Socialist Worker

There's billions for war but nothing for the poor

Issue No. 1836

A WAR on Iraq will not just cost the lives of many tens of thousands of Iraqi people. It will also cost billions of pounds, money lavished on US and British weapons of mass destruction, while public services are crying out for investment.

A war on Iraq will cost at least £3.5 billion in Britain. The graphic above shows how many schools and hospitals could be created with that money. New Labour demands that families beggar themselves to send their children to university.

Yet the government signed a £300 million deal for a portable anti-tank weapon last week. The Ministry of Defence contract went to a joint venture between the world's biggest arms firms, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, and the US government. In the US the cost of a war on Iraq will be even higher.

In December Business Week reported 'former White House economic tsar' Lawrence Lindsey saying the war could cost a staggering $100 billion to $200 billion. Research by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has put the cost in the range of $99 billion to $1.9 trillion.

In the US under George Bush the number of Americans living below the poverty line last year increased by more than a million for the first time in eight years.

The multibillion dollar price tag is far higher than the cost of the last Gulf War in 1991. Then the US bullied its allies into helping pick up the tab-today it has few allies willing to pay. Chas Freeman is a former US ambassador who helped raise $16.8 billion from the Saudis for the last war.

He said it would impossible to get them to pay a substantial portion of the costs this time because the Saudi public is 'now 100 percent against an attack on Iraq'.

Bush cronies are after the Iraqi oil

THE WAR on Iraq is about oil-everyone knows it and now the US has admitted it. Top of the US agenda is safeguarding Iraq's oilfields. They will send in US and British marines to seize control of the oilfields around Basra in southern Iraq.

The US State Department and vice-president Dick Cheney have hosted two sets of top level meetings with representatives of ExxonMobile, ChevronTexaco, ConocaPhillips and Halliburton-the company Cheney ran before he stood for election.

A senior state official said that the US had 'crafted strategies that will allow us to secure and protect those fields as rapidly as possible'. According to a report by Deutsche Bank experts, 'ExxonMobil's status as the largest US oil company gives it major weight with the US government. 'The company may find itself in pole position in a regime-changed Iraq.'

Awesome power to slaughter

SOME 800 cruise missiles costing £1 million each are likely to rain down on Iraq in the first 48 hours of an attack codenamed Shock and Awe by the Pentagon. 'There will not be a safe place in Baghdad,' said one Pentagon official.

From boom to bust

FEAR OF war is causing panic in the world's stockmarkets. Traders are terrified of the prospect of war on Iraq, and of a slowdown in the world's major economies. Already tens of thousands of jobs across Britain could be axed, according to the CBI bosses' organisation.

About 45,000 jobs were cut in the last three months of 2002. The CBI says a further 42,000 face the dole in the next few weeks. One in five families are already struggling to repay their debts, according to the consultants B&W Deloitte.

That means pain and hardship for 6.1 million families. Around 2.3 million are paying around 31 percent of their income just on repayments. Aside from mortgages some 20 percent of people are struggling with credit card debt. The two biggest debts are personal loans and student loans.

Drivers put brake on arms trains

TRAIN DRIVERS in Motherwell, near Glasgow, blocked another ammunition train last week. It is the latest phase in their refusal to move weapons for use in the war against Iraq.

In an effort to halt the drivers' resistance, freight company EWS brought in workers from Fort William depot to run the line.But these drivers refused to do the work once they knew the situation. The Motherwell drivers are an inspiration to everyone, and their spirit should be an example to all.

Local Aslef union officials are now seeking to win agreement from EWS that there should be a 'conscience clause' so that any driver who objects does not have to do war work.

NATIONAL leaders of Aslef have voted to give £500 towards the cost of a train to the 15 February demo.

Butchering children

THE ISRAELI army murdered 12 people last Sunday to guarantee war criminal Ariel Sharon's re-election as Israeli prime minister. Israeli tanks and helicopters swept into Gaza City as Israel geared up for a general election on Tuesday of this week.

An Israeli soldier shot dead Ali Talab Aziz, a seven year old Palestinian boy, in Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces killed 24 Palestinians in 48 hours at the beginning of the week. The Israeli government ordered the closure of all Palestinian cities, imprisoning 3.6 million people.

Israeli defence minister Shaul Mofaz said that Israel is considering a complete reoccupation of Gaza.

Call from a union

DAVE PRENTIS, leader of Unison, has sent this message to all members: 'Unison, in opposition to the mounting aggression, is calling on all members and branches to make every effort to attend the national demonstration against the war on Iraq on Saturday 15 February.'

On a red Alert

SOME 30 hospitals across Britain have been put on standby for thousands of war casualties from Iraq. The NHS plan is based on Britain having up to 2,000 casualties-one in ten of the soldiers sent. A special unit at Birmingham's Selly Oak Hospital is set to receive the first injured casualties flown back to Britain. Other hospitals will then come on stream as the casualties mount.

Yet critically ill patients are being turned away from hospitals, according to revelations in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper. In one in three hospitals in Glasgow over the last month patients lay on trolleys for more than eight hours.

Five hospitals have been forced to close their doors to patients even though they are supposed to be open 24 hours a day.

Right to protest

VICTORY WAS sweet for anti-war protester Leo Zeilig this week after all charges against him were dropped. 'We fought and won!' Leo told Socialist Worker. 'That they didn't have the confidence to pursue charges against me is proof of the great strength of the anti-war movement.'

Leo was arrested in London during the 31 October anti-war day last year. He took part in the peaceful events in Whitehall that formed part of the Stop the War Coalition activities. He was tracked by police throughout the demonstration and then arrested in Trafalgar Square.

Leo denied the charges of incitement to violent disorder. Now the Crown Prosecution Service has agreed that all charges against him should be dropped. This is a success for the anti-war movement that has fought against police attempts to criminalise protest.

Leo says, 'We must make sure that our campaign, the Right to Protest, organised by the Stop the War Coalition, continues to provide support and solidarity to others still facing charges.'

Bribing war partners

THE US is trying to bribe Turkey with $4 billion if it backs the US war on Iraq. The US wants to use Turkish military bases but the new Turkish government is worried about the political fallout. 'If Turkey helps us in the war, we want to help Turkey with the economic consequences of its role in that war,' a senior US official told a newspaper.

Anti-war evening

ANTI-WAR events are planned for the day before the giant anti-war demonstration in London on 15 February. They include:

  • Poets against the war including Mike Rosen, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Tony Harrison, Benjamin Zephania and Adrian Mitchell, 6pm, Bloomsbury Theatre, Gordon Street.

  • Trade union rally including Bob Crow (RMT), Jack Hyman (US West Coast longshoreman) and Andrew Murray (Aslef), 6.30pm, Bloomsbury Baptist Church, Shaftesbury Avenue.

  • Globalise Resistance video link-up with Edward Said and Globalise This! speakers, 6.30pm, Hong Kong Lecture Theatre, Clement Building, London School of Economics.

  • Stop the War Coalition presents the film Revengers Tragedy, starring Derek Jacobi, Christopher Ecclestone and Eddie Izzard, introduced by director Alex Cox, 6.45pm, Curzon cinema, Shaftsbury Avenue.

  • Stop the War Coalition rally with Tony Benn, Algerian resistance leader Ahmed Ben Bella and journalist Yvonne Ridley, 7.30pm, Friends Meeting House, Euston Road.

  • Showing of the film 9/11 with one of the directors, Ken Loach, 8.30pm, Bloomsbury Theatre, Gordon Street.

  • Cafe Bookmarks is open for books, refreshments and an exhibition by anti-war artists, 10am-10pm, 1 Bloomsbury Street.

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    Article information

    Sat 1 Feb 2003, 00:00 GMT
    Issue No. 1836
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