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Report on Emergency Committee on Iraq Meeting

Last night five of us from Cambridge went down to London to attend a
meeting in the House of Commons organised by the Emergency Committee on
Irap and chaired by George Galloway, the Labour MP. This group has been
set up in response to the current crisis. It opposes non-military
sanctions against the Iraqi people and condemns military action
against Iraq.

When we arrived at the House of Commons we were overwhelmed firstly by the
fantastic turn out - the que streched all along one side of the House.
Roughly 300 of us mamaged to squeeze into the Grand Committee Room,
many others remained outside .They were not neglected as the speakers
were kind enough to go out and address them too. We were also struck by the
warmth of feeling and the great atmosphere. The meeting was marked by loud
applause after and during some very passionate, anguished and shrewd
arguments and a standing ovation at the end. 

There were 16 speakers: around 8 Labur MPs including Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn 
and John Cryer, the playrite Harold Pinter, the
author Rana Khaban, the lawyer Sabal Al-Mukhtar, members of the Church, Mrs
Assia Yusif from the Yemeni Community and a member of the Green Party.

So this was more than a gathering of just the "usual suspects". Both
young and old were present, pacifists and veterans of war ( Tony Benn
enlisted in the RAF and lost a brother in the second world war).

Here are some memorable quotes, harrowing tales and impressive arguments:

Harold Pinter: "Tony Blair's legacy of corpses" - speaking on the effects
of sanctions.

Dennis Canavan MP: How can we condemn an evil dictator when we kill
innocent people? How can we condemn weapons of mass destruction when we
use them?

Sabah Al-Mukhtar: "We are not talking about Saddam Hussein here but about
22 million people who are not Saddam Hussein" on the consequences of
bombing Iraq.
"To bomb Iraqi people for Saddam Hussein's non-compliance is like killing
the family of a prisoner because that prisoner disobeys prison rules."

Green Party MP: "The special relationship (between Britain and the US) has
been revived at the expense of Iraqi lives"

Bob Wearing MP: "It is not the private actions of Bill Clinton we are
worrying about, it is his public ones"

John McAllen MP: "New Labour has spending limits on everything...the only
thing it does not have spending limits on is military action."

An Argument expressed against supporters of sanctions. They claim that
"food and medicine have never been subject to sanction". This is clearly
not the case:
George Galloway told a shocking tale of his experience stnading outside
the general hospital in Bagdad. Whilst he stod there he heard the
anguished screams of a woman giving birth without anaesthetic by caesarian
Her screams will remain with him till his dying day.

Sabah Al-Mukhtar told us of a tragic event related to him by a doctor who
worked in Iraq but has now left the country in desperation. The doctor had
given a woman a prescription for her ill child. However he later caught
her selling this precious item. When he demanded why she was doing this
the woman replied: "If my child dies as a result of illness it is God's
will; if he dies because of hunger, it is my fault".

Arguements exposing the Double Standards and Hypocrisy of Britain and the
The UK profited as a result of lucrative arms sales to Iraq as recently as
the late 1980s. They supplied arms to Iraq to use them against Iran
during the Iran-Iraq war. Iraqi scientists were not dicouraged from
attending conferences on how to make anthrax then - now they may be bombed
for it.

The US claims that it is going to war in the name of democracy. However it
has turned a blind eye to other "undemocratic regimes", for instance it
has done nothing to stop the genocide in East Timor. In 1954 the US
overthrew a democratic government in Guatemala. The US supported
Pinochet's regime in Chile. They have not honoured their promises in furthering
democracy in Kuwait. Infact the US is only willing to act as "policeman of
the world" when it is in its interests to do so.

Turkey has invaded Iraq. No threats of military action against Turkey so

The British claim to be acting in self-defence. However London is not
facing bombardment.

Tony Blair is a Christian man, as he told us during his election campaign.
However he does not seem to uphold the Christian values of peace,
co-operation and compassion (eg for the suffering caused by sanctions in

The Legal Argument: as argued by Sabah Al-Mukhtar, who is himself a
lawyer, and others.
To bomb Iraq is contrary to International law since no resolution has been
passed in the UN to legitimate military action against Iraq. 
Iraq is a member of the UN and therefore has the same rights as any other
member state to refuse entry to foreigners ( Cf The US and its insistence
on modifying the Chemical Weapons Treaty so that US sovereignty is not

Calls for a diplomatic solution: Change the UNSCOM team so that other
nationalities are more evenly represented on it and do not allow it to be
dominated by the Americans.
Dennis Canavan called for the maximising of diplomatic pressure by
listening to Iraq's neighbours who are surely more "threatened" by this
than we are. He also suggested aiding the Iraqi regime's democratic

Many speakers also condemned the lack of a united European stance on the
crisis, and Britain is especially blameworthy in light of its tenure of
the EU Presidency.

Tony Benn was somewhat reseigned to the awful prospect of military action
being carried out. The important thing is that once it starts, we need to
do everything in our power to ensure that public opinion turns against it.
As he said, we have the facts on our side. If a 73 year old man feels so
strongly about it, then that is an inspiration for us all. Remember Vienam
- we are not powerless. "Is it too late for reason to prevail?", asked
Harold Pinter. His own reply was "I hope not".

Selwa Calderbank
Trinity Hall, Cambridge

I attended the meeting along with Seb Wills, Eleanor
Coghill, Clare Hariri, Jane Tienne and Alya Shakir.

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