Way back in the 1990s, a small group within the US Establishment started arguing for the USA to go to war against Iraq - people like Paul Wolfowitz, now Assistant Secretary for Defence. They knew that the USA's calculations after its 1991 war with Iraq over Kuwait had proved wrong. The US had thought some pliant general or other would sooner or later push Saddam out, but none had. (Since the USA wanted a united Iraq for that pliant general to take over, it was those calculations that made them let Saddam Hussein crush the post-war rebellions by southern Iraqis and Kurds. They had no objection to Saddam using "weapons of mass destruction" then!)
They saw that the US-led economic sanctions against Iraq would not topple Saddam: he would soon find enough loopholes in them to fill his government coffers, while of course doing nothing to repair the war destruction and shortages which had set Iraq's infant mortality soaring. They feared that Iraq would soon re-emerge as a regional big power, strengthened by having successfully defied the USA. And, veteran Cold Warriors, they extrapolated from the experience of Eastern Europe in 1989 to argue that a short, sharp US military blow to Saddam would quickly bring the Iraqi people rallying to "American values".
Most people in the USA's ruling circles thought that Wolfowitz and his friends were crazy. Wars? OK. No-one in the US Establishment objects on principles to wars or to throwing the USA's military might around. But this was too risky. What if the Iraqi people did not welcome US troops with open arms? What if the war, arousing mass resentment across the Middle East, destabilised US-friendly regimes in the region? What if the Israeli government, notoriously ruthless about grabbing every chance to forward its own particular perceived interests, used the cover of war to launch a mass expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank, wrecking all chances of stabilising the Middle East for generations?
George W Bush's coming to power shifted the balance a bit in favour of Wolfowitz and his friends. The USA's desire for revenge after the 11 September 2001 massacres shifted it again. The quick, easy, and inexpensive victory for the USA in its subsequent Afghan war shifted it yet further. Now it seems almost certain that Wolfowitz and his friends will get their way.
Thousands or tens of thousands of Iraqi children, women and men will be blown to bits so that the USA can replace Saddam Hussein, first by a US military occupation government, and then by a new Saddam who will reliably help the USA secure its hegemony in the world's most strategic economic area, the Gulf, which has more than 50 per cent of the world's oil reserves.
After that, two alternatives. If the more cautious US strategists turn out to have been right, the whole Middle East will descend into an inferno. If Wolfowitz turns out to be somewhere near the mark in his calculations, and the USA wins its war relatively easily, then US "hawks" will hasten to find their next target for "pre-emptive" war. And the next. And the next.
Who will stop the warmongers? Not Tony Blair. After 11 September, the British government was assiduously briefing the press to push the message that it saw no link between Al Qaeda and Iraq, and no reason why any war to follow 11 September should spread to Iraq. Quite possibly Tony Blair still believes that. But what he "believes" much more is that he must try to keep his place at the top table of international power-politicking, and that means keeping on side with the US administration. He has become George W Bush's chief non-American apologist in the drive towards war.
Not the United Nations. No doubt the Security Council members who voted unanimously for the new weapons-inspection mission thought they were cleverly tying the USA's hands. Not at all. One way or another, the US administration will find ways to say that Iraq is in "serious breach" of the weapons-control regime, and the oh-so-clever UN diplomats will have done no more than justify and cover up for some of the steps towards war.
Not Germany's Gerhard Schröder, the most outspoken of major-power leaders in his opposition to war. He opposed the war when campaigning in Germany's elections - but has already said, in advance, that he will allow the USA to use German facilities for its war.
Not the people in the US ruling class who still think war is too risky. Their objection is only tactical. Having made it, and thus positioned themselves to reap the benefits in internal US politics should Bush's war turn bad, they comply.
Certainly not the Iraqi government. Its idea of rallying opinion against war was to stage a referendum and claim that a full 100% of Iraq's voters had turned out and voted for Saddam. Even the late unlamented Stalinist regimes of Eastern Europe had enough sense to scale down their claims of support to 90-odd per cent rather than 100%. So vicious and murderous is Saddam's regime that the main representatives of a large part of the Iraqi population - the country's Kurdish minority - are openly supporting the US war drive. Any serious movement against that war drive must make clear that it opposes Saddam as well as the USA, and wants Saddam ousted, only by the peoples of Iraq and not by murderous big-power military assault on the whole country.
Not the Islamic fundamentalist movements, either. Their dream of having the whole Middle East (to start with) once again a great Islamic Empire, as it was for centuries until World War One, and with strict 10th-century Islamic law to fence it off from modern secular influence, is as regressive as the USA's imperialism, indeed more so.
No, the only force that can stop the drive to war is the international labour movement, the worldwide force which by its very nature and place in society stands as the democratic alternative to both US militarism and Saddam's tyranny. With better organisation and more energy, we could have stalled the war drive already. If Britain's unions had put concerted pressure on Blair, and deprived Bush of his chief non-US apologist; if unions across the world had called protest strikes over the last year; then Bush would already be retreating to other options.
It can still be done. If the labour movement rallies enough support for the firefighters to give the FBU confidence to restart their strike action, that alone will apply immense pressure. We have the word of Chief of Staff Admiral Michael Boyce for it: the armed forces will be hard-pressed to cover both strike-breaking in Britain and war in Iraq.
If trade unions move to ban supplies for the US military machine - as Australian trade unions banned trade with Indonesia when the Indonesian military went on murderous rampage in East Timor, in 1999 - then how can Bush proceed?
Time is short. Take the anti-war cause into the unions now!