Anti-Iraq war demonstrations, 2003-2018

London anti-Iraq war demonstrators, 2003

By Lindsey German in Britain:

Thursday, February 15, 2018

History 15 years on from the mass protest against the Iraq war

LINDSEY GERMAN looks back to when millions hit the streets of Britain and around the world to say no to imperialist invasion

THERE had never been a moment like it in protest history. Millions of people around the world joined in public demonstrations on every continent.

Across different time zones, protests were taking place over two days around February 15 2003, involving an estimated 30 million.

In Britain, the Stop the War Coalition, with its partners in CND and the Muslim Association of Britain, organised the biggest protest in British history.

The focus was the upcoming war against Iraq, enthusiastically demanded by president George W Bush, aided and abetted by his partner in crime, Tony Blair.

The movement against the Iraq war was a unique phenomenon. It was an international protest movement, co-ordinated by grassroots organisations from below.

Unlike most anti-war movements, it developed to a mass size before the war and invasion. For those who demonstrated, it was often a very strong personal statement of opposition to the war, coupled with a real belief that sufficient numbers on the streets would be enough to stop it.

In any genuine democracy that would and should have been enough. An opinion poll carried in the Guardian showed that at least one person from one out of every 25 households in Britain marched on that day — that puts the number at 1.5 to two million.

A YouGov poll in the Telegraph calculated that 4 per cent of the population had marched on that day — around two million people.

An urban geographer calculated that well over two million marched. Whatever the exact numbers, it was unprecedented in British history.

It reflected a well of opposition throughout society — school students walked out on strike, the Muslim community mobilised, retired army officers turned up at anti-war meetings, actors performed the anti-war play Lysistrata, and two Aslef train drivers refused to move equipment connected with the war.

But Blair was determined to go to invade Iraq. And so he set in train a series of events which continue to have grave and destructive consequences today.

He was not the only one. Bush, Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar and the Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi were all determined to press ahead with the war, despite the misgivings of other European governments including France and Germany, and the opposition of the UN.

The response of protesters, especially in Italy, Spain and Britain, was spectacular. These countries hosted the largest demonstrations. Britain particularly stands out, however, since it had a Labour government promoting the war, whereas in Spain and Italy the main left parties were in opposition to it and to their right-wing governments. It was a remarkable achievement to mobilise such numbers when Labour was divided on this issue.

It was done by a combination of mass grassroots campaigning through the Stop the War Coalition — involving, school students, trade unionists, community and faith groups and political organisations which managed to unite a wide-ranging movement.

It comprised the left and the trade unions, the traditional peace movement around CND, and the Muslim community. While Labour was divided, its left figures, notably Tony Benn, George Galloway MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP did everything that they could to oppose war.

The different sections of the movement all managed to mobilise constituencies some of which had never worked with one another before.

This movement was well under way from the summer of 2002, as it became clear that Bush and Blair were determined to use any excuse to overthrow Saddam Hussein and launch a war and invasion.

The main justification for the planned attack was that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction which he was hiding from international weapons inspectors.

Blair’s government issued a dossier in September 2002 which was lapped up by the right-wing press but did nothing to sway the growing numbers of opponents of the war.

Instead they became more determined to oppose a path which was clearly not justified given the paucity of evidence and the alternatives to war which existed.

The Stop the War Coalition delegation to a mass European Social Forum in Florence in November 2002 took the historic decision to organise an international day of demonstrations across the continent and this intuitive spread.

By February 2003 the whole world was seeing demonstrations in opposition to this war.

It was a tragedy for the world that these calls were ignored. Iraq has suffered devastating losses and destruction, wars have spread across the Middle East, terrorism has grown.

The world is a much more dangerous place because of the actions of Bush and Blair 15 years ago.

Looking back after all this time, what conclusions can we draw?

First, the movement was massive but to stop an imperialist war machine would have required even higher forms of action, particularly strike action to hit the government where it hurts.

While many of us argued for this sort of action — and while there were many instances of strikes and walkouts on the day war broke out, as well as the courageous stand of the school students — we were not capable of winning this on the mass scale which would have been required.

The second point is that the movement has had long-term consequences in terms of British politics. While the movement failed to stop the war, to the bitter regret of millions, it did change public opinion in this country, with growing numbers of people opposing interventions, culminating in David Cameron being defeated in Parliament in August 2013 over the proposed bombing of Syria.

The movement was also a major contributing factor to the election of one of its major figures, Jeremy Corbyn, as leader of the opposition.

It is a great source of pride to those of us who organised the demonstration that it will go down as a historic moment. But it also makes us more determined to continue organising. Many of those who demonstrated for the first time then have gone on to demonstrate over other wars, over Palestine, and a range of other issues.

Many have made the connections between war, neoliberal economics and the system of imperialism which dominates the globe.

Donald Trump’s special relationship with Theresa May has come under some strain in recent months, but never forget this is a desperately close military and political alliance which is a threat to the world.

Governments strain every sinew to dress their interventions up as humanitarian, as helping the poor and beleaguered of the world.

They are anything but, with these decades-long wars contributing to worsening the lives of the people they are supposed to help.

With the war in Syria threatening to turn into a much bigger inter-imperialist conflict, with growing numbers of deaths in Afghanistan, and with the Saudi war in Yemen aided by British arms and military trainers, there is more reason to protest against war than ever.

That’s why the Stop the War Coalition is campaigning for an anti-war government, as the beginning of developing a foreign policy which isn’t based on occupation and war.

Lindsey German is convener of the Stop the War Coalition and was one of the main organisers of the march against the Iraq war on February 15 2003.

The Stop the War Coalition is organising a national tour of meetings on Why We Need an Anti-War Government. Tonight, February 15, it has meetings in London and Cardiff. See our website for details


ISIS, product of Bush and Blair’s wars

This video says about itself:

29 January 2018

Had it not been for Bush’s catastrophic decision to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003, in defiance of international law, the world’s most feared terrorist group would not exist today. ISIS is blowback.

Within weeks after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the U.S. morphed from heroic liberators into brutal occupiers. In Fallujah, which would later become an ISIS stronghold, U.S. troops opened fire on a crowd of peaceful protesters in April 2003, killing and wounding dozens of Iraqis. The U.S. also disbanded the Iraqi army later that same year, thrusting half a million well-trained and heavily-armed Iraqi troops into unemployment. Many of those troops later became top ISIS commanders. In southern Iraq, the U.S. military established Camp Bucca, where they detained tens of thousands of Iraqis, many of them noncombatants. Together, the shootings, the torture, the general chaos, all helped drive thousands of Iraqis from the minority Sunni community into the arms of radical groups led by brutal gangsters, such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi’s Al Qaeda in Iraq, formed in 2004 to fight U.S. troops and their local allies, was a precursor organization to … ISIS.

Hosted by Mehdi Hasan, “ISIS: Created by the Invasion of Iraq” is the second episode of a six-part Blowback series for The Intercept. Mehdi Hasan will examine key examples of blowback in greater detail and explore how foreign policy decisions by the U.S. and its allies often produce blowback and so-called unintended consequences.

United States bombs kill Iraqis

This video from the USA says about itself:

Frontline Diary: An exclusive embedded report reveals the trigger happy attitude of young US marines in their push into Baghdad.

Capturing one of the most shocking ‘battles’ of the Iraq War, Geoff Thompson’s diary reaches an explosive conclusion – a car speeds up behind our convoy and jittery marines open fire as it tries to overtake. The car is riddled with bullets killing all 3 civilians. This then results in a dramatic fire fight in the night time confusion. The red on red tracer fire later reveals it was ‘friendly fire’.

“We killed three civilians. That’s pretty bad. It’s happened before and I hope it doesn’t happen again”, confides one marine. A shocking finale to the embedded report which follows inexperienced frontline troops from the Kuwait border to Baghdad over 21 gruelling days. Includes candid interviews with the troops: “Every time we bomb them, it’s cool to me because I like explosions and stuff like that!” A hard hitting fresh perspective of the war in Iraq.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain today:

IRAQ: A US air strike mistakenly hit Iraqi government-aligned tribal fighters and civilians in western Anbar province on Saturday, killing seven and wounding 11 others.

The strike hit the town of al-Baghdadi following the capture of an Isis operative by US forces, who were then attacked with hand grenades from nearby homes.

Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr condemned the attack as a “flagrant violation” of Iraq’s independence and sovereignty, demanding “immediate punishment of the aggressors.”

The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion. Numbers are numbing, especially numbers that rise into the millions. But please remember that each person killed represents someone’s loved one: here.

Tortured Iraqis win British court case

This video from Britain says about itself:

9 September 2011

The government and the British army say the illegal torture and interrogation techniques used in Iraq, and which caused the death of Baha Mousa, were the acts of a few “bad apples”. In fact, for five years, illegal and brutal techniques classified as torture under international law, were common practice throughout the British army in Iraq. The shocking treatment of prisoners in this video, which was presented as evidence at the UK inquiry into the army’s use of torture, is just a glimpse of what took place in at least 14 interrogation centres.

By Will Stone in Britain:

Thursday, December 14, 2017 – 17:37

Human Rights

Iraqi civilians win High Court case over abuse by British soldiers

FOUR Iraqi citizens have won tens of thousands of pounds in damages after they were subjected to degrading abuse at the hands of British soldiers during the Iraq war.

High Court judge Mr Justice Leggatt ruled on Thursday that the Ministry of Defence had breached the Geneva conventions and the Human Rights Act over its ill-treatment and unlawful detention of civilians.

The degrading treatment included soldiers taking turns running over the backs of detained civilians and hooding them.

Lawyers said yesterday’s ruling could set a precedent for hundreds of abuse claims of Iraqis during the war.

There are more than 600 unresolved claims in what is known as the Iraqi Civilian Litigation.

Mr Leggatt announced his conclusions after overseeing two High Court trials during which Iraqi citizens gave evidence in an English courtroom for the first time.

The judge himself conceded that “some of the factual issues raised are likely to affect many of the remaining cases in the litigation.”

In his judgment, he made clear that “none of the claimants was engaged in terrorist activities or posed any threat to the security of Iraq.”

Human rights law firm Leigh Day, which represented two of the claimants, praised the ruling.

Leigh Day international claims team partner Sapna Malik said: “These trials took place against an onslaught of political, military and media slurs of Iraqis bringing spurious claims, and strident criticism of us, as lawyers, representing them.

“Yet we have just witnessed the rule of law in action. Our clients are grateful that the judge approached their claims without any preconception or presumption that allegations of misconduct by British soldiers are inherently unlikely to be true.”

Abd Al-Waheed, who was arrested in a house raid carried out by British soldiers in Basra city in February 2007, was awarded the largest sum — a total of £33,300.

He was awarded £15,000 in “respect of the beating” he suffered after his arrest and £15,000 for further abuse including “being deprived of sleep and being deprived of sight and hearing,” the judge said.

Mr Al-Waheed was awarded a further £3,300 for unlawful detention for 33 days.

Dutch government covers up killing Iraqi civilians

This video from the USA says about itself:

Report: US Kills 31x More Iraqi Civilians Than Pentagon Claims

Translated from Dutch NOS TV, 29 November 2017:

The Netherlands is among all participants least open about the number of civilian victims of coalition bombardments in the fight against ISIS. That is what Chris Woods of the Airwars organization says. They keeps track of how many attacks the coalition has carried out in Syria and Iraq and how many civilians have been killed.

Woods was one of the speakers who came to the Dutch House of Representatives to discuss the number of civilian casualties in the fight against ISIS. The meeting was organized by Socialist Party Member of Parliament Karabulut.

The director of Airwars says that some 6,000 civilians have been killed by coalition bombardments. According to him, the coalition claims it is less than 800. That number seems unlikely to Woods, given the intensity of the fighting. …

In an earlier phase of the mission the Netherlands participated about 400 times in the bombing and according to Woods insists that no civilian victim has fallen. He can hardly believe that because bombing – even in the case of precision bombardments – can hardly prevent unintentional casualties.

In his view, the Netherlands is the least transparent about victims who are ‘accidentally’ killed by the countries that still participate in the coalition. “The Netherlands is lagging behind its allies,” he says. …

Dutch responsibility

Human rights lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld thinks that the Netherlands, even now that it no longer actively participates in the bombing, is partly responsible for civilian casualties … . You participate in a coalition that carries out bombing, is her opinion. And it is usually unclear which country has performed which action. “So it remains a Dutch responsibility.”

Pentagon keeps killing civilians

This video from the USA says about itself:

Iraqi Civilian Describes U.S. Airstrike on His Home That Killed His Wife, Daughter, Brother & Nephew

21 November 2017

Today we spend the hour looking at a damning new report that reveals how U.S.-led airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq have killed far more civilians than officials have acknowledged. An on-the-ground investigation by the New York Times Magazine titled “The Uncounted” found the actual civilian death toll may be 31 times higher than U.S. officials admit. We interview one of the survivors featured in the report. Joining us from Erbil, Iraq, Basim Razzo describes the 2015 U.S. airstrike on his home in Mosul, in which his wife, daughter, brother and nephew were killed. Video of the strike on his home shows a target hit with military precision.

This video from the USA says about itself:

21 November 2017

We spend the hour looking at a damning new report that reveals how U.S.-led airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq have killed far more civilians than officials have acknowledged. The coalition’s own data shows 89 of its more than 14,000 airstrikes in Iraq have resulted in civilian deaths, or about one of every 157 strikes. But their an on-the-ground investigation by The New York Times magazine found civilian deaths in “one out of every five” strikes. We are joined by the two reporters who co-authored this investigation titled “The Uncounted.” Azmat Khan is an investigative journalist and a Future of War fellow at New America and Arizona State University; and Anand Gopal is a reporter and an assistant research professor at Arizona State University. A civilian survivor who lost his family and home to a 2015 U.S. airstrike in Mosul, Basim Razzo, also joins us from Erbil, Iraq.

This video from the USA says about itself:

21 November 2017

In an extended conversation, we speak with reporter Anand Gopal about the U.S. war in Afghanistan, where the U.S. Air Force is on track to triple the number of bombs dropped this year compared with last year. The major increase in bombing comes as the Trump administration has deployed thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan in recent months. By early 2018, there are slated to be about 16,000 U.S. troops there. The ongoing U.S. war in Afghanistan is the longest war in U.S. history.

In Mosul, Pentagon coalition killed 10 times morecivilians than the 326 they claim: here.