Bait and switchIn February 2003, Chris and I joined the massive protest march in London against the impending Iraq war. I, for one, make no apology for this: I acted in good faith. I believe that war should be a last resort, and I didn't think we had fully exploited other possibilities. I thought pre-emptive war would set a very dangerous precedent. I was disturbed that Britain and America were going against the will of the international community (and, in Tony Blair's case, the will of his own people). And, of course, I didn't want innocent people to die.
That's why I marched, and I expect that's why most of the other million or so participants marched. But as I have come to realise in the ensuing two years, that's not why the organisers of the march called us there.
My growing discontent with the 'anti-war' movement reached its peak when I read the web site of Respect, the political party founded by the disgraced ex-Labour MP George Galloway. This party has promoted itself as the only 'anti-war' choice in the current election. Here's what they have to say on the subject of 'war and imperialism':
1. That the defeat of the US led occupation of Iraq is critical if the global economic and political offensive begun by the US state and its allies at the time of the first Gulf War is to be defeated.
2. That the resistance in Iraq is engaged in a battle to liberate the country. That resistance is composed of elements which are Islamic, nationalist and socialist. It is a national liberation movement.
3. That the anti-war movement has a crucial role to play in forcing the imperialist governments to leave Iraq.
Not 'a crucial role in opposing needless war,' but a crucial role in ensuring the 'imperialists' lose.
I asked a group of Respect followers how they could support a 'resistance' that set off car bombs on crowded streets, kidnapped and beheaded innocent civilians, and threatened to kill their fellow citizens for voting in an election. I was told: 'Well, what else are they supposed to do?' And: 'It's a shame innocent people have to die, but it's necessary to defeat American imperialism.' And: 'It's war, after all, and what side are you on?'
That last statement holds the key. This 'anti-war movement' was never opposed to the war. For many of its members, the war began long before Bush invaded Iraq. It's just that they're on the other side.
If I had to do it again, would I still oppose the war? Probably. Would I join the march or give any other support, however indirect, to the 'anti-war' movement? Absolutely not. As far as I'm concerned, there is no moral difference at all between these people and the warmongers they claim to oppose. Both view the lives of other human beings as tokens that can be expended in the name of their ideology. I don't care if you call that 'anti-imperialist' or 'pro-democracy.' I call it evil.