Author Topic: Silence Is Shame 'Volume 13' - Draft Pieces  (Read 4242 times)

Phil Talbot

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Silence Is Shame 'Volume 13' - Draft Pieces
« on: February 05, 2013, 03:37:06 PM »
March of the Millions

by Alan Trotter

February 15th 2003 was the day when decent folk all over the world came together in unison to say NOT IN MY NAME over the imminent invasion of Iraq.

In London an estimated 2 million kindred spirits marched through the streets to voice their opposition to the threat of war speaking for the majority of the population in Britain.

Sadly we did not manage to persuade our leaders to change course and within five weeks of this march the missiles rained into Baghdad at a horrifying rate killing indiscriminately and the bloodshed continued with the death count climbing higher on a daily basis.

Looking back on the last ten blood stained years many horrifying things have taken place, the atrocities of Falujah and the carnage brought about by cluster bombs, the use of banned chemical weapons, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people both civilian and military, routine torture of prisoners, the practice of extraordinary rendition, the hypocrisy of the media frenzy over ‘little’ Ali Abbas, the abuses of Guantanamo Bay and our government willing to sacrifice our children by sending 17 year olds to fight in a unjust and illegal war, as well as the manipulation and lies to cover up abuses and outrages throughout these ten lamentable years.

We have seen the creation of the war on terror and the establishing of Islamaphobia to create divisions between people.
 
Our government continues to finance Trident and is spending billions of pounds on wars all over the globe and yet at home we are watching the destruction of the NHS (it’s fair to say military spending is killing us), the education and welfare system and the reduction of benefits to the most vulnerable in our society, while £700million is wasted on subsidizing arms exports every year (CAAT).

At what point are we going to say enough is enough?.

Who if anybody will be held to account?
Where are the guilty ones now?
Who’s next…………...?

Alan Trotter 

+

by Les Barker

The good guy with a gun
is still killing people
and he still thinks
he's a good guy with a gun.

January 2013

Les Barker is a poet best known for his comedic poetry and parodies of popular songs, however he has also produced some very serious thought-provoking written work.

for more of his work visit
www.mrsackroyd.com

+

The Great Escape

by Barry Clark

How often have we seen it?
How many times?

We know the story
We know the end, Don’t we?

It doesn’t get any better.
Does it?

Steve McQueen, The Great Escape, alpha male, actor
Hollywood star, recruiters dream.

Steve McQueen, writer, director, producer
War artist, designer of stamps.

When will The Great Escape be?
10 years? 20 years? More?

Still, we’ll always have the same old story
Same inevitable outcome

Are we not sick of it yet?
Has it not past its sell by date?

Steve McQueen, every soldier
Steve McQueen, conscientious campaigner

Lets end the war
Lets bring them home

Lets honour the dead
Lets make The Great Escape

January 2013

+

by Colum Sands

On Rathlin, just a few miles off the County Antrim coast, archaeologists have discovered the remains of what might be called a stone-age munitions factory. Porcellanite, a kind of flint stone unique to the island, was once quarried here for the making of axe heads and there is evidence to suggest that these weapons were exported to many parts of Europe from as far back as 4,500 years ago.
 
So, nothing new about the arms trade then, but wouldn’t it be good to think that humankind has moved on from the days when Neolithic man walked the earth. No matter how sophisticated a bomb or war machine might be, it is nothing more than an updated version of the club or axe once wielded by the caveman.

Have a look at what arms exports are worth to your country each year and ask yourself what kind of people are in power today. If the answer gives you the impression that modern day cavemen are still in charge, you have a right to feel concerned.

But there is hope. Think of around two million people taking to the streets of London ten years ago, raising a voice against the invasion of Iraq. Think of the power of online petitions like avaaz.org and the platform they provide for us to make change. They, and those of us all over the world who continue to take a stand against war, represent the development and progress of the human mind.

We all inherit the riddles of history and we all can work to solve them. We can change things for the better if we apply human intelligence and feeling rather than primitive brute force. That’s something to bear in mind not only in our everyday lives but also at the next time we approach the ballot box.   

January 2013

Colum Sands is a universal storyteller who draws on a long Irish tradition of poetic musicality to weave songs for the world.

for more of his work visit
www.columsands.com
« Last Edit: February 05, 2013, 03:40:38 PM by Phil Talbot »

Phil Talbot

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Re: Silence Is Shame 'Volume 13' - Draft Pieces
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2013, 03:42:07 PM »
A ramble through some of the fictions of 'rancid' (past) foreign policies - and notes towards establishing a more 'true' (future) history

by Phil Talbot

Historical evidence points to a 'rancid' stream of disinformation in the representation of foreign policy in our mainstream British culture over the past decade.

The result of such a 'toxic mix' of part-truth and outright-fantasy (masquerading as 'historical fact') is the often 'absurd' atmosphere we find ourselves in - where the world, as represented in the mainstream media, seems disconnected from the world in which we actually live.

In our own local world, South Tyneside Stop The War Coalition (STSTWC) was founded by a relatively small group [less than 100] of 'concerned' people from South Shields, Jarrow, Hebburn, and associated areas, in February 2003 - a month before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

A dozen, or so, people from the (then) newly-formed STSTWC travelled to London to take part in the mass anti-war demonstration on 15 February 2003 - when a million, or so, people marched to oppose the then impending invasion of Iraq.

That London march was a 'defining moment'.

At that time anti-war opinion was clearly and over-whelming 'majority' - not some marginalized 'minority'.

During that march a mass of committed people from all over Britain stated clearly - in a complex mixture of vocal and physical ways - that:
+ wars of foreign conquest were NOT in their name;
+ illegal invasions - and following occupations - were NOT liberation(s);
+ another, better, world IS possible.

It is reasonable, on the basis of the number of people involved, to claim that 15 February 2003 event was the 'biggest ever single political demonstration in British history'.

Sadly, the mass opposition to their war plans was ignored by Tony Blair and his New Labour Government - including present South Shields MP (and also former Foreign Secretary - and failed Labour leadership contender) David Miliband.

At that time Mr Miliband falsely claimed to the people of South Shields that ‘yes’ there was ‘overwhelming evidence’ that Saddam and his Iraqi regime possessed ‘weapons of mass destruction’ - and 'so' - by implication - were 'threats' who 'had' to be removed quickly, by military force (Shields Gazette, 15 March 2003).

Mr Miliband has never even acknowledged that ‘error of judgement’ - let alone apologized for it.

His 'reward' for getting that vital foreign policy issue so grossly wrong was ... to be promoted several years later to the top Foreign Office job.

People like Mr Blair, Mr Bush - and allies such as Mr Miliband - ignored all the warnings voiced before, during, and after the London February 15 event.

They willingly decided in favour of the invasion Iraq, contrary to international law (as all the state-funded international law advizers in the British Foreign Office actually explicity warned the then government it would be - prior to the attack), in March 2003 - with the terrible consequences that are now widely known ...

The present coalition British Government, led by the Conservative David Cameron (supported by the previously purportedly 'anti-war' Liberal Democrat party) seems to remain a 'poodle' to big corporation imperialist U.S.-led foreign policy - with the imperialistic aggression now extending from the Middle East into Africa and beyond ...

Many fear the aim of this 'rancid foreign policy' is to impose the interests of the 'big' Western corporations on the world - and to plunder 'smaller' countries of their wealth and resources.

Ten years on, like many people of Britain and the wider world, I continue to oppose what I see as the 'crudely violent' styles of foreign policy broadly described as ‘the war on terror’.

This does not make me a supporter of - and/or 'apologist' for/of - ‘terrorism’: on the contrary, I strive to oppose 'terrorism' in all its forms, including the 'state terrorism' of Britain, France, the USA, and other 'big powers'.

People - locally, nationally and internationally - are taking up the questions of how to end 'pro-war forms of government', and of how to defend 'national sovereignty' against 'corporate attack' - and of how to make 'social progress' based on people’s own 'peaceful efforts'.

We in the Stop The War movement invite people to take part in on-going informed discussions of these issues.

We encourage people to think, to discuss, and to act - to make another, 'better', world possible in the here and now ...

This issue of Silence Is Shame focusses on 'thinking of 15 February 2003', but it is not merely about looking back to that demonstration itself: it is, more positively, about the past, present and future 'progressiveness' of the anti-war movement ... in our local area of South Tyneside, and beyond that ... throughout the country ... and wider world ...

Like all aspirant 'progressive' humans anywhere, we in STSTWC act locally but think globally ...

As the mass demonstrations on 15 February 2003 illustrated, the contemporary anti-war movement is more than merely a movement 'for peace' and 'against war'.

It is part of a world-wide popular movement against those 'small circles' at the head of presently powerful states, such as the USA and Britain, which can be reasonably accused of 'committing crimes against peace and humanity' as they pursue 'domination of resources, markets and spheres of influence'.

This movement of the people against (in fact, in terms of numbers of people involved) small 'corporate power elites' - of the 'big powers' - involves a positive vision of how to build a better 'world without war' - based on defending the sovereignty of countries threatened by the big powers.

The stronger this movement becomes, the harder the 'war-mongers' will find to operate: ... as their under-lying ideas are exposed, again and again, by a 'fundamentally anti-war collective world consciousness' - and as people such as Mr Blair and Mr Bush, are pursued for what can 'reasonably' be described as their 'war crimes'/'crimes against peace'.

While, as a 'coalition', we in the anti-war movement are not a single political party, with a 'fixed ideology', we strive to promote a 'new politics', where people in all sections of society, of all political, ideological, religous and other beliefs are included in political decision-making'.

This 'new [form of] politics' aims to direct humanity away from the rough tracks of 'barbarity' towards the high roads of 'civilization' - in which outright 'conflicts', and the many more 'less violent disruptive problems', are resolved 'peacefully'.

Most people - when asked - say they want to live in a more 'peaceful' world without the present wars, mass poverty, disease and destruction of life and the environment.

Anti-war groups such as STSTWC, individually and collectively, desire to plant the 'seeds' of this potential 'better new way' forward ...

Thinking back to February 15 2003 is part of a process towards setting such a more positive 'future agenda' ...

[Back-Ref[erence(s)]: Silence Is Shame, Volume 2, 2004
www.northeaststopwar.org.uk/southtyne/Silence_Is_Shame_2.pdf]

'Just that one march, then everyone shrugged and went home.'

This line, from a best-selling work of fiction [David Nicholls, One Day, 2009, p374], indicates indirectly how the Stop The War movement was side-lined - and mis-represented - in popular culture.

Those of us who have attended more than a dozen major Stop The War events since 15 February 2003 - some involving hundreds of thousands of people - and many more smaller events - know this for the 'fiction' of our own 'history' that it really is.

The London event of 15 February 2003 has, however, sadly, entered popular culture as 'the march that failed [to stop the war]'

This sidelining of the anti-war movement - by making it seem a futile waste of time - has in fact been part of the 'war-mongering process'.

As Noam Chomsky and others have pointed out, a 'top-down' imposed 'philosophy of futility' is often actively fostered by 'power elites'.

Chomsky says in Hegemony Or Survival [2004]: ‘Business leaders have long explained the need to impose on the populations a “philosophy of futility” and “lack of purpose in life” to “concentrate human attention on the more superficial things that comprise much of fashionable consumption”. Deluged by such propaganda from infancy, people may then accept their meaningless and subordinated lives and forget ridiculous ideas about managing their own affairs. They may abandon their fate to corporate managers and the PR industry and, in the political realm, to the self-described “intelligent minorities” who serve and administer power.'

It is hence in the interests of power elites - and their cheer-leaders in the mainstream media - to make people feel as if any truly democratic political action is essentially 'futile' - a 'waste of time' that will 'achieve nothing'.

And so it has been made a 'false truism' of popular culture that 'even that march of more than a million - which represented the majority anti-war opinion - was a waste of time and failed to stop a war'.

A Westminister Village 'insider' mainstream political correspondent actually said to me at the time: 'The march is all very well ... but they are going to do it anyway'.

Such a world view reduces politics to a competitive game played by few 'significant players' - with the rest of us side-lined and reduced to spectators/or consumers (or even 'victims').

The underlying thinking of modern ‘power elites’ is well illustrated by some comments by Ron Suskind, an American journalist: ‘In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like ... I had a meeting with a senior advizer to Bush ... he told me something that at that time I didn’t fully comprehend - but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency. The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community’, which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality’. I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off.‘That’s not the way the world really works any more,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality - judiciously as you will - we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’

Of late, the two 'main players' of contemporary mainstream British politics, David Cameron and Ed Miliband, have been competing to be 21st century 'heirs' to the 19th century 'One Nation Conservatism' of Benjamin Disraeli (indeed, rather bizarrely as it might seem to some, it is the Labour leader Mr Miliband who makes the greater claim to this 'title' of 'Disraeli's Heir').

Disraeli was a flamboyant novelist turned self-styled 'pragmatic' politician, who was frequently short of cash, and who likened political careers to ascents up 'to the top of the greasy pole'.

He saw Liberal Party foreign policy in the second half of 19th century as 'faint-hearted', and thought Britain could best maintain its standing as a global power 'actively' and 'forcefully'.

The empire, he thought, was and 'asset' to be 'cherished'.

Much of his public rhetoric was directed towards fostering 'jingoistic' elements of the growing 19th 'working class' electorate.

In effect he tricked significant proportion of British people into voting against their own better interests - and for him - by appealing to the basest forms of 'jingoism'.

In a keynote speech at Crystal Palace, London, June 1872 Disraeli said: 'When I say '[one nation] Conservative', I use the word in its purest and loftiest sense. I mean the people of England, and especially the working classes of England, are proud of belonging to a great country, and wish to maintain its greatness - that they are proud of belonging to an Imperial Country.'

His 'one nation' party was to be closely identified with jingoistic patriotism, the monarchy and above all aggressive empire building.

But of course - as with modern war-mongering politicians - one of the abiding fictions of Disraeli's public discourse was that Britain's leaders only ever led the nation into war 'reluctantly'. He echoed a popular music hall song of the time:
'We don't want to fight, but, by Jingo, if we do,
we've got the ships; we've got the men; we've got the money too!'

The present Labour leader Ed Miliband got his job, in 2010, in part because he had opposed the illegal attack on Iraq, in 2003, whereas his brother, David - whom he defeated in the leadership contest - had supported it.

It was therefore something of a suprize, in 2012, to some to find this previously 'anti-war' Ed declaring himself a devotee of the old imperialistic war-monger Disraeli.

Rather bizarrely to some, Ed Miliband in his October 2012 Labour Conference leader's speech presented himself as a natural follower of Disraeli - using the 'one nation' phrase himself more than 40 times in that speech (and he was to be heard using it again repeatedly at the Trade Union Congress 'March for the Alternative' several weeks later).

Disraeli's core 'vision', Ed Miliband told the Labour Conference, was 'a vision of a Britain where patriotism, loyalty, dedication to the common cause courses trhough the veins of all - and nobody feels left out'.

Hence Ed seems to have swallowed whole the mirage/fiction of Disraeli as a selfless and dedicated servant of the national interest devoted to the well being of the poor.

In fact, as William Gladstone rightly said back in the 19th century, Disraeli was 'all show and no substance' - and his entire ideology 'some vast magnificent castle in an Italian romance - a misleading fiction - a brazen fantasy'.

In fact, even the phrase 'one nation' actually derives not from one of Disraeli's political speeches but from one of his overtly fictional works: the novel Sybil [1845].

[The rather greater 19th century novelist Anthony Trollope even dismissed Disraeli's literary fiction work as basically 'fraudulent' - and said he 'affected something which has been intended to strike readers as uncommon and therefore grand'.]

Professor Jon Parry, Cambridge University historian, and Disraeli biographer, has described his fundamental quality as his 'astonishing egotism'.

Others have been even less kind.

One historian, Dominic Sandbrook, has described him as 'a vacuous egotistical hypocrite who sent British soldieris to die needlessly in foreign wars' - remind you of anyone? - and a 'shameless mountebank' who 'loved the glamour and intrigue of military adventures abroad'.

During Disraeli's longest spell in office in the 1870s British soldiers were sent abroad to fight a literal 'A-Z' of foes - from Afghans to the Zulus.

As so often happens, the ordinary soldiers from home and the local populations of the distant lands paid the bloody price for the prime minister's vanity.

In Afghanistan, almost 10,000 young British men lost their lives forcing the Afghans to accepting London's control of their affairs.

In south Africa, British troops went down to one of their most humiliating defeats when Zulu warriors slaughtered more than a thousand of them in a devastating ambush [needless to say the popular culture British version of this conflict - as represented by such films as Zulu - has focussed on other aspects].

Critics from his even own time thought Disraeli represented all that was 'worst' about British imperialism.

Like many a self-defined 'pragmatic' politician, in the absence of concrete policies or principles, he instinctively fell back on base jingoism.

In 1876 he even conferred on Queen Victoria the excessive title of 'Empress of India' - to the outrage of commentators at that time [many of whom have been edited out of the history books] who objected that such tawdry imperialistic 'bauble titles were basically 'alien' to the better British traditions.

It was typical Disraeli - eye-catching, vainglorious, without shame, and ultimately demeaning to all concerned (including Queen Victoria).

British history in the 19th century is often represented - by both 'left' and 'right' (even if for different underlying ideological reasons) as 'one long imperial expansion'.

In fact - and in some contrast to the present situation [where New Labour and Conservatives compete to be the most enthusiastic in their foreign military adventures - with or without Liberal Democrat support] - there was a strong 'anti-imperialistic' component to the mainstream public discourse in 19th century politics.

William Gladstone was no left-wing pacifist, but he won the 1880 general election against Disraeli by campaigning vocally in opposition to Disraeli's 'unwholesome political cocktail, whose main ingredients were amoral opportunism, military adventures, and disregard for the rights of the others'.

Gladstone told an election audience in Glasgow in that year that thousands of Zulus had died 'for no other offence than their attempt to defend against your artillery their homes and families'.

Similarly he told the same audience that villages had been razed in Afghanistan and their inhabitants left in desperate conditions because of the Disraeli-led British government 'bent on conquest'.

[It is, by the way, almost impossible to imagine a mainstream leader in contemporary politics using such language about, say, the civilian people of Pakistan killed in 'drone' attacks on their homes.]

Under-pining such election rhetoric by Gladstone - and in contrast to Disraeli's brutish jingoism - was a strong core of anti-imperialist sentiment among the British public.

This sentiment feared the growth of empire - even while it was happening - as engendering belligerent forms of nationalism and militarism - and being fundamentally AGAINST Britain's best interests and real national virtues.

It was best summed up by the Manchester Radical MP John Bright when he said: 'In as much as 'supremacy of the seas' means arrogance and the assumption of dictatorial powers on the part of this country, the sooner it becomes obsolete the better.'

Mr Bright's anti-imperialist 19th century 'vision' of Britain's future - which has, needless to say, largely been reduced to footnotes in the mainstream history books - clearly represents a more 'progressive' one than Disraeli's - and a better example for the 21st century way forward.

Chomsky more recently has clarified the main contemporary ‘dialectic’:‘One can discern two trajectories in current history: one [American-led corporate capitalism] aiming towards hegemony, acting rationally within a lunatic doctrinal framework as it threatens [the] survival [of humanity]; the other dedicated to the belief that “another world is possible”, in the words that animate the World Social Forum, challenging the reigning ideological system and seeking to create constructive alternatives rf thought, actions and institutions.’

And that, perhaps, on our small local scale, is what we in South Tyneside Stop The War Coalition are trying to do: ‘challenging the reigning ideological system and seeking to create constructive alternatives of thought, actions and institutions ...

February 2013




« Last Edit: February 05, 2013, 03:49:11 PM by Phil Talbot »

Phil Talbot

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Re: Silence Is Shame 'Volume 13' - Draft Pieces
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2013, 03:51:14 PM »
The People v. Tony Blair: How Mass Murderers Get Away With War Crimes and How to Stop Them

We need to remind ourselves of the sheer criminality of George W Bush and Tony Blair, to try and explain what was behind it and how they got away with it.

By Chris Nineham
Stop the War Coalition

This is the introduction to Chris Nineham's new book, The People v. Tony Blair: Politics, the Media and the Anti-war Movement.

February 05, 2013 "Information Clearing House" - On Tuesday, 11 March 2003, British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon phoned Donald Rumsfeld, his opposite number in the US, and told him Britain might not participate in the invasion of Iraq.

"We in Britain are having political difficulties," he said, "real difficulties, more than you might realise." He explained that there was a real chance an upcoming vote in parliament would go against the war, in which case Britain would have to 'disconnect' its troops from the operation.

That night, Donald Rumsfeld went public about Blair's problems at a televised White House press conference, admitting Britain might not be showing up for the invasion. He reassured the media "there are workarounds." Blair, Hoon and their colleagues were furious.

This was nine days before the invasion of Iraq.

Hoon's phone call reflected panic in Blair's camp. A few days earlier Home Secretary Jack Straw had told Blair that if he went to war with Bush without a second UN resolution, "the only regime change that will be happening will be in this room." Next day, Jack Straw was apparently one of a number of senior figures arguing with Blair not to join in.

In Alistair Campbell's words, "Jack S said that Rumsfeld's idiotic comments gave us a way out." One Guardian journalist reported in a piece headlined 'Brought to the brink of defeat,' "Senior civil servants began to check the procedures that might be necessary if Mr Blair was forced to quit."

Whatever Donald Rumsfeld might have meant by 'workarounds' if Britain had pulled out of the war it would have been catastrophic not just for the government but for the whole Iraq operation.

As Hoon himself admitted later, the British and US forces were so intertwined there would have been a massive hole in military planning. Worse, the US would have lost vital political cover for an invasion that was leaving it more and more isolated.

The panic in Downing Street was largely a result of public opposition and protest, the impact of what the New York Times two days after the 15 February global protests called "the second superpower." That day was the highest point of a movement that Blair admits shocked him and "reminded me of my isolation." It took place at a time of maximum international disarray about the war. As Alistair Campbell noted in his dairy the morning of the march, they had both slept badly, "every part of the strategy was in tatters - re the EU, re the UN, re the US, re the party, re the country which was about to march against us."

All this and more has found its way into the public record, at least in the last few years, but it is not in the standard account of the time. The received wisdom is that Blair and his team sailed through those months blithely ignoring all criticism, unimpressed by popular protest and unconcerned by public doubt.

Largely of course, this is because he did in the end get away with it; the parliamentary revolt was contained - just - and the war went ahead with all its predicted horror. But it is not just that. Panic and disarray don't fit the 'Teflon Tony' image that has been constructed by Blair and his admirers. More generally the last thing rulers want to do is admit they have been shaken by the action of those they rule. So it should come as no surprise that it is only years after Tony Blair's resignation that the full extent of the crisis caused by opposition to the Iraq war has begun to surface.

Accompanying this crisis was unusual media behaviour. The mainstream media normally ignores, marginalises or even criminalises radical protest. For a short period around the start of the Iraq war something different happened. Not only was there widespread and at times celebratory coverage - including demonstration supplements in the Sunday papers - but some newspapers actively encouraged their readers to participate in demonstrations with maps, arguments and even banner headlines.

While the Murdoch press was uniformly hostile and most of the media supported the war, the protests could not be ignored. The Mirror took the decision to actively back the antiwar movement. In the run-up to 15 February it regularly carried articles explaining why marching mattered. Senior staff from the Mirror actually met with march organisers to discuss how to promote the protest and produced thousands of placards to be distributed on the demonstration itself.

All this reflects the depth of the crisis created by the Iraq war and the movement against it. It is a challenge to the pessimistic view that marching and mass movements change nothing. The Stop the War movement generated not just the biggest demonstrations in British history but also an unprecedented outbreak of direct action, including the biggest wave of school walkouts in British history. In fact the movement broke a series of protest records. 15 February was the biggest protest of all time in Britain and many other countries. Britain's biggest weekday protest took place when 300,000 confronted George Bush on his November 2003 visit to London; and its biggest protest in wartime took place when around half a million marched two days after the bombing started.

As the decade went on the movement also organised further massive demonstrations over Iraq and a series of important marches and protests against the occupation of Afghanistan. In 2006 Stop the War called two very large emergency demonstrations against the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and in 2009 coorganised two massive demonstrations against the Israeli incursions into Gaza.

Most important, the real history of the anti-war movement suggests that in fact, co-ordinated mass action does have the power not just to change minds but to challenge governments.

This isn't just a debate about the effectiveness of protest; there are also wider analytical questions at stake. Bush and his coterie were nothing if not self-confident. After a shaky start, 'success' in Afghanistan had the effect of supercharging both Bush and Blair's sense of mission.

Anger at the massive build up of power at the centre of imperialism, the arrogance and cynicism of the Western leaderships, and the more and more obvious links between governments and the corporations can lead to an overestimation of the power of imperialism. Certainly some left-wing analyses of imperialism after the collapse of the Soviet Union reflected Western triumphalism more than real power relations.

Internal US foreign policy documents from around the turn of the 21st century in fact reveal a mixture of hubris and anxiety, reflecting the US's still dominant but increasingly challenged position in the world. The anti-war protests at the time and in the ten years since the invasion of Iraq have underlined imperialism's vulnerability just as much as its terrible capacity to unleash carnage on the world.

Media behaviour is a constant frustration to those who seek change. Owned and run for the most part by big corporations or governments, the media has a built-in tendency to favour the status quo. This can lead to a sense that the corporate media has a grip on the collective consciousness that can't be loosened.

Nick Davies ends his brilliant critique of today's news media Flat Earth News with a despairing description of the impact of the corporate media on our future by US radicals John Nichols and Robert McChesney:
 
In the place of informed debate or political parties organising along the full spectrum of opinion, there will be vacuous journalism and elections dominated by public relations, big money, moronic political advertising. It is a world where the market and commercial values overwhelm notions of democracy and civic culture, a world where depoliticisation runs rampant, and a world where the wealthy few face fewer and fewer threats of political challenge.

As the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and the demonstrations comes around, we can assume that normal service has been resumed in the media for the time being, and that the anniversary of the historic protests will largely be ignored. It seemed wrong that the anniversary should pass without these demonstrations and their tremendous impact being reexamined.

We need to remind ourselves of the sheer criminality of Bush and Blair's conduct, to try and explain what was behind it and how they got away with it, but also to underline, in very dangerous times, the power of mass, popular protest.

This article was originally posted at Stop the War Coalition website.

Phil Talbot

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Re: Silence Is Shame 'Volume 13' - Draft Pieces
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2013, 02:02:34 PM »
South Tyneside Stop the War Coalition on the Tenth Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq

by Alan Newham

By the beginning of 2003 the invasion of Iraq had become a forgone conclusion in the minds of most people. The crude manoeuvrings of the U.S. and British governments to find a reason for the invasion – the Weapons of Mass Destruction fiasco, the so called ‘sexed-up’ document prepared for the British parliament with its warning of an ordnance attack on British interests in 45 minutes, the alleged presence of Al-Qaida in Iraq – were there for all to see.

Early in February 2003 a number of public meetings were set up organised by interested people in the South Tyneside area to debate the Iraqi crisis. With the emergence of the national Stop the War Coalition a local Coalition group was formed. They organised public meetings that were publicised and reported on in the local press and included being given a full page in The Shields Gazette to respond to the local M.P. David Miliband who was given a page to voice his reasons for supporting an invasion of Iraq.   

What followed in London was the largest national ant-war demonstration, indeed the largest demonstration of any kind, ever held in Britain. On a local level and during the subsequent ten years following the invasion, the local Coalition have gone on to organised many public meetings, holding local demonstrations, petition stalls and challenging pro-war justifications whenever they arise, through the use of the local press.

The local Coalition today meet regularly in a small group from diverse backgrounds and continue to debate the wider and continuing wars and conflicts taking place around the world. The local Coalition has undoubtedly played a role in presenting to the local population its arguments against war, sometimes when passions and opinions were running in the opposite direction and we continue to do so because war still plagues the world.

The local Coalition continues because war continues; now in Syria and Mali and because we now hear from Afghan President Mohamed Kharzai as he wonders whether the war in Afghanistan was a mistake, a mistake costing billions of pounds to the British taxpayer. Resistance to war must continue until the day comes when governments are elected that will say no to war.

February 2013

Roger

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Re: Silence Is Shame 'Volume 13' - Draft Pieces
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2013, 04:28:56 PM »
FOR A FUTURE WITHOUT WAR!
Tenth Anniversary of Historic February 15 Two-Million March

February 15th marks the tenth anniversary of the largest ever demonstration in Britain when in 2003 two million people demonstrated on the streets of London, along with millions of people worldwide, against the invasion of Iraq.

This was a defining moment because it demonstrated in the most graphic terms what the people of the world have been saying, that these wars are not in their name and that another world without war is possible. Not only did it create such a popular mass movement against war but also it placed at the centre of the political life of this movement and of the country the demand for an end to pro-war government and for an anti-war government. At the same time, when the Blair government carried on after the February 15 mass demonstration and joined with the US in its bloody and criminal invasion of Iraq it showed not the weakness of the anti-war movement but how far the executive power is at odds with the will of the people. It demonstrated the predatory attitude of the Anglo-US governments, who consider themselves above the rule of law, who violate the sovereignty of weak countries, who flout international norms, who carry out wholesale massacres, torture of people and demolition of whole countries and their material resources and cultural heritage.


Ten years on, it can be seen that at every stage Britain, along with the US, and their warmongering NATO alliance, has continued to intervene, with “justifications” on “humanitarian grounds”. The revived Nazi theory of the so-called R2P (Responsibility to Protect) is to force regime change and occupation on peoples with bombs and bullets, intervening directly and indirectly to seize the assets and resources of sovereign countries as they have done with Libya, Syria and now Mali. Whether the chaos, insecurity and bloodshed that they cause is calculated, or just a matter that they cannot calculate, because when it comes down to it they have no respect for the sovereignty of peoples and countries, nevertheless they continue to cause a very dangerous situation everywhere in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, Asia, the Korean peninsula and in Africa.

There is thus the responsibility of the people, of the anti-war movement and all the forces of the working class movement and people of Britain, to block these criminals in government who put themselves as judge, jury and executioner of the world’s people. It is a responsibility to get organised, as we have done over these ten years, but now on this tenth anniversary to strengthen that conviction, to unite in action. And there is the task to get the organised workers movement in all its forms, including the trade unions, to be part of this movement for a future without war, which means hitting at the source of war, no matter which party in Westminster (or Washington) is in power. It is both a matter of principle, and a matter of the future of humanity. For us, it is not a matter of calculation; it is a matter of organising the people to provide the bulwark against war, to be the decision-makers, to unite internationally with everyone affirming their right to be in a world without war.

For the Peaceful Resolution of International Conflicts!
Britain Out of NATO!
No Troops on Foreign Soil!
Fight for an Anti-War Government in Britain!
For a Future without War!

Phil Talbot

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Re: Silence Is Shame 'Volume 13' - Draft Pieces
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2013, 12:09:46 PM »
by Alan Trotter

What sort of society have we created when our elected leaders propose to fund warfare by reducing the budget to welfare?
We have already wasted enough lives and money in Iraq and Afghanistan while we bomb our way across the Arab world - which is spreading terrorism not reducing it - and while we are also throwing billions of pounds at the white elephant that is Trident.
Anyone concerned about peace and social justice will be revulsed by the recent statement from ['defence secretary'] Philip Hammond where he wants to take money from the people who can least afford it so he can continue funding the military forces.
If all this wasted money was invested in education, social infrastructure, hospitals and looking after the vulnerable in our society surely this would make a better existence for everyone.
Instead of threatening to dismantle the Human Rights charter this government should be addressing poverty and injustice.

Alan Trotter
March 2013

Phil Talbot

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Re: Silence Is Shame 'Volume 13' - Draft Pieces
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2013, 12:52:23 PM »
RePosted 09 10 2013