A British ‘barbaric act of aggression’ in Basra

The head of the London march in Whitehall shortly after setting off from Parliament Square
The head of the London march in Whitehall shortly after setting off from Parliament Square

THE Labour Government’s Defence Secretary, John Reid, declared yesterday that sending six Warrior tanks to demolish the wall of a prison compound in Basra, to release two members of British special forces, was perfectly ‘legal’.

Reid was justifying something which was described by Mohammed al-Waili (the Iraqi Governor of Basra put in place by the imperialist US-British occupation forces) as a ‘barbaric act of aggression’.

The members of British special forces, probably Special Air Services (SAS), had been captured after shooting at Iraqi puppet police officers, killing one and wounding another.

Initial reports said that the two were dressed as Arabs and when they were captured by the Iraqis they were found to be carrying explosives.

Obviously, the puppet police, who have been trained by the British, consider their job is to stop suspicious armed men operating in Basra.

They apprehended these two, kept them in custody and would have expected to take them to court for shooting at the police. They would be questioned about why they were carrying explosives and why they were disguised as Arabs.

The British Army, which is occupying Basra, was having none of it!

Commanding officer, Brigadier John Lorimer, said there was ‘deep concern’ over the Iraqi police detaining the men and that ‘troops were sent to the area of Basra near the police station to help ensure their safety by providing a cordon’. The ‘cordon’ involved six tanks smashing their way through the prison compound wall!

Reid backed Lorimer 100 per cent with his declaration that everything the British Army was doing was ‘legal’.

The vast majority of the local people in Basra were outraged by the blatant imperialist disregard for the lives of Iraqis in this military onslaught. Crowds surrounded the British tanks and pelted them with petrol bombs, stones and whatever other missiles they could lay their hands on.

This attack on the prison and local people will surely set the whole Basra region ablaze, strengthen the armed Iraqi national resistance struggle and scupper the October 15 referendum on the imperialist-inspired constitution.

This incident exposes the real relationship between the US-British imperialist occupation and the Iraqi ‘government’ and ‘police’.

For all the talk by Bush and Blair about bringing ‘freedom and democracy’ to Iraq, Reid has made clear that the Iraqi authorities must only do what the US and Britain dictate, or they will be shot.

Iraqi ‘governments’, ‘constitutions’ and ‘police’ count for nothing. If some of the latter are shot by British special forces, these troops are untouchable. It is the Iraqi police officers’ fault for getting in the way of British bullets!

It is time for the trade union movement here to put an end to this ‘barbaric aggression’ by Bush and Blair’s imperialist forces.

Last week’s Trades Union Congress, in Brighton, adopted a policy calling on the ‘British government to set its own date for an early and speedy departure from Iraq’. It also supported this Saturday’s anti-war march in London.

What happened in Basra on Monday must mean that these fine words have to be transformed into deeds.

Everyone knows that Blair and his cronies in the Labour government have a blood pact with Bush to maintain the occupation of Iraq in order to control the region and grab Iraq’s oil.

There is only one policy which is adequate to this situation and must become the slogan of Saturday’s march: ‘British troops out of Iraq now! For a general strike to bring down the Blair government!’

This campaign must be taken up in every union in order to organise a general strike to bring down the Blair regime and replace it with a workers’ government that will withdraw British troops from Iraq immediately.

This will boost the Iraqi national resistance struggle, deliver a fatal blow to the imperialist occupation and create conditions for the Iraqi people to decide their own future.