War threat remains

Iraq retreats, but imperialist build-up continues

Almost at the 11th  hour, the “madman” Saddam Hussein backed down from any military confrontation with the might of US imperialism. In full view of the world’s media, a deal was struck with the representative of western imperialism, the UN secretary general Kofi Annan. For anyone who doubted the old dictum that peace - and diplomacy - is a continuation of war by other means, here was conclusive proof.

Under the deal, “the government of Iraq reconfirms its acceptance of all relevant resolutions of the security council”, and also “undertakes to accord to Unscom [United Nations special commission] and IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access in conformity with the resolutions referred to”. As a slight sop, or carrot, Annan agreed to “bring the lifting of sanctions to the attention of the security council”. Speaking in Paris on Monday, Annan summed up his achievements: “President Saddam and the Iraqi government accept that we can visit all eight places. Tomorrow.”

But the imperialist threat to Iraq remains. Bill Clinton - and hence his loyal sidekick, Tony Blair - warned that the use of force would be “automatic” if Saddam Hussein did not stick to the exact letter of the agreement. Clinton also rammed home the message that the US would remain “in force” in the Gulf in order to police the deal.  There are some 30,000 US troops in the region, and more are still arriving - just in case. It looks like Iraq will have a vast expeditionary force permanently camped next to it - a modern day Sword of Damocles.

Calls by Tariq Aziz, Iarq’s deputy prime minister, for imperialist forces to leave the Gulf have been met with arrogant refusal. Blair was particularly belligerent. In reply to Aziz, he confirmed that Britain would be seeking a tough new security council resolution giving the UN the right to respond “by whatever means necessary” if the Iraqi dictator broke his word to imperialism. “A piece of paper signed by Hussein is not enough,” snapped Blair. “Only force brought about this success.” The Clinton administration continues to make provocative remarks, egged on by Israel. The imperialist hero, Kofi Annan - who has become transformed into a strange mixture of Jesus, Gandhi, Gorbachev and Kissinger, politely summed it up: “You can do a lot with diplomacy, but of course you can do a lot more with diplomacy backed up with firmness and force.”

There has been widespread relief, though the Sun is probably disappointed - last week it was looking forward to a nuclear strike on Baghdad. But even the Labour left joined in the congratulations. Tony Benn claimed that “Kofi Annan has rescued the UN”, which may well be true. He also said on Tuesday that he was “very disappointed with a Labour government” that sought to defy the will of the majority on the UN security council and the ‘world community’.

Hugo Young, writing in The Guardian, echoed the sentiments of Annan: “Without the threat of bombing, Saddam would not have conceded. His record shows that very plainly. So it is important the threat was made credible.” The paper’s editorial also thought the deal was a “significant achievement”, and like Benn was glad that the UN secretary-general had “done something to restore the authority of the UN - in danger of being bypassed by unilateral military action” (February 24).

There was however some liberal dissent in the same issue of The Guardian. Martin Woollacott called it a “bad peace” - a “deal has been done with a uniquely evil man”. The ‘left’ feminist writer, Linda Grant, was also not completely happy. She was tired of the “prattle” of those who adopted a spirit of “principled anti-bellicosity”, concluding: “What is wrong with America and Britain is that we don’t have the means to get rid of him, not that we are wicked to want to.”

In contrast to the liberal moans - whether for or against the imperialist war drive - the left, of course, has been utterly opposed to the imperialist manoeuvres. Unfortunately, this has been mainly of a social-pacifistic nature. Thus the main propaganda slogan of the SWP and the SP was ‘Welfare not warfare’.

This slogan implies that revolutionaries abdicate the use of violence and war - not true. We are not opposed to warfare - if it be revolutionary warfare. For all their good intentions - and their formally anti-imperialist stance - the statements of neither group so much as hinted at the aim of revolutionaries in the event of conflagration - ie, turning a reactionary, imperialist-driven war into a revolutionary civil war at home. They are more concerned with swimming in the left liberal/social democratic milieu of Harold Pinter and Tony Benn, pacifists, etc, and with assuming a suitably ‘respectable’ appearance.

The SWP, it needs to be noted, has resurrected the facile myth that any war in the Gulf will be an ‘oil war’. As the editorial in Socialist Worker says, “If Britain and the US launch war on Iraq it will be for oil and US power ... This is what happened after the last Gulf War in 1991 when the West’s bombs massacred, burned and maimed Iraqi civilians to protect oil supplies” (February 21). Hence the SWP’s subsidiary slogan, ‘No blood for oil’. As we have pointed out many times, Gulf War II - Gulf War I was between Iran and Iraq and cost some one million lives - was fundamentally about the US drive to stamp its image upon the ‘post-communist’ world.

Naturally, during Gulf War II many left groups from the ‘orthodox Trotskyist’ school raised the erroneous slogans, ‘Defend Iraq’ and ‘Victory to Iraq’ - which amount to the same thing. Supporting the military violence of the small slave-owner against the large slave-owner, as Lenin put it. This time round though, there appears to be a marked reluctance to raise such slogans. Even the Spartacist League, which likes to imagine it is the most orthodox of the orthodox, has been coy to date. In its paper, Workers Vanguard, it says: “During the Gulf War, the Spartacist League and Spartacus Youth Clubs raised the call: ‘Defeat US imperialism! Defend Iraq!’” - which was in contrast to the “liberals”, of course, who refused to lend military support to Iraq. Now, they just say, ‘US bloody hands off Iraq!’ and inform us obliquely that “we give absolutely no political support to the capitalist regime there” (my emphasis, February 13). But what about what you grandly call military support, comrades? Come clean.

At the anti-war rallies, demos and vigils, only the obscure Revolutionary Fighter, bulletin of the Revolutionary Internationalist League, has raised the explicit slogan, ‘Defend Iraq’, explaining: “We unconditionally defend Iraq against an imperialist attack. We support Iraq’s right to defend itself and its people by any means militarily, including shooting down British and US planes going to bomb Iraq, or the launching of Scud missiles against US allies in the region … If the planned attack develops into a full-scale war we will campaign in Britain for victory to Iraq, just as we did in 1991 Gulf War” (February 20).

Still, however much we may criticise the above groups and slogans - not least the ‘orthodox’ Trotskyist ones - they are light years ahead when it comes to principle in comparison with the Communist Party of Britain. In a leaflet distributed at last Saturday’s anti-war demo outside Downing Street, it calls for “an international UN tribunal to try Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity, with international inspection of his prisons”. In other words, the CPBaccepts the legal and moral legitimacy of imperialism. Pure, wretched liberalism - but what else would we expect from this crisis-ridden ‘official communist’ rump?

Because other ‘Iraqs’ are inevitable we urgently need to build a workers’ movement which is independent of any liberal, pacifist agenda, and which is based upon a fully Marxist understanding of the current epoch and the tasks ahead of us.

Eddie Ford