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Tony Benn: ‘Why we must all demonstrate on 24 February’

Tony Benn, the former Labour MP and the president of the Stop the War coalition, spoke at the Stop the War rally in London last Thursday

Issue No. 2039

‘People say, “What’s the point of demonstrations?” I got some letters four years ago after the big demonstration then and people said, “we had the demonstration, there were two million people there, but the war went ahead.”

If you’re engaged in a serious business, as we are, you have to be impatient to get your case across, but you must also know that it takes time.

How long did it take to end apartheid? How long did the Chartists or the suffragettes take?

I remember four years ago we were “anti-American”. Now it turns out the Americans are “anti-American”. I think last year’s mid-term elections in the US are an indication of the value of all the campaigning that went on from the beginning of the war till now.

George Bush is now isolated.We have won the argument with public opinion, and that’s the case for carrying on and intensifying.

It is worth reminding ourselves that our arguments are good. Take any case you like, take Iraq. They said it was about “democracy”. It wasn’t about democracy at all, it was about oil. “Democracy”, I ask you. What they mean is a government acceptable to the US.

Then they make this hideous use of religion as a justification.

They’re always talking about “Muslim terrorists”. They never talk about the bombing of Fallujah as being by “Christian terrorists”. They don’t talk about “Jewish terrorists” in the Occupied Territories of Palestine.

All the great religions of the world say the same thing – treat other people as you would expect to be treated yourself. And that is what we are about, and that’s what gives us power.

Now the other thing, of course, is Iran. Bush says, amazingly, that Iran is interfering in Iraq. This is another justification for war.

After Iraq, we’ve got the Iranian battle to fight and it’s a battle where, I think, again we’ve got public opinion on our side.

I think on 24 February we can carry it forward, but there’s a lot more to do.

I really do believe we’re at a turning point in world history and we who are living today and working in the Stop the War movement and all the other associated movements, we are the people with the responsibility.

And if we are strong, we shall make a success of this.’

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Sat 24 Feb 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2039
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