The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 20th June 2003

Welcome To Our Weekly Digest Edition

Please feel free to use this material provided the New Worker is informed and credited.



by Daphne Liddle

IN WASHINGTON, London and Canberra, government leaders who backed Bush’s drive to invade Iraq on the basis of lies about weapons of mass destruction, have been under mounting attack.

And in New Delhi, the Indian government is seeking clarification on the mandate of the “stabilisation force” in Iraq, as the United States put pressure on India to consider contributing its troops.

 The imperialist robber’s lies are coming home to roost.

 In London, former Cabinet minister Robin Cook and Clare Short spoke to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which is investigating the intelligence evidence on alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

 Both said that they had been told by MI6 in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq that Saddam Hussein did not have any weapons of mass destruction capable of posing a threat to British security.

 And Clare Short reported that senior intelligence officers had told her that Tony Blair had made a secret agreement with George Bush to invade Iraq in February or March, come what may.

 She would not identify her informers but said that Blair had actively deceived the country into persuading them of the need to go to war. This of course makes her own vacillating role, eventually supporting Blair at a critical Commons vote on the war, all the more dishonourable.


Ms Short reported to the committee that Blair had “used a series of half-truths, exaggerations, reassurances that were not the case to get us into conflict by the spring.”

 And she said that Blair had told Bush, “We will be with you”, without laying down conditions to temper American ambitions.

 She made excuses for Blair, saying that he obviously thought going to war was the right thing and had told lies in order to manipulate his government colleagues to do what he though was right. “For him, I think it was an honourable deception,” she claimed.

 Robin Cook did not tell the committee that Blair actually lied but said that intelligence material was chosen selectively to fit a pre-determined policy.

 “I think it would be fair to say there was a selection of evidence to support a conclusion,” he said. “I fear we got into a position in which the intelligence was not being used to inform and shape policy but to shape policy that was already settled.”

 He said that his own briefing by MI6 confirmed his belief that Iraq did not have chemical weapons capable of being fired within 45 minutes – as Blair had claimed.

 But he said the Blair had a “burning fixation” with weapons of mass destruction.

 Clare Short also reported a breakdown of normal Government procedure, with a small, unelected entourage in Downing Street making decisions without minutes, proper options papers or any written material.

 Both Cook and Short told the committee that Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was a weak man who simply “went along” with Blair’s wishes while the real decision-making was “sucked out” of the Foreign Office.

 Clare Short said that as International Development Secretary she had access to intelligence and had seen all the material on Iraq – but only after she had “made a fuss”.

 She declared that the raw intelligence she saw was “droplets of information”, “bits and pieces” that “didn’t say anything clear”.

 And she described the dossiers published by Downing Street on the alleged weapons of mass destruction as “shoddy pieces of work”.


She said she had been horrified at the Government’s inclusion of a student’s PhD thesis to help back its claims that Saddam posed an urgent threat. She called his a “shocking and shameful piece of work”.

 This of course begs the question as to why she did not speak out earlier.

 Robin Cook described the dossier, which claimed Iraq has weapons of mass destruction that could be fired in 45 minutes, as “very thin” and said that his experience at the Foreign Office confirmed that neither Britain nor America had much intelligence at all about what was happening in Iraq.

 He added: “The absence of intelligence is a bloody thin ground on which to go to war In Australia, the Howard government has come under attack from its opposition and minor parties over the deception practised by the warmongers over weapons of mass destruction.

 Meanwhile in Washington, US Senator Carl Levin has accused the CIA of deliberately withholding crucial information about the alleged weapons of mass destruction from the United Nations inspectors.

 He suggested they had withheld flimsy evidence so as not to undermine the Bush administration’s policy of portraying Iraq as an immediate threat.


But he added that more importantly they had undermined the CIA’s credibility.

 Carl Levin is the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee and is calling for a bi-partisan inquiry into the objectivity, reliability and veracity of US intelligence before the war and the use of such intelligence.

 He said there was going to be less confidence in US intelligence at home and abroad among Washington’s allies in the so-called war on terrorism and this was going to make the nation less secure.


England of the Regions?

THE GOVERNMENT’S plans for directly elected regional governments in the north of England have been puffed up by its supporters as a major democratic advance. Deputy premier John Prescott tells us it’s “good for democracy, good for the English regions and good for the whole of the UK” – comments that met with predictable derision from the Tories who have dismissed Labour’s  proposals as a total waste of money.

The plan to create three northern regional authorities in the north-west, north-east and Yorkshire together with regional “capitals” in Durham, Warrington and York may look grand on paper. But a closer look at the fine print shows that all that’s on offer is a “super-council” with little or no real powers.  These regional assemblies will have nothing like the power of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly or even the Greater London Authority, which itself has less authority than the old Greater London Council abolished by the Tories.

Such powers that these regional assemblies will have will cover the environment, economic regeneration, transport, housing, land use, public health, culture and tourism. The proposals will go to regional referenda next year.  

The proposals stem from conclusions of the 2002 White Paper, “Your Region, Your Choice – Revitalising the English Regions” but local government reform has been on Labour’s agenda for decades. Back in the 1960s the first Wilson government  considered and then shelved proposals not so different to those announced by Prescott this week.

The major problem with what’s on the table today is that the new assemblies will possess little genuine authority and without real power they are hardly likely to generate interest beyond the small minority who participate in local politics at the moment. Other flaws are that the plans only cover the north of England – mainly due to the lack of enthusiasm for this innovation in other parts of the country – and because it fails to address the problems of England’s major urban regions like Greater Manchester or Merseyside.

Some will argue that this is all  part of a hidden agenda directed by the European Commission.  That the European Union envisages a “Europe of the regions” is a fact. The EU is already divided into Community regions for development purposes. Post-war Germany is based on a federal structure with powerful provincial governments. Spain has two “autonomous” regions and Britain has already partially gone down this road with the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh assembly.

But the purpose of the European Union is to create a super-state for the benefit of the capitalist class of the continent – a state which will  neither be democratic nor federal in any real way. We see this in the EU’s plans for the regions, which do not address the democratic and cultural demands of major minorities in Europe, like the Basques or the Bretons for example.

The meagre responsibilities and the equally meagre funding of these new bodies are hardly likely to trigger the rejuvenation of the north that Prescott believes will follow their establishment.  The Government clearly is only seeking to indulge in a cosmetic exercise in local government reform to give the appearance of democratic change and hopefully win back some popularity in the run-up to the next general election.

But any proposal that gives people more control over their day-to-day lives is to be welcomed, even one as modest as this.

 Back to index

To the New Communist Party Page