Saddam Hussein has been deliberately made the focus of these media attacks to draw attention away from the many thousands of Iraqi people who would undoubtedly be killed and injured in any new US-led war.
In reality, it is United States policy that is monstrous and the ignominious coat-tailing of that policy by the Blair government that is shameful. It is Washington that has spent the last eight years moving the diplomatic goalposts in the Gulf and it is Washington and its allies that have brought death and suffering to millions of Iraqis through war and sanctions.
It was the United States that lured Iraq into the 1991 Gulf War by giving the Iraqi government the impression the US would not intervene in Iraq's dispute with Kuwait. But as soon as Iraq moved into Kuwait the US denounced Iraq and began to assemble its war coalition.
The war, which, despite all the bragging about "surgical strike weapons" and "precision bombing" slaughtered many thousands of civilians, ravaged the infrastructure and left the country polluted with radiation from the depleted uranium shells used in the bombardment. Iraqis, and especially the children, are still dying from the cancer epidemic that followed.
Iraq fully met the terms of the United Nations Resolution to bring the war to an end. Washington just moved on to find a new quarrel. It trained its sights on Iraq's Kurdish minority in the north and the marsh Arabs on the Iranian border and claimed the Iraqi government was abusing these communities.
Iraq's sovereignty was brushed aside and no-fly zones were set up over Iraqi territory in the north and south -- a large part of Iraqi airspace is now controlled and patrolled by imperialist war planes.
Sanctions against Iraq have been in place for eight years. Iraq is forbidden to sell more than a tiny fraction of its oil -- a measure that has devastated this oil-based economy. It is forbidden to import anything which the imperialists consider non-essential or which they deem could have a military use.
This policy is meant to be cruel. Radioactive isotopes used in the treatment of cancer are banned on the grounds that they could be used in a nuclear weapons programme. A number of chemicals are banned for similar reasons and many ordinary things like toilet paper, books and pencils are simply not available.
The result has been needless death and suffering -- over a million Iraqi children have died since the Gulf War. Countless others are suffering from malnutrition and ill health because of the sanctions -- how many have to die before the world recognises that this is genocide?
Now the goalposts have been moved again -- Washington is elevating the issue of United Nations inspections. They claim Iraq is secretly building arsenals of weapons of mass destruction -- pretty rich coming from Britain and the US who have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the entire world!
UN inspectors have been scouring Iraq for years and years. Sanctions, it seems, are to stay until the inspectors ate satisfied and they will not be satisfied until they find what they are looking for. After so many years of searching it would appear there is nothing left to find -- but that it seems is an unthinkable thought in Washington.
The only things to change in this situation are America's excuses and self-justifications. Basically the people of Iraq are still dying to keep the dollars flowing into the pockets of rich American oil magnates, big bankers and leading capitalists.
The capitalist crisis of overproduction has led to a world glut of oil which has pushed down world oil prices -- Iraqi oil is therefore not wanted and sanctions keep the unwanted product off the market.
Iraq has been singled out from the major oil producers. It has lost the protection of its old ally -- the former Soviet Union. It does not choose to lick Uncle Sam's boots and maintains its dignity and independence. It raises fears in the US that it could become a source of inspiration and hope in the Arab world -- it is as far as the US is concerned a country not playing imperialism's game.
We say, NO to war against Iraq, NO to sanctions, Hands Off Iraq!
In the West Britain and the United States are claiming that forced the Saddam Hussein government to back-down and meet their demands for the unconditional return of the UNSCOM disarmament teams under threat of missile attack.
But the news of the settlement was greeted with joy in the Iraqi
capital as crowds took to the streets to celebrate a victory for their
country's diplomacy and its defiant stand against the cruel and vicious
blockade, now in its eighth year.
But Baghdad has won a significant concession from the UN Security Council -- the promise of a comprehensive sanctions review, a key Iraqi demand in the current and the previous crisis.
The deeply distrusted UNSCOM chief, Richard Butler, now says that it will only take two months to close the nuclear file, two months for the chemical file and two months for the biological file if Iraq co-operates. Iraq will expect speedy implementation of his declared programme and the final lifting of sanctions -- a position endorsed by three of the Big Five veto powers on the Security Council, France, Russia and People's China.
Russia, France and China all want to see the speedy end to the
inspections and an end to the blockade. The Americans, backed as usual
by British imperialism, originally openly stated that it did not want to
see the end to sanctions. Now they have accepted, in words at least, that
sanctions will end once Iraq has fully complied and destroyed or disarmed
all its weapons of mass destruction.
This hasn't stopped Blair and Clinton making more threats against
Iraq, threatening to overthrow the Saddam Hussein government -- something
they have tried and failed to do repeatedly over the past eight years.
And imperialist-sponsored Iraqi opposition groups based in London and Washington
are openly claiming that the Americans are planning a new military strike
against Iraq to try and topple President Saddam Hussein.
The crisis ended suddenly last weekend when the Iraqi government agreed to allow the UNSCOM inspectors to continue their work following exchanges with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the blocking of Anglo-American war calls during emergency sessions of the Security Council by France, Russia and China.
In the immediate aftermath the White House claimed that the order
to attack, backed by RAF war-planes in Kuwait, had already been given,
and that a B52 strike force had its mission aborted in mid-air. No-one
knows how true these claims are but the sourness of the acceptance of Iraq's
compliance by Clinton and Blair, coupled with their new threats, reflects
the strength of the international community's demand for a peaceful resolution
to the stand-off.
All the Iraqi people want and expect is an end to the blockade. Some one and a half million Iraqis have died since 1990 through lack of food and medicines. This is five per cent of Iraq's pre-sanctions population. Every day 250 Iraqis, mostly children under the age of five, die because of the blockade according to a UNICEF report re leased in April. According to a World Food Programme report 1.2 million Iraqi children perished due to shortages from August 1990 to August 1997.
The average Iraqi income has sunk from $2,900 a year to just $60. A can of powdered milk now costs the equivalent of a month's pay for a doctor. Surgery is regular undertaken without anaesthetics and by August 1995 the price of wheat flour had risen by 1.16 MILLION per cent, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Egyptian President Husni Mubarak, a long-standing American ally, told his Cabinet last week that "there is not a single Arab country which backs a recourse to force against Iraq and all are pre-occupied by the lot of the Iraqi people".
These cruel statistics reflect the real ruthless face of British and American imperialism. The blockade must be stopped.
They were reacting to a Department of Education and Employment consultation document whch suggested that responsibility for the provision of school lunches should be moved from local education authorities to head teachers.
The document said that different schools in the same area would be able to have "radically different policies on pricing and content of meals, including free meals".
The only possible reason for such a move would be another opportunity to make spending cuts. And the hint that free meals could be treated differently is quite sinister for children who are already disadvantaged.
But Graham Lane, who chairs the Local Government Association education committee, warned that heads might be under pressure "to save cash at the expense of children's health by allowing school meals services to be handed over to fast food giants".
He said that local authorities would no longer be able to keep a check on nutritional standards and prices.
The document questioned whether school governors should be obliged to keep to local education authority policies on school meals.
It suggested some schools "anticipate being able to provide perfectly adequate meals and still make a profit which can be diverted."
Currently grant maintained schools have already privatised their school meals services under laws brought in by the Tories.
Now Labour wants to extend this to all state secondary schools. Primary schools are expected to stay with the local authority school meals service unless they can make a special case.
Mr Lane said: "It is incredible that a Labour government could endanger the very future of school meals. For many children it's the only nourishment they get all day.
"Under these plans there is no restriction on prices to be charged for school meals, no monitoring of nutritional standards and local education authorities cannot even monitor what is happening to the meals of children who are being left at the mercy of the market.
"I condemn these regulations as unworkable and against the interests of healthy eating."
The scene was set by Vice President Al Gore's unprecedented and provocative attack on Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, at a business meeting hosted by him on the eve of the summit last Monday.
Gore, standing in for President Clinton who has now missed two Apec summits, supported the "reform" movement in Malaysia that backs the jailed deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim.
He referred to them as "the brave people of Malaysia" and talked of "people's power" -- an allusion to the 1986 anti-Marcos demonstrations in the Philippines. Joseph Estrada, Philippines President, supports the US line.
The Malaysian Premier felt he had never been so rudely treated by a US leader before. Gore refused any bi-lateral meetings. Both the US and Canada blatantly refuse to deal with the government and prefer to court Anwar's wife.
Angry Malaysian officials delivered stinging rebukes to Gore, accusing him of interfering in the internal affairs of Malaysia. The trade minister Rafidah Aziz said: "It's the most disgusting speech I have ever heard in my life." He hoped never "to hear another one from anyone like that."
Malaysian foreign minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was scathing. He found "abhorrent" the US leader's "incitement to lawlessness" encouraging by "undemocratic means" the "overthrow of a constitutionally elected government."
He said they do not "take kindly to sanctimonious sermonising from any foreign quarter, especially the United States, a country which is known to have committed gross violations of human rights."
If Gore's attack -- which President Clinton endorsed -- was designed to secure tough demands at Apec, it seriously backfired. Japan, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore stepped back from the confrontation. Japan, in any case, had trade differences of its own, though it did intend last Monday to cooperate with a limited $8 billion economic "aid" package administered by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.
But efforts by the US leader to get agreement on opening up Asian economies to more free trade exploitation, failed to convince many of the 21 countries' leaders present
Malaysia's Premier, who is seen as the chief critic of free trade on behalf of weaker nations, pointed out that these smaller countries were particularly vulnerable. An accord, which was intended to involve $1.5 trillion in trade could therefore not be agreed.
Recent confrontations over the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) and worsening forecasts for Western economies at least until 2000, has led to a snarper pressure from the US led Group of Seven.
Fears are of a continued growth slowdown in the West and the spread of the crisis from Asia to Latin America, according to the worst-case view in the latest OECD -- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report.
But the crisis itself is seen as an opportunity for big international corporate raiders to begin making a killing in Asia. This is already happening with the property market, for instance. In the last year $10 billion has been pumped into Asian property, reversing the Japanese trend of buying US property.
The Malaysian Premier's stand on capital controls to protect economies from speculators runs counter to the capitalists' designs.
Gore's position, particularlyas someone at the centre of the political and economic relationship with Russia's privatisation programmes, represents those free market interests.
Worse turmoil in Indonesia could yet surface, now that Asian nations
are faced with growing US division over the Malaysian Premier's anti-free
He was speaking about the Fairness at Work White Paper, and he demanded that the "done deal" be implemented in full.
Reactionary employers led by the Confederation of British Induslry (CBI) "have regrouped around the backdoor of Number Ten and the backdoor of the Department of Trade and industry."
Employers want to limit awards on unfair dismissal cases; to prevent workers in small workplaces from having the right to be represented by their trade union in grievance cases; and to establish "second class" trade unionists by imposing a period of membership qualification in recognition ballots.
Bill Morris declared that "any back-tracking would be seen in workplaces up and down the country as an act of betrayal" and he stressed that "it remains the policy of my union to campaign for the removal of all anti-trade union laws."
The conference, which attracted over 400 delegates, most of them young, from all over the country was opened by Ian McCartney MP, Minister of State on the new framework of the law.
He told the conference that if unions expected workers to join them, they would have to ask them. Joining a union is not like joining the AA. Unions will have to recruit hundreds of thousands of workers a year just to stand still.
He also stressed the need for "partnership" and "harmony" between unions and employers.
The conference was organised to help revitalise the trade union
movement that has taken a hammering over the past 20 years with the loss
of old heavy industries.
Times have changed and there are now more "white collar" jobs and there are now graduates among the workers and there is a need to win them for the trade union movement.
Last year the TUC set up an "academy " to train young organisers to go out into the workplaces and recruit members into the trade unions.
Linda Kelly, TUC National Education Centre Director told a workshop group that their one year training programme had 36 students.
During their training on various placements they had made
But she stressed that their job is not just getting signatures on a piece of paper but of changing the environment.
The point was also made that the role of shop stewards was not in any way diminished. The organiser's job is to help the stewards recruit and find ways of building the trade union branches into live organisations that can really serve the membership.