Resisting an ‘unjust war on the poor’

At least 100,000 people from different parts of the US and the world converged on Washington recently to demand an immediate end of the US occupation of Iraq and what they termed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank’s “war on the poor”. The march was timed to coincide with the annual meetings of the World Bank and IMF. Led by United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), a coalition of anti-war organisations, people of different racial and national backgrounds joined the march.

A feeder march and rally was organised by the Mobilisation for Global Justice, a coalition of activists demanding an end to the “economic violence” of the World Bank and IMF. Activists marched from Dupont Circle under the banner of “Another World Is Under Construction” in one of many independently organised actions planned to coincide with the anti-war demonstration. Thousands of police were deployed alongside the route of the march and at metro stations. Streets had been cordoned off at several points, limiting access to the city for commuters and sometimes would-be protesters.

Asked about the connection between the war and the World Bank and IMF, Virginia Setsheti of the Anti-Privatisation Forum in South Africa said, “It is not just about war. It is about how many people die around the world because of unfair policies and actions. So it is not just the military injustice that we are facing. We need to connect the dots together.”

Mobilisation for Global Justice organiser Basav Sen added, “The connection is there for all to see. The US policies in Iraq look very much like an IMF-style structural adjustment programme at gunpoint.” A statement issued by the organisers of the march criticised the policies of the Bank and IMF around the globe. It claimed that these institutions “place corporate profits ahead of basic human needs worldwide. We will speak out against the corporate theft of Iraq’s resources and the decimation of the Iraqi economy through privatisation.”

Addressing the protestors, Prof Dennis Brutus, a veteran of the South African movement against apartheid, urged people to challenge the Bank, IMF and other international financial institutions (IFIs) on moral grounds. The crowd cheered Brutus, now 81 years old, as he approached the podium holding a placard which said, “Blind Obedience is Embarrassing”.

Leslie Matthews, another protestor, said, “We must announce to the world that not all Americans are in favour of what their government is doing in Iraq and elsewhere. Yes, the Bank and IMF and White House are all here in DC, but so are we and we say that enough is enough. We refuse to be part of this unjust war on the poor both through economic and military means.”

In a statement, the organisers said, “Instead of draining our national treasury for endless war, we demand that our tax dollars be used to repair the damage done to Iraq and to fund services in our communities.” “We call for an immediate end to our government’s assault on immigrants, the unethical pressures on our young people to join the military, and the undermining of democracy through relentless attacks on everyone’s basic rights.” Thousands of people also marched through central London Saturday to demand that Prime Minister Tony Blair withdraw British troops from Iraq. —IPS