By Jessica Aurie
Following the release of The Chilcot report, a document that has since been branded by The Guardian newspaper as “a crushing verdict on Tony Blair,” a rally organised by the Greater Manchester Stop the War Coalition (SWC) was held in Piccadilly Gardens. The speakers at the event included members from Manchester’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), The People’s Assembly, the Socialists Workers Party (SWP), Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Rochdale and Littleborough Peace Group. All groups united during this rally in the name of a common goal; that Tony Blair be brought to account for the war crimes they believe he committed during the Iraq War.
At 1.00pm on Sunday afternoon, banners bearing the universal peace sign were hung and pickets reading ‘Bomber Blair: Jail this war criminal now’ were raised by activists in the audience.
The demonstration began with a short introduction by the chair of the SWC who welcomed the crowd before talking about how “most people feel deeply saddened” when looking at the Middle East after “Blair and Bush agreed to stand shoulder to shoulder.” After stating that the publication of the Chilcot report on the 6th of July “unleashed a verdict which most of us already knew,” the SWC representative went on to introduce an array of different speakers.
Among the representatives was Ameen Hadi, who stated that:
“Millions of us knew in 2003 that Blair was a liar. The Chilcot wasn’t news to us. There was millions of us demonstrating on February 15th and it wasn’t just in this country, it was across the world and that was the start of a new superpower: Us, the people. The one thing the Chilcot Report didn’t mention is what the Iraq war was really about. This war was about oil. This was about the drive for profit, to take control of the worldwide economy.
“Blair was willing to be Bush’s poodle for this experiment and because of this experiment they have created chaos. British media like to ask: ‘Is the trouble in the Middle East really all down to this one decision?’ Well, I think the answer is yes. I can say quite confidently that Iraq would not be in this situation now if it wasn’t for what they’ve done over there; we would not have the sectarian violence, we would not have Al Qaeda or ISIS. This instability was created by the war in Iraq. Just like these people don’t care how many black lives are taken in America, they don’t care about how many Palestinian lives are taken in the Middle East or how many Iraqis are killed.”
Hadi went on to mention the danger of the media in political climates relating to issues such as the Iraq war, exemplifying Jeremy Corbyn’s current “vilifying” circumstances. Circumstances that according to Hadi, aren’t taking into account that Corbyn is one of the few MPs “who has openly stood with the anti-war movement from the very start. Jeremy Corbyn is one of the few who stands against poverty, war, misery and racism.”
The rally went onto address further war-related issues including the strain that is being put upon the UK’s economy as a result of “the Tories and warmongers.” Karen Buckley, a representative of Manchester’s People’s Assembly, expressed that their organisation wasn’t only against war on the grounds of racism but was against it because of the poverty that it creates at home and overseas. She said:
“We keep being told that there is always money for war, no matter how illegal. Yet at the same time we are being told we must accept a punishing austerity. We feel cuts to housing, cuts to education, cuts to health services.”
Buckley went on to say that the racism that is interconnected with war demands the attention of the people:
“Thousands of people flee or are killed and maimed by wars they didn’t ask for or create, yet they are held up at the borders of the countries creating these wars, then they are blamed for the problems in these countries and scapegoated. There are links between austerity and racism. Minority groups are blamed rather than the Tories and warmongers who are imposing the cuts with their ideologically driven austerity agenda. Say no to war, say no to austerity and say no to racism. Get involved, and see you on the streets.”
Before the rally came to a close, Humanity Hallows asked officer and convener of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Andrew Gibson what he would like to say to the readers of this article about this event today. He said:
“I am from the Manchester CND, joining forces today with the People’s Assembly and the Stop The War Coalition. At the time of the Iraq war, as an organisation, we worked in unity with many of the groups you see here today. Many members of the CND were deeply concerned in 2003 when Blair and Bush invaded Iraq, and are deeply concerned today when looking at the outcome of this decision.”
Andrew added: “The current state of the Middle East shows the danger of putting power in the hands of racist and frankly, stupid leaders. It is important to remember the crimes of the Iraq war and in collaboration we must work towards ensuring that we put an end to nuclear war.”
The demonstration came to a close with a final speech from the political activist and anti-war representative Ron Senchek. He said:
“What we see in the Middle East is a wasteland caused by Bush and Blair, a wasteland of death, destruction and sectarianism and, at home, we see Islamaphobia and racism. While we were out there with our troops, Blair deregulated the banks, robbing the people of millions and millions of pounds. That is the legacy of the Iraq war. No one can deny the evidence apart from Tony Blair who has since said he would do it all again. I understand him saying that to be honest, Blair has become a multimillionaire as a result of the Iraq war. It is no coincidence that people in the Middle East call oil the blood of the devil.
“Blair does not care about the lives of the people he sent to die in the Middle East, the 179 British soldiers, the 4,500 American soldiers, or the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. He promised a roadmap to peace if we backed the Iraq war. He has given us nothing but a highway to hell. People say that Tony Blair should be jailed, I say that prison is too good for him. I suggest Blair take a trip down to Baghdad and he should tell the people there that he is responsible for everything he has done there. Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers were also in collusion with Blair and Bush, aiding this illegal war. Murdoch’s papers created an atmosphere of fear amongst people; anyone who challenged the argument about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was a traitor and supporter of Saddam Hussein. And then people like Jeremy Corbyn who stood up with many others, was condemned by Murdoch’s papers. We are the 99%, this is not their world to rob, to exploit, to cheat. We will do everything to unite with our brothers and sisters around the world. Jail Tony Blair.”
Also attending the event was poet Mani Angel who read a piece entitled ‘The Unknown Soldier’. He said:
“Tears drop like bombs of anger,
The rage of war burns like hell,
No rest for this soul.”
For more information about the Stop the War Coalition, see the group’s website.