Labour Against the War
Annual General Meetings



2006 AGM

LABOUR’S ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT :
STILL A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH

The Labour Against the War AGM & Summer Conference “The Price of War” was held on Saturday 03 June 2006. A packed hall at Hungerford Primary School was the venue for a successful event that included speakers from across the labour and anti-war movement. Tony Benn, Alan Simpson MP, Dr Glen Rangwala, Christine Shawcroft (LP NEC), John McDonnell MP, Dorothy Macedo (Unison), Barry Camfield (Asst Gen Sec, TGWU), Manuel Cortes (Asst Gen Sec, TSSA) and Kate Hudson (Chair, CND) all addressed the assembled LAtW delegates who came from across the country. The day included plenty of time for questions, discussion and debate that resulted in the following seven resolutions being carried, these will inform Labour Against the War’s campaign throughout the coming year.

Thank you to all those labour Party members and supporters who attended and helped make the day such a great success.

Photographs of the event can be found at the following link: http://www.artzone.org.uk/LAtWthePriceofWar/index.html


RESOLUTION #1
THREE YEARS OF WAR & OCCUPATION:
THE COST TO THE IRAQIS

Labour Against the War reaffirms:

1.  Our opposition to the continuing occupation of Iraq, condemns the continued abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners by the coalition forces, and calls for an accurate audit of the actual cost of the invasion and occupation to the Iraqi people and their economy;

2.  Our call for the speedy withdrawal of coalition forces and the dismantling of their military bases in favour of the Iraqi people being left free to build their country’s infrastructure, public services and education system, with assistance from international agencies if required.

Furthermore we call for the perpetrators of aggressive, pre-emptive wars to be brought to justice under international law and for the governments of the coalition to pay reparations for the rebuilding of Iraqi society and the Iraqi economy.

Labour Against the War supports the efforts of Tony Benn to ensure that those who break international law are brought to account.

______________________________________________________________

Extract from Tony Benn’s letter to the UN Secretary General:

We note that the UK Government and the USA in coalition partnership during the period 2002 – 2006 have broken their obligations under The Geneva and Hague Conventions and Protocols and The Nuremberg Charter of 1945, and of The Rome Statute of The International Criminal Court. In summary those breaches are:

1.  Crimes Against Peace: Planning and Conducting an Aggressive War using deceit, including deliberately falsifying reports to arouse passion in support of this war.

2.  Failure to ensure public order and safety by disbanding the army and police of Iraq, without properly replacing those functions.

3.  Extensive destruction of service infrastructure, including drinking water, sewage systems, telephones and electricity supply, with grave consequences to the inhabitants of Iraq, especially in hospitals.

4.  Deliberate damage to hospitals and medical facilities and personnel including the shooting up of Red Crescent ambulances, and prevention of movement of ambulances.

5.  Failure to prohibit looting and arson resulting in the despoliation and pillage of museums, libraries, archaeological sites, hospitals, administrative buildings and state records.

6.  Failure to respect cultural property including the use of the Babylon archaeological site as a military camp.

7.  Economic exploitation of occupied territories by orders of The Provisional Coalition Administration to the benefit of foreign interests, including the use of Production Sharing Agreements, and IMF rules, even though warnings were made by the Attorney General that these may be construed as contrary to International Law.

8.  Seizing botanical assets by Provisional Coalition Administration Order 81, which ends the prohibition of private ownership of biological resources, and introduces foreign monopoly rights over seeds.

9.  Political persecution by initially sacking all Ba’ath Party members, thereby very severely reducing the administrative and professional class who had been obliged to be members.

10.  Religious persecution: US Defence Secretary memo of 02 December 2002 sanctioned the use of religious humiliation against detainees.

11.  Use of cable ties as a restraint to detainees' wrists causing injury and unnecessary suffering.

12.  Use of hooding detainees, wilfully causing mental suffering, especially when used for prolonged periods, or when combined with assault.

13.  Use of dogs as a means of obtaining information authorised by US Defence Secretary memo of 02 December 2002.

14.  Forcing detainees to stand for many hours as a means of obtaining information authorised by US Defence Secretary memo of 02 December 2002, and practised at Abu Ghraib and other US prisons.

15.  Sexual and bodily humiliation of detainees, including rapes, and stripping naked for long periods.

16.  Aggressive patrolling with indiscriminate mass arrests of males, including 14 year olds, indiscriminate destruction of property, and invasion of women's' quarters contrary to tenets of the Koran.

17.  Killing and wounding treacherously by indiscriminate shooting at check points, strafing of groups of obvious civilians, and disproportionate use of force in residential areas.

18.  Degrading treatment of detainees by marking foreheads and bodies with indelible marker pens as a means of identification and control.

19.  Use of cluster bombs on grounds of military expediency. As well as being munitions causing random unnecessary suffering by steel spicules, incendiary and depleted uranium bomblets, a large number don't explode, effectively becoming land mines.

20.  Use of depleted uranium shells, on the grounds of military expediency, causing a very long-term legacy of radioactive damage to the environment, cancers and birth defects.

21.  Use of white phosphorous (WP) chemical munitions.

22.  Collective penalties in Fallujah during the first assault of April 2004 when 1,000 Iraqis including 600 women and children were killed.

23.  Evacuation of Fallujah, (a city nearly the size of Cardiff) in preparation for a second disproportionate assault in November 2004, which employed the use of starvation and thirst on an entire population, targeting of hospitals, medical staff and ambulances, indiscriminate shooting of non combatants and destruction of private and state property

24.  Failure to keep a proper record of POW names and locations.

25.  Failure to treat POWs humanely, especially those held in the open in the sun.

26.  Abolition of Habeas Corpus: holding an estimated 30,000 prisoners without charge or trial over an indefinite period:

27.  Failure to record Iraqi deaths and injuries with consequent failure to determine proportionality or medical requirements of survivors. Also causing unnecessary suffering to relatives of the deceased.

28.  Unilaterally holding that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to certain actions, especially to the use of private security contractors, and mercenaries and to the detention of certain types of enemy combatants.


RESOLUTION #2
THE COST OF ELECTIONS IN IRAQ:
DEATH SQUAD DEMOCRACY?

Labour Against the War notes that:

1.  on 15th December 2005 the first permanent 275-member Iraqi National Assembly under a new Iraqi Constitution was “elected”;

2.  a “National Unity” Government is only now emerging after months of negotiations and delay;

3.  the military occupation has not been able to create the conditions for the Iraqi people to move towards representative self-government;

4.  no election in Iraq can be truly democratic while the country remains under military occupation;

5.  the Iraqi Interior Ministry is alleged to be controlling death squads;

6.  continued participation of British forces in the military occupation of Iraq is part of the problem and not part of the solution, recognising that the occupation itself is unjustifiable and destructive of both lives and resources.


STATEMENT #3
THE COST OF WAR TO THE LABOUR PARTY:
VOTERS PUNISH BLAIR

Labour Against the War welcomes the Labour Party General Election victory of 5th May 2005.

Labour Against the War notes that:

1.  Our Party entered the General Election campaign of May 2005 defending a 167 majority and that this majority was slashed to 66 (now reduced further to 64). Although the Labour Party won a historic consecutive third term our Party was elected on only a 35.3% share of the vote (just 21.6% of the total electorate);

2.  Labour lost control of 18 councils and lost 319 council seats in the local elections on 4th May 2006 – the worst Labour performance in over twenty years with just 26% of the vote (less than 10% of the total electorate);

3.  The rise of the Tory vote (their best result since 1992), the inertia of the Liberal Democrat vote and the rise of the fascist BNP who gained 27 councillors (more than doubling its representation to 44 councillors), many at Labour’s expense;

4.  The Government's support is draining away at successive elections and splintering to the smaller and even fascist parties. We recognise that no number of reshuffles can address the crisis of confidence among Labour supporters in the Prime Minister;

5.  The illegal and immoral war on, and the continuing occupation of, Iraq and the consequent erosion of civil liberties have played a large part in disillusioning would-be Labour voters leaving many of them wanting to punish Tony Blair for participating in George W. Bush’s “war on terror”;

6.  Many good comrades have left the Party and among those who remain many are not prepared to campaign actively.


RESOLUTION #3a
THE COST OF WAR TO THE LABOUR PARTY

Labour Against the War notes:

1.  The general election of 2005, subsequent by elections and the local election of May 2006 show electoral support draining away from Labour. In 2005 a parliamentary majority of 167 was slashed to 66. Subsequent by elections have seen it fall further to 64. We won our historic third term with 35.5% of the popular vote – just 21.6% of the total electorate. The May 2006 local elections were our worst result for over twenty years. Less than 10% of the total electorate voted Labour.

2.  The anti Tory coalition no longer exists. May 2006 was their best result for almost 15 years. Opinion polls show them up to 6% ahead of Labour. On cores issues such as education and health, they are now trusted more than us.

3.  The Government has continually focused on refugees and asylum seekers, refusing to extol the virtues of inward migration and the positive contribution it makes to British cultural, political and economic life. The Government has played the race card. The result has been the growth of the BNP and the election of BNP councillors.

4.  The illegal and immoral war on Iraq and subsequent occupation has played a large part in disillusioning Labour members. Many good comrades have left the party. Among those who remain, many are not prepared to campaign actively. At the same time, exposure of the manoeuvring and evasions told to the British public in an attempt to justify the war have led to a catastrophic loss of trust in our party amongst our voters and supporters.

Labour Against the War resolves to campaign to renew the Labour Party by working to re-recruit disillusioned members and well as new ones.


RESOLUTION #4
THE COST TO CIVIL LIBERTIES:
TAKING LIBERTIES, SPINNING TERROR

Labour Against the War condemns the London Bombings of 07 July 2005 and also condemns the loss of civil liberties in Britain.

Labour Against the War condemns the police “shoot-to-kill” policy that so tragically ended the life of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Labour Against the War condemns legislation to introduce identity cards that will neither reduce the threat of terrorism nor make people feel safer.

Labour Against the War condemns the demonisation of asylum seekers and recognises that this increases community tensions.

Labour Against the War condemns legislation that restricts or denies people the right to peaceful protest.

Labour Against the War will continue to stand up for civil liberties in an open democratic society. We shall continue to oppose racist scapgoating of minority communities.

Labour Against the War will seek common cause with the trade unions and other kindred organisations to campaign for an exension of civil liberties, including trade union rights, at home and abroad.


RESOLUTION #5
THE FINANCIAL COST OF WAR
ON IRAQ & AFGHANISTAN

Labour Against the War notes that

1.  Gordon Brown’s announced in his budget statement an additional £800 million funding for the “war on terror” bringing the total to £5.6 billion (this is expected to rise to over £6 billion by the end of the year due to additional demands from the Ministry of Defence). That’s nearly £3 million every single day for continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan;

2.  Britain spends £33 billion annually on its military budget. We note that a fraction of this sum could achieve so much more if directed towards socially useful projects both at home and abroad.

We call upon the British Government to stop funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to report to the House of Commons the accurate cost of these wars and instead to invest resources in Labour’s priorities as determined at the Labour Party Conference 2005.


RESOLUTION #6
IRAN : THE NEXT TARGET
IN THE “WAR ON TERROR”?

Labour Against the War opposes any pre-emptive strike on Iran and calls for the continuation of non-military solutions, including diplomatic and political initiatives, to resolve the current crisis.


From 2005 AGM:

Iran war "would cost Blair his job"
MPs look to reclaim Labour for peace

Bob Glandville, Morning Star, 07 February 2005

Anti-war MPs warned Prime Minister Tony Blair this weekend (05/02/05) that attempts to involve Britain in US plans for aggression in Iran would trigger a swift end to his time as leader.
At the Labour Against the War AGM in London, peace campaigning MPs restated their drive to reclaim Labour as the party of peace and social justice.
If Mr Blair continues with his "shameful" support of warmongering US President George Bush, he must be removed from office, activists said.
Speaking during a day characterised by passionate, penetrating debate on the best way to sever Downing Street's link with the White House, LAtW chairman Alan Simpson said that Mr Blair would be committing political suicide by backing a US war on Iran.
Mr Simpson made it clear that, "if Blair wants to use the word Iran, in the context of a war, that same word must become synonymous with 'goodbye', because he would forfeit his right to lead."
Former Cabinet minister Michael Meacher MP condemned the Labour leadership and the "cowed British media" for failing to tell the truth about the supposed "battle for freedom" in Iraq.
Mr Meacher explained that the US had invaded the country to open up its industry to US privatisation, to rape Iraq's resources and to construct a strategic military station from which to launch further imperialist missions around the Middle East.
The so-called "reconstruction" of Iraq is simply economic colonisation," he stressed. "The real IS objective in Iraq, apart from controlling the oil, is imposing the neoliberal capitalist system."
Delegates widely denounced the recent Iraqi elections as a "sham," with Mr Meacher stressing that they had been set up "to anoint the occupation."
Anti-war MP Jeremy Corbyn condemned the "ideologue in Washington and the zealot in Downing Street" who refuse to acknowledge the real threats to the world.
It was not terrorist bogeymen that endangered our future but global warming, AIDS, Economic policies that further impoverish the poor and not least, the US itself, which is determined to "grab the world's resources, " Mr Corbyn said.
Looking ahead to the national Stop the War march in London this March, the Islington MP urged campaigners to pound the streets and make their voices heard until Mr Blair realises that peace and justice will never be achieved with "bullets, depleted uranium or cluster bombs."



Our AGM held on Saturday 05 February 2005 was a great success, a packed hall heard from MPs, trade unionists, Iraqi exiles, anti-war academics and Labour Party activists from around the country.

The following resolutions were overwhelmingly carried:

IRAQ: INVASION, OCCUPATION, EXIT.

We note that:

1. The US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, despite their illegality, were originally justified on the basis that weapons of mass destruction were available for immediate use by Saddam Hussein. It is now clear that at the time of the US-led invasion Iraq did not possess such weapons.

2. Subsequently the war was justified on new grounds, namely that it would restore human rights and democracy to the Iraqis. Far from respecting human rights, the occupation has ended up violating the basic right to life and freedom of expression of the Iraqi people.

3. We recognise that the coalition's stated war objectives of a safe, democratic Iraq have not been realised.

4. Throughout 2004, US-led onslaughts against Iraqi cities - Najaf, Diwaniya, Sadr City, FaIIujah and elsewhere - have resulted in appalling loss of lives, both military and civilian.

5. The number of US deaths is now 1,444* and UK deaths are 86*, while the number of Iraqi deaths is conservatively estimated to be in excess of 15,000.

· We reaffirm our opposition to the occupation of Iraq, condemn the abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners by the coalition forces, and call for an accurate audit of the actual cost of the invasion and occupation.

· We call for the speedy withdrawal of coalition forces and the dismantling of their military bases in favour of the Iraqi people being left free to build their country's infrastructure, public services and education system, with assistance from international agencies if required.

· We now call on the British Government to recognise that the continuing occupation of Iraq is unjustifiable and destructive of both lives and resources and call on the Prime Minister to name an early date for the withdrawal of British forces.
*source: Iraq Body Count 03/02/05


IRAQI "ELECTIONS"

Labour Against the War respects the desire of Iraqi citizens to have fair elections in an open democratic and secular society - a right denied them for over 30 years. We believe, however, that the recent elections for the National Assembly were deeply flawed, and likely to be as unstable as they were unrepresentative. In particular, we note that:

· none of the authorised parties in the election were able to oppose the occupation itself;

· none of the approved parties could seek to reverse the US privatisation programme of Iraqi assets;

· campaigning was heavily biased in favour of the small number of parties receiving substantial outside funding and who could dominate media coverage;

· large areas of the country boycotted the election;

· the Iraq Administration still bans a free or critical press;

· Iraqi citizens had no rights to vote for individual candidates, nor any right to directly elect their own President or Prime Minister, and that;

· resistance to the occupation continues and will embroil the National Assembly itself until a withdrawal of foreign troops takes place.

We believe these issues, fundamental to a stable democracy in Iraq, will not be addressed until the armed occupation ends.


ANTI-WAR LABOUR PARTY ACTIVISTS AND
THE CONSEQUENCES OF PRE-EMPTIVE MILITARY ACTION

As the Labour Party prepares to fight a General Election hoping for a historic third term we recognise the following:

· Labour Party membership has fallen to its lowest level for seventy years as a consequence of the unlawful war on Iraq and other unpopular measures;

· Labour Party members are demoralised, with many unwilling to play a part in the pro-war campaigns of some Labour MPs;

· too many Labour voters have been moved to indifference or even outright hostility to the Labour Party that they flocked to elect in 1997, with many threatening to use the General Election as an opportunity to punish the Labour Party rather than support us;

· 140 Labour Party MPs believed that the case for war on Iraq had not been established and voted against the Government (half of the non-payroll membership of the PLP);

· the majority voice of the Labour Party membership remains anti-war.

Over the months leading up to the General Election, anti-war Labour Party activists will not be silenced and we shall not abstain. We shall work for the return of a Labour Government committed to the principles of the Labour Party which rely on finding peaceful and diplomatic solutions to the world's problems rather than exercising military might. We shall support Labour candidates who share this view and promote our message to the electorate in all constituencies.


ANTI-WAR LABOUR PARTY ACTIVISTS AND THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN

Our priorities for action before the General Election are as follows.

· We shall build support for the largest possible LAtW contingent to join the Stop the War Coalition national demonstration on 19 March and its other events as they are called from time to time.

· We shall invite anti-war Labour MPs to give us their campaign contact details and make these available to anti-war Labour Party members and affiliates, seeking to maximise support and work for anti-war Labour MPs during the pre-election period and the election campaign.

· We shall promote new Parliamentary Early Day Motions [details to follow]. Our supporters will lobby MPs to sign up in support.

· We shall promote our model resolution Iraq: invasion, occupation, exit throughout CLPs and other Labour Party bodies and affiliates with a view to having the topic debated at Annual Conference 2005.

· We shall join with other campaigns to oppose oppressive domestic legislation which curbs human rights at home or overseas.

· We shall attempt to make direct links with workers, trade unionists and community campaigns in Iraq, offering practical support (which is difficult given the volatile situation in the country and unreliable nature of communications) and general political solidarity.

· We shall make available/distribute low cost fact sheets for Labour Party and trade union meetings to educate members about the true facts of the occupation which are so often hidden in the mainstream media - and to use as the basis of dialogue with those Labour MPs who continue to support the occupation.

· We shall, through the use of our website, email and mailings, communicate regularly with our supporters, offering ideas for letter-writing and lobbying of those Labour MPs who continue to support the occupation.

· We shall work with Labour Action for Peace and Labour Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament to back campaigns of mutual interest and raise the case for peace and a future free of weapons of mass destruction.

· We encourage groups of local LAtW supporters to hold meetings before the General Election to put the anti-war case across to the electorate, following the lead of Brent East CLP and others.

· We shall campaign for the implementation of our AGM statement Iraq: invasion, occupation, exit.

· We shall attempt during these critical months to put the LAtW case in the national media; reaching out to those anti-war Party members who are isolated or small in number in their own CLPs or who have left the Party.

· We shall encourage anti-war activists to join or rejoin the Party and proudly make the case for peace in the knowledge that they are not alone but are part of a wider movement. In particular, we shall promote our own "Reclaim the Labour Party" recruitment leaflet.


Where is the democracy in Iraq?

Michael Meacher MP, addressing the Labour Against the War AGM on 5th February, gave this compelling overview of US motives for invading and occupying Iraq - which can only lead us to demand that western troops are withdrawn.

Do the recent elections justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq? At least we are now beginning to strip away the lies. Gone are the claims that the war was about eliminating weapons of mass destruction, or intervention to remove a sadistic dictator guilty of genocide. In the end, as President Bush has repeatedly proclaimed, it all comes down to the establishment of democracy. He does not say, however, what his definition of democracy is.

This election was not a democratic exercise designed to offer Iraqis genuine self-determination. It was a process to anoint the occupiers, to give a veneer or respectability to continued political control and economic exploitation of Iraq by the US. Nor was it a fair and reliable election by any acceptable international standards. If it had been held in Iran, Syria or Zimbabwe, the US and UK would have been the first to denounce it. Draconian security measures left Iraq's cities looking like ghost towns. Ballot papers were so complicated that the Kurdish leader Jabal Talabani needed a brief on how to use one. Most candidates were afraid to be seen in public, let alone discuss their policies.

Economic democracy has been circumscribed as well. Before US Proconsul Paul Bremer left Baghdad, he enacted 100 orders as chief of the occupation authority. Perhaps the most infamous was Order 39, which decreed that 200 Iraqi state companies would be privatised, that foreign companies could have complete control of Iraqi banks, factories and mines and that these companies could transfer all their profits out of Iraq. The so-called reconstruction of the country amounts in effect to wholesale privatisation of the economy and is little short of economic colonisation.

Despite the elections on 30th January, these laws will not be reversed while 140,000 troops remain in Iraq or the network of US military bases is retained, which could be there even longer. Power over aid for rebuilding the electricity and water services, the oil industry and the legal and security systems will reside with the US embassy for many years to come.

Bremer's 100 Orders, if they are taken together, set the overall legal framework for foreign exploitation of Iraq's domestic market. They cover almost all facets of the economy, including Iraq's trading regime, the mandate of the Central Bank and regulations governing trade union activities. Collectively, they lay down the foundations for the real US objective in Iraq, apart from keeping control of the oil supply, namely the imposition of a neo-liberal capitalist market economy controlled and run by US transnational corporations.

These laws are remarkable not only for their degree of overall control but also for their far reaching application. Order 81, for example, has the status of binding law over "patent industrial design, undisclosed information, integrated circuits and plant variety" - a degree of detailed supervision normally associated with a Soviet command and control economy. While historically the Iraqi constitution prohibited private ownership of biological resources, the new US-imposed patent law introduces a system of monopoly rights over seeds. This is virtually a takeover of Iraqi agriculture.

Rights granted to US plant breeding companies under this Order include the exclusive right to produce, reproduce, sell, export, import and store the plant varieties covered by intellectual property right for 20-25 years. During this extended period, nobody can plant or otherwise use these plants trees or vines without compensating the breeder. In the name of agricultural reconstruction, this new law deprives Iraqi farmers of the inherent right, exercised for the last ten thousand years in the fertile Mesopotamian arc, to save and replant seeds. It enables the penetration of Iraqi agriculture by Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow Chemical and other corporate giants that control the global seed trade. Food sovereignty for the Iraqi people has therefore already been made near impossible by these new regulations.

The impact of the Orders left behind by Bremer has been concentrated because US corporations have a near monopoly of the economic contracts awarded by the US-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority. Contracts have been allocated overwhelmingly to big US companies, notably Bechtel and Halliburton - which just happens to be Cheney's former company. Some have been allotted on a secret no-bid basis, such as the contract to repair and operate the oil wells awarded to the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root. Almost no contracts have gone to UK companies - apart from one to repair and rebuild the Baghdad sewage system.

Contracts for oilfield repairs over a two-year period have been worth some $7bn. For the little known and disarmingly titled logistical Civil Augmentation Programme, the contracts value is far greater. These contracts are largely funded from Iraqi oil revenues. The oil money is held in the US Federal Reserve and the US Government is determined to keep control of it under the semblance of an international board. The US has already spent half the revenue - mainly on these long term contracts with their construction companies.

Whether this enforced takeover of the economy and imposed privatisation across the board of all the main economic sectors is in accordance with international law is now much disputed. Whether it can be reversed - when the US holds all the military, political and economic cards - is another matter. The only way the US can find to sidestep the potential conflict is to ensure that the Iraqi Government, whoever is finally elected, is pliant enough not to press for full sovereignty. The US has been working on it. Time magazine has recently exposed a secret report which proposed a covert CIA operation to aid candidates favoured by Washington. One quoted source described it as a plan for "the CIA to put an operation in place to affect the outcome of the elections."

If democracy is now supposed to be the real goal of the whole Iraq venture, not much is being left to chance by the conquerors - economically, militarily or politically. As Madame Pompadour might have remarked, "O Democracy, what crimes are committed in thy name!"

The election will not resolve the rampant insecurity resulting from war and occupation. Iraq is still a place of fear for its people. The supposed democratic system for which they have voted bravely doesn't have the power to bring them peace, security and or the rule of law. Western occupying forces have that power, but they cannot exercise it fully without destroying the legitimacy of the Iraqi state they purport to be creating.

It is not only Iraqis who are full of fears. The western occupiers and their political masters are fearful too -fearful that the intensity of the insurgency will increase; fearful that Shi'ite Iran will extend its influence in Iraq; fearful that Shia domination of the Iraqi Government will lead to civil conflict - fearful that troops will be there, in massive numbers, for years to come.

There is only one way to remove these fears: that is to accept that the continued occupation of Iraq is not the solution, but the aggravation of the problem. The only way to stop the destruction of Iraq and the relentless haemorrhage of violence is to set a clear and early timetable for the withdrawal of US and British forces. Even if US forces were ever seen, however briefly, as liberators, that image was utterly shattered by the atrocities of Abu Ghraib, Najaf and Fallujah.

A genuinely democratic and sovereign Iraq is wholly incompatible with the strategic goals that caused Bush to launch a war in the first place. Sovereignty over oil fields and their own resources is to be denied to the Iraqis. Democratic control over their own state will be strictly limited through the establishment of military bases to secure permanent US political and military domination of the Middle East Region. Horribly, further military adventures then become more viable and more likely.

Iran has been placed squarely in the US Administration's sights. Whatever emollient words on diplomacy were offered by Condoleeza Rice on her recent European tour, the worry is that exactly the same process has started. Suspicions of plans for militarily action arise and are denied. Met with an understandably high degree of scepticism, the denials shift subtly: we are told that it is the job of governments and strategists to formulate plans, but we should be reassured because no decisions have been taken. In fact, all that has happened is that no decisions have been revealed. Public scrutiny and accountability would hamper the planners. All of a sudden, the "evidence" becomes overwhelming, the countdown to war begins - and the situation becomes unstoppable.

We must not let this happen again. Where British people want peace and justice and the rule of law, no UK Prime Minister should ever again be allowed to take us to war.
Perhaps we should not be surprised at what democracy in Iraq looks like from a White House perspective. After all, if Alberto Gonzales - then White House counsel and now US Attorney General - can write a memo redefining torture in order to keep brutal treatment of Iraqi prisoners "legal", what could they do to definitions of democracy? We must now demand that the sham democratic arrangements deployed in Iraq are replaced as rapidly as possible by real Iraqi self determination - built on the withdrawal of all foreign occupying forces.

Iraq: Whose Side Are You On? By Milan Rai

Speech to the Labour Against The War conference, University of London Union, Malet Street, London, 05 February 2005. [edited version]

Commenting on the handling of terrorist suspects, the Prime Minister said in the House of Commons on Wednesday 2 February, 'the one thing I will not do as Prime Minister is engage in anything that I think puts the security of our country at risk. That is paramount for me.' (Hansard, ) Why, then, did he ignore the advice of British intelligence, which warned him in February 2003 that the invasion of Iraq would 'heighten' not lessen the risk of terrorism against Britain? The Intelligence and Security Committee report into Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, published in September 2003, found that the Joint Intelligence Committee gave this warning to Tony Blair on 10 February 2003: 'The JIC assessed that al-Qaida and associated groups continued to represent by far the greatest threat to Western interests and that threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq.' (<http://tinyurl.com/3phe2> emphasis added)

Tony Blair invaded Iraq knowing that his action would put the security of this country at risk. The truth is that, as with previous prime ministers, there were other factors that were 'paramount'. The security of the British people was not, and is not, a crucial issue.
What about the security of the Iraqi people? Mr Blair claims to have the interests of the Iraqi people at heart. He likes to frame the current conflict as one between 'democracy' and 'the terrorists'. He likes to place himself on the side of 'democracy', against 'the terrorists'. Why then did he enthusiastically support the US in imposing on Iraq as interim Prime Minister a known former terrorist, Iyad Allawi?

There are those who still deny that Allawi was imposed by the US. When we go back to his elevation, we find that the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council put forward three names for the top job (and derailing the UN process for selecting the prime minister in the process). According to The Times, the US vetoed two of the candidates as 'too Islamist', leaving Allawi to take the job. (31 May 2004, p. 27) So George Bush is not lying when he says he did not select Allawi. He just vetoed every other possible candidate.

Let us run briefly through Allawi's terrorist background. The last time car bombs went off in Baghdad (before the US/UK invasion) was in 1994-95. These bombings, which, if they were carried out today, would be denounced by Allawi as vile terrorism, were carried out by the Iraqi exile opposition group known as the Iraqi National Accord (INA), headed then (as now) by... Iyad Allawi.

Backed by the CIA and preparing for a 1996 coup attempt, the INA bombed a cinema, a mosque, and the street outside an official newspaper, killing a total of perhaps 100 civilians. The CIA role in these bombings was confirmed in the New York Times by 'former intelligence officials' who 'while confirming C.I.A. involvement in the bombing campaign, would not say how, exactly, the agency had supported it.' 'The bombing and sabotage campaign, the former senior intelligence official said, "was a test more than anything else, to demonstrate capability." ' (NYT, 9 June 2004, p. A1 <http://tinyurl.com/4vgph>) 100 Iraqi civilians were blown up to demonstrate Iyad Allawi's terrorist capabilities.

In October 1995, Allawi followed this up by ordering the bombing of the headquarters of the Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella group for Iraqi oppositionists-in-exile which his INA party technically belonged to. 28 anti-Saddam activists were blown up. Three men were arrested and, under interrogation by Kurdish police, confessed that they planted the bombs on the orders of the INA. The CIA carried out its own investigation, taking away fragments from the scene: the results were never released. (Andrew and Patrick Cockburn, Saddam Hussein: An American Obsession)

Allawi was never punished for these activities by the US, for the simple reason that he and his INA party was at the centre of US policy towards Iraq for over a decade. And the reason Allawi and the INA has been at the centre of US policy towards Iraq for over a decade is that Allawi is a former Ba'athist, and his party is a party of former Ba'athists.

Since 1991, the US has been pursuing a policy in Iraq not of 'regime change', but of 'regime stabilization, leadership change'. That's why in March 1991 Richard Haass, a Middle East staffer on the US National Security Council told a fellow Bush administration official, 'You don't understand. Our policy is to get rid of Saddam, not his regime.' (Saddam Hussein: An American Obsession) That's why in October 2002, the White House spokesperson, Ari Fleischer, when asked about the multi-billion-dollar cost of invading Iraq, replied that the cost of the invasion could be saved for the 'cost of one bullet.' Pressed on whether he was advocating the assassination of Saddam Hussein, Fleischer replied, 'Regime change is welcome in whatever form it takes.'

One-bullet, one-man regime change. Leaving the Ba'athist military, intelligence services, judiciary, police, and civil service intact would have amounted to 'regime change', if only the supreme leader had been despatched. If we had had the Nazi state without Hitler. I've written about more about this in Regime Unchanged.

Allawi was at the heart of US policy towards Iraq because Allawi represented the best chance of organising a coup within Iraq, and leaving the Ba'athist system in place.
Allawi joined the Ba'ath Party early, and was an enthusiast. Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA case officer who served in the Middle East, told the New Yorker, 'Allawi helped Saddam get to power. He was a very effective operator and a true believer.' For Gerecht, 'Two facts stand out about Allawi. One, he likes to think of himself as a man of ideas; and, two, his strongest virtue is that he's a thug.' <http://tinyurl.com/63p33>

Allawi moved to London in 1971, to run the European operations of the Ba'ath Party organization. He commanded the local activities of the party's intelligence arm, the Mukhabarat, until 1975, according to US intelligence officials. 'If you're asking me if Allawi has blood on his hands from his days in London, the answer is yes, he does,' says Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA officer. A a 'cabinet-level Middle East diplomat' told Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker that Allawi was involved with a Mukhabarat 'hit team' that sought out and killed Ba'ath Party dissenters throughout Europe. (New Yorker, <http://tinyurl.com/63p33>)

Allawi's involvement in terrorism did not start in 1994, then.
For years, the US tried and failed to organise a coup via Allawi and his INA. When the invasion finally took place, Saddam's regime collapsed, much to the dismay of Washington. Allawi was brought in to provide what the Foreign Office used to call 'an Arab façade' for the occupation, and to aid the US programme of recruiting and restoring Ba'athists to power.

At first, the Shia mobilization forced the US to declare a 'de-Ba'athification' process - while quietly re-hiring Saddam's spies. In the same month that US governor Paul Bremer announced 'de-Ba'athification', the US occupation forces re-hired for intelligence work Mohammed Abdullah, a colonel with ten years in the Mukhabarat and eight in military intelligence. The colonel told the Sunday Times in September 2003, 'We are under strict instructions not to publicise our work with the Americans, but dozens of former Mukhabarat officers have already been recruited.' (Mark Franchetti, 'CIA recruits Iraq's feared secret police,' Sunday Times, 21 September. 2003, p. 26)

The Sunday Times reported, 'US officials claim all recruits from the former Mukhabarat are vetted.' Unfortunately, he notes, vetting is tricky: 'The Americans often find themselves forced to rely on Mukhabarat agents already working for them when selecting new recruits.' The Gestapo were vetting the Gestapo.

Once imposed as interim prime minister, Allawi accelerated the process of re-Ba'athification. He appointed ex-Baathists to key cabinet posts, including Falah al-Naqib, the son of a prominent Baath official who ultimately became Iraq's ambassador to Sweden, who became minister of the interior. He chose Hazem al-Shaalan, a former Baathist from al-Hillah, as Defence Minister. Brig. Gen. Muhammad Abdullah Shahwani, an old-time Ba'ath officer, was made head of the Iraqi secret police. According to Dr Juan Cole, an Iraq expert who calls this group 'a network of ex-Baathists (or perhaps neo-Baathists)' 'Shahwani is alleged to be a long-time CIA asset who is being groomed as a replacement for caretaker Prime Minister Iyad Allawi should the latter be assassinated.' <http://tinyurl.com/666hq>

Allawi even re-hired former Special Forces soldiers from the old regime, to serve in a 'police commando' strike force. Maj. Gen Adnon Thabit, who now acts as a Iraqi Police Service adviser for the Ministry of the Interior says, 'we have police who have previous experience fighting terrorism and also people who received special training under the former regime - people who used to be in the army.' U.S. Army Col. James H. Coffman Jr., who works alongside the Major General, says, 'They needed a strike force that reported to the Ministry of Interior… So they purposely went out and recruited against these former special forces and (former Directorate of General Security [Mukhabarat]) personnel that had a high degree of training existing already… to capitalize on the previous skill sets that they had.' Col. Coffman, who has a Special Forces background himself, adds, 'This is a very disciplined unit. These are disciplined soldiers who are doing a very good job, and they're very impressive because of it.' (American Forces Press Service, 20 October 2004 < http://tinyurl.com/6ss2t>)

The Washington Post observes, 'Supporters of Allawi's actions - including, implicitly and quietly, the United States -- believe that the Baathist military and intelligence officers, trained in the ways of control, are Iraq's best hope of successfully combating the violent insurgency. (3 February 2005, p. A21 <http://tinyurl.com/5q9j2>, emphasis added)

Allawi tried to force the doors open wider for the old gang. Last October he tried to abolish the Supreme Commission for De-Ba'athification, but was found by a court to be acting unlawfully. He wanted to bring in a new rule that any official of any rank could be brought back into government service if they had not actually been found guilty of a crime in a court of law. This policy is supported by Washington, and they would like the new government to institute something like this. Unfortunately the Shia coalition which has won the most votes in the election is dead against re-Ba'athification, for obvious reasons.

To make the issue concrete, consider the case of Rasheed Flayeh, appointed last summer by Allawi's Interior Ministry to the post of director-general of the secret police force. The De-Ba'athification Commission objected that, as head of security in the southern city of Nasiriya, he had taken part in the brutal suppression of the 1991Shia uprising. So what. He was appointed anyway. (New York Times, 13 October 2004 <http://tinyurl.com/52bnk>)

The main Shia coalition which is going to be the largest group in the transitional National Assembly, has vowed to reverse Allawi's programme and throw out former Ba'athists who have returned to their jobs. (Washington Post, 3 February 2005, p. A21 <http://tinyurl.com/5q9j2>) With the US against them, they've got a fight on their hands. Re-Ba'athification is US policy. It is at the centre of US policy, and has been for over a decade. Re-Ba'athification cannot truly be reversed until the occupation is reversed. That is the reality of Iraq.

Real security for the Iraqi people means de-Ba'athification and freedom from occupation. Real security for the people of Britain means ending Tony Blair's foreign adventures. Here in Britain, we have a choice. We can be on the side of Rasheed Flayeh, of the men and women with blood on their hands. We can be on the side of Iyad Allawi and his neo-Ba'athist network, the terrorists and thugs of yesterday and today. We can be on the side of Washington, which promotes the re-nazification of Iraq. We can be on the side of Tony Blair and his democratic terrorism. Or we can be on the side of all those struggling for real regime change in Iraq, and for an end to the US-UK occupation.