Allow me, please, to go all womanly on you: emotional, weepy, unable to stomach one more lie, threat, excuse or justification being put out by our Machiavellian leaders who want this war against Iraq and are damn well going to get it. Tony Blair and Colin Powell have delivered their ultimatum and the world had better just take it on the chin, like a man.
These two are powerfully built, and brawny; George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Jack Straw and Alistair Campbell are tough males, too, and don't they just want us to know that. These buddies are not for turning, whatever their own people say or think. Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein, with his monstrous ego and vicious cruelty strides his part of the world, happy to sacrifice his people to what we are about to do to them. The terrible things to come are in the hands of a war-lust gang of men once again, with the exception of Condoleezza Rice, who looks anything but warlike in her demure fashion.
But then such women are always on hand, albeit very few compared to the vast number of indomitable male warrior-leaders through history Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Madeleine Albright were as ruthless as the worst of men. When the American journalist Lesley Stahl asked Ms Albright in 1996 what she felt about the fact that more Iraqi children appeared to have died as a result of sanctions than did in Hiroshima, the cold reply was: "This is a hard choice but the price, I think, is worth it."
So I won't make any simplistic assertions about man-unkind, women-kind. But a female view of this war does need to raise a scream, because we are nearly there and no rational arguments have dented the warlike ambitions of Mr Bush and Mr Blair. I wake up crying after frightful dreams, guilt too, that my nation is becoming such a bully in a volatile world where already too much misery and fear are present.
So I beg you Sirs, I plead: listen to the women in the Middle East, in Iraq, in the UK and the US. Look at your own families. (A black US congressman, Charlie Rangle, has just called for conscription into the US armed forces to be reintroduced after he discovered that only one national politician has a son in the army. These wars are easier to go into when you and yours are as safe as can be). Mrs Blair wept on camera in front of the nation because her oldest son was going to university an hour and a half away. She asked us to understand her feelings, how hard, how worrying it all is when our children leave home.
Today this mother, and feisty human-rights lawyer, sleeps with a man who cannot be thinking about the silent Iraqi homes where no children will be coming home during vacations or where they will howl as they watch the delivery of the bloodied bodies of their fathers (conscripts, none of them the sons of President Saddam or Tariq Aziz, the deputy leader, or any of the elite) and perhaps their mothers, uncles, cousins, neighbours.
Things are bad enough already. Many Iraqi children and teenagers in particular are so terrorised by our merciless threats over so many months that they have turned to valium smuggled in from neighbouring countries. Mental illness too is sweeping through distressed families.
Over the long years I have been writing about our policies in Iraq which have added immeasurably to the misery and fear of people already living under their dictator some Iraqi children and their mothers have been sending me little letters, sometimes photographs, usually through visitors they meet in Baghdad. The latest missive arrived last Friday, just a letter asking me to tell "the English people, who are kind" that they are really frightened and that when we start (no point in saying "if" any more) President Saddam will round up children, pregnant mothers and place them in areas where they can die spectacularly. So then who will be the murderers of these innocents, him or us? Oh I forget. We are going to liberate these people, surely even a woman can understand that? No, not really.
Even if the cocktail of truth and lies which was presented by General Powell and Mr Blair did have enough in it to "prove" that more is going on in Iraq than we imagine, do British mothers, daughters, lovers and sisters think we are doing the right thing going into a war where the poor people of Iraq will become victimised even more by both sides?
Think about it. You are a mother of three children living in Baghdad. You have been reduced to an impoverished life and forced to sell everything, including your children's toys one of the most poignant sights in Iraq is the lines of dolls on pavements put on sale by desperate families. Maybe your husband is a scientist who hates President Saddam. Mr Blair asks you if it is OK by you that they come in and bomb Iraq which will lead to civilian deaths but liberation will follow, and maybe a nice American uncle will take charge afterwards, a man who will not be as horrible as Saddam, not ever. I know what I would choose and it would not be war.
It is true that some Iraqis in exile want this war. Their children are out of danger, so such bravery by proxy is easy for them. It may even be true that some Iraqis inside the blighted country seek release, so wretched are their lives. But I do not believe that they would make this choice if they understood just what overwhelming force we mean to use. Iraqi children are still dying of cancers and other illnesses that specialists believe can be traced to the weapons we used. The truth about these we will never be told, as suffering Gulf veterans have found to their cost. Heck, we are the good guys after all. A UN report confirms that more Iraqi children will die in this conflict than did in Afghanistan because Afghani children were spread across the open countryside whereas in Iraq the cities are still highly populated with families.
I am not a pacifist and do accept that sometimes military interventions in spite of the bloodshed bring with them better times. But, as a woman and a mother, I will not support the assault on Iraq because it has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with the fact that the new, macho imperialists have been outwitted by Osama bin Laden and they want to show the world who is boss. Most women I have spoken to feel as powerless and enraged as I do.
It is interesting that women asked Mr Blair the toughest questions on Newsnight last week; that Alice Mahon MP stands up to Mr Blair in Parliament and gets right up his nose and, even more encouraging, that for the first time this week women were elected to six out of seven top judicial seats on the new International Criminal Court. If the US, Israel and the UK really wanted to, they would by now have managed to get President Saddam out in a covert operation and maybe even put on trial at this new ICC. But alas, the high-minded US President, with God on his side, despises the very idea of the international court to which Americans might become subject.
At next week's march I hope to join a group: Women Say No To War. We will march together, women from around the world, including Iraqi refugees. For the sake of the men who will die in their thousands, and the excruciating pain of their women and children, I hope that many, many of you out there will join us.
© 2002 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd