Socialist Worker

Iraq's shadow follows Blair

by Alex Callinicos says the war can only get worse for Labour
Issue No. 1906

TONY BLAIR is trying to explain away Labour's humiliation in the 10 June elections by portraying it as a passing 'protest vote' against the war in Iraq. He had been trying endlessly to 'move on' from Iraq. Now New Labour is prepared to talk about the war-but only to dismiss the views of its opponents. Nevertheless, the government is now admitting that the Iraq war is a major reason for its unpopularity.

One reason for this is that it believes the Anglo-American occupation has turned the corner. Blair welcomed last week's unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution endorsing the 'interim government' that supposedly takes over in Iraq on 30 June. 'The people of Iraq now know the world community is united in helping them take charge of their future,' he said.

The 'terrorists' resisting the occupation now face 'a united world'. This is fantasy. There have been several unanimous Security Council resolutions on Iraq over the past 18 months. Like the most recent one, they were compromises that papered over the cracks dividing the Great Powers. France, Germany, Russia and China may be prepared to rubber-stamp the new puppet regime in Iraq.

But they are not prepared to lift a finger to help the US and Britain on the issue that matters most to them-the desperate shortage of occupation troops in Iraq. At last week's Group of Eight summit Jacques Chirac vetoed George W Bush's proposal for NATO to join the occupation.

France and Germany also blocked American demands for the bulk of Iraq's $120 billion foreign debt to be forgiven. And they watered down Bush's plan for a 'Greater Middle East' remodelled on Washington's orders.

Meanwhile, seven members of the 'reunited' Security Council say they won't support an American motion giving US troops immunity from the International Criminal Court. France, Germany and Spain all opposed this move. China has even threatened to use its veto if Washington forces the issue. This reflects the devastating impact of the torture scandals in US-controlled prisons such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

It emerged last week that Bush administration lawyers are claiming the president can override US laws and international treaties that ban torture. Daniel Serwer of the US Institute of Peace told the Financial Times that he didn't 'see any sign of the Europeans committing new resources' to help the occupation.

The international effort in Iraq was 'stalled or declining' because of the 'colossal insurgency' that began in April. This is the nub of the problem facing Bush and Blair. Their occupation has provoked growing resistance from the people of Iraq themselves. The occupation has suffered further setbacks in the past few days. Bassam Qubba, deputy foreign minister in the puppet regime, was assassinated in Baghdad on Saturday.

Meanwhile, radical Shi'ite leader Moqtada al-Sadr has called on his Mehdi army to stop fighting the interim government's security forces. Swore Back in April US generals swore to 'destroy' the Mehdi army and to 'kill or capture' al-Sadr himself. The effect was to make him a popular hero. A poll last month showed that 32 percent of Iraqis 'strongly support' al-Sadr. His new apparently softer line may reflect a deal with ministers in the puppet regime.

They have hinted that they won't implement an American decree banning al-Sadr from political office. Despite massive firepower, the political situation in Iraq is slipping out of the control of the US and British occupation forces. This doesn't mean that they won't use this power to hang on to Iraq, killing many more people in the process.

But the stark reality of popular resistance to the occupation is evident to everyone, inside and outside the Middle East. That's why British voters gave Blair such a drubbing. The American electorate may do the same to Bush. In a poll last week 53 percent of American voters said the war in Iraq was unjustified.

Some 61 percent thought the US was getting 'bogged down'. The shadow of Vietnam looms ever more darkly over the conquerors of Iraq.

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Sat 19 Jun 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1906
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