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)