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Year 2005 No. 62, May 5, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

All Out to End the Rule of the Big Parties!
Vote for Candidates of the Alternative!

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

All Out to End the Rule of the Big Parties!
Vote for Candidates of the Alternative!

Health Service Candidate Also a Communist

Voting Anti-War

Blair Urges Not to Punish Him over Iraq

Why I'm Backing the Heroic Stand of Reg Keys

Blair Made a Pledge to the Iraqis Once

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All Out to End the Rule of the Big Parties!
Vote for Candidates of the Alternative!

The bourgeoisie has orchestrated the election campaign as an offensive against the people, to disorient them and try and convince them that there is no real alternative to the status quo. Despite the opposition of the people to the programme of the rich for dark reaction at home and war and aggression abroad which New Labour represents, the ruling elite has continued to push Tony Blair as the least untrustworthy of the “choices” being offered to the electorate.

            All talk of an “historic third term” is so much propaganda to encourage the people to go against their direct experience of the need for democratic renewal of the political system.

            RCPB(ML) calls on the electorate to trust their own experience, envision a new society, and go for what serves their interests. Do not let the weight of the crisis and the propaganda of the monopoly media get you down. Take a stand against the restructuring of the state. The struggle continues after the election for the alternative, and the people can unite to change the situation and bring closer the empowerment of the people.

Reject the big parties! Elect candidates who are your peers! Vote for candidates of the alternative!

Article Index

Health Service Candidate Also a Communist

By Terry Kelly, 03 May 2005

The Northeast Press Online carried the following article, which also appeared sub-edited in a number of South Tyneside newspapers.

A candidate standing as a champion of the health service in this week's general election is also a revolutionary communist. Roger Nettleship is contesting the Jarrow seat as a candidate for Safeguard the National Health Service.

            But concerns were today raised by political rivals, who believe Mr Nettleship should have stated his political affiliations in full on his nomination paper.

            Mr Nettleship, 56, a long-serving Unison representative at South Tyneside District Hospital, is also an official of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist).

            Although council election officials say Mr Nettleship's nomination is "valid", the issue of his political background has been raised by Coun Alan Kerr, general election agent for Labour candidate Stephen Hepburn.

            Coun Kerr said: "My only concern is why he is not fighting under his own party's name? I feel this could cause some confusion for the electorate."

            Mr Nettleship told the [Shields] Gazette: "As a union representative with 20 years' experience, I am standing as a candidate in the general election to represent the concerns of my fellow health workers and the people in the constituency as a Safeguard the National Health Service candidate.

            "In the 2001 election, I also stood as an Independent health worker candidate.

            "My lifelong concern as a communist for the wellbeing of the people, known to many of my fellow workers, stands me in good stead, I believe, to fight to safeguard the future of the NHS and to affirm that health care for the people is a right."

            Mr Nettleship, a married father-of-two, also addressed the concerns about his nomination as a champion of the NHS.

            He added: "Because the electoral law at present is geared to authorising only parties to select candidates and describe on the ballot paper what they stand for, I have followed the guidance of the Electoral Commission in enabling myself to stand as 'Safeguard the National Health Service' candidate.

            "I submitted the necessary authorisation to the acting returning officer, all under the guidance of the Electoral Commission.

            "As far as I know, the only person who has requested a copy of the written authorisation from the acting returning officer was the election agent of Stephen Hepburn [the Labour Party candidate], Alan Kerr."

            A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: "Under the parliamentary election rules, acting returning officer Brian Scott must consider if a nomination paper is valid.

            "He has considered Mr Nettleship's nomination paper and has decided that, in his opinion, it is valid."

            The other candidates contesting the Jarrow seat are Linkson Jack (Conservative), Bill Schardt (Lib Dem) and Alan Badger (UK Independence Party).

Article Index

The Anti-War Movement Must Resist Labour Scaremongering

By Milan Rai, 16 April 2005


The British anti-war movement currently has three broad options in relation to the British General Election: vote anti-Tory (as Tony Blair is urging us); vote anti-Labour (as Michael Howard and the more punitive elements of the movement are urging us); or to vote anti-war. (There is also the option of not voting, discussed below.)

            The vote is indeed a blunt instrument, but the danger of a 100-seat Labour Government majority is greater than that of a Conservative victory. We must vote anti-war. Apart from voting, there is also the question of who you campaign for, if anyone. It has been suggested by Labour Against The War, that anti-war activists who support the Labour Party should campaign for any nearby anti-war Labour candidates, for example, whatever they do with their vote in their own constituency. This tactic might sometimes also apply to supporters of other parties. Returning to the question of how to use your vote, what does “voting anti-war” mean? For JNV [Justice Not Vengeance], it is an approach rather than a definite prescription, an approach that attempts to respect the differing political loyalties and commitments activists hold within the anti-war movement.



The big question for the anti-war movement is what lesson the British political establishment is going to draw from this election regarding the war on Iraq. Is the election going to show that you can’t get away with a major war which is clearly illegal and massively unpopular, even if you are “the most gifted political communicator” of your age? Or is the election going to show that, in the end, the voters will forgive you such misdemeanours if you can present yourself as the lesser of two evils?

            How will the political establishment judge the election? One indicator will definitely be the number of seats Labour loses in the election. Another will be the share of votes going to “anti-war” parties. I put “anti-war” in quotation marks because what matters, from the Establishment point of view, is how the parties are perceived.

            The Liberal Democrats, for example, opposed the war on Iraq before it started, then supported it as soon as the bombs started falling. They’ve supported the occupation of Iraq, but they’ve also called for the end of the occupation in December of this year. These are not the positions of a principled anti-war party. However, the Liberal Democrats are perceived as an anti-war party, and, yes, they are the only mainstream party setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.

            A vote for the Liberal Democrats will be seen as an anti-war vote. As will a vote for the Green Party, for the independent anti-war candidates who are springing up around the country, for the Scottish Nationalist Party, for Plaid Cymru, for Respect, and for the Scottish Socialist Party and for a host of other socialist parties. The proportion of votes going to such parties – particularly the parties which have the highest profile and are most clearly identified as “anti-war”, such as the Lib Dems, the Greens, the independent anti-war candidates, and Respect – will be part of the foreign policy establishment’s assessment of the political cost of war on Iraq. The logic of this analysis, then, is that anti-war activists should vote for “anti-war” parties, even people who have formerly voted for the Labour Party. The beauty is that no vote is wasted. Even in a “safe” Labour or Tory seat, votes for anti-war parties will count towards the national total of “anti-war” votes.



A complication is that there are also “anti-war” Labour MPs and candidates, some of whom are fighting in marginal seats. Should traditionally-Labour-voting anti-war activists support such candidates? The argument against is that returning a Labour MP, even an anti-war one, helps to re-elect Tony Blair. On the other hand, there are two strong arguments in favour of supporting such candidates (if you are inclined to vote Labour at all).

            Firstly, if anti-war Labour MPs do better than pro-war Labour MPs (holding their majorities or increasing them, when pro-war MPs lose votes and seats), this will sharpen the lesson of the war. Secondly, if Labour is returned to power, it is important to the movement to have as large a proportion of the Parliamentary Labour Party composed of anti-war MPs as possible.



In general, then, voting anti-war means voting for anti-war candidates. But the Labour Party high command are trying to get anti-war voters to vote anti-Tory instead of anti-war. The Robin Cook line is that you can’t vote for an anti-war government. You can only vote for a chastened Labour government, which has learned its lesson, or for an enthusiastically pro-war Conservative government. Labour loyalist Polly Toynbee argues that you should “Hold your nose, vote Blair and Brown will be the victor”. (Guardian, Wednesday 6 April, p. 22) (This is Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer who financed the invasion of Iraq, and who funds the continuing occupation without demur.) In the Independent, Johann Hari surveys the quiet redistribution policies of the Blair government, and quotes Ken Livingstone: “If we experience a disastrous result on election night, it will not be Tony Blair who is punished. It will be the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.” (6 April, p. 35)



Polly Toynbee writes: “forget retribution and look to the future... Revenge for a war that will never be repeated is a poor excuse” for voting against Labour. What matters is the future, and especially the future of those who would suffer under a Conservative government which would reverse the social welfare programmes put into place by the Blair administration. But the purpose of an anti-war protest vote is not simply backward-looking revenge. We’re interested in the future. In the future, what kind of government is most likely to bring British participation in the ongoing occupation of Iraq to an early end? In the future, what kind of government in Westminster is most likely to be an obstacle for future US warmongering? In the future, what lessons will British political parties and British governments draw from the Iraq experience?

            The election can influence the make-up of the next Government, can place limits on its foreign policy ambitions, and can have a lasting impact on British politics - if and only if an unpopular war of aggression results in enormous political damage.

            The anti-war movement is concerned for the future of the Iraqi people, and the future of other peoples under threat from President Bush’s so-called “war on terrorism”. We are far from convinced that Iraq was “a war that will never be repeated”. The only way to reduce the chances of it being repeated is to deal a punishing blow to Tony Blair and his government.



Jonathan Freedland (and others) notes that many of “those people who usually put a cross by the word ‘Labour’.... would like to vote for an option marked ‘Return a Labour government, but with a sharply reduced majority so that Tony Blair learns the lesson of the Iraq war.’ “ He points out that these and other desirable options are not on the ballot paper.

            Freedland points out that when you vote, you can only vote for a Labour candidate or for the candidate of another party -- you can't vote for a “reduced-majority Labour government”. Key sentence: “If everyone who wanted that outcome withheld their vote, the result would be a Tory victory.” For the vote is “a blunt instrument”. (Guardian, 6 April, p. 21)

            What Jonathan Freedland, Robin Cook and all the other nose-holders fail to point out is that the reverse is also true.

            If everyone who wants to prevent a Tory victory turns out and votes for Labour, then the government will be returned with a majority of over 100 parliamentary seats.

            This will be seen as vindicating Tony Blair. It will be seen as rewarding the invasion of Iraq. It will help to clear the way for future wars of aggression.

            If left-wing and liberal voters put the defeat of the Conservatives as an overriding political priority, and vote Labour, they will hand Tony Blair a mandate for future wars, and signal that the war on Iraq was an acceptable foreign policy option.



What is the worst-case scenario for the anti-war movement? Is it a Conservative victory? Or is it the vindication of Tony Blair and his decision to launch the invasion of Iraq? In my own view, the worst-case scenario would be a Labour victory of over 100 seats.

            Yes, the Conservatives are a pro-war party, but their victory would not be interpreted as an endorsement of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The defeat of the Labour Party would be a severe lesson to the British Establishment.

            At the time of writing, the balance of probabilities is very much in Labour’s favour. The question is how large Labour’s majority is going to be. It is said that Michael Howard’s goal is actually to reduce the Labour majority; he does not hope to actually win the election.

            Even when the polls give them a level pegging, Labour is ahead because of the distribution of its voters across constituencies. The Conservative Party “needs a 10.8 per cent swing from Labour to gain a majority of one”. (Ben Hall, FT, 6 April 2005, p. 3) The Tories need to be over 10 per cent ahead in the opinion polls to win the General Election (if the swing is uniform throughout the country and counting only those who are actually going to vote). Given the polls as they stand at the moment (15 April) the chances of ending up with a Conservative government are remote, to say the least. The question of the day is how large the Labour majority is going to be. Conservative strategy is apparently to appeal to its core voters and to motivate them to turn out, while turning off everyone else so that overall turnout is low. At the beginning of the campaign, “On a 78 per cent turnout, Labour would have a majority of 128 in the Commons. On a 56 per cent turnout, that majority falls to about 50.” (Financial Times/MORI, 1 April, p. 4) “On a 55 per cent turnout, however, if the Conservative five-point lead were to be replicated, Labour would still be in power – just – but in a hung parliament and at the mercy of the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition government.”

            Robert Worcester, head of MORI, comments: “The ‘project’ – the proposed pact between Labour and the Lib Dems – would be back on.” (FT/MORI, 5 April, p. 3)

            The Sunday Times reported two weeks ago that, “Early indications show that Labour is likely to lose more than 68 of its 408 seats and that its majority will be cut from 161 to less than 60 seats... Professor Paul Whiteley, one of the authors of the 2005 British Election Study, said there was evidence that the turnout could slide even further, to as little as 53% this time, and that such a turnout could seriously undermine Labour’s prospects.” (3 April, p. 10) That sounds like we could have a hung parliament.

            But then Michael Howard's racist rhetoric about immigration spurred more people to support Labour. The FT noted early on that “a prediction based on an average of polls taken in the past month by Electoral Calculus, the online election predictor, gives Labour a four-point poll lead, which would produce a majority of 106.” On the other hand, punters on the internet “are betting that Labour’s election majority will be slashed to about 60 seats, a much smaller margin of victory than most polls suggest.” (“Punters bet on Labour majority shrinking to about 60 seats”, 1 April, p. 4)

            According to James Blitz of the Financial Times, reporting the consensus view, a majority of 70 is the minimum needed to provide the Prime Minister with a comfortable working majority. “A margin of 100 would be a solid win that went a long way to wiping clean the Iraq problem in politics.”

            A widely-held judgement of overwhelming significance to the anti-war movement.

            Blitz notes that, “Anything fewer than 40 – a big haemorrhage of Labour seats - would raise serious questions about how long Mr Blair could stay in office.” (FT, 6 April 2005, p. 3) Blair might be forced to resign immediately as Labour leader and as Prime Minister. Alternatively, such a disastrous result might “encourage Gordon Brown to challenge him for the leadership”.



This election is going to be decided in marginal constituencies. If Labour loses 76 of its most marginal seats, it will lose its majority in the House of Commons. (For an explanation of the mathematics, see Alan Watkins, “Unglaze your eyes: the magic number is 76”, Independent on Sunday, 10 April 2005, p. 27)

            In those 76 constituencies (from Dorset South down to Watford), activists should have no hesitation in voting for anti-war parties (unless there is an anti-war Labour MP standing for re-election) even if this is likely to let in Conservatives. If Conservatives get in to these seats, it will erode Tony Blair’s majority. That is entirely acceptable from an anti-war point of view. In particular, Liberal Democrat supporters who have voted Labour in the past (following an anti-Tory strategy) should have no hesitation in voting for their beliefs in those constituencies, stopping their tactical voting, and voting “anti-war” instead. At the constituency level the highest priority is probably to vote (or campaign for) for anti-war MPs, people who voted against the war and who oppose the occupation of Iraq - if you can stand voting for their party. As pointed out above, maintaining or increasing the proportion of anti-war Labour MPs in the Parliamentary Labour Party would be a valuable achievement for those parts of the anti-war movement who are at all willing to vote Labour. Rewarding anti-war Labour MPs for their courage would contrast with, and deepen, the punishment handed out to pro-war Labour MPs for their dishonesty and cowardice. In marginal constituencies, it is clear, many former Labour voters are defecting to the Liberal Democrats in order to register their disgust with the behaviour of the Blair government, over Iraq, and over many other issues also. There is certainly an argument for this defection. The argument is particularly strong when, as in my own constituency of Hastings & Rye (62 in the list of Labour marginals), the Liberal Democrat candidate is strongly anti-war (he is actually a former Labour Party mayor and councillor who defected in disgust over the war in Iraq).



It is difficult not to sympathise with the voices calling for abstention, spoiled ballots and so on. Neither of the two potential governments-in-waiting is enormously attractive. On the other hand, for the anti-war movement this is a historic opportunity to demonstrate to the British political establishment that blatantly illegal and deeply unpopular wars of aggression carry real costs.

            Spoiled ballots and abstentions by anti-war activists cannot be distinguished from the general and growing disillusionment of the electorate at the empty convergence of the major parties.



Given (a) the serious risk that the anti-war movement voting (and/or campaigning) for Labour candidates will mean victory for Blair on a scale that grants him vindication,; and (b) the remote possibility that voting (and/or campaigning) for non-Labour candidates will lead to a Conservative victory, the anti-war movement must set a clear overall priority.

            In general terms, it is more important for the anti-war movement to prevent a (quite possible) 100-seat-plus victory for Labour than to prevent a (quite unlikely) victory for the Conservatives.

Article Index

Blair Urges Not to Punish Him over Iraq

By Andrew Cawthorne, Reuters, May 4, 2005

On the eve of an election likely to give him an historic third term, Tony Blair appealed to voters on Wednesday to swallow misgivings over Iraq and return him to power as a reward for the healthy economy.

            "Of course there has been disagreement about Iraq," the prime minister said as the US-led war to topple Saddam Hussein again dominated a news conference, his last of the campaign.

            "(But) who do people trust with the economy, with the investment in our public services, with the interests of the country?" he asked. "I think we can make a pretty good case of it ... Those are the issues that really motivate people."

            Blair – whom polls show is well ahead of the Conservatives – was like other party leaders engaged in a frenetic last day of interviews and campaign stops around the country before polls open at 7 a.m. on Thursday.

            Blair is hoping the robust economy, which has outperformed its European neighbours during the global downturn of recent years, will be his trump card.

            But otters, including many in his own Labour party, remain deeply uncomfortable with Blair's backing of the US-led invasion.

            "It is not telling the truth that makes politics seem negative, that makes people think all politicians do not tell the truth," said Conservative leader Michael Howard, again accusing Blair of lying over the legality of the war.

            Charles Kennedy, leader of the Liberal Democrats, added: "Cast your vote to restore Britain's reputation on the international stage. Vote Liberal Democrat if, like us, you say 'never again' to an episode like Iraq."

            The Conservatives' attack is handicapped by their support of the Iraq war, but the Liberal Democrats opposed it from the outset [sic!!] and are likely to benefit from anti-Blair protest votes.

            Despite a week of attacks on his integrity, polls put Blair on course to win a third consecutive term, albeit with a likely reduction in his massive 161-seat parliamentary majority.

            The latest, a Populus survey for the Times gave Blair's ruling Labour Party a commanding 14-point lead on 41 percent versus the Conservatives on 27 and Lib Dems on 23. Other recent polls have put him between 3 and 10 points ahead.

            If Blair is celebrating on Friday – his 52nd birthday – he would be the first Labour leader to win 3 successive elections.

            Blair, who has said he will step down at the end of a third term, insisted economic stability and investment in health and education would be his domestic priorities.

            Africa and the environment were his foreign policy priorities, he added. "I remain passionate about these things."

            Blair's first task on re-election will be to shape a new Cabinet. He has already made clear his powerful chancellor and likely successor, Gordon Brown, will remain in his post.

            Analysts believe Blair will step down before he completes a third term – precipitated, perhaps, if he loses a planned 2006 vote on the EU referendum – and hand over to Brown.

            Despite his lead, Blair was taking nothing for granted on Wednesday, warning that low turnout could scupper him. "Whatever the opinion polls say, in the key seats a few hundred votes or a few thousand votes can determine it either way," he said.

            To press the point he held his news conference in the north London seat of Finchley, once political home to Conservative premier Margaret Thatcher and now held narrowly by Labour.

            When Blair stormed to power in 1997, national turnout was 71 percent, but that slumped to 59 percent in 2001 – the lowest level since World War One – and may be even lower this time.

            The further it falls, the worse it will be for Labour, whose voters are less likely to turn out according to the polls. That variable leaves the size of Blair's victory very much in doubt.

– Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers, Katherine Baldwin, Peter Griffiths

Article Index

Why I'm Backing the Heroic Stand of Reg Keys

by Richard Dawkins, 23 April 2005

Lance Corporal Tom Keys was killed in Iraq: one of many. Tom's father, Reg, is standing as a "white suit independent" in Tony Blair's own constituency of Sedgefield. I shall be voting Liberal Democrat in Oxford, but I hope the Lib Dem candidate in Sedgefield will withdraw and back Reg Keys. Let me explain why I am joining Martin Bell, Brian Eno and others in support of the Reg Keys campaign (www.keysforsedgefield.org.uk/). Tony Blair, of course, wants us to "move on" after Iraq. But I am one of the many voters who won't move on until Blair moves out. Reg Keys might achieve this in Sedgefield. And we all might achieve it if we vote our true inclination and ignore Blair's scaremongering.

            Mr Blair is trying to scare us into voting Labour, using the bogeyman of Michael Howard. This is not the first time he has resorted to such scare tactics. He tried to scare us with those ludicrous tanks at Heathrow. He succeeded in scaring MPs into war by telling lies in the House of Commons - not lies about Saddam Hussein himself (a real bogeyman, for once) - but lies about weapons of mass destruction. He even got away with the preposterous falsehood that Iraq's weapons could directly threaten Britain within 45 minutes. His defence now is that he believed those falsehoods at the time, so they weren't deliberate lies. To parody a rhyme, originally made for Lloyd George:

            Count not his parliamentary lies a crime. He meant them, how he meant them, at the time!

            The intelligence on which those falsehoods were based was pathetically thin. The desperate urge to rush into war, brushing aside Hans Blix's patience and the Attorney General's misgivings, did not emerge from proper cabinet debate. It was driven from America. Bush whistled and Blair came trotting to heel, dragging an unwilling Britain with him. Whether he was mendacious or merely naive, Blair's Iraq fiasco would have been a resigning matter in a more honourable era of ministerial responsibility. In 1982, Lord Carrington resigned for less.

            Whatever his motive, Blair used scare tactics to push Parliament into Iraq. And now he is using scare tactics again. This time, the threat is that if we vote Lib Dem we will let the Michael Howard bogeyman in. This is blatant scaremongering, to the point of dishonesty. The most the Tories can realistically hope for is a hung parliament - not good news for the Tories but very good news for the Liberal Democrats - the very party Blair is trying to scare us away from supporting.

            A hung parliament is the most desirable result I can realistically imagine. The Lib Dems would hold the balance of power, probably in some kind of Blair-free coalition of the centre-left. With luck, they would put a stop to Blair's love affair with faith schools. He even supports the infamous Peter Vardy, whose heavily subsidised academies teach children in the North East that the entire universe began after the dawn of agriculture. Blair's defence, in response to a question from a rightly outraged Liberal Democrat MP, was to praise "diversity". Diversity!

            But the most important thing the centre-left coalition might achieve is proportional representation. This would kill, once and for all, the idea that a vote for anybody other than Labour or Conservative is "wasted". Votes are wasted in this sense only because of the flagrantly undemocratic first-past-the-post system. With the single transferable PR system, no vote is wasted. You vote your preference - and no silly scares about big bad Tories.

            Under the first-past-the-post system, your vote is wasted unless you happen to live in a marginal constituency. We saw this in America, with the grotesque concentration of electioneering firepower and money in a few key states such as Ohio and Florida. The only people who like first-past-the-post are politicians whom it puts into power. The Liberal Democrats have long been committed to PR. My greatest hope is that a hung parliament might enable them to implement it. This would benefit the long-term future of our democracy: a boon that would long outlive the short-term promises of any party.

            Another symptom of a healthy democracy, and a natural consequence of PR, is plenty of independent MPs outside the whipped parties. Independents like Reg Keys. He is following in Martin Bell's heroic footsteps, but with a bigger target: Tony Blair himself. Blair deceived Parliament into backing an illegal war. Blair flouted our constitutional tradition of collective cabinet responsibility. Blair crawled to the most ill-qualified American President in living memory. Bush constantly makes political capital out of Blair's support for him. A vote for Blair is a vote for Bush. What a splendid signal the voters of Sedgefield could send the world if they elected Reg Keys.

Article Index

Blair Made a Pledge to the Iraqis Once

By Haifa Zangana*, 04/22/04, The Guardian

Like so many others in this country I recently received a letter and a card from the Rt Hon Tony Blair. It read: "Enclosed is a summary of our pledges for you to review. We fulfilled every pledge in 1997 and 2001. If re-elected we will do so again." I was shocked. The letter, and the "six pledges to ensure a better life for British people", were Iraq-free zones.

            Whatever happened to the war on Iraq? On the eve of the invasion Blair said: "The question most often posed is not 'Why does it matter?' but 'Why does it matter so much?' Here we are: the government with its most serious test, its majority at risk, the first cabinet resignation over an issue of policy." And yet in his current election campaign, the prime minister has sidestepped the issue. Suddenly, Iraq seems very far away once more, and the Iraqi people long forgotten. Why? 
Is it because Iraq has become a bleeding wound too painful to look at, or a mess that should be avoided at elections? Or is it that Blair genuinely believes that he has honoured his pledge to the Iraqi people?

            On the eve of the war Blair made the Iraqis three promises: that he would get rid of Saddam's WMD, defeat terrorism, and establish democracy and a respect for human rights in Iraq.

            Two years on, it has been proved beyond doubt that there were no WMD. Iraq, which previously had no links to "terrorism", is now the duty-free shop of suicide bombers. As for democracy, the election, when it eventually came, was designed to placate international opinion rather than give Iraqi people what they wanted: peace, security, and an end to occupation.

            And what of human rights? In an attempt to justify the war before the invasion, Blair spoke passionately in parliament about the suffering of Iraqis: "Today [Iraq] is impoverished: 60% of its population are dependent on food aid; thousands of children die needlessly every year from a lack of food and medicine; 4 million people out of a population of just over 20 million are in exile." He asked MPs to remember "the brutality of the repression - the death and torture camps, the barbaric prisons for political opponents".

            The irony is that these are the very problems that the majority of Iraqis are still facing today, two years after "liberation". An estimated 60% of Iraqi families still depend completely on the monthly food ration. A recent UN human rights commission report says that malnutrition among Iraqi children under the age of five nearly doubled last year to 7.7%, and blamed the war for this deterioration. More than a quarter of Iraqi children do not get enough food to eat.

Four million Iraqis are still in exile, and more are joining their ranks. Many academics, scientists and consultants are leaving for the fear of assassination or kidnapping. According to the interior ministry, 5,000 Iraqis were kidnapped in the last 15 months. Roadside bombs, mortar assaults, shootings by US troops and suicide attacks are all part of daily life.

            There are 17,000 prisoners, mostly under US control. Two new prisons have been built by US contractors to accommodate 4,000 new prisoners in the south. A recently published Human Rights Watch report documents the torture and ill-treatment of members of political and armed groups, the arbitrary arrest and torture of criminal suspects, and the torture of children held in adult facilities.

            There are reports, too, of women being taken as hostages by US soldiers to persuade fugitive male relatives to surrender. Amnesty International has condemned this, reminding governments that "it is against international law to take civilians and use them as bargaining chips". The blockade of food and destruction of water reservoirs during the siege of Falluja was "used as a weapon of war", a UN expert said in a report to the organisation's human rights commission.

            Banned weapons have been used in Iraq too, as the US military has been forced to admit, including the MK-77 incendiary bomb, a modern form of napalm. Britain is party to an international convention banning such weapons where they may cause harm to civilians and yet, during the assault on Falluja, British soldiers were placed under the command of a US military that has no such qualms. Reports have emerged of melted bodies in the city, a crime that has been met with silence not just by Tony Blair but also by Ann Clwyd, his human rights envoy to Iraq.

            On the second anniversary of the invasion, 300,000 Iraqis demonstrated in Baghdad to demand the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops and the release of detainees. Three effigies of Bush, Blair and Saddam were burned. The message was clear: Bush and Blair, like Saddam before them, are legally and morally responsible for the destruction of Iraq and the daily killing of its people. Let us hope that the British people do not allow Blair to conveniently forget his war during this election campaign.

* Haifa Zangana is an Iraqi-born novelist and former prisoner of Saddam's regime


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