your perogative since it's your blog.

I doubt you have any interest in advice from me Neil but it's a very dangerous game to selectively publish comments on the basis of the ones you can answer (I can deduce no other reasoning behind your decision). It goes to the heart of what blogging and open dialogue is about and your reluctance to engage completely with your critics undermines not only your standing on this particular issue but your position in general.

I hope you revisit...

Neil Clark said...

chris morgan: there is no doubt whatsoever that the war was illegal. The UN Charter says that war is only legal if (a) carried out in self-defence (b) if it is authorised by the UN Security Council. The Iraq war clearly had neither authority. Not only that the Nuremburg judgment holds that to inititiate a war of aggression is the 'supreme international crime'.

Anonymous said...

First, I notice you haven't published my previous comments with full questions. For your position to have any tenacity you need to explain the democratic legitimacy of any legal code in operation under the UN (I don't recall ever voting for it) and secondly countless international lawyers have contested that and made a case that US action was legal under resolution 1471.

Now, because of this I don't assert the war was legal - I simply recognise it as a debatable assertion either way and so don't resort to the adolescent retort every time the war comes up that it was 'legal'. You on the other hand seem ready to dismiss any legal opinion that doesn't suit your rhetoric and simply describe the war as illegal everytime you mention it.

This isn't about left, right, pro or anti war Neil - it's about manners and the conventions of debate and discussion. Your continual lazy reference to the war as illegal despite it being a clearly ambigious issue says much about you.

Neil Clark said...

chris: I'm sure you could produce some 'experts' willing to prove the earth is flat, but that doesn't mean that it is. The war was BLATANTLY ILLEGAL. Why on earth did Tony Blair try all he could to get a second UN resolution if he thought the previous one authorised military action? You will always get some crackpots to dispute any position (I'm sure there's some professor out there somewhere who thinks the nazi attack on the soviet union was 'legal', but that doesn't mean that we can never say something for sure.

Anonymous said...

They aren't crackpots Neil - they're just people with a different view from you. Your readiness to dismiss them on that basis lends credenece to some of your critics who've pointed out your lack of tolerance for different opinions.

There is no settled legal view on the 2003 US invasion - if you think there is please source it. Simply reasserting it (with the added weight of capital letters?!?) doesnt' mke it so.

I also note you've again ducked my questions around the democratic basis of the law anyway....

Neil Clark said...

It's called the UN Charter, Chris.
If we're going to argue about the legitamacy of the UN Charter, then we may just as well argue about the legitimacy of the law which makes burglary a criminal offence.
If you don't support the UN Charter, and the way it upholds the principle of state sovereignty, then in effect you are advocating the law of the jungle.

Anonymous said...

The reason Tony Blair urged Bush to go for a second Security Council resolution was far more to do with appeasing France and other doubters than it was to do with strict legality. Especially since Iraq was still in breach of numerous Security Council resolutions that had remained unresolved since the first Gulf War.

Chris Morgan is absolutely correct. Whether the war was legal in terms of international law is a question that has by no means been settled, and is not remotely as clear-cut as people with more simplistic world-views would like to believe.

Conor Foley said...

Neil: since you are obviously not going to allow me to respond to the question you asked me could I direct you to the reasoning of the International Criminal Court Prosecutor on whether Bush and Blair are war criminals. You can find it amongst the comments on my last CiF post. Now unless you classify him as a crack-pot, you are going to see that you are making yourself look silly again.

Anonymous said...

Here's something I'm curious about.

Neil claims to have lots of supporters, but if you do a search on Technorati for "Neil Clark" (here's a pre-defined link), you'll find dozens of posts about his article, and almost unanimous condemnation. In fact, there's just one exception, which is the blog you're reading right now.

So is Technorati part of this great neocon conspiracy?

Neil Clark said...

yes of course, upsy daisy, the blogosphere is SO representative of public opinion isn't it...
what you mean is a few middle class 25-30-something blokes sitting in front of the computers all day don't agree with me. wow, what a bummer.....

Neil Clark said...

Conor: with respect, I think the person who is making himself look silly is you, particuallarly with your call for me to arrested for iniciting war crimes. If you read Paul Theroux's book where he travels through africa,(dark star safari i think it's called), he talks of his disgust at a certain type of aid worker. I don't have a copy handy, but from memory, I recall he said that while most aid workers were very good, well-meaning people, there was a group who were the most pompous, conceited, know-all types he'd ever met anywhere in the world. Question: did you ever run into Paul Theroux? Your extremely self-important and pompous utterances suggest to me that you did.
Please don't bother to email me again: I do not wish to have any contact with someone who thinks a journalist who writes things he doesn't like should end up in prison.

Anonymous said...

what you mean is a few middle class 25-30-something blokes sitting in front of the computers all day don't agree with me.

Given that these blogs span the entire political spectrum and run the gamut of pro- and anti-war opinion, I would certainly expect a proportion of them to agree with you. And yet the unanimity is almost total.

Why do you think this is?

Neil Clark said...

"these blogs span the entire political spectrum and run the gamut of pro- and anti-war opinion"

yup, on the blogpshere. But how representative is the blogopshere of the wider population? How many genuinely working-class bloggers are there for instance?
In any case, I don't think one should ever take a position merely because it might be popular with certain groups of people.
If you believe something is right, you should say it, regardless of whether certain people may attack you for doing so.

Anonymous said...

I'm aware you may be drowning under emails Neil so I trust that's the reason why you appear to have stopped publishing my comments again.

We obviously aren't going to see eye-to-eye on this so if you'll indulge me one last comment on your thread we'll leave it at that.

You think the war was illegal and I can respect that - there's legal opinion to substantiate your view. I think it WAS legal and have similar legal opinion to support that - I would hope then there's room for you to accord me and people like me similar respect.

One last point - I notice you've linked to ICDSM in your sidebar. It's curious that when the UN arrives at a conclusion of which approve (illegality of the war without a second resolution) then you're happy to employ it in argument. When it comes to a conclusion you oppose (i.e. on Milosevic) you're happy to dismiss it out of hand. That lack of constancy does you no favours and perhaps explains why you've received the reaction you have.


Anonymous said...

Hi Neil,

Talking of chutzpah, how about the pro-war boosters writing in to this weblog?

People like conor, mark green (a notorious CiF troll) and others have helped promote and boost a war that killed a million people. I can't understand why they haven't set themselves on fire with shame, let alone still believe society wants to hear their "opinions".

In a rational world these people, along with the politicians, journalists, neo-cons, bloggers and other propagandists, would be behind bars for incitement to murder. Certainly, they have forfeited any natural right to express their hateful, interventionist, murderous opinions in public.

There is some precedent for this. In the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide, a far less bloody affair than Iraq, radio propagandists for murder were given lengthy jail sentences.

I do appreciate your agreement with my tentative suggestions for dealing with the warmongers. They must pay for the consequences of their actions.

As a practical matter of implementation, I suggest that as well as the prime movers in the Iraqi holocaust mentioned above, the rank and file Labour Party members who did not resign in the wake of the invasion should all be considered eligible for the "Warmonger Tax" and home confiscation for refugee housing. Making this a reality might be a long way off, but we can dream can't we!


Anonymous said...

Hi Neil,

As a second point, I dispute the assertion that the bombing of the United Nations in Iraq on August 2003 was illegitimate.

On May 22, 2003, the UNSC passed a resolution legitimizing post-facto the invasion and occupation of Iraq, giving the US and UK the legal cover for exporting Iraq's oil wealth. This was an outrageous normalization of illegal aggression made possible only by the reluctance of the other UNSC members to confront a belligerent US and UK.

The mandate is thus illegitimate and contradicts the body of international law and standards of conduct. Kofi Annan said himself in March 2004 of the war: "Yes, I have indicated it is not in conformity with the UN Charter; from our point of view and from the Charter point of view, it was illegal." Therefore, the UN mandate for the occupation of Iraq is itself illegal by the UN's own words.

Further, the mandate is against moral norms of natural rights to resistance. UN General Assembly Resolution 37/43, adopted 3 December 1982: “Reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.”

This resolution thus made the United Nations an accomplice of the invasion forces, and party to the many continuing war crimes that the US and UK committed and are continuing to commit, from the forced privatization and destruction of the economy, to the mass murder of civilians by US forces.

The resolution also paved the way to the current rapacious Oil Bill that is stalled in the Iraqi parliament.

The bombing of the United Nations in Iraq was thus itself a legitimate attack on a component of an illegal foreign occupation. Strategically it was also clever, denying the United States the ability to draw in allies in order to claim moral legitimacy.

I welcome comments on this claim.


ModernityBlog said...

How many genuinely working-class bloggers are there for instance?

you'd be surprised, us working-class are more adaptive to modern technology than many others are

technology evens things out for us, so the working classes can read these blogs and realise what a pile of nihilistic nonsense it is and how wasted a university education can sometimes be

PS: we don't wear cloth caps nowadays

Anonymous said...

Frizzled, leaving aside your unpleasant support for the murder of civilians, and your bizarre assertion that Conor Foley supported the Iraq war (a brief glance at his articles on CiF would reveal this to be nonsense), is it conceivable that the original invasion could have been illegal, but that the presence of multinational troops afterwards could be legal, due to that exact UN SC resolution which you cite, and to others which have succeeded it? It's not a far-fetched suggestion - after all, my understanding is that the consensus of international legal scholars is that that was what happened in Kosovo, as in that case too there was no explicit UNSC approval for the NATO intervention, whereas there was such approval for the occupation. If you're right, it follows from that that Kosovo is currently illegally occupied by British and other NATO troops, in which case I guess someone should really put them up in front of a court or something.

Ken said...

I don't actually see the need to propose solutions to this problem, largely because I don't see it as my problem. As I have been saying for almost a month now - their war, their harkis, their problem. Fuck 'em.

The matter of leaving our soldiers in Iraq and bringing the harkis over to the UK is striking a chord, and the hand-wringers are not having everything their own way.

If the debate can be framed that way, Neal, I think that the government will have to think twice before it agrees to this lunacy.

Anonymous said...

Neil Clark:Now. if I was a Briton in the above example I think it's highly likely I would feel ill-disposed towards those who worked for the occupying forces. I would probably want to have nothing to do with anyone who collaborated with the enemy. I would shun them. But I certainly would not kill them.

Why not? If Britain were really under occupation (by the Volgans, let's say), it'd be your duty as a British citizen to oppose the occupation by any and all means, including force. Why on earth would you applaud the killing of Volgan troops, but not of members of the hypothetical collaborating militia - wearing the same uniforms and doing the same jobs as the Volgans themselves? Is this some kind of ultra-nationalism - "I don't care what they do, they're still fellow Brits"?

Anonymous said...

Your Guardian articles have been hitting a raw nerve with the pro-war lobby recently, and rightly so.

The number of 'I was against the war, honestly,.....' posters who are quite happy to spout the neocon line is quite astounding.

At no time did you incite anyone in any way shape or form and The Guardian's pet 'phoney humanitarian' showed why he is less and less credible by this claim.

War Crimes?
Many of the 'tranlators' he seeks to thrust upon us were complicit in some the most disgusting crimes against humanity of the last hundred years.

Don't be intimidated by any of them.

Anonymous said...

A comment on legality.

I was serving in the Armed Forces until early 2003. A very good friend of mine was posted as a senior planner in HQ 3 Commando Brigade at the time. In mid-2002 his brigade was involved in detailed preparation (not just planning) for the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

I don't know how much knowledge you have about deploying large ground, air and naval assets to a war zone, but it is a very expensive business. This preparation was costing the British taxpayer many millions and is a clear expression of intent. Discussion at the time was never framed in terms of "if we go in" but rather "when we go in, in spring 03".

Any subsequent fumbling for legitimacy was complete window-dressing. The decision had been made long before.

Anecdotal? Surely. But as clear indication that minds had been made up about timescale? Definitely. From a military perspective the attack on Iraq had to take place when it did - any later in the year and various natural elements would have made things vastly more difficult. There is no way in the world that Bush/Blair would have left tens of 1000s of troops in the Middle East for months. No way at all.

They put huge amounts of pressure on all other agencies to secure a legal pretext and failed. What to do?

Oh, yeah. Invade anyway.

Anonymous said...

Neil, the war may have been illegal, but the 'occupation' is not. The multi-national forces trying to rebuild Iraq are there by the invitation and ongoing consent of the democratically elected Iraqi government. Now, while you would be perfectly justified in questioning just how democratic a government elected in a country under foreign occupation is, I think that we can all agree that the current government is a damn sight more representative of the will of the Iraqi people than the tyrant Sadam. As such, to characterise the interpreters as 'collaborators' is entirely wrong headed. They are vital employees in a UN and Iraqi backed peacekeeping mission.

Anonymous said...

Go ahead and moderate/delete this comment. I know you will. I still hope you and and everyone you love is chainsawed into pieces.

Anonymous said...

I was opposed to the war from the outset. I cannot agree that this means that one should not support the "success" of the coalition if this means there current stated intentions of restoring some kind of order and democracy to Iraq. Who wouldn't want this? I opposed the war because of the sheer unlikelihood of this occuring and the price that would have to be paid in the meantime.

The Iraqi interpreters enabling communication between the troops and the local population will have made restoring order more likely. Not to mention the fact that, as other posters have mentioned, that these are people living in poverty with few options open to them.

All that is ultimately irrelevent, though. We are talking about basic human rights, such as the right to life for non-combatants and the right to freedom from torture. You claim to care for the rights of the Iraqis. Apparently you only mean those Iraqis who conform to you narrow idea of moral and political purity. This shows the kind of manichean thinking that you despise the neo-conservatives for and, like the neo-cons, you are prepared to see people tortured and killed just to prove your point.

Dinah Hogg.

Anonymous said...

I'm just bemused by your argument and conclusions. If you'll pardon my saying so, it looks like you're more keen on scoring points against other blogs than making a reasoned argument yourself.

I always think the first person to invoke Hitler has probably lost the argument. Let's be honest, there's very little about the Iraq war that can be accurately described as 'fascist'. I can find lots of definitions of the term, but none of them are primarily about illegal wars.

Then we come to the moral crux of your argument, which seems deeply confused. You seem to be suggesting that Iraqi translators deserve no protection from the British, indeed you come close to suggesting that British people should welcome the translators' punishment by good Iraqi resisters.

I'm not sure what basis you've got for this argument. At the most basic level, the question is really about whether Britain has obligations to the people who serve it. If this country puts someone in danger by employing them as a translator, do we owe them support? It seems to me that we do.

You want to argue that the translators should have known they were entering into a morally questionably role and refused to take part, thereby hastening a withdrawal. But that seems highly questionable to me as well. What if some of the translators believed in good faith that they were doing something worthwhile in helping their people talk to the invaders?

If the British are going to be there, is it really better that they can't speak to people? Even if greed is the motivation, the job seems pretty harmless. Being a Quisling would seem to involve a very large act of betrayal, not simply explaining people to each other. Don't forget that Quisling sold his country out to Hitler - I'm not sure I see the moral equivilance.

The problem is that you can't see all the shades of grey in this debate. You're right and everyone else isn't just weak or stupid, but actively evil. If you'll excuse me saying so, that's the nearest anything in your article comes to fascism.

Ed said...

The number of times in this article that you make analogies to fascism is ridiculous. Have you noticed that your view on international affairs is identical to that of the British National Party? Every nation is sovereign, you both say. Every nation can terrorise its citizens however it wants, you both say. You both want to be isolationist. You also agree with them on capital punishment.

What is this love for international law that you have? Do you not realise that the U.N. is a like a police force full of criminals? It has human rights-abusing nations as members and in positions of power. You support the dogmas of the U.N. and international law. The same dogmas that condemned Rwanda to genocide. The same international law that condemned India when it saved Bangladesh from oblivion in 1971. The same U.N. whose police were so useless that 8000 Muslims were massacred in Srebenica. The same U.N. who let a war criminal become Prime Minister of Kosovo. The same U.N. whose reports pick on Israel like how an anti-Semitic police force blames Jews for everything. Why do you support this stupid failed order? Just because it was in the Nuremburg Trials does not mean that it is set in stone for all eternity.

I wrote this because I am one of those people who was anti-Iraq-war back in 2003 but have now moved on. Just like how, whenever Northern Ireland was on the news, I would not just say, "Well, those Protestants should have never been moved over in the first place. Send them all back!" It irritates me how people are still fighting the battles of 2003 today, and are actually ridiculing people who are trying to take a more constructive approach. The war ended ages ago. What we need to do now is defeat the fundamentlists and let Iraq be democratic long-term. If you care more about useless international law than that, then you're a fucking idiot.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Neil, for reminding us all that Mussolini, father of Fascism, started out in life as a lefty journalist much like yourself.

I see you are following in his footsteps with your own vaguely fascistic articles.

You seem to be a man with a love affair with tyrants and authoritarian regimes. So I must say, this isn't particularly surprising to me.

Unknown said...

Fantastic article ! Please keep it up ! You are obviously right and they hate you for it.