[Documents menu] Documents menu

From Korea to Germany, Protests tell Bush: Don't attack Iraq

By John Catalinotto, Workers World 14 November 2002

The huge anti-war protests in the U.S. on Oct. 26 organized by the ANSWER coalition have added momentum to the worldwide movement against a U.S. attack on Iraq.

In South Korea on the same day, student, peace, socialist, religious and civic groups converged at Insadong plaza in downtown Seoul, according to the online news service Base21. “The spirited rally loudly expressed their displeasure at the United States' plans to attack Iraq as well as send a clear warning to the next South Korean president, to be decided in December, that the South Korean people will oppose any efforts by their government to support the U.S. in the next stage of their “war on terrorism,” wrote media activist Terry Park.

A number of colorful banners were displayed, including portraits of President George W. Bush, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, dubbed the “Axis of Evil.” A Palestinian flag and a pink triangle waved in the crowd.

Protesters later marched to nearby Jong-myo Park. Members of the radical student group All Together promised, “This is only the beginning of our struggle. We will create a mass movement against any imperialist war.” One marcher said, “Many Korean people are worried that the U.S. will attack North Korea after Iraq. Clinton almost attacked in 1994, so it could happen again.”

Ritter: Bombing could begin soon, movement must organize quickly

In Berlin, Germany, former Marine captain and current anti-war activist Scott Ritter told a conference on Nov. 1-2 that the Pentagon will have all the military elements ready to begin bombing Iraq by early December and to invade two or three weeks later. Ritter, whose participation in UN inspections convinced him that Iraq is not harboring “weapons of mass destruction,” said he expected that the Iraqis would be unable to resist the U.S. military onslaught and that many civilians would suffer, should the war begin.

This former hawk who remains a Republican said the war could still be stopped if the U.S. remains isolated and the anti-war movement mobilized.

Ritter's message to the German public was to “make an effort to pressure the German government to stick to its “no” to an Iraq war” and to “support the anti-war movement in the United States.” The war could be stopped, he insisted, but the movement had better organize quickly.

Dr. Hans-Christof von Sponeck, former director of the UN humanitarian aid program for Iraq, accused the U.S. and Britain of lying about the existence of a program for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Von Sponeck said he was sorry the conference had to concentrate on stopping a new war instead of on stopping the murderous sanctions against the Iraqi people. A “no to the war” should go together with a “stop the embargo,” said von Sponeck.

Others at the conference included the Iraqi ambassador to London, Dr. Mudhafar A. Amin; Dr. Jan Oberg of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research in Sweden; Barbara Lochbihler of Amnesty International and spokespeople from the German peace movement. The conference came a week after demonstrations in Germany of tens of thousands on Oct. 26 in coordination with the U.S. anti-war movement.

Civil disobedience in Britain

Thousands of people took part in over 150 different protests throughout Britain as part of the Stop the War Coalition's Halloween Day of Action on Oct. 31. It was the first mobilization there for massive civil disobedience.

The largest action was in London, where 5,000 people gathered in Parliament Square at 6 p.m. to block traffic in Whitehall—the area housing government ministries. Following speeches from Tony Benn, Tariq Ali and Lindsey German, protesters left the square to join up with Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament activists outside Downing Street, the prime minister's residence, for low-key civil disobedience.

Also, dozens of protests took place at universities and colleges, including occupations at Cambridge University, Liverpool, Manchester, Brighton and Leeds. In Sheffield 500 students occupied a faculty building sponsored by Boeing. In Bristol, 700 people joined a vigil followed by a march to an army base, while in Cardiff protesters occupied the Welsh Assembly, halting proceedings.

Andrew Murray, chair of the Stop the War Coalition, said: “The Day of Action was a fantastic demonstration of the British people's opposition to the planned war. But it's only a taste of what will happen if Tony Blair supports a U.S.-led military attack against Iraq.”

Following the success of the protests, the Stop the War Coalition announced a conference on Dec. 7 as well as another large-scale march through London on Feb. 15. The coalition is also preparing for protests throughout the country, should military action begin against Iraq.

India: 'Down with warmonger USA'

As part of the international actions on Oct. 26, the All-India Anti-Imperialist Front in Bangalore, Karnataka State, organized a protest at Mysore Bank Circle, where demonstrators burned a joint effigy of George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. They shouted, “No war, we demand world peace,” and “Down with warmonger USA.”

In Chennai, Tamilnadu State, on the same day, demonstrators from the local unit of AIAIF, including women and children, raised slogans against U.S. war plans. A similar action took place in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh State, at the Osmania Medical College. Speakers warned that war in any part of the globe hurts the unity of the workers of the world. They appealed to the people to develop a movement to pressure the Indian government, led by the right-wing BJP party, to withdraw from joint military exercises with the U.S.