Chilcot, briefly

At the most sympathetic interpretation, the second Gulf War was initiated on poor quality intelligence, incomplete intelligence, contrary to evidence-based failure to find WMDs, an overly-keen desire to initiate war, a premature decision to initiate war, a lack of collaborative decision making and not listening to objections and alternatives.

So, it should not have been initiated.

Tony Blair is a war-monger.

I don’t think we learned anything we did not know already.

There’s also no discussion going on about alternatives – which is what I have been feeling and saying for years.  Stop looking for reasons to go to war – which is what happened here – but instead look for evidence-based, properly-researched, alternatives.

What do you believe is the best way to deal with ISIS?

I was privately asked by someone on The Student Room forum the following question:

Your sig has intrigued me for a while (Studying to support my peace activism), and if you don’t mind me asking, I was wondering if you could expand further upon your views especially with respect to current issues involving ISIS? What do you believe is the best way to deal with ISIS?

Bear in mind I still consider myself a student of peace studies and my opinions are not as well-informed as I want them to be.

Firstly, I don’t think we should have got ourselves in this position.  I was one of those who thought the Second Gulf War was going to be a stupid mistake.  Arranging for the disposal of Gadaffi was another.

Change should not be brought about on a national scale so quickly; people can’t adjust and accommodate it.  A transition from a tyranny or autocracy to democracy takes generations and we have plenty of evidence—especially in Africa—to show this.  It is necessary to educate the majority of the population in justice and political theory and let them experience it for themselves before they will be the force that demands it and supports it.

However, having made the mistake and created government-less states, we should have imposed one.  We could either have used the colonial model which we know how to do (and would be unpopular) or invented a completely new model such as a UN Peacekeeping Government formed from a committee of the security council and stable Middle East representatives with a 20 year plan.  Use the experience of the Marshall Plan as a model.  Putting in a puppet government was doomed to failure, as it always has been throughout history.

But most of all, don’t intentionally topple a government without a plan for what happens next. That was just irresponsible stupidity.

However, that’s not where we’re at.  We didn’t do go in with a proper plan and so it went belly up.  What a surprise.  (I’ve only got 15+ years of project management and I could see it was not planned properly.)

So, instead of a stable government we have a guerilla force taking territory.  They cannot be fought by airstrikes or conventional warfare.  Every war that stopped came to end because the fighting stopped and talking started.  That talking should have begun in September 2001 by the USA saying “What on Earth did we do to make you so angry?” rather than saying “A bit of shock and awe will make them behave“.  The days of gunboat diplomacy are long over.  Another 2,000 words are needed to explain what I mean but essentially the USA should have engaged with Middle East countries and opened up communication to understand differences.  Hopeful, they would have acknowledged that cultural imperialism really is just as bad, if not worse, than military imperialism.  At least the Romans would let you run your own country and not force you to learn Latin, buy their products and worship their gods.  The USA has no idea (and no experience) of how to run an empire so their attempt at capitalist cultural imperialism is causing this global hatred that is surprising them so much.

But that communication didn’t happen, so now we have huge areas of angry people.  Is it legitimate they are angry?  Subjected to cultural imperialism and imposed American business who have a bad reputation, especially with regard to mineral rights, overseas human exploitation and not caring about the local environment overseas.  Then having their governments toppled with the killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians in the process.  Yeah, I think they might be entitled to be grumpy.  Like most terrorists, they are trying to be heard but nobody is listening.

When the listening starts, the fighting can stop.  Not talking, listening.

Now for some old, and new, saws:

  • Peace cannot be kept by force.  It can only be achieved by understanding.
  • War doesn’t fix war.  It’s not wrong if someone gives up — he’s not actually losing, he’s saving people’s lives.
  • All wars have to end in some kind of political compromise.
  • To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.

I am aware I haven’t answered your question yet.

What do you believe is the best way to deal with ISIS?

Bear in mind you are asking me for the solution to a problem that Putin, Cameron, Assad, Merkel, Obama and others have not solved.  They have rather more resources and advisers than I have.

Either:

  1. flood the entire area with hundreds of thousands if not millions of peacekeepers (think of what we did in Northern Ireland street corners, but for the entire IS territory) (I wish we had done that when Yugoslavia had started to collapse);
  2. try and kill everyone in the entire IS territory, or all the males at least, until the remaining women beg their remaining menfolk to surrender (I think history will call that a genocide) which seems to be the current plan;
  3. call a cease-fire and open communication to come up with a negotiated settlement.  This will be a toughie since the UN does not want to recognise the Islamic State organisation as a legitimate state.

(Oh, and we move Heaven and Earth to re-take the the oil fields and stop buying the fecking oil off them, FFS.)

Personally, I’d go for the third option and go into negotiations wielding a humongous military threat: we’ll recognise you as a state IF you agree to democracy within 10 years, complete cease fire, votes for all, compliance with international human rights, education to age 16 for all, a government model based on the historic moderate Caliphates not a militaristic Islamist state, etc. and we will fund the replacement of the destroyed infrastructure.  If they refuse say we re-start the assassinations and large scale bombing.

They will accept – they will have to because it gives them what they want.  But it will collapse within weeks into in-fighting (civil war is inevitable, it always happens in these situations – warriors are not politicians [with the remarkable exception of Fidel Castro, of course]).  That is the opportunity to ‘assist’ and bring stability by starting to apply option one.  In those areas where stability can be brought either impose a government or, if possible, re-instate the previous local government under international direction and supervision.

Effectively, create a state similar to Iran, then work on making it more moderate by keeping communication open, re-establishing trade and tourism (“peace through tourism”) and keep the big fist in plain view.

If they want recognition as a state give it, but on terms the rest of the world find acceptable.  That’s the deal: the only alternative is assassinations, massive military invasion, total destruction, war trials and an imposed government.  Complete destruction and replacement.

As for justice for the killings – forget it.  Go for a ‘peace and reconciliation’ exercise like that which worked in South Africa and trade justice for peace.  It is controversial but has worked many times.

(I expect a few quiet assassinations accidents might occur when names and locations of certain unpleasant individuals are leaked to Mossad, Putin and the like.)

Bear in mind, this is off the top of my head and not backed up by teams of advisers and academics.

And you will also note I am not an absolute pacifist (although I respect and support those who are.  But if war is required, plan it properly, execute it efficiently and have a proper plan for what is to follow.  War solves nothing, it only destroys.  Peace has to be built.

How does one prevent war?

From a discussion about life goals:

How does one prevent war?

Stop others starting them by demonstrating they are not the most cost-effective solution and creating an environment where it is not in the starter’s best interests.

define:pacifism

What is pacifism? It gets a bad press, especially in comments online. The assumptions are that pacifists are cowards, will allow evil, will permit abuse. It might be your definition, it ain’t mine. Maybe I’m not one.

A Google search for define:pacifism gives us:

the belief that any violence, including war, is unjustifiable under any circumstances, and that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means.

That doesn’t work for me. A military invasion warrants a military response, hard and sharpish.

An ally being invaded warrants military defence, hard and sharpish.

What I do not like, is, specifically, our democratic government killing the civilians of another country and considering that an acceptable consequence of using an armed response.

I do not like our democratic government using an armed response as a first response. Other viable means should be explored first.

My mission is to learn what viable alternatives to war there are, and how to educate politicians and their advisers how to use them.

I do not believe pacifism = surrender.

Go on retreat

Lard’s World Peace Tip for 25th June 2014 is “Go on retreat”. I felt the need to comment:

I saw this strip this morning and wanted to say something about those young men advancing to Iraq with a desire to be freedom fighters or mercenaries. It felt so negative and unhopeful that I didn’t post it. But my melancholia won’t go away.

It reminds me of the pain and anguish generated by the Spanish Civil War. To all those young men aspiring to go to Iraq to be heroes, I wish I could make them read George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia before they go. It describes how the volunteers in a civil war are just grist to the mill, cannon fodder, pawns to the writhing mist-like politics of power struggles between factions run by self-serving, inhumane, sociopaths that called themselves ‘leaders’. Leaders that lead from behind, sending brave, hopeful, naïve young men to happily receive hot lead in their belies, limbs and faces.

Spain fought a civil war (fully utilising volunteers from abroad) and now has a monarchy again. It served only to let Hitler prove his Blitzkrieg philosophy worked and his air force improve their dive-bombing techniques

England fought a civil war, the most bloody war in its history, and it has been erased from the statue books and the monarchy put back on the throne. It seems Ireland will never forgive nor forget the consequences.

The USA had a civil war and afterwards was still the United States. What was the point of that?

Iraq will emerge from this civil war angry, embittered, poorer. And the young men heading off there from places like the UK thinking they are off for a happy time in the sun, those who survive will either be dead, physically damaged beyond repair, mercenaries or mentally scarred for life.

In a civil war, a war in one’s own homeland, fought by volunteers from overseas and fuelled by foreign governments, there is nowhere to retreat to. The Iraqis have no home, nowhere where you can close the door, turn off the lights and feel safe.

After all these thousands of years of conflict, can there never be peace for Mesopotamia?

War grave inscriptions

From the Great War Forum, there is a thread of Favourite Gravestone Inscriptions.  One is:

I fought & died in the Great War to end all wars have I died in vain?

or (link):

I have fought in the Great War, the War to end all Wars. If there are to be more Wars then I have died in vain.

It is on the headstone of Sergeant Phillip James Ball MM, 44th Australian Imperial Force.

He was born in Birmingham, England and later moved to Western Australia to become, I believe, a farmer.

He enlisted 24/01/1916 and was killed 28/03/1918 aged 21.

His grave is in Villers-Brettonneux Military Cemetery, grave III. E. 1.

Tag lines and elevator pitches

It is hard to come up with pithy, accurate and succinct tag lines, elevator pitches (yuck) for one’s self.  But I heard a few lines from Tom Tom Club‘s Wordy Rappinghood which goes:

Words of comfort, words of peace

Words to make the fighting cease

 

I like that, for the No New Wars concept.  Maybe with a slight change:

Words of counsel, words of peace

Words to make all fighting cease

 

A bit better than:

Let’s all work to stop new wars starting

No New Wars – but what does that mean?

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 through taxes, 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.  A civil war that is being 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 just 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 out 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.

Every blog has to start somewhere

It’s been 2 or 3 weeks since the epiphany (that was first written in September 2012): plenty of time to go off the boil, forget what I thought, or just give up.  But I haven’t.  So here goes.

A plan has been put together, initial domain names are registered, and the installation of the blog, forum and wiki begun.  I have a number of articles sitting in text files ready to be uploaded.

Hosting is by HostPost, the same provider as is used by the Blue Lamp Foundation, so that’s a good start.

Now I just need to get on and fill in the details, then start the marketing of the two ideas.

  1. No New Wars.  We do not need to start wars to solve the world’s problems any more. There are better alternatives to resolving problems than using our tax money to kill people including innocent civilians.  Let’s explore those options and ensure our politicians, civil servants and media are aware of them, and make sure these alternatives are used instead.
  2. Eleven-Eleven-Twenty-Eighteen.  The Great War, the “War to end all Wars” finished on 11th November 1918.  In just a few years we will have had 100 years’ experience to learn from that horror.  Long enough to know better.  So let’s get a commitment from the politicians in our own country that we will not let them start any new wars as from 11/11/2018.  We do this as individuals by telling our own elected and hopeful candidates, and the media, that this is a number one priority for for us and that if their party approves starting a war, or they personally vote for war, we will NEVER vote for them nor their party ever again.  That is, if they individually or jointly try to start a war, it will cost them their political career for life.

What is this blog?

Featured

The purpose of this blog is to allow me to record my journey, the formation of the No New Wars organisation (whatever form that may take), the Eleven Eleven Twenty-Eighteen campaign and the supporting resources and networks of people and organisations.

This idea crystallised for me in 2012 when I decided it was not enough to be angry about wars being started in my name (that is, by my government) that I could not prevent.  Instead I would do something.  Not march with a banner, or send a letter to my MP, or write to the embassy of the enemy state, but instead stop the war in the first place.

I realised that I could not stop foreign countries starting wars.  But I can do something to influence my own government.  I could start a movement that makes it clear to our politicians that we do not want war, and that we will make them pay if they start one.

In a democracy we have only one tool available: our vote.  If enough of us pledge to remove our vote from any politician promoting an unjust, illegal or unnecessary war and to instead give that vote to an opponent, then we can make the politicians and major political parties too frightened to want to start a war.

It does not even need many of us to sign up to this.  In many constituencies it would only take about half of the MP’s majority to take the pledge to make the MP realise their next election might be their last.  And if people who do not vote – which is most of us – sign this pledge saying we will turn up and make a protest vote, it will make the political parties sit up and think about the consequences of the actions of a few war mongers.

I haven’t done the sums in detail, but if this campaign had been in place by 2003 when the 2nd Gulf War started, and if just 1% of the electorate had signed this pledge, then 170,00 non-voters voting against Labour plus 1% of Labour voters voting for either of the other major parties, would have resulted in Labour losing the 2005 General Election.

Between 750,000 (Police figures) and 2,000,000 (organisers’ figures) people marched in London alone to protest against the 2nd Gulf War.  Just 400,000 registered voters making a pledge would have more effect.

We actually can stop wars from starting by targeting the real cause: politicians who want to start a war.  By telling them we as voters will end their political career and wreck their party’s future prospects of power at the same time.

Would you consider war prevention a big enough cause to change your vote, or to make you go out and vote?