Stop war drive

UN weapons inspectors have admitted they have found no 'weapons of mass destruction' in Iraq. But that hardly matters. The UK and US governments are geared up for attack - a negative report from the weapon inspectors to the UN security council on January 27 will probably only mean a short delay. It is all about asserting US control and punishing an anti-western regime. So a war still looms, despite the large reservoir of opposition in many countries. The question is - can that mood be mobilised to stop the bellicose plans of our rulers? At the beginning of the week, foreign secretary Jack Straw claimed that there "is now a 60:40 chance of avoiding war". This stands in stark contrast to the mobilisation of 1,500 reservists, 5,000 sailors and 27 merchant ships. Paratroopers have been ordered to start readiness training. Hundreds of tanks and military vehicles are being repainted in 'desert colours' and equipped with sand filters. Defence secretary Geoff Hoon has flown to Turkey to try to persuade it to allow British forces to use its bases there. Turkey is one of the few Nato countries that have retained an anti-war stance. In Germany, chancellor Gerhard Schröder has predictably softened his opposition to military action in Iraq: "We Germans know from our own experience that dictators sometimes can only be stopped with force," he said in his new year's speech. His previous firm anti-war position was designed to exploit the strong anti-war mood in Germany to win the general election in September 2002. But Schröder is keen to bring Germany in line with the US-UK 'axis of virtue' and has already sanctioned US use of German airspace during an attack - something he categorically ruled out only two months ago. Meanwhile, the 60,000-strong US force already in the Gulf is expected to double in coming weeks. The aim is to assemble around 120,000 US troops, plus a few thousand from other countries. The frustrating - for Bush and Blair - inability of the UN arms inspectors to find any weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, chemical or biological - in Iraq has forced the British government to make another attempt at linking Saddam Hussein's regime with 'international terrorism'. The arrest of seven people for possession of the poison ricin on January 5 conveniently gave Tony Blair an opportunity to ratchet up the war rhetoric. His speech of January 7 warned that "the growing number of unstable or dictatorial states trying to acquire nuclear capability" posed "a real, active threat to our security. And I warn people: it is only a matter of time before terrorists get hold of it. So when, as with Iraq, the international community through the UN makes a demand on a regime to disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction and that regime refuses, that regime threatens us." Guilty until proven guilty. Meanwhile Saudi Arabia, Israel and other countries with 'friendly' regimes are allowed to develop the most sophisticated armoury - or buy it directly from the US. Nothing new here. Nineteen years ago, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld was sent to Iraq by Ronald Reagan. His mission? To sell the Iraqi regime "as many American chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction as possible" (Daily Mail December 31). Even the British government had to admit that there are other aims that it hopes to achieve in a war. At a meeting with 150 British ambassadors on January 6 that discussed the impending attack, Jack Straw presented "seven foreign policy priorities" of the government. Top of the list, of course, came Iraq's alleged weaponry. However, further down the list there were some rather more truthful explanations. Just before the platitudinous need "to promote UK economic interests in an open and expanding global economy", we find the admission that another priority would be "to bolster the security of British and global energy supplies" (The Guardian January 7). Until now, the US and UK government have always officially denied that oil played any role in the impending attack. However, while oil is certainly an important factor - the US wants to secure access to the second largest oil reservoir in the world - other factors must be taken into account. The impact of September 11 on the American psyche cannot be underestimated. In a post-twin tower situation, the US administration can act with the backing of the overwhelming majority of the population behind it as it goes ahead with plans to complete America's new world order - a task that has been ongoing since 1991. After Afghanistan it is Iran, North Korea and of course Iraq which are prime targets. The outcome will not just be the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad. The US appears to be set on reorganising the entire Middle East - not least because of its strategically vital oil reserves. The ruling monarchical elites in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are extraordinary vulnerable. Any islamic uprising from below triggered by a US invasion of Iraq would certainly result in the occupation of the oil fields by US troops "¦ and who knows what would happen after that. Certainly George W Bush has contemptuously brushed aside the fevered concerns of the Saudi regime. A slight delay in the original plan for an attack at the beginning of February seems now likely. Jack Straw has indicated that the US government is prepared to accept a second UN resolution that would permit military action. But even if the UN security council should vote against such a second resolution, in the absence of evidence against Iraq, the US government is undoubtedly prepared to go it alone - with or without the help of the British. The very fact that the weapons inspectors have failed to find what they were sent to uncover is already being presented as further confirmation of the devilishness of Saddam Hussein's regime and its dastardly plot to inflict mayhem around the world. However, putting the war on hold could give the international movement more time to cohere its forces and clarify its aims. On December 15, members of anti-war groups met in Copenhagen to discuss joint activities. They decided to organise simultaneous demonstrations on February 15. There will be rallies, demonstrations and meetings in Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Norway, Sweden, Egypt and Palestine. Perhaps as many as 500,000 will join the demonstration in central London, organised by the Stop the War Coalition. In Britain, as elsewhere, the organisations of the left are at the helm - socialist and communist parties and trade unions have been at the centre of the anti-war movements. It is excellent - and long overdue - that our organisations are starting to coordinate their efforts on a European level and beyond. This is the first fruit of last November's European Social Forum in Florence. However, our movement and its unity is fragile. Our forces are painfully weak compared with those supporting the system. Hence it is essential not to fall into traps such as 'My enemy's enemy is my friend', which would leave us wide open to a devastating counter-attack by pro-war propagandists and media commentators. Unfortunately many of our comrades in the Socialist Alliance call on the workers' movement to 'defend Iraq' - some more openly than others. At this Saturday's conference of the Stop the War Coalition, the Socialist Workers Party is apparently seeking support for the so-called 'Cairo declaration', which has as its basis a call for "solidarity with Iraq". Our programme must be to fight our 'own' ruling class. There can, however, be no question of taking sides with Saddam Hussein's reactionary anti-imperialism. Neither can we be soft on political islam, which is responsible for outrageous crimes against humanity, not least September 11 2001. We must make a clear stand against reactionary terrorism. The overwhelming majority of muslims, including those mobilised by the Muslim Association of Britain, do not condone the terrorist attacks such as those on New York, Washington and Mombasa. Despite that - in the name of building the anti-war movement and a perverted anti-imperialism - groups like the SWP alibi political islam. The SWP stubbornly refuses to condemn terrorism, preferring to 'understand its causes'. The main enemy is at home - whether you live in the US or Iraq, Britain or Saudi Arabia. Taking this principled position is not only the best way to build the anti-war movement; it sends out a powerful internationalist and socialist message to all the oppressed throughout the world. Do not be passive victims, do not rely on local despots or imperialist 'liberators' - take matters into your own hands. Our motion to the Stop The War Coalition conference is an attempt draw some hard lines of principle - and that is the only sure way to build an effective movement. Tina Becker CPGB motion This conference of the Stop the War Coalition unreservedly condemns the terrorist attacks in Mombasa, Kenya on November 28 2002. These actions have nothing to do with genuine anti-imperialism. They are reactionary atrocities that progressives condemn without hesitation. At the same time, we reject the hypocrisy of western governments and Sharon's brutal Zionist administration in Israel. Such forces have no right to condemn terrorist outrages - in fact, they produce the very hatred and alienation that finds expression in terrible events like Mombasa. Bush, Blair and Sharon are the best recruiting sergeants reactionary fundamentalism has. Failure to make our position clear on such questions can only weaken the anti-war movement.