First, no WMD were found. Now, the commission investigating 911 has reported it had found no evidence that Iraq and al-Qaida co-operated in the plot or had any sort of "collaborative relationship." This bluntly contradicts persistent White House assertions before, during and after the war. "By removing Saddam Hussein we have removed an ally of al Qaeda," Bush claimed on May 1st last year. Somewhat embarrassingly this nonsense was repeated a few days before the commission's announcement by the US vice president, who said that Saddam "had long-established ties with al-Qaida." Unsurprisingly, Cheney offered no details backing this up.
Even more incredibly, even after the commission's findings, both Bush and Blair insisted that Saddam had links to al-Qaida. This is in direct contradiction to what the 9/11 Commission has found. It is also in direct contradiction to the findings of both US and UK intelligence. For example, before the war, when Blair told MPs "we do know of links between al-Qaida and Iraq", British intelligence sources rejected the claims saying that the opposite was the case: Saddam had distanced himself from them. The commission also confirmed the findings of US intelligence. Since the fall of Baghdad, no proof has been found of a link between the Saddam's regime and Osama bin Laden.
Little wonder the Bush Junta stone-walled the creation of the commission to begin with and pursued a reluctant approach to co-operation with it.
Which leaves the last excuse, the one which was tacked on at the last moment, after no one believed the previous lies. Namely, that the invasion was to liberate the Iraqi people. And, like the rest, the facts have demolished it. According to a recent a Coalition Provisional Authority poll only 2 per cent of Iraqis regard the occupying forces as liberators. This is devastating for both Bush and Blair as both assert that future generations of Iraqis will thank them for liberating their country. The current generation sees things differently, with 92% recognising that the self-proclaimed "liberators" were, in fact, occupiers. Quite brutal occupiers at that, given that according to 54% polled all Americans behaved like the guards at Abu Ghraib. 55% said they would feel safer if the 138,000 US troops left immediately, 55 per cent agreed and 41% wanted the troops to leave immediately. Another 45% wanted them to leave once a permanent Iraqi government was installed. Significantly, there was strong support for the rebel Shia leader, Muqtada Sadr, with 67% saying they support or strongly support him. The coalition's confidence rating stood at 11%, while the troops had the support of only 10%.
But why be surprised that the wishes of the Iraqis are being ignored. The wishes of the public back home are listened to with equal care. Whether it is on the war or the privatisation of railways or public services, the public is finding out what anarchists have long argued: government does not exist to "represent the people" or "allow them to have a say in the way the country is run." Quite the reverse. The history of representative government is one of centralising power away from the people and into the hands of the few. Whether it was in the English, French, American or Russian revolutions or in Argentina today, representative government was seized upon as the means to exclude the rebellious people from controlling their own fates and society. Whether it was the bourgeoisie or the Bolsheviks, the idea that the masses should govern themselves was rejected and power was centralised into a few, safe, hands.
The votes of the people exist to give the illusion that they are sovereign, that they have a say. In practice "democratic" governments amount to little more than elected dictatorships. This is no accident. It is required for class rule. The state has evolved to exclude the people from power and that is what it does. Rarely, though, do we get politicians who so blazingly proclaim this truth, this contempt for the people at the heart of bourgeois democracy. Blair has joined such notables as Trotsky and Lenin in openly admitting his hostility to the norms of democratic theory and practice.
"The people are the masters. We are the servants of the people," said Blair after he was elected seven years ago. "We will never forget that and, if we ever do, the people will very soon show that what the electorate gives, the electorate can take away." His government, like every government, has shown who really are the masters in a democracy. In response to Labour's worst election results since world war one, Blair displayed a self-righteous defiance which would make Trotsky blush. "No politician can afford to be deaf to the voice of the electorate," he declared, before proving he was. He rejected every protest vote. On Iraq, he refused to apologise and repeated the mantra that he will be "shown to be right" and that the majority of the people were (like the facts) wrong. On privatising public services he stressed that it is "not the time to change direction" but, rather "to change gear" and go "further and faster"! On Europe, he tried to undercut the UKIP by pledging to defend even more strongly "industrial flexibility." This would protect UK business against giving workers some rights so limited even continental Conservatives find them acceptable.
And (Edinburgh born and educated) Blair has the cheek to say that English football hooligans brought "shame on our [sic!] country"! Obviously a mini-riot is much more shameful than lying to the world to justify an imperialist war of aggression which cost the lives of over ten of thousand people. Blair added: "The police should come down very heavily and make sure that those who engage in this disorder face heavy penalties." Obviously one law for him and another for his subjects. He is shameless.
Are there any Labour Party members who remember what their party is meant to stand for? If so, what are they doing still in the party? Some New Labour MPs, like Blair, may console themselves with the wishful thought that "Iraq" will disappear once the purely cosmetic handover of "full sovereignty" to US appointees happens at the end of June. This forgets that many people reject the idea that the ends justify the means and oppose Blair for principled, not opportunistic, reasons: because Blair ignored the majority of the people and lied to justify joining in an imperialist war and not because the Americans messed up the subsequent occupation. But principle is not in any politician's dictionary.
Those politicians who launched the illegal war in defiance of public opinion need to pay a political price for it, if only to discourage future acts of aggression. Yet Blair has shrugged off the protest vote as easily as the millions marching on February 15th last year. He knows that few will vote for the pro-war Tories (decades of leftist "vote labour without illusions" nonsense paying off). The limitations of electioneering are obvious. Easily ignored protest votes every few years are hardly a means of holding politicians accountable, particularly as it just replaces one elected dictatorship with another. Millions know that the differences between the parties are minor. Indeed New Labour's anti-Tory rhetoric increases as its policies converge with those of Howard's party. Little wonder more and more people abstain at election time.
There is a real need for an alternative, one which only anarchism can provide. Ultimately, politics is too important to be left to politicians, subject as they are to the pressures of big business and the state bureaucracy. We need a new working class movement based on using direct action (strikes, blockades, boycotts, occupations, etc.) to make politicians and bosses aware of what we want and that they cannot ignore us. Given the dismal legacy of radicals using elections, such a movement must be anti-parliamentarian and rooted in popular assemblies in our workplaces and communities. It must counterpoise direct democracy to representative democracy, action to platitudes, hope to despair.
Such a movement is does not exist yet and will take much time and energy to help create, but it is our only real alternative to make our lives better and, eventually, replace this system with a more humane one.