THE BLOG

None of Us Who Marched On 15 February 2003 Will Ever Forget It

13/02/2013 10:56 GMT | Updated 14/04/2013 10:12 BST

None of us who marched on 15 February 2003 will ever forget the feeling of hope, excitement, and human solidarity we experienced as part of the 12-15 million people who came out on the same day all over the world, united in opposition to the then approaching war in Iraq in an international day of protest unparalleled in history.

I was in Los Angeles and still consider the weeks leading up to 15 February - weeks which comprised packed organizing meetings, the tireless leafleting of shopping malls, workplaces, and communities, street stalls and speeches, the making of placards, writing and sending out press releases, and various other activities associated with building the demonstration - as among the most important, meaningful, and vital I've ever experienced.

The thing that struck many of us most at the time, and still does ten years on, is how this historic global antiwar movement rubbished completely the lie that humanity is divided along national, ethnic, religious, gender, or any other line. Indeed perhaps the most important achievement of February 15 was the affirmation that humanity knows no borders, nation, ethnicity, race, or religion, and that what unites us is far more powerful than any of the aforementioned differences.

Looking back now, February 15 2003 still represents a beacon of hope for what we can become. Yes, the war was unleashed regardless, and no one who was involved in the antiwar movement takes comfort from being able to say in hindsight that everything we said was right and everything they said was wrong. We knew that the war would be a disaster, most of all for the Iraqi people, but also for us in the West. The polarization that has occurred in our own societies since - the rise and spread of Islamophobia and its inevitable response in the shape of the radicalisation of many young Muslims - has been mirrored in the attacks on civil liberties and the deepening of social and economic justice.

Imperialist wars abroad rest on a foundation of social and economic injustice at home, and surely it is no accident that just a few years following the war on Iraq and its continuing fallout and blowback, the West found itself plunged into a financial and economic crisis that some might conclude was history's revenge for the monumental crime against humanity that 'we' unleashed on a people whose only crime, despite the monument to lies that our leaders erected to justify the war unleashed on them, was that their country sits on a sea of oil in a region of the world whose importance to the outrageous greed and level of consumption in the West has long been self evident.

The injustice of a war unleashed on a tissue of lies has been compounded for many by the fact that its key architects, George Bush and Tony Blair, rather than being held accountable, have prospered in the years since. Bush now lives a life of comfort as an ex-President on his Crawford, Texas ranch, while Blair has enriched himself with a second career as an international speaker, adviser to various multinational corporations, and various other enterprises around the world.

Faith in conventional politics, manifesting in lower and lower voter turnouts, was shattered for many of those who marched on that historic day in 2003. In its place came cynicism - a cynicism that has never ceased. This casualty of the war that came after is made more profound by the fact that leading up to February 15, and on the day itself, idealism and optimism succeeded in raising our expectations to new heights of possibility for the world. You might say we were naive, blinded by an irrational belief in the willingness of our leaders to respond to the collective moral suasion of millions of people around the world.

But, then again, were we? Were we naive? Perhaps it is more the case that we were unable to comprehend that the determination of those in power to wage war had rendered them impervious to reason, their humanity blinded by the lust for conquest, which in the tradition of Orwellian language long mastered by imperialists and colonialists they claimed was liberation.

And what a liberation it has proved. Up to a million dead, millions more maimed, traumatised and made refugees in both the war and ensuing occupation, which unleashed a level of sectarian violence that will take generations to overcome - if ever at all. A country that once boasted the most advanced infrastructure in the Arab world was reduced to chaos and carnage. Ten years on it is still broken.

This is their notion of liberation.

No matter, every one of the millions who took to the streets on February 15 2003 can take pride in the fact they stood for a vision of peace and humanity over one of war and conquest. It was as Orwell said, 'In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.'

We in the antiwar movement told the truth on that historic day. It is a truth that continues to resonate and will never die.

This article is written in tribute to the millions of Iraqi people who suffered as a result of the lies and half truths of those whose crimes will follow them to the grave. No matter how long it takes, we will work to ensure that those crimes also follow them into an international criminal court.