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Not just military, but economic occupation

Caroline Lucas' speech to the Stop the War Coalition national conference

Caroline Lucas is an MEP for the Green Party



Thank you very much, apologies for not being here earlier. I've been at the demonstration protesting about George Bush's refusal to ratify the Kyoto protocol… One of the key messages that we were putting across was the message that if George Bush and Tony Blair had just put a fraction of the energy and resources that they spent on the illegal and immoral war in Iraq, instead into tackling climate change, then we might just have had a chance of having had a safer world to look forward into the future.

It's really great to be here, both to celebrate what I think this movement has achieved so far, as well as looking forward to the admittedly enormous challenges ahead. Sometimes people feel a little bit disillusioned that we didn't stop the war in Iraq, and I think it is important to remind all of those people who were on the streets, that political change doesn't come by just one or two marches alone.

It is part of a political movement that we're building up here, of which those marches are an integral part, but that what we need to do is have the energy for the long term, and be prepared to build a wider movement into the future. And I think that we need to be clear as well that we have had successes, and no we didn't stop this war, this time, but I think we've made it incredibly difficult for Tony Blair or anybody else to even consider joining George Bush in any future offensive in Iran…

And I think we need to be very clear about the elections in Iraq as well… they have [not] stopped the bloodshed on the streets of Baghdad. This week has been one of the bloodiest since the occupation started, and it's just one more grim reminder that as long as this occupation remains in place, the violence will continue and the elections will make no difference to that. As Tariq Ali pointed out so clearly in the papers this week, the triumphalist chorus of the Western media reflects one overwhelming fact, and that is that Iraq's elections were designed not so much to confirm the unity of Iraq, but to re-establish the unity of the West. And in our case, to try to help Tony Blair's own chances of re-election in the forthcoming General Election.

I think it's pretty extraordinary that the Western media were celebrating a 60% turnout within minutes of the polls closing, particularly given the fact that Iraq lacked a complete register of voters, let alone a network of computerised polling stations, and I suspect you might find that the turnout was significantly less than that 60%. That is not to downplay the enormous courage of Iraqis who did turn out to vote, risking their lives to do so, they deserve our respect. But I don't believe that their participation makes those elections truly legitimate…

I think it's very interesting, that while George Bush tries to paint those who are against the occupation, as people who are against democracy, in actual fact people were marching in the streets of Baghdad demanding real democracy, demanding true elections. But they know, and we know, that real democracy doesn't come down the barrel of a gun. Real democracy is about an economic self-determination, as well as a political and military one, and yet this too has been denied the Iraqi people… Order 81 essentially stops Iraqi farmers from saving their seeds at the end of each harvest. That practice of saving seeds has been going on for generations and generations. And let's remember that Iraq used to be the bread basket of the world.

And now an ordinance has been signed, thanks to Paul Bremer, that means that this tradition of saving seed at the end of harvest is going to end. And can you guess who the Iraqis are going to have to buy their seeds from? Monsanto etc, those corporate giants that already control the seed trade across the globe. I think what that one small issue demonstrates, is that this has never only been a political occupation, and a military occupation, it has also been an economic occupation as well.

I just want to mention two more things. I want to mention how we have poisoned the land of Iraq for generations to come. And I don't mean only in terms of poisoning peoples' minds, I'm as well talking about the kinds of weapons we've been using, I'm talking about depleted uranium, which is going to be there in Iraq for generations to come. Depleted uranium weapons, used by the coalition forces in the first Gulf War, and again in this Gulf War, basically means that there is contamination left for generations to come. I was in Iraq just before the invasion, and I talked to doctors in Basra, in the south of the country, and they told me that they have seen a 700% increase in cancer and leukaemia, as a result of the depleted uranium weapons used in the first Gulf War. Now those kinds of weapons have been used again in this war.

I have written to the government about the use of cluster bombs. Cluster bombs are being used again right now. And the reply I had from Geoff Hoon was, cluster bombs are a legitimate tactic and weapon of the British government, and he assured me that cluster bombs had only been used responsibly! You cannot use weapons of mass destruction responsibly, you certainly can't use cluster bombs responsibly!

Finally I think what this war on Iraq also demonstrates is the vast resources that can be rabidly mobilised… over £70 billion was scrambled together very quickly by the coalition in a matter of just a few weeks to start fighting the Iraq war. That's five times the amount of money spent on aid to Africa, more than twice the annual amount Africa needs. The cost of one cruise missile fired on Baghdad is enough to build over 100 schools in Africa. I think if we take this political movement on into the future, one of the messages, among any is, that we need a war on poverty, not a war on Iraq, not a war on Iran, not a war on anyone else.

 

February 2005

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