The AFL-CIO added its voice to the growing opposition to war with Iraq last week when federation President John Sweeney joined with John Monks, general secretary of the British Trades Union Congress, to urge President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to give UN weapons inspectors in Iraq “adequate time” to complete their work.

In a Jan. 30 letter Sweeney and Monks said they were writing on behalf of “working people in both our countries” to remind Bush and Blair that the “goal of our policy now should be to take every possible step to achieve [disarmament] of Iraq … before the path of war is chosen as a last resort.

“As we write to you today, we do not believe that this first point has come to an end and urge you to … find a resolution to this situation that preserves peace and security for our countries,” the letter concluded.

The Sweeney-Monks letter is the latest in a growing chorus of trade union opposition to unilateral U.S. military action against Iraq. On Jan. 24 the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions warned of a “slide to war in Iraq,” adding that the military build-up in the Persian Gulf “runs the risk of short-circuiting the processes” that saw UN weapons inspectors return to Iraq last year.

In a press release announcing its stance, the Brussels-based federation, representing 158 million workers in 150 countries, said military action is “unnecessary and unacceptable” and is not justified by “present evidence.”

On Jan. 30, LO-Norway, the Norwegian counterpart to the AFL-CIO, said the United States is “carrying on its threats of war” despite the fact that UN weapons inspectors have not found any evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. LO-Norway said U.S. behavior “contributes to increased international tension.”

Asserting that only the UN Security Council can make “legitimate decisions with regard to Iraq,” LO-Norway said, “The USA has no right to act as world policeman in [the Iraq] situation.”

In a pointed reminder to the Norwegian government, the LO statement said, “A new and unambiguous mandate from the Security Council is an absolute precondition for the use of force in relation to Iraq.”

LO-Norway pledged to continue its peace work and urged its members to participate in the February 15 demonstration being organized by the nation’s Peace Initiative.

Emilio Gabaglio, general secretary of the European Trade Union Committee, added his voice to the issue of war or peace with a statement on Jan. 20. While saying “no leniency” toward the Iraq regime is “acceptable,” Gabaglio added: “Europe cannot allow itself to be dragged into a conflict [in] which it would be the first to undergo the destabilizing consequences at both the political and economic level.”

Earlier the Committee issued a formal statement in which it said, “A unilateral decision by the U.S. or a bi-lateral one with the UK (Great Britain) to go to war and to act by a preventive strike would be a violation of international law.” The statement called upon the European Union to “speak with one voice in favor of peaceful solutions.”

In a Jan. 13 statement the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) said that organization views the deployment of US troops to the Gulf region with “great concern,” adding that an attack on Iraq “seems evident.”

The DGB said the attempt to overcome terrorism is “ a matter for the community of nations and not for a single country, even if that country is currently the only superpower.” The statement added that any resort to the use of force has to be approved by the United Nations, which holds a “global monopoly on the use of force and the rules of international law.”

The German union organization said although an international alliance against terrorism is essential, the DGB believes success in that effort lies in “combating the evil at its source. As long as poverty and misery, political repression and social exclusion are part of people’s everyday experience in many parts of the world, the scourge of terrorism will not be eradicated. It is new economic, social and development policy initiatives that are needed, not recourse to military force.”

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Fred Gaboury
Fred Gaboury

Fred Gaboury was a member of the Editorial Board of the print edition of  People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo and wrote frequently on economic, labor and political issues. Gaboury died in 2004. Here is a small selection of Fred’s significant writings: Eight days in May Birmingham and the struggle for civil rights; Remembering the Rev. James Orange; Memphis 1968: We remember; June 19, 1953: The murder of the Rosenbergs; World Bank and International Monetary Fund strangle economies of Third World countries