The Guardian November 17, 2004


Iraq: difficult and challenging times

Iraqi Communist Party's contribution to the International 
Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties, Athens, 8-10 October 
2004

We seize this occasion to express our high appreciation for the 
internationalist support and solidarity extended by the Communist 
Party of Greece and fraternal parties, over many decades, against 
dictatorship and fascist campaigns of terror, mass executions and 
physical liquidation against Iraqi Communists and democrats, 
especially under Saddam's dictatorship.

While continuing the fight today, under extremely difficult and 
complex conditions, to end the American-British occupation, 
restore national sovereignty and independence, and build a 
democratic Iraq, we look forward to your continued support and 
solidarity. Iraqi Communists know only too well, from their own 
bitter experience, who their true and tested friends are: those 
who share their values and lofty aims of freedom, democracy, 
human rights, peace and socialism.

International solidarity with the Iraqi people and democratic 
forces, including our Communist Party, has acquired special and 
exceptional significance in these difficult and challenging 
times. We therefore look upon progressive forces and broad mass 
movements opposed to the war and warmongering policies as allies 
in our battle, not only in bringing about a speedy end to 
occupation but also in providing concrete support for building 
democracy and peace. For only truly democratic regimes, 
expressing the free will of their people can stand up to 
imperialism and its aggressive policies for domination and 
hegemony.

Dear Comrades,

It is now one year and a half since the war and the occupation of 
Iraq. Our country has witnessed exceptional developments during 
this period, giving rise to a totally new situation. It is 
extremely complex, and fraught with enormous dangers, as well as 
holding real potential for leading our country out of its 
prolonged ordeal, and moving forward towards independence and the 
democratic alternative our people aspire for.

We had been fully convinced, long before the war, that there was 
no way out of the comprehensive crisis engulfing our country and 
people, no end to catastrophes and tragedies, and no hope for any 
reconstruction except through achieving internal change and 
getting rid of Saddam's dictatorial regime.

But our Party rejected the war, considering it to be the worst 
alternative, exposing its real objectives as part of the strategy 
of the US administration to extend and consolidate its hegemony 
through a doctrine of pre-emption, using the events of 11 
September as a pretext to wage an endless "war on terror".

While joining in the worldwide anti-war movement, Iraqi 
Communists stressed the need for distinguishing between the Iraqi 
people and Saddam's regime, warning against one-sided positions 
which overlooked the regime's responsibility for the dangers and 
tragedies suffered by our people. Thus we called for clarity in 
positions and slogans, as well as pressures on the dictatorial 
regime to avert war through dealing in a responsible manner with 
its international obligations and by opening up to the people and 
releasing democratic freedoms.

When war loomed and became the most probable outcome, as a result 
of Saddam's utter disregard for the fate of the people and 
country, and also the determination by the US administration to 
pursue its policy, our Party called upon democratic and 
progressive forces, and the peace movement, to support the 
alternative we favoured most.

National democratic & patriotic alternative

It was a national democratic and patriotic alternative, which 
relies on the struggle of the Iraqi people and their armed 
forces, as well as the unity of patriotic opposition forces, 
backed by legitimate international support. Such an alternative, 
supported by pressures to force the dictator to step down, would 
have averted war and its tragic consequences.

The outcome of the war, the speedy collapse of Saddam's military 
institution, and even the whole Iraqi state, exposed the 
bankruptcy of the dictatorship and its hollow claims. 
Furthermore, all this revealed our people's overwhelming desire 
to get rid of the regime.

Thus, in an unprecedented development, of enormous significance 
for Iraq and the region, the people chose to stand aside, 
watching a fight between an imperialist power, which they knew 
only too well, and a deeply hated regime. The 9th of April 2003, 
the day when the dictatorship eventually collapsed, has come to 
embody the complexities and contradictions of the new situation. 
A brutal dictatorship had gone, but it was replaced with 
occupation.

The overwhelming majority of our people were overjoyed at the 
regime's shameful collapse. But it did not bring about the 
emergence of the democratic alternative they desired. A dangerous 
political and security vacuum resulted, with serious political, 
economic and social consequences that are still with us today. 
Tackling this situation was, and continues to be, a top priority.

It is important to point out that our people, despite rejoicing 
at the fall of Saddam's regime, did not embrace the occupation 
forces or receive them with flowers (as some had expected). The 
developments over the past one and a half years have vindicated 
our Party's rejection of war, invasion and occupation. The 
country has faced, since April 9 2003, a host of urgent and 
interconnected tasks, the essence of which is creating the 
conditions for ending the occupation and putting Iraq on the path 
of national and democratic development.

Throughout these difficult and challenging times, our party has 
made a vital contribution to efforts aimed at building broad 
national unity against occupation, foiling plots and manoeuvres 
to divide and rule, while working at the same time to rebuild the 
democratic movement, including independent trade unions, women, 
students and human rights organisations. Work continues to 
prepare for the elections by the end January 2005 as part of the 
first phase of the transition period. Significant progress has 
been achieved, but the difficulties are enormous.

Iraqi Communist Party

Meanwhile, the Iraqi Communist Party has re-emerged, despite 
losing thousands of comrades and supporters under decades of 
fascist rule, as a major political force ... as the best 
organised democratic force in the country. Its organisations are 
now active all over Iraq, with more than 85 party offices in 
provinces and districts. But the relentless work continues to 
address shortcomings, to raise the level of cadres, as well as 
the level of political awareness among the people, to fight not 
only against the occupiers but also for fundamental basic human, 
democratic and social rights.

Important battles have been fought, and won, such as that against 
[the] attempt to abolish a law upholding fundamental women 
rights. Such battles are continuing along with the national 
battle against occupation, for sovereignty and independence.

This is why it is of fundamental importance to understand the 
close interconnection between the national and democratic levels 
of the fight which is now being waged in Iraq. A one-sided 
approach will not help to understand the present complex 
situation and how best to provide concrete support to progressive 
and democratic forces on the ground, inside Iraq.

Legacies of war and dictatorship

The difficult situation which now prevails is due to the fact 
that we are now facing both, the legacy of dictatorship and the 
legacy of occupation: three catastrophic wars, 12 years of US 
imposed international sanctions, which led to fragmenting the 
social fabric of society, the lack of democratic traditions, and 
absence of normal political life.

This situation was aggravated by the consequences of the war and 
invasion, the collapse of the whole Iraqi state, the resulting 
power vacuum, the policy of the occupation authority and blatant 
violations by its armed forces numbering 140,000 troops. There is 
also the scandalous "reconstruction" effort, with more than US$8 
billion of Iraqi money squandered by the occupation authority 
during the first year of occupation.

Conferring international legitimacy on occupation through UN 
Security Council Resolution 1484 in late May 2003, instead of 
handing over power to an Iraqi broad coalition government, as all 
political forces, including our Party, had demanded, created 
further serious obstacles. The setting up of the Governing 
Council, with limited but important powers, and with the 
participation of all major political parties at the time, was 
therefore a compromise, reached with active mediation by the UN.

Our Party stressed that the Council was only one arena and one 
platform, among others, for our struggle to achieve national 
sovereignty and independence. We always emphasised the need to 
continuously combine between our work within the Council, and in 
the present interim government, and our efforts of a mass 
character, as well as strengthening relations with all forces 
that want to achieve the transition to end the occupation and 
build a united federal democratic Iraq.

Resisting occupation is a right enshrined by the UN Charter. The 
Iraqi people, therefore, have a legitimate right to resort to 
various forms of struggle to end the occupation and restore 
national sovereignty.

Opposition to occupation

But resisting occupation is not limited to employing violent 
means in struggle, but rather includes various forms of political 
struggle. The lessons of history teach us that peoples only 
resort to armed struggle when they are forced to do so after 
exhausting political means.

As a matter of fact, armed operations carried out by shadowy 
groups, whether extremist Islamist or supporters of Saddam's 
regime, inflict harm on the desired aim: to get rid of the 
occupation as soon as possible. Such operations actually provide 
the pretext for the occupying forces to prolong their presence, 
as well as perpetuating the state of tension, concern and fear 
among the people.

Terrorist acts targeting innocent civilians, such as criminal car 
bombs, kidnappings and killings, as well as sabotage against 
basic services, electricity networks, and oil pipelines only 
aggravate the suffering of the people and further alienate them. 
The victims were thousands of innocent people, dead and wounded. 
These terrorist acts have been strongly condemned by the Iraqi 
people.

There is also a patriotic element. Violations and blatant acts of 
aggression against the people by the occupying forces have led to 
violent reactions, giving rise on many occasions to spontaneous 
armed operations targeting these forces.

It is important, therefore, to distinguish between groups and 
forces that carry out such operations. On many occasions in 
recent months, such as last April in Falouja, the American 
occupation forces resorted to oppressive measures, such as the 
excessive use of force and collective punishment, which were 
strongly condemned by our Party.

The biggest losers in this confrontation were innocent civilians, 
with more than 600 people killed, including women and children. A 
similar situation developed in Najaf, but was later contained 
through political peaceful initiatives that were widely welcomed.

The forces behind the deteriorating security situation are mainly 
supporters of the previous regime and anti-people terrorist 
forces of various shades. Saddam's fascist security organisation 
was left untouched. Through subversive and criminal activities, 
these elements want to assert themselves as a power in the 
political scene. It is worth mentioning that some forces in the 
US administration want to deal with and accommodate these 
elements in order to contain the current complicated situation.

Tackling the security situation requires urgent political, 
economic and social measures. First and foremost, prerequisites 
must be provided for a speedy handover of power to the Iraqi 
people, empowering them to decide their own political future and 
social system, with their own free will, through free and fair 
elections.

The future of Iraq, and stability and peace in the Middle East, 
the defeat of imperialist and Zionist aggressive schemes, and the 
triumph of the just cause of the Palestinian people, depend to a 
large extent on the outcome of the on-going political process in 
our country. 

The voice of the Iraqi people must be heard. They demand full 
control on all internal and external affairs of the Iraqi state, 
including control of security, military matters, and control over 
financial and economic resources, i.e. the restoration of full 
sovereignty and independence, and an end to occupation and 
foreign military presence. 

In this multifaceted and complex political process, your 
continued support and solidarity, along with all progressive and 
peace-loving forces in the world, will be essential in helping to 
achieve the legitimate aspirations of our people and their 
democratic forces: ending the occupation, eliminating the legacy 
of dictatorship, and building a free unified democratic and 
federal Iraq.

We look forward to strengthening and developing further the 
fraternal ties among our Communist and Workers parties in the 
joint international struggle, against imperialism, and the 
onslaught of capitalist globalism; for freedom, democracy, social 
progress, peace and socialism.

* * *
(Slightly abridged cross-heads added)

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