HARRY COHEN, Labour MP for Leyton and Wanstead, told a Stop the War meeting last week, “15 February contributed to the unravelling of the policies to justify war—19 March can be just as effective.” He was speaking at a rally in Waltham Forest, east London, alongside Sami Ramadani, an Iraqi refugee who teaches sociology at London Metropolitan University.
They spoke about the forthcoming elections in Iraq, the resistance to the occupation and the anti-war movement in Britain.
“These elections are rigged,” said Sami. “The whole of Iraq is under martial law and meetings of more than five people are banned. How can you campaign under these conditions? The commission appointed by Paul Bremer to run the elections is secret and most of the parties have not announced their candidates. In the poor districts of Baghdad the elections do not exist at all. People are too busy trying to eke out a living, stop their children dying from water-borne diseases and find fuel, which is essential for heating.
“The elections are designed to legitimise the occupation. Once the puppet regime is declared, all international treaties and contracts it signs will be binding. They can lease lands to US bases and privatise Iraq’s resources. It’s crucial that British people stand by the Iraqis resisting the occupation. They are resisting a brutal occupation, where their brothers, sisters and mothers are being slaughtered.
“It is not new for occupied people to have such violence inflicted on them and for them to respond with violence—it was the same in the Second World War in France, Greece and Albania. Of course the resistance are not all angels. We have never pretended they are. But those who want to besmirch them should focus on the real terrorists in Iraq, such as John Negroponte, who is an expert in murdering trade unionists.”
Harry Cohen argued the war and occupation were “murderous and unnecessary”. He said, “It was a land grab, an oil grab and a power grab. I congratulate Stop the War for their consistent campaigning. I have spoken many times in parliament against the policies that have produced the present violence and chaos.
“I don’t support the violence of the resistance, but we must analyse what causes the violence. The source of the violence is the occupation. The climate of targeted assassinations comes from the occupation. We often don’t know who’s doing these killings, but we know that the violence won’t be solved until the troops go. The anti-war movement is effective. 15 February shocked Blair and produced the biggest rebellion in parliament in over 100 years. 19 March is a definite date for your diary.”