A GREAT many people believe that democracy has been lost in this country. Today, true democracy will demonstrate its resilience on the streets of London.
In the week that Parliament was manipulated by the Government and denied a proper vote on whether Britain should join the Bush gang in its assault on Iraq, many thousands of people will converge on London in what is expected to be the greatest demonstration against war for a generation.
Not since the days when American presidents were prepared to use nuclear weapons in Europe will there be such a demonstration of the popular will opposing violence as a means of resolving disputes between nations. A sea of people will cover much of central London and Hyde Park; and they will demand that a great crime is not committed in their name. As the opinion polls make clear, they represent the majority of the people of Britain.
What is at stake is not only an illegal and unwarranted attack on another sovereign state that offers us no threat, but the credibility of the British parliamentary system. If Tony Blair uses the royal prerogative, “the absolute power of kings”, to join Bush’s attack on Iraq, he acts in a manner no different, in principle and deed, from Germany’s unprovoked attacks that ignited the Second World War.
Read Hitler’s speech in September 1938, on the eve of the invasion of Czechoslovakia. “I know quite well,” he ranted at the great Nuremberg rally, “that through forbearance one will never reconcile so irreconcilable an enemy as are the Czechs … Herr Benes (the Czech leader) plays his tactical game; he makes speeches, he wishes to negotiate… But in the long run that is not good enough!”
The historian Correlli Barnett commented: “Change Czechs and Benes to Saddam Hussein and the speech could have been drafted in Washington today. Needless to say, President Benes’s Czechoslovakia in 1938 posed no threat to Germany and was militarily outclassed -just as the militarily even more outclassed Iraqis today in no way threaten the US or the UK.”
Blair’s “dossier” of Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” was written mostly in Washington by the disgraced intelligence agencies that offered America not a hint of warning of the attacks of September 11 last year. The Foreign Office here has not even bothered to change the American jargon. Its 50 pages began with an outright distortion, as a Mirror editorial pointed out on Wednesday, claiming that a report by the International Institute of Strategic Studies “suggested Iraq could assemble nuclear weapons within months.”
IN fact, the Institute’s report concluded that Iraq was years from even developing, let alone perfecting and making, nuclear weapons.
Too much has been said and written about this absurd exercise in propaganda, which has made a fool of Blair and may well finish him politically. The weapons issue always was a fake, a diversion. Any remaining doubt about this was dispelled a week ago by US Secretary of State Colin Powell when he announced that America might block the return of United Nations” weapons inspectors to Iraq: the very thing that he and Bush and Blair had been demanding.
The Americans are justifiably fearful that Iraq’s unconditional offer to the inspectors will “damage the coalition.” In other words, they will no longer have their fig leaf, their excuse, to capture what one Bush administration official described recently as “the big prize… oil and construction: you name it”.
Blair now drifts in the breeze of Washington’s panic. Having hitched himself to the single issue of weapons inspections, he is contradicted by the Bush gang almost every time he opens his mouth.
He no sooner says that the US and Britain will “act through the UN” than US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney say the opposite – that “the US will act alone” or there will be “regime change in Baghdad at any cost”, regardless of what the UN inspectors find in Iraq.
This is a truth that rebellious Labour MPs must understand and not be distracted by the specious “legitimacy” of a United Nations resolution written in Washington and Whitehall and foisted upon the Security Council like the proposal of a Mafia don.
Bush and Blair must be stopped for these reasons. The first is the most urgent. Innocent people will be killed, maimed and made homeless in a country that has known disproportionate grief. The propaganda prattle about dossiers has served to distract from the prospect of the British Government complicit in a great crime against humanity.
More than half the population of Iraq are children, and many of the rest are widows, the elderly and the poor. This week, leading British humanitarian agencies, such as Save the Children and Christian Aid, left the government in no doubt of the human disaster if the attack went ahead.
“Years of war and sanctions have already created an extremely vulnerable population whose ability to cope with any additional hardship is very limited,” said their joint statement. “Child mortality has risen by 160 per cent under sanctions.”
THESE “sanctions” are like a mediaeval siege. Set up by the United Nations Security Council 12 years ago, they are driven by the United States and Britain. They have denied clean water and vital hospital equipment to Iraq, even schoolbooks. A study by Unicef, the United Nations children’s organisation, found that between 1991 and 1998 500,000 children under the age of five had died needlessly.
In 1998, Denis Halliday, an assistant secretary general of the United Nations, a highly respected official responsible for humanitarian aid to Iraq, resigned, calling the sanctions genocide. His successor also resigned and he, too, called the embargo an act of genocide. Three years ago, 70 members of the US Congress signed an unusually blunt letter to President Clinton, appealing to him to lift the embargo and end what they called “infanticide masquerading as policy”.
The White House had already given its reply. In 1996, in an infamous television interview, the then US ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, was asked: “We have heard that half a million children have died … is the price worth it?”
Albright replied: “I think that is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.”
The survivors of this carnage, children and the weak, are the people Bush and Blair will be attacking. Unlike the elite, they will not have bunkers built by British contractors in the 1980s. The “blood price” that Blair endorsed in a recent BBC interview will be their blood.
Having reported many wars and seen too much bloodshed, I never cease to wonder at the essential cowardice inherent in the decisions taken by apparently respectable politicians like Blair, who have seen no war themselves and would never put their own privileged lives or the lives of their families at risk.
We know about Bush. The gangleader and his vice president are currently up to their ears in accusations of serious corporate crime. It is not gratuitous to say that, if Blair joins them in their grotesque adventure, he will be up to his ears in a crime of even greater seriousness. Whether or not the United States coerces and bribes the UN Security Council into producing a resolution – a fig leaf – for an attack, there is nothing in the UN Charter that authorises an attack, unprovoked, on another country. On the contrary, it is forbidden. At Nuremberg, where the Nazis were judged, such aggression was considered their greatest crime.
ANOTHER urgent reason for stopping Bush and Blair derives from a term that recently entered the media language. This is “pre-emptive attack” and it comes, of course, from Washington. “Pre-emptive attack” means attacking someone before they attack you. When the Bush gang use it, they like to compare themselves with Churchillian types who opposed Europe’s appeasers of German ambitions in the 1930s.
This is both false and dishonest; for it is they who bear a likeness to the imperial planners of the Third Reich.
The “pre-emptive” attack on Iraq will not stop there. A few commentators who do their homework, like the analyst Dan Plasch, have begun to warn of the likelihood that the United States will mount “pre-emptive” attacks on other countries: on Iran or North Korea next, and eventually China, the world’s most populous nation, a nuclear power.
Ten years ago, strategists from the extreme right of American political life, followers of the present Vice-President Cheney and Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz, wrote a secret Pentagon paper. They laid out a “vision” of a post-Cold War world where the US would aim to “prevent the re-emergence of a new rival … This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defence strategy and requires that we prevent any hostile power from dominating a region”.
This would be achieved by “pre-emptive” action – naked aggression.
Last year, Cheney expanded the “vision” across an Orwellian landscape. America, he said, might have to fight an “endless war” for 50 years or more. The term, “American primacy”, meaning domination, is now openly discussed and analysed by those who call themselves foreign policy experts. In the voluminous studies turned out by America’s military bureaucracy, there are references to the “threat” from China, which is considered both an economic and military rival to the United States in Asia.
THE attack on Afghanistan was a first test. An attack on Iraq brings the “vision” much closer, because an American conquest of the world’s second biggest source of oil will give Washington greater control of the Middle East at a time when the loyalty of its principal oil protectorate, Saudi Arabia, is in doubt. Another, obedient Saddam Hussein will be installed in Iraq, and imperial history in the region will continue uninterrupted.
That is why the fakery of the “threat” of Saddam Hussein has been promoted so vigorously – a threat that no knowledgeable person in the Middle East takes seriously, not even the Israelis.
The true danger is not Iraq, or Iran, or North Korea, or China. It is the United States, and the cabal of fanatics now in charge, led by a man who on television the other night failed to make sense in his native tongue. To understand the nature of the threat of America, simply reverse Bush’s and Blair’s propaganda on Iraq’s alleged development of nuclear weapons.
As Dr Kathleen Sullivan of the Nuclear Weapons Education Project in New York has pointed out: “The Bush administration is not only funding the further modernisation of nuclear weapons, but it is also proposing two new facilities in the US dedicated to the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons.” She says that “the current doctrine on nuclear weapons use” in the US leaves little doubt that Bush is prepared to use them first.
Only one country has used a nuclear weapon of mass destruction on civilians. Only one country has threatened to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam and the Middle East. Under Bush, the United States has revoked the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and refused to take part in a ban on chemical warfare. It is building a “star wars” programme, nuclear armed, costing billions of dollars.
As he stood in the dock at Nuremberg, Hitler’s arch crony Hermann Goering said: “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and then denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
That may have worked during the long years of the Cold War when people in the West were told incessantly there was a Soviet “threat.” As official files are released, it is increasingly clear this was nonsense. For example, the “missile gap” between America and Russia, which triggered the building of America’s massive nuclear arsenal, was a lie, promoted by falsified intelligence – from the same intelligence sources that Blair, waving his “dossier” on Iraq, now asks us to believe in good faith.
SINCE September 11 last year, the great tradition of dissent has come alive in Britain. Rarely a day goes by when there is not a public meeting attended by hundreds of people. Today, vast numbers of Britons of all backgrounds will put the lie to Goering’s cynical dictum that “the people can always be brought to the bidding of their leaders.”
Direct action has an inspiring recent history in Britain and America – from the great civil rights movement of the 1960s to the anti-war campaigns that helped end the atrocity in Vietnam and led to treaties on nuclear weapons, which Bush wants to tear up.
Today is another date in September to remember, and perhaps celebrate – as the beginning not of endless war, but of our resistance to it.
The march to stop the attack on Iraq will set off from the Embankment at 12.30 today and reach Hyde Park at about 3pm.