GEORGE BUSH’S "road map" to a political settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, supposedly leading to a Palestinian state by 2005, is a cynical exercise in placating Arab opinion while US forces invade and occupy Iraq. This latest initiative, resting on a capitalist system of oppression and exploitation, has even less chance of succeeding than any previous peace plan of the last decade.
Stop the war in Iraq. Britain.
Articles from The Socialist.
Gulf War 1990-91: Quick victory but lasting turmoil
Bush’s peace plan – The road to nowhere
BUSH’S ’ROAD map’ faces a major diversion. Not least because of Ariel Sharon’s ’roadblock’.
The hardline, right-wing Israeli Prime Minister has, ahead of any published plan, ruled out a viable, independent Palestinian state. Sharon says Israel will retain control of the Palestinian state’s external security, borders, airspace and underground water resources, and will have a veto over treaties with other countries. A Palestinian police force would be lightly armed.
How much this would be an advance for Palestinians over the existing situation, the US administration has not explained.
Bush had also made it clear that any political settlement is conditional upon the appointment of a US-approved Palestinian Prime Minister and the sidelining of the PLO chairman and Palestinian Authority president, Yasser Arafat.
Subsequently Arafat’s deputy, Mohammed Abbas, has now been chosen by the Palestinian parliament as the new PM. Abbas is considered acceptable to the Bush administration as a ’moderate’ Palestinian leader.
However, the Islamic organisations have made it clear they will not subordinate themselves to his authority, and among the Palestinian masses he is seen as a representative of the corrupt ruling clique, the "Tunis gang".
An open prison
MEANWHILE, A 230-mile wall and fence extending the length of the West Bank territory is being constructed by the Israeli army. This new border will slice into Palestinian territory, reducing the Palestinian Authority-run area of the West Bank by up to 50%. Jewish settlements, many established ’illegally’, are likely become part of an enlarged Israel.
The securing of road access and water supplies to these settlements means that the Palestinian Authority (PA) areas are already criss-crossed by Israel Defence Force (IDF) checkpoints, making the Palestinians little more than prisoners in an open prison.
For example, residents of Al Mawasi in the Gaza strip can only bring in food supplies through an IDF military checkpoint if the military allows them. The United Nations World Food Programme has been stopped from supplying staple foods to Al Mawasi since January and Médecins sans Frontières has not been able to supply medicines for over one month. These checkpoints also mean that an economically viable Palestinian state is impossible.
The IDF is waging a low-intensity war against Palestinian militias and the remnants of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority forces. Heavily armed convoys of Israeli troops backed by helicopter gunships and jet fighters routinely invade Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza, usually with deadly consequences.
Last week a US peace activist was, according to eyewitnesses, deliberately crushed by an Israeli army bulldozer which was destroying the homes of Israeli designated "terrorists".
Palestinian civilians are routinely killed by Israeli forces out to assassinate Palestinian militants belonging to guerrilla groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Brigades. In February alone, according to Palestinian sources, 77 Palestinians were killed in the occupied territories, including 12 less than 18 years old, and 725 were wounded (among them 220 children).
With the ruling clique of Arafat’s crumbling PA (as well as other secular and former ’Left’ organisations) failing to provide a viable strategy for the second Intifada (uprising), based on mass popular resistance, significant sections of the bitter and desperate Palestinian masses support suicide bombings in Israel as "the only way to hit back" and avenge the growing death toll.
The continued repression and constant pressure by the IDF and Shin Bet (security service), and the numerous arrests, incursions and executions prevent most of the planned bombings but only at the price of perpetuating the burning motivation that must eventually lead to a bomber succeeding.
The new Israeli government’s knee-jerk reaction to the recent Haifa bus bombing fell short of the often repeated threats by Sharon and other leading cabinet members to deport Arafat, (probably due to reluctance to embarrass the Bush administration by distracting international attention from Iraq). Instead, another incursion into the Gaza Strip was authorised, despite the fact that the last suicide bomber came from Hebron in the West Bank.
Large numbers of the Israeli Defence Forces entered the Jabalya refugee camp, reportedly to apprehend a medium-level Hamas militant. In the gun battles that ensued, a fire broke out in a store, and when people tried to extinguish the fire and treat previous casualties, a tank shell hit the crowded area, killing eight civilians and wounding more than a hundred.
In the well-worn tradition of recent years, actions by armed Palestinian groups are answered by overwhelming and brutal Israeli state terrorism, and vice versa.
Ending the war, realising a Palestinian state, guaranteeing a secure Israel, ending the region’s poverty, is beyond the capabilities of the ruling classes and their capitalist system. Only socialist movements of the Palestinians and of the Israeli working classes, by overthrowing captalism and landlordism, can establish a genuine road to peace.
lFor a more detailed examination of the Middle East conflict and the socialist answer to the region’s problems of nations and nationalities, see the CWI and Socialist Party’s websites. Also, for more on Israel’s class struggles see www.maavak.org.il
Gulf War 1990-91
Quick victory but lasting turmoil
THE LAST Gulf War in 1990-91 started after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded and occupied Kuwait in August 1990, largely to divert angry protests at mass hunger and poverty after eight years of war with Iran.
This occupation threatened vital interests – two-thirds of the West’s oil supplies come through the Gulf region. Kuwait’s oilfields would have given Iraq a fifth of all world reserves.
Saddam was considered too unpredictable a dictator to have so much of the world’s oil supply in his charge. George Bush senior, then the US president, threatened to go to war unless Saddam’s troops withdrew.
As his son George W is doing in the present war, Bush senior said he was fighting to rid the world of vicious dictators. But his main intention was to defend US imperialism’s power and prestige and oil company profits.
Officially the war was fought by a United Nations (UN) alliance but in reality US forces, with token help from allied countries, controlled operations. However other nations – particularly Japan and Germany – were allowed to contribute large sums of money to fund the war!
A journalist said "I spent months with Western and Arab troops in the Gulf but never once saw a UN flag. With the Soviet Union on its knees, they simply didn’t need the fig-leaf of the blue banner."
Bush senior cobbled together a coalition of 25 countries, included despised Arab dictatorships such as Syria, Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia, whose allegiance was bought with bribes worth billions of dollars.
Ethiopia was offered an investment deal, Zaire military aid. Yemen, which refused to back the US, had its $70 million aid programme from the US stopped while famine-hit Sudan – which voiced backing for Iraq – was denied a food shipment.
In this present war, because of anti-war opposition, the US tried to legitimise the war by building a new consensus based on the UN, again bribing the poorest countries on the UN Security Council and threatening the rest.
But this time many countries such as France and Germany – mainly for their own national interests – opposed Bush and Blair’s attempt to railroad the UN into supporting this adventure. Eventually the US had to go it more or less alone.
Power and profits
IN 1990 Saddam, the former US armed and financed puppet, invaded Kuwait and enraged his former paymasters. He was desperate to force up the price of oil which Kuwait was keeping down.
The Arab masses hated Kuwait, a royal dictatorship and client state of the US with little democracy. Kuwait had been used for decades to keep oil prices down in the West’s interests.
Nonetheless Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was brutal – entire families disappeared after Iraqi soldiers knocked on their door. The US used the invasion to justify the war although when it came, Bush’s ’liberation’ certainly didn’t liberate the foreign workers with few civil or political rights in the emirate.
Even in 1990-91, 58% told an opinion poll in Britain that this was a "war motivated by oil and money". Today, without the excuse of an invaded Kuwait, the real reasons for this war are much clearer and the anti-war opposition has therefore been far greater.
Many people now see what kind of new world order Bush wants to bring about. Long before the 11 September attacks, a right-wing think tank, Project for the New American Century (PNAC), prepared a blueprint for this invasion and plans to take military control in the Gulf – whether Saddam was in power or not.
On top of that there is the widespread suspicion that US oil companies aim to snap up Iraq’s oil. Nobody wants to die in a battle for US prestige, power and profit.
US imperialism’s intention to gain full spectrum dominance worldwide pushes all other considerations far into the background.
In 1991, immediately after the Gulf War, Bush appealed on radio for Saddam’s opponents to overthrow him. But when Iraq’s Kurds took him at his word and rose up against the dictator, the US stood by as they were crushed. American and British governments said they couldn’t intervene in Iraq’s internal affairs!
In reality, Bush feared what could happen if Iraq broke up. A top US official explained: "Our policy is to get rid of Saddam Hussein himself, not his regime". US imperialism was fighting to defend its interests – it didn’t want revolutionary change, especially any involving the workers and peasants of Iraq or Kurdistan.
Today the US leaders are equally wary. Why else do they propose a military occupation for a period after they beat Saddam? They expect enormous regional insecurity post-war and will only allow ’democracy’ if it guarantees their interests.
However, Bush junior won’t necessarily have it all his own way. In 1991, his father’s warmongering couldn’t even win him a second term of the US presidency. He lost the 1992 election as the war helped push America’s economy into a recession. Bush junior should ponder his father’s fate whatever the outcome of his invasion.
Bush might even consider how defeating Iraq in the Gulf War helped build up Arab people’s anger at US imperialism (see centre pages). He pledged a new world order, including a Middle East free of armaments, if the Arab and Muslim people helped get Saddam out of Kuwait.
Not long after the war, a summit sold more guns and missiles to both Arab and Israeli armies than ever before. Bush’s ’new world order’ is purely concerned with keeping capitalism – particularly US imperialism – in control.
Saddam won support from the Arab masses by standing up to US imperialism. Many countries held huge demonstrations against their leaders for joining Bush senior’s coalition. However, militarily there was little contest.
US imperialism managed to force Saddam out of Kuwait without committing huge numbers of ground troops. There were 90,000 bombing sorties before the short (100-hour) land battle, where at least 100,000 Iraqis were killed or injured.
US imperialist forces kept bombing Iraqi troops even as they retreated. The US was telling the "developing world’ that the US was big enough and relentless enough to crush any country that threatened its interests or its prestige.
THE 1991 Gulf War was a quick one for the US with very few casualties on its side. US commanders talked of advancing to Baghdad and deposing Saddam, but this never happened. If they had entered Iraq’s cities they would have met resistance from a roused and determined population. The Arab masses in other countries would also have rebelled.
Rather than remove Saddam and risk instability throughout the Gulf and Middle East, the US ruling class thought it better to leave him be. After all, the US and other capitalist powers weren’t fighting the Gulf War for the Iraqi masses’ or the Kurdish people’s freedom.
The US attacks – Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Sabre – did not dethrone Saddam. But the Bush dynasty and others in the US political elite have resented this political failure ever since. After the Gulf War, years of hostile sanctions interspersed with sporadic bombings have killed thousands of Iraqi children. Now comes the present conflict.
How many more wars will there be in the Gulf? Who can tell? All we know is that nobody can trust capitalism to give ordinary people a decent future.
Capitalism only looks after the rich oil magnates and millionaire politicians in the imperialist countries and the pampered ruling elites within the Gulf and Middle East. We place our confidence in the working class and oppressed, and in a struggle for socialism internationally.
Hypocrisy on prisoners of war
IRAQI FORCES took five American GIs prisoner near Nassiriya on 23 March. The Arabic Al-Jazeera satellite (followed by most of the world’s media) showed them being interviewed by Iraqi TV. Next day Iraq paraded two US helicopter pilots, shot down by Saddam’s forces, on television.
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld latched on to this sickening treatment to accuse Iraq of violating the Geneva convention, the international law on the treatment of prisoners of war (PoWs).
Rumsfeld must think we have incredibly short memories. Only last week his government stuck two fingers up at the United Nations and ’international law’ when they invaded Iraq. And what major country refuses to sign up for the International Criminal Court because it fears prosecution? The USA.
US forces showed how they treated prisoners of war after the Afghan war. 30 drugged Taliban fighters were hauled, bags over their heads and shackles on all parts of their bodies, from a US military aircraft at Camp X-Ray, in the US enclave of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They were kept in open-air chain link cages.
Bush and his friends didn’t recognise these men as PoWs but instead dubbed them "unlawful combatants" so they’d have no rights under the Geneva Convention. Poodle Blair wagged his tail and agreed to this shocking treatment.
The Pentagon posted these pictures on its website – pictures of detainees without hope of a fair trial who could still be tried by emergency military tribunal, which has the power to pass the death sentence.
Capitalist dictators like Saddam’s can easily ignore the niceties of the Geneva Convention. Bush’s regime is just as careless of ’international law’ when it is fighting an imperialist war for profit and prestige.
Turkish state threatens Iraqi Kurds
BUSH AND Blair hope that the battle for Baghdad will not be too long and too bloody. They also have the problem of the Turkish troops mustering on the border of predominantly Kurdish northern Iraq.
Some four million Kurdish people live in northern Iraq – at present they have won a degree of autonomy under the no-fly zone. The Turkish state rules over – and represses – 12 million Kurds.
The Turkish government is preparing to invade northern Iraq to try to prevent the Kurdish people from carving out an independent Kurdistan in Iraq. They want to stop the ’virus’ of national independence infecting Turkey.
The US’s military commanders say they oppose such a move but they may not be able to control the situation completely.
This could mean another war either before or after Saddam is removed. Washington’s nightmare of a divided Iraq imploding, with nearby powers like Iran and Turkey grabbing the spoils, could come true.
The Kurdish people have suffered more than any other in Iraq over the Saddam years and before. At the time of the last Gulf War, US forces first encouraged the Kurds to rise against Saddam, then abandoned them when Iraqi forces crushed them (see page 13).
This time Saddam may go but the Kurds could still suffer from the political needs of Washington’s Turkish government allies.
A socialist plan of production and land could start to solve most of the national problems caused by capitalism. But US imperialism’s interests are in maintaining its power, prestige and profits – they consider all else as irrelevant.
Bush’s billions for bombs
PRESIDENT BUSH is to ask the United States Congress for $74 billion (some £47 billion) to fund the war in Iraq.
War is not only horrific in its effects, it is also very expensive. The US let loose a barrage of 1,000 bomb sorties loose over Baghdad on 22 March. That included at least 320 cruise missile strikes. As each individual cruise missile can cost up to $1 million, one day’s artillery may have cost the US Treasury up to $1 billion.
The 1991 Gulf War cost $50 billion ($80 billion at current prices), but Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Japan etc contributed $48 billion. This time US imperialism is having to pay for this war itself.
Bush’s absurd plan for tax cuts for better-off Americans could be an early partial casualty – $100 billion of the $726 billion he’d set aside for this has been deferred. The rest of the cost is likely to be met by more cuts in US public services spending.
Around $63 billion of this $74 million goes to the Pentagon to cover about a month of combat. The rest goes to a few months of reconstruction, homeland security and humanitarian relief.
But as the war gets bogged down, people will start to remember the estimation by Bush’s former chief economic adviser, Lawrence Lindsey, that the US war against Iraq could cost as much as $200 billion (£129 billion).
BBC sacks Arab journalists
NATIONAL UNION of Journalists (NUJ) members in the BBC are to vote on taking strike action to demand the reinstatement of two senior BBC World Service journalists, summarily dismissed in an unprecedented action.
The journalists from the Arabic Service – one Palestinian, the other an Iraqi – were marched out on 19 February. NUJ reps from 60 workplaces voted unanimously to condemn management and call for action over the sackings.
The journalists – Palestinian Adli Hawwari and Iraqi Dr Abdul-Hadi Jiad – never received a disciplinary hearing, were never warned they were under investigation and were denied union representation as well as their contractual right to appeal.
In 16 and 12 years of service respectively there had never been any complaints about their work. The BBC said they were "dismissed because of a breakdown in trust and confidence"
It leaked to the media an account of a series of cases they had brought to Employment Tribunals alleging racial discrimination and victimisation.
The sacking decision was taken by Director General Greg Dyke and his executive committee. The NUJ believes this is the reason why the BBC will not allow any appeal against the dismissals – because there is no one higher to hear it. Greg Dyke is subject only to the Board of Governors, and if they overturned the decision he would have to quit.
lPlease send letters of protest to BBC chair Gavyn Davies and director-general Greg Dyke at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Draft model letters are available at www.nuj.org.uk.
lAlso send letters of support to Adli Hawwari and Abdul Hadi Jiad at the NUJ head office, email@example.com And the BBC NUJ Chapel at the Arabic Service: firstname.lastname@example.org. Leaflets and more details are available from the NUJ: 020 7843 3726, email@example.com
Molly Cooper, NUJ national executive member elect, personal capacity
The rising of the youth
DAY X – the day war in Iraq began – was a day that youth walked out of schools, colleges and universities in their tens of thousands. In most of the strikes and protests school students took the lead – a new generation on the march.
There were so many protests that we cannot possibly report on all of them. The reports on the next four pages and also on page 12 can only give a flavour of the tremendous action that took place against this bloody war.
THE LONDON borough of Waltham Forest has never seen anything like it. At the peak of the protest 3,000 school and sixth form students took over the streets.
It all started at 8.45 when 200 school students from Kelmscott School walked out and marched to the town square. Not long after they were joined by a similar number from Walthamstow Girls School.
Together they marched chanting and shouting from school to school in the borough. Terrified teachers rushed to lock the gates and stop students from joining the march, although a few managed to escape.
We heard later that 400 Year 10 students at Highams Park School couldn’t get out so organised a protest in the school at break time. Also students at Connaught School held a sit down protest.
Back at the town square at 12.00 the demo was swollen by students from Leyton and Monoux sixth forms, as well as more school students who hadn’t managed to get out in the morning.
The mass of students blocked the road outside the Tube and bus station, chanting and singing. As the demonstration wound its way down Hoe St, it brought the traffic to a halt. Car and bus drivers were sounding their horns continuously, not in frustration at being caught in a jam but in support of the students who were taking a stand against the war.
ISR/Youth Against the War spent weeks leafleting for the strike. On the day so many wanted to join ISR/Youth Against the War, that we couldn’t keep up. Damian, who joined ISR and the Socialist Party on the day, summed up the feeling of many of the students on the march: "This war is wrong. Bush and Blair knew that a majority were against war but still they went ahead. It’s their war not ours.
"The strike has given the youth of Waltham Forest a chance to voice their opinion on the war".
Lewisham students held prisoner
STUDENTS FROM four schools in Lewisham (Sydenham Girls, Catford Girls, Forest Hill Boys and Sedgehill) were noisy but peaceful in their protests against the war. Relations with the police were amicable as they had been all morning.
After the rally some students decided to head back to school but most of the group were determined to continue their protest outside Parliament. We all boarded the 185 bus and were about to leave when five police got on. They started to intimidate the students, taking their names, phone numbers, parents’ names, dates of births and even parents’ dates of birth!
Another dozen police arrived and prevented the students from leaving the bus and refused to say what was going on. Then, without any explanation, they grabbed one of the students and tried to drag her off the bus.
She bravely resisted and was protected by two ISR members. ISR, who were helping the students to organise the protests, told the police at this point that we would go back to school with the students as it was clear that we were never going to get to Parliament. The police shouted that we were lying and attacked one of our members.
They hit him and dragged him off the bus and handcuffed him. They arrested him as well as five others including a 15 year old school student who they also brutally attacked.
The students were kept on the bus for nearly an hour and were then manhandled into police vans to be taken back to school. They were referred to as prisoners by the police, which shows how threatened the powers-that-be feel by the politicisation of young people.
The police tried to claim that school students only want a day off school and don’t know anything about the war. This is absolute rubbish. School students in Lewisham are discussing plans for school student unions and planning for further action, despite the threats and intimidation from school management and the police.
On the march in Tower Hamlets
THOUSANDS OF school students in Tower Hamlets exploded in anger at the war. At its height, up to 3,000 people took part in the biggest demonstration the borough has seen for many years.
The demo was made up overwhelmingly of school students, led by Stepney Green School. When the fire alarm went off, that signalled the beginning of the walkout.
Around a dozen schools were involved in the protest. At lunchtime hundreds of students and staff at Tower Hamlets College walked out. Council workers walked out to join them, as well as civil servants and local health workers.
Students then marched five miles to join the protests outside Parliament.
Walking out in Hackney
UP TO 1,000 students from five local schools and colleges marched through the streets of Hackney on Day X.
In the run-up, ISR/ Youth Against the War members had leafleted schools and colleges calling for protest action, and students themselves set up organising groups in Haggerston, Clapton Girls and Stoke Newington.
Day X itself began with a walkout of 50 students from Homerton Boys School. They turned up at Hackney town hall where, at the initiative of Socialist Party members working for the council, Unison had called a lunch-time protest. These students went with ISR members to join the walkout at Haggerston. Meanwhile anti-war chants echoed in Mare Street as about 300 students marched from Clapton Girls to the protest at Hackney town hall, joining nearly 100 council workers.
After a very lively rally, the students agreed to march to Dalston to meet up with other students. Council workers also joined the march, holding high the Hackney Unison banner.
Graham Road was brought to standstill as the Clapton Girls demo converged with the Stoke Newington, Haggerston and Homerton students going in the opposite direction, throwing the police escorts into chaos.
The demo continued to Dalston and then marched to Liverpool Street station blocking A10 traffic into central London.
A group of up to 200 students than decided to march to Parliament to join the thousands of other students leading the opposition to Bush and Blair’s war.
ROSA BRANSKY came down with friends from Camden Girls School to Parliament to protest on Day X.
"When we came down it was a really nice atmosphere. It was lovely weather and we sat on the green. Then we got a bit more organised and started sitting in the road and suddenly the police attitude changed.
"It was appalling. I got my wrist twisted and they bruised a ligament in my toes so I can’t walk properly. They called me a bitch and a c***.
"It was all obviously designed to put us in our places. I’ve made an official complaint to the police but it won’t stop us demonstrating."
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