Ring the bell that still can ring
by Vic Williams Over 700 people welcomed Rev Neville Watson and packed the Fremantle Town Hall on Tuesday May 13 to hear of his experiences during the war in Iraq. He was there as part of the Iraq Peace Team whose aim was to be the voice of the Iraqi people. He found the Iraqi families were magnificent in their acceptance of the Peace Team people. They separated the people from the government. One said to him, "Australian people good; government bad". Neville listed the variety of reasons given by the US for the invasion — to rout out terrorism, to find weapons of mass destruction, to change the regime, and lastly when they were threadbare, liberation of the Iraqi people. There have been imperialisms; the Romans, the British and now the Americans. It has been as ruthless and brutal as the others. They have invented a definition of defence; any action to defend the standard of the US, to be fought in any country. "I am most definitely an anti-imperialist. I oppose the violation of human rights. I believe the US have become terrorists". Neville could see the difference between some of the soldiers and the imperialism of the US army. Many he spoke to said, "Going into the army was the only way I could get college or tertiary education". He showed his peace banner above a group of US troops for hours. One of them sent a message up to him. "Tell the old guy I agree with his banner." Another said whenever he shot he fired up in the air. Only one soldier he interviewed put forward the definition of defence as being there to defend against a threat to US standards made anywhere. Neville then asked, "Where do we go from here? Did marching have any effect?" He answered that the drive must now gather momentum. We had to block the streets as they did in San Francisco. He looked to trade unions to take the struggle further. Dictatorial governments could be changed without war, as dictators Suharto and Marcos were removed without war. There was a need for non-violent strategies to change governments. Our experience in Australia showed that war was fatal for democracy. Where 71 per cent were against war in Iraq, Howard said he wouldn't' change his opinion. We could claim freedom of speech, but what was said was ignored by the diminutive Mussolini. The "No decision" hid the already made decision — most blatantly made before opening the debate. There is a great need for democratising the media. At present it is in bed with the military. In announcing the decision for war, Howard fell back on the story of the regime that would "gouge the eyes of children to force parents to talk and confess". Bush sees "glorious victory", portrayed by the toppling of Saddam's statue with a rent-a-crowd cheering, but Neville saw Iraq very unsettled with fighting still going on. Democracy cannot be imposed, it will be sheer chaos. In conclusion he quoted from a theme song, "Ring the bell that can still ring". "Voices opposing war need to be heard again". He was given a long-standing ovation.