Ovenden Criticism of Caputi Article

by Kevin Ovenden

(Kevin Ovenden is a leading pro-Palestinian activist in Britain and is a national officer of the Stop the War Coalition.)

Dear friends,

I hope you'll consider this and share it with those who you think may be interested.

I've received a number of alerts pointing to an article on Common Dreams, a very good radical website in the US. The article is on the Iraq crisis, written by an activist called Ross Caputi. He is a veteran of the US occupation of Iraq and writes as a sincere peace activist.

The piece contains some interesting points. Caputi states opposition to the policy of successive US governments in Iraq. But his piece is bent around a central axis of one-sided opposition to the Maliki regime and at the same time an overly sympathetic account of the emergence of ISIS/L.

In fact it does not acknowledge that ISIS emerged first in Iraq as a virulently sectarian force. Instead, it starts the narrative just a year ago with ISIS/L concentrated in Syria.

The gist is that ISIS/L then gained traction from a combination of its exploits in Syria and the understandable reaction of "Sunni youth" in Iraq to the sectarianism of the Maliki government.

Now - the Maliki government is sectarian and authoritarian. But the skew of this article is misleading as to the nature of ISIS/L and of the dominant forces in what the author, quite wrongly and dangerously in my view, calls the "Sunni resistance".

We are asked to support this "Sunni resistance... while at the same time taking seriously the fear that a group like ISIS elicits in Shia Iraqis".

That is, to say the least, a somewhat weak formulation of how I think we should "feel" about ISIS/L. It's not about acknowledging others' fear. It is about recognising their utterly reactionary ideology and role in Iraq and Syria.

These are, of course, debatable points. There will be a lot of debate and I am for extending it in the context of vigorous opposition to US and British imperialism, not for closing it down.

But - and this is a very big but - the article cites as a major source a seemingly disinterested and authoritative link to a piece on the site of the Brussels Tribunal. It is a press release from a Member of the European Parliament dated yesterday.

His name is Struan Stevenson, a Tory MEP representing Scotland. As such, of course, he sits in the right wing nationalist bloc in the parliament with people such as the True Finns.

He has lobbied for and writes frequently in support of the terrorist cult the Peoples Mojahedin Organisation of Iran, the PMOI or MEK. Whatever progressive origin this outfit may once have had, it has long degenerated into a terrorist (in the technical not scaremongering sense) abomination with an extreme cultist structure.

It is closer to the cults of Jim Jones or David Koresh than it is to anything the left would recognise as progressive or liberating, socially or nationally.

The logic of all of Stevenson's writings on Iraq, Iran and the Middle East is to call for the overthrow of the "fascist regime" in Iran. He is a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel.

It may be that Stevenson has for many decades had an interest and expertise in Iraq and Iran. I don't know. It is unusual, however, for MEPs to develop such interests immune from the influence of major lobbies in Brussels. PMOI/MEK is a very well funded lobby, in London, Washington and Brussels.

Under the abstract and politically enervating sentiment of "Neither Washington nor Tehran", a seemingly well-intentioned anti-war activist in the US has produced a piece that could be summed up as "Iranian terrorists out of Iraq".

For sincere socialists and anti-war activists to endorse and share this piece without comment on the outlandish source (Tory MEP Stevenson) and without demurral is to be led by the nose ultimately by an outfit which praises Israel, seeks alignment with US foreign policy and wants war for regime change in Iran.

I'd ask people to be very careful. There will be enormous amounts of misinformation and twisted augmentation over the coming weeks. Maliki is sectarian, corrupt and repressive. That is beyond doubt.

But losing sight of the enemy in Washington and London, playing imaginary games locating imaginary progressive forces (or exaggerating those tiny, but heroic progressive forces that do exist) does not help. In fact, by way of understandably wishing a plague on all their houses - it leads to being susceptible to the a highly sophisticated operation of disinformation.

Don't be led by the nose into what is in substance and objectively not some socialism from below, but an accommodation to those who want war - but against Iran, not ISIS/L.

The independence of the anti-war movement depends on firmly rejecting the imperialist machinations in all their forms.

In Britain and the US that means above all opposing Cameron and Obama.

The main enemy is at home.