Just over ten years ago, I was one dot in a crowd of one million people in London calling for the Labour government of Tony Blair to stop the Iraq war. We all knew that Saddam Hussein was a murderous dictator who was much-hated in his own country but we knew equally well that the case for invasion of Iraq (it was never a ‘war’) was a gigantic deceit, cooked up by the Blair and Bush governments for their own purposes. We knew that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. We knew that far from being a friend of Al Qaeda and the Islamicists, Saddam was their sworn enemy and near the top of their death list. But these were ‘inconvenient truths’.
As I walked alongside Charles and Sarah Kennedy, Donnachadh McCarthy and Simon Hughes at the front of the Liberal Democrat contingent in the march, I thought to myself: “Wow! This is the biggest gathering of humanity in the UK since the Isle of Wight Pop Festival in 1969:and we haven’t even got Jimmy Hendrix or Joni Mitchell as a ‘draw’ . How can they ignore something as huge as THIS?”
The bottom line was, the Blair/Bush agenda was so-fixed-in-stone that they would have ignored something twice or three times as big. They were totally prepared for both the massive slaughter of the innocents which took place in the immediate invasion period, and also the perpetual drip drip drip of casualties caused by suicide bombers and insurgents – and the Coalition ‘policing actions’ in the ten subsequent years. They were equally prepared for the homicide of ‘truth’. In fact, they were busy mixing the poisoned pills.
Let us not forget, this was not just a British protest. Somewhere between six to ten million people demonstrated in more than 60 countries and 800 cities. There was even a demonstration of scientists, among the penguins on the Antarctic ice. All around the world, leftists marched alongside conservatives, Quakers marched with Muslims, Sikhs and Catholics. For hundreds of thousands of participants it was the only demonstration they had ever been on. Yet all for nought.
Just before the march, Tony Blair declared publicly that that unpopularity was “the price of leadership and the cost of conviction”, adding that there would be “bloody consequences” if Saddam was not “confronted”. It is a great shame that no one has yet convicted Tony Blair and that his arrogance and narcissism was never confronted before the slaughter began.
Almost nowhere on that march, or in the rally that followed it, was there even the slightest degree of support for Saddam Hussein and precious little global ‘anti-Americanism’. Just a common revulsion at a war of aggression based on lies, warped ‘intelligence’, and the opportunistic manipulation of the ‘war on terror’ for other ends. The Bush administration and the Murdoch press all railed against us that we were the puppets of some extremist conspiracy. Forces of darkness even bust a gut to try to stop official Lib Dem participation in the event. Thankfully, they failed. Whatever falsehoods they peddled at us, the mums and kids, the grannies, the doctors, dentists, university professors and and unemployed all knew otherwise. We were not experts on Iraq: we just knew in our guts that their evil proposition, based on total dishonesty would simply draw open the gates of hell.
A month later, the great majority of Labour and Tory politicians, with a handful of honourable exceptions, ignored the demonstrators, the glaring facts and the obvious hideous consequences of their decisions and voted to back the ‘war’. Hundreds of thousands of lives later, Iraq remains a violent and traumatised country riven by ethnic, religious and tribal rivalries. Anyone who assisted the invading forces as an interpreter still walks in fear of their lives. The only thing which can be said for the authoritarian yet devoid-of-authority government of Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki is that it is not as bad as that of the corrupt Karzai regime which ‘the West’ are still trying to prop up in Afghanistan.
Today, cowardly politicians are lining up to cover their rears and those of those who went before them, through preventing the publication of documents requested by the Chilcot Inquiry regarding British participation in the war. What have they to hide? We who went on that march have nothing to hide. We wear our badges of that day with pride.
Ed: Apologies. The title of this post should have been ‘Iraq War, ten years on’ . I have not changed it because by now the links will be embedded across the web.
* Councillor Tony Dawson is Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet member for Health and Adult Care on Sefton MBC . He is a former NHS middle manager and whistleblower who, in 1991, won a Judicial Review in the High Court against the NW Regional Health Authority for their improper dismissal of him.