The recent mission by Martin McGuinness to Iraq is an indication of the extent to which Sinn Fein has been incorporated into imperialism. Once its implacable enemy they are now the trusted promoters of pro-imperialist settlements for conflicts around the world. The Irish peace process and their own political strategy are held up as models for others to follow.
The underlying assumption is that the peace process represents a resolution of conflict. Yet the reality is that it represents the complete defeat of the republican struggle for self determination. The traditional programme Irish republicanism has been completely turned inside out with Sinn Fein helping to administer British rule in the north. If there is a peace then it is because the British and unionist position is no longer being challenged. Indeed, the British state is now seen as a force for progressive change. In return for their acquiescence Sinn Fein gets a slice of the sectarian pie.
It is the airbrushing of imperialism and the definition of the conflict as one between two communities that makes the Irish peace processes a particularly appealing model for Iraq. This is reflected in the content of the McGuinness mission to Iraq with its emphasis on Sunni-Shia reconciliation. In this framework the occupation of the country by the US and Britain does not feature.
Although nominally independent this mission has the full support of the US and Britain. The Helsinki process (it took this name because first meeting of the group took place in the Finnish capital) has been carefully nurtured for over a year. In addition to Sinn Fein it also involves the ANC. The South Africans are veterans at advising on conflict resolution, having in earlier periods promoted their own settlement as a model for Ireland and Palestine to follow.
The culmination of this process was the meeting that took place in the Al-Rashid hotel within Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone. Attended by the Irish, South Africans and a number of Iraqi factions, this produced an agreement that commits all groups to disband unlawful armed groups, respect the independence of the judiciary, combat corruption and support the constitution. It also says that factions should resolve discord by peaceful and democratic means and uphold equality for all citizens.
On the face of it this would seem to represent be some form of progress, but set against the reality of what is going on in Iraq it is a mockery. There is massive corruption, widespread sectarian violence and intimidation, and systematic abuses by the Iraqi Government. The greatest offence though is that the main cause of the strife that afflicts Iraq – its occupation by US and Britain – is ignored. This is particularly blatant at a time when the US is pressing Iraqis to accept a permanent military presence and open their oil industry to foreign ownership.
Unbelievably, Mac Maharaj of the ANC has described the process as providing Iraqi’s with a “platform to speak to each other without factoring in outside interests”. While Martin McGuinness predicts a groundswell of support that “may lead to a total end of the conflict in that country.” These are deceptions and dangerous ones at that as they can only advance the imperialist agenda for Iraq.
It is a testimony to the degeneration of the ANC and Sinn Fein that they should lend themselves to this. This particularly pertinent for the ANC whose settlement has been exposed by the recent outbreak of xenophobic violence. For its part Sinn Fein seem to be suffering from self deception as they trumpet the achievements of the Irish peace process. Flattered by being given the role of imperialism’s useful idiots they have completely lost any sense of political reality. This is reflected in the ludicrous boast by Martin McGuinness that pictures of himself with Ian Paisley “had a profound impact in Iraq”. Please!