Stop the War Coalition People’s Assembly, 20th March.

 

This event coincided with the 4th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. It was good for the morale of war opponents with an array of exceptional speakers. There were three sessions, Iraq: The debate Parliament won’t have”, “Why we should oppose an attack on Iran”, and “British foreign policy after Tony Blair”.  Dennis Kucinich, US congressman, Michael Ancram MP, Kate Hudson, Caroline Lucas MEP, Walter Wolfgang, Craig Murray, Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn, Rose Gentle, Michael Meacher, and many others including an impressive number of Lib/Dem MPs, representatives from ethnic groups, school students and university students queued up on a crowded platform to condemn all aspects of government foreign and military policy.

We knew we were right four years ago when we marched in 2003 and now opinion polls show clearly that majority opinion is with us on issues ranging from Iraq, Lebanon invasion, Palestine, to Trident. Government knows it is in trouble and should Gordon Brown inherit the New Labour crown in a few weeks, he can’t escape the fact that he signed the blank cheques for military expenditure which made it all possible.  By contrast, it is unthinkable that he would sign blank cheques for social policies like health and education, clearly showing his priorities.

Speakers felt that despite the example of the criminal and catastrophic blunder of Iraq it wasn’t safe to assume sense would prevail and prevent attacks on Iran, against which is assembled a formidable and threatening military arsenal with plans to destroy 1000 Iranian targets in hours – nothing to do with liberation or democracy. Threatening behaviour is an obstacle to debate and is provoking entrenched positions in Iran in defence of the legitimate right to develop nuclear power technology sold to them by the US. Attack on Iran would be a monumental blunder with untold consequences, including terrorism and the abrupt reversal of progressive movements in Iranian politics. It is vital to maintain pressure and be ready to mount a massive demonstration of public protest, with civil disobedience if necessary.

Everyone felt that post-Blair there will be the opportunity to turn British foreign policy away from militarism, war, neo-colonialism, and being number one US poodle.  Blair policies have damaged our reputation. It is time to reclaim foreign policy in the name of fairness and justice, peace and legality, aid and fair trade. Relying on nuclear threat courts proliferation and ultimate disaster. 98% of the $350 billion the US has recently spent on war goes to big business and contractors who get rich on war and have overwhelming lobbying clout.  2% goes to forces' salaries. Blair has privatized war as contractors and mercenaries in Basra outnumber British forces. Blair avoids parliamentary debate on Iraq saying it is “water under the bridge”.  Speakers felt we needed to reclaim our own democracy before we can effectively assist others.  The “War on Terror” is effectively a disguise for US plans for “full spectrum domination”.

Signs are optimistic. The “coalition of the willing” is falling apart, the skids are under Bush and Blair, and despite their rhetoric their wars are increasingly seen as bungled catastrophes.  Blair daren’t make foreign policy speeches in public; only to private invited audiences. There is a substantial anti-war movement in USA and there are millions of people in thousands of places world-wide, who have demonstrated against the Blair/Bush policies, with whom we can make common cause.

Motions condemning Iraq and Iran attacks and supporting a fairer, democratic foreign policy were passed with an amendment supporting “Enough”, a coalition of charities, faith groups, campaigns and trade unions organizing a demonstration on June 9th to mark 40 years of Israeli occupation in Palestine.

 

Noel Hamel