Revolutionary Worker #1189, March 2, 2003, posted at http://rwor.org
We received the following article from A World to Win News Service:
February 17, 2003. It was George Bush's worst week since he declared war on the world after September 11. First the UN Security Council refused to back the U.S.'s call for war without delay. Then the next day and in the days following, in a magnificent outpouring of the world's people, millions upon millions took to the streets, including in scores of cities in the U.S.
The protests were especially enormous in Britain, Spain, Italy and Australia, the countries whose governments are most closely aligned with Bush. London had not seen so many people in the street since the end of World War 2; the crowds in Spain were bigger than at any time since the celebration of the end of fascism. Further, February 15 was also historic in the extent of these simultaneous actions, stretching through 600 cities in Asia, Africa and Latin America as well as the wealthy countries. It has been proven beyond any doubt that the people of the world are opposed to this war and that if Bush and other leaders go ahead with it anyway, they can expect an unprecedented storm on a world scale.
The February 14 Security Council meeting was a big setback for the U.S. It was a personal humiliation for Colin Powell, Bush's would-be diplomatic weapon of mass destruction. His presentation of America's case against Saddam Hussein to that body a week earlier was explicitly rejected and implicitly ridiculed. Even one of Powell's most puffed-up moments then, when he brandished spy-in-the-sky photos to prove that Iraq is moving around and hiding weapons to evade inspections, was deflated. Chief chemical and biological weapons inspector Hans Blix argued that the scene shown in the pictures "could just as easily have been a routine activity". In the debate following, 11 out of the 15 Security Council members agreed, to one extent or another, with France's proposal that the inspections should continue. The U.S.'s hopes to introduce a resolution endorsing immediate military action collapsed. A meeting of the five permanent Security Council members with veto power that was supposed to follow this debate did not even take place.
At home, Bush responded with his own version of Goebbel's Big Lie, the principle that if you say anything loud and often enough, some people will believe it. He played the "terrorism" card, fabricating a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda and organizing hysteria on a mass scale in an effort to make some Americans believe that this war will not be naked aggression but self-defense. Some people bought the government's efforts to make them believe that their family's lives are in danger from monsters under every bed. A great many others refused to seal their lips and minds with duct tape and demonstrated instead. Hundreds of thousands massed in front of the UN headquarters in New York despite threats and some attacks from mounted police. This protest included people of all social classes and family members of people killed in the attack on the World Trade Center, Bush's pretext for launching a global rampage.
Politically it would be extremely difficult for the U.S. to launch this war without some sort of international alliance. Further, British troops are a major and integral part of the war plan, as are US bases in Italy and military facilities in Spain. Yet these governments are in such a flagrant split with the people of their countries that the Spanish newspaper El País warned that Iraq is not the only country facing the possibility of regime change in the near future. Further, the hundreds of thousands of determined people in the streets of Pakistan, Malaysia, the Philippines and many other countries gave a taste of what is in store for the local flunky rulers if this war is unleashed. In Iraq itself, however the people feel about that government, the sight of hundreds of thousands of people marching against the Bush alliance, including thousands of civilians with guns, must have caused some of the Western rulers who are hoping for a quick war to think again.
The U.S. needs some sort of international coalition. It needs some sort of UN resolution even to convince some Americans that this is not just a case of naked aggression. Tony Blair needs such a resolution even more. British mainstream newspapers are warning that an attempt to wage war without it might threaten the survival of his government.
Yet so far at least they haven't been able to get the Security Council to go along. France is doing its best not to allow its conflict with the U.S. to lead to an open break. It has not challenged the basic premise of this war, that the big powers have the exclusive right to certain weapons and that they can use them to dictate to Third World countries. In his speech at the UN, France's Foreign Minister made a point that many ruling class figures in other countries agree with - that this war might have "incalculable consequences for the stability of the region... reinforcing feelings of injustice, worsening tensions and setting off other conflicts". In short, he argued that this war might prove too dangerous to the interests of all the great powers. The hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating in Syria and Turkey the next day underscored the reality of this fear.
The stakes could not be higher.
Bush has gambled the future of the American empire on this war, and the U.S. government is determined to go ahead with it. Exactly because there is so much at stake for all of them, the U.S. is counting on France ultimately deciding to make the best of a bad bargain and not try to stand in the way of the U.S. war machine.
France's opposition in the UN has won sympathy from people around the world. UN staff members and representatives of non Security Council UN members committed the forbidden act of applauding Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin's speech to the Security Council. But President Chirac refused to satisfy the demand of French antiwar protestors and even of many leading politicians that he pledge to veto any resolution backing this war. Instead, he emphasized that France's stand could change and that it is leaving all options open. France has not even gone as far as Germany by categorically excluding the possibility that it will back or take part in this war.
To be clear, what the U.S. is planning for Iraq is not "disarmament", as Bush puts it, or "containment", as France sees it, but the armed seizure and rape of the country. Meanwhile, the U.S.-led war on Iraq is increasingly becoming real, not just potential. During the last week US and British aircraft staged five raids against Iraqi ground-to-ground missile batteries. This is the first time in five years of air strikes that the axis of evil forces have moved beyond hitting Iraqi anti-aircraft installations and command centres to directly target Iraq's ability to wage war on the ground. This prelude to invasion is aimed in part at preparing to seize Iraqi oil fields intact at the opening of the war. Further, it is an indication that this invasion is already under way, although not yet on a full scale. According to many commentators, these raids on small and hard-to-detect targets could only have been called in by American and British Special Forces troops on the ground in southern and northern Iraq. But as yet no government has seen fit to expose this or to object in the name of the UN or anyone else.
In fact, the opposition of a number of governments is less than it seems, or is at least hedged. Schroeder himself pointed out that about 10,000 German troops are serving in military operations involving the U.S. at various places around the world right now. Belgium is providing logistical support for the U.S. invasion build-up via its port facilities. Neutral Austria has banned U.S. warplanes from violating its airspace and American troops from crossing its territory (extremely useful if they are to be sent by train from U.S. bases in Germany, one of the main staging areas for the war, to embark on ships in Italy). So far, no other government has followed suit.
In the period since September 11, both sides, the rulers and the people, have undergone tremendous changes. The clashes between them have become sharper and broader. Rarely in history has humanity ever been so united as it is against George Bush and the war he is determined to start. That is the context in which the U.S. is preparing to go ahead with this war no matter what, while seeking to keep the political price from becoming more than it can afford. And that is also the stage on which the European and other powers are maneuvering to advance their own interests, some as local potentates in an American world empire and others by trying to limit that empire's reach.
The opposition of European governments is a major problem for the U.S. This is one favorable factor shaping the world situation. The other factor is the conflict between the U.S. and the people of the world. Each of these two factors helps heat up the other. In other words, the more and better people oppose this war, the more the fear and hesitation of the other governments come into play, while at the same time this opposition from other governments, even half-hearted, gives greater openings for the people's struggle to advance.
The interplay between these two factors is an increasingly important obstacle to this planned war, and it could conceivably make the whole thing unravel. In other words, Bush's coalition could be cracked and even shattered. But this is conceivable only if the people preserve and intensify their struggle. In particular, it is vital that the people do everything possible to prevent their governments from giving this war active or passive support under any circumstances. As demonstrators chanted in the streets of Paris, the real veto is in the streets.
The struggle will certainly become more difficult and complex as U.S. imperialism brings its military might and its influence on governments and media around the world increasingly to bear, and when in the face of this many tremble and others surrender. The people must keep in mind that in the end, they have nothing they can rely on but their own strength.
The prospect of the towering crimes being set in motion by Bush & Co. has aroused millions and millions of people all over the world to political life and common struggle. Even though their interests are opposed to every existing government and ruling class in the world, the strength of the people is asserting itself once again as a major factor in world politics in a way that has not been seen for far too long.
Events over the next few weeks may well mark the world for years to come.
A World to Win News Service is put out byA World to Win magazine (awtw.org), a political and theoretical review nspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
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