This statement was not an aberration, part of overestimating Iraq’s
potential. In a speech on 5 March this year, when the absence of Iraqi
weapons of mass destruction had been clearly established, the Prime Minister
nonetheless reasserted the principle of pre-emption. ‘Before September
11th,’ he said, ‘I was already reaching for a different philosophy in international
relations from a traditional one that has held sway since the Treaty of
Westphalia in 1648; namely that a country’s internal affairs are for it
and you don’t interfere unless it threatens you, or breaches a treaty,
or triggers an obligation of alliance.’
I was only just in my teens when I took part in the last Aldermaston march of the 1960s, but the memory of it is still strong. I can recall the excitement of being away from home for the first time, seeing my first sunrise from the window of a camper van at the side of the road. As we sang songs from the civil rights movement, already conferred with a new anti-H bomb vocabulary, I never dreamed we would be treading the same path 40 years later. But, if pre-emptive war is the order of the day for the New Labour government, the struggle for peace has to be just as forcibly reasserted, pushed to the top of the labour movement’s agenda for progress
With others, Labour CND will be seeking to raise these issues in the party and trade unions as part of the Britain in the world and wider policy debate, and to urge local parties and unions to express their opposition to nuclear weapons and the doctrine of pre-emptive war and to reassert the importance of international law as a framework for relations between states. We will be taking these demands into the annual conference of the Labour Party at the end of September. In the meantime, Labour CND is organising a labour movement day of debate and discussion about pre-emptive war and nuclear proliferation in London on 8 May.
The huge and in the case of Britain, historic anti-war demonstrations that took place across the world last year are one testimony to the widespread crisis of credibility that the United States administration is experiencing. And our struggle for peace must be set in this wider and more hopeful context than we experienced in the 1990s.
One year after Iraq the anti-war movement is still on high alert, as the continuing fall-out for President Bush and Prime Minister Blair shows. We did not stop the war but, in Britain, CND helped bring into being an anti-war movement whose size and breadth hasn’t been seen before.
The march to Aldermaston is only the first step. Together we can ban the bomb.
This article appeared in Tribune,
9-16 April 2004.