Who's Ignoring What Now?

by TNR Staff, TNR Staff | August 31, 2007

Over at Andrew Sullivan's place, Jamie Kirchick laments the decline of the "anti-totalitarian left" and claims that the U.S. labor movement has abandoned its counterparts in Iraq:

Whereas once the AFL-CIO had a large and effective international office, you'd be hard-pressed to hear, for instance, what they're doing for Iraqi trade-unionists.

But hang on, you'd only be "hard-pressed" if you didn't have access to Google. Just this past March, John Sweeney brokered a meeting between "17 top leaders from five Iraqi trade union federations" and the financial institutions working in Iraq. The AFL-CIO has been one of the few places tracking worker abuses in the country. Its Solidarity Center has been holding training workshops for Iraqi workers, pushing women's rights, and "connect[ing] Iraqi trade unions with their counterparts throughout the region." And so on. Now, the AFL-CIO has always been a fairly conservative group, and I don't agree with everything they did during the cold war (e.g.), but it's wrong to suggest that they've been ignoring Iraq.

On the other hand, as Matthew Harwood reported in 2005, those "idealists" in the Bush administration's CPA were so intent on privatization during their first few years in Iraq that they really did push aside--and were often hostile toward--Iraqi labor groups, which were one of the few dedicated anti-insurgent, anti-Baathist organizations in the country.

--Bradford Plumer

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