Why We Must Stop The War: Public Meeting
The meeting was attended by around 70 people representing a broad range of groups and individuals within our district's diverse community.
All speakers were unanimous in condemning the acts that resulted in the bombing of the Pentagon and World Trade Centre on September 11. The coalition aims to be broad based, bringing together a wide range of groups and individuals with a common goal to stop the war. The following points summarise the issues raised by each speaker as their particular case against the continued bombing of Afghanistan, and the 'war against terrorism'. Whilst we share a common goal, the campaign embraces a range of views as to the causes of the war, reflected in the speakers contributions.
(The following notes were made by a member of the coalition during each of the speakers' speeches.)
Simon Watson, CND
Shortly after September 11, CND made a statement condemning the attack on the twin towers, but warning of the danger of taking action 'in revenge'.
The current bombing of Afghanistan will escalate the cycle of violence , embitter and further divide some of the poorest people in the world:
- Several hundreds of thousands of people faced death by cold and starvation this winter. Medicans Sans Frontieres has condemned the Aid drops as propaganda. Aid can only be effectively delivered by people working 'on the ground' which is not possible now the bombing has started.
- In the UK, there have been a number of attacks on Afghan people and on local mosques.
- CND believes the bombing directly contravenes international law if unilateral action is taken by the U.S. supported by the UK. Under the cover of 'the war against terrorism', a massive rearming is taking place without addressing the major problems of what is bringing people to war.
- The presence of tracking stations at Menwith Hill and Fylingdales themselves make our area a target if the war escalates further
We must address the underlying causes of injustice, oppression and poverty that lead to war, and challenge acts of terrorism on a legal basis. Failure to do this means the US and UK are acting on the same level as the terrorism we condemn.
Mukhtar Ali, Bradford Labour Councillor
The first casualty of war is the truth. Media representation of current conflict is leading many to believe that this is a 'just war'. Killing versus killing creates conflict. A group of powerful leaders are taking 'revenge' on some of the poorest people on the earth. No-one is counting deaths amongst the Taliban and the people of Afghanistan. 2 million Afghan Refugees are currently in Pakistan, and 1.5 million in Iran. Poor countries are being made to carry the burden of refugees. Who knows how many will die from cold and starvation once the winter sets in. The impact of the bombing means that many more will die. Afghanistan has endured 3 years of drought and 25 years of war.
The CIA supported the Taliban killing Russian soldiers in revenge for Vietnam. Why were they not terrorists then? As Islam is growing in the US, the US has failed to condemn terrorist action, including rape and torture against a number of Muslim states, Palestine, Chechnia, Kashmir and Iraq where over 5000 children die each year. Conditions in Palistinian Refugee camps are little different from the concentration camps of the Nazis.
This is a war against Islam. The media has created hatred against Islam on a parallel with the holocaust. Jews and Christians must join together with us to condemn this.
Alex Callinicos, Socialist Workers Party
Whilst we condemn the acts of 11 September to respond with war will in itself create more atrocities. Bin Laden and the Taliban were created in Washington through US backing for Islamic guerillas to undermine the Soviet Union over many years. The US supported the Taliban to try to create a stable government in Afghanistan, to enable it to run a gas pipeline through it.
Whilst Afghanistan is being targeted, it appears that those held responsible for the events of September 11 are mostly from Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Their action is a direct response to US support for corrupt regimes. Bin Laden's remark suggesting there will be 'no peace until (the) Palestinians share peace' illustrates how the war is fueling the very forces it (the US) intended to suppress.
So what is the alternative?
- Cut arms and financial support to Israel
- End the bombing and sanctions on Iraq
- The US and the UK must cut their supply of arms to the Middle East
The key issue here is the control of oil in the Middle East. War is about defending empire and revenge. The US is creating a situation to encourage and feed the crisis. We have to build as broad a possible movement to stop the war drive.
Finn McKay, Menwith Women's Campaign
Menwith Hill is a the biggest listening station in the world run by ASA, the American Security Agency. It covers all communications in the northern hemisphere to protect the interests of the US. It has been the focus of a Women's Protest for many years until the peace camp was finally evicted in 1999. In times of war, men make up the majority of decision makers, and women and children the majority of casualties. This is a feminist campaign, bringing together women to support each other and draw on our strengths to advance the peace movement.
Since 1999, the campaign (against Menwith) has continued through letter writing, lobbying MPs, etc. We are currently opposing the transfer of 1000+ US personnel from a base in Germany which is being closed due to German opposition to their spying activities. At a time when the UK is barring asylum seekers who are fleeing for their lives, we will be allowing 1000s already ejected by other European countries as part of the war machine into the UK. Menwith Hill is likely to be having a key role in the current struggle. We must not let Yorkshire become a target as a result of our aggressive policies.
Sabah, Iraqi Federation of Refugees
Thanks to all for their support against this war. We deplore and completely condemn the attacks against the US. But we must note that the everyday crimes (of murder, rape and torture) against ordinary people in Iraq, Iran and Palestine do not make headline news. We must call on all freedom loving to recognise and condemn all acts of terrorism, both state and non-state.
We call on people to come and take war out of the hands of bombs and generals. The US should not be allowed to continue it's growth as a superpower active in the middle east unchecked.
Racists have been active in the UK and the US since 11 eptember, with a number of refugees facing harassment. Ending all acts of terrorism must be our task.
David Ford, Bradford Green Party Councillor
We must note that not all mainstream political parties support the war. The Green Party is clearly opposed to this action, as is Socialist Alliance and, recently, Plaid Cymru came out against the war.
What is it to be anti war? Is it to be against something, or to be 'pro-peace', or simply scared of the consequences of war which we know to be catastrophic in the Middle East and former Soviet States, and to have resulted in increased harassment and attacks on Muslims in the UK.
When fighting a fire, the first step must be to avoid pouring further fuel on the flames. We need a longer term strategy for tackling terrorism. The current action cannot comply with article 51 of the UN code which states that military action should never be used until all else has failed, and only then under the auspices of the UN. We must be certain of guilt before we act. Previous US attacks on Iraq did not have the sanction of international law. The US and the UK have a long record of supporting terrorism where it fulfils economic objectives, particularly around oil.
We do not accept the argument that entire nations of people must be held to account for the actions of (their) government. 85% of Afghani people are subsistence formers, most of whom will never have heard of the world Trade Centre. In the UK, the recent murder of a refugee in Glasgow is a symptom of the many wider abuses against refugees within our own country.
Out of this fear must come something positive. We should continue to work together to build a broad as possible alliance against the war.