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The Evils of War

Editorial, March 2002

Can the US be stopped? This is the question millions of people are asking as George Bush gears up to launch an attack against Iraq.

That war will take place seems certain. Bush's 'axis of evil' speech to the US Congress confirmed what many people suspected, that the war against Afghanistan was only the beginning. The fact that Tony Blair is to visit Washington in a few weeks, where, we are told, 'action against Iraq will be top of the agenda,' confirms that an attack is imminent.

Despite their apparent confidence, however, any extension of the war will create enormous difficulties for Bush and Blair. Following the attacks on the World Trade Centre the US and Britain were able to cobble together an international coalition of countries that supported their war on Afghanistan. As the war progressed, however, this was put under severe strain. It meant that US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as Blair, were forced to travel the world to shore up support. Now, even before the war against Iraq has been launched, splits have emerged between the allies. A number of European leaders have spoken out against extending the war.

On top of this comes the increasing instability in the Middle East itself. Israel has continued its relentless assault on the Palestinians. If the US decides to attack Iraq, full-scale war becomes a distinct possibility in the region, where sympathy with the Palestinians is high.

The war against Afghanistan created enormous discontent. This was reflected in the demonstrations of 50,000 and 100,000 in Britain as well as large demonstrations in many other countries. There are clear signs that this opposition is now growing. In part this is reflected in the huge anti-capitalist protests that we have seen recently from Porto Alegre to New York, where a clear link was drawn between capitalism and war. It is also seen in the growing international anger over the treatment of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

There is deep concern in Britain about extending the war. A BBC poll of 100 Labour backbenchers for 'On the Record' found just eight in favour of attacking Iraq and 86 firmly against. This can change over the coming weeks as the pressure of the whips is placed on the backbenchers, but it clearly reflects a feeling among wide numbers of people.

Experience has shown that, if Blair chooses to strut the world preaching virtues of freedom and democracy, anger at home will mushroom. New Labour is in a much weaker position today than it was just a few months ago. Public services continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate. Industrial unrest is growing, with overwhelming votes for strike action among significant groups of workers. There is now an open discussion among many trade unionists over their political links with the Labour Party. Many people question the priorities of a system that has little trouble finding money for war but cannot meet the most basic needs of its people at home.

All of that means the possibilities of building a huge and powerful anti-war movement are even more favourable than they were when the US launched the war against Afghanistan. It means that in every workplace, community and estate socialists will be able to expose the hypocrisy of Bush and Blair, raise opposition to the war and link this up with the growing anger against the government. It also means we will be able to raise the prospect of fighting for a better world, one where the constant drive to war and recession is a thing of the past.

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