How to bring down Saddam

Observations on alternatives to war

I am marching against war on Iraq but with feelings of ambivalence. The Stop the War campaign ignores Saddam's human rights abuses: detention without trial, torture, execution and the ethnic cleansing of Kurds and Shias.

While rejecting war, it offers no counter-strategy for overthrowing the "Butcher of Baghdad".

Even if the campaigners don't see it, there is a credible alternative to a western-engineered invasion. It is an uprising by the Iraqi people: an Algerian FLN-style guerrilla war in tandem with a "people power" campaign of civilian resistance, as we witnessed in Czechoslovakia during the Velvet revolution and in the Philippines in the 1980s.

Compared with invasion, this home-grown insurrection would be far more popular with the people of Iraq. Fiercely nationalistic, they rightly dislike the idea of a US-imposed regime. Saddam's troops are also more likely to defect to an internal revolt than to western forces.

Britain, the US and the rest of the international community should support a change-from-within strategy by helping the Iraqi opposition forces. This aid should include funding satellite TV and radio stations to break Saddam's censorship of the media and give the Iraqi opposition a means to mobilise resistance inside the country.

A campaign of civilian resistance would seek to undermine Saddam's ability to govern by means of workplace go-slows, mass sick leaves, industrial and military sabotage, and rent and tax refusals. These tactics were used with some success by the Danes to frustrate the Nazi war effort during the Second World War, by the Indian independence movement to force out the British, and by black South Africans to make apartheid ungovernable.

In parallel, we should help train and arm a Free Iraq army inside the safe havens of the northern and southern no-fly zones, as we supported the Free French forces and the French resistance during the Second World War. From these safe havens, the Iraqi opposition could launch military operations against Saddam Hussein, creating liberated areas around the major towns, leading to an eventual assault on Baghdad. The Kurds in the north already have large armies. The Shias and Marsh Arabs in the south want to take on Saddam. All they need is training and weapons. Pincer movements from the north and south could encircle Baghdad within six months.

This civilian and military rebellion may take longer than a US-led war to effect regime change, but it would avoid the accusation of neo-imperialism and is likely to ensure a more stable and enduring democracy. It would, moreover, lessen the likelihood of Arab states feel-ing obliged to rush to Saddam's defence, as well as minimise the provocation of a global Islamic jihad against western "infidels".

Regime change must come from within and should lead to a democratic state - not to a new form of autocratic rule by a US military governor and then by a US-imposed puppet regime.