Pro-war members of Congress are up in arms over a planned anti- war conference in Italy called “Leave Iraq in Peace — Support the Legitimate Resistance of the Iraqi People.” The October event is being organized by the Free Iraq Committees, a coalition made up of the Anti-Imperialist Camp and others, primarily radical European organizations.
The lawmakers have prevailed upon the Italian government to reject visas for speakers at the gathering, prompting a hunger strike by members of the Italian Free Iraq Committee in front of the foreign ministry to demand the visas be issued. The U.S. Congress members have also unleashed a torrent of veiled threats to outlaw the Anti-Imperialist Camp for allegedly supporting terrorism.
This smear campaign against a European anti-war gathering threatens freedom of association and free speech in the global movement. If the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can determine what are “legitimate” anti-war activities on every continent, there will be none at all. It is crucial to defend the Anti-Imperialist Camp and the conference.
An assault on freedom of association. On June 28, 44 Congress members wrote a letter to Sergio Vento, the Italian ambassador, expressing “concern” that “supporters of terrorist activity are planning to meet on Italian soil … to plan a campaign of financial aid for terrorism.” These luminaries are apoplectic that the Anti-Imperialist Camp launched a “10 Euros for the Iraqi Resistance” campaign in 2000. The slow-moving politicos just now unearthed this “terror plot” by reading stories in National Security Watch and at USNews.com.
After these stories were published in late June, the Anti- Imperialist Camp’s internet hosting company in Utah closed down the Camp’s website (since reopened elsewhere); the Department of Homeland Security admitted that for over a year it had a secret court order requiring the web host to turn over records showing the Internet protocol address of every visitor to the Camp’s website; and Italian police raided the home of Emanuele Fanesi, who held the bank account for the “10 Euros” campaign. An Italian court has since dismissed a terrorism warrant against Fanesi and ordered the return of his confiscated computer and bank records.
On August 2, the “10 Euros” campaign became the subject of two U.S. legislative subcommittees dealing with terrorism and finances when Representative Sue Kelly, in a McCarthy- type ploy, held up a poster depicting a U.S. soldier being shot in front of an Iraqi flag. She claimed the poster was part of the Camp’s fundraising efforts!
Camp spokesperson Willi Langthaler called Kelly’s assertion “freely invented.”
“10 Euros”: a political response to unjust war. Millions of people all over the world acknowledge the right of Iraqis to resist the United States.
In Iraq, trade unionists, feminists, doctors, scholars, citizens who oppose privatization of Iraq’s natural resources and major industries, those who believe no real democracy can exist until the occupation ends — all consider themselves part of the resistance. This is a reality that U.S. policy makers are eager to deny by equating all resistance with terrorism.
According to Langthaler, the Camp initiated the “10 Euros” campaign (the equivalent of $12.36 U.S.) to demonstrate that there are “hundreds or even thousands of people who dare to give money for the resistance with their names, publicly and openly” as “political support.”
The campaign raised about $14,000 which was used to buy two tons of medicine for Al Anbar province. However, when asked to speculate on whether money raised would later be used for arms, a leader of the campaign said that was not his decision.
For this daring solidarity campaign with the Iraqi people, and for responding truthfully to a journalist’s question, the Anti-Imperialist Camp has now become the subject of a witch-hunt by hawks in Congress and the Department of Homeland Security.
“Leave Iraq in Peace.” If the Berlusconi government does not completely capitulate to the demands of U.S. hawks, anti-war activists from Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East will gather on October 1 in Rome. Speakers include Ben Bella, the leader of Algeria who was overthrown by a military coup in 1965, and Swedish author Jan Myrdal, son of Nobel Peace prizewinner and economist Gunnar Myrdal.
Among others addressing the gathering are: journalist Haluk Gerger of the Turkish Human Rights Association, who was imprisoned under an anti-terror law for distributing literature; Awni al Kalemji of the Iraqi Patriotic Alliance, a leading figure in the opposition to Saddam Hussein’s regime; Sheikh Jawad al Khalesi, a leader of the Iraqi National Foundation Conference who supported the boycott of the recent Iraqi elections, calling them a “farce”; Abdulhaleem Kandil, a representative of Kifaya (Enough) in Egypt, which opposes the state of emergency that has severely limited freedom of expression and association since 1981; Domenico Losurdo, Italian philosopher at Urbino University; and John Catalinotto from the International Action Center in the United States.
This conference is an important statement of solidarity with the Iraqi people in the face of the most murderous imperialist assault since the Vietnam war. That the Department of Homeland Security and rightwing members of Congress are anxious to smear its organizers and shut it down before it begins is evidence of the power of frankly standing with the victims of imperialist militarism and “free market” piracy.
The right to resist and freedom of expression must be defended. The war in Iraq has become a pretext for an all-out assault on the right to freedom of speech and association, especially in Europe and the U.S.
However, the right to resist oppression, theft of national resources, occupation, destruction of one’s country — this is a human right, even a human responsibility.
It follows that it is the responsibility of the international anti-war movement, but especially the U.S. movement, to defend the rights to resist and to express support for those who fight back against the unjust military occupation of Iraq. In this cause we stand shoulder to shoulder with the Iraqis in demanding freedom of expression and association in our own countries.
In July, Ali Al-Timimi, a U.S. Muslim scholar, was sentenced to life in prison for treason for things he said, not for things he did. This unconstitutional conviction harkens back to the McCarthy era, when U.S. Trotskyists were imprisoned for opposing the country’s entry into World War II and communists were hounded and jailed.
The atmosphere of hysteria which was whipped up against socialists, combined with divisions within the Left, permitted the McCarthyites to run roughshod over everyone’s civil liberties and ushered in more than a decade of reaction and two wars — Korea and Vietnam.
We must not let that happen again. The Freedom Socialist Party demands:
Stop the witch-hunt against the Anti-Imperialist Camp!
End U.S. military terror in Iraq! Bring U.S. troops home now!
Call off the occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine!
For a secular Iraq with full rights for women and for national and sexual minorities!
Defend First Amendment rights and freedom of expression everywhere!
For the right to national self-determination!
No more blacklisting and criminalizing of support for freedom struggles!
Adapted and updated from an August 15 Freedom Socialist Party statement. For ongoing news and how to support the Free Iraq