Today I had a lively telephone conversation with Andrew Alderson, about the Iraqi asylum campaign. Alderson was deployed to Iraq as a TA Officer in 2003, and found himself trying to make sense of Basra’s banking system; a few months later he returned to run the finances of the Coalition Provincial Authority (South).
Whatever one thinks of the invasion of Iraq, only a nihilist or a lunatic could have wanted the country’s economy left in ruins. Alderson, being neither, had been determined to provide the people of Southern Iraq with functioning power and water systems, a stable currency and decently paid employment.
I mentioned that I’d bought his book ‘Bankrolling Basra’ and was reading it rather quickly: ‘Oh, it’s meant to be a rollercoaster‘ he said. It is. There goes our hero, with millions of dollars in his rucksack and a pistol in his chinos, off to pay the dockers or the electricity workers, demanding a power supply for a wrecked factory or scheming to circumvent the procurement rulebook to get the canal system fixed. Perhaps one notes a tendency for stories to conclude with some variation of ‘so I was proved right, again’, but Mr Alderson does work in the City.
What’s impressive is his emphasis that Iraqis must be given the chance to take key decisions, his determination to outsmart those British or American officials who were not prepared to let Iraqi engineers or bankers take the lead in their own country. It’s the most interesting account that I’ve read of applied finance in a poor nation since ‘The Economist’s Tale’.
But I just stopped reading it. This is the last thing I came to:
‘Shaimaa Falih and Likaa Falih were sisters aged 16 and 18, who worked in the CPA laundry. Both spoke excellent English and worked 12-hour shifts uncomplainingly in the tiny laundry-room area for about $350 a month. Both of them were warm and friendly girls and they’d smile and chat with us when we dropped off our laundry.
‘One evening after work they were being taken home by taxi as usual when the vehicle was confronted by four masked gunmen in a street just a few hundred yards from the girls’ home. One of the gunmen fired a bullet to stop the taxi while another tried to pull one of the sisters out of the car. She resisted and was shot in the head. When the other sister got out of the car she was also shot. The men then drove off in a getaway car. It was clear that Shaimaa and Likaa were murdered simply because they’d been working for foreigners. A few days later anonymous leaflets were left in the city denouncing the ‘traitorous’ and ‘immoral’ actions of the sisters for working with the CPA. They also threatened more attacks on Iraqi staff.’
A leaflet justifying the murder of teenage laundry girls as being an execution for treason- that means this specimen isn’t merely a perverted cretin, but is also rather drearily unoriginal. Recall his slavering sneer, composed in between his labours as a crammer of bourgeois kids who have failed their A Levels, about the ‘excellent wages’ paid to those targeted by the death squads, and imagine what such a creature might offer in reptilian defence of these particular killings: ‘$350 a month for a little laundry work? Asking for it.’
This isn’t about only ‘translators’. This isn’t about just ‘the 91’. This is about two teenage girls murdered because they worked folding clothes in some sweatbox, the same as I did in my eighteenth summer, murdered because they worked for people sent there by our elected representatives. It’s about safeguarding those threatened with torture and death for the same reason, those Shaimaas and Likaas who are now hiding, in fear for their lives while we welcome or bemoan the return of the Premiership and read detailed articles on ‘Big Brother.’
You can research your MP here, you can get ideas for a letter here, and when you get a reply you can let us know here. That’s ‘can’ in the sense of ‘should’. We don’t have the right to tell these people we will protect them and then abandon them to their deaths.