“On this very day, 20th of March 2003, the rain was falling all the day long, exactly like today, as we are gathering in this place,” Abeer Hasan Al Ani, an independent Iraqi journalist and human rights activist told a small gathering of anti-war activists at Sydney Town Hall on March 20.
“The Iraqi people, men, women and children felt as if the sky had been crying for them at the time,” she added, “and everyone was waiting for the evening of that day, waiting for the death and destruction coming from above, heavier than the fallen rain during the day.
“‘Shock and awe!’ That was the chosen name for the military operation took place to invade Iraq and open the door to the mess in which we Iraqis, Coalition forces and their opponents are all stuck in altogether even after 18 years.
“The promises of freedom, democracy and prosperity the Iraqis longed for have never come true.”
Nick Deane from the Marrickville Peace Group and Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) called for a public investigation into how Australia joined the “Coalition of the Willing” that invaded Iraq.
“To this day we do not know the details of what went on in the corridors of power. We do not know how or why Australia made the decision. But we do know some very important features.
“One thing we can be sure of is that the decision to join the US in invading and occupying Iraq was an ignorant decision:
“• It ignored resolutions of the United Nations Security Council;
“• It ignored the advice of the UN weapons inspectors;
“• It ignored the Australian Parliament — being made without any debate there;
“• It ignored the likely outcome of the entire region being de-stabilised (as was foreseen by many), and
“• It ignored the will of the people of the world, who came out onto the streets in their millions to say ‘This is wrong! Don’t do it!’”
Pip Hinman from Sydney Stop the War Coalition said: “We must never forget the million of more Iraqis who were killed, who suffer the ongoing consequences of the war on Iraq.
“We must demand Australia assist the hundreds of thousands who are stateless, who still live in refugee camps, and those who are locked up for trying to come here.
“A generation of Iraqis has only known war. This is unforgivable and must not be forgotten.
“Nor should we forget the people who took great risks to bring us the real story — Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange. Assange still remains behind bars, which is a travesty of justice.”
The gathering was organised by the Marrickville Peace Group and IPAN and endorsed by Sydney Stop the War Coalition and the Socialist Alliance and several songs were performed by members of Ecopella and Sydney union choirs, brought together by Margaret Walters.