London, Day 2: Scotland Trip
By David Swanson
Today, Cindy Sheehan and Scottish mothers who have lost their sons in Iraq held a rally outside the Scottish parliament, spoke at a cross-party meeting of Members of the Scottish Parliament, were welcomed to the City of Glasgow by the Lord Provost, and addressed an anti-war rally in Glasgow. This, plus the trips up to Scotland from London and back took Cindy and Andrew Burgin and me about 16 hours, so we’re a wee bit knackered, but we’re learning to speak the lingo – and I’m going to run out for fish and chips after posting this.
Not only is Scotland beautiful, but almost everyone in it opposes the war, almost everyone in it who works is in a labor union, and – above all – Scotland is the birthplace of the impeachment process. In Glasgow I spoke with Alex Salmond. He’s a Member of Parliament (in London, not the Scottish Parliament), and he’s the leader of the Scottish National Party. He proudly informed me that impeachment was a process that originated in Scotland before being adopted by Britain and then by the United States. He also said that there are now 87 Members of Parliament supporting the impeachment of Tony Blair over the war, that he hopes to have 100 by Christmas and 200 by January. Two hundred is what they need in order to move ahead with hearings.
But Blair has more pressing concerns. The military families that are taking him to court for international crimes got Blair’s lawyer into court last week, and will hear in about two weeks whether the case can move forward with a hearing requiring Blair to appear. The author Iain Banks has donated a large sum to the effort.
Meanwhile Cindy Sheehan’s activism is all over the British media. She’s doing non-stop interviews, including most of the day tomorrow. Her interview on the BBC’s News Night last night was apparently seen by the entire country.
The Guardian has an article tomorrow. The Herald did a long interview today. Condi Rice is in the media too, though no one seems to believe her lies. And the media is an entirely different animal from what we call media in America. The Independent and Guardian and Evening Express run front-page anti-war stories. The Sunday Times breaks new scandals. And the talk shows actually hold substantive debates including a wide range of perspectives.
But all is not perfect. Not only is the Poodle still in charge down here in London, but the First Minister of Scotland is a poodle to the Poodle. Today I heard Jack McConnell referred to as the Hillary Clinton of Scotland, meaning that he tries to pass for a progressive by virtue of being Scottish, but that he fully supports the war.
And Iraqis who fled danger are being deported to Iraq from Scotland. The CIA has been landing planes in Scotland on its flights to torture centers. There are nuclear weapons in Scotland. And the Ministry of Defence has been ordering military families, including in Scotland, not to talk about the war, and pressuring soldiers to tell their parents not to talk about it. Rose Gentle, who lost her son in Iraq, was with us today together with her mother and daughter. Susan Smith lost her son in Iraq just recently, and she has joined with Rose and others in speaking out and braving all threats and bribes from the MOD. Susan spoke at today’s events as well.
Our first stop was a rally outside the Scottish parliament. A number of Members of the Scottish Parliament spoke, including Colin Fox, leader of the Scottish Socialist Party; Tommy Sheridan, also from the SSP; Francis Curran, SSP; and Christine Grahame, of the Scottish Nationalist Party. At the meeting inside following the rally at least one MSP from the Scottish Green Party participated. Only the Labour Party was AWOL – McConnell said he was too busy to stop by.
Rose Gentle said McConnell “is running scared from military families.” But she had some choice words for Blair as well. “I wonder,” she said, ” what Tony Blair’s face looks like when he gets home and takes the makeup off. I wonder if he has as many bags as we’ve got….I’m sorry, Mr. Blair. Military Families are going to haunt you until our boys come home.
Another speaker at the rally was John Mann, a priest who said that a young person recently asked him out of the blue whether he thought God would forgive George Bush. He said he responded that it was a good question. He told me that what struck him was that years ago that question was always asked about Hitler.
Cindy Sheehan, whose last name means peace in Gaelic, told the rally that “there are Cindy Sheehans all over the world.”
The cross-party meeting was an opportunity for Members of the Scottish Parliament to hear from Rose, Susan, and Cindy. About 18 of us sat around a table, including the three mothers and a few other activists, and several MSPs. Keir McKechnie, Co-Chair of the Glasgow Stop the War Coalition did the introductions.
Colin Fox extended “the warmest possible welcome, which should have been extended by the First Minister.” Fox noted that “when Bush came in July, [McConnell] was prepared to run about the country and do whatever George Bush wanted.”
“I’m a socialist and a democrat,” Fox said. “Democrats do not support regime change in another country. The majority of people in America and Britain want the troops out. And most importantly, 82 percent of Iraqis want the troops out. The democratic credentials of Bush, Blair, and McConnell are in serious doubt.”
Rose Gentle said that any money paid to the families of dead soldiers is “blood money.” She said she’d also been offered free vacations to keep her quiet. “I won’t take nothing off them. What we want is our boy back. If we can’t have him back, we want everybody else’s boys back.”
Rose also sounded a theme that was common to virtually every speaker, including the MSPs, namely that the war was being fought for oil. “Tony Blair should go now. He should step down. Enough is enough. No more lives for oil. The best Christmas present anyone could want is their boy to walk through the front door.”
Rose also praised a soldier who has now refused to return to Iraq on the grounds that the Nuremburg principles make it illegal to obey an illegal order.
Christine Grahame also denounced blood for oil and advocated sending in the UN with Arab and Muslim troops. And she urged the impeachment of Blair and Bush – to huge applause.
Susan Smith, who has lost her son most recently, spoke through tears about the lack of equipment that was leading to the deaths of soldiers. She said that 97 percent of people in the Midlands want the troops home. “They want to put democracy into another country,” she said of Bush and Blair, “but they can’t listen to us here.”
“There are elections next week for Iraqis,” she said. “Put a box on that ballot and let them decide. Or if they can’t do that, let the people of this country vote.” Both Susan and Rose stressed the great number of soldiers coming home injured and complained that only dead soldiers make the news.
Chris Balance, MSP, Green Party, lamented the horrors of the war and also of the use of torture. He said he was outraged that MI6 had told the House of Lords that torture was useful. “I am outraged that our government is engaged in medieval acts, such as this!”
Cindy told the meeting that the British had been “really good at imperialism, and they realized in the 20s that imperialism would not work in Iraq.
Cindy proposed the creation of a ministry of history, because – she said – every occupation in history has had an insurgency, and yet Bush predicted there would not be one this time.
She also said that the Downing Street Memos prove that the crimes of this war were premeditated. “If I were to commit premeditated murder in the US, I would be executed. I’m not for execution, but they should be imprisoned for the rest of their lives. I don’t want to stop with impeachment. They need to be tried for war crimes.
We drove from Edinburgh to Glasgow, and a reporter from the Herald – who struck me as excellent – interviewed Cindy the whole way there.
At Glasgow, City Councilor Jim McKecknie welcomed Cindy and presented her with a letter from the Lord Provost Liz Cameron. He said that Glasgow was a city for peace, that the city had passed three resolutions, one opposing the war before it was begun, one addressing the false claims on which the war was launched, and one stating that the war had increased dangers in the US and UK. He said the people of the city overwhelmingly opposed the war and that the resolutions had generated not a single complaint.
Then we headed over to a forum in a large room in a fancy hotel. Banners of labor unions lined the wall, including one from Unison, the largest UK union, and one from the SNP Trade Union Group. Joshua Brown told me that he was being sent as a delegate by Unison to the Stop the War conference in London on Saturday, and that the union was sending dozens of delegates from around the country, and requiring that they report back to their unions. But Unison, he said, is still connected to the Labour Party, and “this is the process of breaking away. We need to stop funding Blair’s government.”
Prior to the opening of the meeting, everyone stood for a Lament on the Pipes, played by a lone bagpiper. Cindy spoke first, and then we split to catch a plane. Among other things, she said, “I don’t want George Bush impeached out of revenge for the death of my son. I want him impeached for what he did to the world.” This got a great round of applause.
LINK TO Photo Album:
LINK TO London, Day 1, Mayor of London Calls Bushies “A Gang of Thugs”
LINK TO London, Day 2, Scotland: Stop the War!