Sydney Protests against the War on Iraq

Sunday, 16th February, 2003

I attended an anti-war protest rally against the War on Iraq in Sydney today and reported back to friends world wide through a number of newsgroups.

A friend wrote:

> I'd wanted to go to the demo in NY today, but too
> many kids and snow and miles.

Not ideal weather. I just got back from Sydney, what a momentous and emotional day it's been.

Here in Sydney we had record crowds. I arrived quite early and got right up front to hear the speakers. I guessed we would probably achieve the hoped for target of 150,000. By mid-day a nearby lady asked if I thought that number were present.

Well at that time the cops had given up on trying to keep city traffic and protesters apart. They simply closed all streets to traffic and the protesters took over, wall to wall people. I had real fears of people being crushed but everyone was patient and sensible. Cops were tops.

The "official" estimate?


I'd personally say much, much more. Never before have so many ordinary people taken to the streets and remember the population of Sydney is only around 2 million.

I was told by a number of people that their buses or trains were packed and pulled into packed stations along the way into the city where no one else could board trains or buses.

Aerial shots from helicopters show entire city blocks jam packed with protesters literally wall to wall.

A good day for people power. Same throughout every other Australian capital city, town, village this weekend.

Now we'll see the mass media denigrate it and our Prime minister say it's of no consequence. [LATER EDITED: - John Howard has since referred to us protesters as a "mob"] God help them, they have *seriously* misjudged the ordinary Australian. Clearly polls showing 88% opposition to war aren't misleading.

If war does break out, Sydney will be a powder keg and it'll become very, very ugly. Emotions are running very high and a government defying majority opinion is playing with fire.

I hope none of this comes to pass.

BTW - every speaker went to great pains to emphasise this is *NOT* anti-American, merely anti US, British and Australian administrations.


Ian C. Purdie
Budgewoi N.S.W. Australia - Co-ords S33º14', E151º34'
VK2TIP "I'll give ya the TIP mate" QRP-L #1978. SOC #171 FP#91


My post above didn't produce a great deal of response although it would have been read by a very great number of people. The "fors" and "against" seem equally divided depending upon geography. Among the more thoughtful (Australian) disagreeing with me [and my response to each point].

A friend wrote:

> Ian, my brain is telling me to keep my mouth shut but as usual, I'm not
> listening.

I'm really pleased you did XXXXX. Far too many people are afraid to speak out, one way or another. A very worrying aspect for me is the number of people who write to me saying [for or against]:

"I couldn't post this to the list" - and that covers many lists.

Why this climate of fear? I'm consistently reminded that an atmosphere seems to exist where if you speak out against war then you are perceived as being unpatriotic.

Has the world deteriorated that far? Are we in Germany in the early 1930's?

I can certainly see many parallels. Fear is actively being encouraged for overt purposes. Look at our own country with "Terrorism commercials" and "Terrorism Information Packs".

Thankfully the majority see it for what it is and treat it with the usual Aussie derision. I sent mine back "return to sender".

> I saw the protesters on the news tonight and I have to wonder what they're
> thinking. *Nobody* wants a war, John Howard doesn't want a war, George Bush
> doesn't *want* a war, Tony Blair doesn't *want* a war.

Then why are they vigorously pushing for it when many other diplomatic alternatives exist? If war did proceed do you really believe that to be the end? Many of us see it as the beginning of a far greater holocaust.

> What they *do* want is to see that maniac in Iraq forced to get rid of his
> weapons of mass destruction. You don't think he has them ? ...nobody could be
> that naive :)

No I don't. And I'm not naive either, far from it. I don't see the world in terms of "white hats" and "black hats". If they have the proof then produce it, they haven't and I believe they can't. Why apart from Israel, do none of the immediate neighbours of Iraq seem terribly concerned.

Speaking of Israel why do we seem keen to enforce UN resolutions against Iraq but not against Israel, possibly the basis of the whole problem?

However, I do believe this "weapons of mass destruction" is a smokescreen for a considerable number of other agenda's. In the past we have consistently been lied to on a comprehensive basis. Am I and others to suddenly believe on this occasion, "trust us"? Like hell.

[From an unpublished letter to the Sydney Daily Telegraph last week]

"It is very interesting to hear on ABC-TV, retired Major-General Alan Stretton again repeat his opposition to a war against Iraq. The list of prominent Australians voicing considerable concern appears to be growing daily. This contrasts quite sharply with the relatively few in number who support our Prime Minister.

Apart from John Howard's parliamentary colleagues and a few newspaper editors, the supporters of the US administration seem rather thin on the ground.

Major-General Alan Stretton reminded me that the Vietnam war began in earnest after the Tonkin Gulf Crisis of August 1964 where President Johnson was able to get Congress to overwhelmingly pass the so-called Tonkin Gulf Resolution. This was subsequently proven to be based upon a lie and with very tragic consequences. The entire Vietnam war was proven a catalogue of lies and deceit.

In recent times we now know we were lied to over the "children overboard" affair. These are not the only recent instances. Tony Blair told the House of Commons recently that his "dossier" demonstrated 'a huge infrastructure of deception and concealment' in Iraq. Powell even cited that document at the UN.

It is now known that the Blair Dossier was a highly damaging fiasco. A dodgy dossier of 'intelligence' about Iraq. What else is dodgy? What else are outright lies and distortions?

Why is it a Prime Minister and his parliamentary colleagues are so right and yet everyone else is just plain wrong? Where is the proof?"

[Major-General Alan Stretton led Australian forces in Vietnam and I wonder if he echoes the views of serving officers unable to speak out]

> The disgusting float depicting the Prime Minister of this country as a dog on
> a leash being led by George Bush is every bit as denigrating to the United
> States as it is to the Bush Administration.

That's indeed as how many see it. Kowtowing.

> The disgraceful remarks made by Latham were every bit as much an attack on
> the United States as on George Bush and he should have been strongly
> disciplined for it but of course wouldn't be because he said exactly what
> Simon Crean thinks and
> wouldn't dare say. In the last two or three weeks, they have suceeded in
> being nothing more than an international embarrassment.

I didn't necessarily disagree, they weren't entirely fruitful though. It did provoke the American Ambassador though to make comments which I and others took to be a threat against my party but this is what it's all about. Who controls things?.

> George Bush made it patently clear that whether or not Australia would
> participate in an attack on Iraq was a decision that John Howard had to make
> and make it, he will. He's nobody's fool.

Assuming the UN does not cave in and GWB decides [as I think he will] to go it alone where does that leave John Howard? Back down and return Australian troops or support GWB?

In that event what is going to happen in Australia and elsewhere? Has anyone thought about that?

Have you thought of the consequences for your country? You lived through the bitter Vietnam era, yesterday easily exceeded the Vietnam protests and a shot hasn't even been fired yet.

The mood yesterday was entirely one of it's up to people to decide their destiny and not to be dictated to by the US administration.

> So whilst I certainly don't want to see war, I don't believe for a minute
> that the United Nations are suddenly going to develop a spine...

If they refuse to go along with GWB then they have demonstrated spine.

> I don't believe that Saddam and his cronies are just going to smile nicely,
> say "thank you for not blasting us to kingdom come, we'll be good boys now".

You're not blasting "Saddam and his cronies", you're blasting innocent people.

> What I do believe is that he has now seen millions of people around the world
> asking that his miserable hide be spared and that he be allowed to continue
> as the "terrorist's assistant".

That is I think the biggest misconception or lie [depending upon viewpoint] of all. If you want "terrorist's assistant" look directly at Saudi Arabia but it's not helpful to point the finger there at the moment, maybe next year or is that Iran earmarked for next year?.

> God help us all if that happens.

The terrorism jazz doesn't bother me one iota. It is however an ideal subterfuge to heighten hysteria and paranoia. The principal terrorists [few in number] are just insane criminals. We've had examples of it before and no doubt in the future.

Sydney had the Hilton Hotel bombing, the Family Law Court bombing and so it goes on.



Another friend wrote [copy to me]:


> It's all gone terribly quiet on XXXXX. Have you and (probably to a greater
> extent) me offended everyone? I seem to be making a habit of it...

Doubt it. I've found the same across a wide number of lists I belong to. A general malaise? People finally getting a life? Uncertain and controversial times?

> One of the things that troubles me is that on subjects such as this there
> often seems to a completely unquestioning camp that adopts a position and
> resolutely refuses to listen to any opposing argument on the matter.

I agree to a certain extent. Today I was astonished to hear a number of people state:

"I don't know much about it, but we must do something about Iraq"

Sheez, I held my tongue. I don't care what position people take but at least let it be an "informed position". There's a mountain of material on the internet alone. Far too much reliance on mass media delivering 30 second packages.

In a normal day I watch every news service available on TV. Yesterday, I timed how long it took to get through issues of substance before the banal. Each 30 minute news service took from 2 minutes 15 seconds to 3 minutes 25 seconds to deal with the news of the day. The exception was the 7:00 p.m. ABC-TV news which took around 12 minutes.

My wife mentioned the other day that commercial channels devoted more time to Michael Jackson than the actual main news.

No wonder people are dumb.

> When presented with such an audience, I automatically switch to 'Devil's
> Advocate' mode and start to question assumptions and attitudes.

My father's mode or so I thought. After mum died and he was having difficulty walking I escorted him to the polling booth and handed him the conservative material. He went off his brain. Seems he played 'Devil's Advocate' simply to avoid conflict with mum. Crafty old bugger.

> It's got me into trouble on a number of occasions; it's the old 'If you're not
> with us,
> you're against us' attitude.

Sadly that is very prevalent today, particularly at the international level.

> The point is that I often find myself deeply uncertain of the merits of a
> case. Sometimes, the arguments on one side are extremely difficult to
> challenge - particularly if there's some kind of personal emotive
> involvement.

Being uncertain is a sign of an open mind.

> Take the banning of pistols after the Dunblane tragedy. How can
> you argue with a bereaved parent that pistols should not be banned? You
> can't. However, the truth is that all that has happened is that a group of
> extremely well disciplined individuals have been denied their sport to no
> practical effect. A bad law. The system failed in that case, not the law
> that was already in place.

They were supposed to be banned here [pistols] or so we all thought. You can ban them and allow for sporting shooters. That's the case here with rifles. Your rifle must be locked away safely at your club. Farmers on the land have other provisions. Suburban cowboys are nowhere.

> I like to try to encourage debate and to query established opinion. It's
> frequently unpopular; it'd be much easier simply to nod one's head sagely
> and join the flock. My mind doesn't work like that.

Good for you.

> As I wrote in the XXXXX posting, I'm really on the fence. I don't know what
> the right course of action is in the case of Iraq. I don't feel that I'm
> sufficiently informed to come to a reasoned judgement.

Hah!, Hah!, Hah!, Hah!, Hah!, Hah!, Hah!, [see above]

> Much of the information that would help me come to a decision is apparently
> classified.

That's making an "assumption" that the talk of "weapons of mass destruction" really existing has merit. In other words, everyone is assuming what we are told *is* correct BUT it's *so secret* we really can't tell you.

That thought bothers my wife -"what if they *are* right".

What bothers me [and this is from the perspective of news garnered from ABC-TV or ABC-News Radio] if they know they exist, why don't they tell the Inspectors? We're led to believe they have the world's largest espionage resources available, how come they can't pin point it?

ABC-News Radio is 24 hours a day, world wide sources, all points of view on everything. Very informative. When the TV's not on, the radio is.

Now from reports coming out of European centres, Middle East centres and, Asian centres keep repeating the same question:

"Where's the proof?". Every time something turns up it's a fizzer.

Middle East reports see it purely as an initial measure to eventually dominate that whole region and ultimately Europe. Some commentators believe the latter is the reason France, Germany and Russia are demonstrating opposition. They couldn't really care less about Iraq or its people, simply "who's in the driver's seat". If they eventually conclude they'll miss out, then they'll get onboard.

> What is beyond doubt is that the removal of Hussein's regime and it's
> replacement with something more benign (to Iraq's *own* people) is almost
> certainly likely to improve stability in the region.

I disagree. Firstly he is no better or worse than his predecessors and likely successors. Similarly, there are many other countries ruled by despots. Afghanistan hasn't been a resounding success so far although the mass media won't tell you that. The Taliban [a Saudi creation] haven't been defeated, merely withdrawn for the moment.

Iraq is not a long established country as such, more a region of disparate people. As in Africa, these so called countries were "manufactured" by British, French, German and Belgium interests. Borders often established by european standards, rivers, mountain ranges, grids on a map. Never took into account the ethnic or religious background of inhabitants. Disparate peoples trying to live as one country and after hundreds of years expected to behave as democracies following the westminster system. It don't work.

In what we call Iraq are several different groups and they ain't ever going to get along. Our solution [as in 1921] is to put in "our boy" who does our bidding. If they fight among themselves then we just supply armament to "our boy" to keep control. If he ceases to be "our boy" then he needs replacing.

Hypocrisy on a grand scale knows no bounds here. As a very educated Iranian explained a few days back when asked if he supported the USA and Britain:

"Why do you meddle in our affairs? You provided Hussein with his chemical and biological weapons to use against us and now that you don't want him anymore, he has suddenly become evil in your eyes. Was he evil while you supported him against us? The west are simply thieving hypocrites. The west has been nothing but trouble to our region for centuries."

I find it hard to disagree. That's just one example of reports from the middle east. Do people want to replace him? Yes, but with what?

The first goal is with someone far more compliant.

> I tend to the view that the administration is far better informed than me
> and is better placed to make a decision. I don't *know* though.

See the previous section for the views which influence me the most.

> Yours, troubled,

Equally troubled.



I'm indeed very grateful to the person who sent me this quotation

"I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it."

-Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. general and 34th president (1890-1969)


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