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Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 11:58 GMT
Redgrave's Iraq war warning
Corin Redgrave
Mr Redgrave is clearly angry at course of world events

Left-wing activist and actor Corin Redgrave outlines why he opposes war with Iraq
Meeting Corin Redgrave is in itself something of an experience.

We hooked up at the stage door of the National Theatre where he is in rehearsal for a new play called 'Honour' by Australian Joanna Murray-Smith due to start in March.

Before we could begin the interview he was greeted by Patrick Stewart - Star Trek's Captain Picard - who wanted to congratulate his fellow actor on last year's production of Pinter's No Man's Land.

Redgrave's acting career is going from strength to strength, but it is a different kind of theatre we are going to talk about - the theatre of war.

Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart was at the National's Stage Door
A long-time political activist, it is no surprise that the left-winger has been at the forefront of efforts to stop the West attacking Iraq.

What is striking though is the rhetoric he employs.

The number of children already dead in Iraq through UN sanctions exceeds 500,000 - five times greater than those killed in Hiroshima, he says.

"The battle plan which will be unleashed - unless we manage to stop this war - is devised by Harlan Ullman and it involves a heavy shock effect which he himself compares to Hiroshima of something like 800 cruise missiles in the first 48 hours.

"I think this is a holocaust already and it's a holocaust in the making."

Redgrave also voices a widely-held fear that war will inspire disgruntled Arabs and other Muslims down the path of Osama Bin Laden - a reality much more scary, he says, than even the Iraqi leader.

10 Bin Ladens?

"Saddam Hussein is benign by comparison to Osama Bin Laden because Osama Bin Laden does not recognise anything except a kind of Armageddon.

Osama Bin Laden
Osama's vision is equivalent to Armageddon
"Do we want 10 Osama Bin Ladens in place of one Saddam Hussein? That's what's going to be the consequence."

But what should the world do with a man like Saddam who has committed untold atrocities against his own people let alone those of his neighbours?

Redgrave says he accepts that Saddam has chemical and biological capability, although he wonders whether the dictator has the facilities to use them.

But in any case he argues that it was Donald Rumsfeld who sold Anthrax and Bubonic plague to Iraq in 1983.

"We can only begin to think of doing something if we address the whole context in which a leader such as Saddam emerges."

'Regime change' has no part in international policy, he says.

Government reliant

"Once you go down that road you say 'only those regimes of which we approve, only those regimes which satisfy our criteria we will tolerate' and that is clearly a recipe for international chaos.

"One of the things that has to be done is to remove the sanctions because their effect has been to make what was the best educated, highly trained population in the Middle East entirely dependent on the state.

"In other words it has grouped together the population around the Baghdad regime - not just around Saddam Hussein - around the government because it entirely depends on the government which is its lifeline.

"Plus the immense humiliation inflicted on the Iraqi people. Think how contained in the Treaty of Versaille was in germ the Third Reich."

Redgrave says the second thing that needs doing is to enforce international law in respect of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

"This is what makes Saddam Hussein acceptable to a large number of people not just in Iraq but throughout the Middle East."

He says he believes that the dismantlement of Jewish settlements could "bring about a form of civil war in Israel".

No pacifist

In such a situation a "properly equipped" international intervention would have to be deployed to ensure the safety of all sides.

Saddam Hussein
People are reliant on the dictator because of sanctions
Redgrave says he is not a pacifist - his opposition to a second Gulf War is because it would be "immoral and illegal".

He would have been in favour of fighting World War Two but only "with all sorts of misgivings".

"I don't advocate that we should not have armed forces or that they should not be equipped with up-to-date fighting equipment but the purpose of armed forces is for the defence of this country against invasion and also for genuine peacekeeping."

Throughout the interview Redgrave is clearly extremely angry about the path of international events.

Two inch depth

Like many on the left he sees the willingness to attack Iraq as more about oil than disarming an evil dictator.

As to Tony Blair's willingness to go along with it he is mocking of what he sarcastically terms the prime minister's "palpable belief".

"It makes people ask well surely there must be something behind this blazing conviction that he's doing the right thing - I think the blazing conviction is about two inches deep actually."

The real reason that Mr Blair is prepared to go to war, aside from oil, is that Britain is "entirely dependent" on America for its nuclear technology.

"No British prime minister whatever their political party has been prepared to take Britain out of the nuclear kitchen."

Political spectrum

But the consensus against attacking Iraq is for Redgrave a source of hope.

"There is opposition across all classes and across all shades of political opinion - virtually every constituency no matter what its politics is against this war."

He says that is also true of the US where he recently was on tour playing 'The American General'.

Many people were "deeply alarmed" even among the Americans' own intelligence community.

"As a matter of fact the CIA are deeply split over this issue and if you talk to any member of them - and I have - they don't believe in this Western 'evidence'."

End to war?

The near inevitability of war with Iraq seems to make opposition such as Regrave's seem almost futile.

He remains optimistic that with enough protest, civil disobedience and strikes an attack could be prevented.

If war does go ahead though?

"Out of this war if it proceeds we will have a completely different kind of government if we live.

"It is a very fundamental sea change that has gone against the war and therefore if the worst comes to the worst and the Cruise missiles start reigning down on Iraq in a month's time we can look forward at the end of that horrific time to some very fundamental changes."

By which he means a government that renounces war.

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See also:

21 Jan 03 | Politics
07 Feb 03 | Politics
05 Feb 03 | Politics
06 Feb 03 | Middle East
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