“We were only following (the UN’s) orders.”

Another OU student made this observation on his blog:

The whole Authoritarianism thing a complete area on its own as there is a definite case of further investigation needed into why socially superior society accepts these individuals as authority.

which prompted these thoughts:

I did a Coursera course on international criminal law which talked about how the “I was only following orders” defence was challenged at the Nuremberg Trials and created a precedent for international justice by rejecting it.  I find that whole history—from Nuremberg to modern day decisions about what legal action can be taken across borders—fascinating.  We now have continental courts of justice and war trials procedures and all sorts of good stuff to improve the safety and security of (most) everyone on the planet from abuses by their own government.

But the pendulum seems to have swung the other way from the principal established in the mid-1600s of sovereign states having absolute control of internal affairs, (“Westphalian Sovereignty”) to NATO saying the Westphalian principles are undemocratic and humanity is not relevant and then Tony Bliar simply called it anachronistic and that you can therefore attack who you like with impunity which, it appears, he could.

When I take a step back and look at the last 1,000 years of European history, it seems in this past 20 years we have undone the work of the preceding 350 in a supposed pursuit of justice on behalf of the citizens of other countries.  We have scrapped the idea of governments killing their own citizens and replaced it with it being OK to kill the civilians of other countries.

The victims of the Nazis got justice (as much was practically possible, anyway) at Nuremberg.  But where do civilians killed by Western airstrikes get their justice?  As Hilary Benn said yesterday: “Ve are only folloving ze orders of ze United Nations!”

So that’s all right then.

As for accepting authority, the Milgram Experiment was the one where unwitting volunteers were talked into electrocuting people to death because the bloke in the white coat told them to.

When Hilary Benn¹ gave his speech, the bit about “We are only following a UN mandate” was the bit that won over the MPs: knowledge that whatever happens, not only does their collective responsibility mean they are only a tiny bit to blame if things go wrong, it was all the UN’s idea anyway.  They can vote for war and airstrikes that will kill civilians² with impunity.

Maybe that right there is a very good argument for our elected representatives to be held responsible for their actions, not just those of countries we don’t like, and I don’t mean at the ballot box.  Maybe we should be sending our war criminals to trial as a lesson to the others.  Maybe the MPs will cheer less than they did last night when they voted for war.

 

¹ The son of Tony Benn, the man who said “When there is a great cry that something should be done, you can depend on it that something remarkably silly probably will be done“.

² The first targets are to be oil fields and related infrastructure.  These are operated by civilians.  (Why weren’t these destroyed over a year ago?  Oh, yeah, the oil has to keep flowing, doesn’t it?  Even if it is bankrolling Islamic State.  Until it ends up all over the media that Israel and Turkey are cheerfully buying it for sale to the world market.  But it’s not all about oil, oh no…)

No New Wars 11 11 2018

No New Wars 11 11 2018

Meaning, let’s ensure No New Wars start as from 11th November 2018.

How?  By making it clear we expect our leaders to use other means to achieve change.

It will have been a hundred years since the Armistice, a hundred years in which we have learned an awful lot not just people’s ability to harm other, innocent, people, but also about communication, reconciliation, change management, energy creation, environmental management, understanding, and sharing.

In our name, and with our financial support, people are dropping air-bombs, firing guided missiles, shooting long-range heavy-calibre machine-gun fire, remotely-controlling armed drones…to kill people, including civilians.  And is a person who picks up a gun to defend their home a soldier or an armed civilian?  Much of the 20th century involved the deaths of tens of millions of civilians; the 21st century so far has comprised the deaths of 100,000s of civilians, and if you include civilians carrying guns, it is already in the millions.  And the media is glorying in the “Arab Spring” ignoring that it is the worst kind of war: a civil war armed, funded, supported and maintained by external forces who benefit financially or politically from the suffering and deaths of those involved.

Wars are the principle cause of this suffering, and it is time they stopped.  They are not necessary for peace.  There are other means, and not just financial sanctions which are only a feeble exercise in trying to show the futility of peaceful solutions.  Governments and politicians are not ”’trying”’ to end war; it neither adds to their power nor is it financially attractive for their sponsors.

Wars are started by politicians being manipulated and promoted by the media.  If politicians can be made to see that war-mongering is no longer going to create votes, they will become peace-makers.  And if the media are hit financially by not getting readers and web page hits, they will lose advertising revenue and so will cease that behaviour.

The trite cliché “”War is the continuation of politics by other means”” is not only facile, but also two hundred years out of date and inappropriate in a nuclear-energy, internet connected, post-empire world.

I am not so naïve as to think existing wars can be just stopped.  But we can do our bit to create a world where it is not necessary or politically wise to start any new wars.

We—that means you—can tell politicians they will lose their jobs if they start down the path of war.

We—that means you—can tell the media they will lose advertising revenue and sales if they promote war.

I am not saying we should not support our troops nor have a defence facility.  I am not saying the campaign to stop population growth is wrong.  But I am saying we must actively prevent our leaders from starting down paths that lead to the deaths of thousands of civilians just because that is easier and more attractive to them than any alternatives.  We must make peace more attractive.

Other thoughts: I’ll need leaflets, email signatures and other means of publicity.  Also, a blog, a wiki and a forum.

I need to form a No New Wars movement.

I need to start a 11112018 – The Eleven Eleven Twenty Eighteen campaign.

Other thoughts: the modern heroes – the new Ghandis – e.g. the Tienanmen square person with shopping bags in front of the tanks; the people who stand in front of Israeli guns; wikileaks to expose the leaders who lie.  They should not be needed.

(This article was originally published on or before 13/09/2012.)