Write On: Letters to Green Left Weekly

Issue 

Books Not Bombs protest

The decision on April 2 by the students to call off the march and be satisfied with a rally in Sydney Town Hall Square was an example of excellent decision-making by the Books Not Bombs leadership.

What I object to is the resolution passed at the Walk Against the War coalition meeting calling for the cancellation of the rally, the statements made by John Robertson condemning the students on behalf of the NSW Labor Council and the ALP state government threatening the demonstration with tactical response police units, dogs, horses and the refusal of permits.

South Coast Labor Council secretary Arthur Rorris accused me of being oversensitive to criticism of the student rallies, but this is not so. We have made numerous mistakes during the campaign. For example, it is a mistake that the unions did not call a general strike or stop-work meeting sometime before March 22 when we had a small chance of preventing this war. It was a mistake that we have not had more union leaders as key speakers at the anti-war rallies — but hopefully we can correct that by making May Day a real expression of working-class anger against the war, which is just part and parcel of the anti-worker attacks against Medicare, education and welfare!

I believe we should learn from the mistake of excluding people from the organising meetings of the peace movement — where we can alert them to the difficulties of protests which are insufficiently "marshalled" and explain why we need this sort of organisation — instead of holding "invitation only" meetings and charging significant "fees" to be affiliated to the organising coalition.

Thankfully, we don't do this in Wollongong and I fervently hope it remains that way. The next big peace event is Palm Sunday on April 13, then May Day. I hope we can use the discussions at the organising meetings to reach democratic decisions which lead to the growth of both the peace movement and the unions, by giving encouragement to the young people who are becoming politically active around the war.

Marg Perrott
Wollongong NSW

Blackmail rejected

I am a member of the National Tertiary Education Industry Union (NTEU) and was privileged to be a part of the Sydney Books Not Bombs (BNB) student protest on April 2 as one of 90 or more volunteer peace monitors.

I was also a participant in the March 26 protest and witnessed, along with other NTEU participants, the racist harassment and violence by the NSW police which took place. I was, along with 200 others, illegally detained by police outside the Prime Minister's office for two hours.

I was disgusted by the campaign of lies, vilification and scare-mongering undertaken by the NSW Labor government, which was assisted by the entire corporate media.

As a trade unionist, I was appalled at the decisions made by the NSW Labor Council, and subsequently the Walk Against War coalition to which it is affiliated, to condemn the student protest on March 26, rather than give students the solidarity and support they deserved. Further, the request by the WAW that BNB cancel their protest planned for April 2 added insult to injury.

I was also appalled to hear that the NSW Labor Council applied pressure on education unions to issue public statements condemning student protesters in exchange for its endorsement of the April 10 rally against the Nelson Review.

I am proud that my union resisted this blackmail, and that our state secretary agreed to pen a letter expressing concern at the restriction of the right to protest and supporting students' requests for an inquiry into the police violence on March 26.

Our so-called union leaders in this state would do well to take a leaf out of the book of the Geelong Trades and Labor Council executive which voted to support the April 2 student protest, as did the Victorian Peace Network, to which the Victorian Trades Hall Council is affiliated.

The success of the rally on April 2, and the victory it won for the right to protest, should be applauded by all unionists worth their salt.

Susan Price
Sydney

Media distortion

I am 13 years old. I live in Melbourne and have attended many peace rallies, including the student strike on March 26. I thought it was a fantastic experience and I met some amazing people. But the media have portrayed it as a bunch of out of control kids just there to get out of school.

My friends and I do not support those who burned flags or became violent. This was a march for peace therefore it should have been peaceful. I think the media should stop focusing on the negatives and start realising that most of us were there to stand up for our beliefs and get our troops out of the invasion of Iraq.

This war is unfair and unjust, and Australia's involvement is not democratic. I would also like to urge everyone to attend as many protests as possible, and not to give up on our cause.

Do something everyday to show your support, even something as small as wearing an anti-war badge. People will notice, and sooner or later, something has to be done. How can so many people be wrong?

Isabella Morand
Melbourne

Bravo Books Not Bombs

Bravo to these kids who are still committed to the cause and continue to defy the "authorities" despite the disgusting treatment meted out to them.

Here is a message I sent to our illustrious [NSW Premier Bob] Carr and cohorts: "These young people have every right to express their opinions and show their disapproval of the behaviour of our craven federal government. Why set the police and their dogs on to these children? Could it be that you see them as your conscience? That they are right, this war is an abomination, and you too should be doing something about it, instead of drooling over the TV spectacle night after night.

"These young people represent the thinking section of the next generation, as opposed to the mindless masses who devour the war porn presented relentlessly every evening on a platter along with their Chicken-Tonight. Thank god these kids can still tell the difference between right and wrong, morality and depravity, because with the example set by our so-called leaders, it's a bloody miracle!"

Margot Huthnance
Thirroul NSW

Youth are the future

This is to encourage all those who are feeling like they can't see the effect they are having. Obviously, we are having an impact because otherwise there wouldn't be this much media attention over us.

Stay strong in the fight. Don't back down. To all the youth, remember that we are the future. I thought this slogan is a good one to carry around: "Tomorrow's future has decided today! We don't want a war — no bloody way". Stand up for what you believe in, no matter what it be, but especially for peace.

God Bless you all.

Kari Pilcher
Gosford NSW

Cheap point-scoring

The recent public forum for Darwin's East Timorese asylum seekers ("200 attend refugee forum", GLW #532) was a success, and showed that the community's support for these people is broad-based.

Many groups have been lobbying to allow these people to remain in our community, including those associated with your newspaper.

It was disappointing, if not surprising, to note that a Green Left advocate sought to turn the forum into an attack on the ALP, demanding an apology for its failures to process East Timorese refugees claims in the early 1990s.

Simon Crean and Julia Gillard gave this apology on March 5 when announcing Labor's moves to introduce legislation that will give the East Timorese permanent residency. This was published and broadcast by most Australian media.

The Left has a long history of mistakes — almost as long as its history of infighting.

It's important to acknowledge errors, but cheap point-scoring helps no-one but Ruddock. It certainly does nothing for the East Timorese.

The campaign to let them stay can be won, but with a bit of help it can be undone, too.

Markus Mannheim
Office of Warren Snowdon MP
Darwin NT

Crap populist sitcom!

Are the editors of Green Left Weekly trying to insult our intelligence? Do the readers of GLW want or need critical analysis of crap populist American sitcoms? Why was so much space given to Buffy (GLW #531) in a time of intense war and attacks on our freedom of speech?

This appears to be nothing but a crass attempt to win young teenagers over to our movement when what young people are really craving is radicalisation.

Most activists like myself don't even get time to watch the news, let alone bourgeois pop TV shows. To see space given to a TV show that trivialises the social issues that young people face as outlined in the article is disheartening. The stereotypes of males being horrible monsters and the women being super sexy vixens are quite frankly boring, if not disturbing.

No rational person would honestly expect a vision of a better world that measured up to the ideals of Socialism on an American sit com. To idolise a fictional character such as Buffy and portray the show as being one of the most interesting and quote "realistic" shows on TV is ridiculous and an utter nonsense.

Or is it possible that I'm just an "out of touch" stodgy Socialist? Perhaps we should worship Buffy as being a truly quote "consciously feminist" superhero. Perhaps we should hold her image up on high alongside Che's (copyright incorporated), drink Coca-Cola and refer to the revolution as being hip and trendy.

Or we could just blow up our TVs and take to the streets. See ya at the next peace march comrades.

Andrew J Martin
Sydney

Touch one, touch all

Just writing to you in response to your article, "Armed police terrorise Melbourne building workers" (GLW #527). I had seen the report on the daily news here in Sydney on February 20 and couldn't believe that armed police would put the workers and the general public at risk.

I totally agree with Mr Martin Kingham's comment to the media regarding fundamental safety codes that govern construction sites. I also agree with Kingham's point that all workers on that site were all financial members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and that all workers on this site were all paid the same rates and received the same conditions, so they deserve to be protected by their trade union regardless of their backgrounds.

I just wish someone would get that message across the border [to the leadership of the NSW CFMEU]. We have to unite and go back to the fundamental process of our trade union comrades of past years. Our members need to be protected from these grubby, low-life bosses who exploit them. Target the boss and not the worker.

All NSW members should join Victoria in its great tradition — touch one, touch all. And to do what Mr Kingham has asked Victorian members to do: hold the line.

Wayne Gardiner
Wilton NSW
[Abridged.]

[More letters at <http://www.greenleft.org.au>.]

Assyrian Aid Society

The Assyrian Aid Society Australia Incorporated (AAS) is a not-for-profit charity organisation, established in 1998 to assist AAS-Iraq (founded in 1991 in the aftermath of Gulf War) by funding building programs, irrigation and electrification projects, education programs and medical projects in support of the indigenous Assyrians living in their homeland, Iraq.

AAS of Australia has just produced a 12-month A4 glossy calendar in order to raise emergency funds.

The calendar begins in April, the Assyrian new year and ends in March (2004). It contains a selection of pictures taken by AAS of Australia over a six-month period from April last year. The pictures don't necessarily relate to AAS projects but rather they are meant to represent the breadth of the "Assyrian experience" in the Middle East today.

All proceeds from the sale of this calendar will go to rebuilding the lives of Assyrians, presently being shattered by yet another Gulf war. Your support of the little known indigenous people of Iraq will be counted in lives.

Please don't hesitate to contact me at anytime for further info or to order your copy of this beautifully designed and presented calendar (free delivery anywhere in Australia). Email <miriad@freemail.com.au>

Miriam Daniel
AAS-Australia Inc
Sydney

What war really means

We here in Australia can pontificate all we like about the legality of the "war" on Iraq, on the rights and wrongs of anti-war protests by schoolkids, and talk about the need to "support" our troops over there. About the need to "save" the Iraqis from Hussein.

Do we actually know what we're talking about? Do we realise what it means for the troops to be firing missiles into a city? Families are losing mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. War means death and destruction. Iraqis have had torture, death and destruction for decades, and the West has done nothing.

Now we carry on in a righteous manner about how we're going to "liberate" the Iraqi people. Why now, and why this way? Why didn't we do anything to "liberate" them years ago? Why did we abandon them when they rose up against Hussein after the 1991 war in the Gulf?

Don't complain about seeing pictures of the dead in the press: the Iraqis have to live it everyday. Have a look and learn what war really means.

Sue Bond
Indooroopilly Qld

Civil disobedience

I tremble with rage at the illegal, immoral and unjustified invasion of Iraq by so-called coalition forces, and feel a deep sense of shame that Australia is aiding the USA to further its mercantile, religious and political neo-imperialist agenda in the Middle East.

I write to urge readers not to give up resisting this war. We must convert the rage we feel into positive action. We must engage in acts of civil disobedience. Gandhi might serve as a good example on how we might proceed.

We must shame our political representatives with the truth. We must convert them to peace with our love. We must resist their will to wage war on Iraq at every level. We must be like great immovable elephants, lying in the path of the war-makers and their monstrous juggernaut. We must be as stubborn as old mules. We must dig our heels in, and bay defiantly at our political masters.

They may tempt us with carrots, they may beat us with whips, but we must continue baying, continue resisting, boycotting, marching, educating and hoping, and we must never yield. History will look favourably upon us, no matter how we are treated today.

Robert Bruce Agnew
Nimbin NSW

A way to protest

Do we really want Peace? To bring about a point of protest, "we want peace", we want our men and women home from the war, stop the killings, you can walk to parliament, surround embassies what ever.

But does that really put the point across?

My suggestion is why not have a protest that will really send a message, provided it is done with peace and dignity in mind, heart and soul.

Let us gather in our thousands, let us bring flowers and wreaths, let us and stand before the war memorials in very city and town, let us hold banners that say the words, "how many more names are we going to add to our cenotaphs", let us stand in protest. We can take turns standing or sitting, we can wait overnight, a day, a week. Gandhi did it for a cause in his day to bring about peace and he won. We can do it in our day.

John McWhirr
Morwell Vic

Protests

We do not need experts to tell us children can be traumatised by images of war. 99.9% of parents instinctively know this. Children are also left homeless, refugees, orphaned, crippled, injured and dead by war.

It is when we, in the global community and particularly western governments, need to be reminded of this that there is a real problem.

Peace is form of greater religion, and while I believe in one God, to others He has many names and many forms. However, one thing that is common amongst everyone who believes is the desire for peace.

As for students choosing to protest against the war, let them. It is a justifiable human right to "feel for" or "feel against" war. Those who use a protest simply to get a day off school are no help to any side of the argument. Punishing students who actively and responsibly attend anti-war protests is something a dictatorship would do.

Are we or are not living under one?

Students should be allowed to attend protests.

A few empty-heads may see it as an easy day off, but a majority are there for what they believe is an unfair war. Besides, while parents and teachers are left guessing if those youngsters are really anti-war or in it for a slack day, we as a country are in an even greater cloud of doubt.

Is this war for the benefit of the Iraqi people or simply for control of oil? Will we ever eradicate terrorism or are the lives lost in this war list for nothing?

It is not unlike the legal choice to say NO to classroom experiments on animals. Do we really need or wish to torture thousands of innocent lives for what one authority believes is "the only way" to enrich our future?

Especially when alternatives to such needless deaths are so readily available and so much more humane.

Rebekah Blackwolf
Bayswater North Vic

Symbolic act in support of the people of Iraq

We strongly oppose the Iraq war. In support of the suffering people of Iraq, we are organising a blood donation program. The text of the pamphlet prepared for the occasion is reproduced below.

Strength to the peace-loving, anti-war peoples of the world!

Donate Blood! A Symbolic Act of Support to the People of Iraq!

We give our blood to the people of Iraq, who have endured twelve years of "the most pervasive sanctions ever imposed on a nation in the history of mankind" and are today being devastated by an unthinkable, atrocious war.

We give our blood to Ariane, Mariam and hundreds of children like them in Iraq who are surviving on water, too weak to eat, whose little bodies are fighting a different kind of war: a war against deadly leukemia or blood cancer, caused by the use of depleted uranium in the 88,500 tons of ammunition used by the US and its allies to bomb Iraq in 1991.

We give our blood to the women of Iraq, whose stories lie buried under the rubble of the war-torn country; women who are forced to watch their children sicken and die before their eyes, who are risking back-street abortions or abandoning their new-born babies because there is no food to feed them, who are turning to prostitution as the only way out, whose bodies are breeding reproductive tract cancers and malformed babies, and who now, despite the war, must find new ways of sustaining life, finding food and water, looking after the sick, the wounded, and the dying.

We give our blood to the starving millions whose blood is being spilled in Iraq by Bush and Blair ostensibly to save them from dictatorship and terrorism, in a war where fully armed aggressors disarmed their victim first, a war that is accompanied shockingly by promises of humanitarian aid for the thousands it is killing and maiming everyday.

Blood, the very substance of life, which keeps us alive so long as it flows in our veins, is being ruthlessly shed through the war in Iraq even as thousands of Iraqis knock on hospital doors for a few bottles of blood that could mean the difference between life and death for the wounded and the ailing.

It is sheer folly to imagine that any of us is safe as long as the Iraqi people suffer. The effects of uranium radiation, present everywhere in the food, water and air, devastating the Iraqi people today is not confined to their bodies alone.

The life cycle of all living beings, our interconnected water resources, and the unfettered movement of goods in the free market, ensure that right at this moment, radiation is reaching not only

us in India, but also, the people in the United States and Britain; indeed, people everywhere.

A tremendous anger is building up around the world against the world's so-called super-powers, in reality, the street corner bullies of today's global village. The anger against the shocking violence unleashed against the people of Iraq in defiance of

every existing code of conduct, will find expression in vengeful ways with frightening regularity in times to come. In every country, freedom and innocent lives will be the primary casualties in the spiralling wave of violence.

Neither Bush nor Blair have the right to decide who will rule Iraq, that right belongs to the Iraqi people alone. So long as Bush and Blair are the self-appointed policemen of this world, bombing, and shedding blood at will, democracy and human rights everywhere, lie in peril.

By donating blood in the name of the people of Iraq, this is our message to them: "You are not alone. The precious blood you shed today is not just yours; it diminishes all of us. When you suffer, the collective human race suffers. When you are unsafe, we are all unsafe. The freedom you lose today is the loss of our collective freedom."

Such are the consequences of the war and the decade-long devastation of public infrastructure that the blood we collect in the name of the women, men and children of Iraq may not reach them. However, if it reaches needy people in our own country, our act of donating blood will not be in vain.

We call upon all concerned and peace-loving people to participate in the anti-war blood donation program to express solidarity with the Iraqi people.

Manasa Mahila Sangathane
Kadugodi, Bangalore, India
<manasapathrike@yahoo.co.in>
[Manasa is an autonomous women's collective]

From Green Left Weekly, April 9, 2003.
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