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When George W Bush had tea with the Queen on Sunday afternoon at Windsor Castle the BBC reported that he apparently “showed particular interest in a suit of armour worn by Henry VIII.” The man shows particular interest in all things to do with violence and war just so long as he doesn’t have to get too close. By the time of Henry VIII the days were long gone when Kings and Emperors stepped inside their suits of armour and headed out for the battlefield. Henry’s suit was no more genuine of its purpose than George Bush’s pilot’s jacket on that warship under that sign, ‘Mission Accomplished’. But Henry recedes into memories of multi-marriage and jolly obesity besides this particular ‘long-distance’ warrior, who is to our age and times particularly foul. It’s not his ignorance and imbecility with language, his simian simper, his half-smile facial twistings, his ‘I’ve wet my pants’ cowboy gait. All that might make him almost attractive to us. No, it’s the fact that all this combines to be used as a façade to allow a tremendous barbarity to advance behind the man, and behind the man lurks evidence that Bush is an absurd Dauphin, neither the real power nor the main cog or engine for the awfulness of the world he sits astride and shits upon. Bush reminds me of a Jules Verne machine, made of metal and absurd and unworkable in its structure and mechanics, but representative of a reality that is neither absurd nor unworkable, but is truly awful. Millions of dead awful.
With this in mind many of us were in Parliament Square on the afternoon of George’s visit to London and had planned to march up Whitehall past No 10 Downing Street where Bianca Jagger, Brian Eno, Dennis Halliday, David Edgar, Haifa Zangana and others would deliver 28 statements accusing George Bush of war crimes and expressing their anger that our government was hosting his visit and continuing to armour up for his wars.
Whitehall is a traditional route for marches, protests and processions. Stop the War Coalition have marched the route, picketed Downing Street, even camped on the road outside. Never, ever, in my fifty years of marching has it been closed off entirely; ‘green’zoned’.
A rally in Parliament Square had been good-humoured and full of chants, music, whistles and drumming. “Give Peace a Chance’ could be heard from a sound system. And yet there were signs of things to come. A young man I know was detained and searched under one of the growing numbers of ‘Terrorism’ acts! Then at 6.45 pm we set off towards Whitehall to march to Trafalgar Square. Led by Tony Benn, (age 82) Walter Wolfgang (age 85), Bianca Jagger and Brian Eno who carried with them their statements together with a pair of children’s handcuffs, (a symbol of the war criminals they might be passing en route) we were forbidden entry into the road. Bianca had her handcuffs grabbed from her by a policeman who had been trained to recognize a security threat when he saw one. We were met by a phalanx of metal pens, concrete road obstructs, riot-geared police, their wagons and their ferocity. Those at the front who dared place their hands on the steel barriers were whacked by truncheoned police. I have the number of one of them. PL 397. One young police-whacked man who, in the words of an off-duty nurse, told me would need at least nine stitches to his head, was prevented access to an ambulance. Two people remain hospitalized as I write this a day later.
Enough is enough. On top of the attempt to extend detention without trial, on top of the Belmarsh detention camp in the UK, on top of the increasing atmosphere of the ‘Crusades’ when ‘Muslim’ comes to be used in the derogatory way that ‘Jew’ was used in the Third Reich, it is time to take back the liberties which the State, from Hennry VIII on, has reluctantly conceded to the people on the demand of the people.
In the knowledge that this affront to our rights was being planned Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesman, had sent a letter to the government condemning the proposed closure of Whitehall to the demonstrators. Like the messages that never reached Downing Street it probably ended its days a paper aeroplane in the Prime Minister’s office. His message to us was read out in Parliament Square.
“Just because the votes of these protesters cannot be bought, it does not mean that their voices should not be heard by those in 10 Downing Street. In this country we have a long tradition of peaceful protest and I would be shocked if British civil liberties were curtailed at the request of a foreign government. George W Bush and Gordon Brown are out of touch with their own voters and I wish you well in ensuring that the voices of ordinary citizens are heard by them today. ” Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrat Home affairs Spokesman.
When he got home with his statement still in his pocket Brian Eno declared:
“Isn’t democracy supposed to be listening to the voice of the people? They spoke today. Did anyone hear them? The anti-war movement is the most conspicuous example of reconciliation between races, faiths and classes that this country has ever seen. Any government with its eyes open would celebrate and nurture this, not try to stop it.
And Bianca Jagger did the same:
“Our civil liberties are becoming another casualty of the ‘war on terror’. I was born in a dictatorship and look with great concern at recent erosions of our liberties. At the demonstration today all I wanted to do with others was to peacefully deliver my letter to the Prime Minister. I was prevented from doing so and instead witnessed brutality towards the demonstrators.”
What they and others had written and which never reached the letter-box of Downing Street, let alone the hands and mind of its occupants, must now reach the rest of the world as we prepare our response. You are still free to read and to think and to act. Please do so:
IAIN BANKS, novelist
Please charge Dubya with being a war criminal, a peace criminal and unfit to be in charge of anything larger or more important than a pretzel. Actually, including a pretzel.
MOAZZAM BEGG, former Guantanamo detainee and spokesman for Cageprisoners
History will judge G.W. Bush as the man who wreaked devastation and destruction on the earth even as he was having men tortured in the world’s most notorious and secret prisons. Justice cannot be done until such men are brought to book for their crimes.
WILLIAM BLUM, US writer and journalist
I charge George W. Bush with breaking the hearts and crushing the idealism of an entire generation of young Americans who have been forced into the realization that America, their beloved America, has no regard for international law and human rights, and worst of all, tortures people, routinely and cruelly. They are compelled to wonder: What kind of world is this we’ve been born into?
KEITH BURSTEIN, composer
George Bush – with the assistance of Tony Blair- has demolished any moral authority formerly commanded in the world by the US and the West. The veil has been torn open on the true nature of US global power, never to be replaced. When Bush comes to Britain he should be detained like Pinochet and sent for trial for crimes against humanity.
CARYL CHURCHILL, playwright
Killers often think they’re making the world a better place. It’s not a defense.
LOUISE CHRISTIAN, lawyer
George Bush bears a heavy responsibility as the leader of most powerful country in the world who has comprehensively turned his back on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the whole concept of international law, has authorized world wide oppression, detention without charge and torture and has attempted to put himself and his army beyond the reach of the rule of law. He has betrayed the Founding Fathers of America who were inspired by liberty, fraternity and equality.
JULIE CHRISTIE, actor
The Bush administration has been responsible for the de-stabilisation of the whole world which has made us all victims of its policies. It is not too late to impeach this fantasist and terrifyingly dangerous President. Wiping out hundreds of thousands of people does still seem to be worse than having an inappropriate affair with an Intern.
DAVID EDGAR, playwright
Powerful UN members are refusing to agree a definition of terrorism unless it excludes the actions of states. Our own Terrorism Acts define terrorism as the use of force for a political objective, against the state. Thank goodness the Nuremberg trials – and now the International Court of Justice at the Hague – provide an alternative way to get the heads of government who order illegal acts of indiscriminate violence against other people’s countries.
BRIAN ENO, musician and producer
I feel ashamed that my country has chosen to honour this world-class bungler and his ideological comrade, our ex-Prime Minister, as though they were experienced elder statesmen. Their callow disregard for the democratic values they claim to defend is hypocrisy of the highest order. Their blinkered self-righteousness (God told me to do it) makes them intellectual equals to the terrorists they claim to be fighting (for didn’t God tell them to do it as well?). And their astonishingly childish military hubris led them into an imperial adventure that our children, and their children, will have to pay for. Let’s make that two pairs please.
DAVID GENTLEMAN, artist
George Bush criminally lied and deceived a panicky United States into starting an illegal, bungled, shameful and counter-productive war. Bush also persuaded the eagerly gullible Blair to believe anything that might seem to justify needlessly dragging Britain in as well. These two men, forever handcuffed together by history, will be remembered only for the futility, the terrible consequences and the unnumbered victims of their joint folly.
LINDSEY GERMAN, Coordinator, Stop the War Coalition
George Bush was responsible for launching the war on terror and is responsible for its failure. He was determined to take us into war in Iraq despite the lack of evidence justifying war. We have caused up to a million dead in Iraq, four million Iraqis are refugees, yet none of the architects of the war have been held to account. We should not forget the role of the British government. Our former Prime Minister went along with Bush at every stage and the present PM, Gordon Brown, was the Chancellor who bankrolled the war and who has now reneged on his promise to begin the withdrawal of troops.
BEN GRIFFIN, former soldier
President George W Bush, a vile war criminal, visits a subservient client state to be feted as “The Leader of the Free World”. Meanwhile the subjects of said client state get pissed, buy junk and watch TV. WAKE UP
KATE HUDSON, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
I charge George Bush with illegally attacking Iraq on trumped up charges, imposing a brutal occupation, wrecking the infrastructure and public services, using chemical weapons on civilian populations, littering the country with cluster bombs and depleted uranium munitions, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths and untold human sorrow and suffering. He must be brought to justice.
BIANCA JAGGER, human rights advocate
George W Bush is responsible for flagrant violations of human rights and international law. His immoral, illegal and unwinnable wars have cost the lives of more than a million people. Bush is responsible for extraordinary renditions, detentions without trial and the atrocities at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, and he must be held accountable. An international tribunal must be established, along with the inquiry into US war crimes that Amnesty International has called for. If Bush and Blair had presided as CEOs over comparable fraudulent and deceptive practices in the City, they would have been immediately and unceremoniously sacked.
SABAH JAWAD, Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation
We call for George Bush and his criminal gangs on both sides of the Atlantic to stand trial for the unimaginable war crimes they have committed against Iraq and the Iraqi people. If there is any justice in the world they should be locked up.
TERRY JONES, actor and former ‘Monty Python’
You’ll not catch me calling President Bush a War Criminal! He could put me away without explanation or recourse to law the moment I next stepped into the Land of Freedom!
A.L. KENNEDY, writer and novelist
Mr. Bush continues to contravene human rights law in his treatment of prisoners in US custody across the world, in his abduction of “suspects” and in his enthusiastic endorsement of torture. He has dragged the US and its allies into two illegal wars of pre-emptive aggression, using illegal weapons and repeatedly contravening laws set in place to protect non-combatants.
NIGEL KENNEDY, violinist
IT IS NO LONGER POSSIBLE TO AVOID BEING LABELLED WAR CRIMINALS OURSELVES if we continue to vote for or tolerate leaders who deprive people in different parts of the world of their way of life or, in many cases, of life itself. George Bush and his allies should no longer get away with respecting international law and human rights only at their own convenience.
ROGER LLOYD PACK, actor
To add to the extensive list of crimes committed by the heinous war criminal George Bush, I charge him with being responsible for the birth of hundreds of babies deformed as a result of the chemical bombs dropped on Basra and other cities during the Iraq War.
ADRIAN MITCHELL, poet
George W Bush you face disgrace
For crimes against the human race.
Put these handcuffs on your wrists –
Terrorist of Terrorists.
ANDREW MURRAY, Chair of Stop the War Coalition
George Bush bears the moral responsibility for the violent deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq alone. He should be in the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, not Downing Street and if Gordon Brown wants to speak for Britain, he will tell him so.
JOHN PILGER, journalist
Criminal power always fears people. That’s its greatest fear. That’s why even a House of Commons committee worries out loud about the draconian surveillance that now distinguishes a Britain dominated by Washington. The MPs are worried because they know that if the state goes too far the people will act. History tells them that. The reason George Bush is surrounded by an army of police today and why we cannot march along Whitehall is because the system Bush represents fears our voices. It fears our many voices, and it fears just one voice, like Brian Haw. All potentially are a threat, because we speak the truth. And it’s truth, not Al Qaeda, that is Bush’s enemy — as the dead and maimed and dispossessed in Iraq and Afghanistan bear witness.”
HAROLD PINTER, playwright and Nobel Prize winner
There is no more suitable candidate for Leading War Criminal than George Bush. The only person that comes anywhere near him is Tony Blair. They are both beneath contempt. Bush should certainly be arrested and sent to Guantanamo Bay where he can rot forever.
CLARE SHORT, former Cabinet Minister
Where is Brown on this issue? Has Britain got any bottom line? All that rhetoric about Brown being the change after Blair has been exposed as nonsense.
CAROL VINCENT, Big Brother contestant and arrested on 15 June on her way to deliver this statement after being hit repeatedly on her hands and arms
George Bush senior got the ball rolling as a hawk instead of a dove and his son continued with this behaviour. The USA was clearly on a flight trail to take over the Middle East and its resources regardless of the human cost. Undoubtedly George W Bush is a war criminal and Blair was his puppet. Gordon Brown had the opportunity to bring the troops home, but has chosen instead to continue with Blair’s wretched alliance with the US, but Not in My Name.
TIMBERLAKE WERTENBAKER, playwright
Not just responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, George Bush seized the very word Democracy illegally, mocked it, tortured it and did his best to kill it. This is a crime against the future.
WALTER WOLFGANG, Labour Party NEC
George Bush is a war criminal who has murdered uncounted hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
HAIFA ZANGANA, Iraqi writer & novelist
If democracy is to return to America and Britain, both Bush and Blair have to be charged with war crimes against the Iraqis. As the US Commander-in-Chief, he is guilty of the crimes committed in Abu Ghraib, and those committed by his soldiers; in particular, the rape of A’beer Qassim Hamza al – Janaby, the fourteen year old girl who was gang-raped and set on fire by US marines after they had killed her parents and her four year old sister.
DAVID WILSON can be reached at: David.email@example.com