By John Arrowood
In his article "Kurds: 'Bush Responsible for Massacre'" (issue 8), Peter Boyle writes: "United States forces occupying southern Iraq ... did nothing to stop Saddam Hussein from brutally crushing the Kurdish revolt and an earlier revolt by Shiites in the south".
He appropriates here both the perspective and the language of apologists for the continuing imperialist adventure in the Gulf region.
No-one would want to deny or minimise the plight of the Kurdish refugees. However, by abstracting their suffering from its context in devastated post-war Iraq, Peter plays right into the hands of the propagandists and fails to grasp the essential content of his own headline.
Bush and the forces he represents are indeed responsible for the present crisis, but not in the simple one-sided way the article suggests.
They are responsible primarily because, by destroying the infrastructure of the Iraqi nation, they created the conditions in which such an outcome was entirely predictable. When the economic, social and political foundations of a society are vandalised by the most brutal means imaginable, chaos inevitably results. That the consequences are bloody should surprise no-one.
By focussing on the suffering of the Kurds in isolation, Peter further assists the propagandists. They want to ignore the desperate condition of the rest of the Iraqis and of the captive populations (largely but not exclusively Palestinian) of Kuwait in the aftermath of this vicious war. They cynically exploit the Kurds to distract attention from these realities, as well as to retrospectively justify the savagery of the US and its allies.
Peter also colludes with imperialist propaganda by personalising the issues. Saddam brutally crushed the revolt. This is nonsense.
It invests Hussein with a degree of personal power and demonic energy which exists nowhere in the real world. It is the stuff of propagandist fantasy.
But it is not just a form of words. Saddam is not my ideal of a political leader; neither is he a demon. To turn him into one was, as Ramsey Clarke pointed out months ago, the prime move of the Americans in justifying their attack on Iraq.
They continue to do so in the aftermath of the war in case people start questioning who the real "demons" were. Peter should not have been drawn into participation in this project.
Most significantly, the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from the sentence quoted above is that the US should have done "something". That "something" could only be further military intervention.
Is that what Peter wanted?
Following through the logic of his statement, you find that he is upholding the right of the US to use its military might to determine the course of political events in Iraq and elsewhere. This was the "right" they exercised in prosecuting the war — and will soon be exercising somewhere else in the third world.
Which side is Peter on?
He goes much further than the Kurdish representatives he quotes. They make their opposition to American intervention clear.
In short, Peter Boyle has fallen into the trap in which large sections of the peace movement have been caught since the conflict began. He reinforces key elements in the imperialist propaganda while attempting to oppose the actions it is used to justify.
I regret having to take him to task over this. Attempting to come to terms with complex and changing events, and surrounded by propagandist distortion, we all make mistakes of judgment.
Only through open and vigorous debate will the left achieve the clarity it so desperately needs in the present period.