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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON THE WAR
Is this a moral War?
This war will cost tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of innocent lives, including those poor Iraqis dragooned into Saddam Hussein’s conscript army. A country already devastated by the 1991 war and a decade of punitive sanctions will have the basic fabric of its society ripped apart. The United Nations calculated weeks ago that the war will have at least 1 million casualties. Amid all the lies of Bush and Blair even they have never claimed that there will be no innocent casualties of their war.
So what makes this a moral War?
Bush and Blair claim that Saddam Hussein is an evil dictator who must be removed. But this can hardly be the reason. The United States supports dictatorships all over the world and once supported Saddam Hussein himself. Their problem with him now is that he is no longer an obedient follower of US foreign policy. While claiming to bring democracy to Iraq the CIA have been attempting for months to overthrow a democratically elected president in Venezuela. The hypocrisy of the US administration has been breathtaking.
In fact the US administration has admitted that the government they are going to put in place after the war will be a military one headed by a US general. We need only look to what has happened in Afghanistan to see that a victory for the US and Britain will not bring any sort of democracy. George Bush and Tony Blair have no right to determine the government of Iraq.
But isn’t this War about weapons of mass destruction?
George Bush claims that his aim is to destroy Iraq’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’ that threaten the United States and its allies. But there is absolutely no evidence that a devastated Iraq threatens any other country and UN weapons inspectors have declared that Iraq has no nuclear weapons at all. Of course Saddam Hussein did have chemical weapons in the past – supplied by western powers but they have either been destroyed or have become unusable. The inspectors have found no weapons that could conceivably threaten the rest of the world.
On the other hand the US holds enough nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to wipe out the world’s population many times over and promises to continue to develop them in contravention of international treaties. The US is the only country in the world to have used nuclear weapons – against civilian targets in Japan at the end of World War II. While Iraq does not hold nuclear weapons Israel, the US protectorate in the area and the main cause of violence in the Middle East, holds an armoury of nuclear warheads obtained with the help of the US.
The war against Iraq increases not reduces the danger to the world from nuclear weapons. Countries under US threat such as North Korea and Iran are stepping up weapons development in the expectation of attack. In this war the US can be expected to use a whole series of futuristic weapons, most designed to blur the distinction between conventional and nuclear arms and make use of the latter more acceptable.
Isn’t this a War against Terrorism?
The US administration has claimed a link between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein but not even Tony Blair has been able to accept its arguments because of a complete lack of evidence. The idea is simply preposterous. One is a religious fundamentalist and the other rules a secular state. What they do have in common is that they are both former allies of the US who have outlived their usefulness. That George Bush has come out with such obvious lies has rightly led many to doubt everything he says about this war.
Far from help rid the world of terrorism this war will increase the likelihood of more terrorist acts in the future.
So is it a War for Oil?
Many opposing the war argue that it is a war for oil. There is certainly truth in this. The US administration is dominated by oil interests including President Bush himself and his Vice-President Dick Cheney. Iraq holds the world’s second largest known oil reserves and they are an extremely valuable resource. Oil consumption in the US is increasing as domestic supplies fall.
But oil is not the only valuable prize for US business interests that will follow a successful war. US telecommunications companies have calculated that contracts worth a billion dollars may arise after US occupation. This would be paid for by money from the sale of Iraq’s oil.
However this is not the whole truth. It does not tell us why there is a war when Iraq would have been only too willing to sell its oil on the world market and to buy western products. It does not tell us why it is being pressed home now.
What is the fundamental reason for this War?
We have all the clues we need to understand the real nature of this war. The war in pursuit of oil resources, and creation of a colonial style military government after victory, all in flagrant opposition to the wishes of the majority of the world’s population demonstrate that we are witnessing an old fashioned imperialist war.
What do we mean by this?
Capitalism is a system in which production of the world’s goods and wealth is not determined by need but by the pursuit of profit. This has inevitably led to a world dominated by massive inequality. While some live in luxury others live below or near the poverty line, or in a state of constant insecurity, threatened by unemployment. The rich get richer and seek still greater wealth while the needs of the majority of the world’s population are not considered important.
Such a society inevitably involves competition for extra profit between companies that become ever bigger as rivals are defeated and swallowed up. The biggest companies constantly search for the means of making more money as they come to dominate existing markets. The same process occurs on an international level as these companies seek the support of their governments in competition within companies from other countries. The conquest and plunder of the world’s resources by the most powerful states on behalf of the most powerful companies is what is known as imperialism. This is what is happening right now in Iraq.
This is what has explained the reluctance of some countries to support the war. Countries such as France and Russia have their own companies that already have contracts with Saddam Hussein to exploit Iraq'’ oil. Victory by the US would see these taken over by US companies. Britain hopes that by helping Bush its companies will get a small slice of the cake.
George Bush and the leading figures in his administration have long wanted to invade Iraq. The terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre has given them the opportunity. Bush said exactly that after the 11th September attacks. He did not seek to share in and express the shock and grief of the relatives of the victims. He has not investigated the attack to determine how and why it happened. Instead he said the attack was an ‘opportunity’ for war.
But there is another reason why now. Economic growth in America and across the world has slumped. In a capitalist society economic growth takes place not in order to create jobs or raise workers’ living standards. Economic growth is first and foremost growth of profits and a slump in growth signals a slump in profits for many companies. This is the significance of the fall in stock markets across the world.
Foreign policy is a continuation of domestic policy and the war is thus driven by economic crisis. Seizure of Iraq’s oil and its use to pay for contracts with US companies would boost the profits of these companies and deprive their competitors of opportunities to grow stronger. At the moment despite US military domination its economy is relatively weak and the amount the US sells to the rest of the world is much less than it buys. This means it needs nearly $2 billion each day from other countries lending or investing in it to pay for the goods and services which it buys from the rest of the world.
These are the real economic facts compelling the policy of the Bush administration. The individuals in this administration are not only representatives but actual members of this rich capitalist class that has seen its profits fall. They seek to use the power of American arms to boost their profits and the strength of the American economy.
What are the stakes for those opposed to War?
George Bush has promised an unlimited war – a war without end.
So far we have seen unprecedented attacks on civil liberties so that in the US the constitution has been virtually torn up. People are arrested without trial or even acknowledgement that they have been imprisoned. All democratic rights have been removed by calling captured prisoners ‘enemy combatants.’ In camp X-Ray in Cuba prisoners have been treated like cattle and in Afghanistan hundreds of prisoners of war were killed in the massacre at Mazar-I-Sharif. In Europe the ‘war on terror’ has led to definitions of terrorism that would outlaw all legitimate political opposition. The British government is yet again exercising the power of internment.
The war has to be paid for and it will cost billions of dollars. It will not however be the rich who will pay for it as George Bush has announced huge tax cuts of $674 billion that will benefit the rich almost exclusively. In Britain Tony Blair refuses to pay the firefighters and wants 10,000 redundancies while there is no problem funding the war. In Ireland cuts in health care are discussed that will cost patients’ lives yet Bertie Ahern pays for the protection of US planes at Shannon airport and for the cost of US military flights over the country.
Above all we should be aware that if the United States gets away with bullying and plundering one small country it will feel no restrictions in imposing its will on other small countries such as Ireland. This is not a war that can be ignored. It is a war that will affect everyone living on this island just as it has implications for everyone on the planet.
This is the battle of our time that is being fought over the future of our world. What is there left of ‘democracy’ if the clear wishes of the world’s population are ignored by its ruling class? What sort of morality will exist in a world where the slaughter of innocents for oil and profit is justified as the highest goal?
This battle will be fought on many fronts and around many issues. It is aimed not only at the far corners of the world but at you, today. Bush has made it clear – you are either for him or against him. His policy of pre-emptive war means that he will target not just those that attack him or threaten him but those who might simply be possible rivals to US power and interests some time in the future.
We will require all our invention to find new forms of struggle and organisation to fight back.
How can we successfully resist?
Our analysis of the nature of the war tells us what is required. We must oppose this war not just because its methods are barbaric but because we oppose its objectives. We must oppose not only the imperialist war but any imperialist peace that comes afterwards. Such peace could only be built on the oppression of the people who live in Iraq. We must oppose not only this war but Bush’s whole war agenda, no matter who he decides may be the next target.
Can we stop this War by Lobbying?
Lobbying involves asking our leaders to change their minds. This was the strategy of relying on the UN and appealing to international law to stop the war. It has failed. The UN has typically been the tool of the US or the other big powers and today the ‘international community’ simply means the US and its allies. The UN happily collaborated in a sanctions regime that saw the death of thousands of Iraqi children.
Bush and Blair will not change their minds because this war is in their interests and of those they represent. They will not act against their own interests. This is also true of Bertie Ahern who represents the same, only smaller and less powerful, interests in Ireland.
Can we ask our trade union leaders to take action? Yes we can, but we must recall that the trade union leaders who represent the majority of workers in Ireland, with the power to stop Irish collaboration with war, have called the Irish capitalists and Ahern their ‘partners.’ They have just negotiated another social partnership deal with the people who are more than happy to support the war. We should not therefore be surprised if they show reluctance to turn words into action. Lobbying again will not be enough to get them to take the action necessary.
Can we stop this War through demonstrations?
There is no doubt that the mass protests of February 15th came as a huge shock to Bush, Blair and Ahern and will have encouraged others to oppose the war. However they have already discounted the protests, reckoning that a new UN resolution or simply a quick war will defuse mass sentiment. Part of the protest has in fact been a form of lobbying. Many protestors have not turned away from the political leaderships that they have voted for in elections. Rather they have been asking these leaderships to think again and showing that they have rejected the hodgepodge of justification put forward for the slaughter.
Now something more is required. We now know that demonstrations by themselves will not change the situation. Demonstrators now have to decide if they want to deepen their opposition to this war, break with their leaders and are willing to act themselves to stop the war.
Can we stop the War through direct action?
Many proposals for stopping the war focus on direct action, for example proposals to obstruct take-offs from Shannon Airport. We in Socialist Democracy have no problem with direct action as a tactic. The more the war machine is obstructed the better. Workers should take action. We must be aware however that direct action is not a strategy.
It leaves aside the task of convincing the vast majority who are not part of the action. It bypasses existing leaderships, such as the trade union leaderships; can absolve them of the responsibility that should be theirs and their accountability if they do not match their words with action. It often ignores less direct targets – attacking planes at Shannon while ignoring the Fianna Fail government at Leinster House that grant the planes leave to fly.
It must seem obvious that the direct action of those opposed to war can never hope to match the direct action of the world’s largest military machines. We need a political strategy.
What action can stop this War?
Action by the working class has been off the political agenda for so long that even the words ‘working class’ no longer figure in most political dictionaries. Yet the most effective action taken so far against the war was by a small group of Scottish train drivers who simply refused to transport munitions. Similar action is now taking place in Italy.
It seems clear that a small group of workers can only stop one load of munitions. It would take the whole working class to stop the war. That suggests that we need a mass organisation to persuade and prepare the mass of working people that they should take such action. This means we need to turn demonstrations into a real movement that has organisation, that can democratically decide how to build opposition to the war and which has a real existence outside the various organisations that support it.
Working class people have fought before. There are plenty of lessons in our history about how to organise and about how to fight. These tell us how to build broad and inclusive structures, about the need for democracy at every level, about how to ensure that rank and file structures control the movement. The demand of the movement should be simple – stop the imperialist war! We should demand that the official leadership of the trade union movement call for and organise industrial action. If they refuse we should organise to make the call ourselves. If the government won’t stop the planes then we should be organising to stop the government. We should demand that Ahern resign.
We cannot hope to stop the war by action taken in Ireland. But we do have the support of a mass sentiment against the war which stretches across the globe and the outline framework of an international organisation. The task now is to draw the majority of protestors into a mass movement able to take action on a whole range of fronts, able to reflect through democratic debate, able to disrupt the war machine both locally and internationally. Able to stop this imperialist war!