Tonight, I suffered the curious and rare sensation of simultaneously feeling both immense pride and overwhelming shame, as thousands of us stood in the cold outside the UK House Of Parliament to make our protest against the government’s insane plan to join in yet another war. We stood and chanted, with our mothers and oldest friends beside us, we sat and “died”, we listened to impassioned speeches, we cheered and we jeered, we lost our voices and found other new ones, and in the end, as we heard the disastrous but almost inevitable result of the vote, we sat in grave silence for a minute – right there in the street facing Big Ben which we had taken over – in respect for the innocent people who will inevitably die as a direct result of British bombs. People who are breathing like you and me right now, but as early as Friday could be dead. Men. Women. Children. Breathless. Extinguished. The ‘terrorists’ themselves will be safe in their bunkers. And we will not be safer.
As I stood there in this emotional, passionate rally, as I did on Saturday, and have done many times before, two things occurred to me. The first was that it was suddenly graphically, emphatically clear how different the stakes were for us – the ordinary citizens – and for the MPs a few hundred metres away from us on the other side. They were inside a building behind bomb barriers, walls, fences, more walls, more barriers, and at least two rows of armed police. We were out there in the cold in Parliament Square. It was painfully clear that the police were there to protect THEM from US, their supposed employers, people whom they are supposed to represent (yes, it’s genuinely hard not to laugh/cry). Some of them had even had the gall to complain on social media at being “harrassed” by their constituents. As if we’d acted out of place, expecting our MPs to give a fuck about our views. And it dawned on me; of course they don’t care about the consequences; because they will never, ever have to deal with them. More terror for them just means an excuse for more power and more war and more surveillance and makes them feel even more important, whereas for us it means the genuine increased possibility of being blown to pieces or otherwise killed in our cities and streets by psycopathic killers, while we go to concerts or eat in restaurants or party with friends. They laugh at us; Tony Blair launched a war which killed hundreds of thousands on false pretenses, and was rewarded with the title of “Middle East Peace Envoy” and now commands a fee of £330,000 to give speeches. They laugh at us.
The second thing was how remarkably easy it always seems to be to generate support for bombing brown people, even with the poorest, most illogical of arguments. It was remarkable to see the distance between the corporate media – obsessed with beating the drums of war and disgustingly one-sided (especially in their attempted character-assassination of Jeremy Corbyn, for example) – and the fears and rationale of these ordinary, informed people. Here at the protest there was a really remarkable mix of Britons from all walks of life who cared intensely about the consequences of yet another war, both here and abroad. They somehow seemed to have digested the sad, sad lessons of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, all countries that we’ve seen obliterated within the last 14 years with the help of British bombs and are now still in perpetual states of war and chaos. While of course not everyone will agree with our arguments, it really was astonsihing that David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK, could get away with writing off this whole section of the public as “terrorist sympathisers”. Let’s review: his plan to eliminate terrorism is to bomb a completely destabilised foreign, Muslim country from the sky and then hope a force of “70,000″ moderate fighters takes over and installs democracy. Moderate fighters which may include… er… up to 40,000 members of Al Qaeda. And they voted for this. Wow. And lest we forget, two years ago the government wanted to go to war in Syria ON THE OTHER SIDE – in other words, had they got their way ISIS would definitely be EVEN STRONGER THAN IT IS NOW. Now, of course I don’t believe for a second that the politicians actually believe any of the nonsensical reasons and lies they tell us, but there must be many ordinary people who do actually believe the official line in good faith. They must believe that, despite all evidence to the contrary and the ongoing increasing chaos in EVERY SINGLE OTHER COUNTRY WE’VE GOT INVOLVED IN IN THE MIDDLE-EAST, we will somehow be better off if British bombs start raining down in Raqqa. Since I don’t meet many of these people in real life, I was trying to imagine what a “DO BOMB SYRIA!” march/protest would look like, what kind of people would make it up. I very much doubt that most of them would be interested in – for example – spending even a fraction of the cost of the bombing on helping some of the refugees this action would inevitably generate. And I would love to know if, in their hearts of hearts, they really genuinely believe that the danger from terrorism in UK/Europe will actually decrease as a result of this military action. It’ll literally be a first.
My final words are for the poor ordinary, long-suffering people of Syria. The doctors, the teachers, the students, the mothers, the brothers, the train drivers. The forgotten people. I genuinely grieve. Having suffered under Assad, then the disintegration of civil war, then ISIS… they now have nine different foreign countries bombing them. What utter, utter insanity. Not for the first time, I’m genuinely ashamed of and completely disown the behaviour of our government. Dear Syrians, I want you to know that they definitely do NOT represent all of the people on this island; thousands, in fact millions, of us oppose them. We did everything we could (legally) do to try to stop them. I’m devastated that it was not enough, and as a result many of you have been guaranteed yet more suffering and impoverishment. I genuinely, deeply hope that the next few years prove us all wrong. That by some miracle, thousands of innocent civilians are not slaughtered by UK bombs, that “70,000 moderate troops” swoosh in and restore a wonderful flowering democracy, that all the Islamist groups are vanquished and nothing even worse than ISIS replaces it, that we won’t be standing outside parliament shouting “DON’T BOMB [NEXT COUNTRY ON LIST]” in a couple of years time, and that in five or ten years we’re all sitting in cafés in Paris laughing and saying “Ah, do you remember when there was that thing called terrorism?”. I’m being honest here – I genuinely, genuinely hope we are WRONG. PLEASE LET US BE WRONG. If, very unfortunately, this is not the result, then all I can offer is that I let them know – these warmongers – as strongly and as loudly as I could that all this violence is NOT IN MY NAME.
Peace to you, brothers and sisters in Syria, and know that we will not forget you, we will not give up the fight and we will not stay silent.