7. A Given Unity: The UK Anti-War Movement, 2001-2003

From the moment that George W Bush announced the beginning of a ‘War on Terror’, activists from across the world decided to oppose it. They did so on many different grounds, but came together in coalitions struggling against, first, the invasion of Afghanistan, and second, the invasion of Iraq. By 15th February 2003 these movements had created the largest popular opposition to war ever seen.

Within the UK anti-war movement of the time, all three of the frames described above can be seen to be influential as providing activists with particular critical understandings, motivations for action, and methods for acting. Of overriding importance, I argue, was the way that the different frames brought people with different political worldviews, into a broad agreement on an analysis of the war on terror. Commentry on the anti-war movement tends to brush away the any internal conflict, and while this chapter does emphasise a significant degree of unity, it is also sensitive to more difficult internal dynamics. Respondents characterise some anti-war movement activities as lacking space for debate and this proved problematic for two reasons. First, we see that conflict over appropriate methods to oppose the war was rife, creating significant tensions between adherents to different frames that has clearly also been transposed into the social forum movement. Second, since the movement as a whole lacked a broadly shared, detailed analysis of the reasons for war, it had difficulty coping with the moment of the invasion of Iraq. The fact that the three frames had only come into agreement on quite superficial critiques without dealing with more fundamental disagreements contributed to the strategic difficulty of questions such as whether to support the armed resistance inside Iraq once invasion became occupation.

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