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.”










America’s Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

December 8, 2019

A Cwyllynfell reader has drawn attention to Daniel Bessner’s interview with historian Stephen Wertheim. Stephen is Deputy Director of Research and Policy – a co-founder and non-paid Fellow of the Quincy Institute. for Responsible Statecraft: the first modern think tank to devote itself to a policy of “military restraint” and diplomatic engagement.

Its mission is to promote “ideas that move U.S. foreign policy away from endless war and toward vigorous diplomacy in the pursuit of international peace”.


Daniel Bessner – the Anne H.H. and Kenneth B. Pyle Associate Professor in American Foreign Policy, University of Washington – explains that almost all national security think tanks share a bipartisan commitment to the notion that world peace (or at least the “national interest”) depends on the United States asserting preponderant military, political, economic, and cultural power. After giving a brief history of America’s influential think-tanks from 1946, Daniel Bessner discussed the institute and its prospects with Stephen Wertheim.

Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1970

Wertheim (below right) points out that recently significant numbers of Americans have come together around campaigns to stop the invasion of Iraq, campaigns to support the nuclear deal with Iran, and campaigns to end U.S. participation in the war in Yemen, adding: “But what has been missing is a larger effort dedicated to transforming U.S. foreign policy wholesale, not only in particular ways and at particular moments. That’s where the Quincy Institute comes in”.

Quincy could make a significant contribution simply by offering to the public a systematically different world role for the United States. Its point of view counters the consensus on the use of force.

The institute wants to make peace the norm and war the exception. Its members don’t think the United States needs to be the world’s indispensable nation, especially if that means using military force to overthrow or antagonize regimes that don’t threaten us

Wertheim believes that grassroots activism is essential and has no patience with experts who look down on activists and ordinary people; though he agrees that some parts of the left fetishize the grassroots, he points out that others fetishize experts as well. His position is that the grassroots and experts need one another”. Two reasons are given:

  • Experts who are taking on the status quo are going to be effective only if people ultimately stand up and raise hell (or politely call their members of Congress).
  • In turn, ordinary citizens don’t have the time or the expertise to build a comprehensive program for foreign policy. This isn’t an easy task even for people who are specifically trained and paid to do it. A democratic public requires experts and leaders to crystallize alternatives and facilitate debate.

We need better experts and a more informed and mobilized public, not one or the other.

Wertheim says that the foreign policy conversation in Washington and in the mainstream media is dominated by elites—some real experts and some not—who are more hawkish than many actual scholars of foreign policy. Those who are prominent in the media and roam the halls of power in Washington are deeply disconnected from where most American citizens stand – far more enthusiastic about the use of military force than the public. Foreign policy professionals are discouraged from criticizing the status quo and demanding change. Most think tanks depend on funding from the defense industry and governments—the U.S. government and, shockingly, foreign governments:

“There’s far less money in peace, not because most citizens and businesses wouldn’t benefit from peace, but because most donors and lobbyists benefit from war or permanent mobilization for war. To preserve a career in the small world of national security professionals, it’s safer to maintain friendly relations with everyone”.

Daniel Bessner (left) poses this question: “Let’s say the institute succeeds, and in ten years the United States no longer takes military primacy as the sine qua non of its global role and has closed most of its 800-plus military bases. What then? Are we returning to an era of great power competition in which China has its sphere of influence, Russia has its sphere, and the United States has its sphere? Or are we looking at something new, a post-national politics?”

Wertheim responds: “I take your point, but Quincy’s is as positive an agenda as you’ll see in a foreign policy think tank. In fact, I think it’s more genuinely positive than the establishment stance of fetishizing military force as the essence of engagement in the world.

“Force isn’t engagement. It ends human life. It is the ultimate negative. Military restraint is the prerequisite of a genuinely positive vision”.

He continues: “Climate change and neoliberalism pose bigger challenges to the American people than any rival nation-state. Our foreign policy should reflect those priorities. We are not going to address the climate crisis unless we tamp down military competition, ramp up investments in green technologies and reach a legitimate bargain both among the major polluters—China, the United States, Europe, India, and Russia—and between the Global North and the Global South . . . None of this can be accomplished if we continue to pursue global military hegemony, which exacerbates rather than mitigates the climate crisis and the neoliberal order, and consumes more than half of the federal discretionary budget”.

Obama and Trump, in their different and partial ways, expressed interest in moving away from militaristic policies, Wertheim notes, but each struggled to find advisers and appointees who could give form to their instincts. As a result, U.S. foreign policy remained largely unchanged. If personnel is policy, Quincy can change policy by training personnel who are prepared to staff presidential administrations, building a cadre able to answer technical questions of foreign policy while simultaneously addressing larger questions concerning the nature of power, governance, and sovereignty in the twenty-first century.

Bessner responded that connecting these two realms—the technical and the philosophical—would be a significant achievement – the most important long-term function of the Quincy Institute.

To read the interview in full click here.






Richard Reeve: “Britain should reconsider its costly and futile military presence”

December 4, 2019

Rethinking Security was formerly known as the Ammerdown Group, taking its name from the Ammerdown Centre, where the network has met to review and plan its work. It is a network of academics, activists and those UK-based organisations of which many readers will be members. From its website:

“We work for a just and peaceful world, based on approaches that address the underlying causes of conflict and insecurity. We have a shared concern that the current approach to national security in the UK and beyond often hampers efforts for peace, justice and ecological sustainability. We are committed to building a much richer understanding of what security really means, and of what is required to build sustainable security”.

Richard Reeve its co-ordinator recently wrote to the Financial Times which published his letter under the title: “Britain should reconsider its costly and futile military presence”. He opened with a statement which may surprise many:

From Belize to Brunei, the UK remains second only to the US in its number of overseas military bases.

He then pointed out that against such threats as climate change and inequality the UK’s rising global military presence is futile, costly and dangerous.

  • new facilities have opened in Oman and Bahrain since 2018,
  • a base in the Caribbean is mooted,
  • scraps of empire from Ascension Island to Diego Garcia via Cyprus and Gibraltar remain dedicated to projecting British and US military influence,
  • though British diplomats are becoming concentrated in London, British troops and equipment are increasingly “forward deployed” beyond the UK,
  • HMS Montrose was permanently stationed in the Gulf in April and
  • there are plans to base a second frigate in Asia to resecure for the Royal Navy a permanent presence in the Pacific.

He describes the navy’s new aircraft carriers as “four acres of sovereign territory”, noting that last week HMS Queen Elizabeth was promoting UK arms exports and hosting the chiefs of the US and Japanese navies in Chesapeake Bay. America’s Defense Department sees the QE as the Royal Navy’s largest-ever generation of warfighting ship, to be used for airborne early warning and anti-submarine warfare.

Richard ends by posing two questions:

  • Does UK want to prioritise projecting military power to enforce the status quo which Richard sees as being ‘precipitous’?
  • Or should it seek to understand the world and tackle the issues that really make people and states feel insecure?

He reflects: “If we want to change the world, we will have to change ourselves as well.”





War cannot solve any problem. . . If you solve one by waging war, four more spring up

September 2, 2019

Dawn News, one of Pakistan’s 24 hour news channels, reports that Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the first International Sikh convention, which began on Saturday at the Governor’s House in Lahore and was attended by Sikh delegates from the United States, United Kingdom and Europe.

Prime Minister Imran said that he realised that Kartarpur and Nankana Sahib were as holy for Sikhs as Makkah and Madina were for Muslims, and promised to make access for Sikh pilgrims as easy as possible.

“This is not a favour, this is our duty,” he said.

He also addressed the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan and expressed particular concern for the residents of Indian-occupied Kashmir, who have been under a restrictive lockdown for the past 27 days.

The premier told the attendees of the convention that his overtures for peace had been dismissed by the Indian government, and the latter had continued to put forward conditions before it would engage, commenting: “[They acted] like a superpower does when telling a poor country to ‘do this, do that’. I was very surprised”.He denounced the idea of war, saying:

“I do not believe that war can solve any problem. Whoever thinks that, is not sensible, has not read world history. If you solve one problem by waging war, four more spring up because of it. Everyone who has tried to solve problems by waging war has lost, even in victory. It takes years for a country to recover from the losses.”








Global Days of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS)

August 22, 2019

Gill Hurle of MAW draws attention to GDAMS 2019 Final Report which presents a summary of 2019 Global Days of Action on Military Spending, including an overview, highlights, materials and a compilation of all actions carried out, accompanied by a selection of pictures.

During 26 days, from April 13 to May 9, over 110 GDAMS events took place in 27 countries all around the world:

USA, Canada, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina, Norway, Finland, Germany, UK, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Cyprus, Cameroon, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, India, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.

See more on GDAM’s Facebook page

As in previous years, these events varied in shape and size depending on countries and partners, generating a whole range of actions that included street protests/demonstrations, seminars, press conferences, joint statements, interviews, workshops, stalls, leafleting, petitions, letters, peace vigils, penny polls, school rallies, videos and photos.

These diverse actions highlighted the unacceptable global military expenditure of $1.82 trillion in 2018 while linking it to different national and local realities.

GDAMS 2019 Final Report

Download the full report here









Japanese people are proud that their defence forces have not killed one citizen of any other country for seventy-four years

July 25, 2019


During the recent election, Japan’s ruling coalition fell short of a two-thirds supermajority in the upper house of parliament. This means that the prime minister Shinzo Abe would not be able to revise the country’s pacifist constitution – his lifelong ambition, according to the FT’s Robin Harding.

Earlier in May, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cited regional security concerns as one reason to revise the country’s war-constitution. He spoke at a rally on Constitution Memorial day, the national holiday marking the 70th anniversary of the US-drafted and imposed document that has shaped Japan’s domestic and international politics since 1947. He hoped to effect this change by 2020, when the Olympic Summer Games will be held in Tokyo.

As we noted earlier, in 2015, when changes were made to Japan’s Self-Defence Forces (JSDF) by laws passed permitting the force to fight overseas for the first time since the second world war, there were reports of 100,000 protesters in the streets outside Japan’s parliament (below). An estimated 25,000 people also gathered at the Shibuya crossing in central Tokyo. The most recent polls on the issue, conducted by Nikkei, showed 46% against change versus 45%.

Yuki Tatsumi, a senior associate and director of the Japan program at the Stimson Centre in Washington DC says that “Japanese people have been proud that their defence forces have not had to fire a shot to kill the citizens of other countries up to this point, even with their participation in UN peacekeeping operations. I think they would very much like to continue to keep it that way.”

The editor of Japan’s Asahi Shimbun emphasises that Article 9 in no way bans the government from using armed force to protect the lives and freedom of its people from foreign attacks, which is its most important responsibility, according to the government’s traditional interpretation of the Constitution.





Remember Harry Patch: “war is organised murder and nothing else”

November 12, 2018

In the autumn of 2009 a service was held in Westminster Abbey for Harry Patch, the oldest surviving Tommy from the trenches of World War One, who had just died at the age of 111.

His experience led him to believe that war is organised murder and nothing else – “the calculated and condoned slaughter of human beings – not worth one death let alone all the millions”.

Perhaps remembering the practice of single combat centuries ago, between two warriors selected as the champions of their respective armies, he said: “If governments want to fight, give them a rifle each and let them fight it out together.” Would Tony Blair have risked his own skin and faced Saddam Hussein? Or would he gladly have followed Harry’s advice and used his ready tongue to “settle peace round a table” without losing millions of men?

It’s too late to ask Harry for his opinion of peaceful and prosperous countries such as Sweden and New Zealand, whose foreign policy prohibits them from attacking others, but not too late for readers to campaign for this country to develop a civilised foreign policy, to stop selling arms to aggressive states and to stop helping our ‘special friend’ and its allies in the aerial bombing of civilians in the Middle East

What would be the most fitting tribute to Harry Patch? A state funeral – or listening to his wise, heartfelt words and acting on them? As another wise man wrote on the Stirrer’s message board (link no longer working),


“War is not and never was the way to solve problems between people and nations”.