22 December 2002

Body bags action

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About 30 protesters in mock body bags lay outside the British Consulate in Melbourne today to draw attention to the deadly consequences of a war on Iraq. Protest organisers urged the Australian and British governments not to support a US-led attack on Iraq, warning hundreds and thousands of Iraqi civilians could be killed or injured.

It was organised by the Victorian peace network and Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW), a 20-year-old organisation which represents concerned health professionals, said the protest aimed to show Australians the human consequences of military action.

"We are presenting this striking and abhorrent image at Christmas because this is the reality of war," MAPW spokeswoman Giji Gya (Giji Gya) said."Our governments will not show this side of war, so we will."

Ms Gya said a recent report issued by MAPW estimated up to 260,000 people could be killed on both sides during a conflict and the following three months. "Additional deaths from post-war adverse health effects could reach 200,000," she said.

Canberra action

Anti-war demonstrators demand we 'switch on'

By Emma MacDonald (Canberra Times, 16 December 2002)

A graphic demonstration outside Parliament House yesterday attempted to reach Australians who are "switched off" to the fact that war with Iraq may be only weeks away.

Seven hundred small body bags stuffed with newspaper were laid out, representing a portion of the 70,000 Iraqi children estimated to have died as a consequence of the 1991 United States strikes.

Public health academic and member of the ACT Network Opposing War Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas told demonstrators that while average Australian families were focused on relaxation and recreation over the Christmas period, the symbolic clock of world peace was ticking by.

"That is why we have broken into this peaceful scene with a confronting and ugly reminder of the cost of war."

Children's toys and clothes were scattered around the body bags and flowers were later dispersed as a tribute to the loss of life while Dr Sue Wareham, national president of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War, read a poem.

Professor Douglas said the estimated number of children under 15 who had died in Iraq was due not only to direct bomb blasts, but as a result of damage to water and electricity supplies, sewerage and health facilities.

Professor Douglas was involved in a demonstration in October in which 30 anti-war protesters lay outside Parliament House in body bags.

He said the latest demonstration aimed to make Australians think beyond their own shores and to the potential deaths of innocent children.

"We really hope the message gets out that we could be at war the week after next and we only have a few days to make it clear to both sides of politics that war is an abomination, that it is not in our interest."

Professor Douglas said Australia could be influential if it told the United States it would back the United Nations and wait until the results of weapons inspections in Iraq were known.

Both the Government and Opposition were currently saying "either directly or by their relative inaction, that our national interest is best served by joining the push with [US President] George Bush whichever way he elects to go".

Having spent his career advancing public health, Professor Douglas said he knew of no more important public health activity than preventing war.

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