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Popular opposition to war on Iraq

Many commentators have opined that popular opposition to war on Iraq has exceeded the movement against the Vietnam War in scale, even before the war has even been declared.

Thousands of small and large global protests against war in general or war on Iraq were held in 2003, voicing popular opposition to war on Iraq. This page informs about the reason why people are opposed to war.

Some people say North Korea poses more of a threat, while at least Saddam is co-operating. Critics say the US is less interested in North Korea because the country has no oil. Kuwaiti government officials made a number of statements in early 2003 rebutting these views, pointing out that if the U.S. was interested in taking control of the Iraqi oil fields they wouldn't have left the country 10 years ago.

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Opposition in western European countries

Some have speculated that western European countries are against a war because of widespread European "anti-American" sentiment. Contributing to these feelings are the stances taken by the George W. Bush administration on international issues: for example, American policies on global warming and environmental protection, and what was perceived before the September 11th attacks as a policy of isolationism practiced by the Bush administration. European leaders and their citizenry were not daunted in pursuit of an independent policy, despite this threat of economic retaliation by the United States. Indeed, some European leaders still maintain their opposition to the war in Iraq.

The scale of the change in attitudes in Europe over the approach is shown in the Republic of Ireland. In the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center, Ireland declared an unprecedented full national day of mourning for the victims. The reaction was two-fold: horror at the deaths but also a strong degree of sympathy for the United States, whom Ireland saw as a friend, particularly after President Clinton's welcome interventions during the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. By February 2003, the public reaction to the Bush administration actions over Iraq had changed America's image utterly. Instead of being seen in a positive light, the United States under Bush was seen as a 'bully' determined to force the international community to accept its demand for a war against Iraq, and if necessary ignore the international community in the United Nations and go to war only with a smaller coalition of allies. Hence an unprecedented 100,000 took part in an anti-war march in Dublin (the organisers had expected 20,000!) with demands being made that the United States be refused permission to use Shannon airport as a stop over point when flying their soldiers from the United States to countries bordering Iraq. Yet opinion polls show that the Irish would support a war if it had United Nations approval. What they would not support is a non-UN-sanctioned war declared in defiance of the UN by the Bush administration.

That 'anti-Bushism' was reflected in many European countries, most of whose leaders and peoples had never been impressed by the new American president, the manner of his election or the policies of his adminstration. Critics of the European reaction have speculated about whether some European states have strong economic ties to Iraq that are influencing their stands.

As an attack appeared imminent, there were political reactions around the world. American popular opinion of war on Iraq is mostly in favour of attacking Iraq, with a significant minority in opposition. In many other countries, majority opinion is opposed to the war, at least until all diplomatic measures have been exhausted. However, it is worth pointing out that the citizens of many countries around the world (including Great Britain) were also opposed to the Gulf War in 1991, until it was over.

Other opponents of the U.S. plans are puzzled that the U.S. is planning to attack Iraq, being unconvinced that Iraq's secular government has any links to al-Qaida, the terrorist group that attacked the U.S., and that the U.S. seems not to be taking any equivalent military action against North Korea, which has claimed it already has nuclear weapons, and has announced that it is willing to declare war on the U.S.

After the September 11 terrorist attacks, American policy began focusing on terrorism as the the country's primary enemy worldwide, in contrast to the previous fifty years of that country's history, fighting against international Communism. Many critics of the American War on Terror do not believe that American actions will help to end terror, and will actually increase the ranks and capabilities of terrorist groups. American presence in Middle-Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia are one of the major sources of discontent that leads Islamic fundamentalists to commit acts of violence; hence, the opportunity for American military forces in the region to be moved out of Saudi Arabia, where both Muslim holy places are, and into Iraq, a region with less religious significance, is being counted on as a way of hurting the recruitment campaigns of Muslim extremists. The American presence in Saudi Arabia had frequently been cited by Osama bin Laden as one of the main reasons for his hatred of the West.

Perhaps the most common criticism of the Bush Administration's proposed war is that the stated purposes are merely a cover for an attempt at grabbing control over the Iraqi nation and its natural resources, especially oil. Though few doubt that nuclear proliferation is a serious threat to the stability and well-being of the planet, some argue that a war on Iraq will not aid in eliminating this threat and that the only logical reason for a war is to secure control over the vast Iraqi oil fields. It is possible, as has happened in some similar invasions for ostensibly peacekeeping purposes, that the new regime will be little better than the old one in its attention to human rights and peace. The weapons of mass destruction that Iraq allegedly has may end up in the hands of a more dangerous leader, or be sold off to terrorist groups or other rogue nations[?], like Syria or Libya; supporters of the war remain hopeful that the American military will capture any weapons of mass destruction, and hence prevent their proliferation to groups more dangerous than Hussein's Iraqi government.

President Bush and his supporters have pointed to Germany and Japan as examples of countries which developed into stable and peaceful democracies during American occupation following World War 2.

Religious opposition

On September 13, 2002, US Catholic bishops signed a letter to President Bush stating that any "pre-emptive, unilateral use of military force to overthrow the government of Iraq" cannot currently be justified. They came to this position by evaluating whether an attack against Iraq would satisfy the criteria for a "just war", as defined by Catholic theology. [1] (http://www.catholicherald.com/cns/iraq-us.htm)

The Vatican has also come out against war in Iraq. Archbishop Renato Martino, a former U.N. envoy and current prefect of the Council for Justice and Peace, told reporters last week that war against Iraq was a "preventative" war and constituted a "war of aggression", and thus did not constitute a "just war." The foreign minister, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, expressed concerns that a war in Iraq would inflame anti-Christian feelings in the Islamic world. On February 8, 2003, Pope John Paul II said "we should never resign ourselves, almost as if war is inevitable." [2] (http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=2193088)

Both the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, and his successor, Rowan Williams, have spoken out forcefully against war with Iraq.

The World Council of Churches, which represents between 350 million and 450 million Christians from over 100 countries, published a statement in opposition to war with Iraq. The executive committee said, "War against Iraq would be immoral, unwise, and in breach of the principles of the United Nations Charter."

On January 18, 2003, a mass mobilization pulled together demonstrations against the war in cities around the world, including Tokyo, Moscow, Paris, London, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Cologne, Bonn, Goteborg, Florence, Oslo, Rotterdam, Istanbul, San Francisco and Cairo. See Global protests against war on Iraq.

On January 25, 2003 an international group of volunteers left London and is heading for Baghdad to act as human shields, hoping to avert a war. The project's organizer is Kenneth O'Keefe[?], a former US Marine who served in the 1991 Gulf War but who renounced his citizenship afterwards. The convoy is travelling through Europe and Turkey by bus and is picking up like-minded people along the way. This first wave of volunteers is expected to arrive in Baghdad in the first half of February, numbering about 70. (See Human Shields (http://www.humanshields.org)) In March, many of the human shields began to return to their home countries because the Iraqi government actually wanted to use them as human shields. The human shields that fled the country told reporters that the Iraqi government wanted them to sit at locations that were likely to be bombed by US allies if a war was to take place. Many reported that they had wanted to protect civilian targets like schools and mosques, but were instead compelled to camp out near industrial or military targets that were likely targets of coalition airstrikes.

Protests against war on Iraq

On February 15, 2003, worldwide protests, the largest yet, drew millions of people opposed to the war. Over 3 millions people marched in Rome, more that 750,000 people in London, more than 600,000 in Madrid, 300,000 in Berlin, as well as in Damascus, Paris, New York, Oslo, Stockholm, Brussels, Johannesburg, Montreal - more than 600 cities in all, worldwide. See Global protests against war on Iraq. Many commentators have opined that popular opposition to this war exceeds that against the Vietnam War.

For more on global protests against war in general or war on Iraq.

See also

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