Talk some sense
Hating the Americans or the Iraqi government is not a starting point
October 9, 2002
Ok, now its my turn to throw myself into the peace debate/bandwagon...
I went on the march in London last weekend. I was one of 400,000 (apparently) marchers
wanting the USA, UK and their allies to put on the breaks and think about the potential
consequences of their actions... I even shouted something or other while I was marching
but I can't remember what it was - it sounded like I meant it though.
The only thing about my participation in the march was that it only lasted 45 seconds.
I was walking distractedly along Oxford Street with Varinder when we saw a sea of
people, banners raised high, walking towards us. They were chaperoned by a long line
of police and some of the marchers walked backwards with megaphones to lead the chants.
Before I knew it, the sea of people had flooded the path between Selfridges (a department
store we wanted to get to) and where V and I were standing, on the opposite side
of the road. The masses flowing past looked impenetrable. But we had to get across
Oxford Street because V wanted to take a look at some winter coats.
I held her hand tightly and together (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid style) we
launched ourselves into the throng. We were swept westwards for 30 yards or so before
we finally came out onto the Selfridges side of the road. It took 45 seconds and
wasn't as frightening as I thought it would be. We weren't pushed or stepped on.
I even chanted something to do with saving Iraqi kids.
V later observed that my chanting sounded more like someone was pulling my testicles.
Once in Selfridges my brain kicked into gear and I began to think quite hard. You
see I don't really care whether we go to war with Iraq or not. Either way people
will die and most of them will be innocent civilians. Whether it be a surgical allied
strike in 4 weeks time or an Iraqi chemical attack, in the months ahead, the only
thing we can be certain of is that innocent civilians will be toasted. It's a case
of the devil if you do and the devil if you don't.
I walked around the luxurious sheepskin coats and continued to think some more. No
clever dick, I told myself, can ever convince me that attacking Iraq is the right
thing to do. Similarly nobody can convince me that waiting for Iraq to complete development
of its nuclear and chemical capabilities is a good thing either.
When I reach such intellectual dead ends I seek
help from Kevin. Kevin is a long-standing friend from my college days. If ever I
need to know what my opinion is on something I call him up and ask him. So I did,
on the same evening of the March. His housemate answered the phone and informed me
that Kevin was out with friends attending the peace march and wasn't home yet. So
I couldn't ask Kevin after all - his views would be too biased.
We left Selfridges empty handed with V complaining that I was too distracted to help
her choose a coat. I felt I needed the opinion of someone who was meek like me. A
few days later I was in a taxi being driven by someone who looked very Iranian and
"Where are you from, sir?" I asked politely.
"Aghanistan - Kabul," he replied with a wide grin through the rear view
We spoke (in Farsi) enough for me to learn that he had been a major in Najibola's
government in the early 80's before escaping to England via Pakistan after the fall
of his regime. Then there was long silence. I broke it by asking what he thought
about the US attacking Iraq. He told me in strongly accented Farsi that they shouldn't
attack because Iraq was a Muslim country.
The silence, which then ensued, lasted until we reached
our destination and was only broken with him insisting that I didn't have to pay.
I was tempted but paid him in the end. My instincts tell me that we are heading for
another war, which will either be started by the Americans or the Iraqis.
Demonstrating against war is really only demonstrating about not having a war now...
It will come sooner or later. So here I am, still looking for someone who can talk
some sense to me and tell me what my view should be on this matter.
But beware, if your argument sounds too passionate and one sided, I won't take you
seriously. The trick is to remain balanced and empathic to both points of view whilst
having a firm handle on all likely scenarios. Hating the Americans or the Iraqi government
is not a starting point. I need a thinking which will help me sound considered, intelligent
(if that's possible) and enlightened. Then I will be able to help choose Varinder's