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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 section. 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 US: 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 far. 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 Iraq). 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 threatened). 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 opponants. 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. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html