Iraq - Bush's threats of war - criminal politicking with Blair in tow

Sep/Oct 2002

On 5 September Blair announced that we should be prepared to pay "a blood price" to secure Britain's "special relationship" with the US. "Blood price"? Whose blood? That of the Iraqi population which remains subjected, 11 years after the Gulf War to regular bombings by British and US aircraft? That of Iraqi children who are still dying for lack of basic medicines and sanitary facilities, because of the blockade imposed on Iraq by London and Washington? Or the blood of British soldiers, should Bush take his threats to their logical conclusion and launch a full- scale attack against Iraq? Whichever is the case, such a proposition is intolerable.

As to Blair's sacred "special relationship" with the US, its real meaning should not be forgotten. It is a partnership in crime, which has fuelled numerous civil wars across Africa in order to defend the common interests of US and British capital against their other European rivals, with the blood of the African poor. And during the Gulf War, this same partnership has allowed Britain's oil giants to retain their privileged position in the Middle East, next to the US companies, while British building companies reaped the second largest share of reconstruction contracts in Kuwait.

Yes, first and foremost, the "special relationship" is a partnership between the City and Wall Street - a money link across the Atlantic, which is stained with the blood of the populations oppressed by the capitalists on both sides. And the working class of this country can have no stake whatsoever in maintaining such a link.

But what makes Blair's policy even more despicable, is that, at the same time, his constant use of the "special relationship" is also a political ploy designed to rally the support of a section of the electorate, which might be otherwise attracted by the present nationalistic, anti-Europe stance of the Tories. Never mind the "blood price" that may have to be paid for such a political manoeuvre!

There is indeed a great deal of politicking in Blair's present support for Bush's war rhetoric war against Saddam Hussein, just as there was in his involvement in Bush's "war against terrorism" during the US aggression against Afghanistan. Every development, against Iraq today just as yesterday against Afghanistan, becomes a pretext for Blair to stress his own importance as a statesman of international standing, wave the Union Jack and pretend to give "Britain" a decisive influence on events. As if this decrepit former colonial power, with its crumbling industry and outdated institutions could carry any real weight on important issues in front of an economic power with the size and the dynamism of the USA!

But never mind. Downing Street's lie machine is already in full swing. On 5 September, when the US carried out yet another bomb attack on Iraq's no-fly zone, the statement released by Blair's officials referred to no fewer than 100 warplanes - something that the US joint chief of staff in charge of the operation denied immediately, admitting to the involvement of only 12 aircrafts in the bombing and a total which fell far short of 100 in the operation. But no doubt, this "slip" of Downing Street's tongue had a purpose - to attract as much attention as possible to Blair's warmongering against Iraq.

As to Blair's famous "dossier" on Saddam Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction", we've heard it all already. It is the same pack of vague half-truths and half-lies, wrapped in hypocrisy, that we were served under John Major and then, again, after Blair came to power.

The main evidence in this "dossier" is apparently that Saddam Hussein could produce a nuclear weapon within 6 months "if" he had access to enriched nuclear fuel. Big deal!

Firstly, because it is old news, since until its war with Iran, Iraq had Western-built nuclear power stations on its territory. So it must have had a number of trained nuclear scientists, who would be capable of designing such a bomb.

Secondly, because it is hard to see why Saddam would take the risk of building such a bomb. It should be remembered that most of Saddam Hussein's modern weaponry during the Iran-Iraq war and after was bought from Western countries. So, as long as the Western death merchants do not try to sell him their own "weapons of mass destruction", he has no interest in upsetting his neighbours, which are all much better armed than he is. And what would be the point for him to have a nuclear bomb if he cannot boast about it to put pressure on regional rivals?

And thirdly, because with the advances of physics, every sizeable country in the world is probably capable of producing such a weapon today - a weapon which is not really "high- tech" any more, after all, being more than 50 years old - provided it has the right fuel. So is Blair intending to launch an invasion against every sizeable dictatorship in the world? Against Pakistan's Musharraf, maybe, or Nigeria's Obasanjo? No, of course not. These are "friendly" dictators!

Bush's domestic concerns

If Blair's vindictiveness against Saddam Hussein is primarily dictated by domestic politicking, the same is true of Bush.

The national unity which Bush had managed to build behind him on the ashes of the World Trade Centre is already full of cracks, less than one year after the event.

The Enron scandal and the direct financial links it has exposed between Bush's own team in the White House and top executives of the failed company; the role played by Republican politicians in helping Enron to speculate on energy prices at the expense of consumers; the backhanders that this help suggests. All this must have alienated a whole section of the US electorate, particularly among those who have lost their jobs as a result of the recent bankruptcies or whose savings or pensions have been reduced to nothing by the meltdown of the stock market.

Besides, Bush can hardly boast of his record in the "war against terrorism." His crackdown on foreigners in America has failed to produce one single accomplice to the terrorist attack. Despite murdering thousands of Afghan civilians under US bombs and reducing to rubble what little infrastructure was still operating in the country, his army has failed to catch the former Taliban leader Mullah Omar. What is more it is proving unable to eliminate the remaining Taliban forces in the country. The pro-American regime that Bush has brought to power in Kabul is so unstable that, despite the permanent presence of thousands of Western soldiers in the capital, it is proving unable to prevent some of its own ministers from being killed in the rivalries between its various factions. As to Bin Laden, who was elevated by Bush himself to the rank of America's public enemy number one, he has managed to escape from the most powerful army in the world. And the caging of a few thousand poor captives in the Guantanamo base, in Cuba, cannot make up for the failure to catch Bin Laden.

Given all this, the "war against terrorism" theme is bound to become something of an embarrassment for Bush - at least in the immediate future - instead of an effective means of rallying the country's public opinion behind him. And yet, one way or another, Bush needs to sustain the illusion that the US remains the target of outside threats. Otherwise, how would he be able to justify the continuing deployment of the US army in just about every part of the world under the pretext of protecting the "free world", when its only purpose is to protect the interests of US capital against the poor countries' populations? Not to mention the exorbitant cost of this military deployment, with the huge increase of the defence budget passed in the aftermath of 11 September, at a time when the standard of living of a sizeable section of the population is seriously reduced by the recession.

As a justification for all this, what more convenient trick could Bush have pulled, than to take the old bogeyman, Saddam Hussein, out of the cupboard where he had been left temporarily following 11 September? Having done this, all Bush had to do was to relaunch the war rhetoric used by his predecessors against Iraq for a whole decade, based on the lies and scaremongering still present in the collective memory of a section, at least, of US public opinion.

In doing so, Bush kills two birds with one stone. By replacing Bin Laden with Saddam Hussein, he can leave the "war against terrorism" to rest, for the time being at least. At the same time, by pointing to an enemy - the Iraqi state - which has a lot more resources than the Al Qaeda network, Bush hopes to give credibility to the need for "national unity" behind his policies.

But for this to work, Bush still has to convince US public opinion that Iraq really is a threat - without, of course, having the slightest shred of evidence for this. Hence Bush's verbal escalation, which is designed to get public opinion used to the idea that a military confrontation cannot be avoided.

A criminal and dangerous policy

No-one can tell how far this politicking will go - if only because this depends, among other things, on the outcome of the November congressional election.

There are obvious reasons for US imperialism not to take the risk of carrying out Bush's present pledge to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Iraq may have been weakened by years of economic blockade. But unlike in Afghanistan, the US army cannot hope to overthrow Saddam Hussein just by a systematic bombing campaign against the country's towns and military facilities. Such an objective would necessarily involve a land invasion and a significant number of casualties on the US side. What would the reaction of US public opinion be then, when the first body-bags return home? After all, the Vietnam war is still a recurring nightmare in the memory of many Americans.

Besides, for all its insolence, Saddam Hussein's dictatorship still has one major advantage from the point of view of imperialism: it manages to prevent a number of nationalist powderkegs from exploding in the region (Kurds and Shiites in particular). The overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime may set alight these powderkegs and threaten the present borders of half-a-dozen states.

Moreover, invading Iraq would be opening up a second war front in the region which is already destabilised by the on-going war waged by Sharon against the Palestinian Occupied Territories. This is almost certain to disrupt the enormous profits that the US oil giants draw from plundering the region's natural resources.

Finally, there is no guarantee that the US invasion would be able to replace Saddam Hussein's regime with another regime which is both stable and pliable to the diktats of imperialism. In which case, this military adventure would imply a large long-term deployment of US troops in Iraq, with all the risks that such a situation can create.

However, between the present low-level war waged by the US and Britain against Iraq, and a full-scale invasion, Bush could make one of many intermediate choices to back up his militaristic overbidding - for instance another wave of massive bombings similar to those staged in the 1990s, or a tightening of Iraq's blockade, or even a limited landing of troops in selected strategic areas.

But then again he may also choose to do nothing, or to carry out his threats to the full, regardless of the considerable risks that such a military adventure would involve for the region as a whole.

Whichever military means Bush chooses to use, if any, the main victims will be, once again, the Iraqi population. That the reason for this new aggression would be to consolidate his own position in power in the US only makes this perspective even more repulsive and unacceptable.

As to those European countries or Labour party politicians who oppose Bush's and Blair's warmongering by arguing that the decision should be left to the United Nations, their hypocrisy should be exposed. After all, it was the UN which provided Bush's father with the legitimacy to wage the Gulf War against Iraq. It was again the UN which obliged the US and British leaders of the time by endorsing their ever-increasing demands on Iraq to submit to its arms inspectors. And finally, it was in the name of the UN that for the past ten years Britain and the US have been carrying out a systematic low-level bombing campaign against Iraq. The United Nations have always rubber-stamped Washington's decisions. Relying on the UN to contain Bush's and Blair's warmongering is merely a hypocritical way of endorsing it.

But even if Bush's threats remain rhetorical, the political climate that they are creating, in the US but also in Britain, should be resisted vigorously. Bush's and Blair's attempt at creating a jingoistic consensus around them threatens both countries with a reactionary drift, whose first target, particularly in the context of today's economic meltdown, is bound to be the working class.

This is why it is in the interests of all working people and jobless to oppose all threats against Iraq, whether from Blair, Bush or the UN, and indeed to demand an immediate end to the on-going bombings and blockade to which the Iraqi population has been subjected for over a decade.

9 September 2002