Friday, February 08, 2008

Alternative Childhoods In Iraq

These are two alternative photographs of children in Iraq. The first one shows young girls at school. The other shows young boys of ten or so being trained by Al-Qaeda. See here for a video on the latter as posted by "Treasure of Baghhad". And here are his telling comments about it.

To me the video re-inforces my general approach to the situation in Iraq, which (in differing ways) is spread throughout much of the international scene. Namely,there are two massive opposing forces who feed off each other. (1) Al-Qaeda style fascism and (2) a Western-style imperialism linked to the interests of powerful elites.

How can we tackle this duel and interconnected problem? Mainly by the long haul of seeking to encourage the advance of those elements throughout the world who try to further democratic and co-operative practices. Some such people will have votes in avenues such as the American Presidential election, whilst others will struggle to get their voices heard in countries such as Iraq. There is no means of circumventing this task. We can, for instance, support the efforts of the Teachers' Trade Union in Iraq which works to provide the children of Iraq with the understandings and values which are the antithesis of those shown in the video. We need the conditions shown in the first photo to replace those shown in the second photo.


Johnny Guitar said...

Agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments in this post. The pictures of the balaclava-clad children is alarming though, sadly, not really that surprising. The disturbing practice of dressing juveniles in military gear was something of a fetish in my own neck of the woods for a long time. This year's election in the US is crucial for Iraq. For the first time in my life I actually want to see a Republican - John McCain - move into the White House. And that hurts! Barack Obama and the obnoxious Ms. Clinton appear to be appealing to the most populist and naïve elements of the anti-war community. A Democrat administration could undo what good work has been done by trade unionists and others in building a free Iraq.

Oh, I enjoyed your postings on Iran this week. A nice little beginner's guide to the country!

Anand said...

"a Western-style imperialism linked to the interests of powerful elites."

Does this refer to powerful global special interests that use their influence on governments around the world to promote (borderline socialist) big government protectionism, regulation and spending in ways that advance their own interest? For example forcing the US government to auction off spectrum at below market rates? Or banning the imports of cheaper prescription drugs from abroad to force up domestic drug prices? I think that this is what you are referring to.

I hope you are not referring to free market globalization that has facilitated over a billion poor people (mostly in Asia) working their way out of extreme poverty.

Regarding the ISF, see the latest:
(see its comments too.)

For the Afghan national forces please see:

Please feel free to leave any comments or questions regarding them and how quickly both countries’ security forces can assume full security responsibility.

I would also be curious about your views regarding China’s responsibilities in Iraq and Sudan:

The rest of this thread is an interesting discussion about economic policies.

annie said...

I hope you are not referring to free market globalization that has facilitated over a billion poor people (mostly in Asia) working their way out of extreme poverty.

not all of those billions of poor people would agree w/you that free market globalization facilitates the a working way out of extreme poverty.

the general federation of iraqi workers (the group that sponsors the teacher's trade unions) issued a statement wrt privatization. i thought it might clear up your ambiguity.

Harry Barnes said...

Johnny Guitar: I am bemused by the American Primaries. I'm not clear as to what the general policies of the contestants are. It is all presented in terms of anti-racism, anti-sexism and anti-ageism.

If Al-Sadr keeps up his "cease fire" in Iraq and its Parliament gets into the act then a gradual US withdrawal/replacement deal could be worked out. The problem is that we don't want Iraq to move into complete turmoil - as bad as things are now.

On Iran: the beginner's guide is the easy bit (if time-consuming), I next move into the political sphere and can't aviod taking a line - although the one at the end of this post will be in the driving seat.

Harry Barnes said...

Anand and Annie : I am with the GFIW's statement on Iraqi Oil which Annie provides a link to. Which is not surprising as I am an honourary member of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions who form a major element of the GFIW. My certificate of membership is shown at the close of the item -

Tribal, religious and political forms of extremism (which are always with us and need to be sensibly tackled)find scope when people are hit by the type of turmoil which comes from military invasion and from the forms of economic collapse which can be created by speculation in their currencies. The latter financial manipulations can take place as easily as my placing responses in this comment box. Such activities might not be the only factors at work, but they have helped to destablise nations such as the former Yugoslavia and many in Africa. I don't, however, then excuse those who cashed in upon (and extended) the chaos, such as Milosevic.

I am no King Canute, so I don't try to stop globalisation, but I support efforts to regulate its operations via regional and international agreements. An international commitment to a form of Tobin Tax, would raise massive resources to overcome the damages being done by speculation.

I am not a borderline socialist, I am the real thing. I recognise, however(as Saddam Hussein and many others have shown us) that State/Regional/Co-operative forms of ownership will be seriously counter-productive unless we have properly functioning democratic arrangments to control them. That is why I am a democratic socialist - who believes that these ideas don't work unless they operate to re-inforce each other.

At times I am willing to support military interventions as over Kosova - even though I realise that I will probably end up having to criticise the type of bombing extremes which occured in Serbia as a consequence, when it was the Serbian army who suffered the colateral damage whilst populated areas were earmarked for attack. In fact, we should have acted over Bosnia earlier - in ways I proposed at the time.

I will leave all the other issues Anand raises for another day.

Anand said...

Annie, you aren't the Annie from 24 steps, are you?

Do you really think the poor in China and India were better off a few decades ago? If you were to go to the villages and slums and say that people should go back to living the way they were a few decades ago (no electricity, no health care, no TVs, no computers, no cell phones, no mopeds, no bicycles, no processed or manufactured goods . . . versus slight amounts of the above today) you are likely to be mobbed.

India's life expectancy has increased more than 20 years in the past few decades. Do you really want to push to poor back to those dark days?

Life remains extremely hard . . . albeit slightly less hard than it use to be.

Note that a poor person getting $2 a day versus $1 a day is a very, very, very big deal. And I can tell you that the urban poor in Bangalore and Delhi are financially much better off if you exclude rents and commute times (which have skyrocketed) than they use to be.

Anand said...

"a gradual US withdrawal/replacement deal"

HB, the GoI, MoD and Iraqi Joint Forces Command (JFC) have been requesting assistance from countries around the world to assist with force development, force ennoblement, sustainability, and capability enhancement, for many years. The GoI isn’t interested in any more foreign peacekeepers.

The Iraqi JFC (that commands all MoD forces), ISC (Iraqi Support Command—that manages logistics—maintenance, supply, transport), ITDC (Iraqi Training and Doctrine Command—that trains, equips and generates all MoD forces) could all use help from other militaries and governments around the world. Few have stepped forward in a significant way. And they are unlikely to step forward however much Iraqis plead. Many want Iraqis to stand on their knees and plead with other countries for help (replacement troops). Iraqis are far too proud to do that. In any case, many MoD officials would proudly say that they don’t need foreign help as a gut response to foreigners who refuse to help.

Why would a Chinese or Indian want to sacrifice (to pay for trainers and advisors to go to Iraq?) Many Indians that I have talked to admit that they don’t really care if Iraq explodes or succeeds (they care about Afghanistan and AQ to a much larger extent.) An officer in the South Korean military explained to me that most South Koreans really were not concerned one way or another whether Iraqis made it or didn’t. The South Korean military and government had to lobby extensively to allow the South Korean mission to Iraq.

Actually, many Americans could care less about Iraqis either—and want to save $120 billion a year by ending the US mission. There is strong opposition in Congress to further economic and military grants to Iraq. (In fact, many in Congress angrily say that $40 billion in grants to Iraqis are enough. Iraqis have to stand on their own two feet.)

I disagree with this . . . but I am a minority. This is why it is so important that the MoD and MoI get up to speed as quickly as possible. The Iraqi are running out of time.

BTW, I strongly oppose a Tobin tax. I think it would hurt poor people. In general, people should be free to do what they want, and the government should get out of the way.

Ronald Reagan said "the government isn't part of the problem, the governemnt is the problem." I don't go that far, but you cannot deny that there is wisdom in those words.

HB, your comments are always insightful and interesting. Please join our discussions at Mojo once in a while.

Harry Barnes said...

(1) Note that in an earlier comment I referred to the Iraqi Parliament (rather than its Government) getting into the act of working out a deal with the US and others about a time-limited future in Iraq. The reason for my stressing the role of the Parliament appears on this thread -

(2) The US (and the UK etc) have a responsibility to at least bankrole the healing of Iraq, or at least to let it control completely its own oil. The revenue from a Tobin Tax would also help.

(3) The Tobin Tax hurts no-one except speculators and could be used for considerable benefit to the third world. As I was its main advocate for a number of years in the Commons, I will have to blog on it sometime.

(4) I look up Iraqi Mojo's blog most days and submit the odd comment. Yesterday I gave him a link to this thread having taken the photo of the hooded children from his blog. He commented after you on this thread -

(5) Ronald Reagan was wrong on many
things, as was his more intelligent and nastier running mate Maggie Thatcher. Un-restrained freedoms of the market destoy masses of people's lives and create the conditions in which fundamentalist extremism finds it easier to operate.

(6) I'm off to watch a football match.

nadia n said...

What do free market economics have to do with this post? Christ people at least spread your propaganda where it's the tiniest bit relevant.

Harry Barnes said...

Nadia N : Added to my two photos, a third relevant group of Iraqi children are the refugees as shown on your own blog here -

If others turn to this, note that I could only get the second of the two videos to work smoothly. But it is well worth viewing.

Nadia N - thank you for your comments on an earlier thread of mine.

nadia n said...

Both videos are still working for me, the first one is just a piece from Al Jazeera International that basically says the same thing as the BBC video.

I thank you too-it's my first time here. I don't know if I would be a hardline socialist but I definitely do think that ecnomic aspects of the war has been grossly overlooked. You have a refreshing perspective, that's for sure, I'll try to stop by more:)

Anand said...

Hope you enjoyed the football match HB. :-)

Nadia, I was asking clarification on “"a Western-style imperialism linked to the interests of powerful elites."”

I do not like “anti-imperialists” who turn around and try to block imports (and business and investment with respect to) poor countries . . . causing untold suffering on billions of poor people. The biggest cause of anti-Americanism (or anti-Western sentiment) in Asia by far is American (and international more broadly) protectionism. Nothing lights the fire of the rest of the world as much.

BTW, I respect HB. He is a genuine well intentioned socialist. HB, are you a market socialist (i.e. a pro-deregulation, pro-free market socialist who believes in high government spending to help the poor?) I respect these types of socialists the most. Socialists should be about facilitating everyone in the world getting richer through their own efforts and sacrifice. However, socialists should focus on facilitating poor people working their way out of poverty first. It is not about holding rich people down, but pushing poor people up. Market socialist want rich people to get richer because they know that rich people getting richer benefits most poor people. 1+1=3. When someone succeeds and advances global knowledge and efficiency . . . they collect only part of the wealth they create. Most of the net additional income they generate accrues to others. Economists refer to this as a “public good.”

Note, that I am not a fan of Reagan either. I think that Blair and Clinton were much more free market, pro deregulation, smaller government than the big government protectionist Reagan. I also think that the government should encourage technological innovation by educating workers for the knowledge jobs of tomorrow. I don’t think Reagan did a very good job at education either.

Was “Margaret Thatcher” nasty? I think that she was far less competent, free market, pro-globalization, conservative (and far less effective in controlling government spending) than Tony Blair. Tony Blair was a better PM.

Un-restrained freedoms of the market destroys masses of people's lives far less than incompetent crazed elected officials and bureaucrats mucking around trying to interfere to “help” everybody. God save us from their “help.”

HB you are a good guy, so I don’t mind agreeably disagreeing with you on this.

We agree 100% on “The US (and the UK etc) have a responsibility to at least bankrole the healing of Iraq.” But I would add the rest of the world too. Unfortunately, most Americans, especially in the peace movement, are opposed to further economic and military grants to Iraq. Many, including Juan Cole (who I have debated on this) strongly oppose all further US grants to train and equip the ISF. The Iraqis are running out of time.

HB, the GoI and its oil ministry sells its oil at global market prices ($80 to $90 a barrel.) The GoI expects to spend about $49 billion this year. All oil revenues go to the GoI. In what way does the GoI not control Iraq’s oil?

Anand said...

"Note that in an earlier comment I referred to the Iraqi Parliament (rather than its Government) getting into the act of working out a deal with the US and others about a time-limited future in Iraq."

Great point that I agree with you 100% on. Why do you think the Iraqi parliament has not been more effective?

Anand said...

Nadia, what propoganda have I spread? I firmly believe everything I am writing. I presume that you visit poor countries. You must understand that for hundreds of millions of poor people, being able to export their goods and services is a life of death issue.

Harry Barnes said...

Nadia N : Thanks. I will keep an eye on your blog also.

Anand : I enjoyed the football match as we won 3-0.

(1) The freedoms we need to protect and advance are those associated with human rights and the expression of ideas. A democratic system is turned into a sham without these. This is part of the problem in Iraq, added to by a wide sweep of terrorism and intolerance.

(2) Free markets are fine where what the economists call "perfect competition" is in operation - as in a market place with stalls selling fruit and other items in direct competition with each other. However in the wider world, economic power comes to be centred in the hands of the few and monopolies use so-called free markets for their own ends and exploiot others. So we get the extremes of turbo-capitalism and the Enrons. All this is added to by links between business monopolies and bureacratic, financial, political and military elites.

(3) African nations (in particular) need free access to Western markets to sell their goods. But they may need OPEC-style arrangements to improve the levels of revenue this will obtain for them. They also may need to protect their home markets in order to be able to build up their internal trade. However, serious problems will arise when these nations themselves are dictatorial or only have sham democracies.

(4) I believe that the ability to acquire great wealth (in a world where masses are improverished) leads to serious exploitation. To extend the principles of the "free" market to allow the powerful to exploit the weak may lead to some sort of a "trickle down" effect. But it would be much more humane and effective to devise more democratic and egalitarian arrangements.

(5) I don't believe in utopian blueprints for democratic socialism, but in applying certain values to real life situations. (Values which have continually to be re-examined and refined in the light of experience - in order that they remain living truths). These include pressing for democratic participation (including within the essential economic sphere), egalitarian practices (which certainly don't mean forcing everyone to be the same) and co-operation (which is not the same as conformity, for it should faciliate the freedoms of debate and inquiry which I stressed earlier). I also appreciate that we will come across situations where democratic, egalitarian and co-operative values can be in conflict. But given intellectual freedoms of debate, we can resolve such matters.

(6) On Iraqi Oil, I give the link which Annie provided above - It explains where I stand.

(7) You may see why I spent a great deal of my time in the Commons opposing Thatcherism, then later rebelling against Tony Blair's New Labour project.

A fuller version of my political stance can be found in the following 3 part series -

Anand said...

1) You are right about the inherent conflict between democracy and freedom. Which do we prefer? Some would call the first option self-determination or nationalism, and the second option empire or imperialism.
2) I support anti-trust like you do. So far globalization has made it much harder for large companies or associations to block competition. Competition has become more intense around the world in recent decades.
3) We agree on free trade. You are a good guy HB. However, I don’t see how shielding people from the rigor of the global economy helps them. Perhaps, governments and people of good will can help individuals and companies thrive in the hyper-competitive global markets with credit or temporary assistance. But eventually companies and people have to succeed on their own without help.
4) “it would be much more humane and effective” to help workers acquire new skills and knowledge that helps them adapt to the rapidly changing world around us. We all need continuous education until the day the good maker chooses to take us.
5) Nicely put
6) We can agree to disagree
7) I respect the real thing . . . good socialists of concience. You are on the Iraqi people’s side, as well as on the side of billions of poor people around the world. You are alright by my book.
Glad you won the football game (or soccer game as we call it.) ;-)

Harry Barnes said...

Anand: Perhaps it is time to move on from this thread. I need to post a report on that soccer game before it gets too late. I just wish to add -
On 2: Multi-nationals do rather well in the global market and need as a start to be contained by the operation of regional and/or international equivalents of anti-trust legislation.
On 3: it is because of the above, in particular, that third world nations need both protection and assistance (in many cases) to democratise. It is better that the later should come from interest groups (such as Trade Unions who are attempting to globalise their structures) rather than Western Governments who often have other agendas. Although Presidential and other elections can help to overcome the latter problem.