Global protest delivers a resounding 'No'
Anti-war protests: Hundreds of thousands of people around the world stage
mass demonstrations against conflict with Iraq
By Jo Dillon, James Morrison and Andrew Buncombe
Independent - 19 January 2003
They united in protest. A builder in Bradford, a Glasgow nurse, a London
office worker and his opposite number in Tokyo, a Vietnam veteran in
Washington DC and a Russian bank clerk, a Pakistani schoolboy, a Cairo
shopworker, a Parisian housewife and a doctor in Damascus. They all came
together in a single act of defiance. Hundreds of thousands of people
across the world joined in a common aim, across cultural divides and
language barriers to say "No".
As around 100,000 troops from Britain and America made their way to the
Gulf, their numbers were dwarfed by the ranks of ordinary men and women
who took to the streets in cities around the world to condemn war on
Iraq. And the demonstrators' clear message to their leaders was echoed in
a swelling chorus of generals, defence experts, actors, musicians,
writers and artists speaking out against threatened military action.
Their call may not be heeded but it was loud enough to be heard.
In Washington, American citizens staged the biggest peace demonstration
since the days of the Vietnam war. "I'm a Vietnam veteran," said David
Mastrianni, 55, a software engineer from Southington, Connecticut, who
had travelled down with his wife, Nancy, determined to protect against
"another generation being sent off to war".
Mr Mastrianni was an easy-going man, not especially haunted by the time
he spent between 1968 and 1969 as a drafted army engineer at Long Binh,
outside of what was then Saigon. He was more haunted, he said, by the
idea of allowing a war to take place without making his protest. It was
the first time that either he or his wife had been to a peace
demonstration. "Maybe we have learnt our lessons, and we have learnt not
to believe everything our government tells us," said Mrs Mastrianni.
There were many protesters like the Mastriannis: peace-demo virgins who
for various reasons felt this was the time to join in, to listen to more
than 50 speakers rally against military action and then to join the tens
of thousands on a march to the US Navy Yard in Washington and demand in
vain to inspect America's own weapons of mass destruction.
Never had their message been received by so many people "in the
mainstream", said organisers. "You are talking to the broader base now,"
said Susan Riley, a nurse from Minneapolis.
Outside the Permanent Joint Headquarters of the British Armed Forces in
Northwood, north-west London, hundreds gathered to hear the veteran
Labour leftwinger Tony Benn warn of "massive" opposition across Britain
to the prospect of war: 2,000 were in Shannon, Ireland, 2,500 in
Liverpool, 1,500 in Cardiff, 2,000 in Bradford, 250 in Glasgow ...
The protesters were in good company. Sir Michael Quinlan, former
permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, this weekend told The
Independent on Sunday that war was "disproportionate". Major-General
Julian Thompson, a senior Falklands veteran, admitted he was "not
persuaded of the case for war at the moment". "I also don't think that
Saddam Hussein is necessarily the right target," he added. And defence
analyst Paul Beaver urged a "second mandate" from the UN before war was
There was outright opposition too from the actress Juliet Stevenson, who
insisted: "This is not our war, and not one we should have got involved
in." The screenwriter Alan Bleasdale said he was "horrified" at the
prospect of war, and Corin Redgrave, the actor, called for civil
disobedience and industrial action. Body Shop founder Anita Roddick said:
"Shame on Bush and Blair for threatening their illegal and immoral war."
Some in the arts world are determined to take further action. The actress
Julie Christie is urging performers to support a public declaration
against war. Her "No War Pledge", already signed by 40 prominent names
and organisations, including the actress Emma Thompson, the comedian
Victoria Wood and the film-maker Mike Leigh, is to be posted in a
national newspaper to coincide with the 27 January deadline for the
presentation of the UN weapons inspectors' report.
The pledge describes war on Iraq as "immoral and contrary to
international law", urges the British government to withhold support for
it and calls on "all who support peace and respect international law to
take a similar stand".
Voices against war: actors writers, warriors, citizens
Paul Beaver, defence analyst
I would like to see a second mandate from the United Nations. I don't
want Britain to squander its position within the Arab and Muslim world by
unilateral action with the US. Another reason against it is that this is
a campaign which, if the country is going to invest in it, will cost us
Douglas Hurd, former foreign secretary
The overthrow of an Arab regime, however odious, by an Anglo-American
military force would seem different [from the 1991 war]. The greatest
danger might arise in the aftermath of a war in a region that would see
itself under the domination of the US, the protector of Israel.
Sir Michael Quinlan, former permanent secretary at the Ministry of
If we are talking about war, I think it is disproportionate. It is an
enormous thing to start a war with all the direct effects and
repercussions in the region. I don't think Saddam, though very nasty
internally, is danger enough to be worth a war.
Alan Davies, actor
Inspectors found a dozen empty warheads under a pile of earth, but it's
not enough to convince me to send anyone to risk their life. I have my
doubts about war because of the issue of oil. The focus on Iraq has less
to do with the war against terrorism than a long-standing grudge held by
the Republican Party.
David Hare, playwright
An unsanctioned invasion of Iraq has no legitimacy. Its arbitrariness is
an encouragement to terrorists. I wish an end to dictatorship in
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, as well as in Iraq. Most of all I
wish for a US government which has the guts to imagine a policy for peace
in the Middle East.
Tony Benn, former MP
You cannot take a nation to war unless it is united. There is massive
opposition in Britain: 58 per cent. Bush and Blair are planning to tear
up the UN Charter to make a war which would be a regressive war, to kill
people, which would be a war crime, and to do it in a way which would
endanger world peace.
Juliet Stevenson, actor
This is not our war, and not one we should have got involved in. It's a
complete mystery to me why we've allowed ourselves to get drawn in. I
don't have any sense of what it's really about. It's certainly not about
what they say it is. We've been hoodwinked and misled.
General Sir Michael Rose
As a commander, I would not want to lead my troops into battle unless I
was totally convinced of its just cause and that all necessary resources
had been made available. So far, this does not seem to be the case. And
how will a war against Iraq impact on the global war against terrorism?
Salman Rushdie, writer
There is a strong case for a "regime change" in Iraq. The complicating
factor is the US's approach which looks like bullying because, well, it
is bullying. If the US reserves the right to attack any country it
doesn't like the look of, then those who don't like the look of the US
might return the compliment.
Field Marshal Lord Bramall, former chief of the Defence Staff
This is a potentially very dangerous situation in which this country
might be swept into a messy and long-lasting Middle East war. All I ask
is that this thing is looked at carefully. We are supposed to be taking a
lead on the moral issues of the world.
Corin Redgrave, actor
It's not only those of us in the arts who are opposed to this – it's the
church, the medical profession, people in public service. We are talking
about a criminal adventure that is going to tear the heart out of British
society. To make their views heard, people should be thinking about acts
of civil disobedience.
Alan Bleasdale, writer
I'm horrified by the prospect of war. It's the wrong war, at the wrong
time, and against the wrong people. I'm bewildered by the state of
mankind. The rise of fundamentalism, and not just Islamic but the kind we
see in the West as well, is the greatest threat to civilisation we've
Major-General Sir Patrick Cordingley, commander in the 1991 Gulf War
I am absolutely opposed to a war. We were absolutely determined [in 1991]
that the war was just, that there was a clear UN resolution and that was
to free Kuwait. The most important thing was that we were aware that the
British people were behind us.
Günter Grass, writer
Once again, the issue is oil. The web of pretence which usually conceals
the interests of the world's last remaining superpower and her chorus of
allies has been worn away to expose the true interests of power. They are
revealed in all their hubris as shameless, a danger to the public
Major-General Julian Thompson, Falklands commander
I am not persuaded of the case for war. We have not had much evidence. My
concern is that the British people won't support the operation unless
there is more proof. I also don't think Saddam is necessarily the right
Anita Roddick, Body Shop
Shame on Bush and Blair for threatening their illegal and immoral war.
The UN Charter, which authorises war in "self-defence if an armed attack
occurs", is like so much dust in the wind against the oil-slicked,
aggressive greed of an arrogant superpower and its shameless British