Mark Thomas offers advice to Iraqi protesters
Perhaps the Iraqis right now are offering their WMDs to al-Qaeda, in the south London style: "Don't
So the game is on to find the best excuse as to why weapons of mass destruction have not been found in Iraq. America's first stab at this was to claim that Saddam Hussein had got Syria to look after his biological and chemical weapons - as if, in the most intense period in the build-up to war, in the most scrutinised region of the world, Iraq was going to ask Syria: "Would you mind looking after these for me?" And Syria said: "What? Biological and chemical weapons! Er, yeah, all right."
The United States drew a picture of Arab states behaving like 14-year-old boys looking after each other's porn, and seemed to suggest that Saddam's mustard gas would be found in Damascus under a mattress between copies of Parade and Razzle.
George Bush then tried to blame the Iraqi looters for taking the biological and chemical weapons. Iraqis, he implied, are so poor they would steal anthrax. Like a Baghdad version of Last of the Summer Wine, the Iraqis sit around in flat-caps moaning: "Ee, when I were a lad, we was so poor that we 'ad nowt t'play wit but plague an' t'smallpox."
The added dimension to this excuse is the possibility that biological weapons are readily available on the black market. Although weapons of mass destruction have not been found, the spectre of them is still a powerful tool. So it's a bonus to have people believing that, right now, Iraqis are ducking and diving with al-Qaeda, sounding all south London with: "Yours for a monkey, mate, don't ask me where I got it from - fell off the back of a mobile bio-lab, all right geezer."
Politically, it is imperative that Britain and the US find WMDs, as the "liberation rhetoric" used to justify the war is simply not being backed up by the reality on the ground. Iraqis who have the bad taste to demonstrate against their liberators increasingly find themselves facing the barrel of a gun, and the number of US-inflicted fatalities grows almost daily. The only advice I can think of for Iraqi civilians who want to demonstrate against the US without being shot at is to try wearing something that Americans hold dear. Mickey Mouse ears, for instance. The sight of thousands of Iraqis dressed in those trademark black ears chanting "US go now!" and burning the Stars and Stripes might just be weird enough for the US soldiers not to shoot. After all, how can they be anti-US and pro-Mickey at the same time?
Bush's occupying army has banned anti-US demonstrations in Iraq, at the same time as applauding and actively encouraging the student demonstrations in Iran. If the Iraqis can't get hold of Mickey ears, they might try popping over the border into Iran to protest. All they would need is an accurate Ordnance Survey map and a powerful Tannoy pointing in the direction of Baghdad to be an American-approved protester.
Bush's distinction between "good Iranian" and "bad Iraqi" protesters shows his real contempt for democracy and freedom. There is now talk by the US occupation forces of clamping down on the anti-American content of some of the imams' sermons. So much for the hallowed value of freedom of speech.
It is in these petty hypocrisies, in the cracks of logic, that we see Bush's intentions - to create a McMiddle East that is totally compliant with the American superpower. Bush is less about liberation and more about establishing American control across the world, exporting an economic system built around multinationals and backed by the threat of military action. Iraq is about to join the 130-odd countries that have the pleasure of hosting US military bases.
The anti-war movement cannot wait until Bush attacks his next target, but must act now - so join the protests on 4 July against the US occupation forces in Britain. There will be demonstrations at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Fairford, but the biggest protest will be at the American spy-base Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, which has been called by the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases. You don't have to be Stephen Hawking to note that 4 July might have some significance for the Americans at the base, and it seems apt that this peaceful protest is called "Party for Independence from America", with bands, sound systems, speeches and misbehaviour. The 4 July falls on a Friday, so you can pull a sickie with relative ease.
As the bombers took off from RAF Fairford to attack Iraq, the base played Elvis songs through the Tannoy at the peace protesters, so it might be interesting to see what our sound system can play for the base on this special day - an imam calling the faithful to prayer, perhaps.
Coaches to the 4 July protests are being organised by London and Manchester CND, as well as Brighton SchNEWS and Newcastle Campaign Against Arms Trade