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.

 

 

 

 


Now open: Imperial War Museum exhibition: People Power: Fighting for Peace

March 25, 2017

IWM London – 23 March – 28 August 2017

Take a journey from the First World War to the present day, exploring how peace movements have influenced perceptions of war and conflict in this major exhibition.

From conscientious objectors to peace camps and modern day marches, Fighting for Peace tells the stories of passionate people over the past one hundred years and the struggles they have endured for the anti-war cause.

A march of 2,000 anti-conscription protesters in London, May 1939

Over three hundred objects including paintings, literature, posters, placards, banners, badges and music reveal the breadth of creativity of anti-war protest movements, reflecting the cultural mood of each era.

 

Book Now

 

 

 

 


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!”

 

 

 


Pope Francis: New Year Message

January 3, 2017

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MESSAGE OF POPE FRANCIS

CELEBRATING THE FIFTIETH WORLD DAY OF PEACE

1 JANUARY 2017

 

When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.

While the last century knew the devastation of two deadly World Wars, the threat of nuclear war and a great number of other conflicts, today, sadly, we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal. It is not easy to know if our world is presently more or less violent than in the past, or to know whether modern means of communications and greater mobility have made us more aware of violence, or, on the other hand, increasingly inured to it.

In any case, we know that this “piecemeal” violence, of different kinds and levels, causes great suffering: wars in different countries and continents; terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment. Where does this lead? Can violence achieve any goal of lasting value? Or does it merely lead to retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few “warlords”?

Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.

The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness.[16] From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society.[17] An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and closed-mindedness, but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue. Hence, I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons: nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutual assured destruction are incapable of grounding such an ethics.[18] I plead with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.

The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace.

I pledge the assistance of the Church in every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence. On 1 January 2017, the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will begin its work. It will help the Church to promote in an ever more effective way “the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” and concern for “migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture”.[23] Every such response, however modest, helps to build a world free of violence, the first step towards justice and peace.

“All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers”.[24] In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace”.[25]

 

 

With thanks to the Selly Oak Friend who sent this saying, ‘You heard it here first’.

Source: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/peace/documents/papa-francesco_20161208_messaggio-l-giornata-mondiale-pace-2017.html

 

 

 


The International Network of Museums for Peace: 9th conference Belfast, 10-13 April 2017

December 4, 2016

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inmp-belfast

The International Network of Museums for Peace (INMP) is a worldwide network of peace museums, peace gardens and other peace related sites, centres and institutions that share the desire to build a global culture of peace.

The conference theme, “Cities as Living Museums for Peace”, will highlight Belfast’s social and political transformation from a divided, troubled city to a one which models peace consciousness through post conflict healing and reconciliation.

The 9th International Conference of Museums for Peace is co-hosted by Visit Belfast and Ulster University. Directors and curators of human rights and peace museums, peace educators, journalists, artists, musicians, architects, policy makers, researchers, scholars and students of history, museum studies, cultural memory studies, international relations, international ethics, and interdisciplinary subjects have been invited to participate.

Venues:

  • Ulster University, York St Campus
  • Stormont (Parliament Buildings)
  • Belfast City Hall

Topics will include new developments in museum studies (museology), and the changing roles of museums for peace in the global age. For example, what is the role of museums for peace in education; in post-conflict healing and reconciliation processes; in the nuclear disarmament movement; in clarifying contested memories and multiple historical interpretations; and in raising awareness about socially-sanctioned, structural violence?

This conference also marks the 25th anniversary of INMP.
More Information:
conference@museumsforpeace.org 
info@bespokenorthernireland.com

 

 

 


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”.

 

 

 


Gorbachev: political veterans, civil society, academics, all who are not indifferent – should urge our leaders to act

October 20, 2016

gorbachev-iceland-16

MOSCOW, October 9. /TASS/. Mr Gorbachev opened by thanking the government of Iceland for invitation to participate in the conference marking the 30th anniversary of the Reykjavik summit of the leaders of the USSR and the United States.

He recalled that a few months before the first summit in Geneva, he and the US President made a statement: “Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought; our countries will not seek military superiority”. But that statement was not followed by decisive steps to stop the nuclear arms race.

Extracts (read the whole statement here):

The overall situation in our relations was also causing grave concern. Many thought that relations were sliding back into a Cold War. US Navy ships were entering our territorial waters; the United States had tested a new, highly powerful nuclear weapon. The tensions were aggravated by hostile rhetoric and “spy scandals.”

Meanwhile, the Chernobyl nuclear accident had been a vivid reminder to all of us of the nuclear danger that we faced. I have often said that it divided my life into two parts: before and after Chernobyl. The Soviet leadership unanimously agreed on the need to stop and reverse the nuclear arms race, to get the stalled nuclear disarmament talks off the ground.

We proposed a clear and coherent framework for an agreement: cutting in half all the components of the strategic triad, including a 50-percent reduction in heavy land-based missiles, which the United States viewed from the start as “the most destabilizing.” We were also ready to accept a zero option for intermediate and shorter-range missiles.

I appreciated the fact that President Reagan, during the course of our discussions, spoke out resolutely, and I believe sincerely, in favor of ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction, of all types of nuclear weapons. In this, we found common ground. Experts led by Akhromeyev and Nitze worked overnight and found many points of convergence based on our constructive position.

Nevertheless, we were not able to conclude an agreement. President Reagan wanted, not just to continue the SDI program, but to obtain our consent to the deployment of a global missile defense system. I could not agree to that.

The key message in my statement for the press was: “In spite of all the drama, Reykjavik is not a failure – it is a breakthrough. For the first time, we looked over the horizon.” This is the view I still hold today. It was the breakthrough at Reykjavik that set off the process of real reduction of nuclear weapons. The unprecedented agreements we reached with Presidents Reagan and Bush on strategic and medium-range nuclear arms and on tactical weapons have made it possible to reduce the stockpiles and eliminate thousands of nuclear warheads – more than 80 percent of Cold War arsenals, as Russia and the United States reported to the Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

In 2010, the Presidents of Russia and the United States concluded the New Start Treaty. Nevertheless, we have to recognize that the process of nuclear disarmament has slowed down.I am concerned and alarmed by the current situation. Right before our eyes, the window to a nuclear weapon-free world opened in Reykjavik is being shut and sealed.

New, more powerful types of nuclear weapons are being created.

Their qualitative characteristics are being ramped up. Missile defense systems are being deployed. Prompt non-nuclear strike systems are being developed, comparable in their deadly impact to the weapons of mass destruction. The military doctrines of nuclear powers have changed for the worse, expanding the limits of “acceptable” use of nuclear weapons. It is mostly due to this that the risk of nuclear proliferation has increased.

The problems and conflicts of the past two decades could have been settled by peaceful, political and diplomatic means. Instead, attempts are being made to resolve them by using force. This was the case in the former Yugoslavia, in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria.

I want to emphasize that this has not resulted in the resolution of these issues. It resulted in the erosion of international law, in undermining trust, in militarization of politics and thinking, and the cult of force.

In these circumstances, it is becoming increasingly difficult to speak of moving towards a nuclear-free world.  We must be honest and recognize it. Unless international affairs are put back on a normal track and international relations are demilitarized, the goal that we jointly set in Reykjavik will become more distant rather than closer.

I am deeply convinced that a nuclear weapon-free world is not a utopia, but an imperative necessity. We need to constantly remind world leaders of this goal and of their commitment.

As long as nuclear weapons exist, there is a danger that someday they will be used: as a result either of accident or technical failure, or of evil intent of man – an insane person or terrorist. We must therefore reaffirm the goal of prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons.

Politicians who think that problems or disputes can be resolved through the use of military force (even as a “last resort”) must be rejected by society; they must leave the stage

I believe that the question of prohibiting nuclear weapons should be submitted for consideration of the International Court of Justice.

None of the global problems faced by humanity can be solved by military means. Our common challenges – further reduction of nuclear weapons, non-proliferation¸ fighting terrorism, prevention of environmental catastrophe, overcoming poverty and backwardness – again need to be put on top of the agenda.

We need to resume dialogue. Essentially abandoning it in the last two years was the gravest mistake. It is high time to resume it across the entire agenda, without limiting it to the discussion of regional issues on which there are disagreements.

We need to understand once and for all: A safe and stable world cannot be built at the will or as a project of one country or group of countries. Either we build together a world for all, or mankind will face the prospect of new trials and tragedies.

This is what we – political veterans, civil society, academics, all who are not indifferent – should say to our leaders, urging them to act.