Anyone who was on the huge, million-plus march through London that day will never forget it: it emboldened a whole generation to oppose Western intervention.
By Jeremy Corbyn MP
5 February 2013
Millions around the world crammed the streets to oppose an assault on Iraq, culminating in demonstrations in every major city in the world on February 15 2003.
After the events of September 11 2001 it soon became obvious that George W Bush had nothing on his mind other than waging war and fulfilling the sinister dream of the Project for New American Century.
British prime minister Tony Blair could only see a role in marching alongside him.
Within two weeks events were set in train for the founding of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC). I attended that memorable meeting at Friends Meeting House on a Friday evening in 2001 when StWC came into being. It was jam-packed. So was every other room in the building which were used to accommodate the overspill meetings. A meeting was even held on the street outside.
Every speaker had to make the same speech at least six times in order to speak to everyone who was present. At that time the main focus was preventing the West from rushing to bomb and occupy Afghanistan as the US sought revenge for the al-Qaida terror attacks.
In comparison with later US and British adventures, the Afghan war was relatively popular, but it still brought tens of thousands out onto the streets in protest. Demonstrations were held not just in Britain but all around the world as TV images began to come in of high-tech Western planes bombing the impoverished people of Afghanistan.
British and US troops have still not withdrawn and Afghanistan remains desperately poor, though the human cost of all this death and destruction is incalculable.
The secret prisons established by the occupying forces are still there. Hundreds of detainees are still languishing in Bagram. Some prisoners - or "enemy combatants" - have been taken by circuitous routes via many other jurisdictions to end up in Guantanamo Bay - a place with no legal basis and no rule of law.
The other enduring image of the Afghan war is the increased use of remotely controlled drone aircraft to bomb and strafe villages. The operator will be sitting in his air-conditioned silo somewhere in the US Mid-West trying to decide whether or not a wedding party is a Taliban meeting. Best do the killing to be on the safe side.
That is what 21st century powers do against very poor people in very poor countries. It reverberates all over the world.
As if the war in Afghanistan was not enough, those with long memories will recall Bush's axis of evil speech to the US Congress in 2002. This was the rhetorical precursor to war on Iraq.
Bush and Blair softened up political opinion for an attack by talking up the supposed threat of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. On both sides of the Atlantic the hawks in the military, the security services and the political Establishment were engaged in a blatant deception.
Millions saw through it. Around the world they crammed the streets to oppose an assault on Iraq, culminating in demonstrations in every major city in the world on February 15 2003.
I had the good fortune to speak in both London and San Francisco over that weekend (San Francisco, due to its carnival, held its anti-war rally on the Sunday).
Anyone who was on the huge, million-plus march through London that day will never forget it and while we obviously did not stop the bombardment and war in Iraq, it emboldened a whole generation to oppose Western intervention in the same way that previous generations were mobilised against the Vietnam war, or in support of Republican Spain against fascism in the 1930s.
Iraq and Afghanistan have not only cost billions of pounds to the British taxpayer but they've also led to serious attacks on civil liberties and a frightening rise in intolerance and Islamophobia on both sides of the Atlantic.
But to prevent this happening again we have to start looking at the motives as to why Western countries are prepared to squander their resources in occupying impoverished countries around the world.
It boils down to the allure of cheap raw materials and the desire to exploit "emerging markets" - hence the obscene auction of Iraq's oil reserves not long after the pro-Western government had been established or the brazen way in which arms firms advertise the weaponry used in both Afghanistan and Iraq as a way of promoting another war somewhere else.
The hypocrisy of intervention knows no bounds. Nato forces bombed Libya to remove Muammar Gadaffi's government from office, even though less than three months before they had been praising him and supplying arms to him for his own internal security, not to mention returning one of his opponents back to him for torture.
The latest adventure by Western forces in Mali has been brought about in support of a government that achieved office through a coup, against al-Qaida forces who had gained some support among the Tuareg peoples. The alacrity with which France entered into this has the great danger of sucking Britain, as its main ally, in behind it.
Two weeks ago Britain offered transport planes to ferry French equipment to Mali and in Parliament the MoD obfuscated on its levels of "support." It later admitted that training officers had been deployed to Mali which was followed by reports of special forces there too.
Last weekend the MoD confirmed that it was providing air surveillance over the massive desert area which French forces are now attempting to occupy, and following the catastrophic hostage crisis in Algeria the war has already spread over at least two frontiers.
Nobody is unaware of Saddam Hussein or Bashar al-Assad's serious human rights abuses against dissidents. However Western interventions are not motivated by human rights but by economic interests.
Every Western economy dependent upon the banking system is going through a crisis of youth unemployment and industrial decline. All are responding by cutting public spending, in particular health and welfare programmes.
The answer to austerity is not to spend more on weapons or to go to war against people in very poor communities all over the world. The answer surely is to look for a world of peace and justice, not war, greed and aggression.
Join the conference
On Saturday 9 February, the Stop the War Coalition is hosting a major conference at Friends House in Euston. Confronting War Ten Years On will bring people together to discuss how to work towards world peace and debate the role that all of us in the peace movement can play to bring about a more peaceful and just planet.
Many well-known names are speaking, including Noam Chomsky by live TV link, and also from the US Phyllis Bennis, plus Tony Benn, Manuel Hassassian and many leading peace activists in Britain including Kate Hudson, Tariq Ali, Victoria Brittain, Chris Cole, Lindsey German, Owen Jones, Jemima Khan, Seumas Milne, Robert Montgommery, Andrew Murray, Explo Nani-Kofi, Derrick O'Keefe, Mitra Qayoom, Sami Ramadani, Salma Yaqoob and Rafeef Ziadah.
There will also be other speakers from many parts of Europe as well as Afghanistan, Iraq, Ghana, Canada and Palestine. The event promises to be more than just a fascinating day, but one that will also inspire people to realise the strength of our collective peace movement.
Jeremy Corbyn is chairman of the Stop the War Coalition and Labour MP for Islington North.