A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Norman Geras' post today quoting arguments for staying in Iraq made me think about a historic parralel - the US withdrawal from SE Asia once domestic political pressure to end the war there kicked in.

I was particularly thinking about what the Iraqi Deputy PM, Barham Saleh (a Kurd and democratically elected - which are both things to celebrate) said in London on Monday (and which unfortunately got a lot less coverage than General Dannat's recent remarks):

"We do believe there is no option for the international community to cut and run, the future of Iraq is vital to the future of the Middle East and the world order.
This is a society that was traumatised by 35 years of tyranny, and trying to build a functioning democracy in the heart of the Islamic Middle East.
The pressure that I feel is from my constituents in Iraq who demand of their government delivery of resources and security.
This is not an easy situation, but we are mindful of our responsibility. At the end of the day, it is for the elected government of Iraq to make tough choices, but for some time we need the support of the international community."

and what Cambodian leader Sirik Matak wrote in April 1975 to US Ambassador John Dean in response to an offer to escape by helicopter from the advancing Khmer Rouge:

"Dear Excellency and friend,
I thank you very sincerely for your letter and for your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion.
As for you and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection and we can do nothing about it. You leave us and it is my wish that you and your country will find happiness under the sky.
But mark it well that, if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is too bad because we are all born and must die one day. I have only committed the mistake of believing in you, the Americans.
Please accept, Excellency, my dear friend, my faithful and friendly sentiments. Sirik Matak."

Two weeks later he had been shot - one of an estimated 2 million victims of Pol Pot's genocide.

Any timetable for withdrawal from Iraq needs to ensure that Barham Saleh and other Iraqi democrats are not abandoned to their fates like America's allies in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were, but are given the time and support to build up their own security forces.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Labour supporting blog you might have mentioned that Barham Saleh is a member of a party that is affiliated to the Socialist International - as is the Labour Party.
He has also attended various Socialist International meetings, including Madrid Congress a couple of years ago.
He's a comrade!

3:01 pm, October 27, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I didn't know that but I'm delighted to hear it.

3:22 pm, October 27, 2006

Blogger Harry Perkins said...

Is the same Pol Pot regime which the Americans claimed was the legitimate government of Cambodia? The same Pol Pot regime which was overthrown by Vietnamese forces?

Are you aware that an estimated 3 million Vietnamese civilians were slaughtered during the American intervention in Vietnam?

As for abandoning America's allies in Vietnam, are you referring to the brutal South Vietnamese dictatorship?

I knew you were a rightwing headbanger, Luke, but this is almost farcical. It's hardly a surprise coming from someone who makes a living from working for a company that makes billions producing weapons to kill people.

3:37 pm, October 27, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Harry, there are 3,500 Vietnamese refugees - former boatpeople - living in Hackney where I'm a councillor. One of them - a former provincial general secretary in the pro-American southern government - was the first ever Vietnamese councillor in the UK from 2002-06. They did not flee the Southern regime, they fled the Communists who put them in "re-education camps" (a euthemism for gulags) or worse. I went to Vietnam on holiday 2 years ago and greatly admire the courage of the Vietnamese people. What I didn't admire was what I saw:
a)corruption - with arbitrary "fines" levied on the Vietnamese by layer after layer of uniformed CP nomenklatura - because it is a one party state no-one can vote out corrupt officials
b) a state with minimal free public services that like China has embraced the free market with huge vigour i.e. kept the political structures of a communist state with none of the social measures
c) oppression of the highland ethnic minority groups
d) anyone with the remotest connection to the South (e.g. family of ARVN junior military officers & civil servants) faces curtailed civil rights, banned from higher education to the 3rd generation, cannot join the CP so unable to apply for many jobs or good housing

How many of the 3m dead in the war were direct or indirect victims of the Viet Cong or the NVA rather than the South or Americans?

You should watch the recent channel 4 documentary about the genocidal war still being waged against the pro-US Hmong hill people by the Laos government.

Your description of the Southern government as a "dictatorship" is half correct - at least it held some kind of elections, however rigged or flawed, unlike the Stalinist dictatorship of Ho Chi Minh which never made the slightest concessions to democracy or liberty.

I have no hesitation saying the wrong side won in Vietnam.

You are right however about the sick pro-Kymer Rouge position taken by the west in the late 70s/early 80s and the noble role played by Vietnam in overthrowing Pol Pot.

4:41 pm, October 27, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The technical aspect of security in the region is always something to note. The Saudi dictatorship securing their border with a huge fence including automatically triggered weapons - right across their border with Iraq. Trying to stop 'blow back' of returning terrorists. Now, if the Saudis can do it, why haven't we built a fence on the other three sides? Clearly we need a fence - a prerequisite to a stable country is a secure border. Something Mr Bush failed to recognise and something which our British Boys & Girls in Iraq are actively engaged in (and little else by all accounts).

6:36 pm, October 27, 2006

Anonymous the anecdotal said...

Ginger mong

12:01 am, October 30, 2006


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