Simon O'Hagan: Who says that we should not go to war?

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It comes to something when a Major General writes to The Daily Telegraph agreeing with the proposal that it is with food parcels that the United States should carpet-bomb Afghanistan. "This would show the desire to return good for evil," Maj-Gen David Egerton wrote yesterday. "It would be far easier to launch and sustain than a shooting war, and would not need precise information."

These were sentiments that might have come straight out of an anti-war meeting that took place in Euston, north London, on Friday night. The likes of Bruce Kent, Tariq Ali, George Monbiot, Jeremy Corbin, and Liz Davies – the "usual suspects", as they described themselves – were among the speakers who addressed a packed audience of 1,200 in the Friends' Meeting House, with 250 in a room upstairs, and another 500 or so left outside on the pavement.

The atmosphere was charged. Roars of approval greeted the oratory of Tariq Ali, a veteran of protest movements going back to the 1960s, and Corbin, one of the few Labout MPs to stand up in opposition to Mr Blair's backing of President Bush. "Vietnam ended because of public opposition to the war," Mr Corbin said. "Public opposition can end this war too."

The author Will Self appeared on the stage. "I am not as a rule a political activist," he said. "The only things that have got me off my arse have been wars." Mr Self said that he feared "children being killed on the other side of the world".

The thrust of speakers' arguments was that ending innocent Afghan lives, quite apart from being wrong in itself, was the quickest way to produce a new generation of terrorists. America, in its bombing of Iraq, was guilty of its own terrorism, and its backing of Israel amounted to much the same thing. International law was the way to resolve the crisis.

The meeting was always going to be the focal point for various left-wing groups. But there seems little doubt that strong anti-war feelings extend way beyond them into the heartland of non-politicised Britain, as any reading of the letters' pages of the national press shows. "People on our street want justice not war to be our aim," summed up a broad range of views. The Letters slot on yesterday's Today programme was overwhelmingly anti-war.

Peace vigils are springing up all over the country. One at Downing Street last Tuesday drew 600 people. More are expected when it is repeated this week. If Mr Blair thinks he has a consensus, he is surely mistaken.

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