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”.

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Click on this link if you wish to read the whole text which also discusses relationships with Russian and Syria: https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/05/jeremy-corbyns-chatham-house-speech-full-text/#. Our thanks to Felicity Arbuthnot for sending the link.

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Responding to terrorism: a statement from Quakers in Britain

November 25, 2015

News Release: 24 November 2015

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C3000 logo 3 medium.

As Parliament prepares to debate next steps in Syria, Quakers in Britain have made this statement.

The attacks in Paris on 13 November were deeply shocking and our hearts continue to go out to those killed, injured, bereaved and traumatised.

It is human nature that the closer suffering comes to us, the more acutely we feel the pain and grief. But that experience should sensitise us to the suffering caused repeatedly by acts of war and violent crime in more distant places, including Beirut, Sinai, Bamako and Aleppo. It should strengthen our determination to build a safer world together.

Terrorism is a deliberate attempt to provoke fear, hatred, division and a state of war. War – especially war with the West – is what ISIS/Daesh wants. It confirms the image they project of the West as a colonialist ‘crusader’ power, which acts with impunity to impose its will overseas and especially against Muslims.

The military actions of Western nations recruit more people to the cause than they kill. Every bomb dropped is a recruitment poster for ISIS, a rallying point for the young, vulnerable and alienated. And every bomb dropped on Syrian cities drives yet more people to flee and seek refuge in safer countries.

Our political leaders seem determined that Britain should look strong on the world stage. Quakers in Britain believe our country should act with wisdom and far-sighted courage. A wisdom that rises above the temptation to respond to every problem with military might. A wisdom that looks back at our failures in Libya and Iraq and Afghanistan and learns from experience. The courage – and strength – to think through the likely consequences of actions to find a long term, lasting solution.

The courageous response of ordinary people who refuse to give up their way of life and refuse to be driven by fear is one that politicians could learn from.

Although there are no quick or easy answers, there are things we can do, all of us together, which will defeat the terrorists more assuredly than military action. Quakers in Britain commit to playing our part in these actions.

We can quieten ourselves and listen to the truth from deep within us that speaks of love, mutual respect, humanity and peace.

We can and will refuse to be divided. By bridge-building among faiths and within our local communities we can challenge and rise above the ideologies of hate and actively love our neighbour.

By welcoming refugees, we can not only meet the acute needs of those individuals but also undercut the narrative of those who seek to create fear and mistrust.

And we can ask our political leaders to:

  • Treat terrorist acts as crimes, not acts of war
  • Stop arming any of the parties fighting in Syria
  • Observe international law and apply it equally to all parties
  • Build cooperation among nations, strengthening those international institutions which contribute to peace
  • Export peace rather than war, so that we can create the conditions the world needs to address its most serious problems, including climate change.

The statement concludes with this extract from a statement made by Quakers in Britain in 1943 (Quaker Faith and Practice 24.09):

“True peace cannot be dictated, it can only be built in co-operation between all peoples. None of us, no nation, no citizen, is free from some responsibility for this.”


Israeli-Palestinian security: the surest guarantee

May 14, 2015

In June last year, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Pope Francis at the Vatican to pray for peace. Christian, Jewish and Muslim prayers were said in the Vatican gardens and an olive tree was planted.

pope israeli palestinian presidents

Reports in the New York Times and the Financial Times summarised:              

The Vatican said on Wednesday that it had concluded a treaty to recognize Palestinian statehood, before a visit by Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian president, to the Vatican on Saturday. It is concerned about the situation of Christians living in the region and Christian holy sites in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories,

There has been increasing international acceptance of Palestine as a state since the United Nations upgraded the Palestinian delegation’s status in 2012 to that of a non-member observer state, after a vote in the General Assembly.

Pope Francis has long expressed a wish for a Palestinian state and of late the Vatican Year Book has referred to the Palestinian envoy to the Holy See as representing the “State of Palestine”. The pope also used the words “state of Palestine” on the visit to the Holy Land in 2014, when he prayed at the Israeli wall, three storeys high, that runs through Bethlehem.

the wall

An Israeli diplomatic source is reported to have said: “We are disappointed by the use of the term ‘State of Palestine’. It does nothing to advance the cause of peace. In fact the opposite — it further distances the Palestinians from returning to negotiations.

Some 138 countries now recognise Palestine as a state, and governments in Britain, Ireland, France and Spain held ‘symbolic’ [non-binding] votes calling on their leaders to follow the example of Sweden. The European Parliament has voted to recognise the state of Palestine “in principle”, describing it as key to the advancement of peace talks in the region.

palestinian recognised mapSource: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/palestine-recognised-as-a-state-in-principle-by-european-parliament-in-symbolic-vote-9930981.html

This treaty is the latest sign of Pope Francis’ constructive foreign policy, following an earlier encyclical on climate change and human ecology and his recent meeting with Cuban president Raúl Castro; according to President Obama, this helped to broker the easing of diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington.

Not swords but ploughshares:

“Israel should have nothing to fear. The surest guarantee of its security is peaceful coexistence with a Palestinian state”: Philip Stephens, associate editor of the Financial Times (16.9.14).

As Girish Kotwal from Louisville, Kentucky commented [New York Times], we hope this will serve as “a catalyst for permanent peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and an end to all violence, rockets and bombardment. Shalom and Salaam”.

Sources include:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/14/world/middleeast/vatican-to-recognize-palestinian-state-in-new-treaty.html?emc=edit_na_20150513

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/156c5ed8-f994-11e4-ae65-00144feab7de.html#ixzz3a5byPJkM

http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=3791#.VVRPp_CGPh4