Extend this call: younger generations everywhere need to learn about the horrors of war

May 25, 2020

Recently a correspondent drew attention to the words of Roger Beaumont, a historian of the Indian Army: “When the day comes that man gives to peace what he has given to war, then the circle can close…”

On his last birthday before his abdication Japan’s emperor appeared on the balcony of the imperial palace in Tokyo with Empress Michiko and called for his country’s younger generations to be taught accurately about the horrors of war.

“It is important not to forget that countless lives were lost in the second world war and that the peace and prosperity of postwar Japan was built upon the numerous sacrifices and tireless efforts made by the Japanese people, and to pass on this history accurately to those born after the war,” he said.

Akihito expressed relief that his 30 year reign – the heisei (“peace everywhere”) era – has been a peaceful one for Japan.

Since succeeding his father Hirohito, Japan’s wartime emperor, he has used his reign to call for an honest appraisal of history.

Japan’s postwar constitution prohibits the emperor from wielding political influence, but the imperial couple have promoted reconciliation with former victims of Japanese wartime aggression.

In 1992, Akihito became the first Japanese emperor to visit China, telling his hosts he “deeply deplored” an “unfortunate period in which my country inflicted great suffering on the people of China” during a war fought in the name of his father.

The former Emperor Akihito has given what he could to peace.


Comment by email:

It was good that he publicly called for Japanese recognition of the foul crimes they committed – on a par with Nazi Germany – although “unfortunate period in which my country inflicted great suffering on the people of China” hardly matches the atrocities they perpetrated on the far east generally.

A search on one of these countries found:

In November 1962, Akihito and his wife were sent (to the Philippines) to represent his father. At the time, Japan didn’t have a law yet that would allow government officials to represent the emperor in diplomatic visits, so it had to be the son.

Prince Akihito (then 29 years old) and Princess Michiko were “nervous.” Although the relations between Manila and Tokyo had normalized 6 years before that, they felt that the “anti-Japanese sentiment was [still] high.” They expected a cold treatment. They expected people hurling negative slogans at them.

“To their surprise – and they were deeply honored – your president and his wife were at the airport to welcome them,” the ambassador said, referring to then president Diosdado Macapagal and his wife Eva. “That melted the tension and unease in the hearts of the young prince and princess.”

Now, Akihito, 82, is referred to as an emperor of peace. On occasions that he spoke about the war, his message had always been one of remorse. About the Philippines, specifically, his message to his people is always: be grateful for the forgiveness, but don’t forget what pain we inflicted on them.

“Although the Filipino people have forgiven the Japanese for the atrocities, the emperor says, don’t forget,” Ambassador Takashima said. “The Emperor and the Empress were talking between themselves, and they said the Filipinos are Christians so they were able to forgive.”










Is the era of extravagant military purchases ‘surely over’ after the threat posed by the pandemic?

May 6, 2020

The display of defence machinery at Britain’s arms fairs now seems absurd to Helen Warrell (right), who was appointed as the Financial Times’ defence and security editor in 2019. As she wrote yesterday:

“The biggest threat to western nations since the second world war has not been an army but a pandemic that has killed more than 250,000 people across the globe”.

When national security is no longer about troop numbers and aircraft carriers, but personal protective equipment supply chains and testing capacity, what is the role of the military?

General Nick Carter, head of Britain’s armed forces, sees it as helping, responding and supporting – the UK forces’ Covid support force is helping with National Health Service logistics, driving ambulances, staffing emergency call centres and setting up mobile testing centres.

Security is a collective national effort

Helen Warrell cites the example of Nordic countries such as Finland and Sweden who traditionally have involved the public in disaster preparedness and advised them how to survive for short periods without electricity, water or plentiful food.

A senior officer told her last week that the forces will ‘lean back’ into peacekeeping, providing disaster response and helping to quell conflicts over resources or mass migration.

Professor Beatrice Heuser (left), a war expert at the University of Glasgow, predicts swingeing cuts to defence budgets as taxpayers question the funding of overseas operations when resources are stretched.

In a COVID-19-damaged economy the government is unlikely to prioritise defence spending over health and social care.

London’s Excel centre may well have been converted back from use as a Nightingale hospital to a conference venue in time for the next arms fair, planned for 2021, but – Ms Warrell comments – “we know that delegates’ pockets will no longer be so deep”.





Post virus: adopt Her Majesty’s Armed Forces

April 29, 2020


George MacPherson* writes: “the way the armed forces have behaved this past month has been exemplary! Truly inspiring and their role very much what we have been calling for. Friends must stop being ‘allergic’ to the Forces – but get in there and steer them away from destruction and killing – and towards restraint, prevention, international police and rescue”. 

There is a group – un-named but active – who, in seeking world peace, believe that Friends should embrace our armed forces, and work towards a National Peace Force. Our suggestion is: ‘Let us adopt our armed services, and declare war on violence and destruction!”

Don’t gasp with horror – but simply consider how adoptive parents influence their new responsibilities

Loving parenthood reduces the risk of armed conflict with the killing and wounding of fellow humans, the devastation of homes and public facilities. As parents we would need to guide our adoptees to adopt non-lethal and preventative defence methods.

This would completely rule out wanton annihilation, while any ‘war’ would have to be ‘fought’ using prevention – through intelligence and diplomacy; treaties, foreign aid and investment in the development of technologies to suit the climate and terrain of the countries concerned. For example, in Somalia, solar energy and desalination of sea-water could enable industrial and horticultural activity, providing work and a living for the Somalis and their families rather than becoming migrants.

In resolving conflict with developed countries like Russia the USA or China, subtle but equally effective measures can be taken. Given the will, these can be considered, researched, developed and implemented. For example to establish trust and remove unfair competition and fear – and again, the back-stop if all else fails, should be non-lethal, non-destructive weaponry.

British society will never give up its armed forces

Quakers are banging their heads against brick walls when they could be ‘getting in there and changing things’ positively. Schools welcome people in uniform who come to inspire their pupils. Millions enjoy the Trooping of the Colour, Remembrance parades, Navy days and air shows.

There are so many traditions and positive assets that we have, embedded in the presence and history of our armed services. Just consider how successful they are in their methods of education, with comradeship, discipline, and development of brain-power to plan operations or react to emergencies. The adult development of skills and professions from plumber, engineer, nurse, doctor, pilots, digital experts – which prepare people first for their contracted service, with pension and then return them, trained, disciplined, and sociable, to society to take up careers in other industries and the public sector.

We can never hope to ‘do away with the armed forces’. OK, so let’s convert them, little by little, by means of persuasion, logical arguments like: “Why destroy every power station, hospital, school, railway and facility when all we want is to bring an end to conflict? Wouldn’t it be better to avoid the conflict by ‘jaw-jaw’, diplomacy, cultural exchange and giving incentives to come to agreement? Think of the savings!!

If a nation is taken over by imperial, greedy, power-hungry leaders – and there are signs that these are currently emerging by winning votes with lies and corruption – there must be ways of restraining them – using digital means to disable (temporarily) their infrastructure, winning their people’s trust and offering them alternative trading and co-operation methods. Doing nothing to thwart these tyrants is to collaborate with them and each of us can take an active part, politically, financially or simply socially by speaking out.

“But if they attack us with missiles and bombs, tanks and artillery? What then?”

This is where Friends’ influence is important: let us take action by encouraging the best brains to develop ‘weapons’ that restrain or disable rather than destroy and devastate. Ever since gladiators used throw-over netting to prevent attackers from moving about or swinging swords; and ever since we, as young men called up for National Service were taught “if you get attacked or threatened by someone with a knife, grab a chair or anything else you can, to keep them at arm’s distance – or run away and get help.”

The world needs police of all kinds. Our police protect us from killers and violence as best they can – but given extra research and scientific input – their bullets could be changed into darts that disable instantly – such as are used by vets and wildlife wardens with dangerous animals. Gas need not be lethal, but could anaesthetise to prevent attack; hacking into control systems of missiles, drones and vehicles could direct them into harmless quarries and waste ground.

That would, of course need a huge amount of research and development of non-lethal weapons and defence mechanisms – but consider how much would eventually be saved, compared with what it will cost to restore some kind of civil life in Syria, Palestine – and what it cost, after World War II, to make normal life return to London, Berlin, and Stalingrad.

Meanwhile, we would continue to have the national defence of able-bodied experts, men and women trained for life at international service in the event of weather, earthquakes, epidemics and disasters, law and order – meanwhile providing education, discipline, mutual respect and even the arts to generations of people from all backgrounds, including those least privileged, who traditionally ‘make good’ by taking the Queen’s shilling.

Now let’s discuss it and bring to the notice of  politicians, senior officers in the armed forces and our families. Let’s start with our oldest ‘adoptee’ – the Royal Navy. They are the senior service, currently under scrutiny by having a scarcity of ships.


This proposal was first published in the November 2019 newsletter of Minehead Meeting. 

*George MacPherson farmed in Launceston for some time before working as a producer with the BBC World Service, then as Programme Organiser for the Swahili Service. After several years working in rural development in Tanzania, Malawi and Botswana, he joined the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation as a Technical Advisor to the Government of Tanzania before returning to Britain. He also presented and produced music, medical, farming and wildlife programmes for BBC Five Live and BBC Radio Four.




Celebrating Dr Susan Allen, General Guterres, the Metro but, above all, the Movement for the Abolition of War

March 26, 2020


Dr Susan H Allen, Center for Peacemaking Practice, George Mason University, Arlington, writes to the Financial Times, stressing the opportunity we now have to limit the pandemic’s worst impacts in war zones:

“I urge all warring parties to heed this week’s call by UN Secretary General António Guterres for a global ceasefire”.

This call made two days ago and ignored by our mainstream newspapers (insufficiently sensational?) was highlighted in the Metro which presents a video of the call here.

Dr Mason cites precedents for ceasefires that allow urgent medical care. US president Jimmy Carter and The Carter Center negotiated the six-month Guinea worm ceasefire in 1995 to allow concerted efforts towards Guinea worm eradication in Sudan, continuing:

“Over the years, Doctors Without Borders/Médicins Sans Frontères (MSF) have called for short-term ceasefires for doctors and medical aid to reach hospitals in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and so on. Now is the time to scale up the practice of ceasefires for medical care with an unprecedented truly global ceasefire. Winning a fight with a pandemic while fighting a war is not possible. We need to pause armed conflict and devote ourselves to preventing extensive mass casualties from the pandemic”.

‘Abolish War’ is the watchword of MAW, formed in 2001 following the Hague Appeal for Peace in 1999, which works closely with the International Peace Bureau in Geneva.

Dr Allen believes that Mr Guterres’ leadership in calling for the global ceasefire provides us with a new way forward as a human family – but a temporary ceasefire could not do that.

She, UN Secretary General António Guterres and all thinking people should go further: war does not persist in any family worthy of the word.

Links and pictures added.






Out with excessive military spending and sabre rattling, in with a foreign policy based on co-operation and diplomacy

March 19, 2020


The size and scope of the ‘Defender-Europe 20’ exercise has been reduced because of the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Stop the War (STWC) argues that money allocated for the Defender 2020 exercise (£294m) and other preparations for war should be diverted to healthcare and welfare. Many would like to see a large proportion dedicated to addressing climate change: see Military spending hits record levels, while climate finance falls short.

The U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) explains that the Defender-Europe 20 exercise, scheduled to take place in Central and Eastern Europe and Georgia in April-May 2020, is intended to’ build strategic readiness by deploying a combat credible force to Europe in support of NATO and the U.S. National Defense Strategy’.

Since January, nearly 6,000 US soldiers travelled to Europe and approximately 9,000 vehicles and 3000 pieces of equipment were sent by sea from the United States.

NATO claims the goal of the US-led exercise was not directed at any particular country, but as Bethany Rielly points out, many would argue that mass military exercises near Russian borders is provocative. This argument is supported by the words of Ben Hodges, who commanded US Army Europe before retiring as a lieutenant general in 2017.

Business Insider reported that Hodges said actions taken so far send a “strong signal to our allies and to the Kremlin that the USA remains committed to Europe, to deterrence, [and] to NATO.” 

Janes’ reported that the size and scope of ‘Defender-Europe 20’ – see plan above – has been reduced because of the Covid-19 outbreak; military and civilian health, safety, and readiness were cited as the primary reasons. The armoured brigade combat team (ABCT) already deployed to Europe would conduct gunnery and other joint training with allied forces as part of a modified exercise ‘Allied Spirit’

European countries are closing borders and restricting movement. The Dutch Ministry of Defence announced on its website on 13 March that the movement of an entire US combat brigade from the Dutch port of Vlissingen to Eastern Europe had been cancelled. The Bundeswehr (the unified armed forces of Germany) also pulled out of “Defender-Europe 20”, saying that Defender-Europe 20 will not continue in that country and that exercises planned for the Bergen and Grafenwöhr training areas would not take place.

STWC ends, “At a time when countries, including the UK, are under increasing financial pressure to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, to continue with this military extravagance is both dangerous and irresponsible. Now is not the time to be increasing military spending but rather to reallocate funds away from the military towards welfare and healthcare.”





New technology to assist peace deal negotiations, conflict prediction and information gathering

February 21, 2020

The UN estimates that though more than $27bn is spent each year on peacebuilding initiatives around the world, as many as two-thirds do not lead to any durable resolution and conflicts are often resumed two or three times after an agreement is signed.

Fabrizio Hochschild, the UN under-secretary-general responsible for digital co-operation explains that the UN needs a new system which reflects the aspirations of those most affected by conflict.

Helen Warrell, the FT’s defence and security editor, reports that a new technology has been developed by UN officials working with the New York start-up Remesh and will be rolled out within the next year.

Mass polling before and during peace deal negotiations will attempt to gauge how whole communities feel about negotiations.

This Remesh platform will be a “real-time” dialogue, carried out with simultaneous translation.

The UN will issue both online and physical invitations to individuals, who could answer questions and respond to polls on their smartphones. The mediator could also interact directly and have a conversation with the population to find out whether what they were working on resonated. All responses would be analysed in real time to present insights to the UN team.

To guard against hacking, the algorithms are designed to minimise the impact that either lone malicious actors or “swarms” of bots can have on results, and have warning systems to detect participants who are behaving suspiciously.

Rosemary DiCarlo, UN under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs (right), said the plan would give a voice to people who wouldn’t normally have one.

Other developments include:

  • an SMS conversation platform under development for populations without good internet access;
  • an AI tool developed by London-based Alan Turing Institute, said to be 94% accurate in predicting the location of new conflicts a year in advance and
  • a project using virtual reality to brief Security Council members voting on operations in unstable states which are too difficult to visit, such as Yemen.

An interactive map from an American perspective: updated this month

Effective mediation and peacebuilding is needed in many of the world’s regions. All but those seeking profit and power from armed conflict hope that these innovations will help to bring about peace in these troubled areas.










The 2020 PSC AGM 20/20: A LANDMARK

February 5, 2020

Noel Hamel’s report*, summarised 

I attended the 2020 AGM of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign this landmark year to report back to Jewish Network for Palestine (JNP). The PSC executive was astute and professional; Kamel Hawwash a competent chair, a role formerly Jeremy Corbyn’s.

The mood of the AGM reflected the icy climate for Palestinian campaigning. Trump bulldozed accepted wisdom and common sense by defying international law condemning illegal occupations in Jerusalem, the Occupied West Bank and Golan Heights.

The Annual Report is full of laudable aims about membership, campaigning and funding. There is commendable effort to engage with many campaign and faith groups and a vital need to redress false perceptions. Prejudicial treatment has been unfairly discriminating against PSC activity in a viciously hostile climate in the UK and USA, partly generated by ‘straw-man’s’ unfounded antisemitism (AS) accusations.

On the brighter side: should revulsion become the norm in response to current prejudice and negative propaganda, it may energize popular support for Palestinians. If court hearings and parliamentary debate attract national and international interest then attempts to muzzle Palestinian rights campaigns could be frustrated. Let’s hope so. Much also depends upon branch and activist dissemination of information through stalls and demonstrations, appealing for public support for a just cause. 

PSC has pledged to campaign: 

  • against settlements,
  • against arming Israel,
  • against anti-ethical-choice ‘Johnson’ laws,
  • against child imprisonment,
  • for the end of Gaza’s siege,
  • against Puma’s support for Israel,
  • for the removal of the Jewish National Fund’s charitable status,
  • and for support for BDS and the cultural boycott.

PSC membership has grown despite the hostile climate, almost doubling to 6500 since 2015. The ambition is more growth, trade union involvement and a coalition of support from across faiths, NGOs and charities.

*Noel’s report may be read in full here, with added reflections.