Britain - Blair's imperialist posturing!

Mar/Apr 1998

As this journal goes to press, Clinton and Blair are said to be "considering" the agreement reached on February 22nd by the United Nations general secretary Kofi Annan and Saddam Hussein.

Whether this will settle the so-called "Iraqi crisis" remains to be seen. But even if, for this time, Clinton renounces bombing Iraq, the threat will remain permanently hanging over the heads of the Iraqi people, at least until the US leaders decide to choose another target for their terrorist policy.

For many weeks now, the British government has been on the warpath against Iraq, once again. This time, however, seven years after the Gulf war, it was no longer a Tory government which was at the helm of imperial Britannia, as part of a US-led general mobilisation of the so-called "free world". No, this time it was a Labour government, barking to the tune of its US master's voice, and all the more loudly as there was really no- one else in the pack.

In keeping with his policy in every other sphere, Blair seemed determined to outdo Thatcher and her gung-ho moralism, to the point of even adopting her own bellicose clichés.

Back in 1991, when the Iraqi army occupied Kuwait, Thatcher may have felt she could claim to have some justification in calling Saddam Hussein an "evil dictator".

But what of Blair doing this today? When the Iraqi population is strangled by a seven-year long blockade, which the British navy has helped to enforce? When Iraqi children are dying due to the resurgence of a disease carried by sand flies, which can no longer be contained, because the sanitation systems have collapsed for lack of spare parts, and can no longer be cured for lack of the required imported medicine?

Who are the "dictators" responsible for the six-fold increase in infant mortality in Iraq over the past years, if not the leaders of western imperialism in general, and in particular the most aggressive among them today, Clinton and Blair?

As to the "evil" that Saddam Hussein is supposed to represent for the Iraqi population itself, it is ironic that Blair should pose as a moral censor of Third World dictators. Hasn't his own government recently given the go-ahead to yet another large weapons sale to the Indonesian dictator Suharto, when everyone knows that the helicopters and aircrafts involved will be used against the unarmed population of East Timor, just because their land happens to be mineral-rich and an attractive target for Suharto's greed?

Of course, there are the scare stories spread by the hysterical headlines of the servile British press. Saddam Hussein threatening the world with a cloud of deadly anthrax? But the only anthrax bomb so far was found in February in the United States, in the hands of two US neo-Nazis white supremacists, who have made a hobby of spreading doomsday stories about an Iraqi plot to poison American cities and were preparing to implement this crazed scheme in the New-York underground themselves! Isn't it fitting that Clinton and Blair should share their anti-Iraqi rhetoric with such dangerous lunatics?

As to the victims of "biological warfare" in the Gulf, there are of course the Iraqi Kurd and Shi-ite minorities, who never got any protection from the West when they were attacked by Saddam Hussein. Apart from these oppressed minorities, the only known victims seem to be British servicemen who were apparently given untested British home-made drugs under the pretext of protecting them from Saddam Hussein's bacteriological and chemical weapons. Today these ex-soldiers are suffering from a crippling disease known as the "gulf war syndrome", for which there is, as yet, no known treatment. And because the British army will never admit to such misdeeds, these victims of British biological counter-warfare have no other option than to picket Downing Street in the hope of attracting enough public sympathy and create enough embarrassment to Blair's government, to be awarded the compensation which, at least, is owed to them.

Nor can anyone take seriously the charade of these UN weapons inspectors who, after seven years of constant surveillance and extensive use of hi-tech equipment across Iraq, still claim there might be mysterious "weapons of mass destruction" which, for all these years, have been kept hidden from their eyes, their video cameras, their chemical sensors, reconnaissance aircrafts and spy-satellites. No-one could take this seriously and yet this was all the substance of Blair's and Clinton's justification for threatening, yet again, the Iraqi population with the deadly power of their missiles.

And after all, why should Iraq, or any other country in the Third World for that matter, submit to the whims of imperialist powers which pretend to keep a world monopoly on weapons - and to use them whenever it suits their interests? Why should these countries tolerate that "so-called" inspectors invade their own factories as if they were in conquered territory and set up video cameras to keep a constant watch? After all, even us, British citizens, are not allowed to penetrate in MOD facilities to inspect them, despite the fact that it is our taxes which pay for all of that! So why should Saddam Hussein allow western powers to do in Iraq what they forbid their own citizens to do at home?

If the UN inspectors' brief was really to make the world a safer place to live in, why should they waste their time running after what can only be, in the worst possible case, a small number of unsophisticated short-range weapons? Surely their energy would be much better used destroying the very real massive stockpiles of sophisticated high-power "weapons of mass destruction", which are known to exist in good old Britain, including the so-called "nuclear deterrent" and the Trident missile system which Blair decided to refurbish just a few months ago? British arms dealers boast of being number two of the world league of death merchants - they, not the dictators of poor countries like Iraq, are the real threats to world peace and should be brought to account for this!

Blair's parroting of Thatcher's demagogy had obviously nothing to do with Saddam Hussein, morals, world peace or "international law" for that matter. In fact, ever since Labour came into office, this government has bent over backwards to convince the City and the middle-class electorate that nothing had changed, that they were carrying on from where the Tories had left off, that in fact they were "better" Tories than the Tories themselves. So, whether it be government spending targets, the private finance initiative or benefit cuts for single mothers and the disabled, Blair has made a point of sticking to the Tories' own agenda, and going just one bit further. Not just for the sake of propaganda, but because Blair and the Labour party went into office to manage the affairs of the British capitalists, in the interest of profit. And, as all loyal managers, they always strive to prove themselves as efficient as their masters want them to be, to the point of pre-empting their wishes whenever they can.

And this is true just as much as regards Iraq. The British bourgeoisie has more than an abstract interest in what goes on in Iraq, and in the Middle-East. Of course, they are keen, like all imperialist bourgeoisies, to see to it that Third World countries toe the line of the world imperialist order - even if, when it comes to doing business, they might be just as prepared to bend the rules of the western embargo on Iraqi imports in order to make a quick buck, as was revealed in February by the media.

But the interests of British companies have to be taken care of as well. In the 1991 Gulf War, the British bourgeoisie had its own specific interest in being involved. Wasn't Kuwait a vital outpost in the Middle East for BP and a major source of profits for Britain's large construction and engineering firms? Wasn't the Kuwaiti royal family a much-valued customer and shareholder of HSBC- Midlands Bank? Of course, British capitalists wanted Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait! But they also wanted to make sure that the US troops would not be alone on the ground, therefore giving US companies the opportunity to grab the lucrative positions held so far by British companies. In fact, they even saw further than that: there were going to be hefty profits for the taking in the reconstruction business, once the war was over in Kuwait, and they were determined to get their share of that too. For all these reasons, the British government had to be supportive of the war effort, but even more than that, it had to have a high profile in the war so as to be part of any postwar decisions, thereby enabling the British bourgeoisie to have its own share of the spoils.

In today's "Iraqi crisis", even though the issue is no longer that of Kuwait-based profits, there are, similarly, a number of specific reasons for British capitalists to want their state to have a high profile, next to the USA, in the Middle-East. One reason, like in 1991, is to preserve their existing positions, this time in the Gulf states rather than in Kuwait, where they are increasingly in competition with US and European rivals. Another reason, looking further ahead, is that should any conflict really occur, whether as a result of the present crisis or the next one, they want the British state to be in the best possible position in the subsequent settlement. Likewise, if there is going to be an opening up of business opportunities in Iran, it will necessarily involve a rapprochement between the USA and the Iranian government, and the British bourgeoisie has every interest, in that case, to be as close as possible to the negotiating table.

And there may be also very sordid short-term reasons for the British bourgeoisie, and more particularly British oil companies, to want, like their US colleagues, to justify an extension of the seven-year old blockade on Iraq's oil exports.

Indeed there has been plenty of moaning over the past year about the collapse of world oil prices. Since January 1997, prices have gone down by over 25%, reaching by now a level comparable to that before the 1974 oil crisis, and there is no sign of this trend coming to an end for the time being. This fall is the result of a combination of factors - the general stagnation of the world economy, the 10% increase of oil production decided at the end of 1997 by the oil producing countries' organisation, OPEC, and now, the reduction of oil imports to south east Asia, due to the recent financial crisis. Should the blockade of Iraqi oil exports be relaxed, it would reinforce the oil glut worldwide and lead to a certain further fall in oil prices.

Do BP, Shell and the various British oil-related companies want a further drop in world oil prices? Certainly not, as it could mean serious losses for them on their existing stocks of oil and future production. Nor does the British state, a much larger oil producing country than Iraq itself, want a further drop. It is clear that some British vested interests must be very keen to keep the noose tight around Iraq's neck.

Already, the 1991 Gulf War was a war for oil profits, as well as a war for the imperialist world order in general. Today's policing operation against Iraq looks just like more of the same, but without even the flimsy pretext of 1991. It is an almost naked case of imperialism throwing its weight about, for no other reason than to keep the pressure on the Third World and regulate the flow of its profits - whatever the cost for the Iraqi population.

By the same token, the leaders of world imperialism also mean to take advantage of this opportunity to get their public opinion used to the idea of their permanent policing of the world. Why otherwise this hysterical media barrage and the crude and blatant lies on which it is based? Let us make no mistake about this. Iraq is today's target for imperialism, just as Lybia, Iran or Somalia each had their turn in the past. There will be many more such targets in the future, which may or may not represent a real threat for imperialist profit, but will always be presented as a threat for the working people of Britain, to justify maintaining a state of permanent armed "peace" in the world and keep the Third World populations on their toes.

And this is why Blair's threats against Iraq must be opposed resolutely, today and tomorrow, even if he is no more than a second-rate soldier in the shadow of the USA. The working class of Britain can have no interest in allowing the Blair's and the Clinton's to bully, and even less bomb the Third World into submission. It can have no interest in helping the same British capitalists who wreck jobs and conditions in Britain, to butcher the populations of the Third World and increase their profits in the process.

If the imperialist bourgeoisies are capable of joining forces to plunder the world, despite their on-going rivalries, the exploited of the rich countries and those of the Third World, who have no conflicting interests to separate them, should be able to join ranks in their opposition against their common imperialist exploiters.