PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — A possible U.S. war against Iraq has emerged as a defining issue at the third World Social Forum, turning up in a majority of seminars, conferences and roundtable discussions — even those dedicated to different topics, from alternative agriculture to finance.
Anti-war demonstrations have also been widespread at forum venues around the city.
An Iraq war has largely been discussed as an economic issue rather than a military question.
At a forum on the global financial crisis, José Dirceu, chief minister of the new Workers Party government in Brazil, said President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva would not support a war that brings more financial power to the United States.
Samir Amim, an Egyptian economist speaking at a seminar on globalization, said that the “the struggle against this war must be the same as the struggle against neo-liberalism,” because the same politicians were involved.
He said the war effort was a power grab by the Bush administration “for the oil that Iraq controls. If the U.S. succeeds they will control Europe.”
Forum attendees from all over the world, including the United States, said that marches and protests are an effective means to prevent the war, and that informing the public of the issues would shift sentiment against conflict.
Tariq Ali — a writer born in India, raised in Pakistan and currently living in exile in England — said that while as many as 60 to 70 percent of Americans support a war, this number could drop to 35 percent if the United Kingdom were to withdraw support.
Citing increasing divisions in the U.K. over the war, Ali said an ongoing firefighters’ strike took issue with Prime Minister Tony Blair’s plans to spend £2 billion in supporting the war instead of increasing their salaries.
Medea Benjamin, a former Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate from California, and currently working with the Womens’ Peace Vigil, said that an attack is likely by February 15.
“We know Bush will say to Congress that Iraq is not cooperating, whatever the U.N. inspections reveal. He wants to start bombing on February 15 because of the better weather conditions in Iraq,” she claimed.
Benjamin said that the American people need to see that “there will be more terrorism at home if the U.S. carries out this attack.”