Tag Archive: blair


Focus On Iraq: The War Continues

For most people in Britain and the US, Iraq is already history. Afghanistan has long since taken the lion’s share of media attention, as the death toll of Nato troops rises inexorably. Controversy about Iraq is now almost entirely focused on the original decision to invade: what’s happening there in 2010 barely registers.

This view is being reinforced by the continuing Chilcot Inquiry in to the Iraq war, where Tony Blair was again called to give evidence last week. In August last year Obama declared that the occupation was over and he was bringing the troops back home on schedule.  For much of the British and American press, this was the real thing: headlines hailed the “end” of the war and reported “US troops to leave Iraq”.

The US isn’t leaving Iraq; it’s rebranding the occupation
Nothing could be further from the truth. The US hasn’t withdrawn from Iraq at all – it’s just rebranded the occupation. Just as George Bush’s war on terror was re-titled “overseas contingency operations” when Obama became president, US “combat operations” has been rebadged as “stability operations”.

But as Major General Stephen Lanza, the US military spokesman in Iraq, told the New York Times in August: “In practical terms, nothing will change”. After this month’s withdrawal, there will still be 50,000 US troops in 94 military bases, “advising” and training the Iraqi army, “providing security” and carrying out “counter-terrorism” missions. In US military speak, that covers pretty well everything they might want to do.

Granted, 50,000 is a major reduction on the numbers in Iraq a year ago. But what Obama once called “the dumb war” goes remorselessly on. In fact, violence has been increasing as the Iraqi political factions remain deadlocked in rows over the Green Zone and domestic policy. More civilians are being killed in Iraq than Afghanistan. According to the Iraqi government, last year saw worst figures for two years.

And even though US troops are rarely seen on the streets, they are still dying at a rate of six a month, their bases regularly shelled by resistance groups, while Iraqi troops and US-backed militias are being killed in far greater numbers. And al-Qaida – Bush’s gift to Iraq – is back in business across swaths of the country. Although hardly noticed in Britain, there are still 150 British troops in Iraq supporting US forces.

Meanwhile, the US government hasn’t just rebranded the occupation, it has privatised it. There are around 100,000 private contractors working for the occupying forces, of whom more than 11,000 are armed mercenaries, mostly “third country nationals”, typically from the developing world.

The US is now expanding their numbers, in what Jeremy Scahill – who helped expose the role of the notorious US security firm Blackwater – calls the “coming surge” of contractors in Iraq. Hillary Clinton wants to increase the number of military contractors working for the state department alone from 2,700 to 7,000, to be based in five “enduring presence posts” across Iraq.

The advantage of an outsourced occupation is clearly that someone other than US soldiers can do the dying to maintain control of Iraq. It also helps get round the commitment, made just before Bush left office, to pull all American troops out by the end of 2011. The other getout, widely expected on all sides, is a new Iraqi request for US troops to stay on – just as soon as a suitable government can be stitched together to make it.

What is abundantly clear is that the US, whose embassy in Baghdad is now the size of Vatican City, has no intention of letting go of Iraq any time soon. One reason for that can be found in the dozen 20-year contracts to run Iraq’s biggest oil fields that were handed out last year to foreign companies, including three of the Anglo-American oil majors that exploited Iraqi oil under British control before 1958.

The dubious legality of these deals has held back some US companies, but as Greg Muttitt, author of a book on the subject, argues, the prize for the US is bigger than the contracts themselves, which put 60% of Iraq’s reserves under long-term foreign corporate control. If output can be boosted as sharply as planned, the global oil price could be slashed and the grip of recalcitrant Opec states broken.

The horrific cost of the war to the Iraqi people, on the other hand, and the continuing fear and misery of daily life make a mockery of claims that the US surge of 2007 “worked” and that Iraq has come good after all.

It’s not only the hundreds of thousands of dead and 4 million refugees. After seven years of US (and British) occupation, tens of thousands are still tortured and imprisoned without trial, health and education has dramatically deteriorated, the position of women has gone horrifically backwards, trade unions are effectively banned, Baghdad is divided by 1,500 checkpoints and blast walls, electricity supplies have all but broken down and people pay with their lives for speaking out.

Even without the farce of last year’s elections, the banning and killing of candidates and subsequent political breakdown, to claim that “Iraq is a democracy” is grotesque. The Green Zone administration would collapse in short order without the protection of US troops and security contractors. No wonder the speculation among Iraqis and some US officials is of an eventual military takeover.

The Iraq war has been a historic political and strategic failure for the US. It was unable to impose a military solution, let alone turn the country into a beacon of western values or regional policeman. But by playing the sectarian and ethnic cards, it also prevented the emergence of a national resistance movement and a humiliating Vietnam-style pullout. The signs are it wants to create a new form of outsourced semi-colonial regime to maintain its grip on the country and region. The struggle to regain Iraq’s independence has only just begun.

Depleted Uranium
Meanwhile, it has become widely known that the UK used depleted uranium weapons during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. A UK defence official has reportedly admitted using the highly controversial ammunition. “UK forces used about 1.9 metric tons of depleted uranium ammunition in the Iraq war in 2003,” UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox said in a written reply to the House of Commons last year.

It is alleged that a joint inquiry by Iraq’s environment, health and science ministries uncovered more than 40 sites across the war-torn country contaminated with high levels of radiation. The use of uranium ammunition is widely controversial because of potential long-term health effects. The US and UK have allegedly used up to 2,000 tons of such ammunition during the war.

In August last year, Labour Party MP Paul Flynn, speaking to Russia Today said: “The depleted uranium still causes serious health problems. “We know that in the first Iraq war depleted uranium was used in shells. It’s very likely it was used again,” Flynn said. “It’s used as ballast because of its density in shells. It’s not as radioactive as it might be, it’s uranium 238 where the gamma-radiation has been reduced. It’s not a weapon of mass destruction, but sadly it’s a weapon of eternal destruction because it turns into dust and gets into the water supply, into the air and it can of course give children cancer, and cause birth defects.”

Last year, findings of a study conducted by a group of researchers in London suggested the same. One of the authors of the report, British-Iraqi scientist Malak Hamdan told RT: “The study that we have conducted does actually prove that there are massive increases in cancer, a 38-fold increase in leukemia, 10-fold increase in breast cancer -and infant mortalities are also staggering,”.

Iraq’s Ministry for Human Rights is expected to file a lawsuit against Britain and the US over their use of depleted uranium bombs in Iraq and will seek compensation for the victims of these weapons.

Corruption & Repression
Sami Ramadani, a British Iraqi wrote in The Guardian, 28th July 2010: “The Iraqis who Blair and Bush glorified and brought to power through sham elections are bleeding the nation dry through corruption and the sell-off of Iraq’s resources to multinationals. Freedom and democracy is nowhere to be seen. Deploying the US-built Iraqi security forces against the people is common. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have drawn attention to the plight of thousands of prisoners, widespread use of torture, and both judicial and extra-judicial killings”.

“Meanwhile, the litany of repressive policies gets longer. It is illegal to be a member of a trade union, just as it was under Saddam. Paul Bremer, the US envoy who ruled Iraq after the invasion, revived Saddam’s infamous “decree 150” in 2004, effectively banning all public sector unions. Activists are now treated as if they were terrorists. Troops and police have raided the offices of workers’ unions across the country, following a government decree under the 2005 anti-terrorism act, to ban them and seize their assets”.

“Britain’s TUC has described the regime’s action as a “Saddam-style move”, and its general secretary Brendan Barber has written to the foreign secretary, William Hague, to help stop this “dangerous abuse of power”. The president of the Federation of Oil Unions, Hasan Juma’a, and several other union leaders have been charged with contacting the media, sabotaging the economy and high treason. Juma’a believes that the regime is trying to “liquidate” the unions while transferring Iraq’s oil wealth to the multinationals”.

Having auctioned Iraq’s oil wealth, the oil minister Hussain al-Shahristani was recently given the electricity portfolio after mass demonstrations against lack of electricity supplies and regime corruption. Troops opened fire on the demonstrators while the prime minister described them as “hooligans” and deployed troops in Baghdad to stop the protests – dubbed by Iraqis as the “electricity uprising” – spreading to the capital.

Missing Millions
Meanwhile last year, The US department of defence called in forensic accountants to help track $8.1bn – out of a total of  $9.1bn – in Iraq’s oil revenue entrusted to it after the fall of Baghdad, following an official audit that revealed the money was missing. The report was issued by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which had previously criticised poor book-keeping by senior officials throughout the last seven years.

Iraqi officials said they knew nothing about the missing billions and had no means to find where they had been spent. “We will speak to the oil ministry finance committee about this,” said a spokesman for Iraq’s oil minister.

The funds were to be used for the reconstruction of Iraq’s worn-out infrastructure which was to be a central plank of the US military’s achievement. The audit could not find any documentation to substantiate how the Pentagon spent $2.6bn. An additional $53bn has been allocated by Congress to rebuild Iraq and the audit committee is examining whether those funds can be accounted for.

February Newsletter From Stop The War Coalition

STOP THE WAR COALITION NEWSLETTER
No. 1128 30 November 2009
Email office@stopwar.org.uk

IN THIS NEWSLETTER
1) THE ONLY SERIOUS EXIT STRATEGY FOR AFGHANISTAN
2) THE IRAQ INQUIRY CATCH PHRASE: “NOT ME, GUV'”
3) VIVA PALESTINA CONVOY TO GAZA: 5 DECEMBER
4) SUPPORT GROWING FOR MILITARY FAMILIES PROTEST
5) DON’T FORGET JOE GLENTON

1) THE ONLY SERIOUS EXIT STRATEGY FOR AFGHANISTAN
Inevitably the news of yet another British soldier dying in Afghanistan coincided with Gordon Brown’s announcement that he is sending 500 more British troops to fight in a war which in the latest poll 71 per cent of the British public opposes.

We are witnessing a very dangerous escalation of the war. With Barack Obama likely to announce a surge of around 30,000 troops, and other Nato allies adding a further five thousand, the total number of foreign troops occupying Afghanistan will equal that deployed by the Soviet Union in the 1979-89 Afghan war, which ended in its catastrophic defeat.

Gordon Brown’s troop surge is a response to failure after eight years of war. All the various war aims have been shown
to be false. The war has not made Britain safer from terrorism, but has made it more dangerous. The war is not being fought for democracy, but to protect one of the most corrupt governments in the world. The troops are not engaged
in a humanitarian mission, but in a war of occupation opposed by the majority of Afghans.

Brown and Obama both claim that this dramatic increase in the number of troops is the  beginning of an exit strategy. It is nothing of the sort. It is the signal that the major powers are planning to continue a war ,which after Vietnam is the second longest in American history for years to come.

Just as in Vietnam the US claimed that sending more troops was the key to bringing peace, Obama and Brown are proposing more war as necessary for their “exit strategy”. There is only one serious exit strategy: that is to recognise that Britain and the other Nato powers have no right to be in Afghanistan, and far from escalating the numbers Gordon
Brown should be withdrawing all British troops now.

2) THE IRAQ INQUIRY CATCH PHRASE: “NOT ME, GUV'”
The evidence given to the Iraq Inquiry in its first week saw a
series of establishment figures trying to absolve themselves of any blame for their part in the build up to war, implying
all responsibility lay with Tony Blair.

It appears that Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General who
notoriously changed his advice about the legality of the war just days before the invasion, is getting his “not me, guv'”
in early even before he appears at the inquiry. The details of a letter he wrote to Blair eight months before the
invasion, in which he stated categorically that the war was illegal, were revealed over the weekend. You can read the
details here: http://bit.ly/6Tk6w7

Apparently Gordon Brown is worried that in the run up to the general election all these revelations about Iraq will remind people of why they opposed  the war in the first place. Stop the War is taking every opportunity to ensure that the issues remain in the public eye, not least the key question of holding the war criminals to account. Stop the War held a protest on the first day of the Chilcot inquiry, which received worldwide media coverage. (See http://bit.ly/5IYYCK). We will announce soon a major public meeting on the issue.
And we await with much anticipation the appearance of  Tony Blair before the Iraq Inquiry likely to be in January or
February, when we will organise a large scale protest to ensure he is warmly welcomed.

3) VIVA PALESTINA THIS WEEKEND
On 27 December, the anniversary of Israel’s barbaric invasion at the turn of 2009, convoys from Britain, the United States and Turkey, packed with aid donated by the people of those countries, will converge on Gaza to break the inhuman siege which prevents essential resources reaching Palestinians in the world’s most densely populated area.
The British convoy leaves London this weekend. Details of the departure place and time will be available shortly on the Viva Palestina website: http://www.vivapalestina.org/

4) SUPPORT GROWING FOR MILITARY FAMILIES PROTEST
Support is continuing to build for the Military Families Against the War protest at Downing Street at 5pm on Monday 21 December. As well as many families who have lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan, or have relatives serving in the Afghan war, there will be a number of former soldiers joining the protest, when the Bring the Troops Home petition will be handed in to Downing Street. The military families also plan to demand to see Gordon Brown.

All the local Stop the War groups across the country have been asked to sponsor military families in their area to come down to the Downing Street protest and to send delegations in support. The families are asking for the widest support possible. Please help publicise the event as widely as you can. For further information: http://bit.ly/4Z3eCR

5) THURSDAY 28 JANUARY: DATE FOR YOUR DIARY
Gordon Brown has announced that he is organising an international conference on Afghanistan in London on Thursday 28 January 2010. As well as organising a protest at Brown’s conference, Stop the War will in response hold its own alternative meetings and conference. Please note the date now. We will publicise further details soon.

6) DON’T FORGET JOE GLENTON
Send messages of support to Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, in prison for speaking out against the Afghan war and facing
court martial for refusing to return to Afghanistan. Email messages of support to: defendjoeglenton@gmail.com
Write letters, cards to:
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton
Military Corrective Training Centre
Berechurch Hall Camp
Colchester CO2 9NU

7) XMAS PARTY: FROM BLIAR TO STOP BUSH
If you live in London, Stop the War’s Xmas party on Friday 11 December is not to be missed. As well as food, drinks and music, the party takes place surrounded by a showcase of Stop the War’s history, drawn from our archive which is now housed at the Bishopsgate Institute.

The displays will include many of the posters and placards going back to our earliest demonstrations, including the now iconic designs by artist David Gentleman, leaflets, pamphlets, press cutting, photographs etc. Admission is free.

 Spotlight On Committees Of Action

As Labour and the Tories compete over who will deliver the most savage cuts, and the bosses and bankers demand the working class pay for their financial crisis, we need to think strategically about how we can organise the fightback. Joy Macready explains Marxist tactics

The mainstream parties’ assessment of the extent of the pubic sector cutbacks needed – an estimated 10-20% cuts in the health sector, £2bn cuts in education, 10 per cent savings across government departments – is staggering. Their representatives and their loyal friends in the media, however, never mention that it is caused by the gaping hole left in the public purse from the £1.3 trillion bailout of the banks.

Meanwhile, private sector bosses are using the recession to relocate production, sack workers, cut their wages and steal from their pensions. Share prices and profit margins may be recovering, but this is not enough for the greedy capitalists; they want to inflict further damage on working class families and communities.

Solidarity
But already we see the signs of a militant fightback. Occupations are leading the way: Visteon, Two Sisters, Prisme, Waterford, and Vestas, to name a few. Parents and teachers in Glasgow and Lewisham occupied their schools to prevent closure. Postal workers are balloting for a national strike against redundancies and reductions in hours and wages. Tower Hamlets College lecturers took all-out indefinite action for four weeks, while Leeds bin workers are still all out.

The list of struggles shows that it is not just the public sector that is under attack, but also the private sector; it is not just workers fighting back against service cuts, but the users of worsening services. Although the public sector is in the direct firing line of the government, all workers will be affected by cuts in housing, healthcare or education.

As Marxists, we do not just live in the realm of ideas and theory, but we put our theory into practice. The challenge is to find a way to link these struggles together, overcoming the division between public and private, between providers and users, and between the various unions. Those struggles listed above are inspiring but all are isolated to a degree.

Within the different struggles, Workers Power has argued for local committees of action to unite activists at a community level. The Vestas solidarity committees, which attracted workers from many different unions, community and green activists, and socialist organisations, were an encouraging step in this direction. But we need a more permanent form of organisation that goes beyond the limited scope of one struggle, one strike or one issue – committees of action that can be mobilised to fight on a number of fronts at the same time.

Such committees can react quickly to events, overcome divisions between workers in different unions, and also bring into struggle the unemployed who have been thrown out of work. They should also include users of public services; as the government and bosses try to lay the blame for deteriorating services at the feet of public sector workers, pubic opinion must be won to the struggle of these workers for quality services.

Unity from below
Britain has developed organs of class struggle like this in the past. During the 1926 General Strike, councils of action were built by the trades councils in each town and city – all working class political, industrial, co-operative and unemployed organisations were represented, and, importantly, women were also heavily involved. They counteracted the “poisonous and pernicious propaganda” of the government and the employers’ organisations and even took control of food supplies, organised defence corps against scabs and the police and army, and directly controlled the strike locally.

In 1984, during the Great Miners’ Strike, a network of Miners’ Support Committees criss-crossed the country, providing vital solidarity like food supplies, Christmas presents for the miners’ children, speakers to factories to explain why the miners’ needed support, campaigning against police harassment of strikers and mobilising support for the picket lines.

But, say the sceptics, Britain today is not at that level of class struggle – the working class does not have the “confidence” or the fighting spirit to create committees of action. This is a self-defeating argument. In every area where there is struggle, strikers can put out the call for committees of action and rally support from others. The committees will in turn help to boost confidence and raise fighting spirit.

Take the Vestas struggle, for example, where workers occupied a plant that made blades for wind power when bosses announced its closure. It was the solidarity movement – the climate camp and Campaign Against Climate Change – that encouraged the workers to occupy the plant. If solidarity committees could be built for Vestas, then why not for other struggles? By building committees of action in every town and city, more workers will feel able to take militant action and the general level of the class struggle will rise. But to do this, they must do more than simply raise donations, hold meetings and stand on picket lines, crucial though these acts are. They can start to become an alternative centre of power in society.

Alternative power
What do we mean by “an alternative centre of power”? Three things.

First, we know from bitter experience that the trade union leaders often sabotage our struggles, selling them short, calling off action, disuniting strikes. Committees of action can help thwart such treachery by building unity from below.

Second, committees of action can also lay the basis for a political alternative to Labour – a basis from which to build a new anti-capitalist party in Britain, one that will fight for the interests of the working class.

Committing to a new party is not a precondition to joining the local committees of action – many workers who still look to Labour or who are against all parties can be rallied to them. But, because these will be engaged in the local struggles, because they will be coming up against the government’s cuts and attacks, many will begin to realise that only a working class political party can secure general, society-wide victories for our class through fighting for the overthrow of the capitalist system and the formation of a workers’ government.

Finally, a government of the workers would be based not on an unelected civil service bureaucracy, unelected generals, unelected millionaires in the boardrooms, and 600-odd MPs who are elected every five years but are free to break their promises itself. It could be based on democratic organisations of working class delegates from below, workers’ councils with all delegates recallable by the workers who voted for them. The formation of committees for action is a step in that direction – a step towards an alternative centre of power for the whole of society.

Surrey United Anti-Capitalists Song

We want jobs, we want to live
This is something that war and unemployment cannot give
We will fight to take their power
We will strike their ivory tower
Revolution comes closer by the hour

We are marching through Europe together
Youth from all countries unite
We’ve a future to win and nothing to loose
Take the power, complete the final fight

We want jobs, we want to live
This is something that war and unemployment cannot give
We will fight to take their power
We will strike their ivory tower
Revolution comes closer by the hour

Labour and Tories want to smash us
They want to destroy the working class
There is no way that we can reform them
‘Cos their so called democracy’s a farce

We want jobs, we want to live
This is something that war and unemployment cannot give
We will fight to take their power
We will strike their ivory tower
Revolution comes closer by the hour

The army and police they want to kill us
With bombs and missiles by the score
So we’ll seize their armouries and take the power
And put an end to third world nuclear war

We want jobs, we want to live
This is something that war and unemployment cannot give
We will fight to take their power
We will strike their ivory tower
Revolution comes closer by the hour