Canadian Labor Leader Blasts ICFTU Statement on Iraq
Calls It: “Soft Propaganda for U.S. Pro-War Position”

One of our Editorial Board members, Dayne Goodwin, has forwarded an excellent letter from the head of the Vancouver Labour Council (65,000 workers) blasting a recent statement on Iraq by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) for focusing on inspections of Iraq instead of unconditional opposition to war. This letter fits in exactly with what we have been saying on the Labor Standard web site about the error of subordinating opposition to war on Iraq to the role of the United Nations. The letter was first published in the December 2002 issues of CAPRN Monitor, Vol. 2 No. 2. CAPRN stands for Canada-Asia Pacific Research Network.

Another of our Editorial Board members, Charles Walker, has made a valuable observation relative to this discussion: “At recent antiwar demonstrations, the most prominent and numerous signs have been ‘No War for Oil’ and ‘No War Against Iraq.’ The signs do not have small print saying, ‘Unless sanctioned by the UN.’ Some moderates in the labor movement (such as Bob Muehlenkamp, a convener of the National Labor Meeting to discuss Iraq, scheduled for Jan. 11, 2003, at Chicago Teamsters Local 705) may think they are speaking for the pro-UN majority that the polls seem to reveal. But those ‘moderates’ don’t speak for the majority of the folks in the streets. Furthermore, when the pro-UN folks do hit the streets, the rest of us will have our chance to win them over to unconditional opposition to the War for Oil, and that's all we want, right?”

To: Guy Ryder,
General Secretary, ICFTU

Dear Brother Ryder:

It was with alarm and disappointment that I received your latest bulletin calling for the international community “to redouble its efforts to ensure complete and unfettered access for UN arms inspectors in Iraq.” While care is taken to mention that this should all occur within the mandate of the United Nations, I think it is more than a little overblown to say that “people the world over have tremendous expectations…for member states to act in cohesion in response to the threat posed by Iraq.”

Real U.S. Aim: “Control the Supply of Middle East Oil”

I don’t believe that “people the world over” feel that way at all. I certainly don’t, and neither do the delegates representing over 65,000 trade unionists affiliated to our Labour Council. If that feeling exists at all, it probably exists mostly in the United States and largely in response to an endless barrage of propaganda on the issue designed to “manufacture consent” for an invasion of Iraq.

A lot of the rest of us “people the world over” think that the United States  is playing a dangerous political game over Iraq in pursuit of a narrow national interest centered around their need to control the supply of oil in the Middle East.

The ICFTU position goes entirely in the wrong direction. It does little more than serve as soft propaganda for the U.S. pro-war position.

“Emphasize the Dangers of War for Working People”

Most of the world community outside of the ICFTU does not agree with the U.S. position on Iraq. Surely in this period of imminent war with Iraq, a much more progressive position for an international trade union organization would be to emphasize the dangers of war for working people, the suffering of the people of Iraq, the volatility of the Middle East, and the aggressive self-serving nature of the U.S. position on Iraq.

If the ICFTU is to have any real hope of playing a leading role in the world trade union movement, you will have to do much better than this half-baked position.


William Saunders, President
Vancouver & District Labour Council
Vancouver, Canada