Stopping the War, Seven Years On

Sunday, 21st March 2010 at 15:00 UTC Leave a comment

I’ve just been reminded that yesterday was the 7th Anniversary of the Iraq War’s beginning. As a political issue, it is now understood that the war was a bad thing, but the movement that sought to prevent, and then curtail it, are now almost silent, and its perpetrators still at large. What happened? (Yes, this is the 2nd post of the day, I didn’t feel like scheduling this one for tomorrow).

It would be fairly difficult to pin down one reason why the Iraq war has come to be passively accepted as a part of reality by so many. In part, the continuing and rising number of deaths in Afghanistan is to blame.

In part, it is because Iraq is seen as a mess with little chance of being cleaned up by anyone else. I wonder whether some people secretly wish for the UK to stick around watching the US, just in case something bad happens when we’re gone that we could have prevented. There was always an extent to which everyone’s opposition to the war was anti-Americanism. Now the US has managed to weather the discrediting of its motives, they are in for the very long haul, the endless placement of soldiers to ensure Pax Americana prevails, and an ongoing occupation, in which hundreds, if not thousands of soldiers remain in bases to ensure Western Foreign Policy is adhered to.

Obviously in part the failures of the Stop the War Coalition are clear for all to see. Mobilising 2 million in protest is not a success, no matter how much they claim victory in that regard. Perhaps though, the movement was a victim of its own success: after 2million, what next? There were no partial victories, steps along the way, etc. or rather, there haven’t been any since. And those few times when the public could have been given a victory of sorts, like the Chilcott Enquiry, fell flat.

But then, neither was the coalition a complete success from an internal point of view. Muslim groups came and went, few were actually hugely representative of the Muslims in Britain, and the much-vaunted White-Muslim coalition disintegrated slowly. Any hope of getting a major Imam or a bishop on the platform at a rally faded into endless rounds of the same ‘representatives’. Other groups fell out over everything from Iran and secularism to George Galloway’s face.

The War on Terror as a wider concern has become less and less motivating. If the this was the area where we witnessed a war on British people, then most have quietly submitted to the inevitability that our entire lives will be spent in fear for the next terrorist attack. Britain has become a terrorised state, and in this sense, the terrorists and the fearmonger industry have both won.

What worries me most, though, is the disengagement from the task of challenging the “facts on the ground”. Iraq may no longer be a huge issue, but America has established certain ‘facts’ – its permanent presence as separated from its operational presence that could be ending any month now. No credible challenge exists to this establishment of global reach.

But what has also happened, I think, and a point worth baring in mind, is a realisation of how small an issue Iraq is. I don’t say this lightly; thousands have died as a result and millions have been affected, but it is nothing on the scale, certainly not on the geographic scale, of the issues many have worked on since: Make Poverty History, Stop Climate Chaos and several other recent issues have focused on issues affecting a far larger number of states. But I do think many lessons have been learnt about the need for quality as well as quantity in actions. Very often I hear people talking about the failures of the Stop the War Coalition/Movement as reasons for doing things differently.

Did you used to attend Stop the War marches, and if so, why don’t you attend them anymore? Are there other lessons that need drawing from the demise of this movement? Can/should a new anti-occupation movement take its place?

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Entry filed under: Activism, Britain, History, Iraq, Peace, Politics, Tony Blair.

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