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Iraq Myths
July/August 2015

"We Are Many": The story of the "Not In Our Name" protest is disingenuous (Amirani Media/We Are Many Productions)

We Are Many is a new anti-war documentary based on the conceit that if lots of people don’t like something then that thing must invariably be bad. This is especially true of Western military intervention, which, according to the film, should never happen if there is a sizeable street mobilisation against it — in this case, a million people marching through London.

The film is about Saturday, February 15, 2003, which saw the largest anti-war protest in British history in opposition to the war on Iraq. “Not in My Name” was the popular anti-war slogan of the day and, with a few exceptions, everyone in the film wants you to know that George Bush and Tony Blair’s toppling of Saddam Hussein didn’t happen on their behalf.

The film propagates a number of myths about the Iraq war and opposition to it. For one thing, the war was never as unpopular as the film makes out. In Britain at least a slim majority were initially in favour of it. I remember this well because I was as scathing as the protesters about Tony Blair’s apparent hoodwinking of the British people with talk of weapons of mass destruction reaching the UK within 45 minutes. (I still am, if it matters.)

Also disingenuous is the film’s portrayal of the Stop the War Coalition, whose spokespeople appear regularly in the film, as a genuine anti-war outfit — when its demagogic leaders have consistently acted as apologists for some of the most reactionary forces in the world. Once the Iraq war started, the Stoppers pledged their support “by any means necessary” to the jihadist “resistance” in Iraq, whose pacifism consisted of butchering Iraqi trade unionists and the “wrong” sorts of Muslims.

But We Are Many does get to the crux of what a great deal of anti-war activism is now about: protesters wrestling assurances from government that no killing will be carried out on their behalf. Killing per se is a different matter — the 2013 House of Commons vote against bombing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces is portrayed in the film as a spectacular victory for peace, despite Assad’s bombs continuing to rain down on children ever since — what’s important is maintaining the illusion that activists’ own hands are clean.

In reality, if one has the ability to affect the outcome of a war then one’s hands are bloodied whether one likes it or not. The filmmakers undoubtedly believe that stopping war in Iraq was a realistic possibility, but leaving Saddam in power would surely have prolonged another war — the war his regime was waging against the Iraqi and Kurdish people, where on average between 70 and 125 civilian were killed by the regime every day for Saddam’s 8,000-odd days in power.

One is struck by a notable absence of Iraqis in the film. This seems odd until one grasps that much of the activism on display doesn’t actually appear to be about Iraqis, Syrians or the oppressed at all. Instead, it is about blameless protesters feeling warm and fuzzy as the crowds filled London’s streets on a gloomy February afternoon. Not In My Name, the placards said. Better in somebody else’s, they might have added.

 
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Paul Evans
July 29th, 2015
4:07 PM
Hmm. Richard Seymour - "lenin" (snigger) replied in this way to me in the comments of his own blog (comments now mysteriously deleted) "...if the Muslim Brotherhood are fighting to bring down the Egyptian dictatorship, of course the Left should work with them. If they try to limit the revolution, then the left should turn against them. As for a certain off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, if the MAB are fighting against an imperialist war on Iraq, the antiwar left should work with them, precisely on that issue. If they are prepared to offer electoral support to Respect, (while also supporting the Greens, the Lib Dems, Labour etc in other contexts), then the left should be appreciative of the fact that Muslims, even those of a conservative outlook, look to the left to stop the Islamophobic crusade, and deliver justice and freedom from oppression." Yes: "If they try to limit the revolution, then the left should turn against them." I was so astonished at the time, not only by the political illiteracy of it, but it's moral stupidity, that I made a note of it on my own blog - here: http://nevertrustahippy.blogspot.co.uk/2006/04/bunfight-latest.html

Anonymous
July 29th, 2015
3:07 PM
There are wider questions regarding the Stop the War Coalition, which typically operated as a front for a self-interested group of individuals on 'the Left', none of whom have any real interest in democratic accountability (there is a reason they avoid internal AND external elections!). Each contemporary issue is carefully considered as a potential mechanism to be appropriated for the gain of 'the movement', with careful manipulation of images and banner placement common to create a greater visual impact. Whilst a great many did indeed march through London, they represented a very small minority of the wider population, and it is questionable if many of those present would have aligned their politics with the StWC or with some of the Muslim organizations also in attendance. These manipulative productions must be subjected to questioning in order to counter the self-serving mythology and propaganda so beloved of the non-accountable Leftists. // seized upon, while associates attempt to sell newspapers and books.

MM
July 23rd, 2015
1:07 PM
May I ask what the ant-war coalition would suggest nations should do when dictators are torturing and murdering people of their own beliefs and political philosophies, people who one would assume would feel at home among those waving placards?

Ian Sinclair
June 28th, 2015
11:06 AM
Hi James Richard Seymour seems to have demolished your point about Stop the War Coalition supporting the Iraqi resistance "by any means necessary" here: http://www.leninology.co.uk/2005/01/in-defense-of-stop-war-coalition.htm.... As you can see this was 2005 - 10 years ago. Seymour writes that the "by whatever means they deem necessary" statement was in an internal circular and not published is any statement issued by STWC. Can you point to a source showing it was an official public statement made by STWC? Also, I think it's important to address your claim "that leaving Saddam in power would surely have prolonged another war — the war his regime was waging against the Iraqi and Kurdish people, where on average between 70 and 125 civilian were killed by the regime every day for Saddam’s 8,000-odd days in power." In 2003 Human Rights Watch dismissed the idea the invasion was a humanitarian intervention noting that "by the time of the March 2003 invasion, Saddam Hussein's killing had ebbed." (http://www.hrw.org/news/2004/01/25/war-iraq-not-humanitarian-interventio...). Were you aware of these figures? I ask because your claim about the level of daily killing in Iraq omits to mention the level by early 2003. I look forward to hearing from you. Ian Sinclair

Asteri
June 27th, 2015
12:06 PM
This just a bitter rant by somebody who makes a lot of noise about being against the war at the time, but has a consistent track record of justifying it while allying with every public figure who shilled for it. The piece itself is just a re-run of the kind of arguments made by the such commenters a decade ago as a useful distraction from the carnage 'their' war had brought - blaming the outcome on the people who opposed it and predicted what would happen. "One is struck by a notable absence of Iraqis in the film. This seems odd until one grasps that much of the activism on display doesn’t actually appear to be about Iraqis, Syrians or the oppressed at all" Given that the these protests happened in London and those protesting were British people (including many Arabs who may have been Iraqi) that's not that odd, it's not a documentary about Iraq, but rather Britain's actions towards Iraq. Why would it have included Syrians at that time? This is just part of the war justifiers new belief that the Mid-East problems started in 2011 - so they had to intervene to save everybody in 2003.

Anonumous
June 26th, 2015
10:06 PM
Go fuck yourself you neocon nutjobs. You nuts caused the Iraq War. You caused the Libyan War and subsequent disaster. You caused the Ukrain War, and now you're warring again in Iraq and Syria. None of these would be happening if you nutjobs would just cease your insanity.

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