With splits surfacing even within the Blair cabinet over war with Iraq (although they have not formally discussed the question!), opposition to this military adventure is swiftly growing within the British Labour movement. Many unions are determined to raise the matter at the TUC and Labour Party conferences, which is now threatening to dominate the political agenda.
Many in the Labour movement and beyond have had enough of Blair’s trailing after George W. Bush. Clearly there is precious little public support for war on Iraq. Already 160 MPs, mostly Labour backbenchers, have signed an early-day motion opposing military action. That is why Blair is refusing a vote on the issue in Parliament. Although he would probably win such a vote (with Tory support naturally), he doesn’t want in any way to embarrass his American allies.
Despite all the talk of “rogue states” and “weapons of mass destruction”, the actions of the USA, the world’s chief military bully boy, has for hundreds of millions made it the number one “rogue state”. While it cynically attempts to crush Iraq with a blockade and no-fly zone, it turns a blind eye to the brutal oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli state. Meanwhile untold numbers of Iraqi children have died or are suffering malnutrition from the imperialist embargo.
But for rulers of America, these ‘Christian’ ladies and gentlemen, nothing must stand in the way of their supremacy. The arrogance and cynicism of American imperialism is truly astonishing. Bush has now devised a new military doctrine to allow the USA to strike at any potential threat to its interests.
Incredibly, opposition to Bush has come from within his own rightwing Republican Party and from members of previous Administrations. Sections of the ruling class, the more far-sighted, have realised that war on Iraq will not be a simple affair. It will be very messy, provoking upheaval throughout the whole of the Middle East, starting with Jordan and even Saudi Arabia. There is not one stable regime in the region. War could result in the overthrow of a series of unstable pro-American dictatorships, and provoke social revolution.
Even Henry Kissinger, whose remarks about Chile - “we cannot allow a country to go communist because of the irresponsibility of its people” - clearly puts him in the camp of Bush, has advised caution. A Senator Hagel, who was among the earliest voices to question Bush’s approach to Iraq, said that the Central Intelligence Agency had “absolutely no evidence” that Iraq possesses or will soon possess nuclear weapons.
He said that Bush’s policy of pre-emptive strikes at governments armed with “weapons of mass destruction” could induce India to attack Pakistan and could create the political cover for Israel to expel Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza.
“You can take the country into a war pretty fast,” Hagel said, “but you can’t get out as quickly.”
Of course, these concerns are not about the plight of the Iraqi people, or the plight of the oppressed masses of the world. Far from it. It is about power politics. They are simply concerns about how best to pursue the global interests of American imperialism.
However, these hesitations are dismissed by George Bush, and on this side of the Atlantic, by his close ally Tony Blair. No wonder that 54% of voters in a Daily Telegraph poll believed “Mr. Blair looks increasingly like President Bush’s poodle.”
Militarily Britain is not needed by the United States. Her contribution would be insignificant. What Bush wants is Blair’s political support as a cover for America’s unilateral military adventure. And Blair is Bush’s stooge.
This is not a question, as some on the Left maintain, of the need for United Nations approval before Iraq can be attacked. The UN has never been able to resolve major international conflicts. It is a forum of mainly capitalist powers. Occasionally, it has been used as a fig leaf for imperialist aggression where common agreement can be reached, such as in the Gulf War. We certainly cannot put our faith in the UN.
The Labour movement must look to its own independent class policies in war as well as in peacetime. It must base itself on international class solidarity with the oppressed peoples of the world. The removal of Saddam Hussein, who was backed by the West when it suited them (for example during the Iraq-Iran war), or the overthrow of the imperialist-sponsored dictatorships in the Middle East and elsewhere, is not the responsibility of imperialism. The removal of the Taliban regime and the imposition of an American-friendly government have not solved the problems of the Afghan people. It is the responsibility of the oppressed people themselves to decide their own fate. The British Labour movement must extend them the hand of solidarity and support in this task.
Foreign policy is a continuation of home policy. The slavish support of American imperialism by the Blair government is a continuation of their pro-big business policy at home. The struggle against Blair’s pro-war policy overseas must go hand in hand with the fight for socialist policies in Britain. For far too long these middle class carpetbaggers infiltrated the Labour movement and taken it far to the right. Now the tide is beginning to turn, as witnessed in the recent trade union leadership elections. The trade unions created the Labour Party and it was time it was taken back from the Blairites. Only then will we have a Labour government that will represent our interests - at home and abroad.
No to Bush’s war!
For a socialist foreign policy!
Defeat Blairism - Unions must reclaim the Labour Party!
No to big business! Socialist policies now!