Archive article from The Socialist Issue 337
What We Think
Iraq War Continues To Haunt Blair
WHEN KATHARINE Gun decided to leak the e-mail she had received at GCHQ urging British intelligence to spy on the UN in the run up to the Iraq war she thought
She faced the prospect of losing her job and possibly spending time in jail but admitted later that
However, the mass anti-war movement did take Blair to the edge and the endless revelations about the lies that led to this war have damaged him for ever. Every time he attempts to move on to other issues, more lies and manoeuvres used to justify the war come to the surface.
The latest difficulty for Blair is the dropping of the case against Gun and Clare Short's openness about Britain spying on the United Nations. This has brought back events that Blair hoped were now history into the headlines.
A year ago Blair was trying to justify a war against Iraq, not only to his own party, the military and the intelligence service, but to millions of people campaigning against such a war. Blair himself was preparing to resign if parliament, affected by the mass protests, had voted against war
Against this background, Blair was desperate to convince the parliamentary party that the war was 'legal' without the need for a second UN resolution. Despite intense spying operations to discover the intentions of the wavering UN member countries, with bribes and threats thrown in, it was clear that Bush and Blair would not get a second resolution and they went to war anyway.
Even if such a war was 'legal' under the rules of the UN, socialists could not support an imperialist war waged for oil and the prestige of US imperialism, leading to the death of thousands of Iraqis and ordinary US and British troops.
The fact that the big powers spied so openly on the UN reinforces the point that the UN is not an impartial body trying to mediate between nations to bring peace to the world, but a tool of world imperialism to be used or ignored at their whim.
LAST WEEK the government dropped the case against Gun because her defence would have insisted on evidence that many in the ruling establishment were also not convinced of the legality of this war. These included the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, Sir Michael Boyce the Chief of Defence Staff at the time and the Foreign Office legal team who all appeared to be dubious as to the 'legality' of the war.
Clare Short suggests that Goldsmith, a millionaire barrister, was pressurised by Blair to confirm the war was 'legal' (i.e. that a second UN resolution was not necessary to go to war.)
With a general election possible in May 2005, Blair is attempting to put clear water between an election campaign and the Iraq war. This will not be possible.
A recent poll of Labour Party members showed a third believed the Hutton report was a whitewash while two-fifths say Blair should stand down before the next election. One backbencher, revealing the state of the party, comments on the impact of trying to unseat Short: "The pain of extraction might finish off the patient"
Blair's decision to back Bush's war in the face of doubts from the intelligence service and the military and mass opposition on the streets, continue to torment him, alongside anger against his domestic policies such as tuition fees and priviatisation.
If there was a credible mass political opposition to the left of New Labour, with roots in the trade unions and the working-class, Blair's future and the return of another Labour government could be challenged. The task of socialists is to help build that alternative.
The Sinister Secret State Unmasked
THE CASE against GCHQ translator Katharine Gun collapsed last week after the prosecution offered no evidence. She was facing the possibility of a two-year jail term for leaking an email to The Observer newspaper that exposed an American and British government 'dirty tricks' operation.
The operation was to spy on UN Security Council members Angola, Cameroon, Guinea, Chile, Mexico and Pakistan to find out how they'd vote in the UN Security Council before the war with Iraq.
Katharine Gun, a mathematician working alongside code-breakers and linguists at GCHQ in Cheltenham, was charged under section one of the 1989 Official Secrets Act, which imposes an absolute ban on workers or former workers of the security and intelligence agencies. This prevents them saying anything about their work without official authority, which is never given anyway!
But the Court of Appeal last year ruled that in the "event of an imminent threat to life and limb" a member of the security agencies could use "necessity defence" as a defence and expose wrongdoing by the powers that be.
Katharine Gun's legal team made it clear that they would use this ruling as part of her defence. That was a major factor leading to the New Labour government dropping this case against Katharine Gun as a way of avoiding any further negative press about why Britain went along with the US war with Iraq.
With US and UK governments leading a dirty tricks campaign aimed at starting an 'illegal' war with Iraq where many thousands died, it was clearly an "event of an imminent threat to life and limb." Katharine Gun was right to leak this information.
This case was going to be more explosive for Blair and Co then even the Hutton inquiry as Katharine Gun's defense team would have asked questions on the legality of the war with Iraq and may even have got the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith to disclose the advice he gave to Tony Blair and New Labour on military intervention in Iraq.
This case - and Clare Short's revelations - show that the secret state's sinister behaviour continues. The number of applications for telephone taps has increased each year in the UK. These activities, a travesty of democratic rights and civil liberties, have to be challenged by socialist and working-class organisations.
The Socialist Party calls for the secret state's activities to be revealed and these agencies brought to account and abolished. The government and the police should be held accountable and put under greater scrutiny at every level, through democratically elected bodies representing working-class organisations, local communities and the public generally.
Putting The War Criminals On Trial
THE GOVERNMENT'S legal difficulties over the Iraq war aren't over yet. Three cases are due to be heard before a High Court judge in Bristol Crown Court from April on what happened in Fairford, Gloucestershire last March.
A few days before the Iraq war started, Paul Milling and Margaret Jones cut their way into Fairford Air Force base and disabled trucks used for carrying bombs, and tankers for fuelling US B-52 bombers waiting to attack Iraq. Phil Pritchard, Toby Olditch and Josh Richards were also arrested, trying to disarm a B-52 bomber.
They are charged with conspiracy and criminal damage but the defendants say: "We are not the criminals. The true criminals are to be found in Whitehall, and the White House."
To back up this defence, lawyers want full disclosure of what Attorney General Lord Goldsmith told Blair, before the war started, about whether the war on Iraq was legal or not. It was only later that the Attorney General said publicly that he thought the war would not be against international law.
From 26 April the preliminary hearing in these Fairford cases is being heard in Bristol Crown Court. For the first time a High Court judge will hear questions such as "Was the war on Iraq a war crime?" The defendants contend that they acted to prevent such a crime.
Promotional tour - organised by Socialist Students
Empire Defeated - Vietnam war, lessons for today
By Peter Taaffe (general secretary, Socialist Party)
Dates so far:
Tuesday 9 March, 5pm. Training Room 1, Falmer House, Student Union.
Contact 0797 3952588
Monday 15 March, 1pm. Meeting room 1, Fulton House.
Tuesday 16 March, 4pm.
Aneuran Bevan Room, 4th floor, Student Union.
Contact: 0779 1329450
Tuesday 16 March, 5pm. Meeting room 5, Manchester University Student Union building, Oxford Road.
For details of meetings in your area, contact 020 8988 8761