Issue 270 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published January 2003 Copyright © Socialist Review
George W Bush and Tony Blair are resolved to bring devastating war to the people of Iraq. Bush's justification of this blatant aggression--'We cannot...allow the world's worst regimes to develop the world's worst weapons'--better describes the rogue superpower than the numerous countries it wants to bring to heel. US military spending of $17 trillion since the Second World War dwarfs that of any other nation. The current administration's continued detention and torture of 'enemy combatants' without charge or trial at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram and elsewhere, alongside its internment of thousands of foreign nationals within the US, is testimony to the Bush gang's contempt for the 'freedom and democracy' of their own rhetoric.
Bush's bluster about Iraqi 'defiance' would be laughable if it wasn't such a clear signal for a coming assault. Iraq has provided the UN with an extensive account of its military capabilities. The US seized this, claiming it had the best photocopiers, edited out unfortunate references to itself and its allies, and then complained that it was too long. Iraq has also submitted to UN weapons inspections, despite previous infiltration by the CIA, which fed information to US and British bombing raids. At the time of writing, inspections of 230 sites have failed to provide the 'material breach' many hawks hope will provide a pretext for war--but troops are massing around the Gulf nonetheless.
Tony Blair and Jack Straw have both repeated Bush's spurious connecting of Iraq and Al Qaida, despite the only known link being that both were once recipients of US weapons and training. An estimated 20,000 British troops are also being mobilised. This open adherence to Bush's plans is creating heightened disillusionment within Labour's ranks. The pledge to 'reorder the world' at Labour's 2001 conference--which some hoped reflected an intention to tackle global poverty--has been revealed for the imperial statement of intent it was. Anger at the grassroots is leading the party to haemorrhage members and creating a live debate about the unions' political funds.
The understanding that this war is primarily about control of the region's vast oil reserves (of which Iraq has a proven 113 billion barrels) is infusing opposition with a politicisation and radicalism on an unprecedented international scale. This global mood of anti-imperialism has been obvious at the Palestinian, European, Asian and World Social Forums, resulting in the historic decision to coordinate an international day of action on 15 February.
In Britain we have a special duty to mobilise against Bush's fig leaf of international support, Tony Blair. The Stop the War Coalition's demonstration next month can create a taste of the Social Forums in London. Numerous economists fear that the end of an unsustainable housing boom will prevent consumer spending from propping up the British economy, and lead to the kind of strife suffered in Japan and Germany in recent years. This is adding to a groundswell of discontent about New Labour's priorities.
Privatisation is the model the neoliberals have for every public service, from foundation hospitals to specialist schools. Public sector pay is held down and firefighters demonised while money is lavished on destruction. The consequences of these policies, both for people in Britain and worldwide, give the message of many home-made placards--'regime change begins at home'--a real urgency.