Thursday, January 20, 2005

floored elections

The Independent Online: More than 750 people crowded into a hall tucked behind Westminster Abbey to hear the debate. It asked: "Have critics of the Iraq war been vindicated?"

The Government fielded Eric Joyce, the Labour MP for Falkirk West, before the fiercely partisan audience, which heckled him at every opportunity.

Mr Joyce was joined by Independent columnist Johann Hari, a supporter of the Iraq war, to argue against the paper's Middle East correspondent, Robert Fisk, and the American journalist Charles Glass on the panel chaired by Simon Kelner, The Independent's editor-in-chief.

Fisk may have surprised some in the audience when he said: "The critics of the war have not been vindicated. I never believed the British and American governments would lie to us so much. I never believed that the insurrection would so quickly gather pace and be so disastrous to the occupation, and I never believed the occupation would be so flawed and so brutal."

He said the upcoming "flawed" elections would be as unrepresentative in their results as polling organised by Saddam Hussein's regime, "not because the people are forced to vote what they are told to vote, but because the Shiites will indeed vote, and the Kurds will indeed vote, but the Sunni minority will not vote because either they are intimidated or because they don't want to".

Asked whether coalition troops should withdraw from Iraq, Fisk called for the Americans to set a pullout date. "They've got to talk to the insurgents - and they will - and then they must go."