The meeting began with the announcement of the death toll calculated at John Hopkins University, an estimated 655,000 Iraqis have died in the Middle East 'conflict'. As chairperson Mark Holt pointed out, the same study was used to estime Darfur's 100,000 dead- and that was called genocide.
Michael Lavallette, Lecturer Social Policy at Liverpool University, managed to get a grim chuckle out of the crowd describing the hassle of changing banners from 'No Iraq War, Free Palestine' to 'No Lebanon War, Free Palestine' and most recently to 'No Iran War, Free Palestine', as western politicians and Israelcontinued their wars. He offered a first hand account of his stay in an occupied Palestine in an exchange organised by Liverpool University and RESPECT Councillor Preston. His experience there was summed up in a story about meeting 8 year olds who told him the best way to deal with tear gas. Mohammed Omara gave an equally chilling account of the reality he and his family faced on a daily basis, a reality in which children do not flinch at machine guns or soldiers because they have become enured, one in which over ninety percent of the population is unemployed and each generation has been turned into refugees in their own country.
The last speakers that evening were the founders of the coalition themselves. Tony Benn was in top form, warming the crowd up with an admission that he was "...born in London but I love Liverpool, it is my favorite city". Did we realise, Benn asked, that our involvement in Afghanistan has lasted longer than WWI? "What are our troops doing defending a country run by warlords and drug producers in a war meant to be over four years ago?" This man born in 1925 had the experience not only of living through the Second World War but of fighting in it, witnessing violence that neither Bush nor Blair have see the like of. And here he was spurring on the crowd with conviction, to continue the methods of nonviolent protest they had been using, insisting: "We will have built something...a voice against the lunacy of war...when we've gotten anything done, we've done it ourselves." Cofounder John Rees brought to light the frequent barrage of damaging comments wrecked upon Islamic communities in recent months by leading British officials. Did EX-foreign secretary Jack Straw's comment on veils mean that he never communicated by phone? And if David Cameron won't tolerate Muslim ghettos or "monocultural communities that won't integrate...begin with Eton." Ultimately attacks at home of members of communities the nation is at war with abroad seems eerily remniscent of world war era propaganda campaigns. The crowd was reminded that one of Hitler's first acts against the Jewish community in Germany was to remove the visible religious symbols. This escalated to ethnic cleansing.
The Merseyside Stop the War Coalition will be renaming Remeberence Day 11/11/06 'Remember Iraq and Afghanistan Day'.
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Liverpool School Students Against War will be having a Die-in on the same day to remember all war dead since 1918.