The late John Roberts and Jeremy Corbyn: pragmatic idealists?

April 13, 2018

The late John Roberts would have welcomed the election of Jeremy Corbyn. Having recently revisited his work – ‘ahead of its time’ – the opening words in one essay come to mind:

“Since 7th August 1945 I have believed – and felt – that only by abolishing war would the sort of world that I wanted be possible. I have devoted more or less the whole of my life to pursuing ways that seemed to offer the possibility and hope of that being achieved or, at the least, of preventing a third world war”.

Greatly though I valued John Roberts as a person, at the time I thought his advocacy of World Citizenship, which will be published in due course on this site, was unrealistic, utopian. But it was visionary, in the positive sense of that word.

Now damage to the living, their infrastructure and above all, their environment, have deteriorated so much – and I see no other acceptable option offered by the great and the good.

Sienna Rodgers quotes Jeremy Corbyn:

“More bombing, more killing, more war will not save life, it will take lives and spawn the war elsewhere”.

He points out that even US defence secretary James Mattis – nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’ – has warned further military action could “escalate out of control”.

Sienna comments, “There appears to be an unspoken agreement, driven by a laddish culture, that those urging caution are being ‘soft’. But the Labour leader’s stance reflects the view held by the British public, 43% of which oppose missile strikes in Syria according to the latest YouGov research, though the majority of Britons (61%) believe that the Syrian government or their allies probably did carry out a chemical attack”.

 

Corbyn’s statement concludes: “The need to restart genuine negotiations for peace and an inclusive political settlement of the Syrian conflict, including the withdrawal of all foreign forces, could not be more urgent. We must do everything we can, no matter how challenging, to bring that about.”

 

 

 

o

Advertisements

March visitors

April 4, 2018

o

People from 51 countries visited the site in March –  a record.

Top posts – no surprises

 

It is heartwarming to think of this contact with likeminded people in so many parts of the world.

There were over four times more visitors from the USA than from UK, the next largest group.

 

 

 

 

o


Hundreds of Israelis rally for Gaza following the “Great Return March”

April 3, 2018

In +972 magazine*, Joshua Leifer reports that some 300 Israelis protested along the Gaza border last Saturday in solidarity with the Great Return March demonstrations in Gaza that began a day earlier.

The organizers of the Gaza return march had said explicitly that the protest was meant to be nonviolent. But even before the march began Israeli security forces launched a public campaign describing it as a violent, Hamas-sponsored event. The Israeli army’s chief of staff announced the deployment of 100 snipers, and Israeli generals warned ahead of time that there would be Palestinian casualties.

The Israeli solidarity protest was organized by the Coalition of Women for Peace. Founded in November 2000, after the outbreak of the Second Intifada, CWP today is a leading voice in the Israeli peace movement, bringing together women from a wide variety of identities and groups. CWP is committed to ending the occupation and creating a more just society, while enhancing women’s inclusion and participation in the public discourse.

On Friday, Israeli troops killed at least 15 and wounded 1,400 demonstrators taking part in the first day of the “Great Return March,” 45 days of protests and events planned to mark 70 years since the Nakba. On the Gaza side of the border fence, Israel forces reportedly wounded 25 Palestinian demonstrators on Saturday, though the Israeli army did not report a single injury among its troops.

“I don’t know what to say. There was no justification for what they did to us,” Hasan al-Kurd, one of the organizers of the Gaza return march, said after the protest ended on Friday. “I saw children and entire families standing more than half a kilometer from the fence and they still shot at them. Why? What threat do children standing hundreds of meters away pose to tanks and armed soldiers?”

*+972 Magazine is a blog-based web magazine that is jointly owned by a group of journalists, bloggers and photographers whose goal is to provide fresh, original, on-the-ground reporting and analysis of events in Israel and Palestine. The collective is committed to human rights and freedom of information, and we oppose the occupation. However, +972 Magazine does not represent any organization, political party or specific agenda. Its name is derived from the country telephone code shared by Israel and Palestine. Read the full article here: https://972mag.com/following-deadly-march-hundreds-of-israelis-rally-for-gaza/134256/

 

 

 

o


Pope Francis’ Easter message – summary and link to full text

April 3, 2018

On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis implored the world to seek out solutions to its geopolitical conflicts.

Excerpts from Ana Campoy’s summary:

He first addressed the “beloved and long-suffering land of Syria” in his traditional Urbi et Orbi (“to the City and the World”) address. “May the light of the risen Christ illumine the consciences of all political and military leaders, so that a swift end may be brought to the carnage in course”.

Then he asked that the warring parties respect humanitarian laws and open access to the country so aid could be delivered to the millions of Syrians whose lives have been ravaged by civil war.

The Pope cast a blessing on the rest of the Middle East, too, “so that dialogue and mutual respect may prevail over division and violence.”

In addition, he addressed conflict in South Sudan, pleading that the world “not forget the victims of that conflict, especially the children!”, and Venezuela, where he hoped for “a just, peaceful and humane way to surmount quickly the political and humanitarian crises that grip it.”

Francis also offered a blessing for those trying to ratchet down tensions in the Korean Peninsula. South and North Korea’s current leaders are set to meet at the end of April for the first time; US president Donald Trump has said he will sit down with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un by May, saying:

“May those who are directly responsible act with wisdom and discernment.”

We invoke on this day fruits of hope for those who yearn for a more dignified life, above all in those areas of the African continent deeply affected by hunger, endemic conflicts and terrorism. May the peace of the risen Lord heal wounds in South Sudan and open hearts to dialogue and mutual understanding. Let us not forget the victims of that conflict, especially the children! May there be no lack of solidarity with all those forced to abandon leave their native lands and lacking the bare essentials for living.

We implore fruits of dialogue for the Korean peninsula, that the discussions under way may advance harmony and peace within the region. May those who are directly responsible act with wisdom and discernment to promote the good of the Korean people and to build relationships of trust within the international community.

We pray for the fruits of new life for those children, who as a result of wars and hunger, grow up without hope, lacking education and health care; and to those elderly persons who are cast off by a selfish culture that ostracizes those who are not “productive”.

We also implore fruits of wisdom for those who have political responsibilities in our world, that they may always respect human dignity, devote themselves actively to the pursuit of the common good, and ensure the development and security of their own citizens.

The love of God “dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord and brings down the mighty” (Easter Proclamation).

Happy Easter to all!

 

 

The full text of the pope’s 2018 Sunday Easter address: https://qz.com/1242396/on-easter-sunday-pope-francis-doled-out-blessings-to-syria-and-other-geopolitical-hotspots/

 

 

 

o

 


Cardinal Keith O’Brien

March 20, 2018

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who has just died, was one of the signatories of the 1980s Just Defence Charter. He reaffirmed support for Just Defence and agreed to be placed on the Civilisation 3000 mailing list in 2009.

Ekklesia reported that on Saturday 16 April 2011 he urged the British Government to give up its “shameful” nuclear weapons programme.

“Do the right thing and give it up,” he declared at a demonstration outside the Royal Navy’s nuclear base in Faslane. Cardinal O’Brien told peace protesters: “Here at the gates of Faslane, there is no better place to say that it is not courageous of Britain to have these dreadful weapons of mass destruction. It is shameful to have them.”

He cited Pope Benedict XVI, who said:

“This point of view, that nuclear weapons have any place in a civilized society, is not only baneful but also completely fallacious. In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims. The truth of peace requires that all agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament . . .In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims.”

Andrew McKie’s obituary, in the Herald, covered many aspects of the cardinal’s life, including that he was a keen cyclist and hillwalker, a convivial and popular figure.

After reading a truly disgraceful account of his life in the Murdoch Times, I attempted, with permission, to add Bruce Kent’s thoughts (below) as a comment. It was not accepted; a red notice said I was attempting to enter ‘malformed content’ – actually that description could have been applied to their obituary.

To: letters@theherald.co.uk

Date: Mon, 19 Mar 2018 18:30:17 GMT
Subject: Cardinal O’Brien

Dear Editor My friend, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, now faces a tribunal which none of us will escape.

Were I his Counsel for the Defence I would want it taken into account that very few bishops have had the courage and common sense to challenge, on moral grounds, the policies of the nuclear weapon establishment – as he did.

In his view the use of such weapons would mean mass murder and so-called deterrence means an ongoing willingness to do just that.

He was as clear on such matters in his time as is Pope Francis today.

That he failed to live up to the sexual standards to which he was committed, as he himself admitted, is both sad and damaging.

It is time now to acknowledge also the good he did and to pray that he may rest in peace.

Yours faithfully

Bruce Kent
Vice President
CND

 

 

 

o


John Bickersteth died on January 29th, 2018

March 3, 2018

 .

I heard of the death of John Bickersteth in January with regret. He was one of the signatories of the 1980s Just Defence Charter who reaffirmed support for Just Defence and agreed to be placed on the Civilisation 3000 mailing list in 2009.

Looking back over the message in which he asked for the purpose of the website made me realise how poorly the undertaking given to him had been carried out in recent years.

John Bickersteth was an actively ecumenical Anglican clergyman who served as the Bishop of Bath and Wells from 1975 to 1986, and Clerk of the Closet from 1979-1989.

His earlier military service is documented here and in the archives of the Imperial War Museum. He also edited The Bickersteth Diaries,1914-1918, which were compiled from 11 volumes written by his grandmother Ella. They tell the story of his three uncles who fought in the trenches and whose letters brought the horrors of the First World War vividly to life.

JUST DEFENCE CHARTER 

As those who seek to contribute to our national security in Parliament or other positions in public and professional life, the signatories of this Charter agree:

  1. The defence of our country and of our way of life must be strong and effective. This is the right of the British people and nothing less will enjoy their support. 
  2. Defence policy must be for defence only, and clearly seen as non-provocative to others. Modern technology, which has changed so much of our industrial and social life, has also transformed the nature of warfare. Conventional defence can now become doubly powerful to deny success to an aggressor through the intelligent use of new and cost-effective technology. 
  3. A non-provocative doctrine of ‘defence only’, will reduce international tension and substitute policies of political detente for those of political confrontation. 
  4. Those who are clearly non-provocative in their policies will be best placed to stabilise any crisis and prevent it escalating into major conflict either through fear or misunderstanding. 
  5. Since weapons of mass destruction are, by their nature, threatening and provocative, British defence policy should not depend on the use of nuclear weapons. To this end Britain should phase out the storage or operation of such weapons. 
  6. The early reduction to a strict minimum of strategic nuclear weapons confined to the two superpowers would be a major and welcome step towards creating the conditions of detente and mutual security which will allow for the ultimate elimination of all such weapons. 
  7. World security depends on the progressive reduction of all offensive weaponry, whether nuclear or non-nuclear. A ‘Just Defence’ policy for Britain would be a significant contribution to that end; and we should seek to persuade other countries with whom we are allied or associated to adopt a similar policy.
  8. ‘Just Defence’ must accord with the principles of international justice, as defined in the Charter of the United Nations and the judgments of the International Court of Justice. 
  1. Non-provocative defence and progressive disarmament could release very large resources for the support of social, educational, and health services, and the relief of poverty and hunger in the Third World. 

We, the signatories, look forward to the emergence of a new consensus on Defence Policy in Britain whereby – whatever the differences in their detailed proposals – all political parties will construct their policies within the framework of the principles of ‘Just Defence,.

Published by ‘Just Defence’: 7 Pound Place, Eltham, London SE9 5DN.  (Address no longer in use)

*

John Bickersteth retired in 1987 to dedicate more time to environmental issues and became involved in the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. He organised the Creation Festival at Salisbury Cathedral in 1990 that championed conservation and waste reduction and campaigned to ban straw-burning by farmers because of carbon emissions and spoke about the issue in the House of Lords. (left, at Glastonbury)

In 2007 he campaigned to banish plastic bags in Tisbury, a Wiltshire village, thought to be the first place in the West to bringing in such a rule to try to reduce plastic waste. Residents agreed to use their own bags when shopping from 1 January 2008. He told BBC News: “The breakthrough came when the Co-op said they’d play ball and I think it’s catching on, although it won’t happen overnight.” He said he wanted to preserve the earth and was delighted to have convinced the traders to help him.

He later joined the protest against the Newbury bypass in the mid-1990s, alongside “Swampy”, who tried to block construction of the trunk road by building tunnels, voicing his disapproval of a project that would lead to the destruction of woodland.

The best memorial which could be given here is to reactivate the undertaking given to him – unwittingly overlooked in recent years.

 

 

 

o


FT reader suggests ‘NATO – just STOP’!

February 4, 2018

 Anti-Russian propaganda escalates

Just one example: there were warnings about “huge” Russian wargames in September, raising alarm among the credulous. A briefing by Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, warned that Russia “has used big military exercises as a disguise or a precursor for aggressive military actions against their neighbours”, citing Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014.  The British Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, said the exercise was “designed to provoke us” and appeared to accept the estimate of 100,000 troops.

But Zapad-17 offered nothing more alarming than footage of Vladimir Putin observing the exercises through binoculars and a report that three people had been injured when a Russian helicopter accidentally fired on spectators.

The numbers forecast as 100,000 were put by all observers at between 10,000 and 17,000. Russia pointed out that their given numbers had been accurate and international borders had been respected.

Is this briefing done to strengthen the case for NATO expenditure and expansion?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created in 1949 by the United States, Canada and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union. When that was dissolved in 1991, NATO decided to expand eastwards, though newly declassified documents confirm that – as Rodric Braithwaite, former British Ambassador to the Soviet Union, recounted in March 5, 1991 – British foreign minister Douglas Hurd and British PM John Major assured the Soviet leader that NATO would not expand eastwards.

Despite this assurance, expansion continued, with Albania, Croatia, Montenegro as the latest recruits. Roger Boyes, Berlin correspondent to The Times, warns that NATO’s expansion eastward needlessly provokes Russia and must stop growing if it wants to survive. Sardonically, Small People Against Big Government published this map:

He sees Turkey’s plans to buy a Russian-made S-400 missile defence system that cannot be integrated into NATO’s radar network – and the consequent training of Turks by Russia – as a serious problem for the alliance. Boyes believes that the Turkish president should observe its membership conditions or leave the alliance, losing nuclear weapons from the Incirlik base, new F-35 jets, training of Turkish soldiers and intelligence sharing.

Take seriously Putin’s fear of encirclement and end the process of NATO enlargement

Boyes concludes: “The correct response to Putin, then, is a paradoxical one. It doesn’t mean shelving rigorous sanctions policies against Putin, and it doesn’t mean we should recognise his illegal annexation of Crimea.  It is to take seriously his fear of encirclement and end the process of Nato enlargement . . . to stay credible a defence alliance has to live within its means, stay alert and regain the will to act. That has to be better than the present enfeebled ambiguity”.

Dr Harlan Ullman, described as the principal creator of “shock and awe”, fears that Vladimir Putin is turning this concept against NATO and “understands well how to rattle us” but adds that “Mr Putin has no intent of starting a war or invading any NATO member”.

In the Financial Times he deplores “relatively tiny deployments of military forces to central and eastern Europe that will still not be complete for months” adding that “While these token forces may reassure Nato allies, it is unlikely that Mr Putin is impressed”.

He prescribes a variant of shock and awe to defend ”the easternmost allies”: providing large numbers of anti-aircraft and anti-armoured-vehicle shoulder-fired missiles and local forces that would make any incursion very costly. Ullman also believes that assigning a US or UK Trident or French ballistic missile submarine to NATO would be a significant signal, as Russia has a ‘shorter-range nuclear numerical advantage’.

Though both conclude that Russia has no aggressive intentions towards NATO they could go further and heed the advice of an FT reader to STOP:How about just stopping to provoke the Russians? Stop your ‘colour’ revolutions in Russia’s backyard, stop trying to roll NATO’s (Washington’s occupation forces for Europe) tanks on Russia’s doorstep and stop any economic warfare”.

 

 

 

o