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.

 

 

 


The British government attempts to mitigate the effects of yet another disastrous military adventure

April 19, 2016

blair gaddafiIn September 2004, Col Muammar Gaddafi was finally considered to be “on side”. Oil and infrastructure deals were struck with Britain & other countries. Excited by the Arab Spring, in 2011, the UK and France (aka ‘NATO-backed forces’) led efforts to back rebels fighting to overthrow Gaddafi. The country has since descended into chaos, with two rival governments and the formation of hundreds of militias, some allied to the so-called Islamic State (IS).

One step forward

hammond libyan pmForeign secretary Philip Hammond has visited a Libya exhausted by five years of fighting. Speculation about UK involvement in a possible international military force is rife; the stated intention is to provide £10m for training support to the Libyan administration’s armed forces.

But a Moseley reader alerts us to another step backwards

In 2006, when he was opposition leader, David Cameron said trust in politics could only be restored if MPs had the final say on committing British troops to war – instead of the prime minister making the decision using royal prerogative powers.

Ministers have abandoned plans to introduce a war powers act that would institute a legal commitment to seek parliamentary approval before deploying British troops in combat.

Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, told MPs that such a measure would ”constrain the operational flexibility of the armed forces and prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of those forces” and that there could be accusations of acting in bad faith if unexpected developments were to require a different course of action.

However he later told MPs that ministers would “keep parliament informed and we will of course seek its approval before deploying British forces in combat roles into a conflict situation . . . This convention would not apply to British military personnel embedded in the armed forces of other nations”.

revolving door peopleDavid Cameron said trust in (defence?) politics could only be restored if MPs had the final say.

We add to this the need to close the revolving door between oil and armaments corporations.

Total trust would require many more reforms – Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn could do it.


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.


Is soft power undermining Iran after force failed?

May 30, 2015

Mission accomplished? After an unsuccessful eight year proxy war , money and commodities poured from the United States into the Middle East and, in the name of normality and freedom, all but the strongest young people are being remade in the image of the Western consumer.

iran younger gen

Hard power is exerted by financial inducements, invasion and remote killing by drone aircraft. Soft power sounds quite benign, but as Joseph Nye points out in The Future of Power (2011), it can be wielded for good or ill: Hitler, Stalin, and Mao all possessed a great deal of soft power.

He adds: “It is not necessarily better to twist minds than to twist arms”.

Leading where?

roula khalafRecent ‘advances’ in Iran are being celebrated and underpinned by the FT’s Roula Khalaf (left), who was invited to speak in April’s economic summit for female executives akaGlobal Female Leaders‘. She records that the boys and girls of the Islamic Republic watch western television and Iranian expatriate channels beamed from Los Angeles, Washington and London. “The youth are different from 10 years ago,” says Hamid-Reza Jalaipour, a professor of sociology at Tehran University, “Individualism is high . . . they do what they want”.

Soft power ‘achievements’ of satellite channels, social media and clothes designers noted:

  • Instilling a sense of inferiority: “Iranians aren’t known in the world. We’re not a reference for progress. The US is. Europe is”.
  • The rate of divorce has been steadily rising, up more than 5% in the past Iranian year that ended in March.
  • One young man stopped praying and lost faith that the goals of the 1979 Islamic revolution could be achieved. “They were good for 1979 — slogans like oil for free, free housing, equality”.
  • The hijab comes in all colours and patterns. Some don’t even bother tying it around the neck. The jackets that are supposed to conceal their bodies are tighter and the hems are rising up.
  • They spend their lives on social media — Viber is the latest craze, and a forum for jokes about their leaders. According to the ministry of communications’ April figures, 20 million Iranians have smartphones.

Encouraged by the Daily Mail

iran younsters d mail

  • “In downtown Tehran” Ms Khalaf is told, “the kids, aged 16 to 25, call themselves Sholex. They are like a street gang. They come from poor families, and live on the streets, drinking, smoking (tobacco and hashish) and wasting time . . . an outcast society, separated from the rest, living in a world they made up themselves.

In short, exhibiting the downside of Western societies

Surely with some justice, Islamic leaders ‘regularly blame the west for corrupting [the under 40s]. Ms Khalaf continues: “In a recent statement, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader and highest authority, hinted at his frustration. “They [the youth] are intellectually exposed to dangerous threats — the ways of corrupting them are many, there are communications media that can . . . spread a wrong thought or comment”. He continues: “Today the country is not involved in the military war but it is involved in political, economic and security wars — and, above all, the cultural wars.”

Nazanin is a 28-year-old graphic designer, who describes herself as an outcast. “When foreigners look at TV they don’t see the real Iran. We have the surface society and we have the underground society. We have our parties, we get drunk, nothing is legal. We live like in the west.” The police? “You can get around them, especially if you have money and you can pay bribes.”

Some common sense survives – no ‘Arab Spring’ pawns:

Ms Khalaf asked Afra (who works for a research company) and her friends how they envision Iran changing. Step-by-step reform, they say, not upheaval. One revolution for Iran is enough. “The Islamic revolution made us less developed and we’re afraid another one will take us even further backwards,” says Hamid, a 25-year-old finishing graduate studies in engineering. “Look at the Arab revolutions,” he continues, referring to Syria, Egypt, Libya”.

These illusions of normality, freedom and prosperity are confidence trick. The unmentioned features of the USA, a country which young Iranians and others have been led, by soft power, to admire as ‘an ideal state of freedom’, are military aggression, pollution, child abuse, violent pornography, youth unemployment, high cost of housing and energy and inequality.


The Remembrance, by Jake Thackray

November 3, 2014

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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

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