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Serious questions raised about "Iraqi Labor Tour"

Who are the "Iraqi labor union leaders" on the current "Iraqi Labor Tour 2005"? People want to know. Multiple "trade unions" have sprung up claiming to represent the interests of workers in Iraq. Howvever, the most prominent one of them, "Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions" (IFTU), is in large measure a creature of the US occupiers, and its representatives have regularly condemned the insurgency and called for a continuation of the US occupation.
Visiting Portland next week -- according to flyers handed out at the recent rally in front of Senator Gordon Smith's offices held as part of the Rural Organizing Projects "March for Truth and Justice" from Salem to Portland -- will be two unnamed "Iraqi labor union leaders," as part of an AFL-CIO sponsored "Iraqi Labor Tour 2005."

Recently, radical labor activists have raised alarms about AFL-CIO's intentions and alliances in connection with Iraq. The AFL has a very sordid history internationally during the Cold War of directly assisting the goals of US imperialism, supporting rightwing regimes, remaining silent at the plight of workers under them, and sabotaging radical labor organizing at home and abroad.

The US occupiers, under the regime of the US appointed Iyad Allawi, as one of its first actions passed a Decree Number 16, declaring something called the "Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions" (IFTU) to be the one legal union federation in the country. The IFTU has no elections and has organized no workplaces. It is a union in name only, and seems to be comprised of various opportunists seeking political advancement, some of whom are former union organizers. It has sent representatives to various gatherings in the West, such as meetings of antiwar activists within the British Labor Party, to prevail upon them not to pass resolutions demanding the immediate ending of the occupation. Its representatives, claiming to act in the name of Iraqi workers, have issued statements condemning the insurgency and calling for the continuation of the US occupation until "order" is "reestablished."

These statements have been strongly condemned by actual union activists on the ground in Iraq. To quote from a piece by Lee Sustar on Counterpunch:

In a visit to Britain in February, GUOE leader Hassan Jumaa forcefully denounced the occupation in a speech reprinted in the Guardian. "Those who claim to represent the Iraqi working class while calling for the occupation to stay a bit longer, due to 'fears of civil war,' are in fact speaking only for themselves and the minority of Iraqis whose interests are dependent on the occupation," he wrote.

I direct the following questions to the organizers of the "Iraqi Labor Tour 2005," whose local Portland sponsors are listed as: Oregon AFL-CIO; ACORN; AFM 99; AFSCME Council 75; AFSCME locals 3336, 88 3580 189 and 328; AFT locals 2277 and 3922; Ainsworth United Church of Christ; American Association of University Professors -- PSU; APWU Local 128; Bilal Mosque Association; Clark, Skamania, Klickitat Central Labor Council; CWA Local 7901; Education without Borders; Environmental Jutice Action Group; First Unitarian Church Social Justice Council; Freedom Socialist Party; IAM Local 1005; ILWU 8; Jews for Global Justice; Islamic Center of Portland; Jubilee USA Network -- Oregon; KBOO; LIUNA local 296; Muslim Community Center NE Portland; National Associaion of Letter Carriers Local 82; Northwest Oregon Labor Council; Oregon ACTION; PAT; PAW--OR; Peace and Justice Works/Iraqi Affinity Group; Phsicians for Social Responsibility -- Oregon; Portland Alliance; Portland Jobs with Justice; Portland Peaceful Response Coalition; PSU DEPT of Women's Studies; PS DEPT of Sociology; PSU Dept of Economics; PSU Associated Students; Radical Women; SEIU locals 49 and 503; Sisters in Action; St Andrew's Catholic Church; Students for Unity--PSU; United Steelworkers District 11 and Local 163; Veterans for Peace.

Who are the Iraqis that the organizers of this tour are bringing to Portland? What are their intentions? And why aren't their names and organizational affiliations being given? Do the organizers and hosts themselves know who these people are and what their agenda is? Inquiring minds want to know.

homepage: homepage: http://www.counterpunch.org/sustar06182005.html

Tellya what 18.Jun.2005 19:45

a guy

If you were to actually contact the organizaitons involved and ask, instead of anaoymously posting suspicions about unidentified people?

Here's your answer 18.Jun.2005 22:16

Grant Remington, President VFP Chapter 72

The 2 Iqaris are Hassan Juma'a Awad Al Asade & Faleh Abbood Umara, founders of the
General Union of Oil Employees.


Interview with Ghasib Hassan, member of the executive committee of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, and general secretary of the Union for Aviation and Railway Workers.

Q: What is the attitude of the IFTU toward the occupation.

A: "We oppose the occupation absolutely. We know they've said many things about it. One is that it's for the liberation of Iraq. This is what the American politicians and media tell us - that they've come to liberate our country. This is not liberation. It is occupation. It's led to the total destruction of the economic infrastructure of Iraq, with the aim of controlling its wealth and resources. Another disastrous policy was the dismantling of the Iraqi Army, which had a long nationalist tradition. There's been a deliberate destruction of our national and cultural heritage, like the looting of the National Museum, and stationing of occupation forces in historical places like Babel, Ur and Nineveh. That will lead to the destruction of these sites, and they can never be replaced. The Iraqi people are calling today, not tomorrow, for the removal of the occupation. US policy toward Iraq is not clear - it can change in a moment. The key political forces in Iraq are in discussion with the occupation forces in line with UN Resolution 1546, calling for the withdrawal of the troops and attaining the full sovereignty of Iraq. Bush and Rumsfeld have said that if the Iraqi government asks them to leave, they'll leave. It seems there is disagreement in the US administration - some want to stay and some want to leave. Their policy is unclear.

During the first few days of the occupation, the people were not so hostile to the US forces. They were happy to see the removal of Saddam Hussein. But because of the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other abuses, they've found themselves in confrontation with the Iraqi people, who want them to leave. Their presence has impacted civilians, and the whole country. On a daily basis, at least 10-15 people die, and this can't be good. This is a result of terrorism, but terrorism wasn't present prior to the war. You can see that the US administration has imported terrorism into Iraq in order to fight it, but at the expense of the Iraqi people.

I want to talk about the brutality of the occupation. The war has resulted in extreme destruction of our country. Whole factories and workplaces have been destroyed. Some of those which survived were then destroyed later by the occupation forces. The occupation has increased unemployment, which has now become a major problem for Iraqi workers. It is very dangerous to have such high unemployment in a country with such wealth.

We call on your solidarity to end the brutal occupation of our country. At the beginning of the 21st century, we thought we'd seen the end of colonies, but now we're entering a new era of colonialization. We are campaigning to end the occupation of Iraq, to build a democratic, federal Iraq which will guarantee the rights and jobs of its people."

Go here for more info

"Flags don't kill people, governments do.
Take back the flag and the government"
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Nice troll bust mister 18.Jun.2005 23:39

a guy

at least that's what it looks like from here

The truth about the IFTU 19.Jun.2005 12:03

Jeannette Gabriel jgabriel55@igc.org

It's too bad that people with legitimate concerns about the trade union tour do use their real names because it weakens a legitimate concern.

I am including an article and link to a letter from Greater Boston Indy Media that provides considerable documentation about the political parties that dominate the Iraq Federation of Trade Unions and are openly collaborating with the US occupation - the Iraqi Communist Party and the Iraqi National Accord. These two political parties are participation in the occupation government and materially benefiting from the US occupation.

All of us in the anti-war movement should be educated about these issues and not just accept that because these speakers are trade unionists that guarantees them a political position we agree with.

Jeannette Gabriel
NJ Civil Rights Defense Committee


After considerable research, Greater Boston United For Justice With Peace finds concerns about the IFTU. We have stated our concerns below, followed by documentation. The statement from our sister organization, US Labor Against War (USLAW) is also included. We hope you will take the time to look at this, so that we can all move forward in our understanding of the situation in Iraq.
Greater Boston United For Justice With Peace
P.O. Box 390449
Central Square Post Office
Cambridge, MA 02139

Contact For Letter
Jennifer Horan
jenniferhoran22 (at) hotmail.com
On behalf of UJP Coordinating Committee

June 2005

Dear Friends,

We are writing to provide some context for the upcoming tour of the Iraq Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU). The IFTU is one of three labor organizations from Iraq that will be touring the United States in June, in delegations sponsored by US Labor Against War (USLAW). The IFTU is scheduled to be in the Northeast from June 10 to 26, with stops in New York City, Vermont, Boston, Hartford, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Atlanta.

After considerable research, Greater Boston United For Justice With Peace finds concerns about the IFTU. We have stated our concerns below, followed by documentation. The statement from our sister organization, US Labor Against War (USLAW) is also included. We hope you will take the time to look at this, so that we can all move forward in our understanding of the situation in Iraq.

*The two parties that dominate or influence the IFTU collaborate with the US Occupation regime at the highest political levels. In their public statements and in interviews with the corporate media IFTU representatives deflect scrutiny from the occupation's brutality and US motives for the invasion and occupation. In England they have championed Prime Minister Tony Blair's Iraq policy and sabotaged challenges to that policy.

*As both parties (The Iraqi Communist Party1 and the Iraqi National Accord ) benefit, politically and materially, from their collaboration with the US occupation, we wonder whether the IFTU can genuinely advocate for workers rights or resist the US neoliberal agenda. Both parties ran in the January 2005 elections on a slate slavishly funded by the US. The British government declared the IFTU the "legal representative" of Iraq's unions. The formidable TUC (Trades Union Congress), closely aligned with the Labour Party, has favored the IFTU, largely to the exclusion of other unions inside Iraq. The National Endowment of Democracy (NED) has received at least 1.5 million for 'free trade unions' in Iraq; according to an article in The Washington Monthly (see below).

*The IFTU says the occupation must end but opposes the withdrawal of US forces on the grounds it would plunge Iraq into chaos. Its position is thus identical to that of the US and UK governments. The IFTU sidesteps any discussion of how the US military presence and Occupation regime is propelling Iraq towards civil war.

*We are especially concerned about the Iraqi National Accord's influence on the IFTU. The President of the IFTU is the deputy premier of the INA, second in command to Iyad Allawi. The IFTU has repeatedly praised Allawi. Allawi's enthusiasm for organizing sectarian militias, death squads, and Saddam-style Baathist security apparatuses to crush Iraqi popular resistance to the occupation has been widely reported. We fear that that currently or in the future the IFTU could be used as a vehicle for repression and surveillance, as trade unions were under the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein.

*The IFTU consistently presents itself as the "real democratic resistance inside Iraq." But it was the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council that decreed it "the sole legal representatives of workers" in Iraq. It was subsequently given the assets to various branches of the former regime's General Federation of Trade Unions. This transfer not only made it the largest trade union in Iraq, but also led to its receiving funds from the UK, and, perhaps, the US (see below).

*Its image as the "democratic resistance," and as an agent of secular and progressive change in Iraq has been promoted by prowar politicians and journalists, especially in England (many Iraqi expatriates and exiles live in England, including ICP members.) It has also confused and diluted antiwar forces in that country.

In a statement published on its website 5/31/05 USLAW notes that the US "labor movement has an unfortunate history of picking and choosing which unions it will grant legitimacy to in parts of the world where our government is interfering with national sovereignty. We refuse to act in that tradition." While respecting our sister peace organization's decision to break with cold war unionism, we think the progressive movement has other responsibilities as well. We have to think about the consequences our alliances will have not only on our own work here in the United States, but also on the efforts of Iraqis inside Iraq to organize resistance to both the military and economic occupation of their country. We are obligated to ally ourselves with and support groups that will end the nightmare of these and other interventions.

The other two trade unions touring Iraq have been uncompromising advocates for their members. They are not funded by the US or UK governments, nor do they seek political representation in the Occupation regime. The Federation of Workers' Councils and the Union of the Unemployed has led numerous strikes and sit-ins to gain better working conditions. The General Union of Oil Employees has, among other victories, successfully fought off Bremer's attempts to replace longstanding oil company employees with low paid foreign workers, and to slash their salaries. The GUOE is the only trade union on the USLAW tour that is independent of any political party and has been completely consistent in its demand that US troops leave.

Looking into this issue and discussing it with others impressed upon us the need to be more aware and educated of the political and material realities inside Iraq. We hope this letter will spark the kind of thought and analysis needed to ensure that we act with integrity.

Background Documentation The following information influenced our decision. It is presented chronologically.

*May 2003: The Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) is formally established at a conference in Baghdad from the remnants of the Workers Democratic Trade Union Movement, a

*June 2003-present: ICP and IFTU make numerous statements asserting that US troops should not leave Iraq until they have restored security, or until they have trained Iraqi forces to do so, less chaos and civil war erupt in Iraq. This is identical to the position held by the US and UK governments. Attached is a letter from USLAW's New York affiliate to the USLAW steering committee citing these statements as their reason for refusing to support the IFTU tour.

*July 2003-present: The IFTU begins stereotyping all armed resistance in Iraq as motivated by a hatred of democracy, and as perpetrated by either Islamic fanatics or Baathist terrorists. One example: In January 2005, IFTU's Muhsin wrote in The Morning Star. "The forces pushing for violent engagement [with the Americans] are composed of extreme reactionary fanatics. They are mainly ultra-fundamentalist in nature, such as al-Zarqawi, who makes no distinction between innocent civilians, both Iraqis and foreign workers, and foreign armies. Such fundamentalist groups seek to establish a Taliban-style regime. Other groups are composed of Saddam loyalists. These represent an extreme form of nationalism with a dark and violent history drenched in the blood of thousands of Iraqi democrats - communists, trade unionists, progressives and women activists. Saddam loyalists now pretend to be some sort of national liberation movement."

This approach:

Distorts the anti-occupation motives of many or most in the armed resistance;

Obscures deaths from US bombs and guns, which provoke the resistance and dwarf the violence it is causing (60,000 to 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed by the US military);

Obscures the role that US-funded death squads, sectarian militias, and US-controlled media propaganda play in provoking sectarian conflict inside Iraq. The US has been organizing Shiite militias to target Sunni insurgents or insurgent sympathizers (see "Unraveling Iraq's Secret Militias;" Z Magazine, May 2005, A. Gupta; "The Salvador Option", Newsweek, Online version, 1/14/05);

Paints all the varied forces in the armed resistance as fanatics and Saddam supporters;

Reinforces US propaganda about the resistance. (See IFTU website for numerous press releases about "terrorists, as well as examples of dehumanizing language and simplistic analysis: www.iraqitradeunions.org).

NB: In a February 2005 interview with USLAW representative David Bacon, an IFTU rep. denounces the occupation as "brutal" and discusses its destruction of Iraq's economy.

*July 2003: After some hesitation, then proconsul Paul Bremer appoints the Iraqi Communist Party's Secretary-General to the 25-member Iraqi Governing Council. The now-defunct IGC has limited powers and is accountable to Bremer.

*December 2003: IFTU headquarters in Baghdad are stormed by US troops, and several IFTU figures are detained, some for several days. Following an international outcry, they are released. The IFTU reports that no explanation is given for the raid or detention. The IFTU headquarters remain closed until the formation of the Iraqi interim government in June 2004.

*January 2004: The Iraqi Governing Council declares the IFTU the "legitimate and legal representatives of the labour movement in Iraq." It does this, according to the report given by a leading British Trade Union Council official who met with the IFTU in Baghdad in February, ". . .partly because of its non-Ba'athist past [sic], and partly because it is led by members of parties which are represented on the IGC (the Communist Party, the National Accord and the arab nationalists [sic]). . . .
("Iraq: unions and the law" by Owen Tudor, Head of the TUC European Union and International Relations Department, member of the ICFTU delegation)

*January 20, 2004-In his State of the Union address, Bush declares he will put his money where his mouth is regarding democracy in Iraq: 'I will send you a proposal to double the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy, and to focus its new work on the development of free elections, and free markets, free press, and free labor unions in the Middle East.' The National Endowment for Democracy has spent $1.5 million for Iraq's free trade union movement. . .(Matthew Harwood, "Pinkertons At The CPA," Washington Monthly, April 2005)

*January 28, 2004: The Washington Post reports that the Iraqi Communist Party's "emergence from the shadows into the spotlight has been rapid and smooth, with leaders like Mousa [General-Secretary, appointed by Bremer to Iraqi Governing Council] included in major Iraqi political forums and viewed as a moderate force by U.S. officials here."

*2004: At some date after the US-appointed Council issues the above decree, the assets of Saddam's old General Federation of Trade Unions, including buildings, furniture, and, presumably, membership lists, are turned over to the IFTU. According to foreign secretary Muhsin "Under Saddam Hussein there were six unions though officially we said they weren't unions. Nevertheless, they had some type of structure. These unions each had their own accounts, assets, buildings and so forth. The Federation, the GFTU had its own assets and buildings. The assets of the GFTU have been transferred to the IFTU, but there is really no money. (Matt Harwood, "Labor Pains," Alternet, posted 3/31/05) The IFTU now represents the entire public sector of employees in Iraq, with the exception of the oil unions which formed their own unions shortly after the invasion (The oil industry was one of the few to steadily employ workers during the last 12 years of economy-destroying sanctions, and thus had more workplace cohesion.) The other trade unions in Iraq file a protest with the Geneva-based International Labor Organization, stating that the IGC's decree violates workers' collective bargaining rights. The Federation of Workers Councils and the Unemployed Union in Iraq (FWCUI) claims the Iraqi Governing Council "consciously recognized them as the only legal union because they need it to subjugate the protesting working class and limit the effect of their strikes and protests. (www.uuiraq.org/english/135.htm)" (The FWCUI is led by a rival party, The Workers Communist Party.) The other major union tells a newspaper in response to a question on the IFTU: "We know how this federation (IFTU) was initially set up and how its leaders got elected. Its leadership has been selected from the top down and this 'federation' is linked to the stooge government." Hassan Juma'a Awad, head of the General Union of Oil Employees (GUOE). Socialist Party Newspaper, 3/15/05. The GUOE is independent of any political party.

*March 2004: "British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, speaking before the House of Commons, named the IFTU as the legitimate representative of Iraq's labor movement, England's union partner in the rebuilding of the war-tattered nation." See Washington Monthly article, Harwood, above. The TUC has funded the IFTU to train trade union activists inside Iraq (see www.iraqitradeunions.org). IFTU website thanks RMT (the UK Railway, Maritime, and Transportation Union) for help in "establishing' its website.

*May 2004: The IGC appoints Iyad Allawi as Interim Prime Minister to head an interim Iraqi government to govern Iraq in lieu of the Coalition Provisional Authority. US plans for an open-ended hands-on direct rule of Iraq via proconsul Paul Bremer and the CPA collapse amidst huge public protests called for by Ayatollah Sistani, an escalating armed resistance, and other signs that Iraqi popular resentment against foreign occupation may soon reach a 'tipping point.' Allawi gives two ministerial positions to the Iraqi Communist Party, including Ministry of Culture.

*June 2004: The Bush administration officially dissolves the Coalition Provisional Authority. The following mechanisms for US control of Iraq are left in place: approximately 150,000 troops; a US-controlled development fund of $16 billion, and a stated "willingness to spend more than $50 billion or more per annum on military operations in the country;" more than 40,000 civilian government personnel and contract employees "operating throughout Iraqi government and public institutions at every level." The US also leaves in place key financial and legal levers including: The Transitional Administrative Law, which essentially mandates a US military presence in Iraq; an agreement with the IMF that ties Iraq's debt forgiveness to the privatization of its economy, the appointment of several commissioners to five years over various aspects of Iraq's civil society (one commission governs telecommunications and media and has the power to enforce censorship laws); hundreds of judges and prosecutors, many exiles, all "vetted, trained, and appointed by the CPA." In addition, the CPA appoints a Council of Judges with sole power to nominate Iraq's judges and prosecutors. (For election see Carl Conetta, "The Iraqi Election "bait and switch", Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Report #17, 1/25/05. For a briefer summary, see Milan Rai, "Whoever You Vote For, Washington Wins," www.jnv.org, January 2005).

*June 28, 2004: On the day Bremer departs Iraq and formally dissolves the CPA, the Iraqi Communist Party celebrates with a party in the parking lot outside its headquarters. It unfurls a banner reading "The Communist Party congratulates our people for ending occupation and restoring sovereignty.(www.back-to-iraq.com, blog of Christopher Allbritton, former AP reporter, former blogreader-supported journalist in Iraq)"

*July 2004: Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions website www.iraqitradeunions.org refers to Rasim Alawadi as the IFTU president. Alawadi is a former Baathist and former official in Saddam's state-controlled General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU). He is also the deputy premier of the Iraqi National Accord and second-in-command to Iyad Allawi. His prominence in the IFTU dates back at least to October 2003, when he greeted an international labor delegation on behalf of the IFTU in its headquarters in Baghdad.

*July 14: At a traditional holiday rally to commemorate the 1958 overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy, ICP members surprise an International Herald Tribune reporter with their openness to a free market economy. "We want a market economy" says one, adding the qualification "There should be some kind of social safety net." Other party members agree. "We are working to empower the private sector."

*August 12: The Financial Times of London is similarly bemused by the Iraqi Communist Party's sanguine approach to Iraq's economy: ". . . the most striking aspect of the Iraqi Communist party is that it just does not seem very communist.... Hamid Majid Mousa, the party's central committee secretary, is all for encouraging the private sector, as long as the state is not abandoned in the process. The Financial Times goes on to describe Mousa "aside from his Communist label, the US's ideal partner."

*NB: The Iraqi Communist Party (and the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions), have given numerous statements and interviews, especially to the progressive press, strongly condemming privatization and vowing to defend Iraqi economic sovereignty from neoliberalism.

*August 14, 2004: Britain's The Guardian newspaper publishes a letter from IFTU foreign representative Abdullah Muhsin urging that the Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi be allowed to address the Labor Party Conference, asserting that his Baathist past shouldn't be held against him as "many decent people joined the Baath party."  http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,,1285085,00.html Allawi was an active Baath party member from the early 60s on, when party membership only numbered a few hundred, and together with Saddam Hussein is credited with helping establish the Baath party's formidable state apparatus of repression and surveillance. (For Allawi's background see 1/31/05 New Yorker profile by John Lee Anderson. The usually safely bland Anderson gives credence to reports that in August 2004 Allawi personally executed several prisoners at Abu Ghraib. For background on early Iraqi Baath party history see Hana Batatu's OLD SOCIAL CLASSES AND THE REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENTS OF IRAQ, Princeton University Press, 1978.)

*October 2004: Controversy erupts in England over reports that the IFTU's Muhsin was lobbying delegates at the Labour Party conference to drop a plank calling for the immediate withdrawal of UK troops. Muhsin, writing in The Guardian ("We Are Nobody's Pawns"), states that "I did not offer voting advice to trade unions on Labour's Iraq motions..." Unbeknownst to him, his open letter to delegates is released in which he does just that, urging delegates to drop the Out Now plank because the "multinational force is there to help our democracy."  link to www.unison.org.uk.)

*January 2005: In Iraqi elections, the ICP runs on Allawi's "Iraqi List" slate of candidates. Despite heavy funding and technical from the US, Allawi's slate fares poorly at the polls. Running separately, the ICP garners a mere .08% of the vote.

*January 2005: IFTU International Secretary Hadi Salih is tortured and murdered. The corporate and progressive press near unaminously portray his assassination as an assault on workers rights and the forces of secular democracy. Almost all these accounts omit or downplay the fact that Salih was a leading figure in the Iraqi Communist Party, a member of a party collaborating with the occupation and in alliance with the foreign occupier's favored client. As International Secretary for the Federation, he was engaged in winning international support for his party's chief 'asset.' Common sense, not to mention a cursory glance at Iraqi history, suggests that Salih could have easily been killed for his party affiliation. The pro-occupation liberal left in England use Salih's murder to stereotype the armed resistance as fanatical terrorists and discredit the antiwar movement for allegedly supporting them. The title to a piece by Observer columnist Nick Cohen's article is typical: "Cowards of the left: Our so-called liberal elite stands back and lets Iraq's fascists fight freedom with terror."

*March 31, 2005: IFTU foreign secretary Abdullah Muhsin tells progressive journalist Matt Harwood in an interview published on Alternet: "We are the resistance. We are resisting the occupation." He later goes on to say about Allawi: "We do respect and support him, but more importantly, we support the [US/UN] political process, and Mr. Allawi was part of that process."

*April 2005: The day the British go to the polls in a countrywide vote that amounted to a public referendum on Blair's support for the US invasion of Iraq: The Guardian publishes a letter from the IFTU's prolific foreign representative Muhsin. Responding to a letter from an antiwar Iraqi published just two days hence, Muhsin writes "Some Iraqis remind voters about the negative consequences of the war, which I and my colleagues also opposed. But positive changes are taking place in Iraq."  http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,,1477381,00.html.

British Iraqi exile and antiwar activist Sami Ramadani describes the IFTU as an organization that "gets backing from the occupation authorities in preference to all other unions and federations; does not campaign within Iraq against the occupation; says not a word about Iraq's real ruler at Saddam's Republican Palace in Baghdad, US ambassador John Negroponte; attacks all those resisting the occupation as terrorists and echoes Bush and Blair in their portrayal of popular resistance to occupation as one and the same as the criminal acts of a hoodlum like Zarqawi; supports the prolongation of the occupation by opposing the setting of an early date for the troops' withdrawal; actively supports an occupation-imposed puppet regime that, following a Bremer decree, enacted Saddam's 1987 law banning strikes and unions in the state sector; and fails to campaign against the US bombardment of Iraqi cities." (The Guardian of London,  http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1336687,00.html)

We realize this letter will be perceived as prejudicial against the IFTU. But our conversations with people revealed that many people who may participate in the IFTU events seem unaware that the above analysis, and of the information that it is based on. We want peace activists to look carefully at the array of forces in Iraq, see where the IFTU fits, and assess the impact that supporting them could have on Iraqis' work for peace and democracy as well as ours.

important info 19.Jun.2005 14:42


There are very important questions that arise in these articles. It is worth the time reading Sustars article first to find out what it is about.
The other articles will be clearer.
And yes 'stephens' is spelt wrong

I'm astonished that many of my own comrades are preparing to fete these people around the US - astonished for the same reasons as Jennifer - and no one is asking how they managed to get visas. Fucking Cat Stephens can't get a visa, but Iraqi "Communists" can?!
Stan Goff


Lee Sustars article  http://www.counterpunch.org/sustar06182005.html

Ummm ok 19.Jun.2005 20:29

a guy

I may have been wrong about the troll thing. Apologies.

life is a littel more complex 20.Jun.2005 13:00

live from ny via seattle

I wonder if the folks at counterpunch would take the same shots at any member of the AFL/CIO speaking up for human rights? After all, they did collaberate with the CIA, and is controlled by the Democratic party.

Or, are organizations more complex? Can radicals in Iraq, or simply pro-union people in Iraq, feel it necessary to work within an organization that has corrupt elements, to protect themselves from a US bullet? It's plausible.

I have less trust about that article, because it was written by a member of the ISO. Time and time again, the ISO has taken asinine positions on issues and embellishes facts to fit their rigid agenda. I've seen it on issues that I am familiar with, even involved with. So I will take the time to research every fact before I assume a blanket denounciation by one of their writers is true. Ask any ISO member how they feel about ULAW, and that might reveal the source of their bias. Writing from the left that takes some facts to discredit an entire movement, rather then presenting the complex picture an organization has, makes us all look bad.

In the meantime, I will recognize that there are good people doing good work, saying the right shit, while at the same time finding themselves in an organization that is less then perfect, and perhaps even corrupt. But it beast the hell out of sectarian whining from folks that have done no real labor organizing, and continually try to take credit for the work of others, and discredit those whose work they cannot appropriate.

Here are my questions for "me" and for Indymedia 20.Jun.2005 14:33

DJ Shadow

1. "me"--did you try calling any of the three people with phone numbers listed on the flyer? If not, why not?

2. Do these "inquiring minds" realize that one of the people coming is the person who is often quoted in the articles denouncing the IFTU, GUOE leader Hassan Jumaa? More on the GUOE from the article above: "The General Union of Oil Employees has, among other victories, successfully fought off Bremer's attempts to replace longstanding oil company employees with low paid foreign workers, and to slash their salaries. The GUOE is the only trade union on the USLAW tour that is independent of any political party and has been completely consistent in its demand that US troops leave."

If not, I still find it pretty disheartening that people are condeming Iraqi trade unionists before even hearing what they have to say. Do we have to agree with everyone about everything? I think if someone who had been jailed by Sadaam Hussein for fighting for workers rights was excited that that regime had been toppled, and had high hopes that things would be better under the US, who am I to denounce him? Now if., he is a puppet of the occupation, that's another thing--but I highly doubt that's the case. See here about US soldiers storming IFTU headquarters and arresting several leaders:  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/12/276385.shtml

3. What's with all the exposes of how so-and-so group is sold out, a Bush front, a left gatekeeper, etc? It's like the fucking 70's when the left pretty much chewed itself to pieces? Indymedia seems to have lots of this stuff lately, and this latest piece has been featured--what's up with that? I think it's valid to raise questions about different groups' strategies, and why they are bringing one of the more conservative Iraqi groups on tour, etc., but it should be done in a more tactful way. Call the number on the flyer, ask someone who's involved. But no--it seems like the first thing we do is post a slanderous series of questions on Indymedia. Is this what we want Indymedia to be? A place for airing of dirty laundry, or worse yet, a place for folks who disagree to come and trash each other? Should I stop posting here, and referring people to this site, because I certainly don't want the left (or whatever you want to call it these days) to self-destruct as much as it has in the past. I encourage Indymedia to discourage this troubling trend.

why the article (and why anonymous) 20.Jun.2005 16:08


The article is posted because, while DJ's points are valid, given the short notice that I personally had (I only found out about the thing last week), there simply wasn't time for me to get in touch with any of the people or groups listed on the flyer, given how soon the meeting was upcoming (I tried, but got only answering machines). Since I expect that a lot of people might be going to hear these gentlemen speak, and since I knew about this controversy, and found it rather mysterious and rather alarming that no names or organizational affiliations were listed for the speakers on the flyer, or on the Indymedia calendar, I thought it appropriate to raise, as I put it, "serious questions," for these are "serious questions." Not denunciations. Not diatribes. Just serious questions. I think this is legitimate, and I think people are too hypersensitive. I'm the first one to find sectarian partisanship offensive and distasteful. However, we are living in perilous times, under a US regime with a remarkable penchant for the most underhanded tactics, bald-faced lying, and occasionally rather shrewd and clever tactics of co-option.

Please note: I myself am no particular fan of ISO. However, in this case, Lee Sustar is on target. And I'm not the only one to think so. Read from the reposts above. Activists within USLAW itself have come to the conclusion that IFTU is basically bad news, and they can't in good conscience endorse a tour that includes them.

The reason I post anonymously is, not to "shirk responsibility," but to avoid becoming embroiled in the kind of pointless, distasteful, and totally counterproductive namecalling that is all-too-common in online discussions. If what I write is sensible, well-meaning, substantive, and backed by links to original sources, then my identity as an individual should not be relevant.

but this is not the IFTU coming, "me" 20.Jun.2005 19:01


so your comments on the IFTU only serve to confuse. A seperate article or one which distinguishes more clearly between the two would benefit us much better, IM(ns)HO

I'm alright Jack 21.Jun.2005 19:55


Right you are. But I didn't know that when I started, Jack. That was the whole point of this article: there was no identifying information on any of the flyers or announcements. There was only this controversy about the tour that was already swirling around in other parts of the country, where the tour HAD previously included these IFTU types, and no effort by the organiers here in Portland to defuse the matter proactively. So naturally I suspected the worst. Why on Earth does one leave off the names of the speakers at an event or even their organizational affiliations? Is that still not myterious? I have still not gotten a satisfactory explanation of that mystery.