As a war on Iraq becomes more likely by the hour, activists around the world, including many in the world’s gay and lesbian communities, are mobilising in protest.
The protests are happening from San Francisco, where the organisers of the San Francisco Pride parade have adopted an anti-war resolution, to the parliaments of Australia, where Greens senator Bob Brown has continued to voice his opposition to any military action in Iraq.
Speaking to the Senate on Tuesday night, Brown called for the immediate return of the 2,000 Australian troops currently in the Middle East preparing for war in Iraq.
This prime minister bears total responsibility for every drop of Australian blood shed on the sands of Iraq in the coming months, Brown said.
He speaks from the office which Australians have given him but never on this issue. No Australian has voted for him to arrogate unto himself the power to deploy Australian troops into this illegal war.
The Australian people have a great, wonderful, long-term relationship with the American people but that is quite different from their feeling for this administration.
Similar comments came from Australian Democrats senator Brian Greig: What I think is unhealthy in this debate, is this primary focus on the so-called -˜legal issues’ surrounding this war, and a lack of focus on the morality of it, Greig said.
We should be working towards a change of government in Iraq through legal means and charging Saddam Hussein with war crimes and crimes against humanity. We should not target the Iraqi people who have no opportunity to change their government.
The decision by the San Francisco Pride committee to adopt the anti-war statement came after the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade included a significant anti-war message.
San Francisco Pride president Joey Cain said the anti-war resolution was based on social justice and civil liberties. It also reflected the beliefs of many gay and lesbian Americans, according to a survey undertaken by US research company Harris Interactive.
The survey results showed 67 percent of the respondents who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender said they were not confident George Bush would make the right decisions about Iraq. This compared with 37 percent of heterosexual respondents.
Paul van Reyk, who as part of the Enola Gay organisation has been emailing anti-war activists around the world every day, said the huge gay and lesbian turn-out at a recent march in Sydney, which coincided with Mardi Gras fair day, demonstrated the level of community concern about the war.
As it becomes clear that there is no potential justification for this war, there is no justification in what Howard is saying. We are a community that is probably more sensitive to the threats of war. Having been victims of oppression ourselves, we’re more sensitive to the rhetoric of oppression, van Reyk said.
I think we [the gay and lesbian community] stand with the people who stand for non-violent responses to this situation.
The presence of gay and lesbian anti-war protesters could be more to do with the sheer number of activists. Phil Davey from the Walk Against The War coalition described the diversity of people taking fliers from the coalition’s war-room at Trades Hall as fantastic: It’s people from all walks of life, from all geographical locations, classes, genders, orientations.
Of course, not all gay and lesbian people have come out fighting against the war in Iraq. South Sydney councillor and Bligh Liberal candidate Shayne Mallard told the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association dinner he believed the prime minister was acting in the national interest.
He told the StarÂ later he hoped and prayed the UN process would work.
But it appears that it has failed. The rules of our national safety and interest have changed since September 11 and the Bali bombing. We must look at international threats that might be around the corner, he said.
The Walk Against The War coalition has planned an emergency rally if war begins. Protesters will meet at Sydney Town Hall at 5pm on the day war is declared and march to Circular Quay, via George, King and Elizabeth Streets and John Howard’s Sydney office. A large march has been planned for this Sunday 23 March, leaving Belmore Park at 12:30pm. Daily 5pm vigils began yesterday at Town Hall. Potential volunteers and people able to hand out leaflets can pick up fliers or lend a hand at the CFMEU war-room, room 21, Trades Hall, 4 Goulburn St, Sydney. Call the Walk Against The War coalition on 9267 8122 for more information.