Theresa May – a conversion?

May 24, 2017

Mrs May, who travelled to Manchester yesterday, said: “We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to cherish but an opportunity for carnage.” (Times)

She will now, presumably, stop selling arms and providing ‘intelligence’ & ‘logistical support’ to those who are killing hundreds of children and other civilians.

 

 

 


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.

 

 

 

 


Paul Rogers’ January article has a bearing on yesterday’s London attacks

March 23, 2017

A Yardley Wood reader draws our attention to an article by Paul Rogers, professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University, openDemocracy’s international security adviser

Some points made:

Rogers refers to the bombings of London’s transport network on 7 July 2005 (correction), when fifty-two people were killed on a bus and three underground trains. (The four perpetrators also died), describing it as “the defining event for Britain in relation to political violence, closely connected to the Iraq war although this was strenuously denied by the Blair government at the time”. He continues:

“This “disconnect” has remained a feature of British attitudes to al-Qaida, ISIS and other extreme Islamist groups, even if some people pointed out at the time that the loss of life on “7/7” was no higher than the daily loss of life in Iraq.

“Now, nearly twelve years later, the war goes on with a similar disconnect – there is simply no appreciation that Britain is an integral part of a major war that started thirty months ago, in August 2014. It may take the form of a sustained air-assault using strike-aircraft and armed-drones, but its intensity is simply unrecorded in the establishment media. This is a straightforward example of “remote warfare” conducted outside of public debate.

“Thus, when another attack within Britain on the scale of 7/7 happens, there will be little understanding of the general motivations of those responsible. People will naturally react with horror, asking – why us? Politicians and analysts will find it very difficult even to try and explain the connection between what is happening “there” and “here”.

“The straightforward yet uncomfortable answer is that Britain is at war – so what else can be expected? It may be a war that gets little attention, there may be virtually no parliamentary debate on its conduct, but it is a war nonetheless”.

He lists some of the factors which underpin this approach:

  • The post-9/11 western-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya have left three countries as failed or failing states, killed several hundred thousand people and displaced millions. This causes persistent anger and bitterness right across the Middle East and beyond.
  • While the Syrian civil war started as the repression of dissent by an insecure and repressive regime, it has evolved into a much more complex “double proxy war” which regional rulers and the wider international community have failed to address. This adds to the animosity.
  • The situation in Iraq is particularly grievous, given that it was the United States and its coalition partners that started the conflict and also gave rise directly to the evolution of ISIS. The Iraq Body Count project estimates the direct civilian death-toll since 2003 at more than 169,000. After a relative decline over 2009-13, an upsurge in the past three years has seen 53,000 lose their lives through violence.
  • Since the air-war started in August 2014 the Pentagon calculates that over 30,000 targets have been attacked with more than 60,000 missiles and bombs, and 50,000 ISIS supporters have been killed.
  • But there is abundant evidence that western forces have directly killed many civilians. AirWars reports that:”As ISIL was forced to retreat in both Iraq and Syria, the year [2016] saw a dramatic jump in reported civilian deaths from Coalition airstrikes. A total of between 2,932 and 4,041 non-combatant fatalities are alleged for 2016, stemming from 445 separate claimed Coalition-caused incidents in both Iraq and Syria.”
  • ISIS, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), and other groups have no air-defence capabilities yet are determined to continue the war, seeing themselves as guardians of Islam under attack by the “crusader” forces of the west. At a time of retreat they will be even more determined than ever to take the war to the enemy, whether by the sustained encouragement and even facilitation of individual attacks such as Berlin or Nice, or more organised attacks such as in Paris and Brussels.

These groups seek retribution via straightforward paramilitary actions, responding especially to the current reversals in Iraq. They want to demonstrate to the wider world, especially across the Middle East, that they remain a force to be reckoned with.

Rogers thinks that a repeat 7/7–level attack in Britain is probable, although when and how is impossible to say.  Again, it will not be easy to respond. But in trying to do so, two factors need to be born in mind:

The aim of ISIS and others is to incite hatred. Politicians and other public figures who encourage that is doing the work of ISIS, adding “This can and should be said repeatedly”.

And the links between the attack and the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria must be made: “That Britain is still at war after fifteen years suggests that some rethinking is required” and ends:

“Politicians who make these points will face immediate accusations of appeasement, not least in the media. But however difficult the case, it needs to be made if the tide of war is to be turned”.

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Reinvigorate big power relationships or put an end to sabre-rattling?

November 4, 2016

lord2richardsReading more about General Richards – chief of the defence staff between 2010 and 2013 – gives rise to mixed reactions. In 2010 – to his credit – he said there was no desire to “open up another front” in the Middle East . . . an intelligence-led approach was the current strategy: “Clearly, the primary agencies dealing with this are our intelligence and security agencies. But the military are already helping with their [the Yemenis’] training. I don’t think we want to open up another front there and nor do the Yemenis want us to do that”.

Today the Times reports that General Richards said that Donald Trump would re-boot relations between Moscow and Washington, which are at a post-Cold War low.

By contrast, he thinks, Mrs Clinton would be more likely to set the West on a course for war if she pushed ahead with a safe zone for civilians in Syria: that might require US aircraft to shoot down the Russian fighter jets flying in support of the Assad regime.

Lord Richards, a cross-bench peer, told The Times this week that he believed the only way to prevent a further humanitarian catastrophe in the rebel-held east of Aleppo would be for the rebels to withdraw, removing any reason for Russian planes to attack.

In an interview with The House magazine, which appeared yesterday, he said: “In the Cold War era states coalesced and they had this understanding and it worked — even though there was a massive amount at stake, communications and mutual understanding between Russia and America wasn’t too bad . . . It’s non-state actors like Isis that are the biggest threat to our security. If countries and states could coalesce better to deal with these people — and I think Trump’s instinct is to go down that route — then I think there’s the case for saying that the world certainly won’t be any less safe. It’s that lack of understanding and empathy with each other as big power players that is a risk to us all at the moment. Therefore I think he would reinvigorate big power relationships, which might make the world ironically safer.”

The wisest words come from Dr Ian Davis (SIPRI):

dr-ian-davisDr Davis responded to a letter (FT: “How NATO can neuter Putin’s ‘shock and awe’”) by Dr Harlan Ullman, Senior Advisor, Atlantic Council, US. Dr Ullman acknowledged that Mr Putin “has no intent of starting a war or invading any Nato member”; nevertheless, he recommended turning a variant of shock and awe against Putin. Dr Davis saw this as both irrational and dangerous:

“[S]kilful mediation with Russia is needed in order to transform real antagonisms into pragmatic working relationships and practical agreements . . . The challenge is to see beyond historical positions and attempt to identify and then reframe key issues through careful dialogue. It will take significant effort, yet it may be possible to explore ways of moving beyond presumptions of strictly zero-sum, winner takes-all thinking in Russia-West relations. And put an end to the sabre-rattling of intrusive flights and large scale manoeuvres on both sides”.

 

 

 


‘Great’ Britain rampant – despite Chilcot the British prime minister hastens to aid our special friend

July 8, 2016

The UK is to take over the rotating leadership of Nato’s “very high readiness” joint task force, created after the last summit of alliance leaders in Wales in 2014. Three thousand British troops, based in Britain and Germany, will eventually make up the bulk of the 5,000-strong detachment, with forces from countries including Denmark, Spain, Estonia and the US.

nato troops

How many will survive to regret this?

Stripping away innuendo and insinuation, an article by Deborah Haynes in Warsaw records that five hundred British troops will be stationed from next year in Estonia and 150 will form an “enduring” presence in Poland. The forces will be “defensive in nature but clearly combat capable”, a Whitehall source said. They will be part of a commitment by NATO to station four new battalions, totalling about 4,000 personnel, as part of a reinforcement of NATO’s border with Russia. A further 3,000 British military personnel will lead a new emergency task force in 2017.

In a strategic use of terminology, the force will be described as a “persistent” or “enduring” presence, to avoid breaking a longstanding deal with Russia that Nato will not “permanently” deploy troops on its eastern flank.

The Murdoch Times reports that there is (American/NATO?) concern that countries such as Germany and France are seeking to build a European army rather than focussing their military resources on NATO.

The article twice anticipates a verbal rebuke from Moscow and records that NATO members who are neighbours of Russia are concerned that President Putin may seek to create unrest within their borders as well. 

David Cameron is reported to have said: “The UK is proud to be taking the lead role, deploying troops across eastern Europe.”

Many readers, however, will feel apprehensive – certainly not proud – echoing Germany’s foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in warning against “saber-rattling and war cries” directed toward Russia and joining the United States Conference of Mayors, in condemnation of NATO’s Anaconda War Games and massing of troops on Russia’s border.

 

 


The British government attempts to mitigate the effects of yet another disastrous military adventure

April 19, 2016

blair gaddafiIn September 2004, Col Muammar Gaddafi was finally considered to be “on side”. Oil and infrastructure deals were struck with Britain & other countries. Excited by the Arab Spring, in 2011, the UK and France (aka ‘NATO-backed forces’) led efforts to back rebels fighting to overthrow Gaddafi. The country has since descended into chaos, with two rival governments and the formation of hundreds of militias, some allied to the so-called Islamic State (IS).

One step forward

hammond libyan pmForeign secretary Philip Hammond has visited a Libya exhausted by five years of fighting. Speculation about UK involvement in a possible international military force is rife; the stated intention is to provide £10m for training support to the Libyan administration’s armed forces.

But a Moseley reader alerts us to another step backwards

In 2006, when he was opposition leader, David Cameron said trust in politics could only be restored if MPs had the final say on committing British troops to war – instead of the prime minister making the decision using royal prerogative powers.

Ministers have abandoned plans to introduce a war powers act that would institute a legal commitment to seek parliamentary approval before deploying British troops in combat.

Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, told MPs that such a measure would ”constrain the operational flexibility of the armed forces and prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of those forces” and that there could be accusations of acting in bad faith if unexpected developments were to require a different course of action.

However he later told MPs that ministers would “keep parliament informed and we will of course seek its approval before deploying British forces in combat roles into a conflict situation . . . This convention would not apply to British military personnel embedded in the armed forces of other nations”.

revolving door peopleDavid Cameron said trust in (defence?) politics could only be restored if MPs had the final say.

We add to this the need to close the revolving door between oil and armaments corporations.

Total trust would require many more reforms – Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn could do it.


The Peace Museum in Bradford

February 26, 2016

peace museum leaflet