In addition to my esteemed visit, Manchester also played host on Saturday to an anti-war march. 60,000 protesters (at least, according to the organisers – the police put the figure more at 20,000) walked through the city to oppose, oooh, lots of stuff they don’t like. Tony Blair for example (also in the city for the start of the Labour Party conference): they want him to go. Freedom For Palestine was another popular placard. Which is a bit of a conundrum, because Tony Blair also wants a Palestinian state and was a sponsor of the ill-fated peace plan spearheaded by Bill Clinton in the late 1990s. It was even starting to get somewhere until Yasser Arafat (probably something of a folk hero to many of these marchers) pulled the plug on the whole deal. Since then we’ve seen a second Intifada and the election of a terrorist group to their government. Hardly a great move forward.
Anyway, I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, the protesters protesting about things they want to protest about. As long as they’re protesting, they’re happy. Oh, how they like a good protest. Changes everything you see. Troops Out Of Iraq, of course, that was another favourite. Troops Out Of Afghanistan too…
This one I find particularly objectionable, seeing as our troops (and others) are currently there fighting back the Taliban: that reactionary, barbaric, philistinic force that would rather live in the Middle Ages, following a rather idiosyncratic interpretation of the Koran. And insisting that everyone else does too, on pain of death or disfigurement. And many of the protesters were university students. The idea of students – albeit perhaps unwittingly – arguing for action that would lead to the restoration of a regime that forbids education for women is beyond laughable. Norm wrote about this before me, and I agree with him wholeheartedly when he says:
But the marchers in Manchester, including members of the University and College Union it seems, are happy for the women of Afghanistan to be left to the benign attentions of the Taliban. Hold your heads up high, peaceniks, why don’t you?
These are the progressive forces of this country, remember? They turned up in their thousands to listen to the likes of George Galloway, Tony Benn, Bianca Jagger and, erm, Lauren Booth, insist that Afghanistan be returned to a system of medieval feudalism: where women not adhering to the strictest form of Muslim dress can expect to have acid thrown in their face, or face a death squad if they want to be educated rather than just be baby-making chattel for their husbands; where music is forbidden, where free speech or independent thought are not allowed to exist. Oh, these people might not explicitly call for such a thing, but an argument for removing troops from Afghanistan is exactly what it amounts to.
A plague on their houses.
Incidentally, you’d expect them to have a bit of respect for the environment wouldn’t you? Given the number of placards discarded on the pavements of Deansgate and Market Street, an awful lot of them don’t. Still, they had their little walk and “die-in” to oppose the imperialist dogma of Bush and Blair, so I dare say they all went home happy.