Tony Blair planned to jet off to Texas this week to meet US president George Bush and prepare for a new war against Iraq. Such a war would unleash death and destruction on an even greater scale than the murder and chaos the US and Britain are still inflicting on Afghanistan. The US is already building up its troop levels in the Gulf region on an unprecedented scale.
It has moved its military 'central command' headquarters to the Gulf. A new military base has been set up in Oman. US troops are being moved from Saudi Arabia to Qatar because the Saudi regime opposes an attack on Iraq. Bush is determined to press ahead with these preparations for war-despite widespread and growing opposition to a new war on Iraq. And he is counting on Blair's slavish support.
After 11 September Bush sent Blair a personal note of thanks, saying, 'I like your style.' Bush has agreed that Blair should take the lead in selling his 'coalition against terrorism' in the Middle East. Last week New Labour defence secretary Geoff Hoon threatened to use nuclear weapons against Iraq.
'Saddam can be absolutely confident that in the right conditions we would be willing to use our nuclear weapons,' he said. This is despite the fact that neither Bush nor Blair can find ANY evidence linking Iraq to the attacks on 11 September.
This week Blair indefinitely delayed the publication of a pamphlet which was supposed to provide evidence that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Even the MI6 intelligence service says the evidence about Iraq's weapons is based on assumption and speculation.
The Sunday Times reports, 'MI6 does not believe reports that Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker in the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, met an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague before 11 September.' The government was also terrified the pamphlet would inflame the mounting opposition to a US-led attack on Iraq.
According to two recent opinion polls over half of voters are against Britain backing an attack on Iraq. Over 140 Labour MPs have now signed a motion against a military attack on Iraq. These are not just the 'usual suspect' left wing MPs. For example, even former Foreign Office minister Tony Lloyd, who is usually loyal to Blair, has spoken out.
He wrote in an article for Red Pepper magazine, 'Any massive strike against Iraq would further polarise and alienate opinion within the Middle East and broader afield. 'Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, firmly in the pro-Western camp, are hostile to military action. Turkey has warned against action. The majority of our EU partners believe that diplomacy must take priority and that every alternative to invasion must be examined rigorously.' Bush and Blair's preparations for war have inflamed anger across the Middle East.
Even the reactionary rulers of regimes which usually back the US, like Saudi Arabia, have opposed an attack on Iraq. The Arab leaders' summit in Beirut last week declared a 'categorical rejection' of an attack on Iraq, arguing it would be 'a threat to the national security of all Arab states'.
Yet Blair is still slavishly following George Bush's attempt to impose US military might against any regime in the world that it sees as threatening its interests. That makes it all the more urgent that we build mass opposition in Britain against Bush and Blair's plans to go to war.
Empire strikes back
AN INSIGHT into Tony Blair's thinking comes with an article written by his foreign policy adviser Robert Cooper. Cooper advises Blair on Afghanistan and international terrorism. His article appears in a pamphlet called Reordering the World. The pamphlet includes an endorsement by Blair.
Cooper writes, 'When dealing with the more old fashioned kinds of state outside the postmodern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era-force, pre-emptive attack, deception.' He adds, 'The opportunities, perhaps even the need for colonialisation is as great as it ever was in the 19th century. What is needed is a new kind of imperialism.'
Call for civil disobedience
AROUND 1,000 people packed the Stop the War Coalition rally in the Camden Centre in central London on Tuesday of last week. Bob Crow, leader of the rail workers' RMT union, was enthusiastically applauded for pledging his union's opposition to any attack on Iraq. He also criticised other union leaders for not taking a stand against Bush and Blair's warmongering.
Other speakers included Jeremy Corbyn MP, the civil rights lawyer Louise Christian, journalist and Socialist Workers Party member Mark Steel, a speaker from Just Peace, Bruce Kent from CND, and Tony Benn. The spirit of the meeting was to mobilise wider anti-war feeling and a movement that could seriously challenge the drive to war.
Several speakers urged those in the audience to pledge civil disobedience, stopping for an hour in colleges, workplaces and communities if any attack on Iraq comes about. The audience was encouraged to take away the coalition's national petition to build support for the anti-war movement.
Acting now to stop an attack on Iraq
'NOW IS the time to put the pressure on this government. Millions are saying, 'Enough is enough.' If we mobilise to stop their planned attack on Iraq, we can stop them.'
So said Andrew Murray, chair of the Stop the War Coalition, to cheers at CND's 'Don't Start Wars' demonstration last Saturday. The CND organisers said that up to 20,000 people took part.
Andrew Murray urged people to use the Stop the War Coalition's national petition to build a mass movement that could stop Blair from backing Bush's war on Iraq. Thousands have already signed the petition. Simon is a member of the MSF/Amicus union in a small engineering plant in Leicester.
He told Socialist Worker, 'We have passed a motion condemning the war in Afghanistan, and calling for an end to the bombing of Iraq and for Israel to get out of Palestine. I took the petition and the leaflet with Tony Benn's statement calling for civil disobedience if they attack Iraq into work. We are now discussing what we are going to do.'
A hospital worker from Leeds said, 'Everyone can take it into their workplace, college or school and get people to sign it en masse. Several of my colleagues have signed. People see this threat to Iraq as senseless, just US bully-boy tactics.'
Anti-war campaigners are also mobilising now for mass demonstrations if the US and Britain do go to war against Iraq. In Scotland campaigners are making plans for a mass demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament on the day of any attack. Similar protests and blockades are planned in towns and cities across Britain.
In Liverpool the Stop the War Coalition has the support of the local union branches of the teachers' NUT, Unison and the probation officers' Napo. 'We plan to visit workplaces and trade union branches around the city to urge support for a lunchtime stoppage if Iraq is attacked,' reports Mark from Liverpool. 'We've organised a rally in April with Labour MPs George Galloway and Peter Kilfoyle, and journalist Yvonne Ridley.'
THERE HAS been an amazing response to the launch of an anti-war newspaper called War Times in the United States. The paper is supported by anti-imperialist writer Noam Chomsky, along with labour organisations and anti-war groups. It aims to report the truth about the US war in Afghanistan and threats against Iraq.
The paper's managing editor, Bob Wing, reports, 'We originally planned to print only 7,500 copies, but the demand was so great we printed and distributed 100,000.'