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A Rocky Road To War
TONY BLAIR said that he and Bush have decided to give Saddam Hussein "one more chance". It's clear that mounting opposition from Republicans, the military, Arab leaders and public opinion generally to the ' go it alone' plans of US hawks, has forced Bush to try and involve the UN Security Council. One US opinion poll found only 20% supported a US-only invasion of Iraq.
Blair will be hoping that a UN resolution demanding the return of weapons inspectors and 'evidence' of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction will be enough to take the sting out of the anti-war opposition in Britain. Opinion polls have shown around 70% opposed to war. In a recent survey of 100 backbench Labour MPs, 90% said there was insufficient grounds to declare war.
The former Labour Chancellor Denis Healey summed up Blair's predicament when he said: "I don't think he could survive overwhelming public and party opposition to British support for an American attack".
But will Blair's strategy work? The situation today is very different from that of a year ago after September 11 and from the time of the last Gulf War in 1990/91.
This time there has been no terrorist attack killing thousands of people or an invasion of a neighbouring country that could be used to try and justify a military attack and conceal the real reasons for war - asserting the economic and political dominance of US imperialism internationally and in the oil-rich Middle East in particular.
The propaganda machines have gone into overdrive to talk up the supposed threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and have come up with a damp squib (see page 3).
US imperialism will attempt to use its economic muscle to bully and bribe the other UN Security Council members into backing a new resolution. Yet, even if it succeeds, the figleaf of the UN will not necessarily cut across the anti-war movement.
There is a growing awareness of the real intentions of the US.
The narrow vote at the TUC against blanket opposition to a war with Iraq (see below) is an indication of that.
The unions are becoming increasingly militant on the issue of low pay and discontent on this and other questions such as privatisation could feed into and harden the anti-war mood.
A firefighters' strike in particular, could concretely affect the timing of a planned military attack on Iraq. As one senior army officer explained: "We can't fight fires and Saddam Hussein at the same time".
Bush and Blair have made it quite clear that if the UN does not play ball or drags its heels in forcing compliance of any resolution, they would still want to wage war on Iraq without it. If this happened it would unleash enormous opposition.
Whatever the outcome at the UN, the road to war is a rocky one. Bush and Blair have shown that they are not immune to the pressure of public opinion. The potential exists to build a massive anti-war movement in Britain and internationally.
In The Socialist 13 September 2002: