BUSH AND Blair's occupation of Iraq is threatening economic chaos as oil prices spiral. Now the siege in Saudi Arabia has triggered a new leap in prices. The impact on the world's poorest could be catastrophic.
The high prices are being driven by the consequences of US intervention in the Middle East and backing for repeated coup attempts in another oil-producing country, Venezuela. Oil multinationals are also able to raise prices as demand from the world economy grows. China's demand for oil is increasing by around 8 percent each year. US demand grew by almost 5 percent last year. Financial speculators, who are gambling on more chaos in the Middle East, are also pushing up prices.
The predictable response of the right wing press was to highlight the impact on petrol prices. The Daily Mail headline, "£4 Gallon Nears As Oil Prices Soar After Bloodbath In Saudi", was typical. It is true that increased oil and petrol costs will be passed on to the consumer by the multinationals.
But the real consequences will be felt in the Third World, where people's survival depends on their ability to purchase oil-based products for heating and fuel.
As one report argued, "The cost of fertiliser, pest control agents and fuel for irrigation systems and other farm machinery ultimately depend on world oil prices." High fuel prices can drive up the price of basic foodstuffs forcing people to go hungry.
For half of the world's population struggling to survive on less than two dollars a day the rise in oil prices could have deadly consequences. They will become part of the hidden death toll from Bush and Blair's war in Iraq.
Lib Dems: 'Keep British troops in Iraq'
ALL THE main candidates for London mayor claim to be anti-war-even Steve Norris, the Tory. But the differences between them were laid bare at the CND Peace Hustings last week. Norris failed to turn up. He claimed he had an "interview" to go to, then changed his story later.
Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat candidate, defended the occupation of Iraq, saying, "I do not think the troops should come home." Hughes believes that Iraq "is on the verge of a handover of power". "Iraq is soon to be democratic," he claimed.
He also defended Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, who attended a banquet with George W Bush on his state visit last year. Hughes said he too would have joined the feast in honour of the US president rather than the protests against him. "I would have gone to see Bush," he said. Darren Johnson, the Green candidate, said the troops occupying Iraq "must leave immediately". But then he called for a new set of troops to take their place. Johnson refused to endorse Ken Livingstone as a second preference vote, despite Livingstone's vocal opposition to the war and occupation.
Livingstone took a robust line against the war, denouncing it as an imperialist adventure and calling for troops to come home immediately. But he tripped up when a man in the audience asked if Bush and Blair should be prosecuted for war crimes.
Livingstone replied that Bush should face a court, but not Blair, who had simply "made a mistake". In contrast, Respect candidate Lindsey German said Blair was just as much of a warmonger as Bush. She also insisted that Iraqis did not want to swap a US and British occupation for a UN one.
She said those who oppose the war and occupation should vote Respect as their first preference and Livingstone on the back-up vote.