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Issue No. 1885

Only friends of US will get a vote in Iraq

BUSH AND Blair claimed their war on Iraq was a fight for democracy. Yet the US won't allow free elections to take place in Iraq.

No wonder Iraqi Shia Muslims, a group oppressed under Saddam Hussein's regime, held a 100,000-strong protest march in Baghdad on Monday of this week. They demanded a democratic election. Some 30,000 Iraqis marched through the southern city of Basra last Thursday.

The Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the leading figure amongst Iraq's Shia Muslims, called for a rejection of the US plans.

The US wants 'notables' in each region in Iraq to meet to appoint an assembly that would then select a government. It wants to ensure that groups like the Shia, who make up 60 percent of the Iraqi population, do not win any election.

Bush and his allies want to hand over power to a selected Iraqi government in June. The 'government' would then ask the US troops to stay to provide security. Ali Sistani and the Shias' opposition to the selection of a government has panicked Paul Bremer, the US overlord of Iraq. He rushed back to the US for discussions with George Bush.

Bremer also met Kofi Annan, the United Nations general secretary, on Monday of this week to press for the UN to send its staff back into Iraq and help supervise the selection.

All this exposes how hollow the warmongers' cries of 'freedom and democracy' were.


Resistance keeps the pressure on

AS BUSH faces elections in the US later this year he is desperate to reduce the level of US casualties, legitimise the invasion and continue to control Iraq.

Blair is under pressure over the war, with the long-awaited report from Lord Hutton's inquiry due out next week. Both had hoped that December's capture of Saddam Hussein would break the large-scale resistance that US and British forces have faced in Iraq.

But the deep hostility to the US occupation has meant the resistance has not stopped in Iraq. A roadside bomb killed three US troops and two Iraqi soldiers last Saturday at Taji, near Baghdad. These deaths brought to 500 the number of US soldiers killed since the invasion of Iraq began last March.

The insurgency went right to the heart of the US occupying force last Sunday when a truck exploded outside Saddam Hussein's former Republican Palace in Baghdad, now the US headquarters. The explosion killed at least 20 people, mainly Iraqis, but also two US defence department contractors.

Last week Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez, head of the US forces in Iraq, described Iraq as a 'battlespace' and the situation in the country as a 'war environment'. US commanders were referring to a report written by the British colonial overlords in 1918 to try to understand Iraq's tribal networks.


THE STOP the War Coalition is calling for a mass lobby of Tony Blair on the day the Hutton inquiry is published. The lobby will take place as Blair makes his statement to the Commons.

The Stop the War Coalition is calling for a full independent public inquiry into the reasons why the government took us to war.

Lobby Tony Blair, 1pm, Wednesday 28 January, Parliament Square.


Anti-war experts give their report

AN ALTERNATIVE to the Hutton report has been published by the Stop the War Coalition, called Iraq: The War, The Lies, The Consequences.

Dr Glen Rangwala, who exposed the government's original dodgy dossier, sifts through the evidence.

Award-winning journalist Paul Foot contrasts Hutton's inquiry to the Scott inquiry into arms sales to Iraq in the 1980s. He says, 'Those of us many millions who opposed the war and continue to oppose the occupation may learn a lot from the Hutton inquiry. But we should not be distracted from the real issues it could not investigate. We need to know why Blair went to war in our name.'

Iraqi exile Hani Lazim describes the failure of the US-imposed regime in Iraq, concluding, 'The real rulers are the generals, Paul Bremer and the appointed advisers.'

Lawyer Louise Christian, who represents Guantanamo Bay prisoners, exposes human rights abuses. She writes, 'For two years New Labour has refused to act to protect the rights of British citizens even in the face of the most fundamental abuse of being held without trial.'

And Salma Yaqoob looks at how racism against Muslims was stoked up to justify war. 'The comments of minister for Europe Denis MacShane serve one ugly purpose-the demonisation of a whole community,' she says.

It is indispensable reading for all anti-war activists.

To order the pamphlet, price £1, phone 020 7053 2153/4/5/6 or go to www.stopwar.org.uk


NEWS

A number on a list?

LABOUR POLITICIANS' boasts of falling unemployment are an insult to those caught in the avalanche of job cuts last week.

Finance workers suffered a double blow when banking giant Abbey and insurance group Axa announced they were axing 1,100 jobs. Abbey is shutting its Warrington and Derby offices, losing 400 jobs. It is moving some 700 jobs from Edinburgh to Glasgow, in a move that the Amicus union branded 'redundancy by the back door'.

Boots has slashed 900 jobs from its Nottingham headquarters. The company says this is part of its 'getting into shape' programme which aims to make £100 million worth of savings over the next three years.

Samsung were eager to set up in Billingham on Teesside ten years ago after £86 million of public funds were on offer. Now it wants to close the plant, sacking 425 people.

Airport workers at Stansted were dealt a job blow when FLS announced 270 job cuts when the company shifts work to Dublin.

The Great Lakes Chemical factory in Anglesey is closing after 50 years with the loss of 100 jobs. This is a disaster for an area with few job opportunities.


Shrinking wages

THE GOVERNMENT bragged last week about its success in getting people off benefits and into work.

But this does not mean new, decently paid jobs are being created. The number of people claiming unemployment benefit is at its lowest level since records began in 1984. But the number of manufacturing jobs is also at its lowest level since 1984.

The boost in employment is partly due to the record number of women working, nearly 13 million, often in low paid, part time jobs.

Many workers are suffering low wages. Average earnings have fallen behind the cost of living for the first time in eight years, according to the Office for National Statistics. Annual wage growth fell to 3.2 percent, while the cost of living, including direct taxes, rose by 3.3 percent.

Wages are now falling across the board but the worst fall is in the public sector where the government is determined to enforce poverty pay.


No respite on rail

STICK WITH the Tories' disastrous rail privatisation and scapegoat the safety inspectors.

That was the thrust of transport secretary Alistair Darling's announcement of a review of the rail industry on Monday. He spurned the calls by passengers, rail workers and 80 percent of the population for renationalisation.

Instead he promised to leave rail in private hands and he caved in to the right wing campaign against the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), reported in Socialist Worker last week.

He claimed there are a 'plethora' of safety standards, 'some of which are overcautious or are being applied in an overcautious way. Safety regulation... should not be an obstacle to providing a reliable service.'

Rail bosses applauded Darling's attempt to blame the safety inspectorate for the railways disaster. They have been calling for less regulation and they want responsibility for safety to lie with a body that will be mainly concerned with protecting their profits.


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News
Sat 24 Jan 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1885
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