The call for an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq ran through the ESF yesterday.
Speakers from the anti-war movements in Britain and Europe, and Iraqis, answered Tony Blair’s latest lie—that the occupation and bloody assault on Iraq’s towns and cities are about “building democracy”.
A huge meeting last night at Alexandra Palace was due to debate that question, address Bush and Blair’s attempts to confuse the majority feeling against the occupation, and provide another impetus to the movement.
But a couple of dozen people, with no connection to the anti-war movement, broke up the meeting through barracking and intimidation. They ignored appeals from, and a vote by, over 2,000 people in the audience for the meeting to take place.
The hecklers claimed they objected to the presence of a representative of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU).
Most of the audience also opposed the representative of the IFTU, but did not support the disruption. Well known opponent of the occupation Sami Ramadani told the audience that he opposed the invite to the IFTU, but the meeting must go ahead.
He said that, if people wanted, they could leave for the IFTU’s speech and then come back, but the tiny minority rejected even that position.
Lindsey German managed to speak over the barracking before the meeting was abandoned.
“The Blair government is illegally occupying Iraq,” she said. “The major question is how we end it, and end it now. How do we build a mass movement to help the Iraqi people?”
Of the handful of hecklers she said, to cheers, “They don’t represent the anti-war movement, or the Iraqi people.”
She continued, “We marched in our millions against the war and now we have to build a movement of millions against the occupation. It was a terrible shame that the Labour Party conference voted to effectively allow an imperialist occupation of Iraq. It was a terrible shame that the IFTU also took that position, and I believe that they are not helping the Iraqi people. But I am prepared to fight for a position inside the trade unions in Britain that the troops should come out now. Blair wants people to criminalise the resistance in Iraq. We can’t allow that. The Iraqis are doing what the French and Italians did in the 1940s under Nazi occupation. The main job now is solidarity with the popular resistance, no compromise with our government, and troops out now.”
Speaking at an earlier meeting Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon was killed in Iraq, also called for the troops to be withdrawn.
And Billy Hayes, general secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union in Britain said, “Whenever I hear politicians talk of the danger of civil war if we pull out, I remember Aden in 1967 where they said the same. But British troops were pushed out, and that’s the way the occupation is going to end in Iraq.”