This shameful British position has enabled Washington to step up its anti-iraq campaign to the point where it now stands at the very brink of another criminal, imperialist war of aggression.
The leaders of the imperialist camp are pulling out all the stops to paint Saddam Hussein as a monster in the eyes of the world in order to justify their murderous plans and to camouflage their real motives.
This purpose is, as it was seven years ago, to maintain US imperialism's economic, political and strategic hegemony and control over the oil rich Gulf region and the Middle East as a whole.
The foreign and military policies of the United States, Britain and other leading capitalist countries are driven by the most powerful business interests. This includes the big oil companies, the leading banks, the energy industries, the major manufacturers and finance capital.
All of these vested interests don't simply want to be able to buy and sell raw materials and goods throughout the world -- they want to operate in a situation where. they can exercise direct or indirect control over the production, supply, distribution and price level ofall raw materials and commodities.
In the case of oil, the United States and Britain are both producers and consumers. These countries therefore want to control the price of crude oil and its production levels abroad. On the one hand they want to maintain adequate and uninterrupted supplies for the needs of energy and manufacturing industry in the imperialist heartlands and yet not have too much oil on the international market which would push down oil prices and lower the profits of the home-based and home-producing oil companies.
Because of the present crisis of over-production -- giving rise to a severe economic crisis throughout the capitalist world -- the demand for oil is going down -along with the market price. Slashing back Iraqi oil exports by imposing sanctions against that country serves imperialism's interests very well at the moment.
Using military force against Iraq serves the longer-term interests of the imperialist powers by helping to perpetuate western political and strategic control of the region. Iraq is one of those countries which some US politicians refer to as a "rogue state" This term is also used to denigrate Libya and, when It suits, Iran. The remaining socialist countries are, also on the list for special propaganda attention.
Iraq is labelled a "rogue state" because the United States has not been able to bring it to heel. It has had the courage to stand up to imperialism. It defends its sovereignty, it regards its oil as its own and it speaks up for the oppressed Palestinian people.
The western propaganda hype accuses Iraq of being undemocratic. But that same propaganda machine shed buckets of crocodile tears seven years ago for Kuwait which is governed by the rich Sabah family. Nothing is said about this regime because it is content to be a puppet of the US.
Nor is much said about Turkey -- a country which, only last year, invaded Iraq's northern territory and, while it was there, beheaded over a hundred Kurdish People.
The western leaders assert that Iraq is the "greatest threat to peace in the world". But it is the West that has gathered an armada in the waters of the Gulf and it is the West that is issuing threats -- who has Iraq threatened?
The western politicians are now using scare tactics. They talk of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, of chemical and biological arsenals which they claim includes anthrax. But, as the whole row about the UN inspection shows, they don't know where any of these supposed weapons are.
They conclude from this that the UN inspectors must stay in Iraq until they find what they are they looking for.
But surely the question must be, how can they know any of these things exist at all if no one can say where they are -- after seven years of searching?
What is not in doubt is that millions of Iraqis have died as a direct result of the Gulf War and the crinlinal Policy of sanctions. If Iraq is bombed again thousands more Iraqi people will die and many more in the aftermath.
We must stop the monsters -- the profit-hungry capitalist lickspittle monsters who reside in Washington and in London!
Russian, French, Arab League and Turkish envoys are holding talks with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad to find a way out of the crisis provoked by Anglo-American demands for UN weapon inspections of presidential palaces and other sensitive areas.
Back in Moscow Russian leader Boris Yeltsin wanted of the danger of a Third World War if the Western powers carry out their threat to bomb and rocket Iraq if Baghdad doesn't submit to their demands within the next few days. And the Russian parliament has called on Yeltsin to use the Russian veto at the UN Security Council to block Washington's war-drive and break with the blockade altogether if the Americans go-ahead with airstrikes regardless.
Last Sunday France ruled out any participation in a new Nato onslaught against the defiant Arab country. French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement condemned US policy towards Iraq as "imbecile demonisation" which was "seven or eight years out-of-date". But Paris has come under immense US pressure to water-down its criticism and now its diplomats are focusing on trying to persuade Saddam Hussein's government to back down.
Italy has also broken ranks with Washington but like the French, their efforts are concentrating on getting Iraq to meet all the demands of the UN weapon-teams in return fora substantial increase in the oil-for-food deal.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has tabled plans to double Iraq's oil exports to allow the purchase of more food and medicines and the United States has said it would go along with it. But in Baghdad the plan received luke-warm support. The Iraqis point out that under the oil-for-fhod arrangements a third of the revenue is taken by the Kuwaiti puppet regime in reparations and a further third is earmarked for the Nato-protected "safe-haven" in the north and the expenses of the UN monitors. What they want is a deadline for the end of sanctions altogether and they maintain that they have already met all the disarmament measures imposed on them after the 1991 Gulf conflict.
US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has been touring the region trying to twist the arms of America's Arab clients into backing renewed aggression against Iraq. But the American foreign minister failed to get the support she wanted in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Though Albright claimed that America, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, were with "one mind" together with Jordan, Kuwait and even the Palestinian Authority over the crisis, crucial military endorsement was withheld.
The Saudis say they will not allow air-strikes from their territory and the Egyptians have also made it clear that they want a peaceful resolution to the dispute. Only the puppet Emir of Kuwait has gone as far as agreeing with everything the Americans tell him.
Egypt is backing Arab League moves to defuse the crisis. The League Secretary-General Esmat Abdul-Maguid is flying to Baghdad and the Iraqi foreign minister is set for calks in Cairo.
But in Kuwait Albright hinted at massive air-strikes within weeks though she said the United States still would prefer a diplomatic solution. She also maintained that America did not need to seek a new mandate from the Security Council to take military action against Baghdad.
But the Americans can count on British imperialism to back them to the hilt. Tony Blair is in Washington to boost Bill Clinton's flagging presidency and assure him of undying British support. And Foreign Minister Robin Cook is following Albright's footsteps in the Gulf to drum up more support for their war-plans.
* In Britain Islamic militants are holding a 3 hour protest outside the American Embassy in London on Friday 6 February. Other peace groups have called for lunch-time demonstrations outside Downing Street every Saturday to oppose new strikes against Iraq and a former "human shield" Iraqi hostage is joining in the protests.
Cardiff-based Prof Ron Eccles was held hostage by the Iraqis from July 1990 until his release was negotiated, with others, by Sir Edward Heath a few months later.
"I have always been a strong supporter of the Labour Party and have vigorously campaigned for the support of New Labour, but I and my family are taking this action because we are so concerned that present government policy is inhuman and illegal," he declared.
Prof Eccles has condemned the proposed attack on Iraq and he is
calling on all Labour Party members to publicly tear up their cards in
protest outside NolO.
The private consortium which undertook to develop the link and run Eurostar services, London and Continental Railways, negotiated a very good deal for itself with the previous Tory government.
It got £1.8 billion of taxpayers' money, the Eurostar rolling stock and services, St Pancras Station, Waterloo International and hundreds of acres of railway land in central and east London.
At the time, Labour, in opposition, calculated these extra assets to be worth £5.7 billion.
The idea was that LCR would raise, from the private finance markets, the remainder of £3.4 billion estimated to be needed to construct the high speed link from St Pancras, through Stratford in east London, Essex and Kent to the tunnel.
But last week LCR came cap in hand to John Prescott to tell him they had failed to raise the money and to beg another £3 billion in taxpayers' money to rescue the project.
LCR had expected that the Eurostar services currently running out of Waterloo would by now be in profit and carrying six million passengers a year -- a hope that most financial experts had said was wildly optimistic.
In fact it is carrying around four million a year and is not likely to be in profit for another three years or so.
On the high-speed link, so far, for all the money put in, all that has been done is a lot of electrical work under the M25 at a cost of £12 million.
John Prescott turned LCR down. He gave them just 30 days to find the finance or forfeit the whole package.
This means the whole Eurostar project could be taken back into public ownership. The Labour government is pledged to its European partners, France and Relgium, to make sure the Eurostar link is kept going and that the high-speed link does eventually get built.
That would mean taxpayers having to find another £5 billion to put into the project. But at Least we would all own it at the end of the day and its construction could be properly planned and co-ordinated with other public transport systems.
But there is another possibility. Currently the privately-run Railtrack has plenty of funds and seems willing to take over the project.
This would allow the Labour government to go ahead with the project without blowing a big hole in its current public plans -- tied to those of the last Tory government -- and already under tremendous pressure from all angles. Only there is a snag.
Railtrack wants a few favours in return. It would want a considerable extension of its franchise and to maintain the current easygoing regulatory controls on it beyond the year 2001.
A Railtrack spokesperson said: "They simply couldn't finance anything of less than a l0-year stretch".
But to go down that road would leave this vital project in the unpredictable hands of he finance markets again.
France and Belgium have forged way ahead of Britain with their side of the Eurostar with their high-speed links in place already for years because their railways are state owned and run.
All the British problems with the project go back to Margaret Thatcher's obsession that the money for the whole Channel Tunnel project had to come from private finance.
Capitalism has failed the project and it has failed the country's need for a decent public transport system.
If the Eurostar project is nationalised now, or after Railtrack have also failed, it will not be because the Labour leadership believe in public ownership -but because necessity has forced them to recognise this is the only way it can be run.
And even capitalists are beginning to realise that a proper public transport system -- one that links into the continental rail systems -- is vital if we are ever to solve the problem of increasing traffic congestion and pollution.
They and their children are also suffering from the diseases caused by our increasingly poisoned air.
But for whatever reason it comes about, if Eurostar is nationalised,
it will mark a turning of the tide of endless privatisations. That cannot
be a bad thing.
Strand One of talks on the northern Ireland assembly ended as we went to press on Wednesday, and it was clear that Sinn Fein remains at loggerheads with the pro-unionist and partitionist framework in the assembly details.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams MP, responding to claims by the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) that his team were failing to engage in talks, countered. "We are opposed to an assembly. But we've been quite open about discussing these issues because the unionists want to. We have engaged in all the strands of the talks."
He continued: "We have a view that an assembly would institutionalise the unionist veto. We are quite concerned," he pointed out, "even in the context of cross border bodies. Are these bodies to be subordinate to a unionist dominated assembly in which there is an institutionalised unionist veto!"
One of Sinn Fein's negotiators, Bairbre de Brun, said last Tuesday evening that there was still no "real engagement". She said: "Our opposition to an assembly has been cynically represented as non-engagement."
She explained that Sinn Fein had sought all the parties standpoints and there was "a useful exchange of views " with the Unionists, but their responses did not address "fears that we have that any new assembly would be a return to unionist domination and discrimination."
Gerry Adams also believed there had been hardly any movement on "the equality agenda, sovereignty, demilitarisation, and the release of all political prisoners"
And in an atmosphere of growing intimitiation from loyalists, primarily directed at republicans and the Catholic community, but who are now even "warning " the British northern Ireland minister Dr Mo Mowlem, the signs look increasingly dicey.
Last Monday the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) issued "wanted posters" for Mo Mowlem and said in a statement that they would unleash an "unholy war" against the nationalist community unless an alleged republican death threat against the family of LVF leader Billy Wright, killed by the Irish National Liberation Anny (INLA) in the Maze, is withdrawn.
But Sinn Fein's chief talks negotiator, Martin McGuinness MP, said the "phantom" threats referred to by LVF came from Ulster Freedom Fighter (UFF)LVF sources in fact.
He said it was another attempt to raise tensions just as, in the previous week, the LVF announced that they would not target "ordinary" Catholics but focus on republicans in the community. The Sinn Fein leader said this was "designed to give a false sense of relief to those who felt vunerable."
As the talks deadline of 1 May looms, he said "we call expect to see these organisations increase their terror campaign to prevent movement on constitutional issues and intimidate nationalists into accepting less than we are entitled to."
According to posters signed by the LVF army council and plastered over an estate in Antrim, Mo Mowlem is held responsible for "the foul murder of leading loyalist Billy Wright and is "also responsible for all other murders and military action taken hy the LVF in direct retaliation for the state-sponsored assassination of our comrade whilst a PoW in HMP Maze."
Even so, as the Catholic community and Sinn Fein acknowledge, the decision to appoint Lord Saville, a Law Lord, to chair a tribunal of three with an open remit to investigate the Bloody Sunday events in January 1972, may yet prove to he a significant step is resolving one episode in the infamous history of British military occupation of northern Ireland.
It remains to he seen who is targeted, how high up that goes, in what way immunities are applied and how open the process will be in what could turn out to he long drawn out proceedings. Getting to the bottom of this will obviously meet all manner of resistance, avoidance and scapegoating.
When Channel Four News drew attention to new evidence two weeks ago revealing that another regiment present at the peaceful civil rights demonstralion was collectively on a "turkey shoot", former Tory Prime Minister Edward Heath palmed the responsibility for decision-making off onto the Army.
Gerry Adams spoke of the "courage, determination and resilience of the families" of the Bloody Sunday murder victims. This was expressed in a 20,000 strong march last Sunday, led by the relatives through Derry to mark the 26th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Their answer to UUP comments that the inquiry is about "revenge" and seeking "a pound of flesh".
The Sinn Fein leader continued: "Their 26-year struggle is testimony to their inner strength and courage, and to their absolute commitment to get to the truth. It is now our collective task to ensure that this inquiry leaves no stone unturned and no question unanswered in pursuit of the truth."
Sinn Fein, which holds a joint lead of 13 seats on Belfast city council, has been granted a judicial review in the high court in its legal battle to establish that its exclusion from the chairmanship and vice-chairmanship of 16 committees and 42 other bodies is unlawful.
* Gerry Adams is expected to go on a fundraising trip to the United
States later this month, visiting Washington and New York.
The background theme for the conference this year is international issues. So there will be stalls from a number of international support and solidarity organisations and fringe meetings on international issues, like Cuba solidarity.
There will be a guest speaker on the Friday afternoon's agenda from the Central American Women's network and Euro MP Glenys Kinoock will speak just before the close of conference on Saturday lunchtime.
The first session of the main conference will be on motions to do with women's health.
A motion from the National Women's Committee re-affirms Unison's committment to "a woman's right to choose".
It makes recommendations on how Unison can work to ensure that women have full access to information about abortion, contraception and their reproductive health in order for them to he able to make an informed choice.
This motion is welcome, as are the several amendments from various regions and self-organised groups.
One amendment condemns the unnecessary delays between the choice of a termination and it being carried out, causing unnecessary additional stress and trauma to the women concerned, particularly those who are pregnant as a result of rape.
An amendment from the National Disabled Members' Committee highlights the importance of women having access to information from disabled peoples' organisations about issues relating to impairment and quality of life.
This would help women make a more informed choice regarding continuing or terminating a pregnancy when tests show the child will have a disability.
Other motions on health include:
* supporting the campaign against Lindane pesticide which has been shown to he linked to breast cancer,
* concern over photocopier emissions and the need to make sure employers keep to legislation regarding thern,
* support of the Foundation for Women's Health Research and Development (Forward), particularly the campaign to end the cultural practice in some African communities of female genital mutilation;
* to publicise the changes introduced in July 1997 to the Health and Safety at Work regulations (1992) in respect of young people and new and expectant mothers;
* calling for a leaflet to he produced on lone working;
* calling for the repeal of the Disability Discrimination Act.
The second session of conference is devoted to motions on Unison's internal dernocracy.
The last session will look at issues such as the government's plans to get single parents off benefits and into work -- the dangers of this policy pushing single parents into a poverty trap of coming off benefit but being on a low wage and losing the right to free school meals for their children.
This would have effects on jobs in the school meals service.
The government is trying to encourage single parents to work but an amendment from the North-West Regional Women's Forum reminds us of the media attack on working mothers, which started with an appalling Panorama programme last February.
Single mothers, it seems, can't do right for doing wrong.
There are a number of motions and amendments on the increasing problem of bullying and harassment at work.
The debate on low pay could open up old wounds from last year's
conference as an amendment to a motion on the minimum wage calls for pressure
on the union leadership to reinstate official support for the Hillingdon
Hospital strikers who are still campaiging to get their jobs back.