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Canterbury Students Protest War

Canterbury Students Protest War

Over 300 people attended a lunchtime rally today at Canterbury University against the war on Iraq. The rally was called at a couple of days notice by the Anti-Capitalist Alliance group on campus.

The speakers at the rally were Sister Ola Kamel, an Egyptian and prominent figure at the Christchurch Mosque; Education senior lecturer Dr David Small; Sam Kingi, Will Shannon and Philip Ferguson of the ACA; Mustafa Alzaidi of the Middle East Information and Solidarity Collective; and Indymedia and anti-war activist Leith McLean.

Other groups attending the rally included members of the Greens and of the Alliance, including a Green MP.

Sister Ola vigorously denounced the war and called for support for the people of Iraq. She was subsequently interviewed by TV3.

David Small said the war had nothing to do with Iraq and was all about the United States. The US, he said, exercised a monopoly over weapons of mass destruction and fired them on the Iraqi people from the safety of hundreds of miles away.

Sam Kingi, speaking for the ACA campus group, denounced the invasion of Iraq as a violation of Iraq's national sovereignty. He pointed out that no-one ever got to inspect the US arsenal or impose no-fly zones over the United States. He also pointed out how the views of the majority had been ignored by the governments waging war on Iraq and that the struggle against the war was also a struggle for democracy, for the democracy of the masses against the small minority ruling elite.

Mustafa Alzaidi spoke about the effects of the sanctions on Iraq and also the ongoing bombing of the country by Britain and the United States ever since the Gulf War. The attack on Iraq, he said, was also an attack on civilisation.

Philip Ferguson was the last ACA speaker. He pointed out that the NZ government had the deaths of Iraqis on its hands, through being part of the sanctions regime. Helen Clark favoured inflicting long, slow painful deaths on Iraqis through sanctions while Bush favoured killing them more quickly. Ferguson pointed out the reasons why imperialism was going to war now and why students should join in opposition to this. He said we need to build two things - a vigorous anti-war movement to limit the war-makers room to manoeuvre and a militant anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist movement that challenged the system which made these wars inevitable.

Leith McLean was the final speaker and talked about how capitalist control of the media ensured a great deal of propaganda was pumped out about the war, and this needed to be challenged by antiwar activists. Indymedia groups around the world have become an important source for alternative (ie truthful) news.

The ACA group on campus is continuing to grow and we have weekly educational talks, video showings and so on. Plus we will be continuing to organise against the war on campus and encouraging students to get involved in ACA and in our work directed at the workplace.

For instance, the ACA now produces four workplace bulletins, and these carry articles on the war and why workers should oppose it. In the long-run only a working class-based movement can defeat the war-makers. Despite the silly illusions created by some on the left - eg the remnants of the SWO - that mass marches can stop war, the reality is that the imperatives of imperialism are stronger than pubic opinion and mass protests. The only way we will stop imperialist war is when we disarm the imperialists and abolish capitalism.

The following motions were proposed by Will Shannon on behalf of the ACA and passed without dissent.

That this meeting:

Opposes the US-led invasion of Iraq and calls for the immediate withdrawal of all invading forces.

Calls for a halt to all bombings and sanctions on Iraq.

Calls for the withdrawal of any and all NZ forces from the Gulf and Afghanistan.

Expresses solidarity with the ordinary people of Iraq against both the Western powers and the Saddam regime.

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