The Irresistible Descent Into War

Just as we predicted, Hans Blix has stabbed the Iraqis in the back. As the UN Security Council met in a private session to discuss the Anglo-American draft resolution that would pave the way for military action, a copy of the latest report by the chief weapons inspector was published by the BBC. In it, Hans Blix said it was "hard to understand" why measures now being taken by Iraq "could not have been initiated sooner", and that repeated demands for Iraq to disarm had shown only "very limited" results. The latest double talk in the deadly game of diplomacy means only one thing - war.

Just as we predicted, Hans Blix has stabbed the Iraqis in the back. As the UN Security Council met in a private session to discuss the Anglo-American draft resolution that would pave the way for military action, a copy of the latest report by the chief weapons inspector was published by the BBC. In it, Hans Blix said it was "hard to understand" why measures now being taken by Iraq "could not have been initiated sooner", and that repeated demands for Iraq to disarm had shown only "very limited" results.

As usual the report is a masterpiece of diplomatic double-talk. On the one hand it says:

“Iraq has further been helpful in getting Unmovic established on the ground, in developing the necessary infrastructure for communications, transport and accommodation ... Iraqi staff have been provided, sometimes in excessive numbers as escorts for the inspection teams. There have been minor frictions.

“Unmovic has been able to send surveillance aircraft over the entire country.

“The Iraqi Commission established to search for and present any prescribed items is potentially a mechanism of importance [...] It has so far reported only a few findings: four empty 122mm chemical munitions and recently two BW aerial bombs.

“Iraq has recently reported to Unmovic the commission had found documents ... concerning Iraq's unilateral destruction of proscribed items. As of the submission of this report, the documents are being examined.

“The list of names of personnel reported to have taken part in the unilateral destruction of biological and chemical weapons and missiles in 1991 will open the possibility for interviews which, if credible, might shed light on the scope of the unilateral actions. […]

“The destruction of some items [...] is taking place under Unmovic supervision and further such actions will take place.”

All this implies that the Iraqis are collaborating with the inspectrs. But then he says:

“The presidential decree [...] which prohibits private Iraqi citizens and mixed companies from engaging in work relating to weapons of mass destruction, standing alone, is not sufficient to meet the UN requirements.

“During the period of time covered by this report, Iraq could have made greater efforts to find any remaining proscribed items or provide credible evidence showing the absence of such items. The results in terms of disarmament have been very limited so far.

“The destruction of missiles ... has not yet begun. Iraq could have made full use of the declaration, which was submitted on 7 December.

It is hard to understand why a number of the measures, which are now being taken, could not have been initiated earlier. If they had been taken earlier, they might have borne fruit by now. It is only by the middle of January and thereafter that Iraq has taken a number of steps, which have the potential of resulting either in the presentation for destruction of stocks or items that are proscribed or the presentation of relevant evidence solving longstanding unresolved disarmament issues.” (My emphasis, AW.)

This nice, civilized Mr. Blick has all along been creating the impression of a reasonable, balanced man, in order the more effectively to betray.

It is clear that Iraq is, in fact, collaborating with the UN inspectors. They recently checked a pit in which Iraq claims it had destroyed bombs containing biological agents. They took samples from the site near al-Aziziya, 60 miles southeast of Baghdad, where Iraq said it had disposed of R-400 bombs in 1991. Inspectors also oversaw workers drill holes in 155mm artillery shells, containing mustard gas, which the government reported to the United Nations Monitoring and Verification Commission (Unmovic).

A South African delegation in Baghdad at the invitation of Iraq to help it destroy weapons of mass destruction maintained yesterday that President Saddam was genuine in saying he was willing to disarm. All to no avail. The issue here was never arms inspection but regime change – that is, getting rid of Saddam Hussein. There is nothing the Iraqis or anyone else can do now to halt the irresistible descent into war.

Revolt in the Labour Party

The leaked Blix report provided much needed comfort to Tony Blair. He was still reeling from the unprecedented rebellion by 121 Labour MPs who voted against him in the House of Commons on Wednesday night. The revolt of the parliamentary Labour Party was only a pale reflection of the fury that is building up in the ranks of the trade unions and Labour Party and in British society in general against Blair’s arrogant warmongering and slavish subseriance to the dictates of Washington. In fact, the situation in the parliamentary Labour Party is far worse than even these figures suggest. Many of those who voted for the Blair resolution on Iraq did so reluctantly, and only on the understanding that there would be a second UN resolution approving the war.

The strains are showing even in Blair’s cabinet. Robin Cook, the Leader of the Commons, and Clare Short, were among many ministers who made clear to the Prime Minister they shared many of the concerns of the rebellious backbenchers. The ministers said they were "hurting" politically in their constituencies over public fears that Britain will back an American-led war without a new UN mandate. If, as is possible, they fail to obtain a new resolution and the USA goes to war anyway, dragging Britain after it, the political consequences for Blair would be incalculable.

After the debacle in parliament, Blair was warned by cabinet ministers that the revolt had made "essential" the securing of a second UN resolution. This is now a matter of life and death for the British prime minister, who has placed his position in jeapordy by his stance on Iraq. Downing Street insisted the Prime Minister would not be swayed from his policy on action in Iraq. But Blair must be feeling awfully lonely. After his humilition in the House of Commons Blair flew to Madrid for talks with Jose Maria Aznar, Spain's Prime Minister. The leader of New Labour evidently feels more comfortable in the company of this right wing neo-Francoite than with his own Party.

Mr Aznar, like Blair, is showing signs of nervousness. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal he suggested that the US would be better able to win over opinion if it were to deploy Mr Powell more and muzzle the more hawkish defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. This nervousness is not surprising. Aznar is confronted by one of the biggest anti-war movements in Europe, which put six million protesters on the streets of Spain. But like Blair he is a “democrat” and therefore never listens to what the people are saying. The Spanish jackel has joined the British poodle in its “alliance” with the American wolf. They calculate that maybe at the end of the day, once the wolf has satisfied his appetite, there will be some rich pickings for them. But first it is necessary to get that second resolution from the Security Council.

An offer you can't refuse

In New York, America and Britain are frantically trying to build support for a second resolution. British officials at the UN headquarters in New York have recently become smugly confident about the prospects of getting such a resolution through the Security Council. They said that, while those members of the council opposed to military action would "find something" of comfort in the latest Blix report, they predicted it would help the Bush camp to achieve the nine votes it requires to pass the second resolution.

So far, Britain and America can be sure of the support of only Spain and Bulgaria in the Security Council. Syria, Germany and France have expressed their opposition to the resolution. China and Russia, while not supporting the resolution, are sitting on the sidelines to see what happens. So as the Security Council met in New York to discuss the second resolution, the US and Britain relentlessly piled the pressure on the handful of countries that hold the key to peace or war. The vote will most likely take place in the week beginning March 10. The US and Britain are engaged in a two-pronged push: to win the support of at least five of the six countries that are doubtful -Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan - and to prevent France, Russia and China using their vetoes.

Their methods are a none-too-subtle mixture of bribery and arm-twisting. In the words of Marlin Brando in The Godfather, they have “made them an offer they can’t refuse.”All of a sudden the presidents of Angola, Cameroon, Guinea, are receiving urgent telephone calls from the President of the United States who previously was not sure even where to find their countries on the map. The Angolan president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, has received phone calls from the President George Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, the secretary of state, Colin Powell, and the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice. No less! Chile, Pakistan and Mexico are also getting an unusual amount of attention.

A UN observer said: "The British are doing the diplomacy and the Americans are writing the cheques." An article in today’s issue of The Guardian (28th February), with this title, shows that this tactic is already getting results. Although the Angolan government officially denied that there was any change, its foreign minister, Joa Miranda, said: "Angola believes it is possible to wage war to achieve world peace."

Angola, which relies heavily on US investment and foreign aid, would be willing to come off the fence in return for aid. US companies are heavily involved in Angola's oil industry, and it is believed that the US gave technical intelligence support leading to the killing of the rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi, last year. Angola was offered help by the US for post-civil war reconstruction and Washington has said it would turn a blind eye if the government goes back on promises of moves to open democracy.

On Cameroon, The Guardian says: “Cameroon has been one of France's most forthright supporters in the security council, wanting to find any way to avoid war against Iraq. One of the reasons is that France is by far the biggest donor and business partner for Cameroon, and it carries most of the country's debt. On top of that one-third of the population of Cameroon is Muslim.

“On the other hand, it doesn't want to break ranks with the other African Security Council members, which look more likely to side with America. And with Cameroon's president, Paul Biya, facing a turbulent election to continue his 20-year rule, he is reluctant to upset the US or any other western contributor to the International Monetary Fund.

“Cameroonian ministers stress that their position is not entrenched and that the two weeks before the resolution deadline may be enough for the inspectors to complete their work.”

The article continues: “Chile: Public fiercely opposed to war, but trade ties may swing its vote Chile is currently under heavy pressure from the United States to fall into line on Iraq but has yet to make a final decision. Initially, Chile favoured a moderate approach which would allow the UN inspectors as much time as they needed but over the past two days they have come under increasing pressure to back the US.

“President Bush has personally called President Ricardo Lagos to ask for his support. While the details of the telephone conversation have not been revealed, there is much speculation in Chile that the US is using the possibility of a free trade agreement, currently under discussion in the US, to extract support from Lagos. Public opinion in Chile is opposed to the war and La Tercera newspaper summed up much of the media's reservations yesterday by running strong criticism of the USposition.

But Chilean diplomats say they are under pressure to back the US. Japan, a leading trading partner, has also been trying to persuade Chile to back the US position.

‘There is an incessant action by the United States with all the countries that are members of the Security Council,’ said the Chilean deputy foreign minis ter, Cristian Barrios, last week. ‘Every time the United States calls, it's to discuss the situation from their point of view.’

Guinea is a Moslim state, and is therefore maintaining a calculated ambiguity in public. But it is quietly weighing up advantages of siding with the US: “We are not going to sell our dignity because we need money or material. Not my country,” said its UN ambassador, Mamady Traore. But he immediately added: "We advocate continued inspections, but not indefinitely." And this phrase “not indefinitely” will be worth quite a lot of money in the next few days.

The reason for this circumspection is that France is its second biggest aid donor after the US. This is an impoverished state struggling to cope with refugees and regional turmoil and therefore has to work out which policy would be more compatible with its dignity and its national treasury. The USA has promised to train Guinea's army rangers; Guinea will also receive much of the £4m Britain recently earmarked for West Africa's refugees. Baroness Amos visited the capital, Conakry, earlier this week, doubtless with an open chequebook in her handbag.

The Mexican president, Vicente Fox, has also changed his tune. Mexico is perhaps in the most difficult position of all – “so far from God, so near to the United States”, as the saying goes. For years Mexico tried to stay out of the Security Council, precisely in order to avoid the kind of situation she now finds herself in. Public opinion is massively against the war, and this is an election year. But the pressure from Washington is remorseless, and Mexico's anti-war position is beginning to weaken.

Only last week President Vicente Fox publicly prayed for peace, but now he is urging the total disarmament of Iraq without adding the phrase "by peaceful means". The government insists that nothing has changed and that it is merely promoting a consensus solution within the Security Council, but the tone is undoubtedly new, opening for the first time the possibility of a vote in favour of a resolution giving a green light to military action.

Pakistan is also in a difficult position. The masses are overwhelmingly against US imperialism. But at the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Kuala Lumpur, general Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president said that "All weapons of mass destruction should be destroyed. We'll take a definite position after seeing the Blix report." He is under the pressure of US imperialism, which has dispatched Christina Rocca, the US assistant secretary of state, to Islamabad to secure his vote. But Musherraf is also under tremendous pressure from the vast majority of Pakistanis who are implacably opposed to a war in Iraq. Therefore Pakistan will probably abstain. Here again the Americans are playing with fire. In the event of war mass street protests will erupt all over Pakistan with revolutionary implications.

Turkey and Kurdistan

In the cynical game of Great Power diplomacy, haggling plays approximately the same role as in a Middle Eastern street market. It is not considered good form to immediately accept the first offer. One must examine the goods, find fault, drink a cup of coffee, then another, then walk out of the shop and wait to be called back, and so on, until a final bargain is struck. In New York, a UN official said some of the council member states were "sitting on fences, asking lots of questions". The reason for this tactic is neither moral scrupulousness nor academic rigor. They are holding out for more cash.

The Turks are among the finest hagglers in the world (as this writer can attest from personal experience). They are not members of the Security Council, and so they have no votes to sell. But they have an even more marketable commodity – military bases on Iraq’s northern frontier. They have also kept the Americans waiting before finally giving them permission to land their troops on Turkish soil. They have obviously driven a hard bargain.

US officials have been shocked by Turkish resolve to squeeze the last drop of profit in return for its bases and also to pursue its own interests in northern Iraq. They are used to shopping in large supermarkets where the price of the goods is clearly displayed. But the Turkish bourgeois are not only expert hagglers: they are very conscious of their strength. They are imposing their own conditions, insisting that the US envoy to the Iraqi opposition, Zalmay Khalilzad, reduce the number of his bodyguards before crossing into Iraqi Kurdistan and even turning back the retired general Wayne Downing, the White House's former expert on counter- terrorism, when he tried to cross the border.

A major part of this bargaining is economic in character. The Turkish bourgeois want compensation in advance for the cost of the war, running into billions of dollars. The deal would also give Turkey up to $30bn (£19bn) in US grants and loan guarantees. But there is another aspect of this haggling that is potentially much more serious. The Ankara government wants a free hand for its army in northern Iraq – that is to say, it wants a free hand to deal with the Kurds.

The deal has yet to be put to the Turkish parliament and, with Turkish public opinion deeply hostile to any American-led war in Iraq, the ruling party again yesterday postponed a vote. However, Turkey said yesterday it was close to reaching agreement with Washington on troop deployment that would also allow 40,000 Turkish soldiers to occupy part of northern Iraq. This is part of an outline deal allowing America to deploy 60,000 troops inside Turkey to open up a northern front with Iraq. In return for this, Washington has clearly agreed to allow Turkey to launch a de facto invasion of part of Iraqi Kurdistan.

America’s betrayal of the Kurds is now public. Turkish officials say America has promised to stop Iraqi Kurds gaining a large measure of autonomy after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The Turkish imperialists are terrified that giving the Kurds increased military strength would encourage them to form their own state. That could in turn inspire Turkey's Kurdish minority. They will therefore be allowed to intervene to crush the Kurds inside Iraq – with the full agreement of the USA. The two sides are reported to have agreed that US officers would arm and disarm Kurdish opposition groups in northern Iraq under the supervision of Turkish officers.

America has indicated that the Turkish troops will cross the border and advance at least 12.5 miles into Iraqi Kurdistan on a 200-mile front. Turkey has made it quite clear that its invasion of Iraq is not directed against the Iraqi army but is intended to reduce Kurdish influence in a post-war settlement. In particular Turkey is seeking to prevent the takeover of the city of Kirkuk by returning Kurdish refugees deported over many years by the Iraqi regime.

These moves have prompted alarm among Iraq's Kurdish leaders, who now fear they have been sold out. They are quite right. Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurdish leader, asked if the purpose of the impending US-led war was "to liberate Iraq, or is it to lead to the domination of the Kurdish people, who are 25 per cent of the Iraqi people?" This question answers itself. It is now clear to eveyone except a blind man that Iraq is facing two invasions with entirely different targets. The US attack will be directed against the government in Baghdad and the Turkish army once again will be attacking the Kurds. This will mean bloody clashes with the Kurdish forces. Zebari has said that if the Turks did invade "there would be clashes". That is an understatement.

Turkey says one of its aims is to prevent an exodus of Kurdish refugees into Turkey, as happened in 1991. The Kurds respond by saying the mass flight was the result of an attack by the Iraqi army, which is unlikely to be repeated. Zalmay Khalilzad, the American envoy to the Iraqi opposition, went to the Kurdish stronghold of Salahudin, seeking without much success to reassure the Kurds. He said the Turkish army's action would be "fully co-ordinated" with America. However, Turkey has insisted that its troops will not be under US command. The Kurdish people fear the Turks more than they do Saddam Hussein. They do not believe America is in a position to guarantee that Turkish soldiers will not advance beyond an initial 12.5-mile limit.

We have warned from the very beginning that this would happen. The bourgeois nationalist leaders of the Kurds have only themselves to blame. The imperialists cannot be trusted to defend the right of self-determination of the Kurds, or the Palestines or anyone else. For them, the oppresssion of small peoples is merely small change in their diplomatic intrigues. To agree to collaborate with Washington in its so-called war of liberation in Iraq was an act of criminal stupidity.

Washington answers the concerns of the Iraqi and Kurdish opposition with reassuring words: given a choice between Kurdish and Turkish support, America feels that it has no choice but to choose Turkey. However: "It is important now for our Kurdish friends to work with us and our ally Turkey to support the liberation of all the Iraqi people." To this, a Kurdish official immediately placed a finger on this passage, pointing out the distinction between "friends" and "allies".

For America, this is a simple commercial transaction. The US army is desperate for Turkish bases because it wants to open a northern front against Baghdad. The Iraqis have 12 divisions on the front line with Iraqi Kurdistan, according to Karim Sinjari, Interior Minister of the Kurdish region and former head of security in Arbil, the main city in Kurdish northern Iraq. He said the Iraqi Fifth Army Corps with five regular divisions and one Republican Guard division was defending Mosul, and the First Army Corps with another Republican Guard division was around Kirkuk. He said the number of Iraqi soldiers on the front line was at least 120,000.

Mosul and Kirkuk are very important because they contain vital oil fields. They are also part of the Kurdish area in Iraq. But the rapacious Turkish bourgeois have long had their eye on them, and have no intention of allowing them to fall into Kurdish hands. That is the key question here.

Iraqi opposition leaders meeting in Salahudin issued a statement yesterday condemning the Turkish invasion. It said: "As a principle the Iraqi opposition is committed to oppose any regional intervention in the internal affairs of Iraq." This is quite amusing. The so-called Iraqi opposition is “opposed in principle” to the intervention of the Turkish army in Iraq, but is willing to welcome with open arms that of the US army!

These pathetic bourgeois opposition leaders have played a lamentable role. They foolishly believed George Bush when he promised them “democracy”. Now it is clear that what he has in mind is a military dictatorship under an American imperial governor, for an indefinate period of time. And all those who protested about the dictatorial Baathist regime with its secret police and torturers must have been pleased to dear that the US colonial administration plans to include elements from the old regime to help them run the country. This will undoubtedly include members of Saddam Hussein’s secret police, who will be the first ones to offer their services to the conquerers. So much for democracy!

Europe, Russia and America

The antagonism between the USA, France and Germany is far sharper than what seemed to be the case a few months ago. Here undoubtedly the ham-fistedness of Bush and Rumsfeld played a role. They have driven Chirac into a corner from whence he now finds it difficult to extricate himself. But the unerlying cause is the conflict of interests of US and French imperialism in the Middle East and on a world scale. However, in the past, France would have protested and made a fuss and then backed down. This time, however, it is not clear that this will be the case.

France and Russia — both permanent council members with veto power over UN activities — as well as Germany have put forward a counter-plan to strengthen and continue weapons inspections for at least four more months. France, which has led the opposition to military action against Iraq, is still opposed to the US-backed resolution. It also has veto power and has hinted it might use it.  In the end, however, it is not certain that France will use the veto. The Americans, in a language of unprecedentd buntness, have warned that this would be regarded as an “unfriendly act”. As the moment of truth approaches, Chirac’s courage is beginning to evaporate. Now France is trying to ensure the second resolution does not get put to a vote, which would rid it of this dilemma. According to The Guardian (28th February):

“A small but increasingly vocal group of Jacques Chirac's MPs have urged him against using the veto, arguing that it could gravely damage France's relations with the US and undermine the security council if Mr Bush then ignored it.

China and Russia have issued a joint declaration saying war with Iraq "can and should be avoided" and appealing for more time for UN weapons inspectors there. Russian foreign Minister Igor Ivanov warned at a news conference in Beijing: "Russia has the right to a veto in the UN Security Council and will use it if it is necessary in the interests of international stability".

"Of course, if you use the veto power you should fully understand the responsibilities of it before using it. It can only be used for international peace and stability," Mr Ivanov said. "At the same time Russia will not be in favor of any new resolution which allows the use of military force directly or indirectly to solve the Iraqi issue". These words seem to suggest that Russia is on a colision course with the USA. If this is the case, it shows once more the extreme shortsightedness of the Bush administration.

It would have been quite possible to buy the Russians off with a suitable offer of monetary compensation. Maybe the Russians were asking too much. Or maybe the Americans decided that they had nothing to fear from Russia anyway. America’s financial resources are huge, but not unlimited. And there is already a long and growing queue of “allies” all holding out their hands. Maybe the Americans decided it was time to show the Russians who is boss in the world. That would be entirely in the style of the Texan cowboy in the White House. But if so then greed for short-term gain threatens the USA’s long-term interests on a world scale. It is not a good idea to antagonise Putin when he is attempting to do a deal with America. This can easily push Russia into the arms of China, France and Germany in a worldwide attempt to bloc America’s advance. The long-term impliations of such a development would be very serious.

The Russians have so far gained very little from their policy of cuddling up to America. This policy was never very popular anyway with an important layer of the Russian military establishment. Putin must be under pressure to change his emphasis and forge closer links with China and Europe. Since the tensions between Europe and America are growing by the day, this has provided fertile ground for such a repprochement. It is possible that the noises coming out of Moscow are a reflection of this.

The slide towards war

With time running out, Iraq is poised to make another concession to try to ward off invasion. But the hopelessness of diplomacy was sharply underlined when Bagdhad offered to destroy its al-Samoud 2 missiles – a desperate measure when the country is faced with imminent attack. For some members of the Security Council, the issue of the al-Samoud 2 missiles – which exceed the range set by the UN by just 27 miles– is the final test of Iraq's will to comply. But this is an illusion.

Continuing to play the farce of inspection right to the bitter end, Blix has dispatched his deputy, Demetrius Perricos, to the Iraqi capital to discuss "the pace of the destruction" of the missiles. This is a joke in very bad taste. Bagdhad’s offer to destroy the missiles was immediately rejected by Washington as “yet another example of Iraqi duplicity”. President Bush has claimed they represent only the "tip of the iceberg" of Iraq's illegal weapons.

London said a pledge on destruction of missiles still fell far short of Iraq's obligations to disarm. Mr Blair's spokesman said: "We always thought this was likely to be part of the drip feed of concessions. This is how he [Saddam] plays the concession game. It is not the full, immediate co-operation that resolution 1441 demands." And Bush added: "The only question at hand is total, complete disarmament, which he is refusing to do." The message could not be clearer. No matter what the Iraqis do now, will be wrong.

While the diplomatic minuet contined, with Saddam offering to debate with Bush (the response was predictable), the signs in Iraq indicate that Saddam is already aware that nothing he could do or say would avoid a military strike against his country. Consequently, the Iraqis are making military preparations. American military officials say they have detected movements of elite troops into new defensive positions. That is hardly surprising.

Saddam called for "full preparations" for conflict during a meeting with the governors of the country's 18 provinces, and ordered that they must ensure the populace had adequate shelters. They should dig in their gardens, he said, "so that even if a shell should fall on their home, God forbid, a deep trench will protect them". The governors, in olive uniforms and black berets, said they were ready and prepared "to confront the invaders" and they had formed "jihad groups of clerics and tribesmen to fight the attackers, and commando units to hunt helicopters". Troops, armed police and paramilitaries were seen taking up positions in Baghdad yesterday after the Iraqi leader warned of impending war and asked for his citizens to dig trenches to prepare for American and British air attacks.

Some sources consider it likely that the Iraqis will fight to defend Kirkuk and Mosul in the north. Mosul is a largely Sunni Arab city that has provided many officers for the Iraqi army and its loss would be a psychological blow to the regime. According to The Independent (28th February, 2002): "Saddam's plan is to fight in the cities because this has two advantages for him: the US will not be able to use its air force, and the Iraqi army knows the terrain better than the Americans."

However, Mosul is a very exposed position. It seems more likely, therefore, that the Iraqis will retreat from at Mosul and regroup in Tikrit, the stronghold of Saddam Hussein. They will to try to hold the more southerly urban areas, primarily Baghdad, Tikrit and Basra. This seems to be confirmed by American intelligence that says it has detected the movement of elite Iraqi army troops including elements of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard into new positions. Defence officials said that in recent days trucks had been sent to the north to pick up members of the Republican Guard and reposition them around Tikrit.

Troops and police have begun wartime exercises in Baghdad, with important installations now guarded by anti-aircraft batteries, and walls of sandbags being erected. The Iraqi government has increased the amount of food rations distributed to the population and advised them to stock up on essential supplies. Iraqi foreign ministry officials refused to discuss any details, insisting the movements were "routine and limited". But there is nothing routine or limited about it. These are serious preparations for war.

Many people are asking how it is possible that after the massive demonstrations of millions of people, the threat of war has not been averted. The answer is shown by all of history. Serious questions are always settled by war – either war between the nations or war between the classes. The only way to prevent imperialist wars is to disarm the imperialists. This cannot be achieved by demonstrations or pacifist appeals. The ruling class will never voluntarily give up its weapons: no devil has ever cut off its claws.

The present war is only a symptom of a far more profound disease. The capitalist system in its period of decline has entered into a phase of convulsions that threaten the future of civilization, the environment and even life itself. It is necessary to put an end to this rotten and decrepit system that breeds only injustice, hunger, misery and death. The struggle against war, imperialism and militarism must be transformed into an international class war against capitalism, for the socialist transformation of society. There is only way to disarm the imperialists: the working class must take the power into its own hands. That is the only answer to the present barbarism.