New Internationalist

Big Ben to Baghdad

Issue 335

UNICEF calculates that over half-a-million Iraqi children have died needlessly because of sanctions since 1990. It is a policy that, according to ex-UN official Dennis Halliday, ‘satisfies the definition of genocide’ and has helped transform this once-modern state into a Third World country.

The last six months, however, have seen numerous embargo-busting flights by a number of countries which have left Britain and the US isolated in their continued support for sanctions.

This fun and inspirational video-film documents the epic trip which must have helped trigger the trickle that started the flood. With a cry of ‘All aboard for Baghdad’ it follows an ageing red London bus – named ‘Betsy’ – and its passengers on a 15,000-kilometre journey through Spain, across North Africa and the Red Sea, gathering support along the way and receiving a warm welcome throughout the Arab world. News of their progress was relayed to Iraq by satellite TV and by the time they arrived they were swamped by some three million people. That this 1962 bus suffered constant breakdowns only contributes to the journey’s heroic status.

While the film does not contextualize the trip politically, it communicates directly with a love of humankind that cuts across political and religious divides.

Each day the ‘immoral, illegal and ineffective’ policy of sanctions against Iraq continues another 200 children die. How long will it take the US and British governments to do the right thing?

Available from the Mariam Appeal, 13a Borough High Street, London SE1 8SE.

Phil England

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