Journalist, Producer & Researcher

Friday, 23 March 2012

Nine Years in Iraq: We Have All Played a Part in This Invasion

Monday marked the ninth anniversary of the Iraq war. On 19 March 2003, the United States and United Kingdom led an invasion into Iraq claiming that the Iraqi government, headed by Saddam Hussein, possessed weapons of mass destruction that posed a threat to the national security of their regions.

Nine years later and we all know now there were never any weapons of mass destruction and the invasion was never intended to help the Iraqi people.

While it is difficult to gather precise figures, it is estimated that the invasion has caused the deaths of over one million Iraqis, majority being mothers and children, and 179 British military personnel. There are also millions of other Iraqis who have suffered in some way because of the invasion. Whitehall figures released in June 2010 put the cost of British funding of the Iraq conflict at £9.24bn ($14.32bn), the vast majority of which was for the military but which also included £557m ($861m) in aid.

It is also estimated that more than half of the British population now believe that the war in Afghanistan and Iraq is unwinnable and that invading both countries have done nothing but destroyed Iraq and increased the threat of extremism to Britain.

But who should we point the fingers to be responsible for this? The US government? Tony Blair? Or George W. Bush?

From the soldiers who have agreed to serve in Iraq to the millions of us who sat at home and watched apache helicopters drop bombs onto civilian homes in the middle of the night in Baghdad, we are all to blame for the deaths and destruction caused by this invasion. Everyone is to blame.

Because the truth is, we did nothing. We sat back and let this happen under our names. We allowed the bombs to drop in Iraq, we allowed that Iraqi child to be raised as an orphan, that mother to watch her family murdered, that father to come home and find his family killed by bomb attacks. We let this happen by simply doing nothing.

How many of us wrote to our MPs and demand that they voted against such an invasion? How many of us signed petitions? How many of us attended an anti-war protest? Two million people gathered in London to demand Tony Blair to revoke his decision to enter Iraq. Only 3% of Britons decided to take a stand. The rest of us may have been against the invasion, but sitting at home and watching it unfold on live television makes us agree with it. Ignorance is a form of acceptance in a legal perspective.

What we must realise is that our MPS, prime ministers and those in government work for us. We do not work for them. They can only make decisions with our consent. Can you imagine if 50% of us had occupied Trafalgar Square until the Blair government refused to go to war? Or even if 50% of us had bombarded our MPs office until they demanded that invading Iraq was not to be carried out under Britain's name? Those in government at that time would have certainly thought twice before casting their vote in favour of attacking Iraq.

Nine years on and how many of us re-elected those same politicians who voted for this invasion? Those same politicians whose lack of reliability has caused the death of millions of Iraqi civilians, 179 British personnel and left a country war-torn and savaged for years to come. How many of us have actually pushed for Tony Blair to be indicted for war crimes?

We have destroyed the Iraqi people. We let our government destroy a country that was not a threat to us. The Iraqi people are worse off than before the invasion. Since the invasion, over one million Iraqis have been thrown out of their homes and are now living as refugees. Violence and extremism are prevalent throughout Iraq. A report published by the U.N. Security Council, showed that majority of Iraqi people lack access to basic services such as water, sanitation, health care and education remains limited especially for children.

Traditional systems of physical, social and legal protection have also been severely compromised by the conflict and, as a result, children have become more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Among the threats to children are cluster bomblets and landmines that the U.S. and other combatants have deployed in the country.

We are all partly responsible for this.

I'm in no way excluding myself. I cannot say that I did enough. I don't even remember attending a protest. I sat at home and probably ranted to my friends and family about how I did not agree with war.

We can all learn from this mistake. We can start taking an active role in ensuring that those who made the decision to enter Iraq face the consequences of their action. We can lobby, sign petitions, join anti-war groups and most importantly never let it happen again under our names.

President Obama claimed that America and its allies can now leave Iraq with its head held high. But this is far from the case. How can you leave a country where you created violence and poverty with your head held high?

All I can do now is tell the Iraqi people how sorry I am. Sorry, I wasn't there to help prevent such a catastrophe and make a promise to be active to never allow something like this to happen again under my name.
First published by Huffington Post UK:
Copyright Reyhana Patel. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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Channel 4's Proud and Prejudiced Portrays Inaccurate Impression of Extremism

On Monday night, Channel 4 screened a documentary entitled Proud and Prejudiced. The show aimed at portraying the two forms of extremism: 'right-wing' extremism and 'Islamist' extremism. Such extremism is currently a threat to British National Security and has been dominating the media in Britain. To add to the media's scrutiny, this documentary has portrayed a completely inaccurate and thoughtless impression of extremism.

 The show featured the English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson and Sayful Islam, the leader of now banned extremist group Muslim Against Crusades (MAC) (Also, previously known as Al-Muhajiroun).

The programme compared and contrasted these two groups and concluded that they were both alike and extreme as the other. This is far from the case.

MAC is/was a group with no less than one hundred followers out of the hundreds and thousands of Muslims in Britain. The EDL, on the other hand, has a massive grassroots influence with thousands in membership and thousands more unofficial followers.

Muslim Against Crusades believe that Britain should be under Islamic law and conduct their activities mainly through offensive protests and insensitive rhetoric. The EDL opposes the existence of Muslims in Britain and have been at the forefront and cause of mosque attacks and Islamophobia outbreaks across Britain. One can merely look at Andres Breivik, the man behind the Norway attacks, whose motivation and influence to commit acts of terror was heavily influenced by the English Defence League views, to see how dangerous the far-right movement really is.

Proud and Prejudiced portrayed the views of MAC and EDL to be the views held of the people of Luton, either being ' Islamist' or ' right-wing.' The show made Luton appear as a community segregated and marred with violence and protests. The voice of the community of Luton was ignored and replaced with violence, hatred and intolerance.

There was also no mention of the majority of Muslim across Britain who has condemned MAC's activities or the other religious groups who have condemned the EDL.

What was also strange was that Unite Against Fascism, a group which counters every EDL protest was briefly mentioned in the documentary but not featured in the film despite being opposed to both forms of extremism. Why weren't they interviewed? Shouldn't there have been moderate views to counter these arguments?

Let's also not forget the publicity this has given both groups, especially the EDL. Tommy Robinson had the opportunity of declaring to the public that he was not against 'black' people or people of other ethnic minorities. He was only against Muslims.

This could only be an open door for recruits from other ethnic minorities to join his cause. It would be hard for anyone neutral watching the show not to sympathise with him. And this sympathy was prevalent all over Twitter with tweets such as "Well done tommy robinson, well said" and ''Muslims are just scum'' by Twitter users tuning into Channel 4. 

On the other hand, there was no prevalent sympathy towards MAC, rather condemnation of both groups from majority of Muslim individuals. Tweets included "Some of the plaquards from MAC are just downright disgraceful & downright unIslamic" by Muslim Public Affairs Committee and "People need to understand that one who is an #extremist can NEVER be a #Muslim and one who is a Muslim can NEVER be an extremist" by a Muslim individual."

The producers of Proud and Prejudiced could not have been more misguided in portraying how extremism operates in Britain.

Instead of challenging MAC and the EDL, Channel 4 essentially encouraged extremism by providing Tommy Robinson and Sayful Islam a platform for their extremist views. This will doubt benefit them by serving as a major recruitment tool for their causes.

First Published by Huffington Post UK: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/reyhana-patel/channel-4s-proud-and-prejudiced_b_1308633.html

Copyright Reyhana Patel. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Follow Reyhana Patel on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ReyhanaPatel