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Right of Reply

Abdullah Muhsin

I HAVE just returned to England from Amman, Jordan, where I have spent the last seven days at two major conferences. One was called by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the ILO, at which the IFTU was represented by seven of its affiliates and the other by the International Transport Federation, with 2 IFTU transport unions present.

On my return, I was dismayed to read hostile comments about the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) published under the name of George Galloway in the Morning Star (Fuelling the fire of impeachment, October 2).

As he should know better than anyone, misrepresentation, exaggeration, lies and abuse are the enemies of truth and are commonly used by those who, for whatever reason, wish to avoid rational and lucid debate on principled issues of difference.

I am grateful, therefore, to the Morning Star for the opportunity to set the record straight.

First, the highly personal attacks on me must be answered not for my own gratification, but because the integrity of the IFTU and its support among British trade unions is at stake.

The charges that Mr Galloway levels against me are entirely without foundation. He alleges that I was invited to the Labour Party conference as a guest of the British state. This is untrue – I was there as a guest of UNISON.

My purpose was to address a fringe meeting sponsored by UNISON, War on Want and The Observer.

I was joined by speakers who supported the IFTU position against the war and the occupation, from the TUC, FBU and UNISON, and others who did not.

My speech at the meeting called for the removal of foreign troops and a genuine transfer of power to the Iraqi people. In this context, I explained the IFTU policy of support for UN resolution 1546.

Mr Galloway’s assertion that I offered voting advice to trade unions on the Iraq motions is also untrue. The big four trade unions made their own decisions and, for my part, if and when asked, I confined my remarks to urging solidarity with Iraqi workers.

The IFTU has many reasons to be extremely grateful to the TUC and many of its affiliates for the great support that we have received during the last 17 months in our historic task of rebuilding the once mighty Iraqi trade unions. Such solidarity is invaluable at this critical time.

Mr Galloway’s sectarian and misleading account of the IFTU political and organisational developments since its foundation in May 2003 at an open reunification conference of genuine trade unionists in Baghdad can only be described as a slander against those who fought and worked patiently for 25 years, both clandestinely and in exile, to preserve an independent trade union tradition from Saddam’s brutal death squads.

As such, we genuinely wonder in whose interests it is for Mr Galloway to spread such calumnies about the IFTU.

Our country is bleeding, shattered by a quarter of a century of fascist-type dictatorship which instigated three wars in less than 20 years – at the cost of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives – and waged internal wars of genocide against the Iraqi people.

Now, we suffer the national humiliation of continuing occupation by foreign armies and a wave of horrific terrorist attacks on Iraqis – as well as Arab and foreign nationals – by shadowy sectarian forces masquerading as a patriotic national resistance.

The IFTU is opposed to the occupation of our country by the military forces of the US, Britain and other countries.

The IFTU calls for a democratic and federal Iraq, with full civil and political rights for women, workers and all social and ethnic groups.

The federation calls for freedom of religion, but does not believe that any religion can be the sole source of legitimacy for the constitution of a democratic Iraq.

It remains opposed to the illegal war on Iraq and to the horrendous decision of the occupying powers following the invasion to effectively dissolve the functions of the state in Iraq, rather than cleansing it of Saddam’s henchmen.

Instead, they are trying to introduce free-market-oriented policies of privatisation, carried out by incompetent corporate plundering functionaries whose aim is the economic occupation of our country.

Our trade unions are the main impediment to such policies. UN resolution 1546 will assist us in this fight.

Why does IFTU strongly demand the full implementation of the United Nations position?

First, because it is the only guarantee of fair elections, followed by removal of foreign troops.

Second, it is our view that the forces of extremism and terrorism responsible for the daily murder of Iraqis and the barbaric murder of foreign nationals like Ken Bigley deliberately spread a climate of fear in order to disrupt the forces of progress.

These secretive and dangerous forces cannot be defeated by F16s and helicopter gunships attacking Iraqi cities. They can only be overcome by a democratic process that will allow civil society to develop and rid our country of foreign troops. At the moment, UN resolution 1546 is the best means of achieving this.

Our young federation is one of the most important civil society organisations in Iraq today working to prevent Iraq descending into civil war.

We oppose the forces of imperialism and sectarianism attempting to break up Iraq into rival ethnic or religious-based client states of regional or superpowers and consigning her people to a new era of backward colonialism.

The IFTU stands on the side of democracy and for the rebuilding of our civil society. We demand earnestly and respectfully that all those in the labour movement who love peace and freedom, both in Britain and internationally come to our aid.

Published in the Morning Star, 12 October 2004