In a recent online discussion, a 'pro-soldier' campaigner was ridiculing the US peace movement's protests. He claimed that in his city of Fort Wayne (population 250,000) a 'pro-soldier' campaign had gathered the support of one in ten of the population.
The aim of his argument was simple - that the pro-war lobby in the US dwarfed the peace movement by many magnitudes.
But no one should take part in a debate unless they are sure of their facts, never more so than when the internet can offer information and statistics at the touch of a button. Very quickly, someone posted a reply containing, among other things, links to the US population census www.census.gov which gave the population of Fort Wayne as almost double the original figure. The second link was a report from the local paper reporting the size of a pro-war rally as 15,000.
Of further interest to those of us who have engaged in arguments with the pro-war lobby was a series of links posted for Gulf War veteran organisations. Many of these groups now campaign for justice and compensation for the thousands of servicemen suffering from Gulf War syndrome. A report available at the website of the National Gulf War Resource Centre www.ngwrc.org makes the claim that up to 400,000 US troops were exposed to radioactive uranium waste contamination in the latest war. It also details the attempts made to prevent this information becoming public. Particularly surprising are the statistics at www.ngwrc.org/Facts/ which show, for instance, that over 25 percent of US veterans of the 1991 Gulf War have filed claims for service-related medical disabilities.
A second website, www.gulfweb.org, 'has been a presence on the internet since early 1994, aiding Gulf War veterans in their pursuit for the truth' and contains further links and information. Similar resources relevant to Britain can be found at www.gulfveteransassociation.co.uk.
The final point made by the anti-war posting in the debate was simple - the war in Iraq didn't just destroy the lives of the people of the region. The young men and women sent to fight the war for Bush and Blair will very likely be suffering ill-health and disease for many years. When they try and seek help from the countries that they fought for, they will be ignored. It's a point worth remembering the next time you hear Tony Blair talking about sacrifice.