Labor and Iraq [Jamie]

My colleague Brad Plumer calls me out for stating that, "Whereas once the AFL-CIO had a large and effective international office, you'd be hard-pressed to hear, for instance, what they're doing for Iraqi trade-unionists." He's right that I give short shrift to the AFL-CIO's international support for trade unionists, particularly in Iraq, and I apologize for and regret the oversight. And he's absolutely right about the Bush administration's moronic spurning of Iraqi trade unions, "which were one of the few dedicated anti-insurgent, anti-Baathist organizations in the country."

But I still stand by my larger point, which is that whereas anti-totalitarianism used to be the animating ideology of the AFL-CIO and Cold War liberals (both domestically--when the AFL fought tooth and nail against entryist communists, and internationally, in support for higher defense budgets and beating--not living with--the Soviet Union), the AFL has now become part of the anti-war faction of the Democratic Party, calling for immediate withdrawal, and abandoning Iraqi trade unionists to their fates.

For an example of what position American labor might take on the war, they ought to look across the pond to their British comrades, particularly Labour Friends of Iraq, a group composed of Labour MPs which supported the invasion of Iraq on humanitarian grounds and that opposes a coalition withdrawal:

History will not forgive us if we fail to give solidarity to Grassroots Iraq as its long-suffering people seek a federal, democratic, pluralist, and unified Iraq, in which there is full respect for the political and human rights of all.

The group's director, Gary Kent, wrote yesterday in Progress, a publication affiliated with the Labour Party:

Why can't more progressives start seeing who are its real enemies and friends in Iraq? Instead, some seem stuck in a time-warp circa February 2003 when millions marched to prevent the invasion of Iraq. The war easily toppled Saddam which most Iraqis welcomed but the American military proceeded to start losing the peace with great stupidity.

One of the most important gains has been the renaissance of a new civil society after decades of fascist-type rule. Labour Friends of Iraq (LFIQ) concentrates its efforts on supporting the Iraqi trade union movement.

...It's perfectly understandable that those who opposed the invasion maintain the integrity of their arguments. It's quite another to effectively adopt an "I told you so" stance and sit on one's hands at the expense of the workers' movement, women's organisations and elected Iraqi parliamentarians and parties.

It's obscene for a minority to back insurgents who murder union leaders and would destroy civil society.With or without foreign troops, a surge of solidarity with the unions and others is needed. It's the very least one would expect from progressive internationalism.