Speech of Tony Benn outside Parliament, 31 October 2002

transcribed by Stephen Hewitt

There follows the transcript of a speech made by Tony Benn outside Parliament in Parliament Square, London England on 31 October 2002. It is transcribed from the MP3 recording by muzikin on the Stop the War website. This recording is at http://www.stopwar.org.uk/audio/iraqdoa/TonyBenn.mp3 This and recordings of the other speakers are available from the following page (the links are near the bottom of the page at the time of writing this, 23 Feb 2003) http://www.stopwar.org.uk/press.asp

Tony Benn:

Friends this is a huge demonstration and I want to mention one man who is here Brian Haw who has been demonstrating on his own against the war for over a year. The local police the Westminster Council took him to court. He won his case. He's still here and the reason I mention him is not only because I greatly admire what he's done but also because he tells us what each of us has to do in this situation.

You and I know that unless it can be stopped within a few weeks, President Bush supported by the Prime Minister will be bombing Iraq and there are women in Baghdad tonight who will be widows and children who will be orphans because of action taken by the president and the Prime Minister. The President has had to get the consent of congress for the war. The House of Commons has not been allowed to vote on the matter. The Prime Minister is acting on his own - a personal decision to kill people in a war not authorised in any way by the united nations.

I heard Bush speak, as you probably did, at the UN assembly and what he did was not to give an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein but to give an ultimatum to the United Nations itself. Bush said if you do not support me I will go to war anyway and that was a much more serious crime in my opinion than the crimes committed by Saddam because he has ignored UN resolutions. President Bush has torn up the charter of the united nations which we signed at the end of the last world war. And perhaps because I am of that generation I campaigned in this constituency in the 1935 election and the 1945 election and as a young pilot coming back to Britain in the summer of 1945 I heard the words of the preamble of the charter of the UN which was very clear - we the peoples of the united nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has caused untold suffering to mankind - those were the words of the preamble - that was the pledge that my generation gave to the younger generation and that pledge is being broken by our own Prime Minister and by President Bush and I say this: we have our posters up now saying not in my name and that's correct but even if it's not in our name the bombing of Iraq by British forces will be paid for by taxation that we are paying and will be seen in Iraq as being an attack by Britain and therefore the moral responsibility is on all of us to do all that we can not just to demonstrate as we're doing today but to see that at our place of work or wherever we're gathered we encourage other people to think about what is being done in their name.

I cannot remember since 1939 - when the war was declared and I heard the broadcast - I cannot remember a time when I am more fearful of a world war as a result of what is about to be done by the president and the Prime Minister. You cannot imagine that a war against Iraq will necessarily stop there - may involve Iran, god knows what Sharon will do. It could involve Saudi Arabia it could escalate into a war which has almost a religious basis what Bush called a crusade - silly thing to say - but he probably didn't know what the crusades were all about. But what they were about were christian soldiers going and slaughtering muslims and jews in what is Palestine and we have to respond in our own way. and I believe that if this war begins we have to see that wherever we are, we take time out to alert people to what is being done, because the media will not help us very much. You know what the media do - they build up war stories - it boosts their circulation and the ratings of their programs - and therefore we have to take that responsibility upon ourselves. and I believe that tonight here in Parliament Square we represent the overwhelming majority of the population of the world. What is being ...[applause] Bush is planning Bush is planning Bush is planning to spend two hundred billion dollars on killing Iraqis. It will be a war crime. It will be a crime against humanity but more than that it will be a denial of wh how that money could be spent to improve the conditions and the prospects for millions and millions of people who die now not in war but in poverty and therefore what we are saying is not only negative about the war - we are demanding that Britain and the world turn their minds to use the the technology and resources at our disposal to see that the human condition improves so that the likelihood of future wars diminishes.

I cannot remember a time when I feel so strongly about what we have to do every one of us here is morally involved, morally responsible and we would do less than justice to that responsibility if we didn't make it our business to see that when the war begins - we'll try to stop it - but if the war begins we devote ourselves absolutely and firmly in favour of alerting people to what is being done. In peace my friends thank you for coming, all the very best.

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