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‘Our worst fears over war have come true’

This article is over 18 years, 9 months old
The reality of 'liberation' in Iraq has shown why millions in the global anti-war movement were absolutely right to protest. Some of the movement's high-profile figures talk about why they remain determined to oppose US imperialism
Issue 1847

‘ON ONE side was the richest country in the world, with the most powerful arsenal assembled in human history. On the other side was an impoverished Third World country that didn’t even have control of its own air space. There was never any doubt who would win. Now there is an armed staging post where once there was a sovereign country.

‘US occupation will not bring peace, prosperity, justice or freedom. It will bring profits for the oil and business lobby which own George Bush. It will bring more wars against poor countries. It was right to oppose the war, and it is crucial we continue to oppose the plans for new colonial empires.’
Billy Hayes, general secretary of the postal and telecom workers’ CWU union

‘THE REASONS given for attacking Iraq have proved to be blatantly false. If Saddam Hussein had possessed weapons of mass destruction then he would have used them to save himself.

‘The real reasons for the war were set out quite openly by Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest involved in the Project for the New American Century. They want to achieve pre-eminence in the Middle East and they want to secure oil supplies. We have to look at the role of our own government.

‘Those in the Labour Party who opposed the war must now challenge Blair’s leadership or their opposition is valueless. The left in the Labour Party must depose Blair or leave. There are also new challenges now for the whole of the left. Out of this huge anti-war coalition we must find a way to create a large popular movement of the left.

‘The movement has brought together opposition to corporate power, and to war. The left has agitated and educated, now we must organise.’
Ken Loach, film maker

‘I HAVE never seen a ‘victory’ turn to ashes so quickly. On Wednesday last week Blair and his gloating goats in the House of Commons were cheering their stage-managed photo opportunity of pulling down Saddam Hussein’s statue. Within two days Iraq was in flames. Hospitals overflowed with the dead and dying.

‘Hospitals, universities and museums were ransacked while the occupying force was too busy killing children at checkpoints to do anything about it. When we call for the withdrawal of US and British forces it is because their presence is illegal and immoral. But it is also because we don’t want them to be involved in any more crimes and we don’t want them coming back in boxes.

‘There have been grisly signs of disunity in Iraq recently but all Iraqis will unite in saying that they do not want their country occupied by foreigners. The biggest looting of Iraq is yet to come. It will not be by people dressed in rags from the slums. It will be people in fancy suits and fast cars looting billions.

‘But I believe that Bush, Blair and their acolytes have gone too far this time. They have opened a Pandora’s box in the Arab world, and here. There is an army of conscious people across Europe and North America who see more clearly than ever before what the American century would mean. This is a peace and justice movement that is not only against war but also understands why there are wars. That movement is not going to go away.’
George Galloway, Labour MP

‘IN THIS war on Iraq 5,000 have already died, and many more are dying as I speak. More will die from cluster bombs, depleted uranium and the irrational forces now at large. We mourn the loss of every single person who has died, and we will continue to oppose the occupation of Iraq and to call for peace around the world.

‘This war was never about finding weapons of mass destruction. It was a war of occupation and developing a new colony to pump out oil for the benefit of the West. The real looters are those who are prepared to loot the oil of Iraq. While Bush, Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld claim their war was for the Iraqi people, the Americans are choosing the government of the future. This is part of their wider agenda. With the occupation of Iraq we see the reimposition of Western imperialist power in that region. The war has cost $81 billion in the US, and £3 billion in Britain. That’s a lot of schools and healthcare systems in Iraq and in this country.’
Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP

‘WE HAVE to understand precisely what has happened. America has invaded Iraq. It has turned Iraq into an American colony. The new Iraq is totally undemocratic. The new Iraq is occupied by a country with weapons of mass destruction. The new Iraq is a threat to its neighbours Syria and Iran.

‘The most serious case of looting is the looting of Iraqi oil by the American military. Imperialism is not a new phenomenon. All imperialist powers present themselves as humanitarian. When Napoleon conquered Egypt he was a liberator. The British Empire was built with god’s will.

‘Don’t believe them. The Iraqi people have been enslaved by a foreign enemy that steals their country from them. We need to build on the fantastic organisation started by the stop the war movement. We need to keep this movement intact.’
Tony Benn

‘WE WERE told last week that it was the liberation of the Iraqi people. Yet within days the Red Cross was saying it was a catastrophe – people are dying, people are suffering in hospitals which are being looted, people lack food and water. This truly is the face of the new American century. It is a century of barbarism.

‘The Al Jazeera TV station and Abu Dhabi TV were deliberate hits by the US military. The bombing of markets, which they still deny, were deliberate hits on the people of Baghdad. The US project is to control Iraq. It is a colonial occupation backed by a pro-Israeli retired American general, backed up by an Iraqi banker who has not been in Iraq for 45 years and who is a convicted fraudster.

‘This is a war of the haves against the have-nots. This is a tiny clique of oil companies, the Pentagon and the people around Tony Blair against the mass of the population of the world. They are taking the world back to the days of the British Empire, the biggest and most hated empire in the world.

‘It has been superceded by the US empire, the biggest and most hated empire in the world. But the US has not won the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people and the majority of people around the world. This is the most remarkable movement and we continue because this war was based on a lie.

‘We started this movement against the war in Afghanistan. Look at Afghanistan today. There are still no elections. It is ruled by an American puppet government, opium dealers and warlords.

‘If you care about democracy and peace, you have to oppose what America is doing. The movement must stay together, we must grow. We are many, and they are few. We will march every time they go to war. We will continue to resist.’
Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition

‘IF THIS is what victory tastes like, they can keep it. This is not a victory for democracy, it is a victory for hypocrisy. It is hypocrisy when the US condemns Iraq for showing prisoners on TV, when they are holding 600 prisoners in cages in Guantanamo Bay.

‘It is hypocrisy when they ignore the occupation of Palestine. This was not a war to free Iraq, it was a war to tell the whole world to obey the US.’
Paul Mackney, general secretary of the Natfhe college lecturers’ union

‘WHETHER OR not the threat of disorder recedes, or if the US has put in place a puppet regime or something more democratic, the end result cannot justify the unlawful killing and injuring of civilians.

‘I visited the Kurdish area of Iraq after the last Gulf War. The people were celebrating because the so-called safe haven area had been set up. Not long afterwards the two main political groups, the PUK and the KDP, started fighting one another and the failed attempt in 1992 to hold elections was not repeated.

‘That is just one illustration of how difficult it is to impose democracy by waging war.’
Louise Christian, campaigning civil rights lawyer

‘WHAT WE are witnessing today is nothing less than the direct recolonisation of an important Arab country. We did not support their war and we cannot support their peace because the peace they will impose is a peace based on neo-liberal economic policy.

‘It is not just enough to be opposed to neo-liberalism. You must be opposed to what it produces – war. We have to link the anti-capitalist struggle to the new struggles against war.’
Tariq Ali

London march

Still a lot to protest about

OVER 200,000 anti-war protesters from across Britain poured into London last Saturday. They defied the press and politicians who sneered that the anti-war movement has nothing to protest about.

‘The strength of feeling mobilised by the Stop the War Coalition will not, nor should it, go away,’ said a GP from central Birmingham who had travelled down for the march. I don’t believe many people are taken in by the idea that the war is all over. The war is part of a long term strategy from the US which started before 11 September. I’m afraid they are going to do their best to put the Stars and Stripes over most of the globe. It’s the same ethos as the British Empire.’ She described how people she met were still against the war.

‘I’ve been doing what I can locally. I work in a busy surgery. I printed off a few peace posters and left them to one side at work while I popped out. When I came back the staff and patients had picked them up and displayed them everywhere.’ Suzanne and Gill were from an anti-war group in Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire.

Gill said, ‘It is my 62nd birthday today, but I knew I had to come on the demo. I am here representing at least six other people who wanted to be here but couldn’t come.’ Suzanne added, ‘I think everyone here represents at least three or four others who are against what is happening in Iraq. This placard says ‘Don’t attack Syria’, and that’s dead right because Syria is next if we don’t keep showing how many people are against the US and Britain’s wars.’

Sasha Smith from London said, ‘I made a poster for this march with ‘Coalition of the swilling’ on it, with pigs in a trough filled with contracts for reconstruction of Iraq. I am very angry that all they want is to grab those contracts. They are going in to protect Kirkuk because of the oil, not to liberate people. I still think people are angry about what happened in the war, even if they are confused about what to do now.’

Silvia List from Slough was carrying a placard she had made which read ‘Stop the plan for a new American century’. She explained, ‘I heard one of the speakers on the last march mention this plan and I went to look it up. I’m completely against it. Basically it’s about America wanting to attack anyone it doesn’t like. I’ve told people I know about it. I went on my first march three weeks ago, and I’m here again today. I was tired of seeing things that I knew were wrong happening, yet seeing them justified in the media with all that propaganda.’

Terry Gooding from Fife was one of the many people who travelled from Scotland to join the march. ‘Some of my mates have died in this war,’ he said. ‘I would have been out there myself, but I have Gulf War syndrome from the 1991 war. The best way to help our troops is to get them out and leave the Iraqis to live their lives. Otherwise we will have another Vietnam on our hands.’

Paul from Uxbridge said, ‘I am really pleased at the turnout today. It shows we are not going to stop protesting. The Labour MPs have been brainwashed. ‘I never trusted Blair, but I am really surprised at the rest of them. They don’t seem to know what is going on in the real world.’

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