Tony Blair hoped that, following the London bombings, he could regain the political initiative and defeat those who have campaigned against his wars for the past four years.
That hope was buried last week in Basra, when the actions of British troops, including shooting a number of innocent Iraqis, brought home to millions that the occupation was not working, was resented by most Iraqis, and was deteriorating at a rapid rate.
The demonstrators in London last Saturday, who turned out in their tens of thousands to call for troops out, showed that the anti-war movement has not been cowed by the bombings.
Instead it is determined to show that the terrorist attacks are linked to the war in Iraq.
Tony Blair dismissed the march as “urban intellectuals”.
There were some of those there — along with bus drivers, tube workers, car workers, firefighters, civil servants, hospital workers, pensioners and students. There were very large numbers of Muslims, and very many young people.
They represented the majority of British opinion.
Two polls taken last week show a clear majority in Britain want the troops out — 57 percent according to channel Five, 51 percent according to the Guardian. Virtually every military representative who dares to speak publicly now describes the war and occupation as a disaster.
Even Johann Hari, long a pro-war commentator, now admits the war was wrong.
The truth is that those at the highest levels of the British establishment are now split over this foreign policy disaster.
Blair has no choice but to follow Bush and the big companies which are stealing the resources of Iraq, especially its oil.
But many diplomats and politicians fear that we are in another Vietnam which can only end in defeat for Britain and instability in the region.
In addition, the morass in Iraq is hindering the US and its allies from intervening elsewhere in the world, from North Korea to Venezuela.
That is why many right wing papers and commentators are coming out against the war.
It is to the great shame of the government and the Labour Party that this issue is not even to be debated on the floor of this week’s Labour conference.
The government, and it appears many of the delegates, are in denial on this question. Such an omission only confirms the irrelevance of the conference to real politics.
It may not be on the agenda in Brighton but the size of the anti-war movement and its determination to keep
campaigning means the issue is very much in the public eye.
The Stop the War Coalition has been at the centre of opposing the war and occupation since its beginning.
This demonstration is the start of its campaign for peace and liberty, to get the troops out of Iraq, in defence of the Muslim community and against the attacks on civil liberties.
That campaign will include:
- An international peace conference towards the end of the year to bring together especially Iraqi, US and British campaigners to organise to get the troops out.
- Resistance to the new laws which restrict civil liberties.
- A lobby of MPs to call for the withdrawal of the troops.
- A series of local meetings, film shows and cultural activities, to raise the issue in the localities.
- Work with Military Families Against the War to gain support among soldiers and their families.
We are asking all anti-war campaigners to see the march last Saturday as the beginning of the campaign. Groups should be set up or reactivated in every locality, school, college, office or workplace, mosque, church or temple.
Lindsey German is the convenor of the Stop the War Coailition. Go to www.stopwar.org.uk