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GLW: The Global Anti-War Movement Was Right

The Global Anti-War Movement Was Right

Green Left Weekly

On February 14-16 last year, at least 12 million people took to the streets to oppose the war on Iraq. In Australia, around a million people mobilised in the largest coordinated action in this country’s history. Now, twelve months later, the warmongers in Canberra, London and Washington are desperate to justify their murder — but it won’t wash. The millions were right — this was a war based on lies.

“Intelligence failure”, “let's wait until we have a full report”, “it's too soon to judge” — these are just a few of the stock phrases that are being used to deflect criticism over the non-existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

But for most people, the admission of David Kay, Washington's retiring head of “weapons inspections” in Iraq, that he no longer believes Saddam Hussein's regime possessed WMD at the time of the US-led invasion hardly came as a shock.

Kay explained to the Reuters wire service on January 23 that “What everyone was talking about is [WMD] stockpiles produced after the end of the last [1991] Gulf War. I don't think there was a large-scale production program in the 1990s. I think the best evidence is that [Iraq] did not resume large-scale production and that's what we're really talking about.”

Similarly, the February 5 admission of George Tenet, the head of the CIA, that intelligence analysts “never said there was an imminent threat” from Iraq was not surprising.

For readers of Green Left Weekly it is no revelation that the “coalition of the killing” lied about Iraq's “massive arsenal” of WMDs. As far back as our December 12, 2001, edition, GLW debunked the idea that there was evidence that Iraq had retained biological, chemical or nuclear weapons after 1998.

In our October 2, 2002, issue, Norm Dixon argued that “the simple fact is that there is not a trace of evidence that Iraq retained these weapons, can produce more or is attempting to.”

Tenet's admission was merely another nail in a coffin long sealed — and the final vindication of the massive protest movement that mobilised against the US-led invasion of Iraq.

The February 14-16 protests were a global protest event unlike anything ever seen. GLW reported: “Outraged by the vicious determination of the US and British governments to launch a massive, unprovoked, military attack on Iraq, people mobilised in more than 700 cities and towns, across more than 60 countries and on every continent — even the McMurdo base in Antarctica! ...

“The confidence, solidarity and empowerment in the air was palpable. Many people said they had never marched before, and complete strangers passionately discussed the issues involved, shared drinks as they stood in the blazing sun, and laughed and cried together.”

These protests were just one highlight of a mass movement of outrage against the war. In Australia, March was dominated by high-school student walkouts, as thousands of young people met the call of the Books Not Bombs group to leave classes and condemn the war.

The invasion wasn't stopped; Baghdad fell. However, the massive display of people's power did have an impact — the Pentagon reduced the scale of its planned “shock and awe” campaign of devastation, and the invasion was delayed as the US-British-Australian coalition sought “international legitimacy” for their illegal war.

On February 4, Prime Minister John Howard admitted that he didn't care that he had tried to sell the Australian public a war on false pretences. “I don't resile one iota from the decision that the government took”, he said.

Like his imperialist pals in Washington and London, Howard will spend the coming weeks casting about for scapegoats — blaming either Australian intelligence agencies or information provided to them by British and US sources. There will be lamentations and proclamations of shock and horror at the monumental “intelligence failures”.

ALP head honcho Mark Latham has signalled he is willing to play by the rules, telling journalists on February 5: “The important thing is to establish the truth and if mistakes have been made in the intelligence gathering... we just can't allow those mistakes to happen again.”

In coming weeks, as the federal election approaches, we will witness the usual spectacle of the “democratic” parliamentary circus at work — the endless breast-beating by politicians over “our” “mistakes”. Maybe Latham will abandon his “principled” stand and try to score political points from the government's embarrassment, making the spectacle more lively for a time.

But as Greens senator Bob Brown has pointed out, the current parliamentary committee investigating the WMD lies “is a joke”. Even though the parliament's Committee on Australia's Intelligence Agencies has completed its inquiry into WMD “intelligence”, the government and intelligence agencies are examining it for “inaccuracies” — i.e., censoring it.

Of course, even if Iraq had possessed WMD, the nature of the war — a war of conquest — would not have changed. But the exposure of the warmongers as a pack of liars gives anti-war activists an opening to explain to people that the struggle over Iraq's future is not over.

Because we will not hear a peep from politicians about the Big Lie. The Big Lie that makes all of the government's WMD deceptions pale into insignificance next to it. It's the lie that, regardless of all the “intelligence failures” and WMD-related shenanigans, Iraq has been liberated.

Iraq remains occupied by more than 100,000 soldiers, including Australian troops. It's “governing council” was hand-picked by the US, and the White House is desperately manoeuvring to ensure that a new Iraqi government, which the US is due to handover power to on July 1, conforms to Washington's specifications: a pro-US regime that will be liberal with Iraq's publicly owned assets — especially its oil. Until the foreign armies leave Iraq, the idea that it has been liberated is little more than a sick joke.

That's why Green Left Weekly urges you to get involved in the struggle that will really help liberate Iraq — join the anti-occupation protests on March 20 and demand “Troops out now!”.


From Green Left Weekly, February 11, 2004.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.

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