Jeremy Corbyn’s Chatham House speech: 12 May 2017 – extracts

May 13, 2017

“A Labour Government I lead will keep Britain safe, reshape relationships with partners around the world, work to strengthen the United Nations and respond to the global challenges we face in the 21st century”.

Jeremy Corbyn regrets that General Eisenhower’s presidential warning about “the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military-industrial complex” and his stress on the need for “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry”, has gone unheeded: “Alert citizens or political leaders who advocate other routes to security are dismissed or treated as unreliable. My own political views were shaped by the horrors of war and the threat of a nuclear holocaust . . . My generation grew up under the shadow of the cold war. On television, through the 1960s and into the seventies, the news was dominated by Vietnam. I was haunted by images of civilians fleeing chemical weapons used by the United States”.

He continued: “Today the world is more unstable than even at the height of the cold war. The approach to international security we have been using since the 1990s has simply not worked. Regime change wars in Afghanistan Iraq, Libya, and Syria – and Western interventions in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen – have failed in their own terms, and made the world a more dangerous place . . . This is the fourth General Election in a row to be held while Britain is at war and our armed forces are in action in the Middle East and beyond. The fact is that the ‘war on terror’ which has driven these interventions has failed. They have not increased our security at home – just the opposite. And they have caused destabilisation and devastation abroad”. 

Corbyn quotes the findings of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee’s report on David Cameron’s Libyan war which concluded the intervention led to political and economic collapse, humanitarian and migrant crises and fuelled the rise of Isis in Africa and across the Middle East and asks: 

“Is that really the way to deliver security to the British people? Who seriously believes that’s what real strength looks like?

“We need to step back and have some fresh thinking. The world faces huge problems. As well as the legacy of regime change wars, there is a dangerous cocktail of ethnic conflicts, of food insecurity, water scarcity, the emerging effects of climate change. Add to that mix a grotesque and growing level of inequality in which just eight billionaires own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest people. And you end up with a refugee crisis of epic proportions affecting every continent in the world. With more displaced people in the world than since the Second World War. These problems are getting worse and fuelling threats and instability. The global situation is becoming more dangerous.

“A Labour Government will want a strong and friendly relationship with the United States. But we will not be afraid to speak our mind. The US is the strongest military power on the planet by a very long way. It has a special responsibility to use its power with care and to support international efforts to resolve conflicts collectively and peacefully . . .

“A Labour Government will conduct a robust and independent foreign policy – made in Britain. A Labour Government would seek to work for peace and security with all the other permanent members of the United Nations security council – the US, China, Russia and France. And with other countries with a major role to play such as India, South Africa, Brazil and Germany. The ‘bomb first, talk later’ approach to security has failed. To persist with it, as the Conservative Government has made clear it is determined to do, is a recipe for increasing, not reducing, threats and insecurity. 

“I am often asked if as prime minister I would order the use of nuclear weapons. It’s an extraordinary question when you think about it – would you order the indiscriminate killing of millions of people? Would you risk such extensive contamination of the planet that no life could exist across large parts of the world? If circumstances arose where that was a real option, it would represent complete and cataclysmic failure. It would mean world leaders had already triggered a spiral of catastrophe for humankind.

“Labour is committed actively to pursue disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and we are committed to no first use of nuclear weapons. But let me make this absolutely clear. If elected prime minister, I will do everything necessary to protect the safety and security of our people and our country . . . The best defence for Britain is a government actively engaged in seeking peaceful solutions to the world’s problems.

“But I am not a pacifist. I accept that military action, under international law and as a genuine last resort, is in some circumstances necessary. But that is very far from the kind of unilateral wars and interventions that have almost become routine in recent times.

“I will not take lectures on security or humanitarian action from a Conservative Party that stood by in the 1980s – refusing even to impose sanctions – while children on the streets of Soweto were being shot dead in the streets, or which has backed every move to put our armed forces in harm’s way regardless of the impact on our people’s security . . .

“The next Labour Government will invest in the UK’s diplomatic networks and consular services. We will seek to rebuild some of the key capabilities and services that have been lost as a result of Conservative cuts in recent years. To lead this work, Labour has created a Minister for Peace who will work across the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We will reclaim Britain’s leading role in tackling climate change, working hard to preserve the Paris Agreement and deliver on international commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

“Labour will re-examine the arms export licensing regulations to ensure that all British arms exports are consistent with our legal and moral obligations. This means refusing to grant export licences for arms when there is a clear risk that they will be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law. Weapons supplied to Saudi Arabia, when the evidence of grave breaches of humanitarian law in Yemen is overwhelming, must be halted immediately.

“A Labour Government will give leadership in a new and constructive way and that is the leadership we are ready to provide both at home and abroad . . .

“In the words of Martin Luther King “The chain reaction of evil – hate – begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark days of annihilation”. 

“I believe we can find those solutions. We can walk the hard yards to a better way to live together on this planet”.


Click on this link if you wish to read the whole text which also discusses relationships with Russian and Syria: Our thanks to Felicity Arbuthnot for sending the link.






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”.





The Military and the Environment – 2

April 19, 2014

In February, news of Louise Say’s 1997 thesis The Military and the Environment was published on this site; and some points made in Chapter 1 will now be summarised.

Louise SayLouise, now a producer of TV documentaries, points out that – though environmental degradation is mainly caused by civilian activity, in particular, human economic activity – military resources can make an important contribution to improving environmental conditions. The total release of carbon dioxide as a result of military activity could be as high as 10% of total global emissions.

Though nation states continue to regard military security as the most important aspect of national security and have continued to maintain it by military means, there is evidence suggesting that environmental factors and not military threats have made state boundaries less secure: these include transboundary pollution, population movements and disputes over access to scarce resources, especially oil.

johan galtungConcern has long been expressed about overcrowding and conflict (Meadows et al, ‘Limits to Growth and others).

In 1982, Johan Galtung published Environment, Development and Military Activity: Towards an Alternative Security Doctrine, Oslo, Norwegian Universities Press.

Brigadier Michael Harbottle, a former Chief of UN Peacekeeping in Cyprus, argued that security must “embrace those non-military aspects of economic, humanitarian and environmental security”.

michael harbottle leaving cyprus

Louise cited his consideration of a holistic approach to security, requiring a ‘change in mindset’, which was set down in What is Proper Soldiering? (Centre for International Peacebuilding, 1992).

SIPRI 1994 figures record a period of ‘intense militarisation’ in the 1980s, with a proliferation of weapons, particularly nuclear, biological and chemical weapons to the less-developed countries.

Sovereign immunity & military secrecy

There is evidence (Worldwatch Institute 1984) that during the Cold War period many military activities caused environmental pollution, but that ‘sovereign immunity’ protected armed forces from the threat of legal prosecution in a number of countries. More of this in Chapter 5.

Military exercises, training and weapons development cause damaging environmental pollution, even in peacetime. A 1992 study undertaken by The Working Group on Militarism and the Environment at the University of Toronto, reviewed by Mary Kehoe, assessed the environmental impact of world military establishments which use large tracts of land and airspace and deplete energy resources; one quarter of all jet fuel is consumed by military aircraft (Michael Renner, Lester Brown). Other points included:

“Land use for war games destroys soil, wildlife, vegetation and natural water levels. Labrador, where the Innu have for years protested low-level flight training by NATO forces, is but one region where human beings and wild life have been severely disturbed by continuing flight training.

“Civilian workers employed in the production of explosives and other military “tools” may suffer unprotected exposure to harmful substances which can result in cancers and impairment of internal organs, the study notes. Military secrecy is one factor impeding the calculation of the total damage resulting from nuclear testing and accidents”.

Iran felt isolated and betrayed for over 30 years

February 10, 2014


Dr Khateri IranLast June this site posted news about the work of Dr. Shahriar Khateri, co-founder of the Tehran Peace Museum.

After fighting in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war he went to medical school and later co-founded the Society for Chemical Weapons Victims Support – which many believe should have shared the Nobel peace prize with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Strategic loneliness

robin wright persiaRobin Wright has now written from Tehran about the lingering impact of the 1980s war defining Iran’s worldview – described by Nasser Hadian, a University of Tehran political scientist, as one of “strategic loneliness”.

Robin continues: “Tehran felt a sense of isolation and betrayal after the United Nations verified Iraq’s repeated use of chemical weapons, but the outside world still almost unanimously sided with Saddam Hussein. Iran’s neighbors aided him. Europeans and Russians sold him arms. The United States was complicit too. Washington provided Baghdad with intelligence on Iran’s equipment and troops strengths to help Iraq retake the Fao Peninsula in 1988. Iraq made widespread use of chemical weapons to win it back”.

In June 2013, State Department documents dealing with the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war were declassified and released under the Freedom of Information Act. Some confirmed 2002 reports that US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld – an executive in the pharmaceutical industry – helped Saddam Hussein build up his arsenal of chemical and biological weapons.

Iran has become the world’s ‘largest laboratory’ for the study of low-dose exposure to chemical weapons

It is estimated that Iran suffered more than 50,000 immediate casualties from Iraq’s repeated use of nerve agents and toxic gases in the 1980s. Years after the war however, Iranian doctors noticed that respiratory diseases with unusual side-symptoms — corneal disintegration, rotting teeth and dementia, a combination synonymous with mustard gas — had started killing some veterans who had not been on the frontlines. The troubling pattern was soon diagnosed as secondary contamination to mustard gas.

The final tally of the war may still not be known for years, Dr. Shahriar Khateri, now Iran’s leading expert on chemical weapons victims, says. “Most of the men exposed to chemical weapons were not registered casualties at the time. So almost every day there are new cases — 30 years after the war.” Dr. Farhad Hashemnez told Robin Wright in 2002. “At least 20% of the current patients are civilians who didn’t think they were close enough to be exposed.”

Khateri says 70,000 are registered and other Iranian doctors predict that the final toll of Iraq’s chemical weapons could rival the 90,000 who died from toxic gases in World War I.

Robin Wright has been a fellow at Yale, Duke, Stanford, Brookings, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the U.S. Institute of Peace. Among many awards, she won the U.N. Correspondents Gold Medal, the National Magazine Award, and the Overseas Press Club Award for “best reporting in any medium requiring exceptional courage and initiative”.


NATO-Russian co-operation?

October 5, 2013


ian davis 3Dr Ian Davis of NATO Watch sends news of today’s report in the Journal of Turkish Weekly suggesting that NATO and Russia have agreed to cooperate to facilitate Syria chemical disarmament.

This is exactly what Dr Davis and Andreas Persbo, Executive Director of VERTIC, called for in an opinion piece published on 13 September, which was read by a senior NATO official, who responded favourably in a private email on 17th September.

Dr Davis adds, “As far we can ascertain, no one else was calling for such a strategic alignment and our efforts to place the article in both The Guardian and New York Times fell on deaf ears”.

The news is not yet to be seen in the Western Press, but was announced yesterday in some detail by the Voice of Russia and the day before in its Indian edition.

NATO russia snapshot

Russia and NATO have agreed to fund and provide technical assistance to the chemical weapon disarmament process in Syria being conducted by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW at an Ambassador-level session of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels on Friday.

Disarmament personnel are expected to begin travelling to chemical-weapon facilities to disable equipment next week, according to an OPCW press release. Dr Davis ends:

As we said in our earlier article, this cooperation could be a potential game changer. Not only does this agreement offer a tentative route map out of the mess in Syria but also a broader strategic, normative and political rapprochement between NATO and Russia, as well as a re-invigorated United Nations. We await further details of the NATO-Russia agreement with interest”. 


natowatch observatory header 

NATO Watch: Promoting a more transparent and accountable NATO

A valid question?

May 11, 2013


Dr Khan phoned BBC 4’s Any Answers programme on Saturday 27th April to ask:


anita anand“Why is the use of chemical weapons regarded as being worse than blowing people to smithereens with bombs?”

Anita Anand pointed out that their use, like that of nuclear weapons, is forbidden under international law.

Dr Khan repeated his question and added:


“I regard killing by any means as abhorrent”.