We Are Many: Global Feb. 15 2003 Protests Didn't Stop Iraq War, But May Have Changed the World

November 06, 2015



Amir Amirani

director and producer of the documentary We Are Many, about the February 15, 2003, global protests against the Iraq War.

Up to 30 million people in nearly 800 cities rocked the globe on February 15, 2003, in antiwar rallies against the looming U.S. invasion of Iraq, making it the largest coordinated protest in history. And while the first U.S. bombs would hit Baghdad weeks later, a new documentary argues that the protests weren’t just a one-day historical feat, but a spark that changed the world forever. The new documentary "We Are Many" tells the story of that historic day of protest and how it’s helped shape global political movements ever since. We are joined by the film’s director and producer, Amir Amirani.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Up to 30 million people, nearly 800 cities—those are the numbers that made the February 15, 2003, global protests against the looming U.S. invasion of Iraq the largest in history. And while the first U.S. bombs would hit Baghdad weeks later, a new documentary argues that the protests weren’t just a one-day historical feat, but a spark that changed the world forever. The film is called We Are Many.

DANNY GLOVER: Not in our names! Not in our names!

PETER OBORNE: The institutions of the Bush state had set out to tell lies.

REV. JESSE JACKSON: It was the biggest demonstration coordinated in the history of the whole Earth.

DAMON ALBARN: It was off the hook.

RON KOVIC: Something began on that day that cannot be reversed.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: A mass, beautiful movement that’s going to stop them from dropping those bombs.

LAWRENCE WILKERSON: We had something like 60 percent of the American people believing that Saddam Hussein was connected with 9/11.

DAMON ALBARN: They blatantly lied to all of us.

UNIDENTIFIED: The rallies of February 15 followed the sun.

UNIDENTIFIED: It was Australia. It was Sydney.

UNIDENTIFIED: North Asia and South Asia, Africa, into Europe.

ANAS ALTIKRITI: And then we had London.

MARK RYLANCE: I thought I was on the wrong march, because there were all these families.

CLARE SHORT: Literally everybody I know was on it.

RICHARD BRANSON: The whole of my family went on it.

MARK RYLANCE: It was so beautiful.

TONY BENN: This was the future of humanity.

PROTESTER: They can’t hold us back! Bush, you can’t hold us back!

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Fellow Americans, let’s roll.

BILL FLETCHER JR.: This bastard is actually going to take us to war.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: The American people do not want this!

HANS BLIX: It was over.

SOLDIER: Back up! Back up!

PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR: Our victory, not theirs.

DESIREE FAIROOZ: War criminal! War criminal! Arrest this man!

JASON HURD: These were lies!

VINCE EMANUELE: They can take their medals back!

HOSSAM EL-MAMALAWY: That’s when hell broke loose in Egypt.

DAMON ALBARN: If you keep coming back, at some point you will make the change.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the trailer for We Are Many, a new documentary on the historic February 15, 2003, rallies against the Iraq War that rocked the globe. The film tells the story of that historic day of protest, how it’s helped shape political movements around the world since. And we’re joined by the film’s director, Amir Amirani.

Welcome to Democracy Now! Congratulations on this film. Talk about the significance of that day, why we care in 2015 about what happened in 2003. After all, soon after, the U.S. and Britain did bomb Iraq.

AMIR AMIRANI: Yes, they did bomb Iraq, and, you know, we are now still living with the consequences of that. So whilst at the time it looked like it had failed—ostensibly, it could have been seen as a heroic failure—for me, it seemed like a historic event and a story that was worth telling for posterity. And as we see now with all the recent revelations about the emails between George Bush and Tony Blair and so on, what’s happening in Syria—in Blair’s own words, they were partly to blame, if not entirely to blame—so we are still living with the consequences of what people warned would happen in 2003.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what made you decide to make the film in the first place?

AMIR AMIRANI: Well, I was a filmmaker working largely for the BBC and Channel 4 in London. In February 2003, I happened to be at the Berlin Film Festival, and I knew this thing was going to happen. And I felt I had to go on it. It was—now, looking back, it was the first political act I had ever taken part in. When I got back to London and I discovered how big it was there, it got me thinking, "It’s happened in London, it’s happened in Berlin. Where else has it happened?" And then I saw that it was this extraordinary historic event. And then the filmmaking part of my head kicked in and said, "Something like this doesn’t just happen. And if it’s happened, it potentially means something." And even though I didn’t what that was or what it would portend, we can now see that we’ve lived through a decade of protest.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to a few clips in the film. This is Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. He gives a brutally honest assessment of the U.S. government’s culpability for the Iraq War.

LAWRENCE WILKERSON: If it were my choice to have Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush go before some kind of tribunal, and I had to go with them in order to be—in order for that tribunal to be successful, or to even have a chance for success, and that it was also possible I would be in that conviction, if you will, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

AMY GOODMAN: This is really amazing, what Lawrence Wilkerson goes on to say, when he said he was with Secretary of State Colin Powell at the U.N. February 3rd, 2003. When he gave that push for war at the U.N., saying absolute evidence of massive weapons of mass destruction, over his shoulder is George Tenet, the head of the CIA, in full view.


AMY GOODMAN: He says it’s the worst moment of his life.

AMIR AMIRANI: And he says it was the worst moment of his life, that he wished he had resigned. And he says that, actually, they perpetrated a hoax on the U.N., on the international community and on the American people. And this is exactly what happened. People warned about that, and it’s proven to be the case. It’s an extraordinary firecracker of an interview. And I think and hope that when it’s seen in America, that it might get the kind of reaction and get people who might have had another kind of view change their view about that time.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And this is another clip of British and French lawyer Philippe Sands, author of the books Lawless World and Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values, in another clip from the film.

PHILIPPE SANDS: It was only much later that I came across the single most devastating document, which is the legal memorandum written by Lord Goldsmith in which Lord Goldsmith tells the British prime minister, "You cannot use force without a further Security Council resolution." If you go down the document, at paragraph four, you’ve got Lord Goldsmith telling the prime minister, "I remain of the view that the correct legal interpretation of Resolution 1441 is that it does not authorize the use of military force without a further determination by the Security Council." And just to the left of that, a little scribble: "I just don’t understand this." Who wrote that? Tony Blair wrote that.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Philippe Sands. Your comments—we have about 30 seconds—on this particular clip?

AMIR AMIRANI: Well, you know, that is—that shows exactly the kind of dynamic that was going on: Essentially, they didn’t want to hear the facts. It remains to be seen why the decision was changed about the legality of the war. And Tony Blair recently came out with this so-called non-apology apology to try and, you know, essentially avert this kind of news.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to continue this conversation and post it online at Iranian-born British filmmaker Amir Amirani, director and producer of the documentary, We Are Many.

We Are Many: The Story of the Largest Global Protest that Would Change the World Forever

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