UNISON must act to secure British withdrawal from Iraq

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DELEGATES at the UNISON national delegate conference last Thursday passed a motion demanding the withdrawal of all British troops from Iraq by the end of this year.

The motion was passed overwhelmingly with the union’s deputy general secretary, Keith Sonnett, saying that he would have voted against a motion calling for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, because a withdrawal needed preparation, but was in favour of a complete withdrawal by the end of the year.

He went on to imply, that at the Labour Party conference last September, the union leaders were given assurances by the government that were in line with UNISON policy.

This he said was why UNISON was one of the unions that rescued the Blair government, by unilaterally changing union policy and voting against the Labour government setting a timetable for a withdrawal from Iraq.

He said: ‘We got very firm commitments at the Labour Party Conference which were fully in line with UNISON policy.’ Sonnett was hinting that the government had pledged a December 2005 withdrawal.

Francis Prideaux, of St Mary’s Paddington Health Branch, would have none of this.

He said: ‘Twelve months ago this Conference called on the UK and US Governments to withdraw immediately. Then in September the entire TUC backed a timetable for withdrawal.

‘Various arguments were used unfortunately to get this motion changed at the Labour Party Conference – and the troops are still there. So now, a year later what is to be done?

‘Now is the time to step up our demands that the process of withdrawal is begun’.

Rahul Patel, of Westminster UNISON, added: ‘We want the troops out, but I tell you what, we want Blair out – because we’re not going to get the troops out without getting Blair out as well.’

This is the crux of the matter. The trade union leaders last September saved Blair, and kept the troops in Iraq, when they dumped their own policy.

They will do the same again, if they are allowed to do so, at this year’s TUC and Labour Party conferences. They will do this because they are not prepared to take action to get rid of Blair and the cabal around him.

As everybody knows, Blair will faithfully carry out the orders of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. He listens to them, and not to the British people.

In the face of rising accusations from the Democrats that the US is losing the war, and that a date for withdrawal must be set, this trio have said NO!

In fact, the new Iraqi ‘puppet’ Prime Minister Jaffari, is in Washington today where he will be assured by Bush that US troops will remain in Iraq ‘until the job is done’.

This is also Blair’s position, whatever Sonnett was told to persuade him to help dump union policy last September, and stab the Iraqi people in the back.

Meanwhile, the war is escalating with attacks mounting on the occupation armies and their puppets in all parts of Iraq.

Achieving a withdrawal from Iraq will require more than sending union leaders into Labour Party conferences with resolutions, which they will dump at the first opportunity.

It is action that is required.

The UNISON leaders must publish the ‘very firm commitments’ that they received from Blair which ‘were fully in line with UNISON policy’.

They must then demand from Blair a public statement that a withdrawal from Iraq will begin immediately and will be completed by the end of December 2005. If no public statement is forthcoming, UNISON must begin a national campaign to end the occupation, and put down a resolution for the TUC Congress, in September, that Congress call a general strike to secure the withdrawal of all British troops from Iraq by the end of December 2005.