THE Trades Union Congress yesterday voted unanimously to ‘call on the British government to set its own unilateral date for an early and speedy departure from Iraq’.

Moving the motion, Doug Nicholls, of the Community and Youth Workers Union, said: ‘We say to our own government: if you didn’t believe in state intervention to save Rover and the mining industry, then you can’t afford one penny more than the £5 billion you have already spent on state intervention to devastate Iraq.

‘Bring our 9,000 troops back and invest here.’

He added that 39 per cent of Iraq’s population are under the age of 15.

He said: ‘A quarter of children in Iraq suffer from chronic malnutrition.

‘Diarrhoea killed two out of ten children before the war. Now it’s four out of ten.

‘US and British troops have systematically targeted water purification and sewage works.’

He said the infrastructure of Iraq was in tatters, infant mortality was rising, half the houses were damaged and, he added: ‘Whole cities like Fallujah have been cleared and blitzed.’

He stressed: ‘War brings the poverty which we seek to make history.’

He added: ‘The medical journal Lancet estimates that in reality 100,000 civilians have been killed by the war in its first 18 months.

‘Most, of course, were women and children.’

He said: ‘It’s a war led by the US so it can build permanent bases on a place it sees not as a nation, but as an oil field.’

He said: ‘How can we hold our heads high . . . while British troops are destroying these things in Iraq?

He concluded: ‘We want the TUC and all affiliates proudly marching against the war in London on September 24.’

Keith Sonnet, of UNISON, said: ‘The situation in Iraq is tragic with the continuing spiral of violence that won’t end until the occupation ends.

‘So, as the motion states, we have to continue our campaign to ensure the withdrawal of British and American troops.

‘I hope that all unions will attend the Stop The War Coalition’s demonstration on September 24.

‘It’s important to get as many people as possible on the streets.’

He added: ‘Trade unionists in Iraq face problems only too familiar to us in Britain, particularly the privatisation of their assets and economy.

‘It is disgraceful that the American administration forced through orders to ensure that American corporations can buy up whole swathes of the Iraqi economy.

‘Equally, it is disgraceful that much of Britain’s aid is provided on the same basis.

‘We must congratulate Iraqi trade unionists, such as those in the oil industry, who oppose privatisation.’

Tony Woodley, TGWU general secretary, said: ‘One year on, we should see our troops pulled out now.

‘Hundreds of thousands have been killed.

‘In the eyes of the Iraqis we are not liberators but occupiers.’

He called on everybody to support the September 24 demonstration in London.

The successful Motion 77: Iraq states: ‘Congress believes that the continued presence of British troops in Iraq is morally and legally indefensible.

‘In the absence of an early departure date being agreed with the US administration, Congress calls on the British government to set its own unilateral date for an early and speedy departure from Iraq.’