Which was illegal, the protest, or the war?
One year down the road, things look different than they did in
February 2003, and some for the better:
- The concept of "Preventive War" has been tarnished, if not
utterly gutted, by the failure to discover weapons of mass
- The ability of US and UK hawks to assemble selective
intelligence to justify their military ambitions has been set back,
and will never again enjoy the same lack of scrutiny.
- Multinationalism has been vindicated, with the UN inspection
teams proven right and the utter failure of the occupying forces to
supplant the UN as a peace-keeping or democracy-building
- The decision making which led to war in Iraq is under intense
scrutiny, both in the US and around the world.
What did 30 million people out in the streets have to do with
any of that? Plenty. We demonstrated a democratic force that no
politician can ignore. We created space for opposition by putting a
face -- or rather 30 million faces -- on the world's opposition to
In a world in which corporate interests long ago learned the
power of globalisation, the peace movement had few examples
previous to February's march of the value of globalising
But that gathering was an extraordinary thing, and an
extraordinarily simple thing. People opposed to the war made a
decentralised decision to name a day of protest. It was coordinated
and communicated worldwide via the free information channel of the
internet. People expressed and exchanged opinions against the war
via email, images, pictures, cartoons, jokes, animations, and video
in an outpouring of self-published creative opposition. It was the
first stirring of a muscle -- like an infant learning that it can
control its own hand and move things in the world.
When the civil rights movement began in the US, the first
protests failed. It was nine years before Rosa Parks' refusal to
sit in the back of an Alabama bus would achieve desegregation. And
in fact, the earliest protests generally led to crack-downs on the
"subversives," and an attempt to silence their voices with
Free speech under attack
Today, true to that model, the right to free speech in the US is
Greenpeace is under fire from the US Attorney General in an
unprecedented case of selective prosecution. Using a typical
Greenpeace action against illegal logging as a springboard, for the
first time in US history an entire organisation has been indicted
for the non-violent civil disobedience of its members. Major
newspapers, fellow non-governmental organisations, and now a member
of the US Judiciary Committee have said continuing the court case
will "have a chilling effect on free speech and activism of all
14 Greenpeace UK activists are standing trial for their
peaceful protest at Marchwood military base. The Greenpeace
volunteers entered Southampton's Marchwood Military Port and
occupied tanks, locking themselves with chains and padlocks,
preventing the tanks from being loaded onto a ferry.
In pleading not guilty, they've cited their right to freedom of
expression, and their belief that their acts were necessary to
prevent an unlawful, unjustified war and to save lives.
We're seeking as evidence the advice which the UK Attorney
General provided to Tony Blair in February 2003 about the legality
of the war. There is speculation that the Attorney General raised
objections to the government's position that a "preventive" war was
permissible under international law.
A district judge ruled that "the lawfulness of the war and the
Attorney General's legal opinion are not relevant to issues in the
We disagree, and we'll summon the Attorney General to defend his
advice publicly in court. Downing Street has so far refused to
publish the Attorney General's advice, claiming it had been given
in confidence and would remain secret. Yet Tony Blair himself
provided Parliament with a selective summary of later advice in
order to convince Parliament to go to war.
Greenpeace UK Executive Director Stephen Tindale noted: "We've
heard a lot of nonsense about sacred Whitehall conventions. Well
Tony Blair broke the convention when he published a summary of the
advice to win a vote in parliament. He can't shift the goalposts
now. There's too much at stake, not least the right to a fair
Feel the chill?
In a world in which powerful corporations have learned how to
buy elections and ensure their interests are represented at the
highest levels of leadership, governments need to be reminded that
they are charged with protecting our interests and the interests of
our children. That the future of our planet, and the hope of
millions for a green and peaceful world, are things that an
increasingly powerful voice will stand up and demand.
The same centreless coalition of groups and individuals who
organised last year's activities want you and your family and
friends back on the street this Saturday, March 20th, to
demonstrate that we still say "No" to war.
On March 20th, you can join with people all over the world in
reminding our leaders that the majority of this planet's
inhabitants want peace and a sustainable world for our
Remind them that we're willing to stand up and be counted.
Remind them that global public opinion is not just a minor
consideration to be skirted around when it suits them.
Remind them that the global resistance to the invasion of Iraq
was dubbed "the second superpower," that it's a generic expression
of hope, and that it's still very much alive.
Check out the complete
worldwide schedule of March 20th events, and
send this e-card to invite your friends, family, and colleagues
to join you.
message to be displayed in our virtual protest. We'll display
the comments on the front page of our website from March 18th until