Category Archives: britain

‘Strategic failure’ in Iraq and Afghanistan

End the Occupation Now

Editorial from The Socialist

Bush still claims that Iraq under US and British military occupation is making progress towards a stable, democratic society. In reality, the situation is catastrophic.

For most Iraqis, things are much worse than under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. There are severe shortages of fresh water, electric power and even fuel. Reconstruction of the shattered cities is a sick joke. Every day, hundreds die as a result of the US-British occupation, the insurgency, the sectarian civil war between Sunnis and Shia, and sheer gangsterism.

Bush, Blair and now Brown claim they are fighting to establish democracy in Iraq. Yet a section of Iraq’s parliamentary representatives, mainly Sunni, are currently boycotting parliament. There is no agreement on concrete details of new laws to rehabilitate some Sunnis (excluded from public jobs as former supporters of Saddam) or to share out the oil between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish areas. In any case, how can there be democracy under military occupation? Currently, the US is holding thousands of prisoners, without any right to legal process.

‘Surge’

Bush claims that security in Iraq has improved as a result of the ‘surge’, the dispatch of an additional 30,000 US forces to Iraq. The US clampdown in Baghdad and parts of the mostly Sunni Anbar province, however, has simply pushed the conflict to other regions. Recently, for instance, there have been horrific bomb attacks in the majority Kurdish city of Kirkuk.

Bush still claims that the situation can be stabilised by next spring. But it was recently reported that Bush’s director of central intelligence, General Michael Hayden, warned the administration that “the inability” of the Iraqi government of al-Maliki to govern, “seems irreversible”.

Hayden could not see “any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around”. Top US military commanders, moreover, have warned that stabilising Iraq, even if achievable, will take much longer than Bush imagines.

Bush is more and more isolated politically. A number of leading Republicans are calling for a timetable for withdrawal of troops. The midterm elections last November were an overwhelming vote against Bush’s Iraq policy. Since then US popular support for withdrawal from Iraq has strengthened. Significantly, over 50% of military families favour withdrawal.

The Democrats, the second party of US big business, now have a majority in Congress. But while passing symbolic resolutions calling for a timetable for withdrawal, they duck the real issue. In the most cowardly way, they refuse to cut off funding for Bush’s military adventure.

A former head of the National Security Agency, retired General William Odon, called for “a flat refusal [by the Democrats] to appropriate money to be used in Iraq for anything but withdrawal operations with a clear deadline for completion”. He also said that the Democrats should warn Bush that if he tries to continue the war, “impeachment proceedings will proceed in the House of Representatives”.

Despite US imperialism’s overwhelming military power, Bush’s military adventure in Iraq has only served to demonstrate the limits of US power. US imperialism has been defeated in Iraq.

This was starkly pointed out in recent editorials in the New York Times, one of the most authoritative journals of the US ruling class: “It is frighteningly clear that Mr Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.” (The Road Home, 8 July 2007)

“Keeping troops in Iraq,” comments the New York Times, “will only make things worse.” The priority, they say in another editorial (13 July) is “the need to develop an orderly plan to extricate American troops from a lost cause and reposition them in ways that can genuinely protect our national interests.”

Even if US leaders were to adopt such an exit strategy, however, it would be extremely difficult for them to extract their forces without a humiliating rout. As it is, Bush, for his own political reasons, is likely to prolong the agony, inflicting an even more severe defeat on US imperialism. Moreover, the likely implosion of Iraq will intensify the crisis throughout the whole Middle East region.

Here, Gordon Brown continues the Blair policy of clinging to US imperialism’s coat-tails. British forces in Iraq, mainly in the southern, oil-rich province of Basra, have been reduced from 7,000 at their peak to 5,500 currently. However, conflict in the province is more intense than ever, and British forces can hardly leave their base without suffering serious casualties.

Last weekend, two junior ministers, Douglas Alexander, the development secretary, and Mark Malloch Brown, the new Foreign Office minister, commented that the British government should keep its distance from the Bush administration. Britain and the US should not be “joined at the hip”, commented Malloch Brown.

Brown’s new foreign secretary, David Miliband, was quick to insist that there would be “no change” in the relationship between Britain and the US.

Like the US, British imperialism is facing a “strategic failure in Iraq”, according to a senior British military commander. British troops in Iraq are now suffering a higher rate of fatal casualties in proportion to their numbers than their US counterparts.

British forces (currently 7,000) also face a second “strategic failure in Afghanistan”. Taliban forces have become stronger, while the western-sponsored government of Hamid Karzai faces the real possibility of collapse.

In a recent debate in the House of Lords, Lord Inge, former chief of Britain’s defence staff, warned that “the situation in Afghanistan is much worse than many people recognise. We need to face up to that issue, the consequences of strategic failure in Afghanistan and what that would mean for Nato… We need to recognise the situation – in my view, and I have recently been in Afghanistan – is much, much more serious than people want to recognise.”

British and US forces should be withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. The horrendous situation in Iraq can only be made worse by continued imperialist occupation. Resolving the conflicts has to be the task of the Iraqi people.

In the socialist’s view, progress will depend on the re-emergence of working-class forces that can cut across sectarian and nationalist divisions and build united organisations to defend people against violent attacks, political repression and economic exploitation.

Editorial from The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, cwi in England and Wales

For recent a campaign leaflet on this issue by Socialist Youth see: www.indymedia.ie/attachments/jul2007/iraq__resistance.pdf

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Britain: Brown’s political coronation – new face, same agenda

From The Socialist (England & Wales)

London has become a tax haven for the world’s billionaires. One British hedge fund manager put it clearly: “I think the super-rich want to have two homes, one in New York and one in London, but if they’re based in New York, they would pay a lot more tax than here.”

Gordon Brown - by SuzThe thousand richest people in Britain own half the country’s liquid assets. In the last five years of New Labour government they have seen their wealth increase by 79%, to an average of £70 million per head (excluding first and second homes!).

Meanwhile twelve million people live below the poverty line. Public services are being decimated.

Average mortgage payments have increased by £1,500 in the last year, while food prices increased by at least 6%. The government is demanding public-sector workers accept effective pay cuts.

No wonder Britain’s workers have the longest working hours in Europe, struggling to make ends meet while a few at the top drown in an orgy of unimaginable excess.

This is Britain under Blair. Add in the nightmarish occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and it is no wonder that New Labour were humiliated in this year’s elections and only 22% of the population believe Blair did ‘a good job’.

Millions of workers will greet his departure this week with relief.

Brown, however, will be more of the same. He has spent the last six weeks emphasising the continuity between himself and Blair; promising to increase ‘reform’ (read destruction) of public services.

As chancellor he has been directly responsible both for attacks on public sector pay and the tax-free bonanza being enjoyed by the super-rich.

Brown has also used his pre-coronation period to pose as being even tougher on ‘terror’ than Blair.

He has not, however, indicated any change in Britain’s imperialist foreign policy, which is responsible for making Britain a target.

His proposal to increase the length of time individuals can be held without charge beyond the current, already draconian, 28 days will not effectively combat terrorism, but it will further undermine democratic rights.

Undermining democratic rights

Just as was the case with the Prevention of Terrorism Act (legislation that was supposed to thwart the IRA), the vast majority arrested will be innocent. Under the PTA only 1% of those arrested were convicted of any crime.

Brown’s ‘coronation’ campaign, designed to show that he can out-Blair Blair, has had some effect.

Despite Tory attempts to portray him as a closet socialist, voters on average now consider him to be only minutely ‘left of the centre-ground’ – the ‘centre-ground’ being the standard anti-working class, pro-big business, pro-privatisation policies being pursued by all the establishment parties.

However, Blair is seen as being considerably to the right of ‘centre’.

Despite Brown’s efforts to prove otherwise, there are working-class voters hoping that Brown will act in their interests, or at least slow the pace of New Labour’s attacks. It is this that has led to the small ‘Brown bounce’, which has increased New Labour’s miserable rating by about 3%. Experience of Brown as prime minister will destroy these desperate hopes.

If a feeling rapidly develops that ‘nothing has changed’ a Brown government could quickly face an explosion of all the accumulated discontent of the working class, in the form of industrial action, which the trade union leaders would be powerless to hold back.

One factor in how rapidly events will develop is the timing of the next world economic crisis, which would be likely to hit Britain, now a giant casino for the world’s hedge fund gamblers, particularly hard. Even if the economy continues to grow for a couple more years, and it takes a bit longer for the paint to completely flake off Brown’s ‘respray’ of New Labour, he will still face an increased willingness of the working class to struggle.

New workers’ party

A foretaste of this may come within days, delivered by the postal workers, if their union, the CWU, goes ahead with a strike to defend pay and conditions.

As Brown and Cameron fight a battle to be the best representative of big business, the need for a mass party that stands up for the working class is overwhelming. Some activists continue to hope that New Labour can be ‘reclaimed’ by the working class.

Yet this is shown again to be utopian by Brown’s coronation. He was nominated by 313 of 355 MPs, with left MP John McDonnell unable to win enough parliamentary support even to get on the ballot paper.

Instead a contest is taking place for the virtually powerless position of deputy leader. Even if a left-wing candidate was elected they would be unable to do more than whisper in Brown’s ear.

However, there is no possibility of this happening. All six deputy leadership candidates nominated Brown for leader, revealing that, far from representing workers’ interests, their priorities lie first and foremost with furthering their own careers.

In the hope of winning ordinary trade unionists’ backing, some have made attacks on the obscene wealth at the top of British society.

However, even Jon Cruddas MP, who has gone furthest – stating the obvious truth that New Labour has ignored the working class and lost five million voters as a result – was quick to deny that he supported any concrete increase in taxation of the rich.

Since 1997 more than £100 million of trade union members’ money has been paid to New Labour. The majority of national trade union leaders continue to argue that this is to influence New Labour. This will be just as utopian under Brown as it was under Blair.

The majority of even those MPs directly sponsored by trade unions have voted against the most minimal of the trade unions’ demands.

A majority of them even opposed, for example, the introduction of a Trade Union Freedom Bill which would repeal some of the worst aspects of Thatcher’s anti-trade union laws.

The Campaign for a New Workers’ Party, fighting for the breaking of the link between the trade unions and New Labour, and the establishment of a new mass party of the working class, will be crucial under Brown’s reign.

Wealth gap widens

The wealth of the richest 1,000 people in Britain has more than trebled under Brown’s stewardship. They had an income between them of £360 billion in 2006, which was £59 billion more than the previous year, an increase of 20%.

Britain’s 54 billionaires last year paid only £14.7 million tax – just 0.1% of their incomes! The poorest fifth of the population pay nearly 10% of their income in direct taxes, and another 28% in indirect taxation.

Corporation tax on companies since 1997 has been cut from 33p to 28p.

Warmonger

Being known as ‘Mr Prudent’ hasn’t stopped Gordon Brown wasting £76 billion of public funds on a replacement for the Trident nuclear missile programme.

He has also dug deep (£7.4 billion up to April 2007) to finance the bloody wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Privatisation

Brown has made it absolutely clear he will continue with Blair’s privatising policies.

He will accelerate ‘reform’ in the NHS, and has earmarked another £50 million worth of public assets for privatisation.

£5 billion annually is currently handed over to private contractors, for treatment centres, GP services, etc.

Attacks on public sector

Many public-sector workers are raging at Brown’s 2% wage limit, effectively a pay cut. Other battles are looming, such as against Royal Mail plans to axe 40,000 jobs and close a further 2,500 post offices.

200,000 civil servants were forced to take strike action on 1 May against huge job cuts, privatisation and pay cuts. Brown has spear-headed the attacks on the civil service. In 2004 he announced the axing of 104,000 civil service jobs.

Public sector occupational pensions have been attacked. Many face having to work longer, pay more in contributions and receive smaller pensions.

Pensions

In 1997 Brown gave big business the green light to cut workers’ occupational pension schemes. Companies also took massive ‘pension holidays’ – they stopped paying employers’ contributions – saving them £4,000 a worker every year.

A top UK company director can retire at 60 on a final-salary pension of £3 million. Whereas a majority of UK workers face retirement at 65 or later on inadequate pensions; a single person’s state pension is a paltry £84.25 a week.

Brown’s own pension will more than double when he becomes prime minister, to £123,000 a year.