Top post this month: the cruel farce of ‘humanitarian intervention’

April 25, 2017

The cruel farce of ‘humanitarian intervention’

Posted on April 8, 2017 with five times more interest from USA readers than from those in the UK, no doubt due to its republication on an American website with a lurid anti-zionist title unrelated to the text – the pingback posted on this website was deleted.

 

Simon Jenkins: “It is a war crime to disable, maim or poison a victim by chemical or biological means, yet it is permissible to blow them to bits. Dropping chlorine evokes howls of horror. Dropping bunker busters does not. Cluster munitions, the most horrible of delayed action weapons, remain in the arsenals of NATO armies”.

 

 

 

 


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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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!”

 

 

 


Update on Israel-Palestine

February 18, 2017

The UN Security Council has been urged by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, to take decisive action now to end the country’s occupation of Palestinian territory. 

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Hagai El-Ad, executive director, told an informal council meeting Friday on “Illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and the Two-State Solution” that Israel has controlled Palestinian lives in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem for the past 49 years “and counting”.

With the 50th anniversary of the occupation approaching next year, El-Ad said: “The rights of Palestinians must be realised, the occupation must end, the UN Security Council must act, and the time is now.” He stressed that the council “has more than just power: you have a moral responsibility and a real opportunity to act with a sense of urgency before we reach the symbolic date of June 2017 and the second half of that first century begins.”

btselemAmericans for Peace Now, a sister organisation of another Israeli rights group, Peace Now is also campaigning for an end to Israeli occupation. Lara Friedman, the group’s director of policy and government relations said that when Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation signed the Oslo peace accords 23 years ago, the settler population in the West Bank was 116,000, At the end of 2015, it was almost 390,000.

“I urge you here today to finally take action in the Security Council to send a clear message to Israel that the international community stands by the two-state solution and unambiguously rejects policies that undermine it – including Israeli settlement policies,” Ms Friedman said.

US deputy ambassador David Pressman told the meeting that “the United States remains firmly committed to advancing a two-state solution … [and] we are deeply concerned about continued settlement activity”. He recalled that last week the United States condemned new Israeli settlements and said that since 1 July more than 2,400 settlement units have been advanced in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This makes “a viable Palestinian state more remote”, he said: “In short, we need to start implementing the two-state solution on the ground right now”.

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Earlier this week, at a joint briefing with Netanyahu in Washington, US President Donald Trump asked the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off on building new Jewish settlements on land claimed by Palestinians..

Trump promised to strike a deal that would bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state… I can live with either one. The United States will encourage a peace and really a great peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, but they have to negotiate it themselves”.

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Paris Peace Conference 2017

January 20, 2017

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Vanderbilt Model UN website

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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”.

 

 

 


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

October 20, 2016

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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.