Darcus Howe heeds Mandela's words

The Iraqis can bring about regime change themselves, just as black South Africans did

Ann Clwyd, the veteran Labour Party MP and, in opposition, a member of the front bench, has been a doughty campaigner for sections of the Iraqi population among other causes. She has declared her support for the war and for regime change. On BBC1's Question Time recently, a member of the audience asserted that responsibility for the removal of Saddam Hussein and his dictatorial regime rested with the people of Iraq; Clwyd, who was on the panel, would have none of it. The Iraqi people, she told the audience, were unable to overthrow Saddam.

This is the classic victim theory stuff so beloved of liberals. She did not make clear from which deformity the Iraqi people were suffering. I am sympathetic to their repression, but it seems to me that an invasion of Iraq to effect regime change is a poor substitution for the real thing - change from within.

The BBC has recently aired a fine television documentary on Nelson Mandela. It traced the immense struggles of black South Africans against one of the most oppressive regimes known to man.

One sentence from the film lodged in my mind. "Not for one moment did I ever think we would lose." The speaker was Mandela. For more than 25 years, he never gave up and never called for foreign invasion. South Africa possessed the most wicked arsenal of destructive weapons - including a nuclear capacity - and threatened the security of other African states. It actually invaded Mozambique and murdered peasants there.

Black South Africans mobilised support throughout Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America and the US. Here in England, exiled South Africans formed support organisations, penetrated the unions, the Labour and Communist parties, the liberal sections of society. They educated us about their struggles, and raised funds. It took a long time. At one point, young black British militants volunteered for service to the cause. The ANC refused the offer: "Support us by carrying out the struggles wherever you live."

The Iraqis are not a different species, genetically unable to carry out such a programme. Even with regime change, an American general will replace Saddam, the Iraqi general. He will sit in Saddam's high chair surrounded by British and US troops, disbursing the spoils of war. It will not be regime change but regime substitution.