Issue 262 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published April 2002 Copyright © Socialist Review

The movement erupts

Shaking Labour to its core

George Galloway speaks to Peter Morgan about the growing opposition to Bush and Blair's war

George Galloway addresses an anti-war protest in London
George Galloway addresses an anti-war protest in London

What have been the effects of sanctions on the people of Iraq?

According to UN statistics well over 650,000 children under the age of five have died as a result of 11 years of sanctions. If you add to that the number of children over the age of five, as well as elderly and sick people, then the figure may reach 1.5 or 1.6 million Iraqis who have been directly slaughtered as a result of sanctions. This adds up to one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century, which one day a war crimes tribunal may be interested in investigating.

But it is not only the number of deaths. The lives of a whole generation of Iraqis have been completely blighted, and the impoverishment of the country is staggering to behold. If I put it in monetary terms, just before the embargo began you needed $3 to buy one Iraqi dinar. Now $1 would buy you 2,600 Iraqi dinars. So the economic devastation has been truly awesome.

Bush and Blair claim that Iraq has amassed weapons of mass destruction, which is why Saddam Hussein is such a threat. What is your response to that?

Why is it that some regimes are allowed to have weapons of mass destruction and not others? Why are Britain and the US allowed to have a mountain of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons? What is so special about 'us'? Is it because we have white faces, or that we can be counted upon not to attack other nations, and not to occupy other people's land and try to dominate them? I hardly think so.

Also, what about Israel, which is in the same region as Iraq? Thanks to the work of the brave Mordechai Vanunu, who is now in his fifteenth year of solitary confinement in an Israeli prison, we know that Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons as well as huge stocks of chemical and biological weapons.

As a matter of fact, Iraq is probably the only country in the region that does not have weapons of mass destruction. This is according to Scott Ritter, a former US marine who was deputy head of the United Nations arms inspectorate. He spent six years going round Iraq blowing up their weapons. He said in the British parliament at a meeting I was chairing that Iraq had been effectively disarmed since 1998, and that he could personally vouch for the destruction of 93 percent of Iraqi weapons capability.

There are not many countries in the world that have had 93 percent of their weapons capability destroyed. I wish that weapons everywhere had been destroyed to the same extent that they have been in Iraq.

So why have the US and Britain decided to target Iraq?

The problem is not dictatorship. You can be as dictatorial as you like in the Middle East, and elsewhere for that matter, as long as you are obeying orders. The dictators who obey orders from the US are safe, and can be propped up with impunity. But in this case Iraq long ago refused to accept American orders, and has become too big and powerful for the safety of Israel and the security of the Arabian Gulf for obvious strategic and economic reasons. Therefore a decision has been taken that Iraq has to be destroyed-broken up so as to discourage others who decide not to follow the US line, so no other country will ever emerge which is truly independent, and which can challenge Israel and its imperialist creators.

The US is bent on extending this brief window in which it is entirely hegemonic. It wants to crush any alternatives, and to intimidate the world with its awesome military power. It is expanding that power to the very frontiers of China and Russia.

Now it wants to land a quarter of a million soldiers in an Arab country for the invasion it plans for Iraq. This kind of expansion is frightening people the length and breadth of the country. So yes, in a world where the US intends to militarise space itself through the Son of Star Wars programme, as well as dominate the globe, we truly are facing awful dangers.

Do you believe Tony Blair will be able to keep the Labour government united for this latest war, and how important has the opposition been?

What I see on the faces of Labour ministers is that they have been shaken. I am absolutely sure that they know just how strong the opposition is inside the Labour Party itself, and there are reports that this has also split the cabinet. There is a mood sweeping the benches of New Labour that this is a war too far.

But if we go beyond parliament there is a very clear mood in the country against the war. Some of the press, such as the London Evening Standard, Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday are openly against the war. The Guardian, the Independent and the Daily Mirror are strongly opposing the war.

The attendances at the Stop the War Coalition rallies and meetings are increasing, and are full of young people with a very clear anti-imperialist perspective. I'm filled with optimism about the short and medium term future-not so much that the government will not join the war, because I think they will, but that they will pay a very high price if they do.

We have to build the anti-war movement because this crisis will not be the last. The US has seven countries on its list that it is prepared to launch a first strike nuclear attack upon. This is the kind of administration that we have in Washington, and it has to be opposed.


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