Billions Wasted On Warfare

THE ANNUAL military budget of the USA is $400 billion. The increase in US defence department spending alone matches what the world spends on international aid every year.

Ken Douglas

So far, George Bush has earmarked £49 billion to pay for the war while Gordon Brown has set aside £3 billion.

The obscenity of this devotion to spending unimaginable amounts of money on weapons of mass destruction is underlined by the relatively small cost of making a start on actually solving some of the world’s problems.

£3.3 billion a year would ensure that every child in the world would be able to attend a primary school. 120 million children are currently denied that basic right.

£13 billion would ensure that everyone in the world would have access to clean water. The cost of one cruise missile, £530,000, would pay for 1,000 hand pump wells in Africa – enough for 250,000 people.

£1 billion would feed the 38 million starving in Africa for the rest of the year and another billion would feed the starving everywhere else.

£7 billion would enable the global fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis, malaria and infections such as cholera, typhoid, diarrhoea in the countries most affected by these diseases.

The total cost of these measures amounts to £24.3 billion, a fraction of the US military budget and less than half the initial spending on war with Iraq.

Instead, this money is being spent on reinforcing us dominance and the power of the big corporations; perpetuating a system that inflicts misery on billions of people throughout the world.

UN’s decade-long ‘siege’

HAVING BY-PASSED the United Nations (UN) to wage war, Tony Blair is trying to pacify his critics by stressing the ‘vital role of the UN’ in rebuilding post-Saddam Iraq. But the UN’s role in Iraq over the last decade has been far from benign.

After the 1991 Gulf War, the UN Security Council (dominated by the five permanent members – US, Britain, France, Russia and China) imposed sanctions on Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Part of these sanctions was the ‘oil for food’ programme, in which Baghdad sold oil to obtain goods and services. But only 53% of the income from oil sales went back to Iraq. 30% went in ‘compensation’ for Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, 13% for the northern Iraqi Kurds and 4% for the UN’s administration.

This meant that Iraq had $6 billion in 2001. It sounds a lot but this sum had to buy food, medicines and cover education and infrastructure rebuilding – for a population of around 24 million. In other words, only US 68 cents (45p) a day for each Iraqi to cover all needs.

By comparison, this amount had to provide for a population double the size of Sweden with only one-quarter of the Swedish state’s annual cost of social spending.

Moreover, the Iraqi government did not receive money revenues, only goods – a system of trade bartering. Iraq would ask the UN to supply the country with a shopping list of goods which was then vetted by the UN 661 Sanctions Committee – a secretive body that doesn’t publish its minutes.

Under this system many innocuous items (including pencils!) were banned by the 661 committee. Chlorine, for example, was deemed to have a ‘dual use’ ie both civilian and military use. But chlorine is used for water purification.

Another example; Dr Jawad Al-Ali at the Basra Teaching Hospital applied for but was denied, life-saving equipment, blood component separators, even needles for biopsies, because the 661 committee said they could have a military application. This is one reason why childhood leukaemia survival rates are just 20% in Iraq compared to the expected rate of 95%.

In addition, by denying many basic industrial goods through this programme the unemployment rate in Iraq reached 50%, with most of the population dependent upon UN food aid to survive. The death rate for children under five almost trebled.

Through this UN sanctions regime Iraqi society sank from the status of a ‘developed’ to a ‘developing’ country. In retrospect, it appears as if Iraq was deliberately weakened by a decade-long UN ‘siege’ and then invaded by a massive, superior military force.

Iraqi refugees Stop threats of ‘repatriation’

BLAIR’S GOVERNMENT plans to use the military victory as an excuse to send Iraqi refugees back to Iraq regardless of what kind of regime the US occupation imposes.

The Home Office is to tell Iraqis who fled Saddam’s rule that they will get a £3,000 repatriation package if they return home. Those who refuse to go will eventually face enforced repatriation.

Later this month, the Home Office will announce that the first 50 Afghan asylum seekers are to be forcibly removed from Britain under similar provisos that they announced after the Afghan war.

However, Afghanistan is under the control of reactionary local militias who carry out arbitrary justice, persecute minorities, and treat women in the same way as the Taliban did.

Now the same ‘repatriation’ process is being started with Iraqi refugees – there were more than 19,000 asylum applications last year – the highest from any country, as is usual from areas of conflict.

There should be no compulsion – if Iraqi refugees think it’s safe to return that’s fine but enforced repatriation is putting lives at risk.

The government are trying to make working people pay for their war and their pro-rich policies. Stand up to the attacks on wages and services and don’t let them scapegoat refugees – the most vulnerable people in society.

Imperialism’s Forgotten War

REPORTS OF a massacre of 300 civilians by armed gangs in the Ituri province, north east Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has highlighted the continuing crisis in this war-torn country.

During four years of war the DRC has seen the invasion of seven foreign armies, at least three million dead and diseases and abuses widespread.

The country, formerly known as Zaire, was ruled for 32 years by the pro-imperialist dictator Colonel Mobuto Sese Seko.

Mobuto came to power overthrowing the radical nationalist government of Patrice Lumumba in 1960 with the backing of the former colonial power, Belgium, and other Western powers operating under the cover of the United Nations.

As the masses sank deeper into poverty vast profits were siphoned from the mineral-rich country by multinationals, while Mobuto amassed a personal fortune of over $8 billion.

In May 1997 Laurent Kabila, with popular support, ousted Mobuto but very quickly suppressed political opposition. He renewed deals with multinationals to extract copper, gold, diamonds, coltan, etc – ie the country’s wealth.

His regime was subsequently challenged by a Rwanda and Uganda-backed rebellion in August 1998. Troops from Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Chad, and Sudan intervened to support the Kinshasa regime in return for mining and other profitable concessions.

A ceasefire was signed in July 1999 by the DRC, Zimbabwe, Angola, Uganda, Namibia, Rwanda, and Congolese armed rebel groups but sporadic fighting continued.

Kabila was assassinated on 16 January 2001 and his son Joseph Kabila was named head of state ten days later. In October 2002, occupying Rwandan forces withdrew from eastern Congo and two months later, an agreement was signed by all remaining warring parties to end the fighting and set up a government of national unity. This hasn’t happened.

Leaders of the African Union meeting recently in South Africa called for UN peacekeeping troops to intervene – a forlorn hope.

The history of DRC shows that imperialism, the regional powers and the United Nations, have all connived in ruthless capitalist exploitation of the country. For the DRC masses they are the problem, not the solution.