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
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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