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Sign the Pledge of Resistance against an attack on Iraq


The importance of demonstrating

Following the publication of the Blair Dossier, which should be subtitled 'The Assertions of the British Government' rather than 'The Assessment of the British Government', the anti-war movement has two primary goals. The demonstration on 28 September is a critical element in achieving both goals - in terms of its size, and in terms of how we use the opportunity.

The first goal we have is to increase the domestic political pressure on Tony Blair to a level where he is forced to disengage Britain from the planned war on Iraq. We have already had some successes, and the pressure already exerted has forced the Prime Minister to recall Parliament and to modify his language. On a larger scale, international and domestic pressures forced President Bush, in part because of the urging of Mr Blair, to appear before the UN General Assembly and include the United Nations explicitly in the debate around Iraq, something he was very loath to do.

The demonstration on 28 September cannot by itself force the Prime Minister to abandon his loyal position by President Bush's side, but its size will be a significant factor in his planning.

The Example of Vietnam
In 1985, former President Richard Nixon revealed that he had considered using nuclear weapons to end the war in Vietnam. Richard Nixon went beyond merely 'considering' the option, he actually decided to use nuclear weapons.

In August 1969, the United States began a sequence of threats against North Vietnam, beginning with an ultimatum personally delivered by Henry Kissinger, stating that if by 1 November 1969 there had been no ceasefire by the Vietnamese resistance, 'we will be compelled -with great reluctance - to take measures of the greatest consequences.' Two nuclear bombs would be dropped on North Vietnam.

To demonstrate the sincerity of his intentions, President Nixon ordered a full-scale nuclear alert, raising US nuclear forces to their highest level of alertness, DEF CON 1, for 29 days.

On 13 October 1969, one of Nixon's aides sent a Top Secret memorandum to Henry Kissinger warning that 'The nation could be thrown into internal physical turmoil', requiring the 'brutal' suppression of 'dissension'.

That month, the US anti-war movement was organising a massive wave of demonstrations and mobilisations culminating in the Vietnam Moratorium demonstration in Washington. President Nixon later wrote in his memoirs, 'A quarter of a million people came to Washington for the October 15 Moratorium... On the night of October 15, I thought about the irony of this protest for peace. It had, I believe, destroyed whatever small possibility there may have existed for ending the war in 1969'.

The key factor in his decision not to drop an atomic bomb on North Vietnam was that 'after all the protests and the Moratorium, American public opinion would be seriously divided by any military escalation of the war'. Mobilised public opinion averted the world's second nuclear war. (References for this section in Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Why We Shouldn't Launch Another War On Iraq.)

The Importance of 28 September
We know from Geoff Hoon's repeated pronouncements (see the ARROW Anti-War briefing on the matter www.justicenotvengeance.org ) that nuclear weapons are a live option in the projected war on Iraq. Whether or not the Government is planning to use them, if the demonstration is sufficiently large - and the Government perceives that there is a real threat of large-scale domestic turbulence if they participate in President Bush's war - this will at a minimum constrain the kinds of tactics, and possibly weapons, that they will plan to use in the war. We are already seeing reports that the US may spare the civilian infrastructure targets they destroyed in the 1991 war. The demonstration on 28 September may save tens of thousands of lives even if it only succeeds in confirming that restriction on war planning.

The possible gains from the demonstration are greater than that, however. In itself, the demonstration can be a powerful signal to the Government. And if the demonstration is used as an educational opportunity and as a springboard for further action, it can ramp up the movement to another level of mobilisation.

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