The moves by France, Germany and Russia to slow the mad stampede of the Bush and Blair regimes to launch a war on Iraq are hugely significant. It is absolutely incredible that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, speaking on behalf of the Government today, did not even refer to these new circumstances. Why? It is because the Government is absolutely terrified of offending the US and some of the European powers. It wants to hide from taking any principled position on this question.
On 11 February, Socialist Party TD (member of parliament), Joe Higgins, made a speech in the Dail (Irish parliament) following the announcement of the German, French and Russian governments’ proposals to increase the number of weapons inspectors to Iraq and to send UN troops to Iraq as well. CWI Online
Socialist member of parliament champions mass opposition to war
Joe Higgins speaking in Dáil against war on Iraq
The opposition of France, Germany and Russia and their Governments is not because they have had a sudden conversion to moral virtue. France and Russia have substantial business dealings with Saddam Hussein’s regime. They wish to protect these and are capable of acute cynicism in doing so. However, Russia, France and Germany recognise something more important, i.e. the mass opposition among the working class people of Europe to an attack on Iraq. The ordinary people of Europe have drawn clear conclusions about the present crisis. They know that the mania of the Bush regime to unleash the dogs of war has nothing to do with alleged weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein is boxed in and has as good a chance of hitting the United States with a pea-shooter as with whatever limited missiles he still has.
The ordinary people of Europe know that a war would not be to institute democratic rights in Iraq since the United States and Britain, the primary belligerents, continue to support and arm with weapons of mass destruction some of the most vile regimes that still besmirch the face of our globe, more than George Bush could possibly count up to. They know that the imminent war is to corral the second largest oil reserves for the future of US capitalism and to send a message to the huddled masses on our globe, particularly the poor of the Third World, that the 21st century will be the century of the United States empire and that it will set the terms in trade, military might and international politics.
Contrast the perception of the masses in Europe and their determination to stop the disaster of war with the utter cravenness of the Irish Government. Its trembling subservience – that is all I can call it – to US foreign policy on Iraq inspires an analogy with a jellyfish. This is unfair to the jellyfish, which, like the Government, may not have any backbone but at least have a sting.
The statements of the Minister and the Taoiseach [prime minister] over recent weeks have virtually invited Messrs. Bush and Blair to start the war. They have faithfully repeated all the old codology about the justification of slaughtering thousands of innocent people and laying waste to a nation because Saddam Hussein is allegedly hiding some of the arsenal which was given to him by the same people who now want to attack him and, incredibly, because he is fostering al-Qaeda in some way. A majority of the US media put this latter point abroad as propaganda. The Government continues to allow Shannon [airport] to be used as a launch-pad for war and refuses to say the facility will be withdrawn in the event of a unilateral strike. The Minister is silent because he does not want to break with United States policy.
I have no illusions about the ability of NATO or the UN Security Council to prevent a war. Should we be impressed if one of the permanent members, China for example, gives its blessing to a war? China still harbours in its Government the butchers of the youth of Tiananmen Square. Should we be impressed if Mr. Putin says in a few weeks that a war is permissible? Mr. Putin brutally and routinely crushes several ethnic and national minorities within his own country that want to have an independent voice. For the Iraqi people the whistle of falling bombs will sound no sweeter if they bear a United Nations logo rather than that of the United States of America. To prevent a war, I look to the hundreds of millions of ordinary people in Europe, the Arab world and, crucially, in the United States who are standing up and saying that a war is not in the interests of humanity. It may be in the interest of a minority of the elite of the corporate sector of the armaments industry and of the leaders of the power blocs but the war should be stopped. On Saturday, people will turn out in their millions around the globe to bring that message home to the governments which, like ours, are still not hearing the message clearly enough.