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”.

.

—————————————

———————————————-


Army chaplain condemns U.S. policy of preventive war, permanent military supremacy and global power projection

May 19, 2016

.

Mark Shapiro has forwarded a link to an article by Andrea Germanos reporting the resignation of an Army chaplain with the 354th Transportation Battalion at Fort Totten, New York. The Army Times relates his growing unease here.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, Rev. John Antal, now a Unitarian Universalist Church minister in Rock Tavern, New York, wrote:

“The Executive Branch continues to claim the right to kill anyone, anywhere on earth, at any tie, for secret reasons, based on secret evidence, in a secret process, undertaken by unidentified officials.”

Zubair gran pakistan usaidIronically, as a USAID-funded program enables a grandmother in Pakistan to learn to grow vegetables and preserve food, US drone strikes kill another over the border.

Antal served as a chaplain from September 2012 to February 2013 at the Kandahar Airbase in southern Afghanistan. “While deployed,” he wrote in February last year, a the Times Herald-Record, “I concluded our drone strikes disproportionately kill innocent people.

Less than a month after I deployed to Afghanistan, on October 24th, 2012, a grandmother who lived over the hill from our base camp was out gathering okra in a field when she was killed by a U.S. drone strike . . . I didn’t see her, or anyone else, die. All I saw were the drones, taking off, landing, and circling around. I did not even hear the explosion . . .

At a US congressional briefing 13-year-old Zubair Rehman described how he saw his grandmother blown to bits by two hellfire missiles on the day in question, asking his American audience: “Why?” They didn’t have an answer”. Official sources claimed they killed “militants” that day. Rev. John Antal continues:

Zubair gran okra“From the perspective of both religious wisdom and military values, drone warfare, as conducted by the United States today, is a betrayal of what is right.

“Military leadership has a responsibility to advocate for a method of war-fighting consistent with military values like respect, integrity, and personal courage. Too often, I worry, our program of drone warfare falls short of these ideals.

“I resign because I refuse to support U.S. policy of preventive war, permanent military supremacy, and global power projection”.

His letter of resignation may be seen on the Portside website

 

 


The cause of peace is not helped by sub-headline sensation-mongering

February 4, 2016

“President Assad’s army cut the last supply line for rebel forces in the northern city of Aleppo yesterday as peace talks in Switzerland collapsed”.

Not so.

alleppo destruction

It was a relief to read in the actual report by the Times’ Bel Trew in Cairo, that the Syrian army said it had broken a three-year rebel siege of two government-held Shia villages and the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, had merely announced a pause in peace talks in Geneva: “I have already fixed a date for the next talks of February 25.”

Most comments were well worth reading:

  • It’s worth remembering that Assad was nominated for an honorary knighthood by Tony Blair’s government, and was a guest of the Queen at Buckingham Palace at the same time. Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have been entirely consistent in where their loyalties lie. It’s “our” foreign policy which is in total disarray.
  • We need a better foreign policy. We are now supporting the insupportable, as the lesser of two evils.
  • The west, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi back the rebels, the rebels fight each other, the Russians, Hezbollah and the Iranians back Assad. Good luck to anyone trying to sort out that mess.
  • And how do you rationalise the behaviour of providing weapons to these so-called rebels which has caused this crisis? Are we humanitarian in our desire to determine the destiny of another nation that is no threat to us?
  • My kids cannot understand why Blair got involved in Iraq and Afghanistan or why Cameron got involved in Libya and Syria. Nor can I. Having correctly predicted the outcome in all four countries, I await any valid excuse for the stupidity of our politicians.


Paris 1986 and Paris 2015: Ed Vulliamy

January 14, 2015

.

A neighbour brought Ed Vulliamy’s thoughtful and informative Saturday article to the writer’s attention.

paris protest 86

He opened by recalling a procession of 600,000 people winding along the Paris boulevards in December 1986, outraged at the killing of a Franco-Algerian student in police custody, after his arrest and allegedly severe beating during demonstrations against a proposed education law.

Arab France, liberal France and leftwing France, linked arms: “The militants of mai ’68 and the sons and daughters of the Algerian war of independence – the Latin Quarter and the poor, immigrant suburbs – united in common cause”.

Last week there were marches by Muslims behind banners reading “Non à la fanatisme” and parades by Muslims singing the Marseillaise. Business Insider records a mourner holding a candle next to a note stapled to a flower reading “Not in my name (from a Muslim)” during a gathering at the end of Shabbat called by the Jewish Student’s Union of France (UEJF) association on January 10th. paris unity march nuslim jewish
But Vulliamy observes that “this is not the welded, blood-brotherhood between the liberal left and Arab Paris that characterised that day in 1986”. Three decades later, “these two communities are at best ill at ease in each other’s company, at worst riven by mutual hostility”.

He asks why Charlie Hebdo, a “sworn enemy of the establishment“, which had incorporated those who challenged imperialism, combatted racism and supported Algerian independence, began to target ‘so ferociously’ others who oppose that same establishment.

An answer appears to lie in the profound conviction and commitment that religion has no right or role to influence in society, most strongly held by the Left Front, Front de gauche, or FDG – the closest, Vulliamy explains, that Charlie has to a political home: “No other leftwing movement in Europe puts quite such emphasis on a determined stance against the influence of religion”.

In December 1986, Vulliamy points out, the language of conflict was that of class and race, but “by the time the Kouachi brothers reached adulthood, that discourse was replaced by Islam versus the west”.

‘Freedom of speech’ – a myth

He described “Massacre of the insolents” as the best of last week’s many headlines, in La Voix du Nord and yet Jean Plantin, cartoonist for Le Monde, insisted: “We have to do this work of impertinence.” But the much-trumpeted ‘freedom of speech’ is a myth; statutes restrict ‘hate speech’ relating to ethnic or national origin, religion, or sexual orientation and courts convict those using libellous speech and revealing state secrets.

This ‘work of impertinence’ has added insult to the feelings of French Muslims – who take the brotherhood injunction seriously – and are already suffering from the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, the accounts of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and the civilian deaths by drone strikes in Afghanistan.

So are protestors today actually defending the freedom to make use of hurtful, provocative language which 19th century statesman Charles-James Fox described as ‘repulsive and bitter’ – and calculated to inflame people with whom we should seek to live in peace?

The article may be read here: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/10/paris-attacks-france-liberal-left-protest-arabs


The Remembrance, by Jake Thackray

November 3, 2014

.

Pam from Stourbridge writes, “Thanks for the latest offering from Civilisation 3000.

“Please would you watch this http://bit.ly/1ugj5jw from Youtube? It’s a version of a song by one of my heroes, Jake Thackray, and here it’s sung by a 16year old boy, Will Thompson, accompanying himself on the guitar. I think he may have put the whole thing together himself. I’ve also heard him sing it live, and it sends shivers down my spine every time, especially the following words:

“how we all looked up to see the curious face of the enemy:
Who was young, and shabby, and seemed to be
About as foreign as you or me”

remembrance day jake thackrayblair

“All the experience of the varied military action taken by the west in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya shows that such interventions kill innocents, destroy infrastructure and fragment societies, and in the process spread bitterness and violence”. (Letter to The Guardian 23.9.14, signed by Caroline Lucas MP and 27 others)

All stills from the Youtube video and the lyrics thanks to http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=85208

remembrance day jake thackray

Remember the bands and the grand parades,
The flags, the banners, the fine cockades,
And how we all looked up to see the King upon the balcony:
Who told us we were young and brave,
We’d never become the Foreigner’s slave –
If the Foreigner comes off best, he said,
You’ll be better off dead…

…and this was a couple of weeks before we got killed in the war.

Remember the drums and the trumpets played
When we set sail on the great crusade,
And how we all looked up to see the Clergyman on the quay:
Who told us we were grand and good
To fight for God, as good men should –
If the Enemy comes off best, he said,
You’ll be better off dead…

…and this was a couple of days before we got killed in the war.

Remember the night before the raid
When the guns began the cannonade,
And how we all looked up to see the Captain of the company:
Who told us we were bold and strong,
Let fame and glory spur us on –
If the Enemy comes off best, he said,
You’ll be better off dead…

…and this was a couple of hours before we got killed in the war.

Remember the shock of the ambuscade,
Remember the terrible fusillade,
And how we all looked up to see the curious face of the Enemy:
Who was young, and shabby, and seemed to be
About as foreign as you or me –
I never did catch what the poor sod said
When he made sure we were dead…

…and this was a couple of shakes before we got killed in the war.

 remembrance day iraq afghanistan

remembrance day cemetery

.


Wrong, perverse, and fatal decision – Charles Kennedy: “The big fear that many of us have is that the action will simply breed further generations of suicide bombers.”

August 30, 2014

. .  

In recent ‘state of the world’ conversations with friends it has been agreed that the escalation of conflict in so many areas dates from the invasion of Iraq.

NATOWatch_logoTo date we have not seen this dispassionately spelt out, but – with permission – NATO Watch has reproduced an article by John Gittings, former assistant foreign editor and chief foreign leader-writer at The Guardian, which first appeared on the author’s blog, on 26 August 2014:

Reckless Consequences of the Iraq War

As Iraq is falling apart or, more accurately, as Iraq is falling further apart, some politicians who supported the 2003 invasion are beginning to acknowledge that it might not have been the wisest decision. But they couch their regret in the most limited of terms. Asked in The Observer whether the current chaos made him regret supporting the war as a minister in Blair’s government, David Miliband says: “I regret it because I made a decision on the basis of upholding the norms of respect to weapons of mass destruction, and there were none.”

And Hillary Clinton has written in her new book Hard Choices: “I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had,” she wrote. “And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong.”

Strategic experts and commentators often talk in similar terms these days about the spread of Al Qaeda extremism as an “unintended consequence” of the war or, in the term favoured by the CIA, as “blowback”.

These are all dubious alibis for having made the wrong, perverse, and fatal decision back in 2003 to launch what the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan rightly called an illegal war.

They are dubious for two reasons:

First, the claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction or, if he still had the remnants of ones previously made, or the precursors to making new ones, that this issue could not be dealt with by the UN inspectors, was widely challenged on good evidence by critics of the war. Their scepticism was bolstered by numerous signs that the case against Saddam was being dressed up, as in the notorious “dodgy dossier”.

We should recall what Robin Cook said in his resignation speech on the eve of the House of Commons (18 March 2003) debate:”Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term—namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target. It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s…Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years? Only a couple of weeks ago, Hans Blix told the Security Council that the key remaining disarmament tasks could be completed within months….”

Second, there was no shortage of predictions at the time that unleashing a Western war on a key Middle Eastern country in the Muslim world would pour fuel on the flames. As Tam Dalyell said in the Iraq debate: “What could be more calculated to act as a recruiting sergeant for a young generation throughout the Islamic and Arab world than putting 600 cruise missiles—or whatever it is—on to Baghdad and Iraq?”And from Charles Kennedy, then leader of the LibDems: “The big fear that many of us have is that the action will simply breed further generations of suicide bombers.”

Critics of the war were derided then for suggesting, as the dissenting Conservative MP Douglas Hogg had in the debate, that “the probability is that thousands and maybe tens of thousands of people will be killed or injured on all sides.” But they have been proved disastrously right, and the correct phrase should not be tens but “hundreds of thousands”. We should regard these wrong decisions, taken in the teeth of reasoned doubt and opposition, as leading not to “unintended consequences” but to “reckless consequences”. It was wrong from the start — which means the original Afghan war against Soviet occupation – to support such armed insurgency, and we may reflect on the following tale.

In 1986 Margaret Thatcher welcomed to London the Afghan mujahidin leader Gulbadin Hekmatyar, a man with a reputation for savagery, praising him as a “fighter for freedom”. In 2002 the terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, injured during the US invasion of Afghanistan, made his escape with the help of Hekmatyar, now an Afghan warlord. And in 2003 Al Zarqawi founded the extremist group which has become the “Islamic State” and is terrorising whole regions of Syria and Iraq.

john gittingsJohn Gittings is the author of ‘The Glorious Art of Peace: From the Iliad to Iraq’ (Oxford University Press, 2012). After teaching at the University of Westminster he worked at The Guardian (UK) for twenty years as assistant foreign editor and chief foreign leader-writer (1983-2003). Having specialised for many years on China and East Asia, he is now doing research on the historical perception of peace, and is an Associate Editor of the Oxford International Encyclopaedia of Peace.  His website is www.johngittings.com: it includes links to his latest writings on the subject.


Truth is said to be the first casualty of war . . .

June 24, 2014

.

As Blair attempts to justify the ruin of Iraq, alarm is caused by the publication of evidence from Afghans

An Intimate War, by Dr Mike Martin, offers a very different view of the story of the last thirty-four years of conflict in Helmand Province, Afghanistan – seen through the eyes of the Helmandis. It demonstrates how outsiders have most often misunderstood the ongoing struggle in Helmand and so exacerbated the conflict, perpetuated it and made it more violent.

Captain Martin gathering evidence

Captain Martin gathering evidence

To the local inhabitants the Helmand conflict is a perennial one, involving the same individuals, families and groups, and driven by the same arguments over land, water and power “water, land, blood feuds and fights over their grandfather’s inheritance”- a tribal civil war, rather than a fight against the Taliban.

It has been praised by senior military figures and MPs. Major General Andrew Kennett, who commanded Dr Martin’s unit, said: ‘I think he has done the Army a great service by writing this.’

Martin argues that Nato’s ISAF troops failed to understand they were getting and that the Taliban were not the ‘main drivers of violence’. Conflict was driven by Helmandi individuals, including local politicians and tribal chiefs, and their personal motivations. It was more of a civil war between clans than a clash between the ‘good’ government of Afghanistan and the ‘bad’ Taliban. He comments:

“But we were not set up to understand that. We were set up to fight an ideology and find weapons dumps. We were completely unequipped mentally and conceptually to understand the type of conflict that we were engaged in. It was a micro civil war, rather than an insurgency, and how you deal with that is completely different”.

*

mike martin afghanistan coverIn April, the TA captain, who was commissioned by the MoD to research the UK’s conflict in the province, said that the study had been freely available in King’s College library and he had informed MoD officials of his plans with proceeds of the publication going to charities Combat Stress and the Afghan Appeal Fund, sending it to various people in the Army and the MoD.

He heard nothing until February when the MoD said that he was banned from publishing the book as he was a serving officer. He then resigned his commission and planned to forge ahead with the book’s release.

Officials stepped in to block its publication, claiming it breached the Official Secrets Act because of the inclusion of Wikileaks material and “other classified material”.

Dr Martin from east London, said: “I do believe the Army needs to really look at how it does its business because there’s been such an intelligence failure in Afghanistan”.

Sources

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/uk/mod-accused-over-afghanistan-book-30170357.html

http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/mike-martin-interview

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Intimate-War-History-Helmand-Conflict/dp/1849043361/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1402986076&sr=1-1&keywords=mike+martin

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2600411/Ministry-Defence-tries-block-book-Helmand-commissioned-claims-contains-secrets-published-Wikileaks.html