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David Swanson: Dear London

Dear London

By David Swanson

(To be read at the Stop the War Coalition Event on July 23, outside the gates to Downing Street)

We write from the After Downing Street Dot Org Coalition in the United States to thank you for your solidarity on this third anniversary of a meeting that we were never meant to know about, a meeting that took place some yards from where you stand. There are over 300 events like yours happening today in the United States.

We write to thank you for your example. You have, through the course of this war and the long sales pitch that preceded it, shamed us by organizing larger protests than we have in this country.

We also want to thank those within your government who have had the courage to tell the truth and to make vital documents public. In the United States, whistle blowers are now attacked, even if it requires committing treason to do so. It is only because British reporters like Michael Smith have been able to make facts known in the UK that we in the US have had access to authoritative sources on what our own nominally democratic government was doing in 2002 while it pretended to try to avoid war.

Last month, members of our minority party (we can't yet really call it an opposition party) held unofficial hearings into the Downing Street documents, and we organized a rally outside the White House. Reg Keys, a leader of your Military Families Against the War, came and spoke to us – and for that too we are enormously grateful.

This past Thursday, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives a Resolution of Inquiry, which – should it pass, despite the Republican Party's majority control – would require the White House and State Department to turn over all documents related to communications with UK officials in 2002 about Iraq.

So, you see that we are attempting to work through what remains of our democratic process to obtain the sort of information that your media has provided. The existence of serious media outlets on your shores gives us as much hope and inspiration as does your admirable activism. It was only by pointing to your media coverage that we were at all able to make the Downing Street Memo a story over here.

We also look with admiration and envy upon your system of government, in which members of Parliament are able to publicly question and debate with the Prime Minister. This is a healthy system, compared to our own, in which what little questioning of the President we have is performed by the domesticated employees of giant media corporations. We thank members of Parliament like Adam Price and Jeremy Corbin for their courage.

We also thank Chatham House and members of your political establishment who have been willing to publicly recognize that the war on Iraq has increased the risks of terrorism. This degree of honesty is unimaginable for our right-wing think tanks and politicians in the United States.

Above all, we must apologize to you for the deaths and injuries and mental injuries you have suffered in Iraq, for the attacks you have recently faced in London, and for the great damage that has been done to the standing of your nation and ours in the world. America owes you an apology that we can never rightly make.

So too, of course, does your Prime Minister. In March of 2002, in preparation for a visit to our President's royal estate in Texas (he calls it a ranch), Tony Blair received a memo from his advisor David Manning that read in part:

"My talks with Condi convinced me that Bush wants to hear your views on Iraq before taking decisions. He also wants your support. He is still smarting from the comments by other European leaders on his Iraq policy. This gives you real influence: on the public relations strategy; on the UN and weapons inspections; and on US planning for any military campaign."

This is truly pathetic and one can almost feel sorry for poor Tony. He was like a dog pulling on a leash and imagining that he's leading his master along. Of course, Bush didn't listen to him more than enough to give him a pat on the head. The UN fig leaf fell down, and Bush went ahead with his war, putting your rulers at risk in the international criminal court.

While our Congress is busy extending a so-called "PATRIOT Act," which strips our citizens of rights we've known since we were your colony, we encourage you to declare independence from our government. We will be looking to your leadership to focus global attention on what Bush and Blair have done.

When another series of secret documents were leaked – when Iago's letters were turned over to Othello – Lodovico's reaction was what ours must now be together, and in solidarity with the people of Iraq.

O Spartan dog,
More fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea,
Look on the tragic loading of this bed.
This is thy work. The object poisons sight.


DAVID SWANSON is a co-founder of After Downing Street, a writer and activist, and the Washington Director of He is a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, and serves on the Executive Council of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, TNG-CWA. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including Press Secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign, Media Coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as Communications Coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Swanson obtained a Master's degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia in 1997.

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