Feathers and Fools

Illustrated by Nick Wilton


I grew up in a pacifist household. In fact my father was such a pacifist that we were not allowed to use the word ‘hate’.  He said hatred got us nowhere. We had to use the word ‘detest’ instead. Feathers and Fools is one of three books that pertain to this theme. My other two are Whoever You are, and Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes. And even The Goblin and The Empty Chair has shadows of that theme, so it’s obviously of massive importance to me. I believe that we cannot live in isolation from others’ suffering and that war solves nothing. It causes immeasurable, long-lasting trauma to the families of both the killers and the killed, let alone the permanently incapacitated. My writing of this book, and the others, is a tiny, fierce protest against conflict of any kind.

A waste-of-time speech at an anti war rally

Sunday 16th February 2003

This is the speech I delivered at the huge anti-war rally in Adelaide today. 
Peace Speech: Parliament House, Feb 16th 2003
Mem Fox

Ladies and gentlemen, just look at us! There are tens of thousands of us. We’re here in great numbers, for one great purpose: to stop a slaughter in Iraq. We are fearful. We arefurious. And we’re here to roar from the rooftops—together with over one hundred million like-minded Americans—and many more millions around the world, that we do not belong to the ‘Coalition of the Willing.’ We belong to the ‘Coalition of the Un-willing!’ We want nothing to do with this war! We want only to stop this war!

Saddam Hussein is villainous leader who rules Iraq with terror as his tactic. I’m not arguing the rights and wrongs of Saddam Hussein. There is no argument. But I am questioning the right of foreign nations to invade Iraq and wage war without any invitation from the Iraqis themselves.

People say: But Saddam has to be stopped. He has chemical weapons. I say: Show me where they are! Take me to the place! Convince me! And anyway, who else has chemical weapons? Weapons of mass destruction, ladies and gentlemen? Who condoned their use in Iran in the 1980’s? Surprise, surprise: America itself! And if Saddam Hussein does have chemical weapons, where did he get them? Who sold him those him those weapons in the 1980’s, those axis-of-evil weapons? Why! Surprise, surprise: Donald Rumsfeld himself! America still has the receipts!

The hypocrisy is sickening. They say we need a war against Iraq because Saddam Hussein is in material breach of United Nations Resolution 1441. Give me a break! Ariel Sharon is in blatant and material breach of 64 United Nations resolutions every single day, but is anyone suggesting a war against Israel? Not that I’ve noticed! Not that I’m advocating it.

They tell us we need regime change in Iraq because Saddam Hussein is an evil tyrant. And so he is, ladies and gentlemen, but he’s also sitting tight on big fat Iraqi oil wells, and we all know what that means! If regime change were necessary anywhere in the world, it’s in North Korea and Zimbabwe, but is anyone suggesting a war against them to liberate their people? Not that I’ve noticed! Not that I’m advocating it.

The planned attack on Baghdad will cause obscene carnage. The Coalition of Killers claims that as few civilians as possible will be killed. What does ‘as few as possible’ mean? One child mutilated and left lying in the street? A thousand schoolgirls dead? Five hundred thousand men and women, like you and me, annihilated? We won’t see the blood on the walls. Wewon’t see body parts scattered across the streets. Oh no! Our television networks will protect us from that! We won’t see the frantic fathers and mothers, dazed and panic-stricken, looking for children they will never find. We won’t hear the screaming. We won’t be told about the water being cut off for months and polluted for years. We won’t be told that Iraqis are breathing poisoned air that will make them ill for generations to come.

Don’t the Iraqis have human rights in all this? What’s the point of ignoring human rights in order to restore human rights? What’s the point of killing people to save them from being killed? This is will be murder on a grand scale—a war against a country that has not threatened an attack on the United Sates or on England, let alone on little old us. Have we ever been seriously frightened of Iraq invading Australia? NO! Are we seriously frightened of the unprincipled, illegal actions of the current out-of-control American administration? YES! Are we seriously frightened of the insane actions of our own sycophantic government? YES! YES! YES!

Who is listening to us? Who is listening to the Iraqis? How can their voices be heard above the ugly cries of war mongers, hungry for oil? We have to speak on behalf of the Iraqis. We have to say: ‘NO WAR!’ loudly enough to be heard in Canberra, London, and Washington: NO WAR! NO WAR! NO WAR!’

War against Iraq, without justification, without the blessing of the United Nations—and even with that blessing—will increase the hatred of the fanatics whose dearest wish is to wipe us all out. (And by the way: where in hell is Osama bin Laden, really, and what’s he up to these days?) A war against Iraq will increase terrorism a hundred-fold. Look at London this week! Doesn’t our Prime Minister understand theramifications of a war with Iraq? Doesn’t he know we don’twant an increase in terrorism? Write to him tonight, a real letter, with a real stamp, and real anger, and tell him we don’t want a war. And while we’re here, let’s tell him now: NO WAR! NO WAR! NO WAR!

As a writer of stories I ask myself what story we would like to tell to our children. How about a story of two kingdoms who so fear and hate each other that they’re about to wipe each other out? Instead of killing each other, they have a stunningly intelligent and creative idea: they sit down together. They say to each other: ‘Life is precious. Let us avoid death. After all, we are brothers. Why do you fear us? How can we stop you from hating us? How can we make peace? Shake my hand. Come, let’s talk.’

This story is the alternative to war. This is the story we want our children to hear. This is the story we want the world to hear. And in particular, today, ladies and gentlemen, with one voice, this is the story we want John Howard to hear: NO WAR! NO WAR! NO WAR! Thank you.