Editorial

Saved by the 'Rebels'

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Tony Blair remains prime minister not on the basis of the popular will, but through the support of the chancellor, Gordon Brown, and the reactionary law lord Brian Hutton.

With a vote on the hugely unpopular plans for top-up fees and a report into the death of David Kelly, the last week in January should have sealed Blair's fate. That 'rebel' Labour MPs took fright over the first issue and the establishment closed ranks over the second displays all that is rotten about the shallow form of democracy on display in parliament.

Corporate Capture

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The seizure of Saddam Hussein last month was heralded as a great victory for Bush and his 'coalition of the willing'. George Bush said in his post-capture speech that 'a dark and painful era is over' for the people of Iraq. Yet the weeks following the arrest have seen no let-up in the death toll.

As Iraqi deaths at the hands of coalition forces have continued, so has the resistance to the occupation.

The prospect of a show trial for Saddam is an irresistible one for Bush in the year of his presidential campaign, but what might Saddam's defence reveal? The reams of evidence of US (and British) support during the most violent period of his rule would have to come out if the trial is to be a fair one.

Hypocrites' Humbug

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The hypocrisy of George Bush and Tony Blair's denunciations of terrorism is stunning.

They condemn the 'utter contempt for human life' shown by the Istanbul bombers, even as they command their armies to drop 500-pound bombs onto cities, bulldoze houses and shoot unarmed civilians at checkpoints. This is the reality of Operation Iron Hammer, the 'reconstruction' of occupied Iraq.

Forging Ahead

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George Galloway's expulsion from the Labour Party shows how hollow are Blair's platitudes about encouraging debate and democracy.

A kangaroo court convicted Galloway of bringing the party into disrepute. And what were his crimes? Encouraging British troops not to participate in a criminal invasion justified by fabricated intelligence. Defending the right of Iraqis to resist such an imperial mission. Congratulating Socialist Alliance candidate Michael Lavalette for being elected as a councillor on an anti-war platform. And admitting that if he was forced out of Labour he would fight back.

Learning Lessons

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Tony Blair said he was willing to pay the ’blood price‘ of war in Iraq. He is unlikely to have to do so personally. He is already paying a political price - but as yet he is only on the first instalment.

He faces a ruling class in deep disarray over the decision to go to war - this, above all, is what the Hutton inquiry demonstrates. He presides over a party bitterly opposed to the war and desperate for a sign that he will make some concession to ’Old Labour‘ values. He is prime minister of a country in which the war is threatening to destabilise everything else the government tries to do.

Street Talk

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There is a strange sense of déjà vu with the current government. A prime minister increasingly isolated and at odds with the rest of his party and public opinion; ministers scurrying off to spend more time with their family; protests about the media portrayal of government policies; and outspoken sacked ministers jockeying for position in anticipation of a leadership challenge. There is much about Tony Blair today that reminds you of the last days of both the Thatcher and Major governments.

In part this can be explained by New Labour's failure to deliver on the promises it made when it was first elected in 1997. Public services such as health, education and transport continue to deteriorate. The school funding crisis and the prospect of even higher tuition fees anger many who voted for a government that promised education would be its number one priority. But the reasons for the unpopularity and isolation of Blair go much deeper than that.

Bouncing Back

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Whatever happened to the 'Baghdad bounce?'

The adulation that was meant to boost our beleaguered prime minister as a happy nation accepted the righteousness of his latest imperial adventure has failed to materialise. Instead it has been a difficult few weeks for Blair. The resignation of a cabinet minister over the occupation of Iraq, the second biggest Labour rebellion over a domestic issue over foundation hospitals, the prospect of strike action over Sats, and a disastrous result for Labour in the local government elections are all signs of a government in serious difficulty.

Oil and Occupation

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Iraq's colonial governor, former US general Jay Garner, seemed intent on dispelling the belief that Americans don't understand irony. 'I will be candid,' he said, while accusing Iran of stirring up the huge protests against the occupation. 'I do not think the coalition will accept out of region influence.'

There have been demonstrations in every populated part of southern Iraq, as well as Baghdad and many cities to the north, in opposition to the occupation. In Mosul occupying troops shot more than a dozen Iraqis dead for protesting against their new self appointed rulers. Such is the reality of 'liberated' Iraq.

No Time to Lose

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This was not how Bush and Blair said it would be. It is already clear that the 'short sharp shock' that we were promised is now giving way to a far more prolonged campaign.

For the ordinary people in Baghdad, Basra and other Iraqi cities who have suffered terribly already this is a frightening prospect. It is also causing splits in the US military command, between Donald Rumsfeld and Tommy Franks.

Frustrated on the battlefield, US and British military planners are now resorting to even more aerial bombardments, with a huge increase in the number of innocent civilians killed and many more suffering devastating shrapnel wounds the inevitable result. On top of this the siege of major cities intensifies.

Making History

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Last month's demonstrations against the war were truly historic. With two million on the streets of London, and millions more protesting in cities and towns throughout the world, never before have the mass of the world's population come together to give our rulers such a clear and decisive message--no to a war on Iraq.

Clearly the protests are causing Tony Blair some serious headaches, and by the look of his increasingly haggard and ageing appearance, a few sleepless nights as well. He would not have been helped by the House of Commons vote when 121 Labour MPs opposed his rush to war. Normally the feelings of ordinary people find little expression in the Commons, but such is the size of the anti-war movement and so determined are people to make their opinions heard that even many MPs cannot ignore them.

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