The following is an abridged version of a speech delivered at an international solidarity rally in London, May 29, sponsored by the Communist Party of Britain in conjunction with their 46th national congress. Other speakers included representatives of the communist parties of Cuba, Iraq, India, and Britain.
There is great interest in the political developments in the UK, and in the role of British communists and the broader left. Of special interest have been the magnificent peace actions in which the British party, along with its coalition partners, is playing a very positive role.
These actions, combined with those in my own country and worldwide, broke the spell of fear that had stifled dissident voices in the United States in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11.
Since then there has been a steadily rising chorus of opposition to and struggle against Bush’s policies, to the point where in nearly every public opinion poll less than half the American people support those policies, including the war in Iraq.
Too often unappreciated and underestimated is the reservoir of democratic feelings among ordinary Americans. These feelings surface in times of crisis, too slowly and too cautiously perhaps, but surface they do. The photographs of the torture of innocent Iraqis have brought antiwar feelings to a new level, and have precipitated the first political crisis of the Bush administration.
And try as Bush and Blair might, it is hard to do damage control on what can only be described as monstrous war crimes. During the Vietnam War, the images of body bags being brought home, one after the other, shocked public sensibilities and transformed the antiwar movement into a peace majority. Today, the images of brutalized and sexually humiliated prisoners in Iraq are causing millions of Americans to have second thoughts about the wisdom of this ugly, illegal, and unnecessary war, and have further inflamed world public opinion.
Without in any way excusing the soldiers who performed these sadistic acts, clearly the tentacles of this inhumanity reach far beyond the prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo, and into the offices of the U.S. military high command, the Pentagon, the Justice Department, the CIA, and the White House.
Though they weren’t physically present in those torture chambers, the fingerprints of Bush’s political mafia are everywhere and the implications are far-reaching.
Torture has a long history and is sometimes one of the favored methods of coercion of colonialism and imperialism. But to leave the matter here loses sight of the particularity of the barbarism in Abu Ghraib.
It is the logical outgrowth of the Bush and Blair phony war on terror and intermingles with its racist and chauvinistic demonization of Arabs and Muslims. Once you define your enemy as evil and inferior, and yourself as good and superior, the worst atrocities – now we know – are inevitable.
The utter criminality of U.S. and British imperialism cuts across life in Iraq in many ways – the continuing deaths of innocent civilians, bombardments of religious sites, profiteering and privatization, anarchy, economic hardship, hunger, homelessness, fear.
But I don’t know if anything shows in such concentrated form to the people of the world the barbarity of U.S. and British imperialism as do those ghastly images of torture.
How can Bush and Blair claim to be liberators and defenders of human rights? How can they say that only their desire for democracy in Iraq drives them? And how can they continue to assert that freedom is a birthright of every human being?
The answer is, they can’t.
I can’t speak for Blair’s public standing, but I can say that Bush’s credibility gap is growing by leaps and bounds. The harsh and unconscionable reality of the occupation and torture is endangering his re-election. What was going to be a coronation of Prince George this November has morphed into a dogfight between the extreme right on one side and the labor and people’s movements on the other.
The overriding task of communist, left and progressive forces in our country is to fully engage in this monumental struggle at the ballot box, with an eye to reaching increasingly disaffected voters and mobilizing the anti-Bush vote.
The defeat of Bush and his congressional counterparts in November will not fully guarantee peace, equality, or economic security, but it will be a fatal blow to the administration’s plan to wield its military might and financial power to lock in hegemonic dominance over friend and foe for the entire 21st century. It will create a much more favorable political terrain on which millions can struggle for a just and peaceful world.
Perhaps, as one trade union leader told me recently, there is only an inch of difference between a Bush administration and a Kerry administration, but on that inch, he added, millions of people live, work, raise children, take care of the sick and struggle.
If the people living on that inch breathe a sigh of relief in five months – and I am convinced they will – thanks goes not only to the American people, but also to the heroic people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, socialist Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela, India, Ireland, Britain and all peoples and nations that have stood their ground against the Bush administration and U.S. imperialism.
Sam Webb is national chair of the Communist Party USA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.