Issue 273 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published April 2003 Copyright © Socialist Review
This was not how Bush and Blair said it would be. It is already clear that the 'short sharp shock' that we were promised is now giving way to a far more prolonged campaign. For the ordinary people in Baghdad, Basra and other Iraqi cities who have suffered terribly already this is a frightening prospect. It is also causing splits in the US military command, between Donald Rumsfeld and Tommy Franks.
Frustrated on the battlefield, US and British military planners are now resorting to even more aerial bombardments, with a huge increase in the number of innocent civilians killed and many more suffering devastating shrapnel wounds the inevitable result. On top of this the siege of major cities intensifies.
Despite their military superiority the problems for Bush and Blair are mounting. In part this is because the military resistance the army is experiencing in Iraq is far greater than was envisaged. It is little wonder that after 12 years of sanctions and repeated bombing raids ordinary people are not welcoming the US and British forces as the 'liberators' they claim to be. But opposition to this war also continues to grow on the streets.
The day the war started, protests were held in every major city in the world, and this was followed by huge demonstrations the following weekend. In Britain school students forced the closure of Parliament Square, and were joined later by thousands of other students and workers. The following Saturday over half a million took to the streets of London in the biggest ever demonstration during a war. Since then numerous local protests have drawn significant numbers of people onto the streets. Another national demonstration is planned for 12 April, and a TUC-backed mobilisation for May Day will be a further rallying point.
This is having a significant impact on other protests throughout the world, not least in the Middle East itself. Bomber Rumsfeld would probably be quite happy to bomb Baghdad back into the Dark Ages, but even he cannot ignore the opposition to this war in the region. Already there are reports of thousands of ordinary people wanting to return to defend Iraq. As the Economist reported on 29 March, 'With something of the passion of young Europeans joining the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, Arabs are heading for the Iraqi front lines... Jordanian officials, fresh from erecting refugee camps, are handling less an Iraqi influx than an outflux of the kingdom's Iraqi exiles.'
Unrest against the Middle East rulers who have done little to oppose US and British imperialism is growing. The word 'intifada', which used to be applied exclusively to the Palestinian struggle against Israeli aggression, can now be used to describe the growing revolt sweeping the region.
Protests at home combined with revolt abroad is increasing the pressure on the Blair government. On top of this is the continuing resistance to attacks at home. Firefighters are reluctant to accept the shoddy deal offered to them, raising the prospect of further walkouts. Rail guards are taking strike action over safety. So worried is Blair about domestic opposition that Labour delayed the bill to set up foundation hospitals and the principle of charging for healthcare. This is a weak and divided government whose future is as uncertain as the military campaign in Iraq. The more we protest, strike and demonstrate against it the more we increase the likelihood that it will be defeated--raising the prospect of an end to the war in Iraq. As the bombs rain down on Baghdad and as the suffering continues there is no time to lose.