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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How can we learn from history to build a peaceful future?

July 15, 2015

PVDD 5The author of ‘Learning the Lessons of War’, published recently in the SGI Quarterly magazine, a Buddhist forum for peace, culture and education, Dr Peter van den Dungen, has been at the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, UK, since 1976. A peace historian, he is founder and general coordinator of the International Network of Museums for Peace. Some extracts follow but interested readers are urged to follow the link and read the article in full.

Hegel’s “We learn from history that we do not learn from history” is a well-known saying. Given the continuing prevalence of war, it can also be said that we certainly do not seem to learn from war, such a pervasive feature of history. However, Immanuel Kant, a great German philosopher and one of the most profound thinkers on war and peace, argued in the late 18th century that humankind learns from history and war, but only the hard way.

After the Napoleonic Wars (of which Kant witnessed the beginning), the main European powers instituted a “concert” system to prevent a similar violent disruption of the established international order.

A century later, the horrors of World War I resulted in the creation of the League of Nations, the first organization of its kind, which was meant to limit the recourse to war. It also established agencies and the Permanent Court of International Justice in order to address issues that otherwise might result in war.

These new institutions proved too weak to prevent another world conflagration, which occurred a mere two decades after the first one. During World War II, plans were laid for a successor world organization. The onset of the Cold War, the antagonism between the main powers since then and inherent weaknesses have made the United Nations a rather ineffective instrument for keeping the peace. At the same time, it cannot be denied that it pioneered new techniques (not even foreseen in the Charter) to limit or prevent war, such as UN peacekeeping operations.

The end of World War II also saw the beginnings of a process of economic and social cooperation that resulted in a new political entity, the European Union. The need for this, as the surest way to abolish war and poverty, was urged by the organized peace movement in the 19th century, and similar ideas had been put forward in peace plans formulated by visionaries in earlier centuries.

Airing books containing the names of atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Airing books containing the names of atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

World War II had other profound consequences, particularly for the two countries that were widely regarded as responsible for it–Germany and Japan. Apart from the terrible loss of civilian life and destruction of their cities, Germany was divided and Japan became the victim of the use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both countries adopted peace constitutions with self-denying ordinances regarding their military capabilities and intentions. But in other respects, Germany learned lessons and pursued policies with the aim of achieving peace and reconciliation with its erstwhile adversaries, which have largely been lacking in Japan. They involve elements of apology, compensation, repair and restitution–expressed in moral, material and symbolical terms. Without such a deliberate and sincere strategy on the part of Germany, the project of European unification (of which the country has been the main pillar, together with France) would have been impossible.

cover sgi pciture

If Japan has learned lessons from the atrocities and crimes committed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the same cannot be said of the world as a whole.

Arnold Toynbee writes (in his autobiography, Experiences) that he had been jolted out of the traditional accepting attitude to war by the slaughter of half of his friends in World War I. The same revulsion against war was widespread in its aftermath. He noted that such revulsion “ought [to] have been total and universal from the moment . . . the world entered the Atomic Age.” He found that the American people, victorious in two world wars, had succumbed instead to militarism. Toynbee wrote this during the Vietnam War. Since then, the trauma of that war has been overshadowed by the events of 9/11, and militarism has become even more pervasive in American society.

An appropriate, meaningful and fruitful remembrance would amount to the initiation of nothing less than a worldwide program of peace education as part of the development of a comprehensive culture of peace. That peace is possible–indeed, that it is imperative for human survival–should be taught and learned in schools and universities and through peace museums.

In the modern world, museums are preeminent institutions, widely regarded as guardians of high culture that fulfill a major role in public education. It is telling that, whereas war and military museums are widespread (with hundreds of such museums in the US and UK alone) and often well-funded, peace museums are hard to find, with the singular exception of Japan. Likewise, war monuments abound, whereas antiwar and peace monuments are far less numerous. History textbooks have traditionally been dominated by war and its pretended heroes, with opponents of war and advocates of peace at best relegated to footnotes. The “invisibility” of peace in education, institutions and public life generally is a great hindrance to learning about peace and working toward it. In particular, museums honoring peacemakers of the past and present would inspire and encourage visitors to believe in peace and recognize their role in helping bring it about.

In this way, perhaps, Hegel’s sombre maxim may yet prove to be wrong.


George Farebrother: in memoriam

April 13, 2015

george farebrotherThe late George Farebrother, who received the Civilisation 3000 alerts was, as his close colleague described him, “a deeply committed member of the global anti-nuclear movement who was intricately involved in moves to mount legal actions against governments that possess nuclear weapons”.

That colleague, Commander Robert Green Royal Navy (Ret’d) – from the Disarmament & Security Centre in New Zealand – wrote George’s obituary for the Guardian.

He records that from 1991 to 2004, they worked together as secretary and chair, respectively, of the UK affiliate of the World Court Project, an initiative that used the International Court of Justice at the Hague to challenge the legality of nuclear weapons. After the court confirmed in 1996 that the threat or use of nuclear weapons should generally be regarded as illegal, George sustained the project virtually single-handedly until his death.

From the moment he learned about the World Court Project in 1991 he took early retirement and dedicated the rest of his life to its activities. Applying his Quaker beliefs and teaching experience, he came up with the idea of collecting individual “declarations of public conscience” against nuclear weapons, which were accepted by the International Court of Justice as “citizens’ evidence”. This characteristically inventive concept was taken up all over the world, especially in Japan, and George helped present nearly four million declarations to the Court before its historic judgment.

He never gave up trying to engage with decision-makers and their advisers, and became a familiar figure in the corridors of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence, parliament and London embassies. His cogent writing, networking flair and grass roots appeal brought in enough funds to allow him to travel to key United Nations events in New York and Geneva. Constantly devising fresh ways of using the law to mobilise against nuclear weapons, he became adept at producing computerised publicity material.

In the Friend [15.4.05], George reported that one hundred and eighty eight states had ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which obliged them to negotiate their abolition. Individuals who wanted to see the nuclear­-armed states honour their legal obligations and abolish these outrageous weapons forever signed personal declarations which were presented at UN HQ in New York during the NPT Review Conference in May. The declarations also demanded the start of negotiations leading to the abolition of nuclear weapons under strict and effective international control.

The writer, who had not seen George in person for several years, was very pleased to hear news about his work at second hand from a friend, whose daughter Roslyn (below) worked closely with George during his latter years.

roslyn cook world court project

Roslyn thus gained vital experience that has enabled her to continue his work for the abolition of nuclear weapons and a treaty to ban them, as readers may see here: https://twitter.com/roslyncook.

She attended the NPT Review Conference in 2010 with George and will be attending again in April as part of the CND delegation. Currently she is involved in a project to bring 80000 voices together next year to sing for peace and freedom from nuclear weapons.

George had also been secretary of the Sussex Peace Alliance, treasurer of Peacerights, Secretary of Eastbourne for Peace and Liberty, treasurer of the Institute for Law and Peace and a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).


‘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”.


Reprisals: “incompatible with the purposes and principles of the United Nations”

September 2, 2013

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Rev Dr Anthony Harvey from Willersey wrote to the Financial Times recently making these  points:

In 1964 the UN Security Council condemned all reprisals as “incompatible with the purposes and principles of the United Nations” (resolution 188), and in 1970 the UN general assembly affirmed without dissent that states have a duty to “refrain from acts of reprisal involving the use of force” (resolution 2625).

To proceed with the planned reprisals against the Syrian regime would be to act in defiance of a growing international consensus that such acts of retaliation can no longer be justified on pragmatic, moral or legal grounds.