Main enemy is at home!

Who doesn't want to see a 'regime change' in Baghdad? Saddam Hussein is the mortal enemy of his own people. He is justifiably despised by progressives, socialists and democrats the world over. He maintains an increasingly desperate hold over a blood-soaked, murderous regime that has half-choked the life out of the Iraqi people at home and launched hellishly costly imperialistic wars abroad. But does that mean that we are somehow in step with the warmongers, Bush and Blair? Does it imply that we perhaps just have a quibble over detail with these two servants of high finance and big oil, as they close in for the kill? No, not for a moment! Genuine internationalists do not call for the enforcement of UN resolutions, for unrestricted access for weapons inspectors, a palace coup against Saddam, a light or a heavy invasion force from outside. We say, only the peoples of Iraq themselves have the right to implement a regime change in the form of a democratic revolution that sweeps away Saddam and the system of state oil capitalism he represents. The western establishment remains seriously divided over how to deal with what is for them the running sore of the Iraqi regime. In the US itself, secretary of state Colin Powell - once a supposed 'dove' - has refused to rule out an attempt to oust the Iraqi dictator, even if he does comply with the new UN resolution demanding weapons inspection access. At the same time, in a risky speech in California, Democratic presidential hopeful Al Gore came out strongly against Bush's belligerence. He remarked that, "By shifting from his early focus after September 11 on war against terrorism to war against Iraq, the president has manifestly disposed of the sympathy, good will and solidarity compiled by America and transformed it into a sense of deep misgiving and even hostility." While Gore's stance may be a calculated gamble to distinguish himself from other Democratic Party potential nominees, his message may give a green light to forces from below in a US society still uneasy with the drive to war - "There will be an anti-war movement that grows out of this," predicts John Zogby, a US pollster. In Britain, so far the US's only staunch ally, the production of Blair's much vaunted dossier - Iraq's weapons of mass destruction: the assessment of the British government, published on September 24 - has done little to influence an already polarised public opinion one way or another. As the Financial Times commented, ""¦ the 50-page document offers no compelling evidence that immediate military action is needed "¦ The assessment of Iraq's nuclear capability is more in line with the recent independent analysis by the International Institute for Strategic Studies than with the alarmist rhetoric that has periodically emerged from London and Washington" (September 25). Further, claims that chemical and biological weapons are an "immediate threat" are at best overblown - actually, these are a poor man's version of 'weapons of mass destruction', anyway. This simple fact is underlined when the same FT editorial notes that "the dossier fails to address the crucial question of the lack of sophistication of Iraq's delivery means, which will severely limit the potential effectiveness of a chemical or biological attack". Blair was troubled by the scale of the Labour backbench revolt on September 24. While the government refused to allow a specific anti-war vote, a technical vote against parliament ending its day's work saw 64 dissenters (53 of them Labour) register their protest. The government has been forced to soften its hard pro-US hawk stance in the face of real disquiet in the ranks of the party. Foreign secretary Jack Straw was even at pains to emphasise that Tony Blair and the cabinet share the anxieties of the Labour rebels. But, he told BBC Breakfast, the threat of force was still the best chance of peace. More importantly it ought to be understood that the whole Blair project is extremely vulnerable. If the war goes badly, if the protest movement grows, there is reason to believe that Blair and his closest colleagues could be forced into following in the footsteps of that other arch-traitor, Ramsay MacDonald - who in 1931 left the Labour Party and formed a national government with the Tories and Liberals. Division among the warmongers certainly provides the best opportunity for the anti-war movement to grow and make a mass impact. Their crisis is our opportunity. But to take advantage, we have to be crystal clear about the type of peace movement we trying to build. No imperialist solutions! We reject the right of the reactionary politicians of western imperialism to impose their solutions on the peoples of the world. Speaking in Warsaw, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed that in any war US forces would target the country's leaders, not its citizens: the Iraqis were "hostages to a small group of dictatorial, repressive government officials". They have been punished enough, he observed sadly. He should know. Time was when Saddam Hussein's proto-imperialist Iraq was aided and abetted by the US as it fought theocratic Iran to a standstill. Around one million combatants and civilians perished. And, as for 'punishing' the people, the US-supported UN sanctions have been responsible for the death of something like 4,500 Iraqi children every month, according to Unicef. The economy of the country has contracted by a disastrous 40% and living standards for the masses are half their pre-1990 levels. Bush's national security advisor, Condoleeza Rice, hailed the "march of freedom in the muslim world" (Financial Times September 23). Now quite how Saudi Arabia - whose rulers have just given permission for its territory to be used for offensive assaults on Iraq - slips into line with Rice's "march of freedom" is problematic. This obscenely corrupt, fragile regime - though thoroughly undemocratic - is maintained in power by US patronage in a completely wasteful arms-for-oil arrangement worth billions of dollars annually. No support to Saddam Hussein! The call for 'military' defence of Iraq amounts to the same thing as politically supporting Saddam and the Ba'ath party-state. Despite what the proponents of this incoherent slogan say, war cannot be separated from politics. War is after all a form of, and a continuation of, politics. Too often, progressives in this country have been prepared to alibi regimes such as Saddam's as 'anti-imperialist' because of a conjunctural opposition to western imperialism. Evidently Iraq is neither anti-imperialist nor anyone's colony or semi-colony. There should be no fudge on this - the Iraqi regime stands in a completely antagonistic relationship to the people of that country. In the absence of democracy talk of Iraqi self-determination is meaningless. The anti-war movement in this country should declare its solidarity with the struggle of the Iraqi masses to overthrow this hated gang. The people of Iraq have endured many decades of oppression but they have a long and deep tradition of resistance, going back to the days of the British - there is a strong left and communist current too that has at opportune moments rallied millions to fight for progressive change. In 1991, in the aftermath of the first Gulf War, the first president Bush encouraged the Iraqi people to rise up. They did in the Kurdish north, and in Basra in the south. But the risings were not to Bush's liking. In Basra muslim and communist forces took control. The main base for the Worker-communist Party of Iraq is still in what is now the de facto autonomous Kurdish lands. Not surprisingly Bush cynically left them to be massacred by the republican guard and other forces loyal to the regime. It is thus pretty sickening to read in Blair's dossier on Saddam that apparently part of the reason he should be militarily dealt with is that, "He has crushed parties and ethnic groups, such as the communists and the Kurds" (Iraq's weapons of mass destruction: the assessment of the British government). Western powers have after all been complicit in these massacres. A movement against the war must be prepared to make common cause - through protest and if possible, practical aid - to any progressive challenge to the rule of this bloody tyrant. Build a workers' party in this country! Our rulers' crisis must be our opportunity. We need to link our anti-war agitation to a rounded political challenge to Blair and the bloodthirsty system he represents - to win peace, we have to win another world. * No war on Iraq! * End the sanctions! * For a democratic revolution to topple Saddam! * Britain-Iraq-US - the main enemy is at home! Mark Fischer