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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Critique of the Anti-War Movement

Liam O'Ruairc • 08.04.03

After attending the various "Anti War" protests in Belfast and the march in Hillsborough yesterday, a number of critical remarks on the anti war movement came to mind.

First, one should remember that it is both the American government AND the British government that have illegally invaded Iraq. However, the Anti War movement unilaterally concentrates on US imperialism. The "bad Americans" are blamed for everything by the Anti War movement, British imperialism is not attacked, Tony Blair is simply criticised for not opposing Bush and going to war. When attending the anti war demonstrations (at least in Belfast and Hillsborough), one will hear all kind of anti-American and/or anti-US policy slogans. "Who let the bombs out ? Bush", "USA is the biggest terrorist", "Hey, hey USA how many kids have you killed today". It is to the US consulate in Belfast that protestors march. There is a large police presence around symbols of US corporate culture, like McDonalds. The US stars and stripes is the hated flag; some marchers even try to burn it. But on British imperialism, protestors are silent. Why are they not singing "Go on home British soldier, go on home -have you got no f*** home of your own?" or "Britain's greedy hands: you will meet the same resistance like you did from Bobby Sands"? With the Black Watch regiment in Basra, one could have expected protestors to chant "The Black Watch",(especially as some of them had personal experience of "peace keeping operations" by this Scottish regiment -in particular the famous Falls Curfew in July 1970 when they ransacked homes in search for weapons held by our local republican guard), but British troops are not mentioned. The only time I heard a reference made to them was by a leading trade unionist who was asking the people to support "our boys" in the Gulf ! The simple "Brits Out of Iraq" slogan was used by just a tiny minority of protestors. No pickets of British Army barracks have been organised. There were no protests organised outside the Royal Irish Regiment base. The police does not have a heavy presence round symbols of British culture like Marks and Spencer's, and demonstrators do not march to British government offices. No one tries to burn the Union Jack. The USA is not our country, there is very little that we can do about Bush or what happens there - it is up to the American people. However, Blair is “our” Prime Minister and we could be far more efficient if we concentrated on British rather than US imperialism. Nobody tried to link up the Iraq issue with more domestic matters. While protestors were shouting "No War on Iraq - Free Palestine", no one dared to raise slogans like "Ireland and Iraq - Brits Out". Not only is the Anti War Movement silent on the British government, it has a soft spot for the imperialist trade unions and the imperialist Labour Party. For the Anti War movement, it is "bad elements" within these that have to be criticised. But this underestimates how deep the British Labour movement is connected to imperialism. The Anti War movement is afraid to really challenge and confront the British state and its responsibility in the invasion of Iraq. It is not risky to shout hostile anti-American slogans. However, it is far more dangerous to oppose "our" government.

The second problem is that it is not clear what the Anti War Movement is about. In the beginning it was to show popular opposition to a war with Iraq. Now it seems to be for a cessation of operations by US and British troops. To the Coalition's War, it counter poses an abstract "Peace Now" slogan. At the demonstration in Hillsborough yesterday, a lot of the speakers for the Anti War movement pointed out the "hypocrisy" of Bush (of course, he is the arch-villain!), for coming here to talk peace in the North of Ireland while at the same time fighting a war in Iraq. However, there is no “hypocrisy” or “contradiction” in this. The so-called “peace process” and the war in Iraq are both part of the same British and American plan to eradicate opposition to their global rule. And to this concrete opposition to imperialist rule, the Anti War movement is also silent. It is opposed to Bush, but does not really support the right of the Iraqi people to resist US and British invasion. At this stage, the best slogan is "Victory to the Iraqi People!"•, "Ireland and Iraq - Victory to the Republican Armies!". No concrete solidarity has been organised with the Iraqi resistance. The Anti War movement is more about peacefully begging Bush (and Blair to a certain extent) to stop the war in Iraq. Very few in the Anti War movement seem to understand that what is needed is not to convince Bush to stop the war with Iraq, but to support the defeat of Blair and Bush in Iraq.

These two issues have to be seriously addressed by the Anti War movement.


"Victory to the Iraqi people" is not synonymous with "Victory to Saddam Hussein". It is even unlikely that Saddam Hussein will lead a consistent fight against the British and American invasion - he might be more concerned about his own personal safety and that of his money.

Anyway, his regime is crumbling. Many Iraqis are saying "We may not be great fans of Saddam Hussein, however we are opposed to the US and British invasion". In practice, we are witnessing here the re-colonisation of an Arab country for the first time in 85 years. Spontaneous movements of resistance to a US and British imposed solution are likely to rise. It is these movements that should be supported. A defeat for the US and British governments would be that for them to impose their solution in Iraq would come at such a heavy price (in terms of stability of the region, political credibility etc) that it will in practice be a defeat.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
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Index: Current Articles

11 April 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Critique of the Anti War Movement

Liam O'Ruairc


A Diversion from the Task
Eoin O'Broin


Bush and Blair Summon the Irish Contras...
Anthony McIntyre


Not Firm Ground But Wet Sand: Prevaricating for Peace

Paul Fitzsimmons


Irish Leaders Miss Chance to Speak Out Against War
Eamon Lynch


London Update


Baghdad: First They Cheered and Then They...
Anthony McIntyre


America's Dual Mission

M. Shahid Alam


War: It Already Started
Paul de Rooij


Lacking Credibility
Bert Ward


7 April 2003


Adams Will Tell Bush He's Anti-War
Eoin O'Broin


Stand Firm
Davy Carlin


Anti-War Human Rights Activists on Trial


First We Take Basra, And Then We Take ...Basra Again
Anthony McIntyre


Belfast - Building an Anti-War Movement

Davy Carlin




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