Year 2000 No. 129, August 8, 2000

Economic Sanctions and Britain's Undeclared War against Iraq Must End Immediately

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Economic Sanctions and Britain's Undeclared War against Iraq Must End Immediately

Peter Hain Attempts to Defend the Indefensible

Militant Protests against Genocidal Sanctions

Concerned Personalities Write to the Daily Telegraph

International Actions against UN Sanctions

Venezuelan President to Visit Iraq

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Economic Sanctions and Britain's Undeclared War against Iraq Must End Immediately

British colonialism has always committed the most horrific and inhuman crimes against the world's people in the name of "humanity" and "peace". This has gone hand in hand with its exploitation of the working class and people at home, while developing and perfecting the political system which keeps them away from the centre of political power and an ideological offensive to line them up behind its national chauvinist aims.

Is Britain's undeclared war against Iraq and its participation in and championing of the genocidal sanctions against that country any different? In essence it is the same.

The issue for the progressive and democratic forces is not what is effective in getting rid of Saddam Hussein, or the issue of "weapons of mass destruction", but of the right of a people to chose their own path of development. For the British working class it is the issue of winning the battle to constitute itself the nation so that British intervention and interference globally becomes a thing of the past, and a modern constitution, setting the seal on this struggle, is enforced which brands such intervention a criminal act and enshrines it as illegal.

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Peter Hain Attempts to Defend the Indefensible

On the tenth anniversary of the imposition of genocidal sanctions against Iraq, Foreign Office Minister, Peter Hain published an article in The Independent newspaper entitled "Britain’s Policy on Iraq" in which he tries to defend the indefensible, Britain’s undeclared war against that country.

According to Hain, "It is too easy for critics of our policy to point out the suffering of the Iraqi people and blame the sanctions imposed by the UN. It is too easy for those critics to question the continued action by British and Allied planes over the no-fly zone and accuse us of carrying out a bombing campaign against Iraq."

In Hain’s view such critics would be wrong because Britain and the US are allegedly engaged in a policy of "containment", which is apparently designed to prevent war in the region. Thus the British government employs the same logic as it did during the bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which it claimed was to bring peace and "civilised values" to the peoples of the Balkans. In Iraq the British government has established the so-called "no fly zones" and has given itself the right to bomb a sovereign country. Hain tries to justify such bombing raids on the basis of the Hitlerite logic that the British government has the right to bomb the Iraqi people into submission should the Iraqi government attempt to act in self-defence. According to this logic British airmen are using the "utmost caution" and simply defending themselves from anti-aircraft fire "while working to defend innocent civilians on the ground below".

According to Hain and the British government the sanctions, bombings and other attacks on the people of Iraq are designed to stop the stop the government of Iraq "building up the weapons of mass murder". But it is the British and American government which are deploying the weapons of mass murder while all independent experts agree that Iraq no longer has meaningful stocks of weapons of mass destruction nor the capacity to produce them.

In his article, Peter Hain attempts to promote the idea that Britain is involved in some noble enterprise in Iraq that everybody should support. On this basis the government gives itself the right to intervene throughout the world wherever the economic and strategic interests of the monopolies demand it. But this thinking, the whole chauvinist and reactionary notion of Britain’s "civilising mission" throughout the world, must be condemned and swept aside. The British government must stop attempting to defend the indefensible. All democratic people must demand that economic sanctions and Britain’s undeclared war against Iraq must end immediately.

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Militant Protests against Genocidal Sanctions

Over 200 people yesterday marched from Trafalgar Square to the Foreign Office to condemn the British government on the 10th anniversary of the imposition of sanctions against Iraq.

The demonstrators carried placards and banners depicting some of the more than half a million children who have died as a consequence of the sanctions. Around half of the people participating lay down in the road outside the Foreign Office in Whitehall, blocking two lanes of traffic.

Police forcibly removed the demonstrators from the road, showing no respect for the people involved in their manhandling of them, nor for the political aim of the protest. Six people were arrested.

Among prominent figures supporting the demonstration were the Anglican Archbishop for Wales, Dr Rowan Williams, playwright Harold Pinter, and comedian and writer Jeremy Hardy. In also supporting the protest, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Brentwood, the Rt Rev Thomas McMahon, said in a statement: "The sanctions policy has devastated Iraqi society. For 10 years the ordinary members of society have paid an appalling heavy penalty for decisions and actions over which they had no control. The impact on the Iraqi health service and upon availability of basic necessities has cost the lives of many people, and particularly the lives of children."

Nadje al-Ali, of Women in Black, one of the organisers of the demonstration along with Voices in the Wilderness and Youth CND, said the action had been successful in terms of attracting media attention and raising awareness of the issue. She said, "Even if we lifted sanctions tomorrow, it would take generations to undo what has been done."

The previous day, Sunday, on the actual anniversary of the imposition of sanctions, Dave Rolstone, a member of the group Voices in the Wilderness, who have been seriously campaigning against the sanctions and the war against Iraq for many years, climbed up the Millennium Wheel. After an hour and a half, after discussions with the police, he agreed to climb down on condition that he was not arrested and he would be allowed to talk the media. He said, "I have visited Iraq myself and seen first hand the devastating effects of economic sanctions. This government's policy is a crime against humanity."

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Concerned Personalities Write to the Daily Telegraph

The following letter was printed in the Daily Telegraph yesterday, August 7.

SIR - Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the imposition of economic sanctions on Iraq. Over the past decade, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children have died as a result of these sanctions. The BBC's John Simpson recently commented that, "if people could hear and see what is being done in their names in Iraq, they would be outraged. But they don't, so it continues."

Today there will be an act of mass non-violent civil disobedience outside the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to demand an immediate and unconditional end to the economic sanctions. People from all over Britain will be there to say "no" to the violence being perpetrated by the British Government against ordinary men, women and children in Iraq.

We agree with John Simpson and are ourselves outraged at the continuation of sanctions and the concomitant suffering and death of people in Iraq. We fully endorse today's action and urge others who are similarly concerned to add their voices to the protest.

BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH
CAROLINE LUCAS MEP
ROWAN WILLIAMS,
Archbishop of Wales
JEAN DREZE
HAROLD PINTER
ANDY DE LA TOUR
GEOFF SIMONS
NABIL SHABAN
JEREMY HARDY
BRUCE KENT

c/o Voices in the Wilderness UK
Oxford

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International Actions against UN Sanctions

Among international actions against the genocidal sanctions against Iraq was one in Washington on Sunday, where hundreds of protesters marched from the Lincoln Memorial to the White House. The demonstrators risked arrest yesterday by sitting down in front of the Treasury Department building and the White House, where sit-ins are prohibited.

Four American activists began a three-day fast outside the UN offices in Baghdad. In Los Angeles, religious groups are reported to be preparing protests against the sanctions and other causes during the Democratic National Convention.

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Venezuelan President to Visit Iraq

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez set off on Sunday for a tour of OPEC nations. During it he will pay the first visit by a foreign head of state to Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War. Sunday was also the 10th anniversary of the imposition of sanctions against Iraq.

President Chavez will visit Iraq on August 10. It is reported that his visit is linked to his desire to persuade poor nations to band together as a counterweight to US hegemony. His trip will include visits to 10 oil-producing nations, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Libya, Nigeria and Algeria. President Chavez plans to invite his Arab counterparts to an OPEC heads of state summit in the Venezuelan capital Caracas on September 27. This would be the first such summit since 1975.

Venezuela, OPEC's only South American member, is the world's third largest petroleum exporter. At present, the United States is Venezuela's number one trading partner and the biggest purchaser of its oil.

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