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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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.”

 

 

 

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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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Ministry for Peace initiative – recruiting

January 28, 2018

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“We must wage peace with sophistication and commitment just as we now wage war.” Marianne Williamson, US Department of Peace Initiative

In 2003 a bill was presented to Parliament to pave the way for the formation of a Ministry for Peace. Introducing his bill, Labour MP John McDonnell called for a new Government Department whose sole purpose would be to focus the resources of government on the promotion of peace and the eventual abolition of war. Diana Basterfield was active in organising meetings and a support network

In 2011 he set up and chaired the all-party group on conflict prevention and conflict resolution whose secretariat was provided by Engi. The group went into ‘abeyance’ seeking another way forward in 2016.

Jeremy Corbyn has revealed that he will appoint a minister for peace and disarmament if he becomes Prime Minister. The Labour leader outlined his plan in an hour-long documentary, directed by award-winning filmmaker Ken Loach, detailing his interactions with party supporters. A brief video on the subject may be seen here.

In November, Conscience met the Shadow Minister for Peace & Disarmament, Mr Fabian Hamilton, MP for Leeds North East at a meeting where many gathered to hear what a Minister for Peace & Disarmament would really do, what their role would consist of, and suggest their own thoughts on what the Minister’s remit should be.

A member of Scientists for Global Responsibility has forwarded information from Conscience, which campaigns for a progressive increase in the amount of UK tax spent on peacebuilding, and a corresponding decrease in the amount spent on war and preparation for war.

Conscience: Taxes for Peace not War is looking for someone to write an evidence-based academic paper on the pros and cons of having a Minister for Peace/Ministry for Peace in the UK based on experiences elsewhere and anticipated benefits here. The post will be fully funded by Conscience.

Details are here:

http://www.conscienceonline.org.uk/2018/01/conscience-is-hiring/

 

 

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Korea: a welcome development

January 3, 2018

A fence decorated with ribbons carrying messages calling for the reunification of the two Koreas at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, South Korea

The government of South Korea has invited Pyongyang to talks about participating in next month’s Winter Olympics in a swift response to proposals by Kim Jong-un  to improve relations.

Removing negative remarks the news is that Cho Myoung-gyon, Seoul’s unification minister in charge of inter-Korean relations, has proposed a meeting on January 9.between high-ranking government officials of the two nations at the border village of Panmunjom, the only portion of the Korean demilitarized zone where South and North Korean forces stand face-to-face.

“We hope that the South and North can sit face to face and discuss the participation of the North Korean delegation at the Pyeongchang Games as well as other issues of mutual interest for the improvement of inter-Korean ties,” Cho Myoung-gyon said, “We think that the suspended inter-Korean communication channels should be immediately restored.”

Two Sisters monument on the outskirts of Pyeongyang. The two women symbolize the two Koreas and the desire for reunification.

Kim Jong-un emphasised the importance of improving relations between the two Koreas and referred to the possibility of direct talks between the two sides. He said: “The North and the South should promote bilateral contact . . . to remove mutual misunderstanding and distrust.”

Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, ordered his staff to act on Mr Kim’s offer of dialogue “Improving inter-Korean relations and resolving the North Korean nuclear issue are not separate from each other,” Mr Moon said, adding that South Korea would consult its allies ahead of any talks.

Mr Kim also expressed interest in sending a delegation to the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month

North and South Korea have occasionally collaborated in sporting occasions, sending a joint team to an international table tennis tournament in 1991 and marching under a shared flag, though with separate teams, at the Olympics in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004.

Kim added: “The Winter Olympic Games will serve as a good occasion for demonstrating our nation’s prestige and we earnestly wish the Olympic Games a success. We are willing to dispatch our delegation and adopt other necessary measures.”

 A peace statue at the 3rd of 4 tunnels

 

Will reunification – the hope of many – symbolised above, be realised one day?

 

 

 

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On the steps of the MoD, Bruce Kent presents ‘peace prizes’ to activists from MEDACT, ICAN, WILPF and many others

December 12, 2017

This account was prompted by a tweet by Roslyn Cook (campaigning in support of the UN nuclear weapons ban treaty and a global nuclear weapon free zone) and an article in Beat (the “go to” multi-platform radio station for entertaining & informing young adults in the South East)

On the 10th December, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to ICAN, for its “work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”.

On Saturday, the day before the award in Oslo, Bruce Kent hosted an ‘award ceremony’ at the MoD in celebration of the Nobel Peace Prize – which honours the tireless efforts of thousands of people across the world who brought about the nuclear ban.

His ‘peace prize’ was presented to activists from @Medact @ICAN_UK @WILPF and many others on the steps of the Ministry of Defence in London. Read a fuller account on an allied website.

Beat reported extracts from Bruce Kent’s address

Bruce, the vice president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), thinks that Britain is “uniquely placed” to become the first nuclear power to “come off the fence”. During a period of heightened nuclear tensions arising from North Korea’s military tests, said no one wins in nuclear war: “It is a very dangerous time because a man like Trump really is not sufficiently informed to know what he is dealing with. He is still living in a kind of cowboy world, where the one with the bigger gun somehow wins. Well nobody wins with a nuclear war – there is no winning. We have had precarious times before, like the Cuban crisis, but this is quite a dangerous one – granted his volatile method of talking and thinking.”

He said the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent would be a ‘gross waste of money’:

“They always talk about it as if it was just the building of the things. But if you add the building and the running of them it is something like £300 billion which could be spent on housing or hospitals, or social services, or overseas aid – that money does not get challenged.”

We note that in November 2012 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) outlined its projections for year-on-year spending up to 2016/17 (above).

Mr Kent said the UK does not have an independent nuclear weapon

The country depends entirely on the Americans to supply the missiles: “If America or Trump said no more missiles for Britain, in six months we would no longer have a nuclear arsenal. We would have the warheads, but we wouldn’t have anywhere to put them. We are well placed to be the first nuclear power to come off the fence.”

Asked if he thinks North Korea is a particular threat, Mr Kent said: “I think North Korea has nuclear weapons because of the world it lives in. It is looking out at the American fleet, it is looking at nuclear weapons pointed at it and it thinks to itself, just like Mrs May probably, that it is safer to have nuclear than not to have them. I think it is more dangerous for everybody. The answer to the North Korea problem is to get rid of American nuclear weapons from that area and de-target North Korea – not to encourage them to copy us. If nuclear weapons provide security there is no common sense in saying that other countries should not have them.”

MEDACT, ICAN and WILPF staged a ceremony which included the presentation of a handmade Nobel Peace Prize coin and speeches. They also called on the Government to sign up to the newly approved UN treaty that bans nuclear weapons, and staged a “die in”, where the 25 activists lay sprawled on the steps of the Ministry of Defence in London (above) to highlight the human cost of nuclear war.

 

 

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Pyeongchang hope: the Olympic Games of Peace

November 22, 2017

Ice-sculpture

In an interview with CNN, South Korean President Moon Jae-in recalled that the 1988 Seoul Games had played a part in ending the Cold War era by bringing countries together and expressed the hope that the 2018 Winter Olympics will help to build relationships in Asia.

He continued: “I hope that North Korea will also participate, which will provide a very good opportunity for inter-Korean peace and reconciliation. And to this, we are closely consulting and cooperating with the IOC.”

North and South Korea regularly compete in friendlies and international competition, notably the Asian Cup. Earlier this year, a qualifier for the Asian Cup — held in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang — attracted more than 40,000 fans to the Kim Il Sung Stadium. President Moon believes that, over the coming years, sport offers a chance for all nations in the to reconcile.:

“After the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, the 2020 Summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing. So in two years’ term, the Olympic Games will be held Korea, Japan and China and I believe that this can provide a good opportunity to build peace and cooperation within the Northeast Asian region”.

Dr Kyungjin Song, President of the Institute for Global Economics in Seoul, responded to a negative article in the Financial Times which focussed mainly on the number of unsold tickets and the threat of disruptive provocation from the North. She addressed the issue of direct and immediate benefits from such big international events by saying, “Economic benefits are both immediate and long-term. Intangible long-term benefits such as improved national image and institutional capacity are even greater” and reminding all concerned to “Beware of short-termism”.

CNN stresses the positive:

  • New infrastructure completed includes highways as well as a direct train line from the country’s main international airport to Pyeongchang and other host locations.
  • The government will also rollout a 5G mobile network around the venues. Facilities have been constructed on schedule.
  • Chinese diplomats close to the matter are alleged to have said that President Xi Jinping will confirm his attendance at the opening or the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympic Games, or both, at the forthcoming Korea-China bilateral summit in December.
  • Two North Korean figure skaters have qualified but the country’s organising committee has yet to decide whether it will participate.

“We’d all like to see North Korea participate,” says Mr Kim of the organising committee. “The more, the merrier.”

And many will wish Dr Kyungjin Song well as she urges Korea to redouble its efforts towards participation of the North Korean team to make the Pyeongchang Games the Olympic Games of Peace.

 

 

 

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