Day X. Where next?.
Where next for the anti-war movement?
The inevitable result is the destruction of the schools, the homes, and above all the bodies - the lives - of countless of those self same Iraqis. Aid agencies estimate that over ten million Iraqis will face starvation as a result of the war. The Pentagon has called this carnage ’awesome’ but most of the world’s population see it for what it is - blood spilt for oil.
Never before have our rulers gone to war in the face of such massive international opposition. The anti-war movement to date has been magnificent. It has shaken the governments of the world and left Tony Blair hanging on to power by a thread, yet it has not stopped the war.
For US imperialism to back down now would be a devastating blow to their prestige. This premeditated showdown with Iraq has always been conceived by George Bush as a war, not for democracy or human rights, but for the economic and strategic interests of US imperialism, especially the oil companies.
It is really a war for oil but it has increasingly also become a struggle by Bush to re-assert the dominance of the USA on the world stage.
To stop the war in these circumstances would mean building a movement so powerful that the interests of Bush, and those of the US capitalist class, are put at greater risk from a movement at home than they would be by not going to war.
Strike action is key
IF THEY are given free reign, Bush and Co will not stop with the current war. This is demonstrated graphically by the notes Rumsfeld wrote on September 11. While the world reeled with shock as the twin towers collapsed, Rumsfeld wrote: "Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at the same time. Not only UBL [Osama Bin Laden]. Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related or not."
Just as it was the movement against the Vietnam war that played a major role in forcing the US to pull out, it can be the current anti-war movement (already far bigger than any previous anti-war movement, including Vietnam) that can stop Rumsfeld and Co’s plans to "go massive".
Mass movements against the war worldwide can play the primary role in derailing Bush’s plans to continue waging his so-called ’war on terror’, which is in reality a campaign of using brutal military force in order to assert US capitalism’s dominance of the globe.
The huge demonstrations, and particularly the strikes and workplace walkouts against the war, both in Britain and internationally, show the way forward. Whilst they have not yet achieved their aims, they have weakened and undermined the position of Bush and, above all, of Blair.
The school students have already shown the older generation what can be achieved with their audacious and determined strike action.
However, it is trade union members - of which there are over seven million in Britain - that are potentially the most powerful force in the country. Trade unionists should step up their campaign for an emergency TUC congress to plan action against the war.
The Socialist Party, along with others, would campaign at such a conference for a 24-hour work stoppage. If the TUC campaigned for such a stoppage it would win support well beyond those who are already organised in trade unions. It would bring Britain to a halt in a massive show of strength against the war.
Some left trade union leaders, such as Billy Hayes (general secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union) have already demanded that the TUC call a 24-hour work stoppage.
However, if the right-wing TUC leaders refuse to call strike action against the war that isn’t the end of the matter. Left anti-war union leaders should conduct a massive campaign to build for strike action.
The Stop the War Coalition People’s Assembly is calling, at the behest of the Socialist Party, for the left trade union leaders to produce 2,000 leaflets building for strike action and explaining to workers how to avoid disciplinary action.
Fight against war - fight for socialism
THE STRUGGLE for a planet without war goes beyond the struggle against Bush’s ’war on terror’. Conflict and instability are all the norm in our capitalist profit system that is riven by crisis.
The big imperialist powers have always gone to war to defend the profits of their rich elites, as was summed up by a US Strategic Planner in 1948 when he said of the US:
"We have 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. In this situation, our real job in the coming period...is to maintain this position of disparity. To do so, we have to dispense with all sentimentality...we should cease thinking about human rights, the raising of living standards and democratisation."
This is true not only of the US but of all the capitalist powers. This war has revealed the United Nations for what it is. Far from representing the ’international community’ it represents the major capitalist powers, which are all routinely engaged in open bribery and vote buying to further their own profit interests. Even those who’ve opposed the war have done so partially in response to the mass movements against the war but also for their own capitalist, power-play interests.
After all, the permanent members of the Security Council were all prepared to go along with UN sanctions against Iraq for over a decade. The sanctions were described by Dennis Halliday, the former co-ordinator of the UN’s Humanitarian programme in Iraq, as "satisfying the definition of genocide". On average, between 1991 to 1998, 5,200 under-fives a month died as a result of the sanctions.
In contrast to the UN, the anti-war movement has shown the possibility of a real ’international community’. To permanently end the threat of war and terror and to build an international community based on genuine democracy and cooperation we have to fight for the end of capitalism and for the establishment of a democratic socialist world run in the interests of the billions instead of for the profits of the billionaires.
WAR WITH Iraq is beginning with a massive bombing blitz dubbed the ’Big Bang’. In the war against Afghanistan US planes were dropping seven-ton "daisy cutter" bombs which descended on parachutes and caused a massive pressure shock of 1,000 pounds per square inch, killing indiscriminately over a wide area.
Recently the US Air Force tested in Florida a bigger (ten-ton) version of the daisy cutter, the Massive Ordnance Air Burst (MOAB). MOAB, the ’Mother of All Bombs’, is satellite-guided rather than parachuted down but this won’t stop "collateral damage". This grisly weapon spreads a flammable mist over the target then ignites it.
This fuel-air explosive charge produces a highly destructive blast said to be "similar to a small nuclear weapon".
Even in the most ’advanced’ system of mass destruction, up to 10% of all guided bombs miss their targets - in a mass bombing campaign that can kill thousands.
In January 1991 the US and its allies began bombing Iraq’s cities in Operation Desert Storm. The bombing campaign sent out 90,000 sorties before the land battle and 16,000 during it. 100,000 Iraqis were killed or injured in the 100-hour land war.
In the 1990-91 Gulf War, civilian casualties, which the sanitised and military-controlled press coverage called collateral damage, were extensive.
On 13 January 1991, around 400 Iraqi civilians - men, women and children - burned to death when US planes bombed the Amiriya shelter in Baghdad.
A bombing attack on a bridge in Nasiriyeh in February killed 47 civilians and wounded 102, - many people were thrown into the river Euphrates when the bridge exploded. This bombing campaign left many thousands dead, destroyed much of Iraq’s infrastructure and created millions of refugees.
This time round, as many bombs as were dropped in the whole of the last war are expected to be dropped in the first two days, with terrible consequences for the Iraqi people.
The alternative to war
"YOU’RE ANTI-war but what would you do about dictators like Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction?".
This is a comment that many protesters will have come across while campaigning against war with Iraq. Judy Beishon looks at some of the alternatives to war, including the socialist alternative.
The Guardian newspaper recently asked 30 well-known people who oppose war on Iraq, what they would do to stop Saddam Hussein from using weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in the future. Some answered by condemning the hypocrisy of the US regime and stating that war on Iraq will worsen the plight of the Iraqi people, creating new instability throughout the planet.
However, despite the truth of this answer, it will not assuage fear of future use of WMDs by Saddam, by another regime or by terrorist groups internationally.
Although good points were made by many of the people that the Guardian interviewed, all posed ’alternatives’ within the context of capitalism. Most supported some form of interference or threat by the major capitalist powers in the world.
This, especially following the 15 February anti-war demonstrations by millions internationally, shows a lack of confidence in the ability of ordinary people to take action in their own interests. In Serbia, for example, it was a mass uprising of the Serbian people that ultimately overthrew the dictator Milosevic.
On one extreme, John Killick, former British ambassador to the USSR, argued for: "applying the sanctions forcefully", having ready "a small, strike-ready force .... to keep him in check" and telling Saddam that "if he were to use any of his nasty weapons he would be nuked". However, stricter sanctions and any kind of military intervention would worsen the plight of the Iraqi people. It would also increase the likelihood of WMDs being used elsewhere in the world (and possibly in Iraq) as anger would increase further against the US regime and its global supporters.
Composer Michael Berkeley advocated "covert operations" to topple Saddam. But what comes afterwards? Even if the imperialist powers could have removed Saddam by ’covert operations’, they would only have done so to then try to install a new regime that would reflect their own interests.
While socialists share an abhorrence of the present Iraqi regime, we have no illusions that by intervening in Iraq, any of the capitalist powers can offer a decent alternative for the Iraqi people, or be certain to prevent present or future use of WMDs.
Whether on their own or in cohorts with other powers through institutions like the UN, the capitalist ruling classes will act in their own interests - for prestige and oil in the case of Iraq - and not in the interests of their own populations or of the Iraqi masses.
It is the task of the Iraqi people and other peoples around the world to remove their own brutal dictators and any WMDs they might have, and to replace them with a government in their own interests.
AT THE other end of the spectrum, interviewees such as writer Margaret Drabble and journalist Ro-bert Fisk were advocates of continued UN weapons ins-pections. Following recent manoeuvrings at the top of the UN, a growing number of people who had illusions in the UN’s role are having them shattered.
It is understandable that many people internationally feel that some kind of international body should exist to act in the interests of the world’s people.
But the UN is not such an organisation, consisting as it does of representatives of the capitalist classes of the world, dominated by the major capitalist powers and US imperialism in particular. The real international community is represented by the millions around the world who demonstrated against war on 15 February.
However well-meaning UN weapons inspectors are as individuals, they will reflect to some degree the interests of their pay-masters and cannot guarantee at the end of the day that Saddam or anyone else has no WMDs or will not make them in the future. Nor can inspectors alleviate the suffering of the masses caused by poverty and oppressive regimes.
Another ’alternative’ posed was for "modernisation of the area, giving people access to information and promoting the democratic process". One interviewee argued for debt relief and removing reparation "to enhance moves towards democracy", and another for the forming of "political friendship" to "bring Iraq back into the fold".
US professor Noam Chomsky, amongst others, argued that UN-backed sanctions have devastated the Iraqi population, reducing its energy to fight and strengthening Saddam by giving him a propaganda weapon, and forcing reliance by the Iraqi people on his handouts for their survival. He reasoned that if sanctions were ended, the Iraqi people would be able to rise up and get rid of Saddam.
It is true that sanctions on Iraq have led to incredible hardship and hundreds of thousands of deaths and must be condemned. Lifting them would aid Iraqi workers’ ability to struggle, but it cannot be assumed that it would have led to the fast overthrow of Saddam.
Many terrible regimes in the world have endured for long periods without the existence of sanctions. But Noam Chomsky is right in suggesting that mass action by Iraqi workers is necessary to remove Saddam.
OTHER ’ALTERNATIVES’ mentioned above, such as debt relief and capitalist democracy that would improve the lives of the Iraqi people should be supported. But, by remaining within the confines of capitalism they can’t lead to decent living standards for ordinary people or stability in Iraq.
The capitalist system worldwide is in severe, prolonged crisis and is not in a position to consistently raise the living standards of workers and the poor in Iraq or anywhere else. Despite promises made to the people of Afghanistan, they are still suffering from repressive rule and poverty.
Several of the Guardian’s interviewees saw part of the alternative to war on Iraq as being the solving of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which fuels Arab anti-imperialist sentiment, and bolsters the position of Saddam. However, this conflict is a prime example of the inability of the capitalist powers worldwide to provide resources for the raising of basic living standards and to provide solutions for the ending of national conflicts in the Middle East or anywhere.
The only alternative that will prevent future Saddams and guarantee a decent future for the Iraqi people and workers and poor internationally is to build the forces of socialism in Iraq, in the Middle East and globally.
We must support the building of mass workers’ parties and of links between them, so that workers internationally can aid Iraqi and other workers in their struggles for decent living standards, real democracy and a socialist future free from WMDs and war.