That's what the surgeon said. If you walk for a long time on a hard
surface, the nerve in your third knuckle on your left foot will
fire off, and you'll be in trouble. And so I was, shuffling through
the stinking horse manure of London's Whitehall, close to Horseguard's
Parade, hanging onto my wife's hand, holding high a placard. A yard
ahead an elderly lady pushed a wheelchair containing a young boy
with irons on his legs. He was wrapped in blankets, his head lolling
to one side. Ahead of them was a group of five elderly ladies from
the Women's Institute of Bridgend in Wales loudly proclaiming that
they represented a hundred more who couldn't get to London. Behind
us a young Asian man roared at intervals into a hand-held loud speaker
Tony Blair, Terrorist! George Bush, Terrorist! The battery
was fading, but not his voice.
nor any of us were aware, on that freezing February 15th
2003, that we were part of an unfolding history. As far ahead and
as far behind as we could see were young, old, disabled, folk on
crutches, babes in arms, teenagers singing, young Asian and Arab
men protesting, old couples leaning on each other for support. I
had impertinently written to the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster
and challenged him to be there. But he wasn't. And, apart from a
dozen honourable exceptions, neither were the members of our Mother
of Parliaments. Most, no doubt, tending to their homes, wives, and
cattle. And their directorships.
two hours shuffle away, lay the three hundred and fifty acres of
Hyde Park. By afternoon's end we would fill it with angry people,
wall to wall, gate to gate. That's a lot of folks. The final estimate,
proved by photographic and overhead video evidence, was a minimum
of one and a half million. The largest peacetime demonstration that
the world had ever seen.
to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. I'd told him that I'd seen all
these lies before, in Vietnam, Iran-Contra, in Britain's conquest
of Suez and Cyprus, in America's campaign of lies about Libya. We
warned him that Iraq, surrounded as she was by America's enemies,
would become another Lebanon, another Cyprus, another Vietnam. Straw
and my local member of Parliament told me I was a fool. Leave
it to those who understand these things. And we, the little
people, were watching it all again. On the US networks, and notably
on Fox. Saddam's Winnebagoes of Death. A CIA lie, confidently
repeated on every Fox presenter screen. What of Al Jazeera? We'll
bomb 'em, bumbled a retired Lieutenant Colonel. Yea. Amazing,
urged Fox's Brian Kilmead. But Fox was only part of it. America
had over the twentieth century visited many Nine Elevens on other
inferior nations, from McKinley's brutal conquest of the Philippines,
to Nixon and Kissinger's Two hundred thousand [drowned in a single
series of raids over Haiphong] is not enough.
And now war
had visited American shores. Nine Eleven demanded revenge, and a
frenzy of blind patriotism ran through every level of society, dividing
Transatlantic friend from friend, nation from nation. Someone
will hear from us, muttered a traumatised President. The Dogs
of War were about to be loosed, but no-one could guess where they
had mind to run. Or could they? The little people knew, and said
it, loud and clear. But the leaders could not hear, would not hear.
And so to Sky
television news, and James Rubin, guru of Clinton's White House,
a wise man, one who really should know, and certainly not a Neocon.
Question time, and as luck would have it, my name came first out
of the hat.
Peter of Worcestershire, England. What is your question to James?
James. Nine Eleven was enacted by primitive technology and nineteen
willing hearts. How will an invasion of Iraq reduce the number of
Jamie, an invasion of Iraq will prove to the Arab world that
brutal dictators cannot be allowed to do what they do. And so, surrounding
Arab nations will understand that the best route is to adopt democratic
ways for their peoples.
answer again, carefully. Heard it before? How many times? Who said
it? Democrat or Liberal? And now, early December 2006, almost four
years later? I was watching on CNN and Al Jazeera last evening (and
by the way, how is the strongest democracy in the world coping with
the "freedom" of information question posed by Al Jazeera?)
the lines of minences grises questioning would-be Secretary
of State for Defense, Robert Gates.
crossed my mind. Where were these now very wise and thoughtful Senate
gentlemen and ladies when we — the little people — were protesting
around the world that the Iraq invasion would be based on a lie,
was nothing less than a visceral desire for vengeance against the
great Them? Where were America's highly paid and educated
media bloodhounds when Rumsfeld comically acted out the word "guerrilla"
when asked if there were insurgency groups forming in Iraq just
weeks after the invasion?
and each of those senators voted to support the President in 2002,
even though it was obvious and widely known what he intended to
do. And they watched, as we all did, the hour-long CIA lies mouthed
by Colin Powell with Negroponte sitting at his shoulder like a mournful
vulture. And still they supported the war.
Only now, with
hundreds of thousands of "inferior" ( la Bill O'Reilly
and Sean Hannity) human beings dead, and Iraq a broken state for
decades ahead, does America understand its mistake. But still must
for years continue the suffering, the agony, the dying, while there
remain "American Interests" to be protected and
reinforced. "They" out there must die, while America
learns from its mistakes, and while a failing President and a ruling
elite attempt to salvage their reputations at home and in history.
And when the next Nine Eleven occurs, what will America do?
Thus may I
ask — as generously as I can – of you, America. What kind of people
are you? When will you ever learn?