Keeping Up the Pressure

Issue section: 
(299)

Is George Bush facing 'tipping point' over the war in Iraq - the point when the majority of US opinion turns finally and permanently against the war?

This is being openly discussed in the US as recent polls now show support for the war slipping dramatically. A Gallop poll last month showed that 54 percent of Americans now believe it was a mistake to send troops to Iraq, and Bush's approval rating has slumped to the low 30s. The comparisons with the Vietnam War are now being made as once support for the government for that war dropped below 50 percent it never recovered.

The catalyst for the recent slump in support has been the brave protest by Cathy Sheehan who has camped outside Bush's ranch during his extended holiday. Her son died in Iraq and she is demanding an explanation. Her protest has resulted in huge coverage in the US media. It has also led to the revitalisation of the anti-war movement with vigils and protests taking place across the US.

These protests combine with the increasing problems in Iraq itself. The situation for ordinary Iraqis continues to deteriorate - the infrastructure is still in a huge state of disrepair and unemployment is rife, with bombings and killings taking place on a daily basis. August could also be the bloodiest month for US soldiers as the number of casualties nudges dangerously close to 2,000.

At the time of writing the new Iraqi government has once again delayed the deadline for a new constitution as the tensions between Kurds, Sunnis and Shias mean they are unable to reach an agreement. Pressure has come from the US, as Bush needs to show an increasingly sceptical public that progress is being made.

There is a huge responsibility on the anti-war movement to make the 24 September protests as big as possible. In the US it is crucial to keep the pressure up on Bush, to not let him regain the support he has lost in the last few months.

In Britain we must also ensure that the 24 September demonstration is one of the biggest yet. In part this is because the Stop the War Coalition and the protests that have taken place in this country have been an inspiration for peace activists throughout the world. As the movement seems to be taking off in the US now is the time to show that the protests against the Iraq war are global.

But it is just as important to keep the pressure up on Bush's erstwhile friend and the warmonger in Downing Street, Tony Blair. His advisers warned that the war in Iraq would lead to a greater threat to civilians in this country, and the horrific events that took place in London on 7 July proved them right. Blair denied any link or responsibility for what happened. Instead he has tried to use the bombings to further attack the Muslim community and curtail civil liberties.

The potential therefore is that the 24 September demonstration can be huge. Already impressive meetings have been held in many cities over the summer, showing massive support and enthusiasm. But the next few weeks will be crucial. The key is what activists do in every community, college and workplace. That involves meetings, flyposting, leafleting and discussing why mass protests against the war are crucial. It is this that has placed Bush and Blair on the defensive today and it is this that will increase the pressure on them tomorrow.