Stop The War March, London

Phil and I had agreed a few days ago that we’d probably want to go on the Stop The War march in London today, and in line Haddock’s usual vague attempts to organise a Plan For All Fish, we, together with Phil’s sister Sue, made our way to Bush House for noon, meeting up with Anno and Anna en route.

I didn’t go without some soul searching and internalised wrangling mind you, enhanced by the Haddock factor, especially after re-reading some of the opinions put forward on the BBC pages devoted to the issue. I’m torn between the need to deliver some form of humanitarian solution for the Iraqi people – and their middle eastern neighbours – and gut revulsion at the hypocrisy? duplicity? cynical manipulation? on the part of the UK government, and the way it has handled its relationship with the US, the UN and the EU. I couldn’t stay at home and have that interpreted by the spin doctors as being indicative of support of the UK’s actions.

Other than the US’s need for revenge after September 11, I don’t see how the issues have changed so as to make it imperative to oust Saddam now.

I don’t see how anyone can put forward a robust argument linking the terrorist group(s) behind September 11 to War on Iraq without facing some pretty huge holes demanding equally large leaps of faith from the listener.

I’ve yet to be convinced that any link which may exist between Terrorism and Saddam is very much different than is purported to exist between other nations and terrorist groups.

Clearly other countries possess Weapons of Mass Destruction, and are allowed to flaunt them without any reaction from another power.

If war is the only answer – and I’m loathe to accept that it is – then I doubt that chucking big guns at Iraq will deliver a decisive victory without huge casualties, and I have no doubt that Saddam would not be one of them. Why have we heard so little about backing democratic movements within Iraq?

I was quite frankly offended by some of the content of Tony Blair’s speech at Labour’s local government, women’s and youth conferences in Glasgow.

I felt that he used the occasion to play the guilt card on those who, like me, were in two minds about participating in the march:

‘If there are 500,000 on that march, that is still less than the number of people whose deaths Saddam has been responsible for.

If there are one million, that is still less than the number of people who died in the wars he started.

There will be no march for the victims of Saddam, no protests about the thousands of children that die needlessly every year under his rule, no righteous anger over the torture chambers which if he is left in power, will be left in being.’

Ironically, it was these very sentences that actually convinced me to join in the march. Outraged by the suggestion that by marching I was condoning Saddam’s regieme. I felt that by marching I was showing my support for the victims of Saddam, those who have suffered whilst the West looked elsewhere.

Western powers have had the blood of the people of the Middle East on their hands for decades now without appearing to suffer such pangs of guilt or moral anguish.

Many of the people on the march questioned what right the US and the UK have to decide the fate of another state without the wider stamp of approval of the UN. I’ve no idea how representative or democratic the UN may be, but the role’s origins back in the League of Nations suggests a desire to be an arbiter of justice and democracy. And if it no longer functions in that way, then surely we should look to the creation of a body which can and does?

Feel free to pick holes in my point of view; I can’t deny that my thoughts on this are jumbled and not terribly well thought out. But that’s de in part to the fact that every piece of rhetoric used by our leaders to justify of the UK’s stance appears to have to draw upon an ever-increasing range of quite disparate streams of logic, with the end result being muddy waters. I find myself with a deep sense of distrust and many misgivings arising from the feeling that all the arguments are founded in shifting sands. The few coherent arguments I can find seem to highlight the extent to which the government seems interested in showing us only part of the picture, and only that which suits their aims.

Part of the reason I went on Saturday was to protest my profound dislike of the sense that I was being spun and was being used as part of the spin. At least by participating in a public demonstration against current events my inactivity cannot be portrayed as approval. And I’m sure that there would have been an even higher number of participants if the march had been For a democratic, humanitarian solution, rather than selling itself as being Against the war.

In fact, I still wasn’t convinced that I was in the right place until we joined up with one of the two main groups of marchers (the one inching its way along the Embankment and past Portcullis House), and saw how many normal people were there; people like me – not anarchic activists or slogan chanting students, but individuals – the young and the old, and lots in between, families with push chairs, ladies from Wimbledon with Selfridges bags, Muslim families from Brick Lane, Quakers for Peace, Franciscan Anglicans, Thatchers Against War (had to read that one quite closely!) and just so many people who’d travelled for miles to make their opinion felt on one of the coldest days of the year.