Britain: The first victory
The welcome news that no further action is to be taken against the two soldiers who refused to fight in the Iraq war is a mark of the success of their defence campaign and the anti-war movement as a whole. The two men, a private and an engineer from the 16th Air Assault Brigade based in Colchester, had faced possible court martial and up to two years in jail for disobeying orders. The best the men could have expected, in other circumstances, would have been a dishonourable discharge. In fact no action of any kind is to be taken against them and nothing will go on their record. Though the pair have shunned publicity it is clear that they took the principled stand against the Iraq war and it is equally clear that the Army did not want to test its dubious legality at court martial. A major crime The Army has enough on its plate already. Colonel Collins, puffed up as a "war-hero" last month is now accused of mistreating prisoners. He has been accused of personally ill-treating Iraqi prisoners-of-war and civilians under his control when he was in command in Basra. Charges of torturing and humiliating prisoners have been levelled at other soldiers and the military police are conducting inquiries at the moment. None of this will surprise the Irish, Cypriot and Yemeni people or any others who had the misfortune to live under British colonial rule in the past. Threats, beatings and humiliation were standard issue for the colonial administrations of old and common practice in the occupied north of Ireland. Soldiers are answerable for their actions whatever their rank and claiming they were obeying orders is no excuse. But the ultimate responsibility for war-crimes in Iraq — and the biggest is the invasion itself and the slaughter of thousands of civilians in callous air-raids — rests with Tony Blair and George W Bush. Answer to the people Tony Blair, like all hypocrites, wears his religion on his sleeve. He publicly tells us that his Christian faith sustained him during the Iraq war and that he is prepared to be judged by his "Maker" for the deaths caused by the conflict. He should perhaps recall the words and acts of the founder of his proclaimed faith. Jesus Christ, known as the "Prince of Peace", called on his followers to love their enemies and turn the other cheek. He never told a lie. Blair on the other hand has great difficulty in coming clean over the information he says he had about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction. There must be a public inquiry to establish whether parliament was deliberately misled to justify the invasion of Iraq. If it was, Blair must resign. He should remember that he is answerable to Parliament, the Labour Party and the people of Britain as well.
* * *New Worker, paper New Communist Party of Britain