Hooray for Paul Foot!

Michael Keaney michael.keaney at mbs.fi
Wed Feb 12 05:23:10 MST 2003

Make a difference

Saturday's anti-war demonstration is vital because it could change the whole
course of politics, says Paul Foot
Guardian online
Wednesday February 12, 2003

I confess I am not a very patriotic sort of person, but this week I have
suffered twice from the familiar combination of BBIV (blood boiling with
indignation in my veins) and HUIN (hair standing up at the back of my neck)
out of a sense of shame for my country and its government.

I watched the television while Chirac, rightwing president of France, and
Putin, KGB apparatchik and prime minister of Russia, combined to talk plain
common sense on the proposed American war on Iraq.

They pointed out that the UN had passed a resolution in favour of disarming
Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction, and that no one in their
right minds would be opposed to such a project.

In pursuance of that aim, inspectors had gone into Iraq. From 1991 to 1998,
these inspectors had found and destroyed an enormous quantity of such
weapons. Sent back in last year, they have not been impeded in their work,
and have not yet found any evidence of such weapons.

The sensible approach, said Chirac and Putin, was to let the inspectors get
on with the job. Only in extreme circumstances, if their work was openly
obstructed, or if nuclear or chemical weapons or the means of constructing
them were found and not destroyed, should there be any resort to force and
even then, preferably, by United Nations troops.

Chirac and Putin were not alone even among heads of state. In Germany,
Belgium and Greece, to name but three European countries, the people and
their representatives think the same way. My sense of shame arose from the
absence in this sublimely moderate and sensible coalition of any
representative of the British government or indeed the British opposition.

Tory and Labour leaders cling together to proclaim the most fantastic and
monstrous proposition that before we even have any proof of these weapons of
mass destruction or the likelihood of their use, the most powerful armed
forces in the world should unleash an attack on one of weakest and most
defenceless countries on earth.

Even more shameful was the resort by 10 Downing Street, in defence of this
proposition, to the most disgraceful plagiarism and deceit, of the kind
which would in the old days have most certainly and properly got Alastair
Campbell the sack from the Daily Mirror. The shame was finally compounded by
reading of the performance of the British parliament and its Speaker in
preventing a parliamentary debate on any of these historic and urgent

I wrote here several months ago of the importance of demonstrating against
the war. There can be no doubt that the vast demonstration last September
altered the government view about the opposition to war. This was not a
barmy army, but a vast array of anxious people. Official catcalls of
"appeasers!" and "pacifists!" were replaced with more presentable arguments.
Now the stakes are much higher, and so is the mounting tide of outrage.

Why is Britain the first to rush to the aid of the United States adventure?
Why are our troops going to the Gulf when even the troops of countries whose
governments are ostensibly in favour of the war are tactfully held back? Are
there any depths to which the government information and intelligence
services will not sink in their campaign to halt the irresistible rise in
hostility to the war?

And above all what can people do about it? How can voters respond when their
sheepish representatives can't even debate the matter in parliament? These
are questions that are no longer restricted to a small coterie of people who
are "interested in politics".

It seems suddenly that everyone is interested; everyone except Julie
Burchill and Ian Duncan Smith is shocked and everyone wants to do something
about it. On Saturday, the cliché will become the truth.

The eyes and ears of the world will be fixed on the London streets and on
Hyde Park. The size and fury of the demonstration will have an impact on
real events the like of which I have not experienced in a lifetime of
protest. Hyde Park will once again host a demonstration, like that of the
Reform League in 1867 or the suffragettes in 1908, that can change the whole
course of politics. Go to it.

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