North: Money for Services, Not War

by Peter Hadden Socialist Voice supplement, March 1st 2003

THERE IS no money to maintain acute hospital services in Omagh. Or in Lisburn, despite its new "city" status. Or in Whiteabbey or Mid Ulster. Nor is there money to modernise the water service. So the government are about to introduce water charges.

Fire-fighters cannot be paid a decent wage and the service is to be run down because Blair "can't afford" to maintain it. Yet, when it comes to waging war against the people of Iraq, the budget has no limits. Billions that could be spent on schools, hospitals and roads here are about to be spent destroying the infrastructure of Iraq.

The lie that this is about weapons of mass destruction or about "liberating" the Iraqi people from dictatorship has been well exposed.

To most people the truth is by now clear - this is a war for oil. It is also about the prestige of the oligarchy in power in Washington, and about the political future of Bush and Blair who have staked all on the hope that a short war and easy victory will "vindicate" them.

For this tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians will likely be killed or maimed. If the Saddam regime does not crumble there could be bloody fighting in Baghdad and other cities with significant casualties. The Pentagon have prepared for this eventuality by ordering 77,000 body bags!

And the end result - even if there is a swift victory - will be the occupation of Iraq by US troops, a new dictatorship and greater instability in the region and throughout the world. Millions of people across the globe demonstrated on 15 February against this war. This powerful movement must now be developed. Anti war groups need to be set up in communities and in workplaces and a central body to coordinate their activities elected. Youth Against the War is giving a lead by setting up active groups in schools right across the north and organising walkouts.

Massive demonstrations are planned internationally for Day X, the day the war begins. We need to ensure that the demonstrations in Belfast, and across the north, are even bigger than 15 February. The trade unions should call a half-day strike on that day. If workplaces are shut down and huge demonstrations are organised a clear message would be sent to Blair that we our money should go to improve our service, not to help George Bush in his war against the people of Iraq.

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