Anti-war march through Canterbury

by Christopher James Stone

A tale of two rallies

I went on the anti-war march through Canterbury on Saturday 18th January 2020.

There was a rally at the beginning, and a rally at the end. In fact, strictly speaking, it wasn’t a march at all, but two rallies, it’s just that, in order to get from one to the other, we had to walk through the city.

The fact that we were all walking in the same direction at the same time, carrying banners and chanting slogans, was purely coincidental.

Two people objected to our march along the way. One of them shouted the name of Tommy Robinson, that well-known anti-Islamic activist who has just endorsed the Tory Party.

The other shouted “USA! USA!” Like that, repetitively, like a football chant.

Which says it all really. Let’s not bother to look at the facts. Let’s just pick a side and support them, like you would a football team.

But the truth of the matter is this, that the extra-judicial killing of Iranian General Qassem Suleimani on Iraqi soil, which has ratcheted up tensions in the Middle East once more, bringing us to the brink of war, was illegal.

That makes it a war crime. It was not done in self-defence. It was planned months in advance and carried out using high-tech subterfuge.

After the assassination I watched a BBC documentary about Suleimani. It told of his rise during the Iran-Iraq war. That was the furnace in which his reputation was forged.

In those days Saddam Hussein was an official ally of the West, and his use of chemical weapons ignored. Later those same chemical weapons were used as justification for the invasion of Iraq. When asked how they knew Saddam had chemical weapons, certain people no doubt muttered quietly to themselves, “because we’ve got the receipts.”

One thing you notice whenever you see programs about Iran, they always start the story in 1979, with the revolution. That’s when all the trouble began, they suggest.

They always fail to mention that after WW2 Iran was a democracy. Unfortunately it wasn’t the right kind of democracy. It tried to nationalise the oil industry. That lead, in 1953, to a British-American coup, followed by almost three decades of brutal dictatorship by the Shah.

It was only then that the Iranian people rose up to overthrow their Western-backed oppressor; something we in the West have forgotten, but the Iranians have not.

The rally at the end took place in the Friend’s Meeting House. Speakers included Dr Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt, Cllr Aram Rawf, Shabbir Lakha of the Stop the War Coalition, and ex-Labour candidate and Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Hugh Lanning.

Hugh’s speech was particularly moving. Readers may know that he has recently lost his wife, so when he talked of the grief that ordinary Iranians would face in the event of a war, he was speaking directly from the heart.

This is another thing that those who agitate for war tend to ignore: that it is always ordinary people who suffer and die as a consequence.

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