US and UK unions pen antiwar letter

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jan 31 07:08:49 MST 2003


US and UK unions pen anti-war letter

The Guardian Staff and agencies
Friday January 31, 2003

The leaders of Britain and America's trade union movements today wrote
to Tony Blair and George Bush urging them not to rush down the path to
war with Iraq.

"The goal of our policy now should be to take every possible step to
achieve the legitimate ends of disarming Iraq without recourse to war,"
argued the general secretary of the TUC, John Monks, and his American
counterpart, John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO in the unions' first
ever joint statement.

"We do not believe that this path has come to an end," they conclude.
"[We] urge you to continue to pressure all concerned to find a
resolution to this situation that preserves peace and security for our
countries and across the world".

Their letter comes ahead of today's meeting at Camp David between the US
president and the prime minister. It is understood that Mr Bush will try
to persuade Mr Blair, perhaps his closest ally, to join him in setting a
deadline for Iraq to disarm or face an attack.

The two union leaders share Britain and America's concern that Iraq
fulfils its "responsibility to the world community to rid itself of
weapons of mass destruction". But they favour weapon inspectors being
given "adequate time" to "resolve this issue".

Mr Monks and Mr Sweeney also warn that war may increase the threat the
west faces from its "gravest foe", terrorism.

"Those who seek to destroy our way of life will use an attack on Iraq,
especially if taken without broad international support, to rally
opinion against us and win new recruits to their terror," they predict.

"On behalf of our two labour movements, and on behalf of working people
in both our countries," Mr Monks and Mr Sweeney urge Britain and
America's leaders "to continue to lead the global fight against
totalitarianism and terror through the United Nations, to ensure that
this fight is carried out by the broadest possible coalition, with the
strongest international coalition".

It is doubtful how influential Mr Monks and Mr Sweeney's letter will be.
Mr Bush, as a Republican, is not known to pay much heed to America's
labour movement. And Mr Blair has not appeared to let opposition within
parliament, his party and the country dent his determination to face
down Saddam Hussein.

The letter was Mr Sweeney's idea. Mr Monks' support was based on a
similarly-worded motion passed at the TUC's last conference in September.

Labour MPs also warned today that war in Iraq would increase the
likelihood of a terrorist attack in Britain.

"The only likely use of such weapons would be if Saddam Hussein is
facing defeat in war when he may, in a final act of desperation, use
them against British soldiers," MPs Alice Mahon and Paul Flynn said in a
Commons motion.

The most effective way to defeat terrorism was to "win over the hearts
and minds of terrorist supporters", they argued.

--

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