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Seize the chance to make history

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Issue 1836
Around 100 people, mainly students, demonstrated outside Tony Blairs meeting at Camden, north London, on Thursday of last week
Around 100 people, mainly students, demonstrated outside Tony Blair’s meeting at Camden, north London, on Thursday of last week (Pic: Matt Saywell)

What happens in Britain in the next few weeks will shape history. Everyone in the anti-war movement can be part of making that history. The clock is ticking relentlessly towards war. On Monday chief United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix reported that his team had found no evidence of any Iraqi ‘weapons of mass destruction’. We cannot trust the UN to block the war.

George Bush wants to unleash devastation on Iraq, whatever the UN says. Tony Blair has made it clear that he wants to ride to war with Bush. We can stop him. If we stop Blair it can derail Bush’s war plans. The scale of the opposition to war in Britain is terrifying those at the heart of government.

Blair appeared on TV last Sunday to argue the case for war. The BBC conducted a poll among people who had watched. Two thirds rejected Blair’s arguments. The same day a Sunday Times poll found that 68 percent thought Blair was wrong. Bob Worcester, chair of top opinion poll company Mori, says, ‘These figures would worry every government I’ve worked with for more than 30 years. The government is tracking the poll data very closely.’ Britain and Blair are crucial to Bush’s war plans.

Observer journalist Andrew Rawnsely, who is close to top New Labour figures, said, ‘Going to war without her best ally would leave the White House horribly isolated. Ask how Americans feel about going to war without the British and a big majority tell the pollsters that they are against it.’ Influential commentators in the US know this.

Nile Gardiner, of the right wing Heritage US think tank, says, ‘If Blair were to back out the results would be disastrous for the Bush administration. ‘It would be much more difficult for Bush to justify the war to the US public if he had to go it alone.’

The New York Times reported on Sunday that the Bush regime is terrified that the anti-war movement could swamp Blair. A US government official told the paper, ‘For us Blair is the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike,’ calling to mind the story of a boy who held back the sea threatening to pour through the dike flood defences.

The anti-war movement is the sea that Bush and Blair fear. Polls and public opinion are not enough to win. They must be translated into a tide of action. In the next two weeks one thing matters above all else-how widely we mobilise for the 15 February anti-war demonstration.

That demonstration needs to be the biggest protest march seen in Britain. It needs to show a determination that we will go beyond marching to civil unrest if Blair still dares to ignore the anti-war message. Blair must be made to choose between support for Bush and his own survival in office.

There are times when we can make a difference. The days and weeks ahead are such a time.

Blair: ‘We’ll return refugees to torture’

‘The problem with removing people is that under the obligations we have you cannot remove someone to a country where they might be subject to torture.’ That was the shocking, and sickening, comment made by Tony Blair about refugees on the BBC’s Breakfast with Frost programme on Sunday.

He was announcing that he was ready to withdraw from those ‘obligations’-namely the United Nations Convention on Human Rights-in order to send people back to regimes where ‘they might be subject to torture’. The Financial Times business paper noted:

‘The apparent inference-that safeguards on torture could be an inconvenient block to asylum controls-will appal many within his party’s ranks.’ It will appal the vast majority of people in Britain.

It shows where the brutal logic of the witch-hunt against refugees being urged on by the media finally leads. This is too often echoed by politicians and government ministers. It is time to call a halt to the attacks on refugees. Refugees fleeing persecution should be welcome, not live in fear of being sent back to their torturers.

Add your name or organisation to the ‘Stop the war on asylum seekers’ statement issued by the Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers.

It begins, ‘We the undersigned condemn utterly the hysteria about asylum seekers being whipped up by sections of the media.’ It goes on to accuse New Labour of ‘legitimising racism’.

For more information phone CDAS on 07941 566 183 or e-mail [email protected]

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