|Julian Assange slates imperialism|
By Caroline Colebrook
THOUSANDS of peace campaigners filled Trafalgar Square last Saturday for a rally organised by Stop the War, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Muslim Association of Britain to commemorate the tenth anniversary if the war against Afghanistan.
In October 2001 US President George Bush used the excuse of the 11th September attacks to launch a war on Afghanistan that he had been planning anyway.
He dubbed it the “War on Terror” and also used this excuse to invade Iraq in March 2003.
The Stop the War organisation was founded in response to the attack on Afghanistan and has campaigned against imperialist wars in the Middle East ever since.
The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Libya have cost the lives of many hundreds of British soldiers and more than a million civilians in those countries.
The rally heard a long array of speakers condemning the wars and saw films displayed illustrating the history of the struggle for peace on giant screens.
Speakers included 106-year-old veteran peace campaigner Hetty Bower. She told the rally of how, in 1914 at the age of nine, her father had told the family: “It seems we are at war; this is where the lies begin”.
“We were told the Germans were cutting off the hands of Belgian children. The lies have changed now but they still go on,” said Hetty, and she made a plea for world peace.
Speakers included Joe Glenton, a former soldier who refused to do a second tour of duty in Afghanistan because he had realised that “The Afghan people were not the enemy, it was the senior officers ordering us to shoot them”.
He quoted the First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon about “the war is being prolonged by those who have the power to end it”.
Guardian journalist Seamus Milne spoke of a war “not on terror but of terror”.
Singer Brian Eno delivered a long list of the costs of the wars and what that money could be used for.
Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, attacked those journalists who propagate the imperialists’ lies used to justify the horrors of war.
Billy Hayes, general secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union and Len McCluskey of Unite were among the speakers, who also included Bruce Kent, Tony Benn, George Galloway, Jemima Khan, John Pilger, Lindsey German and Jeremy Corbyn MP.
Joan Humphries whose grandson Kevin Elliot was killed in Afghanistan spoke for herself and other families of soldiers who have died there. She laid the blame squarely at the feet of those who had ordered our army to invade Afghanistan.
There were many writers, actors, musicians, academics and former soldiers who spoke – and schoolgirls new to peace campaigning.
All around the Square there were stalls from different campaigns, performance events, art installations, and debates.
One campaign called for the release of Shaker Aamer, a London resident whose wife and family live in Battersea, who is still held prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, and for the release of Babar Ahmad, a 37-year-old British Muslim who has been detained without charge in this country since August 2004.
At around 4pm the crowd assembled for a short march down Whitehall to present a petition at Downing Street.
As police tried to herd the demonstrators into pens some campaigners staged a sit-down across the road (most had been on their feet for over four hours), which prompted police to kettle the area for a short time but there were no arrests and the protesters dispersed soon after.
Earlier that afternoon in a totally separate event a small group of English Defence League members had presented a petition at Downing Street. After this a couple of their members had wandered up to Trafalgar Square.
But if they had hoped to disrupt the peace rally or try to provoke the many young Muslims there they failed. A small group of police officers kept them completely surrounded until they left the square.