Michael Hoffman of Iraq Veterans against the war speaks. Ewa Jasiewicz chairs.
Audience listens intently to the International teach-in.
Direct Action workshop. Anna chairs; to right are Jo Wilding and Ewa Jasiewicz.
Afternoon plenary. Standing is Phil Shiner. Seated 2nd right is Adam Price MP.
I attended an international teach-in on Iraq in London and an anti-war forum in Glasgow recently; I was rather ill that week so please forgive the condensed nature of some of this report. For what it’s worth here are some notes of some of the main issues raised at both conferences and I attach four labelled photos from the London teach-in.
I hadn't been too well that week; I had a very bad cold and perhaps unwisely went down to London for a teach-in at ULU in Malet Street. Ironically London was the coldest place in the British Isles that week with freezing fog around the Thames Valley and it reached just 1 degree Celsius on the Thursday while Carlisle (300 miles further north) got up to 10 degrees. Don’t think it was very beneficial health wise. I had hoped to see George Galloway who of course won his libel action with the Daily Torygraph but I just missed him as my train was delayed and then diverted.
Occupation & Resistance in Iraq Sunday 5th December 2004
University of London Union, Malet Street, London N16 7XX
I did make it to the teach-in at ULU (University of London Union) where about 200 took part. The teach-in was organised by the Iraq Occupation Focus and supported by Voices in the Wilderness and the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers. Ewa Jasiewicz, who has spent 8 months in Iraq chaired the morning session, also there was Jo Wilding of Circus2Iraq and Americans Michael Hoffman (Iraq Veterans Against the War) and Lou Plummer (US Military Families Speak Out). Christian Parenti (author of The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq) and Sami Ramadani (Iraqi writer, teacher, and activist) were also there.
Michael Hoffman, co-founder and national coordinator of Iraqi Veterans Against the War, spoke in the morning session and called for the troops to be brought home. Michael served in Iraq for two months in 2003. He said that if the troops left the violence would stop. He said we should help the Iraqis rebuild their country because we have destroyed their country and that the reconstruction could and should be done by the ordinary Iraqis and not by Bechtel or Halliburton. Michael’s website is www.ivaw.net
Sami Ramadani said that the Iraqis had the right to self – determination. He said the Iraqis blame the occupation forces for the violence. He criticised the appointment of John Negroponte as head of the huge new US Embassy in Baghdad. Speaking of the proposed elections in January he said why didn’t the US establish democracy in countries that they already control like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar etc? He asked why the so-called neo-cons didn’t support democracy inside the US itself. How could elections be held under such a brutal occupation he asked?
There was a poetry competition introduced by Adrian Mitchell and the winner was a lady called `River Wolton` with a poem called `Everything I know about war`.
Next Iraqi-born novelist and activist Haifa Zangana spoke of the horrors of Fallujah and of the great difficulties that independent journalists face when working under the occupation. Al Jazeera is currently banned indefinitely by `interim President` Ayad Allawi.
Christian Parenti, author and correspondent for the Nation magazine, spoke next. He agreed whole-heartedly that the occupation of Iraq should end immediately. He did say that the occupation forces did target civilians however. He thought that the resistance now in Iraq was planned well before the war. He believed that the US is part of the problem and there should be a regional conference on the issue. He has recently written a book called `The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq`.
Workshop on Practical solidarity and direct action
One of the themes of the day was that as the huge demonstrations of last February 15th hadn’t stopped the war then maybe it was time for more direct action. Jo Wilding suggested we should `pie` our MPs – yes, literally custard pie them. The pie should be vegan she suggested. Jo said that one of the most satisfying things she had ever done was to throw a squashy tangerine at Tony Blair. Make the bastards listen. At the court hearing afterwards the whole issue of the sanctions on Iraq was brought up with the media in attendance. Jo said we should change things ourselves rather than asking others to do it for us. She mentioned the recent case of the Iraqi procurement conference, which Ewa Jasiewicz and another activist disrupted. The charges against them were dropped as it was successfully argued that the conference itself was illegal as it contravened the Hague convention of 1907, which prohibits pillage. Some of the most disgraceful companies involved in Iraq are the mercenary companies some of whom are based in Britain. Find out where they are and go and take action against them.
Someone from the floor mentioned Media Lens, which is a website which analyses and corrects the distortion of the corporate media: www.medialens.org
They do regular `media alerts` and give out the e-mail addresses of many journalists and editors and politicians.
I joined in one of the afternoon workshops called `workshop on Practical solidarity and direct action` where ideas for direct action on the media were discussed:
Three main ideas for action on the media:
1) Blitz journalists with e-mails.
2) Direct action - big publicity stunts like `Fathers for justice`.
3) Develop alternative media sources like Indymedia.
Afternoon plenary session
Adam Price, the Welsh Plaid Cymru MP, urged people to contact their MPs to try and get them to sign his motion to get Tony Blair impeached. 23 MPs have signed it so far; strangely enough some 10 Tories have signed it including Boris (the Buffoon) Johnson.
For more information see: www.adamprice.org.uk and www.impeachblair.org
Phil Shiner (public interest lawyers; solicitor for Iraqi families) made the point that the US authorities in Iraq had given themselves complete immunity against anything that might happen. See www.peacerights.org
I met Emma Sangster of Voices in the Wilderness who went to the protest at the BBC’s Bush House in Aldwych, London on Thursday 2nd December and she said it was disappointing with only about a hundred there and no well-known journalists present. Voices website: www.voicesuk.org
When I was in London I went to see Brian Haw who has been in Parliament Square for 3 and a half years now:
His efforts should help inspire faint hearts, imagine living on the streets in subzero temperatures this time of year. He’s been doing through four winters now.
I went to the Houses of Parliament to try and see my member of parliament Mark Lazarowicz MP (Labour, Edinburgh North and Leith) but he wasn’t there, George Galloway wasn’t there either. I left a green request card for Jeremy Corbyn MP (Labour, Islington) and while he wasn’t able to see me (I waited for an hour but he was in a debate) he did write to me with a sympathetic letter. Jeremy has been strongly opposed to the war on Iraq; his website is: www.jeremycorbyn.co.uk
Glasgow Anti-War Forum Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th December 2004.
I went to Glasgow on Saturday 11th for the anti-war forum at a dilapidated building at Kinning Park. About 30 people were there on the Saturday (don’t know about Sunday). Ewa Jasiewicz (from London) was there as was her friend Alice Coy (formerly of the ISM in Palestine)and Phil Jones of CND; Rose Gentle didn’t make it as I think her daughter Maxine has been ill recently. I felt rough on the Saturday and didn’t go on the Sunday. Again the general theme was one of direct action and Milan Rai of Justice not Vengeance said we should try and build up personal contacts with neighbours and colleagues at work or college.
Colin Buchanan of the Glasgow based `Troops Out` pointed out that the Americans have recommenced bombing Fallujah and that there would be vigils at the Donald Dewar statue on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5pm till 6.30pm until further notice. Contact: email@example.com Tel: (0141) 579 4741
Sorry I’m a little thin on the details of the Glasgow forum but I really wasn’t up to it that day.
I have a few dozen journalists on my e-mail list and it often seems that trying to influence them seems to be a waste of time. All I’ve done is annoy David Aaronovitch of the Guardian (who sarcastically signs his replies “frequent recipient of your e-mails”) and Bill Neely of ITN (“Paul, I am disappointed in you”) and Jonathan Munro the head of ITN news (“Please do not send me unsolicited e-mails”) Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian and Andrea Catherwood, telly dolly of ITN failed to reply, as did Ann Clywd MP. (I phoned Clywd’s secretary asking that Clywd should speak out against the massacres in Fallujah and was told that Clywd said ` she hopes that civilian casualties can be avoided`) Anna Ford of the BBC just said, “I have passed on your comments” (Re Fallujah). The three BBC Newsnight Scotland presenters Gordon Brewer, Anne Mackenzie and John Milne and the BBC Scotland head of public policy Ian Small all failed to answer my concerns about the poor reporting of the attack on Fallujah.
I’m sometimes pessimistic about the whole Stop the War movement as it is run by volunteers on a shoestring budget. Can you really compete with the mainstream corporate media - e.g., at the Republican Convention in New York in August there were 15,000 mainstream journalists versus 15 bloggers. 1,000 to 1 – what chance does the peace movement have against odds like that?
Still, what’s the alternative? Just give up? Let the warmongering journos and politicians win? Let’s keep on trying, think of Brian Haw who is now on day 1,300 or thereabouts of his 24/7 vigil in Parliament Square. Then laugh at the Sun journalist I spoke to who asked where Parliament Square was!
Happy Christmas to all Indymedia readers and best wishes for a peaceful 2005!
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