Could we abolish the arms trade and prosper?

April 13, 2017

Earlier this month *Imam Farhad Ahmad was moved to write to the Financial Times about plans by the US administration to approve weapons sales to nations with known human rights abuses. Multibillion dollars worth of sales of F-16s to Bahrain and precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia are on the table. He continued:

“These plans and other sales, including those that have been making their way into the hands of Isis from eastern Europe, did worry me, but what made me really convinced that it ought to be stopped was when I listened to a Muslim leader refer to curbing arms trade as a “ready-made” instant solution to world disorder.

National Peace Symposium

On 25th March 2017, the 14th National Peace Symposium was hosted by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in London with an audience of more than 1000 people, from 30 countries – including more than 600 non-Muslims. Ms Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima bomb survivor and peace activist, was presented with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Prize for the Advancement of Peace in recognition of her outstanding efforts in campaigning for nuclear disarmament. Farhad Ahmad wrote:

“I was at the National Peace Symposium at UK’s largest mosque last week, where more than 1,000, including over 600 non-Muslims, had gathered to listen to a Muslim caliph. He called on effective sanctions to be put on weapons from powerful nations, including those in the west and eastern Europe, which are fuelling conflicts in Muslim countries.

“There is a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that “A wise word is the lost property of a believer”. I think it is time that governments listened to these words of the Caliph and adopted them like their lost property, rather than worrying about their coffers:

“For the sake of the good of mankind, governments should disregard fears that their economies will suffer if the arms trade is curbed. Instead, they should think about the type of world they wish to bequeath to those that follow them.”

*

We recommend that he strengthens his case by drawing on the work of noted arms conversion authority, *Dr Steven Schofield. Though not underestimating the complexity of such a change, he calls for the release of skills and finance for the rebuilding of economic, social and environmental security. In Arms Conversion – A Policy Without a Purpose, Steve says:

“Turning swords into plowshares remains one of our most evocative images of peace, reflecting the universal desire to bring an end to war and to use skills for productive rather than destructive purposes.”

Since the 1950s, Schofield points out, a permanent military-industrial complex and highly specialised arms corporations in aerospace, shipbuilding,  engineering and electronics has emerged “to satisfy the byzantine demands of the MoD” and the context is completely different from that time of restructuring after the Second World War, when there was “pent-up demand for goods made effective by wartime savings and sectors with a similar skills base such as civil aircraft, communication satellites and cruise ships, already have well-served mature civil markets”.

Curb exports and fund a major arms conversion programme

He pointed out in another report, Making Arms, Wasting Skills: “[C]entral government has a vital role to play in developing a radical, political economy of arms conversion and common security. By moving away from military force projection and arms sale promotion, the UK could carry out deep cuts in domestic procurement including the cancellation of Trident and other major offensive weapons platforms, as well as adopting comprehensive controls on arms exports, including the suspension of weapons exports to the Middle East. The substantial savings in military expenditure could help to fund a major arms conversion programme.

“Here the emphasis would be on environmental challenges, including a multi-billion pound public investment in renewable energy, particularly offshore wind and wave power, that would substantially cut the UK’s carbon emissions and reduce dependency on imported oil, gas and uranium supplies. These new industries will also generate more jobs than those lost from the restructuring of the arms industry. In this way, the UK would be taking a leading role in establishing a new form of international security framework based on disarmament and sustainable economic development”.

Will the peace movement and unions heed this message? 

*Farhad Ahmad Imam, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Surbiton, UK  

*Steve completed a doctorate on arms conversion and was co-founder of the Project on Demilitarisation in the 1990s. His most publications include Trident and Employment: The UK’s Industrial and Technological Network for Nuclear Weapons (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament); Making Arms, Wasting Skills : Alternatives to Militarism and Arms Production (Campaign Against the Arms Trade) and Local Sufficiency and Environmental Recovery (Local Economy Journal, Vol 24, No 6, pp 439-447). He lives in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

 

 

 

 


The cruel farce of ‘humanitarian intervention’

April 8, 2017

Simon Jenkins: “It is a war crime to disable, maim or poison a victim by chemical or biological means, yet it is permissible to blow them to bits. Dropping chlorine evokes howls of horror. Dropping bunker busters does not. Cluster munitions, the most horrible of delayed action weapons, remain in the arsenals of NATO armies.

Many of us are now applauding this ‘aid to Syria’

Jenkins reflects that not a week passes without some new horror emanating from the vortex of the Middle East: “So called ‘wars among the peoples’ are, like all civil wars, distinctively terrible. Cities deaden the impact of an infantry advance. Reckless bombing takes over and accidents happen. Saudi Arabia bombs a funeral party in Sanaa. Russia bombs an aid convoy and a hospital in Aleppo. Western planes bomb friendly troops outside Mosul. There is no appetite for British troops on the ground. All talk is of bombing, intervention lite”.

Britain has already contributed too much to Syria’s hell:

  • It helped America create a power vacuum in neighbouring Iraq where Isis could form and flourish.
  • It then encouraged and gave material support to the rebels against Assad in 2012, ensuring that he would need support from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.
  • American and RAF aircraft killed 80 Syrian soldiers protecting the town of Deir Ezzor from Isis.
  • British ‘intelligence’ has given America information, enabling them to kill many civilians alongside their stated targets.

Syria and the cruel farce of ‘humanitarian intervention: “Affecting to save people by bombing them from a great height is not just ineffective but immoral”

 Walking through Aleppo now

Jenkins gave many examples of this immorality and ineffectiveness – just four follow: ”Some 12,000 coalition bombing sorties have been directed at Isis in northern Iraq in the past two years. Tens of thousands of civilians have died in the ‘collateral’ carnage. In Syria, the human rights network estimates that Russian bombs have killed more Syrian civilians than Isis. Last year the Americans bombed an MSF hospital in Afghanistan. Bombs are unreliable. Stuff happens”.

He explains the appeal of airborne weapons to politicians down the ages

“For rich aggressors against poorly armed foes, they have glamour and immunity to counterattack, and have found new life in so called precision targeting and unmanned drones. In reality they have proved almost useless against fanatical soldiers with mortars and AK 47s. But they look good on television back home. They are ‘something being done’ “.

Jenkins describes the disintegration of the Middle East as a tragedy for Islam, but not the West’s business. Here we disagree, seeing it as a result of Anglo-Saxon West intervention, using soft and hard power.

The Scotsman reports that Alex Salmond, the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman, joined Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who is calling for greater effort to achieve a negotiated end to the conflict: “The British government should urge restraint on the Trump administration and throw its weight behind peace negotiations and a comprehensive political settlement.”

Corbyn: “Reconvene the Geneva peace talks and exert unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement”

The Labour leader said: “Tuesday’s horrific chemical attack was a war crime which requires urgent independent UN investigation and those responsible must be held to account. But unilateral military action without legal authorisation or independent verification risks intensifying a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people.

“What is needed instead is to urgently reconvene the Geneva peace talks and exert unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement of the conflict.”

Jenkins: Nations and peoples do have a humanitarian obligation to aid those afflicted by war, to relieve suffering, not add to it, to aid those trying to comfort war’s victims and offer sanctuary to its refugees, not to take sides, guns blazing, in other people’s civil wars:

“British politicians would do better to spend their time organising relief than shouting adjectives, banging drums and dropping bombs”.

 

 

 


Science Council of Japan panel upholds rejection of military research, aka “security studies for military purposes”

March 14, 2017

Though Japanese universities have faced a series of funding cuts from the government, a panel of the Science Council of Japan (SCJ) has proposed to uphold the organization’s postwar rejection of military research. (Update: proposal passed: https://www.rt.com/news/382346-japan-scientists-military-research)

It was recently revealed that at least 128 Japanese university researchers had accepted funding from the United States military, apparently to the tune of more than 800 million yen in the six years from the 2010 academic year.

In a new statement following a review of past statements on the issue, the council’s exploratory committee on national security and science drafted the new declaration titled, “A draft statement on security studies for military purposes”, which states the council will “succeed” the past two statements rejecting research for military purposes from the Ministry of Defense and agencies tied to the U.S. military.

The proposal will be put to debate at the panel’s final meeting on March 7, where it may be modified. If a consensus is reached, the statement will be adopted at a full council general meeting in April. Although the statement will not be binding, it is expected to affect research policies among member universities and institutions. (Update: proposal passed: https://www.rt.com/news/382346-japan-scientists-military-research)

The SCJ began to deliberate on the Defense Ministry aid program and took a cautious attitude to military research in a midterm report released in February. A minority held that there was no problem with such research if it was for defense purposes only, but it was felt that it is very difficult to draw a clear line between defensive and offensive weapons technology. That being the case, the scientific community should aim to build a consensus not to accept research support from military-related organizations.

After the end of World War II, the Science Council of Japan (SCJ), established in 1949 and now comprising over 2,000 scientists in fields from engineering to the humanities to the natural sciences, made the decisions to ban military research, twice issuing statements on military research; one in 1950 rejecting research for “war purposes,” and another in 1967 rejecting research for “military purposes.”

These promises made by Japanese scientists are consistent with the Constitution of Japan, Article 9 of which renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation and the maintenance of military forces that could be used for war.

Recently however, these principles have been challenged by the “proactive peace” policy of the Abe administration, which has now permitted the export of arms and related technologies. The Japanese government and some industries have promoted military-academia joint research for the production of dual-use technologies, such as lasers.

Scientists are concerned that military research violates academic freedom because the achievements of military-funded research ( read more here) will not be open to the public without the permission of the military, which threatens the foundation of science. JPC wants the government to boost basic research subsidies, rather than pouring vast sums into military R&D.


The Japan Coalition Against Military Research in Academia, established on September 30th, 2016, acts as a liaison committee for movements against military research, peace movements, university unions and citizens. Co-chief organizers are:

Satoru Ikeuchi, Professor Emeritus of Astrophysics, Nagoya University Ryuzaburo Noda, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, Okayama University Katsuo Nishiyama, Professor Emeritus of Social Medicine, Shiga University of Medical Science

Its website explains: “We are responsible for not repeating the bitter experience of participating in war through military research. Such research is inconsistent with the principles of higher education and the development of science and technology for a better future. We are concerned that military research will distort the sound development of science and technology and cause men, women and children alike to lose their trust and faith in science. We sincerely appeal to all scientists, workers in universities and research institutes, undergraduate and graduate students and citizens to join us. Let’s unite scientists and citizens together for peace!”

 

 

 


Social media: for militarising the young and pacifying the attacked

March 3, 2017

The blurb: “Social media has become an increasingly vital tool for the armed forces in the 21st Century.

“Not only in order to reach out to a wider and younger audience globally for recruitment and information purposes but as a new front in warfare. What soldiers, airmen and sailors post online can be crucial to winning the hearts and minds of local populations, weakening the enemy’s narrative and as an instrument in the proliferation of cyber warfare”.

The SMi PR group held its 6th Annual Social Media Within the Defence and Military Sector in the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury. Their programme:

  • to present the latest concepts and ideas on how to enhance the outreach of the military in the digital sphere,
  • the integration of social media activities within the whole spectrum of operations conducted by the military both at home and abroad,
  • to hear from some of the leading voices of social media within the industry and NATO and allied militaries,
  • to focus on the effects of social media on and off the battlefield through training and application,
  • to learn from the commercial sector on how to create an effective social media strategy,
  • to learn from the military about how they are utilizing digital media channels to project their activities to a wider audience,
  • to discover how social media is intertwining with other aspects of warfare to create a multi-levelled war zone both in the real world and the virtual one
  • and to discover how popular social media brands operate with militaries in a defence environment.

The only named sponsor: Thales, the French multinational company that designs and builds electrical systems and provides services for the aerospace, defence, ground transportation and security market.

 

 

 

 


Democracy in action: Swiss people had a direct say in military procurement

November 21, 2016

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Many people in Switzerland, a country which has not fought a war in 200 years, are convinced there is no military threat now, nor in the foreseeable future. Swiss voters therefore, in 2014, blocked the government’s $3.5 billion deal to replace its fleet of Northrop F-5 Tiger fighters with 22 Gripen fighter jets from Saab.

Vested commercial interests and the Swiss upper and lower houses of parliament backed the deal, mounting a campaign of expensive advertisements favour of buying the jets, but despite this public relations onslaught, Swiss Socialists, Greens and the Group for Switzerland without an Army secured a referendum by collecting the 50,000 signatures needed.

gripen2-graphic

Reuters reported that around 53.4% voted against the government’s proposal and twelve cantons rejected the creation of a fund for the acquisition – the no vote was especially strong in the west of the country.

Andreas Weibel of the Group for Switzerland without an Army, emphasises that only in Switzerland do people have a direct say in their country’s military procurement.

Two years later, however, as Flight Global records, a second effort will be made to  acquire these new fighter planes: defence minister Guy Parmelin has announced that a study into the acquisition of a new fighter will be submitted to parliament in 2017.

 

 

 


I can no longer wear any poppy

November 13, 2016

drone-killed-children

As the blog summarised here says: “The red poppy was intended as a symbol that demanded that a generation should never again be destroyed by war”. That intention is cruelly and repeatedly ignored by many politicians and corporates with a vested interest in the profits of preparing for war and don the red poppy.

The blogger continues:

“On another Armistice Day and with another sorry line of politicians trying desperately to look earnest as they lay poppy wreaths at the cenotaph, the passage of time means that there are no surviving veterans of the Great War and increasingly fewer survivors of the Second World War.

“There was a time when our politicians understood the consequence of war as some of them experienced the brutality of conflict at first hand. Now dead; they have been replaced by politicians who are happy to engage in war from a distance and only if their own children are definitely not sent away to fight and die or fight and be maimed both physically and mentally. The closest these new Whitehall warriors come to the carnage is signing the contract that furnishes dictators with cluster bombs and the delivery platforms to blow away women and children. Look into their eyes as they remember the fallen and look into their morality as they place profits from the arms trade above human life. (more…)

The blog ends:

“In Flanders fields the poppies grow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.”

“Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae died in France during late January 1918 after contracting cerebral meningitis brought on by pneumonia. The legend persists that upon completing the poem he crushed the page up and threw it away in disgust at the futility of war.

red-white-poppies

“We will never know what this man felt about his words being used to encourage others to hate and fight and die. With world governments now in the control of gangsters and idiots, the war to end all wars just became even more of a joke.

“A white poppy mourns everyone who died as a result of war and not just those carrying arms . . . the red poppy was intended as a symbol that demanded that a generation should never again be destroyed by war”.

 

 

 


NATO wargames condemned by the United States Conference of Mayors

July 4, 2016

 

The United States Conference of Mayors, town and city leaders administering populations greater than 30,000, condemned NATO’s Anaconda War Games on Russia’s border as increasing the threat of nuclear conflict.

NATO esthonia 16

“NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia”, according to Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-general

But Sam Jones, the FT’s defence and security editor, reports at length on ‘European wargames’. NATO has been supporting Kevadtorm (“Spring Storm”): a military ‘exercise’ in which around 1,000 troops from Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, the US and Portugal, have been deployed to Estonia to train and ‘play the enemy’ (above).

Across the Baltic, under the alliance’s aegis, Latvia held “Summer Shield” with 1,100 troops, Lithuania has begun “Iron Wolf”, with 5,000 troops and in June, “Saber Strike” saw thousands of US troops airlifted into the entire region and in Poland, “Anakonda”, a 31,000-man war game closed a few weeks ago.

It is said that NATO is worried by Russia’s plans

More than 2,000 exercises and wargames, snap drills and rapid mobilisation exercises will be held, that could see tens of thousands of troops deployed in Russia’s western military zone. NATO’s defence ministers in Brussels will ask for 3,000 to 4,000 NATO troops, in four battalions — one American, one British, one Canadian and one German — to be stationed in the three Baltic states and Poland on a “persistent” basis.

The alliance’s political unity is being challenged by a divergence of views

Next week Warsaw’s NATO biennial summit will take place but some NATO members have other priorities: Southern European members are preoccupied by the Mediterranean migrant crisis and Jones reports that Germany, whose diplomats are known to have the closest ties to the Russian government, fears that NATO is entering into a wildly irresponsible game of military bluff.

With activity in Afghanistan winding down, the Wales NATO summit focussed on responding to the Ukrainian crisis, but ‘dovish voices’ in the alliance believed further mobilisation would be too provocative at the time.

Jones writes that Russia perceives the US game-plan as a military formula of “regime change” to topple or destabilise governments that do not bend to western economic and democratic values.

Russia says that its borderland military build-up is a response to NATO’s own growing military presence. In May 2014, Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian general staff, speaking at the Moscow International Security Conference, described NATO’s reinforcement of the Baltic states and Poland as part of a grander game to expand aggressively the alliance’s influence in Ukraine and, by implication, Russia itself. Successive conflicts after 1990, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the Arab Spring were seen as part of a continuum, as were the Rose revolution in Georgia (2003), the Orange revolution in Ukraine (2004), the green movement in Iran (2009) and most recently, the Syrian civil war.

The Rand Corporation is a think-tank founded by the Douglas Aircraft Company and now funded by the US government, university collaborators & private sources, with clients including the CIA and Defence Advanced Research Projects. It has concluded that with its current forces, “NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members”.

However, one general says it would be unable to deploy “east of the Oder” in the event of outright war. It would simply be too vulnerable during transit and deployment and the logistical planning for the spearhead rapid reaction brigade VJTF would be hampered by:

  • private-sector ownership of infrastructure across Europe, which means NATO now has to deal with many interlocutors to shift even the most modest number of tanks around the continent;
  • military vehicles which do not comply with some countries’ exhaust emission rules;
  • special permits taking weeks to sign off, which have to be applied for before each exercise;
  • though the VJTF is supposed to deploy in no more than 48 hours, the truck drivers transporting its tanks and artillery still need to take their EU-mandated minimum sleeping hours and
  • it takes an average of five days to get the right clearances in place to move troops around Europe, far short of the promised 48 hours rapid response time.

us conf mayors

 The United States Conference of Mayors’ resolution added: “The Obama administration has not only reduced the US nuclear stockpile less than any post-Cold War presidency, but also decided to spend on trillion dollars to maintain and modernize its nuclear bombs and warheads, production facilities, delivery systems, and command and control”. It seems, however, that NATO, backed by the Rand Corporation is calling for additional expenditure to counter the alleged Russian threat.

The country’s mayors are a voice of peace and reason in the face of mounting influence by the foreign policy establishment and defense lobbyists, and have rendered similar resolutions calling for the United States to pursue a less threatening foreign policy for 11 consecutive years.