A peace protest
One of the defining features of public health is a commitment to collective action to protect populations as a whole. The current global peace movement is an expression of public health advocacy against a supremely unhealthy action - the invasion and waging of war on another nation. In February 2003 millions of people around the world marched against the war on Iraq. In Adelaide, a city of some 1.1 million in Southern Australia 100,000 people joined the march to the State Parliament, representing about 9% of the city's population. (See photos: Photo 1 and Photo 2) The high number of protesters reflects a very active local peace campaign (see http://www.nowar-sa.net). Like other marchers the crowd contained people from all political persuasion, all ages and religions. The world wide protest felt many feel that there was a global community that wants to make health not war. This kind of collective action warms the hearts of those involved and reminds us all that there are alternatives to war that will be much better for our collective health.
The main reasons people were opposing war in the February 2003 protests can be summarised as:
- The process of weapons inspection by the United Nations was far from exhausted and there is a widespread belief that the UN should be the forum to resolve international disputes not unilateral action. War should be an absolute last resort.
- While everyone would agree that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant, people did not believe invasion by a foreign power is a way to remove a dictator.
- There is no evidence of a link between Al Qaida and the Iraqi regime.
- Suspicion about the USA's motivation for the war with placards proclaiming messages such as "No blood for oil".
- The inevitability of significant numbers of civilian casualties, both through warfare itself and through disease following homelessness, shortages of food and water and infrastructure destruction.
- A reluctance for Australia to be involved in another US war. For many the Iraqui conflict has many similar hallmarks to Vietnam.
- The government had no mandate for war because a majority of Australians were opposed to war without a UN resolution.