SARS. IN a few weeks the word has rolled around the world, bringing panic and fear. SARS stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. By the start of this week it had killed at least 200 people in seven countries and infected thousands more. The World Health Organisation warns, "SARS could become the first severe new disease of the 21st century with global epidemic potential."
"THE PAST few months have seen Tony Blair unshakably hold to the courage of his convictions. He is entitled to receive recognition of his single minded determination." So ran the Daily Mirror's editorial on Thursday of last week. This is the same paper that during the early part of this year ran page after page which tore apart Bush and Blair's case for war.
MILLIONS OF people across the world marched last weekend against the US occupation of Iraq. The chaos in Baghdad and US companies crawling over the bodies of the dead to get their hands on lucrative reconstruction contracts confirmed what this war was really about.
THERE WERE two major summit meetings last week. The first, highly publicised here, was the meeting of George W Bush and Tony Blair in Northern Ireland. The other brought together the French and Russian presidents - Jacques Chirac and Vladimir Putin - with the German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, in St Petersburg, Russia.
"WE WILL export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defence of our great nation." These chilling words were spoken by George Bush a few months ago to a US journalist. They put the invasion of Iraq into sharp focus. It wasn't just about revenge for 11 September, though Bush was determined to lash out at an Arab nation - somewhere, anywhere - in order to gain revenge for that dreadful act.
The US has unleashed on Iraq the greatest military machine the world has ever seen. It recalls the colonial wars of 100 years ago. Bush, Blair and their media cheerleaders began to hail victory as US tanks entered Baghdad on Monday. Occupation, not liberation, is the reality facing Iraq. The Ba'athist regime of Saddam Hussein has inflicted horror on the Iraqi people. For much of the time it was backed to the hilt by those now waging war against Iraq.
THIS WEEK'S budget isn't notable only for Gordon Brown's willingness to squander billions on the conquest of Iraq. It comes against the background of increased difficulties for both the US and British economies. The situation is worse in the US. Last week figures were released that showed that the number of jobs outside agriculture fell by 108,000 in March. This is the fifth fall in the past seven months, including a huge drop of 357,000 jobs in February.
THE ANTI-WAR movement is sending the advertising hacks into a spin. Canny corporations see the anti-war and anti-capitalist movements as new marketing tools to get to young people. How they connect into these movements takes many different forms. Corporations like Nike with its "Just do it" theme or FCUK with its anti-establishment stance are playing on relatively safe ground. Meanwhile Qibla and Mecca Cola are trying to take a small bite out of Coca-Cola and Pepsi's markets by plugging themselves as an ethical alternative to these global giants.
THE WAR against Iraq is about brutal occupation, not liberation. And every honest commentator admits it's going to get worse. More death, more destruction. Yet the government and its friends in the media say that having started this war, we have to finish it.
WHATEVER THE eventual outcome, the war's first two weeks saw a defeat for those who pushed most vehemently for unleashing the barbarity - the hard core around Bush and Rumsfeld in the White House. That is the significance of the criticisms of Donald Rumsfeld's - and Tony Blair's - strategy by high placed US and British generals.
"I'm not fighting for Saddam, I'm fighting for Iraq." Those were the words of Nasr Al Hussein, a former Iraqi special forces parachutist, on Monday. He was one of hundreds of Iraqi exiles in Jordan queuing to board coaches to take them back across the border to Iraq so they can fight US and British forces.
A FRIEND of mine was talking to her mother on Sunday. Her mother had always been opposed to her daughter's political activity. My friend was amazed to be congratulated on going on Saturday's demonstration in London. She was even more amazed by what came next when her mother said, "But demonstrations are not enough. People need to do more."
"ONCE OUR boys are fighting, opposition to the war will virtually evaporate." The Blairites, the Tories and the political commentators close to them all agreed on this after the parliamentary debate 10 days ago. A section of the left, believing the media are all-powerful, agreed. How wrong they were.
News reports treat the war like a video game. But anti-war protesters are organising and refuse to be silent
BUSH AND Blair have signalled the start of mass murder in Iraq. They are prepared to turn Iraq into a wasteland of blasted bodies, shattered minds, mangled corpses and weeping children. This war has always been wrong. It remains so now. It does not become better or "moral" or worthy of anyone's support because the missiles are launched and British soldiers are sent into battle.
SOME IN the anti-war movement argue that once war starts it would be better for it to be over quickly, with the US and Britain winning with the minimum of fighting. That is an understandable reaction, motivated by wanting to see the least loss of life in the immediate conflict. It is, however, mistaken.
MANY YEARS ago when the benefits of parliamentary democracy were shared by very few of the world's population, the Russian revolutionary Lenin pointed to a fundamental problem. He argued that "hidden beneath the polished exterior of modern democracy are deceit, violence, corruption, mendacity, hypocrisy and oppression of the poor". Tony Blair's New Labour has managed to illustrate each one of them in six short years. One measure of the outcome is the declining number of people who vote in elections.
BUSH AND Blair threatened war on Iraq within days as Socialist Worker went to press. Tony Blair cannot miss the scale of opposition to war. He saw two million march in London, he watched 122 Labour MPs rebel, he knows that this is the greatest crisis inside the Labour Party for over 70 years. Any lingering belief that he still had the majority with him must have been dispelled on Monday night.
THE GLOBAL movement against war on Iraq continues to go from strength to strength. In Britain it is tearing New Labour apart. But there are people who are asking, "What can it achieve? Bush is going to go to war anyway, whatever anyone else thinks." The argument is mistaken on a number of counts. First, despite Bush's bluster, key sections of the US ruling class are worried about going to war without some cover from other governments.
MUSICALS, WESTERNS and good old fashioned love stories dominated Hollywood films of the 1950s. On the surface many of those films appear to be politically innocent. But beneath the surface, and using only the subtlest of references, a moral, sexual, ideological and political battle took place.