Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to
mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and to stand against the
ongoing occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. These demonstrations come as the
US is piling the pressure on its NATO allies to commit more troops, and send
more into combat on the front line.
Five years after the invasion of Iraq Britain has slowly
begun withdrawing. As quickly as the troops leave Basra they are redeployed to
southern Afghanistan to fight what the generals are now calling a
“counter-insurgency campaign”. It was precisely this terminology that was used
to justify the brutality of the Vietnam War, where millions of Vietnamese and
thousands of working class American conscripts were slaughtered. Once again the
most powerful military machine in the world is facing defeat by people who will
not accept the occupation of their homeland.
These wars are not just proving disastrous for the US
military: they have a huge toll on the masses of Iraq and Afghanistan. Every day
the death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan mounts, with one estimate suggesting
that one million have died in Iraq alone. In Iraq, life for ordinary working
people is now even more miserable than it was before the invasion. Unemployment
has soared and basic essentials such as electricity are scarce. Many ordinary
people are now saying they preferred life under Saddam Hussein. In Afghanistan
life is possibly worse. Drug lords have free rein and many ordinary farmers are
forced into growing poppies for the heroin trade just to make ends meet. Life
is just as bad for women as under the Taliban, as many are unable to leave the
house for fear of being raped. Every day the numbers of dead civilians gets
higher and higher.
The cost of these wars hits the people of Iraq and
Afghanistan hardest. They pay it with their lives. In Britain and America
working people pay for these imperialist adventures with their pensions and
services. Every penny spent on these
wars is from wealth produced by working people, wealth that is being used
against our interests to oppress others. The New Labour government has
announced that public sector workers are to receive below inflation ‘pay rises’
of no more than 2% to avoid a recession. Opposing the skewed logic in this is
the glaring bottomless pit of money that is being thrown away to finance the
occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and the £78 billion due to be spent on
Opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot
be a cry isolated from the call for better pay, conditions or public services.
Nor can the labour movement exist separately from the campaign against
imperialism. The people cutting our pay and privatising our hospitals are the
same people who wage these wars. The struggles of the Iraqis and the Afghans
are the same struggles as our own, against a common enemy and with a common interest.