Saturday, May 06, 2006

Andrzej Lepper – peace activist


Polish ‘populist’ is pressing for withdrawal from Iraq

Now that a new coalition has finally been formed between nationalists Law and Justice, Self defense and League of Polish Families, foreign policy could look a little different from the unquestioning pro-Americanism that has been characteristic of the whole of the Polish political class up until now.

The war in Iraq, where Poland is participating with a token 900 troops, has never been popular here and a majority think that ‘our boys’ should come home.

After the election last autumn, however, President Lech Kaczynski announced that army would be in the war torn country until at least the end of the year.

No party has dared to distance itself from the United States. Until now.

We have yet to be presented with concrete policies by the new coalition – on anything! - but new Vice-Premier, Andrzej Lepper makes clear that there will be some changes:

"The coalition agreement says nothing about Iraq. We are still against our military presence there and if it comes to a vote in parliament, we will oppose (extending the stay)...We want to withdraw our troops from Iraq and we will try to convince the president."

But the move has little chance of success. The whole Polish political establishment has made a point of identifying itself with the US for its defense. Getting a populist (i.e. popular?) move such as a withdrawal through parliament is a long shot.

But at least one political party is in tune with the ordinary Poles on this issue. Strange that it has to come from such an unlikely direction!

More?
A surprise Polish coalition government, Polish Outlook, May 6
Lepper: `I'm no fascist', Haaretz.com, May 6 (hat tip - Eugene)

22 comments:

sonia said...

Beatroot,

Does it challenge your pacifist convictions to find yourself on the same side of an issue as Lepper ? Btw, with a name like that, this guy could never have a political career in an English-speaking country...

beatroot said...

Sonia!!!

For the last time, I am not a pacifist!!! I absolutly loath pacifists.

Opposing a war is not pacifist. I opposed the Iraq war before it started as I thought that

a) it went against the principle of self-determination for the Iraqi people
b) it would end in disaster
c) it would further de-stabalisw the middle east.

I have been proved right on all these points, and I take no pleasure from that.

I would aloso support the Iraqi resistence if it was not so nihilist and depoliticised.

A pacifist would never support a nation's right to fight an invasion with arms. I do. That is why I am NOT A PACIFIST!!!!!!!

sonia said...

Sorry Beatroot,

I will rephrase my question. Does it challenge your POLITICAL convictions to find yourself on the same side of an issue as Lepper ?

beatroot said...

Thank you, Sonia, for rephrasing your question.

Yes, it does offend my political convictions.

But only a bit. I am not one of these people who think that Lepper is the devil himself. In fact, I don't think he is as bad the mainstream political class in Poland in general. If Lepper didn't smell of anti-Semitism then I would quite admire him, actually.

roman said...

Poland should withdraw its troops from Iraq by the end of this year. The Polish government has nothing more to prove to the USA. What is the US going to think and say? "Thank you for your support" should do it. The years of steadfast support contributed has been much more than what most other EU nations volunteered. The 900 troops will be replaced by US troops and the transition will be smooth.

beatroot said...

The British – we like to think we do the occupation better than the Americans – came under attack in Basra today. A helicopter was shot down and there was a party in the streets!

The resistance to the occupation is now taking off in the south among organized Shia Arabs.

It’s time we got out of a place we never should have been in the first place.

Roman Werpachowski said...

I think that despite the troubles, it's better now in Iraq than it was with Saddam. They are free to determine their future.

sonia said...

it's better now in Iraq than it was with Saddam

It depends for whom. Definitely not for Saddam and his henchmen, and that's what counts. Wars are rarely waged to make things better for anyone. They are waged to make things worse for people who deserve it.

Anonymous said...

Re: "challenge to political convictions".
You know, it is possible to support some policies held by a politician and not others... In fact if we were honest it would be the rule, not the exception.

Renegade Eye said...

It is very difficult to align with a populist. You never know what position they'll take.

beatroot said...

Witam, Rafal W.

Iraqis free to determine their future? They always were.

Solidarity fought similar, if not worse, odds against their dictatorship...and did rather well. Nobody had to invade the country before Poles could 'determine their own future'.

What is different with the Iraq case is that someone else decided their fate (and future) for them.

And it's a disaster. Watch how the West has Balkanised another nation into three different bits.

I wonder who will control Baghdad?

See how the EU has now taken over as the colonialist masters in Bosnia.

Have Bosnians determined their own future?

Have the people who voted for Hamas determined their own future?

Apparently not. The US has stopped all the money and they can't even get their wages paid, cause the US doesn't actually like people determining their own future...they like them to determine a future that they agree with.

Which is not really the same thing, is it?

sonia said...

Beatroot,

Saddam was far more ruthless than Jaruzelski... No analogy here.

The new, democratically-elected Iraqi lawmakers can ask the Americans to leave anytime they want. If they don't, it's because they are afraid that the insurgents might overthrow them. Democratic governments often fall to fascist coups d'├ętat (and not just in Latin America).

Bagdad will be controlled by the Iraqis as soon as the insurgents loose heart because they realize that nobody in the world supports them (that might take a little while, I agree).

Yesm, Bosnians have determined their future. Unfortunately, Muslim Bosnians have a radically different idea what that future is supposed to be than Serb Bosnians. EU isn't to blame for it. Tito is.

As for Hamas, this is called education. Lesson #1: What happens when you bite the hand that feeds you? When Palestinians started to kill all the European social workers in Gaza because some Danish newspaper printed some silly cartoons, well, there are consequences to throwing such tantrums...

beatroot said...

Sonia: Saddam is no comparison to Jaruzelski..no question. But that's not the point. Saddam didn't have the Soviet army sitting on his borders....that was the reality and the risk that Solidarity had to calculate before they did anything. And that's a lot more powerful and scary than the ba'athists ever were...

The Iraqi government doesn't want the US to get kicked out beciase they might take all the reconstruction money with them....

Michael Farris said...

I actually know a couple of Iraqis (who make up a large percentage of Arabs working at Polish unversities).

Their opnion (grossly simplified): They're mostly just glad Saddam is gone and aren't particular about how that came about (the legalitis of the invasion don't trouble them).
This does not mean they're in lock step with the insane W-ite/Neo-con alliance. They don't like how the invasion was planned and are _very_ unhappy with the occupation (more on grounds of sheer gross incompetence than anything else). A lot of the opportunities created by deposing Saddam have been undermined by bad choices by the occupiers and a lot of problems have been made worse. Nevertheless, they don't want the US forces to leave for the time being just because they think the power vacuum created by quick withdrawal would be significantly worse than what's there now (I'll leave that to your imagination).

One who's been back a few times since the invasion (at least once sneaking in and out of the country) was initially optimistic that things could get better, is less optimistic now but still hopeful. He's also repeatedly told me that the insurgency is almost entirely ex-Ba'athists (de facto a large chunk of the Sunni Arab population) and foreigners (a shaky alliance with different goals and the non-Iraqi insurgents have different goals among themselves).

For what it's worth.

sonia said...

Michael,

The opinions of those Iraqis don't matter to most Western leftists. They are at odds with the official party line ("Bush is worse than Saddam and Osama"). Whoever rejects that party line is a CIA agent or a dupe. But not to worry, over time, those Iraqis will understand how those things work: you can only denounce Saddam for three seconds if you have previously denounced Dubya and the American imperialism for three hours. Those are acceptable proportions...

beatroot said...

The overwhelming viewpoint of Iraqis is that a) they are glad Saddam has gome and b) can the invaders get the fuck out of my country.

And that's exactly what you or I would think.

Michael Farris said...

Sonia, they're not in lockstep with leftists, no. But they're not in lockstop with the W-led forces either. Their interests are pro-Iraqi and they want what's best for their country, not for W's mythical 'war on terror'.

That said, the only reason they don't want faster withdrawal is that would create a big power vacuum that creates nothing good in the Arab world (it's partly what created Saddam in the first place).

Within Iraq, the elements that want the fastest withdrawal are the ones with the worst motives: radical Shias who want to stick it to the Sunnis, Sunni die-hards who want to get back in power and Kurds who can't wait to declare independence. It's never quite that simple since there is a surprisingly large amount of intermarriage between those groups but that's the rough picture as I understand it.

Unofrtunately, the more moderate educated class was largely forced into exile and are (quite sensibly) taking a wait-and-see attitude toward going back.

beatroot said...

Mike: the personal anecdotes you have about Iraqis are interesting (and I have a couple of Iraqi friends in London - both on the run from Saddam in the late 1980's - who didn't support the first Gulf war, so you can imagine what they think of the current one!.

But personal stories are just that - personal. Opinion polls coming out of Iraq have been quite consistant.

See one from 2004 http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2004-04-28-poll-cover_x.htm

and another from 2006

http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/home_page/165.php?
nid=&id=&pnt=165&lb=hmpg2

...and you will see that there never has been support for invasion/occupation. In fact many support armed resistance...(shame they couldn't have got themselves organized! Now it's too late and turning sectarian).

The US fantacy that Iraqis would come out to line the streets and wave the star and stripes as our brave boys smashed their way into town was always just that: a terrible fantasy.

sonia said...

Beatroot,

It wasn't fantasy, but propaganda. I don't think Rumsfeld actually believed that all Iraqis (except Kurds and some Shiites) would welcome them with open arms.

This is what I think: Saddam is a human Gordian knot, he is the very essence of what's wrong with the Middle East. Kill Saddam and his regime and maybe there is a way out of this mess. It will take several generations for things to settle down, but the reality is this: any opportunistic Arab leader who sits on oil, uses the Palestinian cause and anti-American rhetoric to gather support across the Arab world from Algeria to Syria to Yemen, has to be destroyed. Otherwise, a chain of events will start that will only end up with massive doses of radiation in New York, Paris, Tel Aviv, Cairo and Mecca...

Of course, there is a better way to prevent nuclear Armageddon. Invent an alternative to an internal combustion engine, and the Arabs can then rally around any nutcase they want. The day oil will be worthless, the Saddams will be as inoffensive (internationally at least) as the Charles Taylors of this world...

beatroot said...

[Any}Arab leader who sits on oil, uses the Palestinian cause and anti-American rhetoric to gather support across the Arab world from Algeria to Syria to Yemen, has to be destroyed. Otherwise, a chain of events will start...

Well, if there is any destroying to be done then I think that is the Arabs' business, don't you?

As to the 'starting off a chain of events..' what the hell do you think has been happening since the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan? A disasterous chain of events...

And the US government did believe that there was WMD and a welcoming party waiting for them in Baghdad. They were told that by Chalabi and other exiles who wanted the US to do their dirty work for them. It wasn't propaganda, they really believe that rubbish.

Which just shows you that the US/Uk has no reliable 'human intelligence' in the region.

And they are making the same stupid mistake now in Iran.

Don't underestimate the incompetence of our current crop of leaders, Sonia. They know not what they do...

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