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Whoever is elected, ending the occupation is still the first priority

The question of the Iraq war just won’t go away, writes the chair of the Stop the War coalition, Andrew Murray

Issue No. 1948

Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray

Despite the best efforts of the Labour and Tory leaderships to keep it off the agenda, the criminal war against Iraq, and the continuing occupation of the country, are critical election issues.

This is not just because the war itself has been the bloody disaster predicted, leading to the loss of around 100,000 Iraqi civilian lives and more than 1,400 occupying troops to date.

It is also because the war has become a democratic crisis for Britain itself. The government backed George Bush’s invasion in spite of the clear opposition of millions of the British people.

It did so on the basis of lies — about the reasons for war, its legality and the secret pledges of support made to Bush. If opinion polls are today showing that lack of trust in Tony Blair is a key election issue, then Iraq is above all the reason.

Nor is the situation in Iraq itself going to allow the war to go away, despite government claims that the country is “normalising”. Last week 300,000 people marched through Baghdad demanding an immediate end to the Anglo-American occupation.

This demonstration was organised by the mainly Shia political forces associated with Moqtada al-Sadr — indicating once more that opposition to foreign rule stretches across Iraqi society, and is not confined to the armed resistance in the largely Sunni-populated centre of the country.

In addition, the failure of those parties which participated in the January elections to form a government for a full two months has shown the incapacity of elements which acquiesce in the continuation of the occupation to give a political lead.

The essential element of any progress in Iraq remains, as ever, the withdrawal of the occupying troops allowing genuine sovereignty to the Iraqi peoples. That demand must be at the heart of our election too.

Even pro-US governments like those in Poland, Ukraine and Bulgaria are now falling over themselves to quit the occupation. Britain is more isolated than ever in its military support for Bush’s occupation.

Whoever is elected on 5 May, breaking that war alliance is the top priority in British politics — not least because of the evident danger of the war in the Middle East being extended to Iran, or Syria, or both this summer.

These issues should be put to every candidate and every party in the run-up to polling day. There can be no more important questions for this election campaign.

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Sat 23 Apr 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1948
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