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A Manifesto for Peace & Progress:
War Crimes

Published: Wednesday 16th April 2003

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A terrible crime has been committed. First, against the Iraqi people. Whilst a semblance of Iraqi government still existed, it spoke of 2,000 and more civilians killed and many thousands more wounded and maimed. But now that all the Iraqi infrastructure, government buildings, radio, television, power stations and telephone exchanges have been destroyed, in the chaos that follows not just the destruction of ‘the regime’ but of all civil authority, who counts the dead? Who sifts the wreckage of the restaurant in the Al Mansour district of Baghdad, and all its surrounding buildings, to find the remains of its customers, its waiters, cooks and cleaners, all killed because a tip-off from GCHQ in Britain was passed to the US air-force who bombed the district to oblivion?

The London Evening Standard has announced a fund to help the innocent victims of the war. Their needs are desperate and deserve every penny of support that can be raised, and more. But what of the scores of thousands of wounded and maimed Iraqi soldiers? What of the young men in the Medina and Baghdad divisions of the Republican Guard which coalition forces claim to have obliterated? Who will compensate their families? What crime did these young men commit, except fighting to defend their country against an invader? Iraq, a country of 24 million, will number its dead in thousands, even millions, when this war is over. Its youth will be destroyed. It will be a country of old men, widows and cripples.

The second crime is potentially even more deadly than the first. America and Britain have gone to war in defiance of the United Nations and international law. Two days before the attack was launched, on 18 March, the International Committee of Jurists, a consultative body of the UN based in Geneva, noted that “such an attack would be illegal and constitute a war of aggression. There is no possible justification in law for such an intervention.”

The destruction of the authority of the UN, and hence of international law, has been high amongst the principal aims of this war. In an article published in the Spectator and The Guardian at the start of the war, Richard Perle, then Chairman of the US Defence Policy Board, wrote:

“Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror is about to end. He will go quickly, but not alone: in a parting irony he will take the UN down with him. Well, not the whole UN. The ‘good works’ part will survive, the low risk peace-keeping bureaucracies will remain, the chatterbox on the Hudson will continue to bleat. What will die is the fantasy of the UN as the foundation of world order. As we sift the debris it will be important to preserve, the better to understand, the intellectual wreckage of the liberal conceit of safety through international law administered by international institutions.”

If, then, the US, with its British ally, succeeds in its ambition to kill the United Nations as a world authority, all UN resolutions and conventions will die with it. And that, precisely, is the intention. The ‘road map’ for peace in the Middle East, whose publication is still withheld, and will be until Washington judges that its total victory in Iraq is secure, will legitimise the illegitimate. It will sanction the hundreds of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza which until now UN resolutions have declared to be illegal. It will bar the way firmly and finally to the right of return for Palestinian refugees which until now is mandatory under international law. It will legitimise the establishment of a defenceless Palestinian ‘bantustan’, as in the era of South African apartheid, totally dependent upon Israel, and call it a ‘Palestinian state’.

Both Bush and Blair at the beginning of the war undertook to seek a new UN resolution at the war’s end to provide for the governance of Iraq. Like every other pledge these leaders have made this was a shabby lie, designed to placate public opinion at a time when it was troubled by the absence of a UN Security Council resolution authorising their attack on Iraq. But both leaders in their recent Belfast meeting avoided any reference to such a UN resolution, speaking only of a “leading role” for the UN in the administration of post-war Iraq.

It has become absolutely vital for the US to keep all the decisions concerning the composition and personnel of an Iraqi administration to itself. Because the first task of a US approved Iraqi administration will be to annul all contracts signed by Saddam Hussein’s regime with any foreign government other than the US. The second task will be to approve retrospectively all contracts awarded by the US government to American firms. One such contract has been awarded to a union-busting US maritime consortium, Stevedoring Services of America, to administer the Iraqi port of Um Qasr. Last year this consortium locked out American longshoremen in Californian ports. This year on 8 April, trade unionists and peace activists who picketed its head office in Oakland in California, were shot at by police using steel pellets and rubber bullets.

In the coming days we shall be told more lies and half truths than in the whole preceding period. A desperate hunt will be mounted for the missing weapons of mass destruction. The fact that no such weapons have been used by the Iraqi forces proves, of course, either that such weapons, in any militarily usable form, don’t exist, or that the regime possessed them but refrained from using them, even when facing certain defeat. In either case the American and British pretext for war has collapsed.

We rejoice with the Iraqi people that no-one will ever again be tortured by secret police under orders from Saddam Hussein. But Iraqis, whether Sunni, Shiite or Kurds, have now a much more arduous task ahead: to end the occupation, and to stop the rape of their country by a cartel of businessmen in and around the government of George Bush and Richard Cheney.

For such a task it is not enough to call for the resignation of Tony Blair. We must create the conditions to remove this government of war and replace it with a government of peace. In the next general election we will support all candidates who in the present government voted against the war. We must oppose all who did not, and create a government of peace and progress. We must ensure that this war against Iraq cannot become the starting point for new wars against Syria and Iran.

A government of peace and progress will recall all British troops from Iraq and the Middle East: eliminate all nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in Britain and close down all American bases in this country. It will use the ‘peace dividend’, i.e. all the public expenditure it thereby saves, for the relief of Iraq and its suffering people, and of the poor and needy here at home.


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