frontline 13


Iraq - Turning the Tables on Imperialism

When US troops entered Baghdad a year ago and, together with a small crowd of Iraqi's, toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein in al-Firdos square some doubtless felt that the war against Iraq had in some way been justified.

But on the anniversary of that event the same square was deserted save for a lone US armoured personnel carrier. The square had been shut off for fear of demonstrations. The US vehicle toured the square with loudspeakers calling for Baghdad residents to stay indoors. It interspersed these announcements with loud Western pop music, a calculated insult on a holy day for muslims.

The siege of Fallujah has been the most visible form of military resistance to the occupation. Activist Jo Wilding, who is working with the Red Crescent providing medical help in the city wrote powerfully of the situation and the effects of the massive US offensive against Fallujah. "I know what it looks like when you brutalise people so much that they've nothing left to lose. I know what it looks like when an operation is being done without anaesthetic because the hospitals are destroyed or under sniper fire and the city's under siege and aid isn't getting in properly. I know what it sounds like too. I know what it looks like when tracer bullets are passing your head, even though you're in an ambulance. I know what it looks like when a man's chest is no longer inside him and what it smells like and I know what it looks like when his wife and children pour out of his house. It's a crime and it's a disgrace to us all."

The increase in resistance has also seen increased levels of unity between Shiah and Sunni muslims, two groups who were pitted against each other during the time of Ba'ath party dominance in Iraq.

Today the tide of public opinion has undoubtedly turned. It is increasingly clear that the coalition led by the US and supported Tony Blair's New Labour government is descending into a quagmire of guerrilla warfare. The attempt by the US government to stop pictures of US war dead, their coffins draped in the stars and stripes flag, being printed in US papers is indicative of how sensitive they feel this is.

The resistance to the occupation is causing other problems for the Bush government. There is a real shortage of troops. Frontline troops are finding their tours of duty extended, causing huge morale problems and an epidemic of breakdowns and mental health problems. Support duties are mainly fulfilled by members of the national guard and other part-time soldiers. Consequently recruitment to both the full time army and national guard are slumping and those who are national guard members are doing whatever they can to get out. The US congress is now having to consider reintroducing conscription, although many politicians still oppose this. This move would increase comparisons with the US's Vietnam defeat and would create an even larger and more militant anti-war movement in the US.

The political consequences of the Iraq war are being felt in Europe too. The defeat of Aznar and his Popular Party government in Spain in the wake of the Madrid bomb are a warning to Tony Blair and all those governments who have joined Bush's coalition.

The establishment politicians have been exposed as liars. They lied about Iraq's 'weapons of mass destruction'. They lied when they claimed that the invasion of Iraq would make the world a safer place. In fact the world is a more dangerous place than ever, Bush and Blair's imperialist adventure has increased hatred of the imperialist powers and increased the likelihood of terrorist attacks.

The European elections in June will be the first nationwide electoral test for New Labour. In England the Respect coalition is attempting to provide a political expression for the anti-war movement. In this issue of Frontline we carry two articles which look in a detailed way at the prospects for Respect and the perspectives for bringing together the left in a new workers' party.

Here in Scotland we have a challenge. The European elections give us a chance to expose New Labour and their failures both international and domestic. We need to mobilise those who voted for us in May 2003 and also to reach out to new sectors of the working class. As well as Iraq we need to expose New Labour for their failure to deal with the pressing issues of poverty and ill-health in Scotland. Our campaigns for free school meals and to scrap prescription charges are an excellent starting point. We need to campaign to scrap the unjust and regressive council tax in favour of a fair system which makes the rich pay their share.

With the affiliation of the RMT railway workers union to the party and the additional support of the Edinburgh branch of the CWU postal workers union the SSP has also extended its influence within the organised working class. The struggle of the nursery nurses and PCS strikers have shown that New Labour and their devotion to the free market offers nothing to the trade union movement.

For the working class in Scotland, both organised and unorganised, only the SSP offers a clear and unambigious opposition to war and occupation, and only the SSP has a vision of a different type of society, a socialist society based on equality and human solidarity.