Hostages of the empire

Andrew Murray
Tuesday July 1, 2003
The Guardian

The words of Paul Bremer, Washington's overlord in Iraq, need no "sexing up". "We are going to fight them and impose our will on them and we will capture or... kill them until we have imposed law and order on this country," he declared at the weekend. "We dominate the scene and we will continue to impose our will on this country."

Neither General Dyer at Amritsar nor General Westmoreland in Vietnam could have put it any clearer. Welcome to the new colonialism. Bremer's words are not just bluster. US forces are now engaged in massive search-and-destroy sweeps in central and northern Iraq against forces opposing their rule.

While the Westminster village remains riveted by the Campbell-BBC pillow fight, it is the real war on the ground in Iraq that should be commanding our attention. The six British soldiers killed last week, like the US servicemen under daily attack, are victims of an overbearing and inept occupation policy that is alienating ordinary Iraqis of all persuasions.

Civilian deaths, particularly of demonstrators, are mounting. Basic services and basic rights are in scant supply, with neither democracy nor a reliable water supply on offer to Iraqis. The only advanced programme is for the privatisation of state industry. This occupation, which has no modern precedent, should be at the centre of political attention. Ending it needs to be at the heart of public activity.

Tony Blair has placed Britain at the service of the first major post-1991 attempt to fasten foreign domination by force on a sovereign country, an endeavour as unlawful as it is unwise. And there is no easy way out for the government. British troops in Iraq are now hostages to the Middle East policy of the Bush administration and its boundless appetite for domination.

As the occupation of Iraq increasingly appears to be a springboard for a fresh regime-change offensive against Iran, the British troops controlling the Shia-dominated south of Iraq will be seen not merely as uninvited occupiers but as aggressors against their co-religionists as well.

If the recent warnings of Washington uberhawks Condoleezza Rice and John Bolton - that military action against Iran is a live option - become fact, British forces will be caught up in the campaign, like it or not. And how often have the musings of maniacs become official Bush administration policy faster than you can say "pre-emptive war"?

It is certainly hard to see Bush willingly withdrawing the forces of his "coalition" from Iraq without first having a crack at toppling the Iranian government. Indeed, the US has no strategy for pacifying Iraq that does not involve challenging Iran. Thus is the traditional logic of 19th-century empire being replayed in the 21st: protecting one conquest requires an indefinite extension of conflict.

Tony Blair seems to be up for this - committed as he is to his own version of the "white man's burden", imposing New Labour values of market efficiency and moral hectoring on the world for its own good. He shows no signs whatever of wanting to unhook Britain from George Bush's endless war against the "axis of evil" and beyond.

Geoff Hoon, for example, when not pledging thousands more troops to the Iraqi quagmire, has signalled a British willingness to sign up for the entirely lawless and manifestly dangerous US plan to board and search by force North Korean ships on the high seas.

But are the millions who marched against the Iraq war ready to acquiesce in the continuing, connected crises of the Iraqi occupation and plans for renewed war? Parliament may be dozing; but the public is increasingly alarmed. The anti-war movement is once again gaining momentum, its aim both to prevent the next war and indict the government for the now transparent lies it told to justify the last one. But it is also to work for Iraq to be returned to the Iraqis, lifting the burden of Bremer's bullying from the backs of a suffering country. It is time for British politics - the labour movement above all - to wake up to what is being done in our name.

Last week's killings in Majar al-Kabir will be only the beginning unless the government is held to account for its subordination to the "new American century" project.

Dead British soldiers - but no weapons of mass destruction discovered. The balance sheet of Blair's Iraq adventure is deteriorating fast. Yet the prime minister is to accept a Congressional gold medal for his part in imposing George Bush's will on Iraq. He will not be doing so on behalf of the British people. Perhaps Alastair Campbell should recommend a private ceremony.

7 Andrew Murray is chair of the Stop the War Coalition.


Finland: Prime minister resigns over Iraq war scandal

By Naill Green
1 July 2003

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Finlands recently elected prime minister, Anneli Jddtteenmdki of the Centre Party, resigned June 18 amid accusations of misleading parliament and soliciting the leaking of secret documents.

Her Centre/Social Democratic coalition government temporarily stood down, to be reinstated minus Jddtteenmdki last week. Jddtteenmdki claimed that her position had become untenable after being called in for questioning by a police investigation into the leaking of secret Foreign Office documents to the press. In reality, Jddtteenmdkis crime has been to partially expose Finnish diplomacy to public scrutiny.

The investigation had been set up after the March parliamentary elections, during which documents relating to a meeting between the then Social Democratic prime minister Paavo Lipponen and US President George W. Bush were leaked to the press. The leaked information confirmed suggestions by Jddtteenmdki, then leader of the opposition, that Lipponen had given his backing to Bushs war plans at a private meeting between the two men in Washington in December.

In the final stages of the election Jddtteenmdki had asked Lipponen if the US had a correct understanding of the Finnish position on the warthat as it had not been sanctioned by the United Nations it was illegal. She questioned if the Bush administration had the idea that Finland was in some way part of the so-called coalition of the willing.

Lipponen rejected Jddtteenmdkis suggestion, assuring the country that there could be no doubt that Finland was not in an alliance with the US against Iraq. The official position of Lipponens government, upon which it stood in the elections, was that Finland remained committed to upholding the UNs authority. The Centre Party opposed US war policy on the basis that it undermined the United Nations.

Shortly after this exchange, and just days before the election, top-secret Foreign Office documents implying that Lipponen had privately given his backing to Bush were leaked to the media. The Social Democrats (SDP) immediately pointed the finger at Jddtteenmdki, claiming that the Centre Party was encouraging security breaches to aid its election campaign. Jddtteenmdki denied that she had ever possessed or leaked any confidential papers.

The Centre Party won the elections, becoming the single largest party in parliament, largely due to its criticism of Lipponens equivocal stance on the US-led invasion of Iraq. With 55 out of 200 parliamentary seats, Jddtteenmdkis party went on to form a coalition government with the SDP and the small Swedish Peoples Party.

Meanwhile, a police investigation into the leaks had rumbled on until the beginning of June when a Centre Party protocol was leaked to the Ilta-Sanomat newspaper. The pre-election protocol recorded senior party figures, including Jddtteenmdki, agreeing to pursue Lipponen on the question of his stance on the US-led attack on Iraq. The possession by Jddtteenmdki of certain foreign policy documents was discussed in this context.

An aide to Jddtteenmdki said he believed the party leak was intended to paint the prime minister in the most negative light and so divert attention from the main issue of whether Lipponen had given the US the wrong impression about Finlands policy on Iraq.

As a result of the leaked protocol, Jddtteenmdki was questioned by the police on June 11. Six days later a former presidential aide, Matti Manninen, told the Finnish News Agency that Jddtteenmdki had personally asked him to provide her with information on the discussions between Lipponen and Bush. A long-time Centre Party member, Manninen denies giving any stolen papers to Jddtteenmdki but acknowledges that he passed on, at Jddtteenmdkis request, confidential information gleaned from Foreign Office accounts of Lipponens private meeting with Bush. He has denied being the source of the election-time press leak. Manninen faces police charges of breaching official secrecy, charges which could be extended to Jddtteenmdki.

In a statement to parliament on the day of her resignation Jddtteenmdki assured MPs that she had acted properly during the election campaign in raising the issue of the Lipponen governments duplicity regarding its position on the Iraq war. Denying that she possessed or leaked any secret government documents, she admitted that two memoranda from Matti Manninen had been sent to her, unsolicited, in which Lipponens meeting with Bush was discussed.

In response, an emergency meeting of MPs from the governing parties was convened at which the SDP demanded the prime ministers resignation or the government would be dissolved. That evening Jddtteenmdki tended her resignation to the president.

In the two months of its existence the Centre Party -ed coalition had been dogged by continual SDP attacks on Jddtteenmdki, despite the party quickly overcoming its pre-election reservations about SDP policy. The new prime minister, a former lawyer, was also the subject of fierce attacks from coalition partners in the last government, the conservative National Coalition Party.

SDP and National Coalition outrage over the divulging of official secrets is a brazen attempt to cover over the far greater deception committed by Lipponens government. Lipponen found his government caught between the hardening positions of America on one side and mass popular opposition to the Iraq war on the other. Like many European powers, his response was to present one facedevotion to the principles of international law and the UNto the world, and another to Bush.

With political and media pressure focused on Jddtteenmdki, the craven duplicity of Lipponen, his government and senior advisers and the entire Finnish foreign policy establishment has been left largely untouched. The SDP, which has been in government for over 25 years, has moved against Jddtteenmdki because any exposure of the machinations of Finnish diplomacy to the public eye is completely unacceptable behaviour for a prime minister.

In response Jddtteenmdki and the Centre Party have rolled over.

Even at the time of the elections there were senior Centre Party figures who opposed criticising Lipponens foreign policy. Former leader Esko Aho had warned Jddtteenmdki against using the Iraq card and praised Lipponen for acting in line with longstanding Finnish foreign policy. The leak which finally brought Jddtteenmdki down is likely to have originated from a person or persons within the Centre Party who saw their leader as a stumbling block in the way of continued cooperation with the SDP in government.

The new Centre Party prime minister, the former party vice-chairman and Defence Minister Matti Vanhanen, has urged his party and the SDP to stop the election campaign. Vanhanen had been among the most vocal Centre Party critics of Jddtteenmdki in recent weeks.