George Macpherson: “Can Britain convert its ‘fighting force’ into a ‘force for nonlethal defence and law enforcement’?”

July 13, 2018

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An extract from an article by George Macpherson

Our ‘national defence’ forces do a lot of good: let’s keep them.

We are not against men and women in uniform – simply against the violence that is a small part of their existence. There are so many ‘better things to do’ that, in the long term, are less expensive.

  • Our politicians, influenced strongly by arms manufacturers, allow war while, personally, keeping away from any battlefield.
  • Every missile, mine, lethal drone, bullet and bomb exported supports our treasury and pension funds.
  • Our children are brought up to admire military exploits and stories of valour.
  • We celebrate our assassins and condone distant killing by remote control.

Can Britain, also, convert its ‘fighting force’ into a ‘force for nonlethal defence and law enforcement’?

This is a suggestion as to how – by keeping: the command structure; the recruitment; the excellent training in so many artisan and technical skills; the great engineering ingenuity; the communications excellence; the medical expertise; the pomp and pageantry; awards for bravery; the camaraderie and team spirit; the career structure; the overseas bases to meet emergencies; the sporting teams and the rules of conduct.

In my experience, all these existing things are not to be much bettered –I served three years in the RAF in the 1950s. Since then I have worked for other large organisations, but the RAF was outstanding in its procedures, humanity and efficiency.

Let us redefine the role of our military services and leave out weapons of war, mass destruction and combat. Instead, let’s expand into the design and development of nonlethal defence equipment for emergency use against crazed violence, criminal acts and despotic rulers.

Let’s refine prevention nets, vehicle cripplers, darting, Tasers, anaesthetic gases and, of course, digital intelligence to predict future incidents and prevent them.

Let’s redirect our spending towards, for example, disaster relief; housing and services; renewable energy; rapid response to pandemics; the United Nations and international law and order; and environmental conservation.

Read the complete article here: https://thefriend.org/magazine/issue/7600

 

Note that the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) has adopted a non-lethal strategy in along the border with Bangladesh. The force uses arms only for self-defence and fires weapons which are non-lethal.

 

 

 

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Air Commodore Alastair Mackie, CBE, DFC and Bar, RAF pilot and CND campaigner: an appreciation

June 26, 2018

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In the 1980s Alistair Mackie signed the Just Defence Charter and, after reaffirming support by email on 15/01/2009, agreed to be placed on the C3000 mailing list. The editor now regrets that his e-messages were not saved, most being a few appreciative words whenever CND’s work was mentioned.

Appointed acting pilot officer in 1941, he was staying at The Royal Empire Society, now the Royal Commonwealth Society, near St James’s Palace. Unable to sleep, he made his way to the roof, saw the capital ablaze from an air raid and vowed to hit back.

In June 1944, during the Normandy landings, Mackie dropped soldiers and supplies from his Dakota aircraft, avoiding intense anti-aircraft fire. Other incidents of bravery and initiative are described in the Telegraph obituary (paywall, see text in link to Bruce Kent’s post).

In the 1950s, when Alastair Mackie was commanding a Royal Air Force squadron of nuclear-armed Vulcan bombers, the Times obituary reports, he realised that the degree of target accuracy in the radar assisted Vulcan was irrelevant – with nuclear weapons the area of destruction would be vast.

After moving to a senior role at the Ministry of Defence and seeing political machinations at close quarters, Mackie became a staunch critic of the government’s nuclear policy and vice-president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). He felt that nuclear weapons were incompatible with his Christian faith and resigned from RAF at the age of 45, (see Bruce Kent’s CND post which includes the Telegraph obituary).

Mackie remained convinced that Britain’s nuclear strategy was ineffective, immoral and wasteful. In a 2009 letter to The Times he called Trident a “stick-on hairy chest virility symbol”.

His first book was Some of the People all the Time (Book Guild Publishing in 2006) and this post ends with a reflection in the memoirs of his service with the RAF, Flying Scot: An Airman’s Story.(2012):

“Man’s inhumanity to man has given place to man’s suicidal inhumanity to the planet . . . My shame at having been part of it as a Vulcan pilot is mitigated only by decades of membership of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.”

Alistair Mackie: born on August 3, 1922, died on May 19, 2018

 

 

 

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IALANA’s work includes developing mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of international disputes

May 3, 2018

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The International Association Of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) attended the  UN’s second Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (23 April -4 May 2018) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Its presentation on the nuclear arms race may be read here:  https://www.ialana.info/2018/04/nuclear-arms-racing-is-antithetical-to-the-npt/.

The Chair-designate of the first session is Ambassador Adam Bugajski of Poland (right). Read more here.

IALANA is an international association of lawyers and lawyers’ organisations working for the elimination of nuclear arms, the strengthening of international law and the development of effective mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of international disputes.

  • Founded in 1988 in Stockholm IALANA has grown into a fully-fledged international citizens’ organization with consultative status with the United Nations. IALANA has also expanded its scope of action to include:
  • efforts to abolish all types of inhumane weapons and to control the international arms trade,
  • advancing concepts of security based on the application of law and legal mechanisms, development of non-offensive defence and implementation of confidence building measures,
  • encouraging the establishment and use of the International Criminal Court and other legal procedures to address crimes against international humanitarian law.

IALANA has affiliates all over the world including: Costa Rica, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, and the United States of America. Its international offices are in Berlin, Germany (Head Office), Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand (Pacific Office) and New York (United Nations Office)

 

 

 

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Noam Chomsky on true defence

April 28, 2018

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John Bickersteth died on January 29th, 2018

March 3, 2018

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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)

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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.

 

 

 

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In Great Russell Street, Blooms­bury: a plaque for Joseph Rotblat, the scientist who worked to avert the threat of nuclear war

November 11, 2017

Photograph by Valerie Flessati, who designed two peace trails, one through central London and one from Tavistock Square to the Imperial War Museum

This news came from Peter van den Dungen, who attended the unveiling of a plaque for Joseph Rotblat, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientist who worked to avert the threat of nuclear war.

It was placed on the large building in Museum Mansions, Great Russell Street, Blooms­bury  where the Pugwash organisation – of which he was a founder – has an office, in which Professor Rotblat worked for many years. About 90 people were there and afterwards attended a reception in the Polish embassy.

The embassy’s website:

“The plaque is the result of a collaboration between the Polish Heritage Society UK (PHS), a charity dedicated to celebrating the achievements of Poles in the UK and their contribution to British life, the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in the United Kingdom and the British Pugwash”.

The Camden New Journal adds that the plaque was funded by money given to residents and civic groups to thank them for ‘accommodating’ the shooting of part of the film Wonder Woman in Bloomsbury, which – appropriately – had an anti-war message.

Joseph Rotblat, who described himself as “a Pole with a British passport”, was born in Warsaw on 4th November, 1908, and carried out his initial research into nuclear fission there, moving to Britain just before the outbreak of Second World War.  Read on here.

In 1944, he joined the Los Alamos Laboratory in the US as part of the Manhattan Project, which ultimately led to the development of nuclear weapons.

Shocked by the use of nuclear weapons against Japan, Rotblat was determined that his research should serve only peaceful ends and devoted himself to studying the medical and biological uses of radiation. In 1949, he became Professor of Physics at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. 

Rotblat became one of the most prominent critics of the nuclear arms race. In 1957, he chaired the first of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international organisation that brought together scholars and public figures from both sides of the Iron Curtain and around the world to work towards reducing the danger of armed conflict and to seek solutions to global security threats, particularly those related to nuclear warfare.

The Nobel Peace Prize 1995 was awarded jointly to Joseph Rotblat and Pugwash Conferences “for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms”

From our archives:

  • Professor Joseph Rotblat (CBE) was one of 32 signatories of the CHARTER FOR ‘JUST DEFENCE’.
  • In 1998 Peter van den Dungen met Professor Rotblat in London and had a long discussion about the peace museum, which Rotblat wished to support – but based in London, initially perhaps in the Dome. . .
  • Rotblat’s voice may be heard briefly in this podcast and in the powerful video War No More, with Bruce Kent, Martin Bell, Caroline Lucas, and Desmond Tutu, who spoke about the defensive defence policies of Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and New Zealand.

And the latest word this year comes from his close friend and colleague Bruce Kent:

“Let’s return to Joseph Rotblat, who years ago took us back to fundamentals. In his ‘A World without War’ speech in 2002 he said: ‘getting rid of nuclear weapons is not enough. To safeguard the future of humanity we have to eliminate not only the instruments of waging war, but war itself.’

“Time to write to your local paper explaining what a lot of dangerous nonsense is today passing for defence”.

 

 

 

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Will Japan be ‘reset”, maintaining the pacifist principles enshrined in its constitution?

September 29, 2017

Following Shinzo Abe’s dissolution of the Japanese parliament for a snap election on October 22, Seiji Maehara, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, announced to his MPs that he would not field any candidates. He encouraged them to apply instead to run for a new party established by the governor of Tokyo only two days ago.

Tokyo’s governor,  Yuriko Koike, has announced the formation of the Party of Hope (Kibo no To) to contest the election She  laid out her party’s vision: to “reset” Japan, operating free of the interests of the political establishment and maintaining its pacifist principles, which are enshrined in its constitution.

Maehara’s proposal to shift allegiance to Koike’s movement was unanimously approved at a general meeting of DP MPs the same day. Under the plan, all DP candidates for the general election have been asked to abandon party membership and apply to join the official ticket of Kibo no To.

“I made this proposal after thinking about what would realize a change in power again,” Maehara told DP MPs during the meeting.  According to Maehara’s plan, the DP will give “full support” to Koike’s party in election campaigns, including financial support for former DP members running on the Kibo no To ticket.

During a TV interview on Wednesday, Koike said her party will choose applicants from the DP after close consideration of their views on constitutional revision and security issues.

 

 

 

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