17th Feb 2003
Listen to us, who were in Hyde Park
On Saturday I was in Hyde Park to protest the governments line, pushing for war in Iraq. Since then Mr Blair has shown a level of arrogance that is truly outrageous. I'd like to make a few points here about what Mr Blair will now have to do. I say it that way deliberately. We live in a democracy, that means, and I take this very seriously, that the government has a duty to obey the wishes of the British people. It is not Mr Blair's place to decide whether or not we go to war in the light of, even by conservative estimates, 750,000 people saying they object to this. Mr Blair does not rule he is merely an executive chosen by the people of Britain to represent our interests. For him to believe that he knows our interests better than we do ourselves is arrogance beyond toleration.
His comments immediately before the marches in London and Glasgow made it very clear to me that he is not listening to the people. Before I was unsure whether Mr Blair was acting to avoid war or not, but I cannot now see how his words could in any way be interpreted as working for a peaceful resolution. That he thinks that the moral case for attacking Iraq has been made is merely his opinion. It should be clear, even to him, that the majority of the country do not agree.
Freedom is when the people can speak, democracy is when the government listens.
On Saturday the people spoke, the government is now duty bound to listen. That is the role of government. I am very sorry to say this, because I know that personally you have a great deal to offer as an MP, and I have a great deal of respect for your work and efforts to make the world a more equitable place, but I cannot vote for you while Mr Blair remains the leader or your party. Further, I cannot vote for you while any Labour leader moves towards war. I encourage you to take any steps to remove Mr Blair, including initiating a vote of no confidence. I have no confidence in Mr Blair's leadership, indeed, I have quite the opposite. He has to go, now. Please follow your conscience, not the party line.
Violence is the last resort of the incompetent.
Mr Blair has also said that although he is aware of the harm war does, he feels this is the only option. I would like make the point here that this is simply not the case. There are numerous cases from history to show that non-violent means can be highly effective. Although there are clearly differences between the efforts of people like Gandhi and Mandela and the situation in Iraq, the ethical dimension is the same. You never reduce the levels of violence by instigating more violence. All you do is create a spiral of ever increasing violence and suffering. I strongly recommend that Mr Blair read "Ethics for the New Millennium" written by the Dalai Lama, a man of infinitely greater wisdom, before he thinks to speak of morality again.
And lets not forget that Iraq was largely armed by the US during the Iraq/Iran war. And yet this government still fails to properly control the sales of arms. This hypocrisy is criminal.
At the moment the inspectors are making progress, however slow that may be, but progress is being made. So far they have found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. And even if they do, that does not necessitate war. If WMDs are found, so long as they are not used there is no need for war. Even their destruction is not mandatory. After all, we have weapons of mass destruction. The point of this whole exercise is to prevent the use of those weapons. It is preferable that a minimum amount of force be used to achieve that end. He should also remember that in the Gulf War about 100-150 thousand Iraqis died. Each of them had a family, their deaths touched probably a million lives. What's more, those people learnt to hate the people who had done that to them, and don't for a moment be deluded that they aimed that hatred at Saddam alone. I met an Iraqi on Saturday, and he spoke of the appalling things that Saddam has done, and how his own brother was sentenced to life imprisonment merely for saying something critical about Saddam while on a visit to Canada. But he was certain that a war would only increase the suffering of the Iraqi people. If Mr Blair really cares about the Iraqi people then he would be trying to persuade Hussein not by threats of war, but instead by offers to help his people. That those people might then begin to see the west as their friend and protector would be an enormous benefit. Lets not forget, Hussein is 64 years old. He cannot live forever. If we can prevent atrocities by inspections, and by directly helping to improve conditions in Iraq then we set the stage for the people of Iraq, with Arab and Western help to reclaim their country on the death of Hussein. We need to think of the long term, not panic and act idiotically in the short term. The CIA leaked a report essentially backing this very line. They said that Iraq's probability of using WMDs (assuming they indeed exist) if left unprovoked was near zero. If attacked it is almost certain. It shouldn't take a multi-billion dollar intelligence agency to tell you that, I worked it out for free, but perhaps Mr Blair needs a little extra convincing.
As for the conflation of the terrorist threat with Iraq, that is simply a lie. British Intelligence has stated clearly that there is no link between Al Quida and Iraq. But again, a peaceful approach to dealing with terror is most effective. I would have thought that Mo Mowlem's work in Northern Ireland would have made that point. Let me remind Mr Blair why these terrorists exist. They believe that the west is exploiting their people, and committing crimes against them. They are, as I'm sure you are aware, entirely correct. The US government, and I say this merely as an example, has assisted three military coups in Pakistan since 1960. The harm that military coups have done there need hardly be stated. Perhaps if the US and UK were more honest and honourable in their dealings with other cultures then those people would not feel the need to take such extreme measures. I obviously don't condone terrorism, but only an idiot refuses to try to understand the causes of these things.
Tough on Crime, Tough on the causes of Crime
By saying that Tony Blair claimed to understand that the causes need to be addressed. The same is true of terrorism. His actions tell a very different story. He is concentrating on the use of force to solve a problem where force is the one thing that will never solve it. Even in Afghanistan the Taliban are reasserting themselves, making a mockery of the US lead force's attempt to oust them. It is worth remembering that during the whole of the Soviet/Afghan war the Soviets had control of all the cities in Afghanistan, but they clearly failed to quell the forces in the mountains. I said before that invasion that the US were going to find the same problem, and my prediction seems to be coming true. They've not even managed to catch bin Laden. The human cost though has been significant. The number of civilian deaths alone, about doubles the number of people killed in the WTC. That the west has not advertised this fact merely demonstrates the contempt the western governments have for lives in other countries. That is immoral in the extreme. And before people jump to the defence that the Taliban were evil and had to go, again, don't be deluded that they have gone. The Soviets were there for a decade, lost 25,000 soldiers. And we have yet to achieve as much as they achieved. When the west leaves Afghanistan, as at some point it must, can we really expect that the country will remain a paragon of democracy? To think that is naivety of astronomical proportions.
The military has for decades promised much and delivered nothing but misery. It is time for peace to be given a chance. We must remember, violence is the last resort of the incompetent. For Bush to be suggesting this as our first recourse just proves that he is worse than incompetent. Blair, by wilfully following in his footsteps is not only incompetent, but also dictatorial in his defiance of the British people. For both these reasons his tenure as PM must now end. I therefore ask you to initiate a vote of no confidence as soon as possible. I ask you to do this as my representative, in the spirit of democracy.
Democracy begins at home.
Please let me know what action you intend to take on this. I will be publishing this email on my web-site in the near future, I would very much like to be able to publish your reply alongside it.
Hilton Dawson's reply, received within 24 hours of my email
© Peter Bagnall