Challenging world poverty is the promise in Labour’s manifesto. “Put the Iraq war behind you and join us to help Africa,” is their pitch. But Tony Blair’s ties to George Bush, his partner in crime in Iraq, destroy any hope of this.
Blair can promise to work for treatment for the world’s HIV patients within the next five years. But Bush and the pharmaceutical multinationals will veto providing free or cheap drugs.
Even the modest debt relief proposals made by chancellor Gordon Brown were vetoed by the US government last week.
Blair and Brown rallied behind Bush’s appointment of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank. Wolfowitz is the doyen of the Washington neo-conservatives, an architect of the Iraq war and a firm believer in the US using its control of the world’s financial institutions alongside its military power to shape the future.
And Blair’s military alliance with Bush has increased the desperation and poverty in Iraq. The number of children under five suffering from malnutrition has doubled since the start of the occupation. No wonder Blair wants us to forget about the war.
Bush’s success story
Every 30 minutes a woman in Afghanistan dies in childbirth. Twenty percent of Afghan children die before the age of five. These are figures from a recently released United Nations report.
The US is pumping money into Afghanistan — it has announced $83 million will be spent on upgrading the two main US air force bases.
Washington also holds some 1,500 prisoners from around the globe in Afghanistan, free from the publicity surrounding Guantanamo Bay and beyond the reach of US courts and the Geneva Convention.
There is one free market success story coming out of Kabul, however. Last year Afghanistan accounted for 87 percent of the world’s opium production. This is the kind of democracy Bush wants to spread round the globe.
The war is an issue
The protests at the G8 summit in July will be massive. The Make Poverty History (MPH) campaign has tapped a growing mood of international solidarity in British society. Connect that to the anti-war movement, which has held some of the biggest protests in British history, and you have a mobilisation the G8 will never forget.
Sadly, some in the leadership of MPH would rather the war didn’t feature on the 2 July Edinburgh demonstration. The Stop the War Coalition have been told they are not allowed to affiliate to MPH and been asked to keep a low profile on the demonstration.
Separating the issues of poverty and war risks cutting the turnout. It also weakens the message. There is little chance of tackling poverty while big powers are spending billions on wars for corporate control. Most people going to protest in Edinburgh want to see a real change of priorities, a change in the way society uses its resources.
We should all be mobilising as widely as possible through MPH and Stop the War for all the protests set to take place in Scotland this July.
As the National Union of Teachers’ general secretary Steve Sinnott put it recently, “We have to put pressure on our leaders to change the priority from armaments to education.”