All new arrivals, sent here by the kindness of Neil ‘The Loony Whom Other Loonies Shun’ Clark, and looking for advice on writing to MPs about Asylum rights for Iraqi employees of the British Army: please go here first.
And now for those of you who have already written to their MPs, we have a number of things.
First, a very important point for all participating bloggers. Dsquared points out: ‘I think the phrase “Iraqi translators” is a bit dangerous, as it allows Des Browne to chew down the number of visas to the 90 people actually employed as interpreters).’
He’s right. This is a danger: not a danger that we’ll lose a point in a comments thread flamewar, but that the Government will get away with conceding Asylum rights to translators only, even if there are other employees or ex-employees (often with poorer command of English) equally at risk from the death squads.
This is a blog campaign so it’s been completely non-hierarchical, as it should be. But I’ve consciously been avoiding the ‘Iraqi *interpreters*’ slogan, and have been using ‘employees’ or ‘refugees’ or similar terms.
Can everyone involved in the campaign please do likewise: this is not a campaign for ‘translators’, it’s a campaign for Iraqis whose work for the British puts them at risk of murder. ‘Employees’ will do fine. I know ‘The Times’ is talking almost exclusively about translators, but we can do far better than that. Thank you very much.
The most important campaign post of the last week was by Justin McKeating, who has been keeping score of MPs’ replies. Very many thanks to Justin, to whom a lot is owed, especially by me. I wouldn’t have responded the way he did to an email from someone I’d last heard of hurling abuse my way.
The most alarming post was by Tim Ireland. It’s a campaign video, its humour so black that it might have disconcerted Jonathan Swift. Tim has also provided a button for easy downloading to other blogs and websites: easy, that is, if you’re not a technically ignorant cretin who can’t manage childishly simple business of copying and pasting a little HTML, which explains why there’s no button in this page.
The letters are getting results- MPs are referring the matter to the three Ministries concerned, the Home Office, the FCO and Defence. There’s been only one really poor piece of Government apologetics, from Hugh Bayly (Labour, City of York) – and Peter Sanderson’s letter back to him is a model of courteous but determined disagreement.
If you haven’t done so, write a letter. This was quite probably a policy of which neither the new Prime Minsister nor the new Home Secretary was really aware. The more light is shone upon it, the more they are going to recoil, disgusted, from its actual and potential consequences.
On the campaign itself: people are starting to take notice, and that brings its own problems. But let’s have a little perspective here. What the hell are our problems to that of the average citizen of Basra, let alone one targeted for torture and assassination?
True, we might not like the sight of this or that politician, of whichever party, vocalising on our Nation’s sacred honour. We might not like The Times, which has run article after article on this matter. We might not like some of the bloggers who have written on this subject- many of whom, incidentally, have the best of reasons to dislike me. So what?
This isn’t about us. It’s about men and women hiding with their families in Basra, praying that the death squads don’t find them. We have to welcome anything that makes it harder for the Government to allow these people to be murdered.
There are two clear dangers for the translators now. One is that a decision on flying them here gets delayed by inter-departmental wrangling between the Home Office, desperate to keep the brown-skinned hordes away, and the MoD, whose civilian heads must be increasingly aware of the fury of the field commanders in Basra who are unwillingly following their orders to abandon men and women whom they know to be at risk.
The other danger is that the Government takes a Blairite line: when reality sucks, manage the perception. They might- they just might- decide to admit only a few dozen of the staff who have worked with British forces, concentrating on those who have been or might be in contact with the British media. This would be strategically foolish and morally disgusting.
Asylum rights must be given on the basis of need, to all those whose work for this country makes them likely targets of the murder gangs. Cases can and must be assessed rapidly- the best people to do so would be Army officers with experience of Iraq, liaising closely with MI5 officers to allay Home Office fears of jihadist penetration.
The Government may want to try a news management strategy, but this news won’t be managed. The interpreters and other workers for UK forces have British friends: principally soldiers and foreign correspondents. They’ll know if the Basra death squads aren’t deprived of all their targets- and so, in short order, will we.
If a few high-profile cases are flown out of Iraq while others are left to the tender mercies of the Sadrists, Brown and Jacqui Smith will not be forgiven. This isn’t Brown’s policy, it isn’t Smith’s. It was implemented by Home Secretary John Reid under the Premiership of Tony Blair. Brown and Smith have a chance to show that they are better than Blair and Reid. If they know that they are under public scrutiny, they will be better placed to ignore the voices arguing, Alistair Campbell-like, for a strategy that manages the news at the expense of a few nameless Iraqis.
Write to your MP: this campaign hasn’t worked yet, and if it fails people are going to die needlessly and horribly.
Lunatic fringe update: What a piece of luck: the fruitcake’s fruitcake writes his fruitiest ever article attacking us! All we need now is the principled opposition of Nick Griffin.
Seriously, if the word can be used to anyone who has just attempted to read an effusion by Neil Clark: can everyone and anyone commenting on the CiF piece please include a link to a blogpost with the talking points for a letter to MPs? Link to any blog that does so, but CiF really did the dirty on us when they posted Dsquared’s article at 7pm on a Saturday. Now that we’ve got a high-profile article, thanks to dear Mr Clark, we’ve got to use it.