Film review: We Are Many

Written by David Singleton on 26 May 2015 in Culture
Culture
Amir Amirani's film is a compelling look at how politicians ignored the millions of people who protested against the Iraq war

Featuring archive clips and contemporary interviews, We Are Many tells the story of how Tony Blair and George Bush conspired to wage war on Iraq – and how millions of people across the world urged them not to.

The march against the war in February 2003 was the biggest global protest in history. Two million people walked the streets of London, while similar protests took place in almost 800 locations across the world. And yet Shock and Awe still happened.

The film-makers have assembled an impressive cast list of original interviewees, including Damon Albarn, John le Carré, Ken Loach, Hans Blix and the late Tony Benn. Many express their incredulity over both the scale of the deception and the fact that so many millions of voices were ignored.

The former chief of staff to the US Secretary of State Colin Powell is admirably candid about his role in the affair. Richard Branson reveals a remarkable if somewhat implausible-sounding plan to get Nelson Mandela to escort Saddam Hussein out of Baghdad. The plan was narrowly thwarted, he explains earnestly.

The only representatives of the Blair cabinet to speak on camera are David Blunkett, Clare Short and Lord Falconer. Tony Blair declined to be interviewed and thus his side of the story gets little airtime, other than the odd clip in which he outlines the scale of Saddam’s atrocities on his own people.

As for the archive footage, it is easy enough to make George Bush look crass and the film-makers do not hold back. A particularly bittersweet moment is Robin Cook’s dignified Commons speech announcing his resignation from the Government.

The film is high on emotion; making little attempt to engage with the case for removing the Iraqi dictator. Nevertheless, in charting the rush to war and the scandal of the “weapons of mass destruction”, it does a necessary and compelling job. As we wait for the Chilcot report to finally emerge, it is also timely.

Initially, the film would seem to show just how easy it is for politicians to ride roughshod over a staggeringly huge demonstration of public opinion. But by mapping a link to the Arab Spring and ending with David Cameron's last-minute climb-down over Syrian air-strikes, Amir Amirani sets the mass action in a larger context.

"We just didn't finish the job," says Albarn. But Amirani's film suggests that 12 years later, perhaps politicians are being forced to listen after all.

 

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