This piece from March 2004 focuses on the anti-war movement of the time. Again the illustrations are new.
"The Great Men of the Earth, Approve with smiles and bland salutes, The rage and monstrous tyranny, That they have brought to birth."The war was right, the war was good - and if it was illegal then the law is wrong. That was the message coming from Tony Blair in his 'robust defense of the war' this week.
from 'Great Men' by Seigfried Sassoon
There may have been millions protesting on the streets of London, millions demonstrating in every major country around the globe in a world historic first. But at the end of the day who are these people? What companies do they own? What political position do they hold? Who do they donate money too? Frankly, they are a bunch of nobodies.
Each demonstration has contained a fantastic cross section of the population. Young and old, black and white, probably the first significant mobilisation of the Muslim community in this country, we know all this - we've been there on the streets to see it for ourselves.
My favourite example of this was from the day the war began and hundreds of school kids in Colchester poured onto the streets in protest. The police went frantic, and as soon as they thought they had it all under control another gang would appear from another school blockading the high street and creating havoc. Fantastic and every copper on duty had an inkling of how General Custer felt at the Little Big Horn.
One of the great things about the younger protests is they made me (at 33) feel both young and old at the same time. You feel young from the inspiring energy and fearlessness around you and then they'll start chanting "We all live in a fascist regime" to the tune of Yellow Submarine and you think "Well, strictly speaking although capitalism breeds imperialism and fosters dictatorship we're not actually living under fascism." But obviously I didn't bring it up at the time.
Apparently the rulers of ancient Rome, when returning home from a successful imperialist conquest, would have a slave stand behind them in their victory procession murmuring in their ear all the while "remember man is mortal". Blair turned this on its head and had Alistair Campbell whispering in his ear saying "Go on Tony, you've got a historic mission, people love you, it's a war against evil Tony, go on drop another bomb."
They might feel they are being written into the history books as Great Rulers - just as Nixon, Hitler, George Bush (the elder), et al have done before them, but it will not prevent their ignominious end.
Western Imperialism knows only how to destroy. Their bombs and bullets and check points have not got a snow ball's chance in hell of bringing democracy, peace and prosperity. Bush and Blair were dreaming if they ever thought that the people of the Middle East would welcome this kind of military intervention and occupation.
If they ever thought that.
Leaving rather dubious BBC polls aside the Iraqi population has not welcomed Western troops with open arms, and it is ordinary people who suffer from the anarchy, poverty and brutality endemic in Iraq today. By and large it is ordinary people who take part in demonstrations against the occupation, for water, for jobs and security. It is the nobodies of Iraq that, driven to desperation take part in the revolt.
The solutions that the West offers to poverty is carving up the reconstruction contracts among themselves, privatising utilities, its the bucks that are fast rather than the reconstruction. Rather simply, without water there can be no liberation. There is a rage in Basra that swells up out of the ground. A rage born of years of sanctions and hardship, of murdered loved ones, of poverty and indignity.
But there is a hope in the world today. The millions of nobodies both East and West that can resist, that can demonstrate, that can rise up. Unfortunately too many people still know their place in the world today - but the great signs of hope are that some of us really are beginning to reply our great leaders "Who are we? No - who the hell are you!?!"
"I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on those lifeless things. The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed. And on the pedestal these words appear. "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works ye mighty and despair!" Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away." "To all those Great Men past, present and future whatever empire you build, what ever position you attain, your day will come.
Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley