The cruel farce of ‘humanitarian intervention’

April 8, 2017

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.

Many of us are now applauding this ‘aid to Syria’

Jenkins reflects that not a week passes without some new horror emanating from the vortex of the Middle East: “So called ‘wars among the peoples’ are, like all civil wars, distinctively terrible. Cities deaden the impact of an infantry advance. Reckless bombing takes over and accidents happen. Saudi Arabia bombs a funeral party in Sanaa. Russia bombs an aid convoy and a hospital in Aleppo. Western planes bomb friendly troops outside Mosul. There is no appetite for British troops on the ground. All talk is of bombing, intervention lite”.

Britain has already contributed too much to Syria’s hell:

  • It helped America create a power vacuum in neighbouring Iraq where Isis could form and flourish.
  • It then encouraged and gave material support to the rebels against Assad in 2012, ensuring that he would need support from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.
  • American and RAF aircraft killed 80 Syrian soldiers protecting the town of Deir Ezzor from Isis.
  • British ‘intelligence’ has given America information, enabling them to kill many civilians alongside their stated targets.

Syria and the cruel farce of ‘humanitarian intervention: “Affecting to save people by bombing them from a great height is not just ineffective but immoral”

 Walking through Aleppo now

Jenkins gave many examples of this immorality and ineffectiveness – just four follow: ”Some 12,000 coalition bombing sorties have been directed at Isis in northern Iraq in the past two years. Tens of thousands of civilians have died in the ‘collateral’ carnage. In Syria, the human rights network estimates that Russian bombs have killed more Syrian civilians than Isis. Last year the Americans bombed an MSF hospital in Afghanistan. Bombs are unreliable. Stuff happens”.

He explains the appeal of airborne weapons to politicians down the ages

“For rich aggressors against poorly armed foes, they have glamour and immunity to counterattack, and have found new life in so called precision targeting and unmanned drones. In reality they have proved almost useless against fanatical soldiers with mortars and AK 47s. But they look good on television back home. They are ‘something being done’ “.

Jenkins describes the disintegration of the Middle East as a tragedy for Islam, but not the West’s business. Here we disagree, seeing it as a result of Anglo-Saxon West intervention, using soft and hard power.

The Scotsman reports that Alex Salmond, the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman, joined Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who is calling for greater effort to achieve a negotiated end to the conflict: “The British government should urge restraint on the Trump administration and throw its weight behind peace negotiations and a comprehensive political settlement.”

Corbyn: “Reconvene the Geneva peace talks and exert unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement”

The Labour leader said: “Tuesday’s horrific chemical attack was a war crime which requires urgent independent UN investigation and those responsible must be held to account. But unilateral military action without legal authorisation or independent verification risks intensifying a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people.

“What is needed instead is to urgently reconvene the Geneva peace talks and exert unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement of the conflict.”

Jenkins: Nations and peoples do have a humanitarian obligation to aid those afflicted by war, to relieve suffering, not add to it, to aid those trying to comfort war’s victims and offer sanctuary to its refugees, not to take sides, guns blazing, in other people’s civil wars:

“British politicians would do better to spend their time organising relief than shouting adjectives, banging drums and dropping bombs”.

 

 

 

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Marching to a different drum in Moseley

July 10, 2016

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LTN placards (2).jpeg

.Credit: William Baldwin, reduced from the excellent high-definition original..

Three people on our mailing list attended this gathering. Participants were members of the Moseley Society, Forum, CDT, Festival and Buddhist, Humanist, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Christian and of ‘no faith’. We thank Richard Tetlow for sending this text. .

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Dear Neighbours, ‘LOVE OUR NEIGHBOUR’? Yes. What a good idea! It is not new, you know, only over 3,000 years old! It’s become a movement spreading round Birmingham. ……. Anyway, who is our neighbour?

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Right now we are all neighbours, Moseley neighbours, both locals and visitors. My name is Richard Tetlow and I am convenor of the Moseley Inter Faith Group. I welcome you here on behalf of all those who have supported this gathering. But this is not another Independence Day …….for we are here to share basic human solidarity and to listen to one another, not just to me, I am simply blowing the whistle. When I finish it will be your turn to take a poster and a sticker, pose beautifully for a photo and talk with one another and that …will be that! ……Please now turn and share a welcome with one another, especially someone you do not know.

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We live in……… ‘interesting times’……….. but we have to beware ‘interesting times, they can prove difficult. At present, times are undoubtedly very difficult and they may get tougher both in Britain and in Europe. They may not. I do think our government has made a terrible and unnecessary mess just as the previous Labour government achieved in  Iraq! Let us take a very deep sigh together!  It is not helpful to be too alarmist. And…we do need to keep a sense of proportion: we are not in Baghdad or Syria or Dallas. We are where we are and we have our own responsibilities.

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So what kind of society do we want?       for ourselves, for our families, our young people, for one another and for far off neighbours?……. for we are all interdependent. What kind of city, what kind of country do we want to be members of, for us, for families, for children?

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Do we want it to be one in which our neighbour, whoever that is, feels unwanted, nervous, fearful and insecure, not at home? ….We know and we hear about people who are feeling just that and unwelcome in Britain.  The scorn…. rudeness… offensiveness and apparent hatred these people have experienced, the huge escalation of hate crimes recorded, people being told to leave and that they are not wanted or just a threatening atmosphere however personal their response! Away from Moseley, we have probably seen or heard of violence from the TV and papers, bullying in school, even a shop set on fire.

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I have personally talked with people in Moseley, Christian and Muslim, British Bosnian, Polish, Nigerian, Afro- Caribbean, Pakistani and British Jewish who feel very anxious despite having been in this country for years or even born here. The situation is especially frightening to the very vulnerable of our society.  At least the Welsh are probably welcomed, if only to teach the English how to play football.

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Who would say such behaviour on our streets and in our public places is acceptable? Such behaviour has been let out of a stinking bag of all sorts and it is not acceptable. Such individuals even in a privileged place like Moseley do however seem since the Referendum process began to be part of a morass on a national scale of dehumanising others, splitting families, communities, propagating instability and anxiety. Space and even permission has been taken or given for racism and xenophobia. If such behaviour becomes the norm then that really would be dangerous.  However, I do think we have to seek to understand the behaviour and attitudes of others …and our own too!

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What should and can we do about it right now?……Are we as powerless as we often think? Certainly, some of us are more powerless and more powerful than others. That’s why some of us voted to somehow get out of Europe …….but whatever way we voted in the Referendum is not our issue now.  I do not accept that any of us are totally powerless……and I doubt if any of us do, when we think about it.

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Let me ask you: what matters most to you in your body, mind and spirit? What is life basically about, whatever faith, philosophy or belief we have or do not? What about the vision, integrity and ideals which have been shamefully absent over recent weeks?  Of course we are all different with different backgrounds and lives but I believe that those are three fundamental questions for everyone, everywhere: what matters to us, what is life about and what is our vision.

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I also believe that the prime issue that for humanity is ………what? humanity – surprisingly! -human relationships and behaviour, how well we love and care for one another and give respect to all people. The word this Love your neighbour movement uses is love.  It’s not a political word nor one fashionable in public except when we hear there is no love lost between a and b, mentioning no names!

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We could use it more, especially those of us who are men……Surely we are not powerless concerning matters of love  and we don’t like to think we are either, whether in receiving or giving. I do not believe that anyone is at heart indifferent to loving and being loved, including those perpetrating the hatred and violence.

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What can we do publicly? Our posters encourage us to do one act of kindness each day. We may wonder how. I suggest…. by simply listening and paying our full attention to someone else and not ourselves, especially someone you think is very different to you. Phones switched off for a while. We could all do that. If that is too little for you, do it all day! And that may mean actually learning another’s experience and point of view. For what is this love anyway?

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It is many sided but I think love it is about wishing the best for someone else and trying to act on that. Maybe you agree with me that that attitude goes both ways and it can be win, win. It is not a lot to seek but I suggest it is our responsibility. We do not know what is going to happen politically in Britain or the EU but we ourselves have to start somewhere. I do not find hope easy right now but hope is vital. If everyone listened to one another we can hope that wonders will result …………beginning here in Moseley. What better place to set an example! We have to start with ourselves.

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I’ve said enough. It’s your turn to talk ….and listen… with one another. Try listening to a new neighbour – even both listening at the same time is fun.  Thank you for coming.  I just ask that first we keep silence for a short while with our own feelings and thoughts but remembering Jo Cox and her inspiration and our all too human national leaders.