on Wednesday the phone rang and a jubilant Iraqi started
crying down the other end of the line. He was watching
his fellow countrymen and American Marines pull down
the statue of Saddam Hussein in central Baghdad.
was Khalid Ibrahim on the phone, an Iraqi Kurd who
has studied in Dublin since he fled his homeland in
1991. Khalid rang not only to celebrate the end of
the Baath regime but also to tell me that the following
day he and other Iraqi exiles would be marching in
Thursday this band made a small piece of Irish history.
The Iraqis would head up the first ever parade through
Dublin to the British Embassy in Ireland, not in anger
but rather in deep gratitude.
are marching to thank the British and later the Americans
for this liberation,' a breathless Khalid cried down
the phone. 'Today our people are free.'
then a note of anger entered his voice, not against
Saddam and his thugs but rather towards those in Ireland
whom he believes tried to prevent his country from
being freed from tyranny. The Iraqi exile reserved
most of his venom for the Irish anti-war movement.
must this man have felt over the last few weeks and
months when he strolled through the Old World charm
of Trinity? What was he thinking when he witnessed
the anti-war posters, the impromptu student demonstrations,
the rantings and ravings of ageing leftists, veterans
of other, older anti-war struggles, hanging out with
people 30 years younger than them, drinking from the
fountain of revolutionary youth? Sick no doubt and
perhaps also a little despondent that Iraq's best
chance for freedom since 1979 would be stopped; not
by Saddam's reputed so-called elite Republican Guard
but rather through the selfish force of Western public
needn't have worried. Bush and Blair, and more importantly,
the Iraqi people themselves have paid no attention
to the not-in-my-name narcissi.
one with a heart could have taken any comfort in the
prosecution of this short but bloody war. The sight
of the young boy in Baghdad, in deep distress, threatening
to commit suicide unless he is given new prosthetic
arms is particularly heart-breaking. One hopes the
Americans and/or the British spend as much resources
looking after this young victim for the rest of his
life, as they will with their own wounded and maimed.
the official Iraqi figures for civilian casualties
(that is the official figures of the ancien régime
) are interesting. They estimate that around 1,000
civilians were killed (1,000 too many) in this brief
but conventional conflict.
Northern Ireland's squalid little war, fought over
a tiny piece of earth, prosecuted against a relatively
smaller population, resulted in far more civilian
casualties. It is worth remembering that some of those
republican groupings allied to the Irish anti-war
movement were responsible along with the loyalists
for those totally unnecessary civilian deaths.
those who don't get the irony of that, just recall
that in one day alone 5,000 men, women and children
were gassed to death by Saddam's forces in Halabja.
striking aspect of this three-week war to liberate
Iraq has been the level of abuse heaped on those who
supported ordinary Iraqis' right to be free. The violence
of the language of the Irish peaceniks in print, on
the airwaves and across cyberspace, has been in sharp
contrast to their protestations of peace. The insults
they hurled were often menacing and sometimes threatening.
'Pond scum' was just one label attached to this writer
by these new proponents of peace, love and understanding
- albeit peace, love and understanding only with dictatorships.
of this really matters, particularly to those of us
in this profession who have to face loyalist death
threats on a regular basis and who witnessed at first
hand the horror of war from Lebanon to Bosnia. The
nasty jibes and name-callings of a few students and
Trots will hardly inflict much long-term hurt.
does matter, however, that the Irish anti-war movement
has once again got it so wrong when it comes to the
attitudes of ordinary Iraqis over their support for
the invasion. They patronised Iraqis who supported
military action and at times insulted them, as in
the case of Tony Benn accusing one Iraqi woman who
dared remonstrate with him of being a CIA stooge.
the Baath dictatorship, the Irish branch of the Saddam
Hussein Preservation Society is going out of business,
exposed as it has been for being morally vacuous and
pig ignorant. To redeem themselves, even at the endgame
of this conflict, they could issue an apology to Khalid
Ibrahim and his fellow exiles. But given their arrogant
dismissal of the facts on the ground in what was once
Saddam's torture chamber, the chance of such an apology
is hardly likely to be forthcoming.
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