The air of unreality in Washington, DC, is, well, unreal. On Face the Nation March 19, Vice President Dick Cheney proclaimed that the war in Iraq is going well, that the insurgency had reached "a stage of desperation" -- and that the prediction that Americans would be greeted as liberators was "basically accurate." There's no civil war, the administration insists, no catastrophic political failure, no evidence that the war is well on its way to becoming the new Vietnam. No, Cheney insists, the problem is just the overcritical news media.
For the record, more than 2,300 United States soldiers are dead. So are as many as 37,000 Iraqis. Countless more have been maimed, lost limbs, seen their lives destroyed. And three years after the invasion, there is no end in sight. More than 130,000 US troops are still fighting in Iraq, and they are utterly unable to keep the peace. The Iraqi forces are poorly trained and can do little to help.
Cindy noted the above, "The Three-Year Nightmare" (San Francisco Bay Guardian). It's a weekly and we'll have more on the fate of an editorial that ran in a daily. But whether the corporate media embraces the dialogue or not, the editorials do make a difference. Especially as Iraq turns into a "four-year nightmare."
Kyle notes "Doctor faces court martial for Iraq service refusal" (Gulf Times, Doha, Qatar) which is about Malcolm Kendall-Smith. While the news has been noted here, Kyle hoped the personal background might be new:
Australian-born Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, 37, faces five charges of disobeying a lawful order after he refused to train and go to Iraq last year. He could be jailed.
The military doctor, who was raised in New Zealand and holds dual British-New Zealand citizenship, had served in both Iraq and Afghanistan in the past, but said he realised last year the Iraq war was illegal and that he could not return.
He is due to face a court martial next month and his legal team had asked during pre-trial hearings for permission to argue that the order to deploy was illegal. But presiding judge Jack Bayliss ruled that the airman cannot use that defence.
"None of the orders given to the defendant in this case was an order to do something which was unlawful," Bayliss said. Opponents of the conflict were hoping to use the case to test in a British court whether the war itself was legal.
Kendall-Smith's lawyers had argued that Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision to send troops to Iraq amounted to aggression, a crime under international law.
Whether or not the personal information is new to you, Kendall-Smith is a war resister and I hope we'll follow this case as closely as possible. These are the stories of this war. As much as the body counts, as much as the Bully Boy's official statements/posturing, as much as the corporations profitting from the war and so much more, these are the stories of this war. The ones resisting should not be rendered invisible and future Howard (and Helen) Zinns will note these stories. But we shouldn't have to wait for brilliant historians like Zinn to tell future generations the stories of today. History is happening right now, all around us and we are all a part of it. "History" doesn't just happen on the Sunday chat & chews (I'd argue it rarely happens there) but with the amount of time the left gives that nonsense and the lack of a regular anti-war/peace/war resister beat at any magazine is really sad. It's as sad as the corporate newspapers thinking that "business sections" (flattering execs and chasing down stock news) covers labor. Matthew Rothschild frequently notes activities in his McCarthyism Watch at The Progressive (and thank goodness he does) but where is the column dedicated to covering that in any of the magazines? Naomi Klein and Katha Pollitt are both on leave (although Pollitt has something at The Nation's The Notion which will note tomorrow) as they finish up books.
Those spots could be filled with guest columnists covering the anti-war movement.
We're entering year four. There are more than enough organizations, more than enough war resisters, more than enough opposition to the illegal war for a regular column. Harper's, The Nation, The Progressive, go down the list, they all cover the issue. But it's generally one story a year. My opinion, this needs to be a regular beat. We need to know what's going on and we need to know each other's stories. That would help the movement gather even more momentum. It's more than a once year story.
Patrick Hart? We highlighted a story from an alternative weekly last week. We all met a new face, heard a new story, learned a little about him, about ourselves, about the movement. (I didn't find that story by the way. I'm not applauding myself for anything. Members find the highlights and everyone does a great job of it here.) But there are many more stories. Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! find them. If you listened, watched or read (transcripts) of Democracy Now! you were very familiar with Cindy Sheehan long before Camp Casey. There are other Pacifica Radio programs also doing a solid job.
But when I think about the guests on the programs who've written books, they've written about the spouses at home (an important point of this story) or they've written about some troops serving in Iraq (ditto). I haven't heard a guest who's written of the resistance to this war, the movement itself. I'm sure there have been some and I've just missed them but where is that book other than CODEPINK's Stop The Next War Now? (A great book and one we've highlighted often and will hopefully return to highlighting next week.) Point, if it was one columnist filling in for Pollitt or Klein, I'm using The Nation as the example because it's a bi-weekly, at the end of their substitute duties, they'd have a strong basis for a book. If it was a variety of substitutes filling in, The Nation would have the basis for a collection on vocies from the movement.
Bring the war home? To do so, we need to know the effects of it and we need to see the people effected. We need to know them as people (the point of Kyle's highlight) and not just as someone who shows up in court and gets a moment of coverage and then, maybe a few months down the line, we hear about them again.
Christian Parenti wrote a fine article on the march from Tijuana to San Francisco. (We highlighted it earlier this week and we'll highlight it again in this entry.) But there you are dealing with a variety of voices and I think people are interested in these voices. I know we're interested in this community. I know when I'm talking to college and high school audiences, they're interested.
Cindy Sheehan's actions at Camp Crawford put a face on the war. There are many faces and we need to know them, we need to meet them. The effects of the war don't just happen "over there." They're felt here (and in other nations) and there's a multitude of stories to tell. I could care less about the latest hula hoop that's going to "save" campaigns or the chat and chews. (That's not a slap to Bill Scher or Bob Somerby who both have done pioneering work on the topic.) (In fact, I'm not even talking about online. I'll assume anyone writing online is writing from their heart -- even on the right -- and doing it for no pay. They should cover what interests them. But magazines assign pieces and assign "beats.")
George Packer (I've noted this before) could have had his Cindy Sheehan. Shortly before Camp Crawford, he had a parent he interviewed but he was too busy working his grudges (including his grudge at The Nation) to notice what was before him. (Which may be a hallmark of his writing.)
We're now starting the fourth year of the illegal war and not only are their a multitude of stories but covering those stories regularly raises the movement up a notch.
Last Thursday, the American military fatality count stood at 2314, this Thursday it's 2320. The Iraqi fatality count? Only the Pentagon knows and they aren't telling.
They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)
The war drags on. We enter year four. We started with an editorial from an alternative weekly. They do matter (as the author of the next highlight would argue) but how does corporate media respond to them? How do they respond to an editorial from the mainstream media itself? Brady notes John Nichols' "Didn't This Call for Withdrawal From Iraq Merit Attention?" (The Online Beat, The Nation):
Here's an interesting issue for the "liberal media" to ponder:
In January, 2004, when the Des Moines Register made an unexpected endorsement of John Edwards as the best presidential pick for participants in Iowa's Democratic Caucuses, it was national news. The Register, an extremely influential newspaper because of its wide circulation in a relatively small state, shook up the Democratic dance card. The Register's editors found themselves being interviewed on national television and radio programs, as political writers for daily newspapers across the country stumbled over themselves to assess the significance of this particularly influential newspaper's endorsement of a still relatively unknown senator. As it turned out, the attention to the endorsement was merited, as Edwards himself acknowledged that his strong second place finish in the caucuses owed much to the boost he got from one of Middle America's most historically powerful and respected publications.
So what would happen if the same newspaper were to come out this year with a strong editorial calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq? And what if that editorial represented a reversal of the newspaper's previous "stay-the-course position?
Would that be news? Would national media outlets that are supposedly trying to ascertain the changing sentiments of the nation with regard to the war, and that are already busy charting the 2008 presidential competition in Iowa, take notice of an important development in a bellweather state? Might it be considered significant that a large daily newspaper with a national reputation has joined what Editor & Publisher magazine's Greg Mitchell -- who has for two years been noting the lack of serious discussion about ending the war on the nation's editorial pages -- refers to as "the very thin ranks of those proposing an exit strategy"?
The answer, lamentably, is "no."
This is indymedia roundup, focused on the war, and we've always had a problem with indymedia roundup in that some of the nation's alternative weeklies (including ones owned by the company that recently gained ownership of The Village Voice -- which seems less interested in the war since the purchase) fluff. That's all they do. A cautionary tale of teen drug usage, an athlete in trouble, and maybe for "substance" they toss in a small column each week on local politics. That doesn't cut it. In some cities, the weekly alternative newspaper may be the only newspaper other than the daily which owns a radio station or a TV station.
Billie and Eddie are especially critical of their two weekly alternative newspapers (Dallas Observer and Fort Worth Weekly). They have good reason to be. Both mentioned the Dallas Observer in e-mails today. The news section includes two local politics stories as well as these:
Hogwarts, North Texas Division
Do you believe in magic? Then we have a school for you, Harry.
By Andrea Grimes
Eyes Wide Shut
Blinded by desperation, Cowboys refuse to see T.O. as B.S.
By Richie Whitt
Read them if you want. I'm reminded of Holly Hunter at the beginning of Broadcast News where she shows footage that networks led with: dominos falling. It's not news.
Does Dallas need news? Billie says the Dallas Morning News (their only daily) owns WFAA (TV station) and has some sort of deal with another TV channel (that repeats their news broadcast and Oprah). Fox? Fox has a foothold and then some. They own two broadcast channels. Dallas got Air America Radio (but Eddie will tell you that they've screwed up the schedule and he's not pleased that Randi Rhodes now airs at a later time and not live). Otherwise? They've got right wing radio and they've got an NPR ("That never tires of airing Fresh Air and Morning Edition several times a day but can't dump those and give the time to locally produced shows," Billie notes.) So they get a lot of attitude, a lot of fluff and maybe some yellow page classifieds posing as "news."
They don't get anything like Bradley's highlight, Jim Washburn's "Lost in OC: The Kevlar Anniversary/If the Iraq War is so noble, why are George's kids still on their barstools" (Orange County Weekly):
What do you give a war on its third anniversary? According to etiquette guides, third anniversaries should be celebrated with leather, which is great if you’re Tom of Finland. But for our troops? How about Kevlar, or a plane trip home?
Last week, Donald Rumsfeld said that if civil war breaks out in Iraq--like that mosque bombing wasn't already their Fort Sumter--American troops would likely stand back and let Iraqis handle it to the extent to which they're able. So the administration is both arguing that we can't reduce troop numbers in Iraq because there might be a civil war, and that if there is a civil war our troops will stay out of it. Why not get some of those inflatable stand-ins they use in movies now, and send our guys home?
But there's a catch in that "extent to which they're able" part, since the number of battle-ready Iraqi battalions has recently gone from one to zero, which by my math means our youth will probably still be fighting there in 2010. Anyone remember Rumsfeld before the war assuring Americans that our troops' combat role in Iraq couldn't possibly last longer than five months? Bush gives out medals for accuracy like that.
Remember Iraq linked to al Qaeda? We're averting a mushroom cloud? We'll be greeted with flowers? There's no ethnic or religious turmoil in Iraq? The war will pay for itself? The weapons of mass destruction will be found? The insurgency is just a few dead-enders, ragtag foreign infiltrators? The insurgency is in its last throes? Mission accomplished?Remember when Bush, the best-guarded man on earth, taunted, "Bring ’em on!"--daring insurgents to attack our troops?
"Oh, but that's the west coast," someone might say. No, it's not just the west coast. Durham Gal has an amazing alternative weekly in her area. It covers local politics and national and international issues. It can throwdown attitude with the best of them but it doesn't feel the need to fluff. It doesn't mistake itself for the sports pages week after week or to act as a yellow pages for local business. Durham Gal notes Patrick O'Neill's "Antiwar protesters warned about Bush, Iran" (Raleigh-Durham Independent):
With George Bush's approval rating at an all-time low, you would think he might tone down his "Let's roll" rhetoric. Not likely, says former CIA analyst Ray McGovern.
"I think the chances are better than even that we'll start bombing Iran within the next couple of months," McGovern told more than 160 people Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh.
McGovern has joined other analysts who predict a U.S. attack on Iran is imminent. Author Robert Dreyfuss, a contributing editor at The Nation, wrote recently, "The pieces are falling into place for Operation Regime Change II, this time in Iran. You'd think, given how badly it went the first time, and how utterly unpredictable a showdown with Iran would be, that the Bush administration would have at least changed its M.O.--but no."
McGovern, who prepared the president's daily CIA briefing under Nixon, Ford and Reagan, says he "would not at all rule out" a suggestion by Karl Rove and other Bush neocons that "the way to get back up in the polls is start another war. That's Rumsfeld's history--when things go wrong, he'll widen the problem. I wish that were funny. It's not.
"I really hope that he won't do that, but the indications are there that he has already decided to attack Iran, and for some strange, bizarre reason, the West Europeans are not as strongly opposed to that as they were to Iraq," he says.
McGovern and Dreyfuss say a war with Iran could be deadly for both sides.
"Iran is not Iraq, and it would be a major war," McGovern says. Iran could send "four divisions [of soldiers] into Iraq overnight."
Dreyfuss wrote that Iran has "500,000 battle-hardened Pasdaran" (members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) ready to fight, "plus the people they have control or influence over in Iraq."
McGovern also was the keynote speaker at last Saturday's antiwar rally in Fayetteville, where more than 1,000 people gathered for a march and rally marking the third anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. The numbers were down from last year's 4,000, but organizers said the lower figure reflects the fact that more demonstrations happened around the country this year.
We've noted Patrick O'Neill a great deal here. He's only one of the strong writers the weekly has. We'd note him more were we not focusing on Iraq for the Thursday entry now (because he covers additional topics as well). Last week, Micah wrote an e-mail (which I offered to post here but he was hopeful that it was just one bad week) about how awful he found The Village Voice. He's read this weeks and doesn't see much improvement. Dallas Observer and The Village Voice are now (now) owned by the same corporation.
Becky notes S. Schweitzer's "Rally for Peace and Freedom" (Binghampton IMC) which notes the local rally and includes speeches as well as three poems by Patricia Donohue (one of which, selected by Becky, is below):
MOURN NOT THE DEAD
Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie
Dust unto dust-
The calm sweet earth that mothers all who die
As all must;
Mourn not your captive comrades who must dwell-
Too strong to strive-
Each in their steel-bound coffin of a cell,
But rather mourn the apathetic throng-
The cowed and meek-
Who see the world's great anguish and its wrong
And dare not speak!!
Back to the west coast, Zach notes "Iraq War: Still Shocking, Still Awful" (Santa Barbara Independent):
This brings us to our central question: Can President Bush and his executive team of former draft dodgers bring stability to Iraq during their last two-and-a-half years in power? Or can we expect more of the same? Saddam Hussein is captured. The Golden Mosque is blown to bits. The Shi'a and Sunnis are killing one another in what threatens to become an exceptionally bloody civil war. Some reports suggest the Iraqi military is beginning to perform well under fire. But the national police is fast becoming a terrorist organization, infiltrated by Shi'a militias intent on killing as many Sunnis as possible. Will the disparate tribal, religious, and political factions find it within their ability to make the compromises necessary to form a stable government? There’s little beyond wishful thinking to suggest this can happen.
The real problem is that little has changed at the top in Washington. Given the ideological rigidity of those in charge -- coupled with their messianic worldview -- there's no reason to hope for any improvement. In the meantime, our government continues to hold thousands of prisoners without trial. It continues to tolerate and encourage torture. None of this honors the profound sacrifices made by our troops and their families. Instead, this conduct betrays the core values for which they and this nation stand.
President Bush has expressed shock at the photos taken in Abu Ghraib. Yet he has allowed the whole tragedy to be blamed on an undisciplined night crew. No officer of any rank has been charged, nor any of their civilian leaders reprimanded. Meanwhile our troops continue to be spread thin on the ground as the United States begins work on 14 new military bases, plus a new prison. These plans are not intended to help the Iraqi people. They certainly won't help us.
No they won't. And that's the reality that forces the writer of Brenda's highlight to wonder about the draft. From Jack Lessenberry's "Should we bring back the draft?" (Metro Times Detroit):
What, am I nuts? That is a reasonable question, but for now, let's stick to today's topic. Anyone who pays attention and has the reasoning power of a chimpanzee knows that the war in Iraq is a horrible failure.
In fact, it may be the greatest foreign policy failure in American history. As Molly Ivins observed last week, "After three years, tens of thousands of lives and $200 billion, we have achieved chaos."
We have severely damaged our economy, served as a far better recruiting machine for al-Qaida than Osama could have imagined, and ruined our international standing. Yet the war goes on, and will go on.
Nobody cares enough to stop it. And why is that? Simple. We don't have to go, and the children of those who really own and run this country almost never take a turn in uniform. The middle and upper classes are insulated from this war, which is being fought mostly by poor jobless white kids from places like Flint, as Fahrenheit 911 made devastatingly clear.
Inner-city blacks, Hispanics, and other new immigrants are also doing their bit for democracy by being blown up by roadside bombs.
But few or none of them have fathers who are congressmen or college deans, and so we ignore them.
Richard Nixon, who was far brighter than Dubya, thought during the Vietnam War that if we went to an all-volunteer military, the vast majority of the protests would dry up. The all-volunteer army became a reality just after the peace settlement of 1973, and there hasn't been a mass anti-war movement since.
Those of us who marched against the Vietnam war did so in large part for self-serving reasons: because we didn't want to go, or we didn't want our brothers or boyfriends to go. When that threat ended, most of us brought out the brewskis and the Risk game board and began partying hearty.
Now we are moving to a world where we have a professional army that increasingly doesn't look like America. In turn, America doesn't pay very much attention to it. This strikes me as having the potential to be a very dangerous thing, for reasons that have little to do with Iraq.
Demonstartions and protests continued after the weekend. Ben notes BC Global Justic Project's "BC Students Stage Die-In On Iraq War Anniversary" (Boston Indymedia):
More than thirty Boston College students staged a die-in against the Iraq War on the campus green on March 20, 2006. March 19, 2006 was the third year anniversary of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq--a war that has cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $250 billion and claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians and 2,300 U.S. soldiers.
Students involved in the demonstration elected to conduct a die-in in an effort to bring the reality of the war home and to remind students and University officials that their hands are not clean. The demonstration sought to remind students that BC is complicit in the killing of thousands in that it has an active Army ROTC program, the US Marines actively recruit students on campus, and Raytheon, the 5th largest weapons manufacturer in the world, and other arms manufacturers are allowed to recruit BC students. "We feel it is of vital importance to hold this demonstration on our campus in an effort to remind our peers and community that this destructive war has been waged for three years," said Chrissy Lacy, BC 2009. Many students who had not originally planned to demonstrate against the war were moved to join as they walked past.
Joan notes Christian Parenti's "In the Path of a Storm, Vets Protest a War" (The Nation):
A local man named Raymond Couture broke down in tears as he told his story of finding thirty-four corpses in a local nursing home. "They ain't done nothing for us here yet, so I know they ain't done nothing for them people in Iraq." Then the vets and military families spoke. Tina Garnanez, a young Navajo, lesbian and vet, spoke of her experiences in Iraq. She described the track record of lies, broken promises and rising violence in Iraq as mirroring the history of broken treaties, genocide and poverty that shape reservation life in the United States.
Dinner in the broken forest was alligator gumbo; the IVAW kids partied out and then slept under the stars.
Later, in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Demond Mullins, who returned from heavy combat in Iraq only five months ago, looked out at the ravaged, filthy wreckage in a quiet fury. "I can't believe this. This is worse than Baghdad. What my country has become sickens me."
The march from Mobile to New Orleans marks a new stage in organizing among Iraq veterans and thus a new stage for the peace movement. A year ago IVAW was, in reality, mostly just a good idea and a small speakers' bureau. Now it is a real organization and a key piece in the larger coalition of groups like Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out that make up the heart of peace movement.
Belinda found the following and says to tell Francisco that she looked for two hours before finding something new on the peace march, "March This Saturday In Watsonville With Fernando Suarez Del Solar!" (Santa Cruz IMC):
UPDATE ON MARCH ROUTE AND LOCATIONS.
March For Peace! March for Migrant Rights Watsonville AND Salinas
With Fernando Suarez and Pablo Parades
March 25, 2006
Starting in Watsonville 10am
We will meet at the Saint Patrick’s Church Parking Lot
721 Main Street
A 241 mile march that aims at ensuring that the Latino voice of opposition to the War is heard loud and clear across the Americas.
Fernando Suarez del Solar, Pablo Paredes, Camilo Mejia and Aidan Delgado will lead a coalition of the willing across this 241 mile quest for peace starting in Tijuana, Mexico, going through Marine Corps Depot Camp Pendleton to the Cesar Chavez burial site in La Paz, CA, culminating in The Mission district of San Francisco with a memorial ceremony and blood drive.
The March will begin on 12 March 2006. The coalition of the willing will arrive at La Paz, CA on 22 March 2006 and culminate in San Francisco from 26 March 2006 to 27 March 2006.
Latinos represent nearly 15% of the US population and 11% of the US military, with many serving in combat or hazardous duty occupations. In addition, an estimated 20% of the fallen service members in the early months of the invasion were Latino. With the continued growth of the Latino population and its vital importance to the future of this country, it is time the Latino community become an active and vocal part of the 60%+ of US citizens that oppose this War.
It is also time to show the Latino community that they have a voice and a right to fight for peace and stability. Fernando Suarez Del Solar is committed to self-sacrifice. At 50 years of age he cares more about ending this war than even his own health.
We make this call not only to the Latino population but to all those who agree with our message "No more bloodshed in Iraq".
Final March route for Saturday March 25 in Watsonville.
Approximately 5 miles in length.
Leave St. Patricks Church @ 11 (721 Main Street)
Up Main Street North
Merge right onto Pennsylvania & pass Clifford Apts
Merge right onto Freedom Blvd.
Right on Carey
Left on Davis
Right on Freedom Blvd
Left at Y intercept South on Lincoln Street
Right on Riverside
Left on maple
Right on Front Street
Left Main Street South into Pajaro Cross bridge
Right on San Juan road
Left on Bishop
Stop and RALLY at Assumption
Left back onto Porter
Turns in to Main Street
End at downtown Plaza
There will be water stops, vans and vehicles trailing the march. A charter bus will be waiting at end (first come first serve) and we will caravan to Salinas.
CARAVAN TO SALINAS 1-2
Arrive in Salinas, CA Foodsco Parking Lot Alisal & Sanborn Gather 2 March @ 3
POSSIBLE ACTION: 5:30PM Onwards to Santa Cruz to march with people leaving the Vets Hall Event. Local action organized by the Watsonville Brown Berets, the Resource Center for Nonviolence and the Santa Cruz County Peace Coalition. for more info e-mail http://us.f507.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?Tofirstname.lastname@example.org
We'll close with Pru's highlight, which includes Ben Griffin, Anindya Bhattacharyya's "Stop the War demonstration: 'Justice is coming for Britain’s war criminal':"
More than 100,000 anti-war protesters from across Britain marched in London last Saturday against three years of occupation in Iraq and the threats of a military attack on Iran.
The demonstration, organised by the Stop the War Coalition, CND and the Muslim Association of Britain, was young and lively. It brought together all strands of the anti-war movement.
"Blair wants us to forget about the war, but I haven't forgotten," said Abdul Khan, a young man from Walsall in the West Midlands. "They're now targeting Iran and Syria. They want to go on and on. Blair is guilty, though he won't admit it," he added.
The mood of anger against Blair was expressed in the response to speakers at the rally in Trafalgar Square that followed the march.
"A journalist asked me why this demonstration seemed to have a spring in its step," said George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green & Bow.
"I told him it's because people across this country can sense that justice is coming for the war criminal Tony Blair."
Galloway urged people to punish Blair at the local elections on 4 May -- a link also made by Craig Murray, the human rights campaigner and former British ambassador to Uzbekistan.
"We need British troops out of Iraq -- and Tony Blair out of Downing Street," he said.
Opposition to any threat of a military attack on Iran was a key demand of the demonstration.
Elaheh Rostami Povey from Action Iran condemned the mainstream media for parroting Pentagon propaganda.
She called for people to campaign against any attacks or sanctions directed against the country by the US.
One highlight of the rally was the appearance of Sheikh Zagani, foreign affairs spokesperson for Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Iraqi political leader and Shia cleric.
He spoke of his happiness to see so many British people demonstrating against the occupation of Iraq. He made a point of acknowledging the presence of Military Families Against the War on the platform.
"I send condolences in the name of most Iraqi people to the families of soldiers who have lost their lives in this unjust war," he said. "Iraqi people have no hatred against British people. This war is harming both peoples.
"Do not get tired of demonstrating and protesting. We are the voice of humanity, and we have to continue fighting."
Ben Griffin told the rally, "I was a member of the SAS and served last year in Iraq. What I saw there wasn't consistent with 'bringing democracy' to the country -- it was treating Iraqis with utter contempt.
"Since coming out about my decision to leave the army I've had lots of support from soldiers in the army who agree with what I've said. I'd like to tell Tony Blair, it's not God that will judge you -- it's us."
Abu Bakr Deghayes said, "My brother Omar was kidnapped by the US army four years ago and is being held as a hostage in Guantanamo Bay.
"Tony Blair recently called Guantanamo an 'anomaly'. But it's not an 'anomaly', it's a purposely built facility for torture.
"The aim of Guantanamo is to scare people from standing up against tyrants like Blair and Bush. But there's no way they can scare us. We will win this war, through the support of decent human beings across the world."
Military families demand troops must come home
A number of military families joined the protest.
Neville and Gabrielle, who have a family member in the armed forces who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told Socialist Worker, "We felt we had to attend the demonstration because of the way Tony Blair has deceived the British public over the reasons for sending our armed forces into Iraq.
"The prime minister's apparent ambivalence as to the gravity of his decision was based upon the conviction that 'he thought it was the right thing to do'. He was happy to holiday with his family in the sands of the Caribbean, while our troops were dying in the sands of Iraq.
"His obsession with his political legacy has led to our troops being used as an extension of his own ego to be used and manipulated for his own vainglorious ends.
"Now, with the further deployment of troops to Afghanistan, the biggest and most hazardous military operation since the invasion of Iraq is underway in Helmand province -- hostile territory at the heart of the opium poppy area. The British public are being misled yet again.
"For the last two years we have demonstrated in Brighton against the Iraq war.
"The prime minister's continuing refusal to meet with the bereaved service families of the Iraq war is indicative of the mindset of a man who is in denial of the truth.
"Blair out of office. Troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan."
Protesting against new wars and occupation
The march was filled with young people, many of whom were taking part in their first demonstration.
The war in Iraq was not the only issue referred to during the march, as many protesters raised fears and concerns regarding any military intervention in Iran.
Jess Hall travelled from Brighton to show what she called "pre-emptive" action against any military intervention against Iran.
She said, "After watching recent events at home with horror, I feel very concerned that the reasons given for any potential strike against Iran would not be the real reasons."
Another protester said, "I was against the war from the beginning and because of it I have resigned from the Labour Party."
Andy Richards, branch chair of Brighton Unison, told Socialist Worker, "Unison is joining the strike over pensions on Tuesday of next week.
"The money that is being spent on the war in Iraq could be used to close the pensions gap."
Many protesters felt it was important that they kept marching, visibly showing the world that they still cared.
Rebecca from Lambeth, south London, said that "it needed people to come out" and show opposition.
"Just because its three years doesn't mean we have forgotten, even if the politicians ignore us."
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and the war drags on
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