The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 14th November 2003

New Worker contributor Ray Davies waves defiently at Israeli troops

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by our Arab Affairs Correspondent

IRAQI RESISTANCE FIGHTERS continued their onslaught this week in what the western media is already calling the “Ramadan offensive”: blowing up Italian military headquarters in Nassiriya; repeatedly shelling US central command in Baghdad and launching deadly ambushes throughout occupied Iraq.

The American governor, Paul Bremer, was hurriedly recalled to Washington, following the devastating attack on the Italian base on Tuesday, for emergency talks at the White House and in Rome opposition leaders are demanding the immediate recall of the Italian contingent in Iraq.

The Italian army military HQ in the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya was reduced to rubble this week when a petrol tanker rammed the gates and exploded. Fifteen Italian military personnel were killed along with two Italian and eight Iraqi civilians. Over 100 others were wounded.

Pro-American Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi said the attack – the first on the 2,400-strong Italian force – would not derail Italy’s commitment to what he called “helping Iraq”. But opposition leaders, reflecting the widespread opposition on the street to the war and Italy’s involvement in it, demanded the immediate recall of all their troops.

“They were sent to an Iraq in flames because the government wanted to do a favour for the Bush administration without taking the risks into consideration,” Democratic Left leader Pietro Folena charged. “ Now the Italian soldiers must come home. It is the only right thing to do at this moment”.


And back in Washington Bremer was tight-lipped when questioned about the crisis talks. Vowing that “terrorists” would not drive the Americans out of Iraq, he gave little out but many believe his recall reflects demands in the Pentagon for the scrapping of the Iraqi puppet “governing council”.

The puppet council mainly comprises  hand-picked Iraqi émigrés formerly based in Britain and the United States, a handful of local stooges, a few Shia clerics and northern Kurdish leaders who are now largely ignoring it.

Though no-one in Washington is openly talking about an “exit strategy” there is speculation that the White House is seriously looking at setting up a new  “council” that would meet some of the criteria set out by France, Germany and Russia at the United Nations. But the major demand of these European powers was speedy free elections for a provisional Iraqi government and this the Americans will not contemplate – at least for now.

Anglo-American imperialism knows that free elections would inevitably return leaders who would demand an immediate end to the occupation and the full restoration of Iraq’s independence. Blair and Bush want to get their greedy hands on Iraq’s oil and they believe that they can ride roughshod over the growing demand in Britain and the United States for the troops to come home.

Total imperialist losses since invasion of Iraq began in March now officially stand at 470 dead and 2,279 wounded.  For the Italians this week’s losses may trigger a political crisis that ends their role in this shameful episode. In Britain the struggle to force Blair out and end the war must go on. 


The Euro-camp advances

THE STRUGGLE within the ruling class over Europe sharpened this month. Tory Eurosceptic leader Iain Duncan Smith was swiftly deposed by his own MPs and replaced with Michael Howard, an ace Thatcherite now rapidly re-inventing himself as a man of “the centre”. The Government is pressing on with the introduction of identity cards and Blair is desperately trying to revive the “bridge” between America and Europe in advance of the visit of his master, George W Bush, just as a new trade war breaks out between Europe and the United States.

Duncan Smith’s downfall was clearly a defeat for the most anti-EU elements within the Conservative leadership. Pro-EU grandees like Clarke, Norris and Lord Heseltine didn’t back Howard. But they didn’t oppose him either and they certainly expect him to soften his opposition to further European integration in the future.

The leadership of the Tory party is, of course, of little interest to working people. They have no say in the matter nor can they expect any benefits from any of them one way or the other. But there is considerable concern at the proposal to introduce identity cards.

Everyone will be compelled to have some sort of national ID card by 2013 if the plans outlined by Home Secretary David Blunkett are approved. A three-tier system would force people to either hold a “voluntary” ID card, or a driving licence and passport, which would carry similar details. Anyone wanting to use the NHS, claim benefits or get a job would have to have one of these documents. After 2013 a compulsory scheme would be introduced.

Though identity cards are commonplace throughout Europe the British experience has been limited to the simple card issued during the Second World War and discontinued in the early 1950s. There is increasing concern that the introduction of ID cards and a National Identity Register to hold the names of 60 million people would be an erosion of individual liberty.

There’s the immense cost to the taxpayer and the individual. A small fortune in taxpayers’ money will go to whichever private computer company gets the contract for screwing the whole thing up.

The total cost of implementation is put at £3 billion and individuals will be expected to pay up to £70 for the dubious privilege of holding the card – a cost which presumably would be repeated everytime it’s renewed.

 Every time anyone moved to another address the National Register would have to be notified and voluntary or not it clearly would open the door to the sort of petty bullying by the police that we already get under the  “stop and search” laws.

A few years ago we were told that ID cards would be a boon to holiday-makers going to Europe as it would end formalities at the border. Now they tell us ID cards are needed to combat crime, illegal immigrants and international terrorism. None of this is true. If it were we would see less crime and illegal immigration in the countries that already use ID cards. If the Government wanted to ease the formalities on European travel it could simply restore the British one-year “visitor’s” passport abolished over a decade ago. That was recognised by the Common Market as a substitute for an ID card and could be obtained at any post office on production of one proof of identity and a photograph.

 The real motive is that ID cards are essential if Britain is to comply with the EU’s Schengen Treaty. Full implementation by most of the EU membership began in 1995 with the removal of internal border and custom controls between those countries that signed up to it. It is an essential component of the machinery being built to create the new European state. It allows complete freedom of movement within its zone – and that goes for the police as well as job-hunters and holiday makers.

As for Blair’s overtures to Europe he must be pretty naïve if he believes any French or German politician can ever trust him again. Nor can working people. But the central issue for us is the question of war and peace – not whether British imperialism is better served in tandem with the EU or the United States. 

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