In October, the US marked the return of the remains of the 2,000th soldier killed in Iraq (a further 16,000 are reported wounded). Later in the month, and during November, campaigners marked the deaths of the Lancet-estimated 100,000 Iraqis; and at the end of November the British forces bodycount reached 98.
Almost three years after the invasion of Iraq began, homes and infrastructure continue to be damaged and vital services such as basic healthcare remain woefully inadequate. Meanwhile, the corporate leeches continue to suck the country dry in what has been called the “corporate carve-up” of Iraq's assets and the “reconstruction racket”, leaving no doubt over who intends to control Iraq for years to come.
Here in Britain, the government is involved in a row over pensions and a permanent battle over health and education reforms, much of the latter focusing on the involvement of the private sector. Both boil down to the government wanting to save money.
Schools and hospitals
To date the British government has allocated a budget of at least £5bn to the war on Iraq, and it's believed that at least £3.2bn of this has already been spent. In September, the Iraq Analysis Group suggested that the allocation would fund the “recruitment and retention of more than 7,500 new teachers for ten years” or the building of around 32 new hospitals. Sounds like a better plan: we could even do the decent thing and, as a kind of reparation, share half with the Iraqis.
The human cost of war and occupation is felt by both perpetrators and victims/survivors - if, perhaps, at different ends of the suffering-spectrometer. Pouring money into conflict abroad and helping destroy a country's infrastructure, while stretching essential public services at home to breaking point, is both criminal and irresponsible. We all need decent healthcare, housing and education - whether we live in Baghdad or Birmingham - and without inflating the share prices of the corporate pirates.
This issue of Peace News marks the end of the first year of the new, monthly, tabloid. With ten issues under our collective belt, an increased readership, and overwhelmingly positive feedback from readers, it seems a good time to reflect on both what we have achieved and how we can improve PN over the coming year. PN's reorientation towards the British peace and anti-war movements, increased publishing frequency, reduced cover price, and focus on short news features and comment pieces, have all been welcomed by readers.
We have worked hard over the year to improve the quality and feel of the paper, by moving to a better printer, securing higher-quality images to accompany articles, and pushing deadlines to get as up-to-date news and views as possible in each edition.
We are particularly pleased to see the letters page thriving once more, and encourage readers to vent their joy/spleen/surrealisms on us. Letters reflect a positive engagement with both the content of the paper and - more importantly - the issues and ideas behind it. So get scribbling!
We feel that PN's renewed role as a genuinely independent space for reflecting the news and views of a broad range of campaigners, activists and thinkers is an important step in building and strengthening our movements. It can also act as a tool to enable us to reach out to a wider community of fellow travellers on the road to a more peaceful and just global society.
However, there remains substantial room for improvement in how we go about doing this and - as ever - PN depends on the involvement of the peace and anti-war movements to help shape and realise its editorial objectives (see p15).
In Spring 2006 we hope to kick-start a series of reader meetings and also to develop a more coherent and active editorial group - to share responsibility for pushing PN in the right direction and improve its service to the peace and anti-war movements. We are particularly looking to developing our capacity for analysis and comment articles.
More details to follow in the next issue. For those taking a break over the coming weeks, we hope you have a positive and relaxing time, and are re-energised for the coming year.