Capitalism always lies to justify its wars

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The uproar over the Hutton inquiry has given rise to a new round of false arguments between the so-called pro- and anti-war camps.

According to the pro-war camp, the inquiry has proved that Blair and co. are men of integrity and that they took Britain to war after making a sober and honest assessment of the available intelligence about the threat that Saddam posed to the world.

The 'anti-war' camp argues that the Hutton inquiry was a smokescreen and that there should be another enquiry into whether the government took us to war on false pretences.

Both arguments hide the truth: that imperialist war is a natural product of the dying social system. And the class that manages this system, the bourgeoisie, has always lied to justify its wars.

You can be sure that no official inquiry would ever come to that conclusion!

The ideological reasons used to justify the assault on Iraq are more hollow than usual. Even before the war, important elements of the British and US bourgeoisie were warning that the Weapons of Mass Destruction argument was too flimsy a pretext for defying 'world opinion' and launching an 'illegal' war. Today, even while Blair continues to profess his faith that the WMD will turn up, his allies in Washington are getting ready to dump this line and put the blame on faulty intelligence about Iraq's real military capabilities.

'Anti-war' warmongers

In the logic of people like Clare Short and Robin Cook, war would have been justified if Saddam really did have WMD. Let's not forget that these 'anti-war' heroes were the same people who supported the war in Afghanistan because it was supposedly a justified response to terrorism, or before that the bombing of Serbia because it was part of a 'humanitarian intervention' to save the Kosovans from the evil Milosevic. But these justifications were no closer to the truth than the suggestion that Saddam could attack London in 45 minutes. All three of these wars were products of capitalism's innate drive to war - in these particular cases, the necessity for US imperialism to launch indirect, pre-emptive strikes against the ambitions of its main imperialist rivals on the world stage (rivals like France, Germany, Russia...).

Cook, Short and their ilk are no less war-mongers than Blair and Bush.

No doubt there are those in the 'anti-war' camp who have more radical views than these former government ministers. After all the Stop the War Coalition is more or less run by the Trotskyists of the SWP. But Trotskyist opposition to imperialist war is no more substantial than Cook's or Short's. Didn't the Trotskyists call for support for Serbia against NATO (or for the NATO-backed Kosovan guerrillas against Serbia), for the Taliban in Afghanistan as a lesser evil than US imperialism? Don't they still call on workers to support the 'Resistance' in Iraq today? Didn't they spend the decades of the 'Cold War' supporting so-called 'national liberation' movements that usually served the interests of the Russian bloc against the American bloc? And before that didn't they support the Second World War because 'democracy' had to be defended against fascism?

In short, every bourgeois political group, party or tendency supports the doctrine of the 'just' war. Bourgeois unity about the Second World War is proof of that. Never have so many different political currents agreed that this, at least, was a war that had to be fought, a just war. As Churchill put it on the day the war started: "This is not a question of fighting for Danzig or fighting for Poland. We are fighting to save the whole world from the pestilence of Nazi tyranny and in defence of all that is most sacred to man. This is no war for domination or imperial aggrandisement or material gain...It is a war ... to establish ... the rights of the individual, and it is a war to establish and revive the stature of man".

This too was a gigantic lie. Churchill's war to defend all that is sacred to man left the Jews of Europe to their fate, vaporised hundreds of thousand of civilians in Hamburg, Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and cynically left the job of crushing the rebellious workers of Italy to the Nazi occupation forces. This was indeed a war for imperialist aggrandisement, as seen in the tremendous gains made by US and Russian imperialism in the post-war carve up.

The ruling class can give all sorts of pretexts when it comes to the mobilisation for war. But whatever ideological poison they use to suck the working class into imperialist massacres, this does not change the reality of war in decadent capitalist society. War is not a particular choice, not the policy of certain belligerent parties, not the option of desperate governments, not the product of exceptional circumstances. No, imperialist conflict is inherent in the very nature of a capitalist system which has covered every corner of the planet and reached the limits of its capacity for further positive development. Every national capital is forced into conflict with its rivals, from economic competition to full military confrontation. They will try and use any means to mobilise the population, but the working class needs to be able to distinguish what its own class interests are, and how to defend them. It also needs to identify the 'anti-war' campaigns that use the same arguments as the open warmongers, and therefore serve the same capitalist interests.

WR, 30/1/04.