Amir Amirani’s film We Are Many has been in the research and making for more than six years. It addresses the illegality of the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent undermining of democratic processes, set alongside the power of public protest and mass mobilisations of the anti-Iraq war movement – a movement that was to inspire the Egyptian uprising of 2011 and in turn, Occupy Wall Street.
‘We Are Many’ addresses the illegality of the invasion of Iraq set alongside the power of the ‘99%’ – more than 15 million people in 800 cities in 70 countries marched to protest the imminent invasion of Iraq.
And the film also addresses the immense human and financial cost of the Iraq invasion – a toll that continues to rise to the present day, on both fronts, as lives continue to be lost and the financial burden continues to be felt.
Between October 2001 and September 2012, the human toll has been (conservatively) estimated at: (Source: Costs of War Project)
- 313,000 lives lost – civilians, soldiers, humanitarian workers.
132,000 are Iraqi civilians; 17,400 Afghan civilians; 43,000 Pakistani civilians; 9,500 US military and contractors.
- Approximately 7,815,000 internally displaced people (Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan).
And the financial cost?
- To the USA: Even the conservative estimate put the economic cost of the Iraq War to be at least $2 trillion (£1.2 trillion). Taking the Afghanistan War and many other hidden costs into account, the total costs of wars to update is estimated to be $6 trillion (£3.6 trillion) and counting.
- To the UK: Whitehall figures released in June 2010 put the combined costs of Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts at £20.34bn. However the £20.34billion total does not include the salaries of soldiers or paying for their long-term injuries and mental health care. The UK has funded its part in the conflict from the Treasury Reserve Fund which is extra money on top of the £35 billion annual defence budget.
Spread the Word!
- Costs of War Project
- The Three Trillion Dollar War
- Professor Linda Bilmes’ work on the cost of war and veterans’ issues
- History of the anti-war movement
History of the anti-war movement
Resistance to war is as old as war itself. The first recorded instance was a Christian, Maximilian, who was executed in the 3rd century AD for refusing to join the Roman army. There have been many other individuals who have refused to serve in war throughout history. But for the beginnings of a coherent peace movement, rather than individual resistance, we have to look to the 19th century.
In America, the first pamphlets calling for an organised anti-war movement were distributed in 1814, and the first meeting of the New York Peace Society followed a year afterwards. Soon there were chapters all over America, and similar societies in Europe too. The American Peace Society was officially founded in 1828.
During World War I, a large number of men resisted conscription on the grounds of conscientious objection to war. Some were made to pay fines, and many others were sent to prison. The No-Conscription Fellowship was formed in 1914, and grew into a substantial movement once conscription was introduced in 1916. Some of these objectors went on to found War Resisters’ International in the aftermath of the war. The War Resisters’ League, its American branch, was set up a couple of years later in 1923, and both groups are still actively campaigning today.
It wasn’t until the Vietnam War, however, that the anti-war movement began to really take hold in the public imagination. Opposition to the war became less individual and, inspired by the Civil Rights movement, took the form of widespread, large-scale demonstrations attended by people from all walks of life. Starting with small demonstrations on university campuses around the United States in 1964 the movement grew quickly, with several marches of hundreds of thousands of people throughout the USA and in Europe over the following years. In 1969, the November 15th Moratorium March in Washington, D.C. was attended by over half a million people.
Vietnam Veterans Against the War was founded in 1967, and quickly grew to have tens of thousands of members. Many of them gathered at the Capitol in 1971 to give back the medals they had been awarded during military service, an act that inspired the members of Iraq Veterans Against the War to do the same over 30 years later. Ron Kovic, one of the most outspoken members of VVAW, was a key figure in the opposition to the Iraq War in 2003 and led hundreds of thousands of people in an anti-war march in London.
In the 1980s, the women’s camp of Greenham Common provided a focus for voices of discontent at Britain’s headlong rush into the nuclear arms race as the Cold War dragged on. In the 1990s, there were strikes and marches in cities around the world in protest against the Gulf War.
In the 21st century, the anti-war movement reached an unprecedented scale. There were regular demonstrations around the world from the beginning of the Afghanistan War onwards, culminating on February 15th 2003 with a massive worldwide day of protest against the imminent invasion of Iraq, attended by millions around the globe. The groups who helped mobilize the protest, among them A.N.S.W.E.R, United for Peace and Justice, the Stop the War Coalition and Code Pink, continue to organise demonstrations and actions against the on-going presence of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The war drums began to sound again in 2012 and 2013 with calls for intervention in Syria and Iran. Times may have changed, but the words of peace activists throughout history still resonate today.
Listen to the American Peace Society in 1845, reproaching the vast waste of life and resources that constitutes war:
‘On whom do the evils of war fall? Are its guilt abettors the men that pay its expenses, bear its hardships, and suffer its countless woes? No; these come upon the people. It is their earnings that are wasted, their blood that is poured out like water’
Or Bertrand Russell in 1914, condemning the indifference of the ruling class to the horrors of war, the insidious influence of the pro-war press and the ulterior motives of the warmongers, an all too familiar refrain today:
‘Behind the diplomatists, dimly heard in the official documents, stand vast forces of national greed, and national hatred, atavistic instincts concentrated and directed by governments and the press, fostered by the upper class as a distraction from social discontent, artificially nourished by the sinister influence of the makers of armaments’
‘We Are Many’ is the first ‘for the record’ account of how the peace movement mobilised to stop the Iraq invasion. It was a mass mobilisation of a kind never seen before – up to 30 million people over 24 hour period marched with one voice. Protest works. For more information
- Stop the War Coalition
- Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
- Campaign Against Arms Trade
- Drone Wars UK
- Global Drones Watch
- International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
Non-violent direct action
Non-violent resistance works. We’ve seen it in action, from the suffragettes to the civil rights movement via Gandhi’s Satyagraha. Historically, many would argue that non-violent resistance has more often been effective than violence.
Non-violent resistance is based on the principle that violence is never the best way to achieve goals. However, it isn’t just about what we shouldn’t do. It’s about being proactive, creative and cooperative.
The Quaker movement has a longstanding commitment to non-violent resistance. ‘Turning the Tide’ is a Quaker project that both informs and trains individuals who wish to know more and engage with non-violent direct action.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. The beauty of nonviolence is that in its own way and in its own time it seeks to break the chain reaction of evil’’. Martin Luther King, Where Do We Go From Here?
Some recommended reading and ways to get involved
- Turning the Tide run workshops on effective nonviolent activism based in the UK and their website has great links for further reading.
- The Non-Violence Project focusses on educating young people around the world about non-violence and peace.
- Waging Nonviolence has news and commentary analysed from a people power perspective.
- Nonviolence International is a network of nonviolence groups around the world with useful educational resources and links for further reading.
- Tipping Point Film Fund supports documentaries that seek to spread truth and inspire change.
Crimes against peace were defined at the Nuremberg Trials as ‘planning, preparing, initiating or waging a war of aggression, or wars in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances’. The only legal ways of going to war are to prevent a major humanitarian emergency, in self-defence, or with the support of the UN. If these conditions aren’t met, a war crime has been committed.
This is exactly what many believe happened in the case of Iraq. These many include Kofi Annan and Desmond Tutu as well as 22% of the British public, according to a recent YouGov poll.
So far, we have seen very few people being made accountable for the crimes committed before and during the Iraq War. The attempts have either been dropped or are considered as largely symbolic.
In 2009 a case was filed in the Spanish courts against the ‘Bush Six’, the lawyers responsible for redefining the definition of torture in the infamous Torture Memos. The torture methods they approved, which were subsequently used during the War on Terror, are considered illegal under international law. Embassy cables released by Wikileaks suggest US officials may have pressurised Spanish officials into dropping the case later that year.
In 2010 a complaint was filed by Professor Francis Boyle at the International Criminal Court against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, George Tenet, Condoleeza Rice and Alberto Gonzalez (also one of the Bush six) for crimes against humanity, citing the use of extraordinary rendition. The case has never gone to court.
In 2011 a Malaysian War Crimes Tribunal found Bush and Blair guilty of illegally launching the war with Iraq, and in 2012 Bush and the five others named by Boyle were found guilty at the same tribunal of illegally declaring war as well as carrying out illegal torture.
David Lawley-Wakelin, seen in the film, interrupted the Leveson Inquiry to perform a citizen’s arrest on Blair in May 2012. See George Monbiot’s campaign at www.arrestblair.org for more information about why the invasion of Iraq constitutes a war crime and what can be done to bring those responsible to justice. In the US, www.impeachbush.org has similar advice. A citizen’s arrest is largely symbolic and should be carried out non-violently.
- The Global Day of Action on Military Spending is taking place on Monday 15th April 2014.
- War is a Crime
- Impunity Watch
- War Criminals Watch
- Codepink organize actions on a regular basis in the US against military spending, drone warfare, war crimes and escalation against Iran, among other issues.
- Peace Action
- In the UK, Trident is a big focus of military spending campaigns, and forms part of a wider movement focussing in nuclear disarmament alongside the arms trade more generally.
- The Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy is a research centre with own publications as well as extensive links for further reading.
- British American Security Information Council
‘let them march all they want as long as they continue to pay their taxes’, quote attributed to US Secretary of State Alexander Haig in response to the 1982 demonstrations against the nuclear arms race in New York City.
In 1849, after being imprisoned for withholding his taxes, Henry David Thoreau said that ‘if a thousand men were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood’.
His words have inspired icons of peaceful protest from Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King, who believed that ‘non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good’.
Since then, we’ve seen the face of war change dramatically. 100 years ago the vast armies of WWI contained hundreds of thousands of conscripted soldiers. Victory was a matter of outnumbering and outlasting the enemy. In the last 50 years, success in warfare has become less dependent on sheer numbers and more on the financial power to deploy expensive technologies of destruction. War needs money rather than men.
We may no longer be subject to military conscription, but our taxes are. All taxpayers are financial conscripts in our governments’ wars, regardless of whether we support them or not.
The Peace Tax Seven are seven British citizens who withheld taxes in protest at military spending. They believe we should be allowed to choose to have the portion of our taxes that is destined for defence redirected into peacebuilding initiatives. Their case in the European Court of Human Rights is still unresolved. They’re part of a wider movement of people campaigning for the right to conscientious objection to financial conscription.
Ways to get involved and learn more about the history of war tax resistance
- The Peace Tax Seven
- War Resisters International
- Conscience and Peace Tax International
- War Resisters League
The Five Percent Campaign
We Are Many shows ‘people power’ at work. Tipping Point’s new Five Percent Campaign to cut global military spending sees enormous power in the combined efforts of progressive policy advocates, campaigners and activists from the USA and the rest of the world combining their strengths to push for cuts to military spending and igniting a serious debate about how much we do (or don’t) know about our taxes and military spending; why we want to divert funds to better use and why the time has come for fresh ideas on what exactly constitutes ‘defence’ to be put into the mainstream
The Five Percent Campaign is in the early stages of development and we are currently sharing our proposal with colleagues across various policy and campaigning sectors – especially, the development sector. This campaign proposal stands on the shoulders of those in the peace movement who have long campaigned on the war-spending/arms trade issues – but it is an area that the major players in the development sector have not sought to take on in the same way with the same courage.
For more information about the campaign, visit this page at TPNS.