Tony Benn Dies at 88: Interview With Saddam Hussein and What He Stood For Still Relevant Today

Photo: Matthew Fearn/PA Wire

Tony Benn, veteran British Labour politician and a passionate advocate for peace, democracy, and socialism, died at home on Friday, 14 March 2014 after a long illness.

Tony Benn was against war, and the folly of Britain following America’s lead into a war with Iraq after 9/11. He was so concerned about the events leading up to this war that he travelled to Iraq to interview Saddam Hussein and ask him point blank if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or any dealings with Al-Qaeda. That interview follows Tony Benn seen in full flight against the first war with Iraq in 1991, and challenging Britain’s double standards regarding the Middle East during the twentieth century.

From the videos presented here one can gain a glimpse of the strong voice for peace we lost worldwide with the death of Tony Benn.

In 1992, Tony Benn addressed the hypocrisy of the arms trade in selling weapons to dictators the United States had installed in various countries, only to have them used against their own people – as Noriega did in Panama.

I respected Tony Benn for his gutsiness in challenging the status quo, standing up for the underdog, the poor and oppressed, and for doing what I learned to do in my home country of Australia: to ‘call a spade a spade’.

The following interview with Saddam Hussein is divided into three parts. If your time is short, I recommend watching the third part (see top left corner to select), for you will see a side of Hussein that was rarely, if ever, presented in mainstream media.

With Tony Benn’s passing, the world has lost a huge voice for peace, for civility, humility, reason, diplomacy – all expressed with passion. The man was so alive and vital.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, who said he was treated as an equal by Tony Benn when he did work experience for him at the age of sixteen, made this tribute:

“The death of Tony Benn represents the loss of an iconic figure of our age. He will be remembered as a champion of the powerless, a great parliamentarian and a conviction politician.

“Tony Benn spoke his mind and spoke up for his values. Whether you agreed with him or disagreed with him, everyone knew where he stood and what he stood for.

“For someone of such strong views, often at odds with his party, he won respect from across the political spectrum.

“This was because of his unshakeable beliefs and his abiding determination that power and the powerful should be held to account.” (Scoop)

Even at the age of 83 Tony Benn hadn’t lost his edge. He was still campaigning he said, although not for by-elections. In an impassioned speech (video no longer available), he talked about the value of education to inform people of what is really happening so that they can make changes to stop history repeating itself. He spoke about the damage done during the Thatcher years and freedoms lost. Now he urges us all to use both the flame of anger against injustice and the flame of hope to spur us into action to repair that damage and restore the hard-won dignity of freedom from slavery we once enjoyed.


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