A few days in Doha and Baghdad

In early Feb I visited Doha and Baghdad, my first to Doha in almost ten years, and first ever visit to Iraq. It was a great trip – lots of very useful meetings, and also some real local colour.



4 Replies to “A few days in Doha and Baghdad”

  1. Wouldn’t you just love one of those armoured people carriers to deal with the terrifying traffic around Canberra during school pick up time?

    Your interpreter and baggage carriers look a fearsome lot but are probably very nice chaps in their own way.

    I expected to see scenes more like Beirut i.e. barbed wire and holes in the ground. Someone has been busy tidying up. But then I keep forgetting how fast time goes by, it seems like only yesterday when you were going to the Pigeon Ground. Yes, I’m going gently senile.

    Glad to hear that all went well and good to see you back safely.

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  3. It’s also available on Free to Air Satellite in Ireland (and plesumabry elsewhere), don’t know the tuning location though.So far, it’s not half as good as I thought it’d be, but it still beats the shit out of BBC, Sky, ITN and CNN.Yesterday it showed an actual gun battle’ between Palestinian fighters and Israeli tanks, and the reporter (accurately) described it as a very unequal battle . Wouldn’t see that on CNN!And had a short feature about an Israeli woman (a holocaust survivor) who left Israel in disgust at the State’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza. Again, not exactly Sky News fodder.Still, for all it’s talk about giving a voice to the voiceless , it’s just another bourgeois news outlet, albeit one with a different agenda to the western 24 hour news stations.

  4. Thabo Mbeki’s speech at the Al-Jazeera Forum is an eapxelmry analytical history of the objective and subjective factors and forces that made possible the triumph of the democratic revolutionary forces in South Africa. It is by the same token a model of the intellectual challenges facing the practitioners of national liberation in any situation in which they confront a resolute and undefeated oppressor. Mbeki painstakingly dissects the specific challenges that confronted the African National Congress vanguard twenty years ago and explains how their unflinching commitment to a non-racial democracy in South Africa prevailed at the end of the day on account of a combination of unity of purpose, clarity of objectives, coordinated political action and the correct strategic assessment of the unfolding situation by the leadership. The South African transformation from a racist regime to a democratic one was no miracle but was rather the product of these factors as well as the principled and courageous, but above all superior analytic capability of the leadership, which was able to seize what might otherwise have been a fleeting historical moment, with the necessary political initiative. c2a0 Mbeki ventures a few comparisons with the predicament of the Palestinians under Zionist occupation in the closing pages of his speech. However, he first observes that fools rush in where angels fear to tread and warns his listeners that he is no fool and will therefore venture his opinions with the utmost caution. This is in fact an exercise in false modesty as his political analysis of the Palestinian situation is objectively correct and flawless. I look forward to the day when Mbeki can overcome his reserve and venture the necessary analysis of the Sudanese predicament. Anticipating that this day may be some way off into the future, let me suggest how his analysis might unfold. c2a0 While South Africa was an advanced capitalist political economy, a status it had achieved under the preceding racist regime, the national liberation forces necessarily constituted a broad Front, encompassing not only a military wing and a mass base among workers and peasants, but also a vanguard including the leadership of the South African Communist Party. This Front was shaped and disciplined not only by its internal organization but also by the character of its adversary, an advanced national bourgeois class acting in part as an imperialist agent but also aware of the fickle nature of that imperial interest. This ruling class was not, however, a rentier class but rather a capitalist haute bourgeoisie that had developed class interests that stood in deepening contradiction to the ideology of Apartheid and the interests of the state apparatus. It could therefore negotiate itself out of formal executive power without negating its collective economic interest to a fatal degreee28094i.e. the end of the racist regime did not necessarily amount to class suicide because it could maintain its hegemonic position in the national political economy without having to enjoy the formal trappings of state power. c2a0 These political-economic preconditions do not exist in Sudan today and are unlikely to develop in the next decade or perhaps somewhat longer. There is a superficial resemblance between the minority rule in Sudan and Apartheid South Africa, but this goes no deeper than the elementary arithmetic of ethnic dominance enumerated in such credos as the Black Book of the neo-Islamists and the exclusionary ideology consistently promulgated by the South African Boers and inconsistently expressed by the NIF. No, there is no possibility of the objective conditions of the handover of power witnessed in South Africa in 1994 being replicated in Sudan under existing conditions. c2a0 The negotiated transition to a pluralist democracy, in which the ruling class abandons its political privileges in return for the national democrats softening their revolutionary economic agenda, will be possible only when Sudan’s political economy has undergone an internal transformation. A necessary precondition is that the ruling rentier class, for which access to state power is today a sine qua non for its material survival, has become a truly national bourgeoisie, and the opposition movements are commensurately transformed into a broad front of mass movements and a revolutionary vanguard. While the ruling elite is materially dependent upon oil revenue and other state rentierist practices, such that personal interest invariably trumps national interest, and while the opposition remains wedded to simplistic geographical definitions of political identity and the corollary secessionist agendas and/or to an infantilistic rhetoric of regime change, such a negotiated revolution is out of the question. In a decade or so’s time, when the oil money is running out and the allure of separatism has faded, such a historical conjuncture may occur, but not before then.

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