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

October 20, 2016

gorbachev-iceland-16

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.

 

 

 


Iraq and Libya and semi-destruction of Syria — western foreign policy disasters

February 16, 2016

In 2002 a state visit: – welcomed by Queen Elizabeth and the Blairs:

syria assad queen

Truth in the words of a ‘prophet without honour’

“Whatever one thinks of Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy, might we agree that the destruction of two states — Iraq and Libya and semi-destruction of Syria — have been western foreign policy disasters?

“When you destroy a state the gates to every corner of hell are opened — no frontiers, no police, no law, no education, no infrastructure, no government, a Hobbesian war of all against all. After Iraq one might have thought western policymakers would have paused before turning Libya into a 1000km breach in the previously reasonably solid southern Mediterranean border through which refugees and Islamist jihadis now pour or export weapons and Islamist ideology”.

And now:

alleppo destruction

The Times reports that the five year conflict in Syria has claimed at least 250,000 lives.

Continued (minus anti-Russian bias):

“Of course we all celebrate an uprising against nasty authoritarians and there are no end of them to chose from in the Middle East, the Gulf, parts of Africa and further afield. It is so easy to start fuelling a conflict but so hard to say it is time to end it, hold our noses and let death and internal politics take the place of external intervention. Restoring state authority in Iraq, Libya and Syria should now be the supreme object of statecraft . . . “

Instead of the destroyed or semi-destroyed states and tsunamis of refugees that have been the main fruits of western policy this decade, we could build a stable Euro-Mediterranean region where investment can replace intervention on its southern and eastern littorals and return the EU to growth, prosperity and confidence.

Source: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d7db9bc6-d18b-11e5-92a1-c5e23ef99c77.html#ixzz40KQVHPTg

 

 


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.


Inspired by Martin Niemöller

May 11, 2015

First a bomb irradiated Hiroshima, and we did not speak out – because we were not living in Japan;.

hiroshima bomb

  • then people in Guantanamo were imprisoned and tortured, and we did not speak out – because our sons were safe;
  • then drones bombed civilians in Pakistan, and we did not speak out – because we were far away in Britain;
  • then Britain’s Tornado and Reaper drones dropped over 200 bombs or other missiles on Iraqi targets, and we did not speak out – because it was kept secret;
  • then our allies bombed and blockaded Yemen, and we did not speak out – because we were not threatened;.

yemen search 4 survivorsPeople search for survivors.

Then they came for us – and there was no one left to help us


Paris 1986 and Paris 2015: Ed Vulliamy

January 14, 2015

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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


‘U.N. resolution: Israel must renounce nuclear arms’: Washington Post

December 8, 2014

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Mark Shapiro draws attention to another article in Electronic Intifada by the author of One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

Summary

Israel and the United States were the only countries to vote against a UN resolution calling for the prevention of an arms race in outer space and another resolution calling for a prohibition on the development and manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction, both passed by the General Assembly on 2nd December.

un officials call on I to sign nptUnited Nations News Centre Top UN officials called on hold-out states to ratify treaty banning nuclear tests in 2011

Another resolution on the “risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East,” calling on Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) “without delay” and noting that it remains “the only State in the Middle East that has not yet” done so was passed, with Canada and Micronesia joining Israel and the US in voting against it.

US envoy Robert Wood voted against the resolution at the committee-level last month on the grounds that the measure “fails to meet the fundamental tests of fairness and balance. It confines itself to expressions of concern about the activities of a single country.”

But Israel is the only ‘single country’ with nuclear weapons in the region, and the only country that has not signed the NPT.

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In this article in Electronic Intifada, an independent online news publication focusing on Palestine, its people, politics, culture and place in the world, the author, Ali Abunimah, also touches on Israel’s nuclear safety record. It came near the bottom of a 2012 survey by the Nuclear Safety Initiative examining the security conditions of nuclear materials held in 32 countries. He also deplores the abstention of twenty states from the resolution calling on Israel to join the NPT, including India, Germany (which gives Israel submarines on which it deploys nuclear weapons) and other EU states including the UK, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands and France:

“The usual suspects who lecture the rest of the world about “peace” but are always on hand to assist Israel to commit its crimes while shielding it from accountability”.