Imagining Other


Power and Protest (social movements) in the 20th Century:

(4) The peace, anti-war and anti-nuclear movements:


Section 6: Updates (NB Section 4 overlaps with this...)


                                                                                                                                                         Links: Imagining Other Index Page

                                                   Links to other sections on the peace and anti-war movement:                                                                                                                    

                                                                                                                                                                       Section 1 (anti-war movement)

                                                                                                                                                                            Section 2 (anti-nuclear movement)

                                                                                                                                                              Section 3 (non-violence)

                                                                                                                                                        Section 4: war today                                                            

                                                                                                                                                                                  Section 5 (conclusion and references)


Note: these recent notes contain some topics that I believe are important aspects of the peace movement, and some concerning the horrors of war and war’s ‘collateral’ effects. The notes are in alphabetical order of topic.



America (military power of) #America

Arms trade (and global development) #arms trade

Blanket bombing #bombing

Climate change causing war #Climate change

Colonialism #colonialism

Declaring war in UK (War Powers Act) #declaring war 

Defence costs #defence costs

Dow chemical, Bhopal, London Olympics #Dow

Drones #drones

Falklands War #Falklands

Famine and war #famine

The ‘Great Escape’ – a myth #great escape

Human nature #human nature

International courts #international courts

Iraq #Iraq 

ISIS #ISIS (see also current issues 

Kosovo #Kosovo

Libya #Libya

Mercenaries #mercenaries

Natural environment damaged by war #natural environment

New technology and war #new technology

Nonviolent Revolt #nonviolent revolt

Nuclear proliferation #nuclear

Pacifism (and Second World War) #pacifism (in World War II)

Palestinian Peacemaker #Palestine

Peace memorials (including poppies at the Tower) #peace

Poetry #poetry

Quakers #Quakers

Rape as a weapon of war #rape - rape and sexual violence in US armed forces #US 

Refugees #refugees

Religions and violence #religions

Resource control and war #resource control

Secrecy #secrecy

Soldiers’ training makes killing more easy #soldiers

Syria #Syria

Torture #torture

UN Peacekeeping #UN

Websites #websites

World War I #world war I

World War II – the Zohn family #Zohn

World Wars and war today #world wars



*America’s military might*


John Pilger quotes Fred Branfman ‘who exposed the “secret” destruction of tiny Laos by the US air forces in the 1960s and 1970s’ – Obama understands that he has to expand ‘the most powerful institution in history of the world, one that has killed, wounded or made homeless well over 20 million human beings, mostly civilians, since 1962.’ (New Statesman 21 – 27 June 2013). Branfman also says of Obama: ‘no president has done more to create the infrastructure for a possible future police state.’


Some books by Branfman, from Wikipedia: The Third Indochina War, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, ISBN 0-85124-048-8, ISBN 978-0-85124-048-0


The Old Man: A Biographical Account of a Lao Villager.

Voices from The Plain of Jars, Life Under an Air War, Harper & Row 1972.

Life under the bombs, Project Air War, Harper & Row, 1972, ISBN 0-06-090300-7, ISBN 978-0-06-090300-8

The Village of the Deep Pond, Ban Xa Phang Meuk, Laos, International Area Studies Programs, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 1978, ASIN: B0000E92G5


Some links (same source):


Fred Branfman's Internet presence

Fred Branfman: War Crimes in Indochina and Our Troubled National Soul Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, 1998

Fred Branfman: On Torture and Being "Good Americans" The Huffington Post, 29. April 2007

Fred Branfman: Indochina: The illusion of withdrawal May 1973

Fred Branfman: We Must All Be Prepared to Torture,, January 26, 2006


NB: Branfman is also concerned that ‘denial of death’ is a serious problem today – see

*Arms trade*


Arms Trade 31/5/08: Good to see that Reed Elsevier has finally agreed not to sponsor arms trade exhibitions any more (G today): it has sold DSEi, ITC, and LAAD defence exhibitions to Clarion Events (chief executive: Simon Kimble)Victory for CAAT, writers on The Lancet, and other well-known writers.


The UN is trying to get full agreement to an arms trade treaty - ATT – and so far 150 countries have backed it with only Zimbabwe explicitly against. Approximately 20 other countries are trying to get the toughly-worded treaty watered down. The main aim is to stop arms sales to human rights abusers, and set up an approved register of arms dealers (there are many shady dealers such as the Russian Viktor Bout, now in prison). The article by Nick Hopkins guardian Monday 2nd July gives tables of how much different countries spend on arms, with the USA way out in front: $689 bn in 2011. China is second ($129 bn). UK: $57.9 bn. We exported $1.1 bn worth of arms in 2011. (article on the importance of arms control to the developing world) (appeal for support from William Hague and others...).


Britain’s arms trade (Sep 2012):


Douglas Alexander and Jim Murphy, shadow foreign and defence secretaries, call for UK arms export licences to be subject to more scrutiny – so we don’t sell to dictators



* Blanket bombing*


Given the recent ceremony to remember with a monument the 50,573 members of RAF Bomber Command who died in action, there has been much discussion of the morality of their raids. Richard Overy (professor of history at the University of Exeter), Guardian 23.06.12 says: ‘At every briefing [the aircrew] were told about the industrial and military targets that lay within the area. No doubt many, perhaps most, knew that their bombs would ... also shatter the city that housed [the designate objectives].’

Commanders knew that survival rates were poor, he says, ‘and that the military-industrial targets were a mere front for a deliberate policy of killing civilians. This was a policy shielded from the public and from the crews, because it raised awkward questions.’ The RAF chief of staff, Charles Portal, told Churchill, Roosevelt and the assembled chiefs at Quebec in August 1943, that the RAF hoped to kill 900,000 German civilians. No one there demurred. ‘Somehow bombing created a moral blind spot that allowed airmen to do to the enemy what soldiers could not.’ (That is, it would be impossible for soldiers to kill so many.)

‘It is surely time that the ethical subterfuge performed all through the war, in pretending that city areas were militarily justifiable targets, was confronted honestly.’ ‘Those who gave the permission [for the bombing] ... need to be held to account.’

See: – and see Mary Midgley’s letter in response.


*Climate Change causing war*


There is even the likelihood that climate change is provoking conflict: in Darfur, rainfall is down by up to 30% over 40 years, and the Sahara is advancing by over a mile a year (Julian Borger, Diplomatic Editor, Guardian, 23.06.07) – this is leading to tension between farmers and herders over disappearing pasture and evaporating water-holes. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says that such conflicts are likely to increase in the future. There are incipient conflicts over natural resources in Chad, and in Southern Africa as well. The UNEP report says that it is likely the causes of the Darfur conflict are to be found in climate change – though the killing started in 2003. Up to 500,000 have been killed in this war, which is usually portrayed as a conflict between Arabs and Africans.


*Legacy of colonialism:*


Tthe legacy of colonialism is still being played out in wars in Africa and Asia: in the Congo the aftermath of the rapid withdrawal by the Belgians is still being felt; in other countries a minority that was favoured by the colonizers is still in conflict with others who feel they were excluded from power (Hutus and Tutsis for instance); and elsewhere the question of control over resources which originated in colonial days is still the source of conflict.. See notes: The anti-colonial movement (in preparation). However, it has been argued that more Africans have died of AIDS than of war in the 20th century…


- Book: The History Thieves: Secrets, Lies and the shaping of a modern nation, Ian Cobain, Portobello 2016. Reviewed by Ian Jack, Guardian Sat Oct 8th 2016. How the UK government destroyed records and kept other records hidden that might embarrass the British government, as various colonies prepared for independence. A shocking story!!! ‘... 15 miles of floor-to-ceiling shelving was packed [at Hanslope Park] with files that dated from the 17th century to the cold war and the troubles in Northern Ireland. Officially, none of these documents existed.’


- Book: Ghosts of Empire: Britain’s legacies in the modern world –Kwasi Kwarteng, Bloomsbury £9.99 (2013) – reviewed Linda Colley Sat Gdn 04.08.12. A refutation of such as Niall Ferguson – deals with Iraq, Sudan, Burma, Nigeria, Kashmir, and Hong Kong. ‘Modernity’ is a shifting entity, not easily defined – the same is true of empire (says Colley)


- Book: Britain’s Empire... Richard Gott – reviewed by Richard Drayton:

And a fascinating short piece by Drayton on the neo-cons’ ‘Hobbesian’ vision of American power in the world – the aim is not just to conquer but to destroy so that the victim needs an authority figure to ‘put things right’:


*Declaring war in UK: A War Powers Act?*


The government is discussing a war powers act, like that in the US:  (views of Lord Guthrie, former chief of defence staff – (i) by Richard Norton-Taylor, Guardian 28.12.07. Also: (ii) article by George Monbiot, 01.12.07).


(i) Guthrie and Kevin Tebbitt, former permanent secretary at the MoD, were interviewed by Peter Hennessy, (Prof. at Queen Mary, UoL) on Radio 4’s Today programme. He opposes the proposal that some want included in the act, that parliament should decide when Britain goes to war.  Guthrie agrees there should, in principle, be a parliamentary debate – but in practice it would be very difficult, as it would remove the element of surprise for the enemy!!


There is a question about the meaning of “going to war” – especially since the last time Britain formally declared war was in 1942 against Siam (now Thailand) – “What we do [now] is slide into war, you cannot avoid that.”


The military, and British ministers, are frustrated by other European countries which have a greater parliamentary say in troop deployment, says Norton-Taylor.


Tebbitt says that our PM cannot deploy forces without a parliamentary majority, and so he/she is already accountable. (Eh?!)


(ii) Guthrie said that with such an act intelligence would have to be shared with MPs (Oh?!) – Tebbitt suggests a select committee could see the intelligence in private. Monbiot refers to the UN Charter:


- states must first try to resolve differences by peaceful means (art. 33)

- if these fail, they should refer the matter to the Security Council (art. 37)

- S.C. should then decide what action should be taken.


Launching a surprise war (not a battle…) is therefore against international law. See also the Nuremberg Tribunal: “to initiate a war of aggression.. is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime.”


Monbiot also reminds us that Tebbitt was the one who prevented the Fraud Squad from investigating allegations of corruption against BAE, and that he tipped off the BAE Chairman about a confidential letter from the SFO, and he failed to tell his minister about the SFO’s warnings! During the Hutton enquiry he at first said that the decision to name Kelly was made in a “meeting chaired by the PM” – a crucial piece of evidence that he later retracted!!


*Defence costs*

George Monbiot, G 230609, gives some staggering figures:


- MoD budget is £38 bn, more than any other department except health and education, and equivalent of 12% of state spending

- service charges on the MoD’s private finance initiative funding: £1.3 bn – more than the entire budget of the department of energy and climate change

- MoD’s budget for capital charges and depreciation: £9.6 bn – twice the budget of the department for international development

- property management: £1.5 bn

- consultants and lawyers: £470 m

- let alone ‘bullets bombs and the like’: £650 m.


I agree with George: we could cut the defence budget by 90% and suffer no loss to our national security. After all, in 2003 the MoD said: ‘there are currently no major conventional military threats to the UK or NATO… it is clear that we no longer need to retain a capability against the re-emergence of a direct conventional strategic threat.’


By comparison, though, the cost of the ‘credit crunch’ so far is:

- to rescue RBS and Lloyds: £1.5 tn

- national (net state) debt now over £700 bn and likely to reach 150% of GDP next year


*Dow chemicals, Bhopal etc*


Meredith Alexander resigned from the Olympics Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 when Dow was given the job of providing the ‘wrap around’ – Dow claims not to have any responsibility for Bhopal, since it took over the responsible company after the event. Amnesty International argues it is still responsible. Dow’s claims to have paid what was asked for are rejected by e.g. Freedom – the cost of ‘cleaning up’ the area has not been met, and the remains of the chemicals are still causing birth malformations etc.



*Drones* Book review by David Patrikarakos author of book on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Includes reference to ‘just war theory’ – drones do not fit. Cannot discern exactly who the target is...

‘Regardless of its critics, drone warfare is here to stay. It’s too easy, too cheap (in terms of American casualties) and too established in US security and political apparatuses to be discarded now. These books remind us that, contrary to some received wisdom, using drones is not necessarily a more ethical form of warfare. And, although they may fly overhead, they do not provide governments with what they always crave in war: the moral high ground.’


The UK has spent 2 billion on drones, and is developing more at a cost of a further 2 billion. Some are not armed, but Reaper is, and it/they has/have flown for 11,000 hours in Afghanistan – firing more than 280 laser-guided Hellfire missiles and bombs. MoD says only 4 civilians have been killed, but this is dependent on Afghans reporting, so may well be an unreliable figure. See for Nick Hopkins article on this, Guardian 27th Sep 2012.


Estimated the US now has 7,000 active drones. They are supposed to kill terrorists, but there seems to be a lot of ‘collateral’ damage, and e.g. someone attached a GPS tracking device to a car that carried two young men (16 and 12) simply so he could collect a fee for it. Clive Stafford Smith and Reprieve are acting against drones. (03.06.12 Observer).


*Falklands War*


March 2013 – islanders vote to stay under British rule. Seamas Milne (13th March, The Guardian) says despite this it is time for a negotiated settlement. The poll was a foregone conclusion and misses the point of the dispute: the seizure 180 years ago by one of Lord Palmerston’s gunboats, who then expelled the Argentinian administration. By giving the colonists a veto, Britain is pre-empting the issue, which the UN and others regard as a problem of decolonization.

Are the islanders really a viable group, capable of self-determination? The UN says not – and so the dispute is over who the island belongs to. Britain spends nearly £45,000 a head (£75 million a year) to keep just over 1,500 inhabitants in the style to which they are accustomed! (What Milne calls Rhodesian retro).

More than 900 people died in the 1982 war.

Options for the island include: joint sovereignty, co-administration and leaseback.

[Notes written up April 8th 2013, on the day Margaret Thatcher died...]


March 2012 sees 30th anniversary: articles in New Statesman (02.04.12) make good points:


Anthony Barnett - author of Iron Britannia (1982, revised with new overview of 30 years of militarism) Faber Finds Imprint (£11). There are myths, especially on the left:

- the war was an accident

- US support was vital

- the war was nothing to do with the left (even though Labour supported it, and 15 years later fought in Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq...).

Barnett: it grew out of ‘Churchillism’ (from the impact of 1940) – i.e. bellicosity but minus its humanity. Victory was close – Argentine bombs were not correctly fused, the landing areas could have been mined but weren’t, and if the conflict had been delayed until the bad weather, we would have lost.

‘The victory gave birth to the double-headed monster of militarism and market fundamentalism signaled in Thatcher’s Cheltenham victory speech’ (she would bring the war home and make it the ‘real spirit of Britain’). We have been manipulated into militarism – witness the Military Wives Christmas hit: ‘Wherever you are... may your courage never cease.’

David Cameron at Camp Bastion, Helmand: ‘During the first and second world wars and the Falklands war, there was real support in our country for the military. We want to put you front and centre of our national life again...’

The UN Charter says we must protect the ‘interests’ of the islanders, not their ‘wishes’. We should recognise the oil being sought round the island is Argentina’s...


* Famine and war *


Guardian 22.07.11 John Vidal – famine in Somalia is due to: climate change (there always were cyclical droughts, now they come more often) + war… Simon Levine of ODI: ‘Wars don’t kill many people directly but can kill millions through the way they render them totally vulnerable to the kind of problems they should be able to cope with.’ People have lost their assets and can’t access grazing grounds they need. John Vidal adds: “But remember too, that Somalia has been made a war zone by the US-led ‘war on terror’.”


In addition, governments in the region have declared war on pastoralists – to ‘modernise’ them… yet “major international studies” have shown that “pastoralists produce more and better quality meat and generate more cash per hectare than ‘modern’ Australian and US ranches.”


What is needed, finally, is long-term assistance with development, not emergency aid that only arrives in a crisis (which always arrives late anyway because of the time it takes to set it in motion.’


*The great escape: a war myth *


Guy Walters: The Real Great Escape (Bantam) argues that the ‘hero’ Sqdn Ldr Roger Bushell was a driven character, who ignored warnings about the danger of trying to escape from Stalag Luft III, the escape attempt led to the deaths by shooting of 50 of the 76 who took part (and only 3 got to Britain – none of them British). Walters finds Bushell culpable for his own murder and those of his comrades. The escape attempts (though elaborate and involving three tunnels and documents for 200 escapees) were partly planned so as to occupy German resources hunting the men and slow the German war effort. It did nothing of the sort. (Review by Nigel Jones, Saturday Guardian 26.05.12)


*Human Nature*



Two pieces in today’s Guardian (both in G2) which deal with ‘the violence in human nature’ - as Maddy Costa puts it in the first piece: a review of a revival of Edward Bond’s play Saved (in which, notoriously, a baby in a pram is stoned to death). She says that what Bond does is expose ‘our capacity to deny the violence in human nature.’  And yet, the play involves characters whose lives are ‘empty’ – and the actor Dennis Waterman explains that ‘the baby is saved from a nonexistent life’ [as a baby born into the impoverished working class]. Bored, neglected kids throw stones at squirrels, he says, and it takes ‘only one little leap of the imagination’ to envisage them killing a baby.


Secondly Sam Wollaston describes soldiers who appeared in the television programme Fighting on the Frontline, who declare that the feeling they get from being in a gunfight in Afghanistan is better than sex – ‘It’s probably the best feeling ever’ says one, and ‘I’ll take a good scrap over getting laid any time’ says another. Again, it seems important to me to underline the context: young men who have joined the army (why? Perhaps their lives were as ‘empty’ as those portrayed in Saved), trained to kill, and faced with an enemy whose capacity for surprise (IEDs, suicide attacks) is enormous.


On reading these pieces my first reaction was to question my belief in the human potential for non-violence. But in the end, because of what I believe to be the powerful conditioning that these violent young men have undergone, I still maintain that a peaceful world is possible!


*International Courts*


1. Agree to a large extent with Simon Jenkins (G, 300508): we used to think of UN etc with a sense of respect (especially for people such as Dag Hammerskold and Albert Schweitzer) – but now the people involved seem to expect a luxurious life-style, expenses, and impunity from punishment for committing crimes such as exploiting the victims of tragedies (atrocities against women and children committed by “blue-berets” in Africa). Examples: European Broadcasting Union (runs e.g. Eurovision Song Contest) has 400 staff in Switzerland, with no oversight; IOC and costs of running Olympic Games; FIFA; even Kofi Annan’s 2000 “poverty summit” – with lobsters and champagne…


But he goes on to say if you want something done get a nation to do it, not an inter-nation – witness the relative success of the Americans in Iraq [what?!], against the chaos of “some 30 nations” that intervened in Afghanistan. 


Organisations such as International Court in the Hague need accountability, but to whom?




has recently started trial of Thomas Lubanga (G 260109, Chris McGreal) the Congolese militia leader. Charged with conscripting child soldiers. “ICC’s credibility also damaged by the first indictment handed down – against the Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony and the international dispute over the charging of Sudan’s leaders for killings in Darfur”… [not sure why either of these was damaging to ICC – but see notes in SM Ch 4 Section 4 re international courts]. Human rights groups have criticised prosecutors for limiting charges to child soldier recruitment when there were mass killings, torture, rape etc in the Ituri region of north-east Congo. This was battleground for fighting between Congolese forces and Rwandan and Ugandan militias and armies after their invasion of 1998.



2. John Laughland, author of “Travesty: the Trial of Slobodan Milosevic and the Corruption of International Justice, wrote (G280208):


The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled that Serbia was not responsible for the Srebrenica (in Bosnia) massacre in 1995 – though it did condemn Serbia for failing to prevent the massacre (a much lesser charge), by not using its influence over the Bosnian Serb army. The Bosnian Serbs were not under the control (or jurisdiction I presume) of Serbia or Yugoslavia (Belgrade). The court also ruled that Serbia was not obliged to pay reparations to Bosnia, and Yugoslavia had no troops in Bosnia. (Moreover, western officials fraternized with Bosnian Serbs who later committed atrocities: are they also responsible?)


This is crucial he says, because the west has tried to blame Milosevic for atrocities in Bosnia, and for genocide – which he says has not been proven.

The Kosovo war was fought because the west felt it had not intervened strongly enough against Yugoslavia over Bosnia. Moreover, as in Iraq, there was no UN approval for the Kosovo war. The court has now ruled that Yugoslavia was not responsible for the Srebrenica massacre, so “the main plank of the case for intervention has gone… After 2 years and 300 witnesses, the prosecution never managed to produce conclusive evidence against its star defendant” – NATO charges of genocide turned out to be war propaganda… (see below #Kosovo)


Laughland points out that it is crucial to distinguish between:


- the ICJ – set up on the basis of the UN Charter, after Nuremberg, it declares that war is illegal except in very restricted cases. States have no right to attack others, even on human rights claims. There are no war crimes without war, and war always makes things worse. It is not a criminal court and claims no jurisdiction over states, unlike the ICTY and the ICC.


- the International Criminal Court, on the other hand, and the bodies set up to deal with specific conflicts: ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) and the court for Rwanda, were set up to promote western interests, and are based on the doctrine of interventionism. Consequences: ICC is not investigating any of the following:


- after the 1991 Iraq war, the west bombed Iraq for 12 years “to protect the Shias and the Kurds”


- NATO bombed the Bosnian Serbs in 1995, and Yugoslavia in 1999 (see below #Kosovo)


though it is investigating local wars in Africa


*Iraq war 2003*


New Statesman 27 May 2016. John Simpson reviews ‘Not the Chilcot Report’ by Peter Oborne.

The report is due in July...  Simpson notes that Oborne quotes Lord Butler’s speech in the House of Lords in 2007:

“The UK intelligence community told [Blair] on 23 August that ‘We know little about Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons work since late 1988.’ The prime minister did not tell us that. Indeed, he told parliament only just over a month later that the picture painted by our intelligence services was ‘extensive, detailed and authoritative’.” This kind of dishonesty has largely contributed to the distruct people now have in politicians. ‘An excellent book.’


14th March 2013: tenth anniversary of the 2003 invasion... Sami Ramadani has a powerful piece, Guardian:

After 35 years of Saddamist dictatorship, 13 years of sanctions, and ten years on from the 2003 war – the country is staring into the abyss. Over a million died since 1991. 4 million became refugees, and a million have still to return. There are 1 million internal refugees. Explosions and shootings kill on a daily basis. Depleted uranium was used, and the US may have used chemical weapons in Faluja. Lack of essential services. Lack of women’s rights. The occupation has used torture, sectarian death squads and elevated a corrupt ruling class that gets richer by the day. The US embassy in Baghdad is the largest in the world... etc etc...


14th March 2013: data display by Simon Rogers of last 10 years in Iraq:


12th March 2013: Emma Sky (formerly governorate co-ordinator of Kirkuk for the Coalition Provisional Authority, 2003 – 4) notes six important lessons:

1. intervention requires legitimacy – this was disputed from the outset, and can only be understood against the backdrop of 9/11

2. interventions need limited, clear and realistic goals – the rationale shifted (WMD, regime change, democracy) and there was a mismatch between goals, plans, organisation and resources

3. the collapse of the state leads to communal violence [a point anarchists need to answer] – the coalition occupied without enough forces, disbanded the Iraqi security forces, de-Ba’athified comprehensively, rather than only remove those who had committed crimes against the people

4. an inclusive elite agreement is critical – but Shias were allowed to dominate, supported by Kurdish nationalists, and Iraqis in exile

5. elections do not necessarily bestow legitimacy – the new elites were more focused on capturing power than serving the people

6. interventions have unintended consequences – civil war and over 100,000 Iraqis killed


Note 21.12.08 from incomplete cutting from Guardian:

A brief note on the legality of the Iraq war: Bingham in recent lecture … claimed that Security Council did not sanction the American and British action in its autumn 2002 resolution – not only Goldsmith, and Straw but Prof. Christopher Greenwood (UK rep. on International Court of Justice) take contrary point of view… And when problem in Security Council is vetoes by China, Russia does this mean that ‘legal’ action is that sanctioned by them? (Hmph!) Also US has breached international law and has been involved in 40 military actions against sovereign states in the past 25 years.


February 2008: A nine-judge panel of law lords is being asked to order a public inquiry into the deaths of soldiers in Iraq (Clare Dyer, G 120208). Rose Gentle and Beverley Clarke argue that: the state has a duty to safeguard life, which covers soldiers, who are “under the unique compulsory control of the state and have to obey orders.” (Rabinder Singh QC) Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights applies, it is argued, as it protects the right to life.


Court of Appeal ruled in 2006 that the government is not obliged to order an independent/public inquiry.


The mothers argue that Blair did not take sufficient steps to ensure the invasion of Iraq was lawful, and so exposed soldiers to the risk of death. They also want an explanation of the process that decided the war was legal, including the advice of the former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith. It is clear (from resignation letter of the FO’s deputy legal advisor, Elizabeth Wilmshurst) that Goldsmith changed his mind a number of times, whilst most advice the government had received was that the war would be illegal.


The lords (Bingham as senior law lord, with Hoffman, Hope, Scott, Rodger, Carswell, Brown, Mance, Lady Hale – 9 rather than the usual 5 because of the constitutional issues involved) will probably take six weeks to come to a decision.


Note: whilst admiring and supporting the mothers, and agreeing with them that there should be an inquiry, I am at a loss to follow the logic of this case: (i) the purpose of soldiering is to put lives at risk – even though those running wars may say they hope that no-one will be killed, this outcome is extremely unlikely!!! (ii) whether a war is legal or not is surely irrelevant: is the risk of being killed higher or lower in a legal than in an illegal war?  On the other hand (as Jill my wife has just argued) if the argument is that the war should not have happened at all (= what is meant by saying it was illegal), then the logic clearly is that their lives would not have been put at risk. True, but once the (illegal) war has started obviously this can no longer apply. And again, I cannot see that embarking on an illegal war is more risky than embarking on a legal one. I guess my pacifism and my cynicism are getting in the way: it would be nice to hope that we can put a stop to illegal wars… but then I have difficulty with the very notion of a legal war, since for me the right to life is paramount…


April 10th 2008: Richard Norton-Taylor reports (G): the law lords unanimously dismissed the claim that government must hold a public inquiry into the Iraq war. Rose Gentle and Beverley Clarke, through their QCs Rabinder Singh and Michael Fordham, based their case on article 2 of European Human Rights Convention, on the right to life, and they had argued that the government had not exercised due diligence, thus risking their sons’ lives unduly. They also argued that the convention meant that there must be “independent judicial consideration of the government’s approach to the legality of the war”. Nine law lords ruled that the human rights convention does not apply to war. They also said that they could not conceive that sovereign states would have considered binding themselves to a public inquiry on the decision to go to war. Lady Hale did note that the Attorney General’s advice on the legality of the war in Iraq was ‘very far from clear and unambiguous’ She also said that a state which expects its soldiers to obey their orders even if they disagreed, must have a correlative duty to the soldiers to show that the orders are lawful…


Others have argued that the war was not legal: Burns Weston, Director of University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, Richard Perle, Kofi Annan and the UN, the International Commission of International Law Jurists – who wrote to Bush and Blair to this effect. More recently Admiral Sir Alan West, previously First Sea Lord


Costs of Iraq and Afghanistan Wars:


Since 2003, bill for both wars adds up to £10 bn. (G 110308). 2007 – 8 estimates are: Iraq £1,648 m, Afghanistan £1,649 m. increases over last year of 72% and 122% respectively.


Other observations on the wars:


See Dahr Jamail’s book The Will to resist, on soldiers who refuse to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.



The Iraq War and Resource Control:

At the end of May 2007 the US admitted it was looking for “a long and enduring presence” in Iraq – according to Robert Gates, the US defence secretary. He drew parallels with the situation in Korea and Japan as regards “security arrangements” between the US and other governments. US troops have been in Japan since 1945, and in Korea since the end of the Korean war, says Patrick Seale, author of The Struggle for Syria (Guardian 9/6/07). Seale lists: the wish to retain control of energy resources, the ability to protect US power over the whole oil-rich Gulf, as well as confronting Iran and Syria, making up in Iraq for the loss of bases in Saudi Arabia, and being on hand to protect Israel – as the real reasons behind the Iraq invasion. This is, he says, a “neo-colonial or imperial project”.


Seale quotes Jimmy Carter as saying “there are people in Washington… who never intend to withdraw military forces from Iraq…the reason we went into Iraq was to establish a permanent military base in the Gulf region.” The war is costing the US $1bn a year, and shortly after the invasion the US established 110 bases in Iraq – the present plan is to consolidate these into 14 “enduring bases”. The US is also building what will be the biggest US embassy in the world – it will hold 1,000 staff and occupy a 100-acre site on the banks of the Tigris.  Maybe hopes of the US leaving Iraq eventually are pipe-dreams?


David Strahan (Guardian 26/6/07 and 3/10/2007) also finds evidence of the real reason behind the invasion of Iraq in the interests of the oil Companies:

Exxon Mobil chief executive Rex Tillerson said he was looking forward “to the day when we can partner with Iraq to develop that resource potential.” Strahan argues that global oil production is likely to peak within about a decade, aggregate oil production in the developed world has been falling steadily since 1997 – from the middle of the next decade everything depends on OPEC. The US Department of Energy warned in 2005 that a crash programme of mitigation would be needed, 20 years before the peak is reached. Others have warned that OPEC might be exaggerating how much oil it still has. Iraq has the world’s third largest reserves (115bn barrels). In 2000 Cheney made a speech on oil depletion in which he said “the Middle east with two thirds of the world’s oil and lowest cost is still where the prize ultimately lies.” British North Sea oil production peaked in 1999. In 2002 Bush and Blair met, and this is probably when Blair gave his support to Bush’s plans to invade Iraq. At the same summit, they agreed (without any publicity) to set up a US-UK Energy Dialogue, a permanent liaison dedicated to “energy security and diversity.” This agreement was only revealed later after a freedom of information inquiry. Minutes of the meetings have not been released despite requests. However, one paper dated February 2003 says that Middle East oil production would have to be doubled by 2030. This on the eve of the invasion!


Even Alan Greenspan, former head of the US Federal Reserve concedes that the Iraq war was “largely about oil” – Strahan argues that is all about deferring peak oil. However, it has failed, as there are many attacks on the pipelines, and output is at a level below the pre-invasion level.


See: The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man, by David Strahan. Also:





ISIS – the problems of military intervention: Salim Lone, Guardian Sep 24th 2014. Obama resisted pressure to bomb Syria, engaged Iran in nuclear negotiations, criticised Israel over Palestine, and didn’t jump in when Ukraine was invaded. But he has started bombing ISIS... The rise of ISIS is the definitive sign... of the unraveling of virtually every US goal for which its disastrous, decade-long interventions in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq were conducted.’ Why does the US work to undermine secular states such as Syria and Libya, which posed no threat to the west and which were themselves fighting extremism? If regime change is the objective in Syria, how will that help defeat ISIS and the other terror groups? Libya is a country in ruins, with no government and dozens of militias fighting for power. (Three years ago Cameron and Sarkozy welcomed the ‘democracy and courage’ of the groups that took power after Gaddafi.) This war against ISIS is a recipe for endless conflict and endlessly widening circles of radicalization...


* Kosovo *


1. Serb and pro-Serb demonstrators opposed to Kosovo gaining independence claim that “Kosovo is Serbia”. Noel Malcolm, author of Kosovo: A Short History says (G 260208): Serbs first settled in the Balkans in the early 7th century, their power base was outside Kosovo, which they captured in the early 13th century (so much for ‘Kosovo is the cradle of the Serbs’). The Serbs ruled Kosovo for 250 years, until the Ottoman takeover in the mid-15th century. Serbian forces took Kosovo (“liberated it” they would say) in 1912 – but the Serbian population was, they accept, less than 25%, whilst the majority were Albanian. The latter did not exactly welcome Serb rule. Kosovo was therefore occupied, until 1918, when it was incorporated into Yugoslavia (not into a Serbian state). Kosovo had a dual status until the break-up of Yugoslavia – it was called a part of Serbia, but it was also called a unit of the Yugoslav federation: it had its own parliament and government, and was represented at the federal level alongside Serbia. Kosovo is not, therefore Serbia, but an ex-Yugoslav state.


See above #international courts.


2. Summary from Guardian weekend 21st June 2014 (in an article on boys called ‘Tonybler’ etc after their ‘hero’):

That hot June day in 1999, British troops were festooned with flowers, kissed and hugged along the road from the Macedonian border to Pristina. But less than 100 yards from the long line of Warrior armoured cars baking in the sun were reminders of why they had come. Scattered among the villages were hundreds of freshly dug graves for victims of atrocities committed by Serbian paramilitaries. More than 10,000 people were killed. Milosevic had ordered many of the bodies to be dug up and taken away by the departing Serbs in a clumsy attempt at a cover-up of his crimes. The bones are still being unearthed in Serbia today.

In retrospect, that bright shining day in June, with Kosovan children thronging around smiling, sunburned squaddies, was the high point for humanitarian intervention. A year after the Kosovo intervention, British troops staged a minor-key reprise in Sierra Leone, where they helped the national army stop the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front from entering the capital, Freetown, where they would almost certainly have massacred the inhabitants. It is the one other place on Earth where there are boys named after Tony Blair.

On closer scrutiny, the Kosovo mission itself was far from clearcut. Western leaders, including Blair, made their plans on the mistaken assumption that a few days of aerial bombardment would convince Milosevic to call off his plan to drive both the KLA and the Kosovans out of the province. But there was much more at stake. Serbs saw Kosovo as the cradle of the nation. Few of them wanted actually to live there, among the despised Albanians, but they were prepared to fight bitterly not to lose it.

When Nato bombed, Milosevic stepped up his operation. Three-quarters of the prewar population of 1.8 million Kosovans were driven from their homes in 1999. Half a million found shelter inside Kosovo's borders, hiding in the woods or in abandoned homes; 800,000 ended up in refugee camps in Albania and Macedonia.

With no plan B, Nato dithered. The bombing campaign was expanded to the rest of Serbia including the capital, Belgrade, but dropping high explosives from high altitude is a blunt instrument. About 500 civilians were killed, half of them Serbian and half Kosovan, "collateral damage" as a result of mistakes and poor intelligence. On 14 April, Nato planes bombed refugee convoys in south-east Kosovo in the belief that they were military columns, leaving 75 dead. On 1 May, they bombed a bridge near Pristane, killing 39 on a civilian bus, and 12 days later killed between 48 and 87 civilians in a bombing raid on supposed military targets in the village of Korisha. The television centre in Belgrade was destroyed, as was the Chinese embassy, with the deaths of three Chinese citizens. The war crimes tribunal in The Hague investigated but ultimately opted not to prosecute.

In the face of these incidents, Tony Blair flew to Washington on 21 April to try to convince President Clinton to lead a ground invasion of Kosovo. Before the president's resolve could be put to the test, however, Milosevic abruptly capitulated. On 3 June 1999, he accepted a peace plan allowing a Nato-led Kosovo Force, K-For, to garrison the territory and safeguard the return of the refugees.

Salvation had come at the darkest hour, but it would be hard to describe the ensuing 15 years as a happy-ever-after. Those who can remember the Milosevic era are grateful simply to be living in peace in their home villages and towns, but even for them the discontents of freedom are beginning to weigh heavier. With every passing year, life seems less like a miracle and more like a challenge. The varied childhoods of the Toniblers and Blers tell the story of Kosovo in all its joys and disappointments. But for their generation, just being alive and free will no longer be enough.



Marwan Bishara, author of ‘The Invisible Arab’ (Nation Books) argues that before western intervention in Libya 1,500 people died in the conflict – after, somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 died. He argues also that the uprisings (‘Arab Spring’) in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and the Yemen show that a non-violent road is better.

*Mercenaries – privatisation of war*

Article by Emin Saner:


Globally, it has been estimated that £44.5 billion is paid every year to private military companies. They operate in some 50 countries.


In the UK, War on Want estimates (Oct 2006) that private security firms’ revenue soared from £320 m in 2003 to £1.8 bn in 2004, due to Iraqi contracts. At least 181 companies, mainly British or American, employing more than 48,000 staff (of whom some 21,000 are British) are operating in Iraq. UK legislation does not cover their activities (Richard Norton-Taylor, G 301006, quoting War on Want report). Iraqi officials have often complained about their behaviour. There are three British security guards to every one British soldier in Iraq (Richard Norton-Taylor, G 311006).  The number of their employees killed is around 827 (2006).


In Iraq there are more than 180 private military companies operating (as “security guards” etc), and this may amount to 48,000 private soldiers, according to a US government report (some estimate this at 80,000). They can earn a great deal each day - £400, or up to £750 if well-trained – which is more than the enlisted soldier. America has paid out $18 bn for reconstruction in Iraq, but the money is now drying up (Ewen MacAskill and Richard Norton-Taylor, Guardian 22.09.07) – largely because the situation there is too dangerous!


Especially of note is Blackwater USA: four of their workers were ambushed in their vehicles in Fallujah in 2004; they were killed, and their bodies burned, hacked up, trampled on, and then displayed on a bridge. The company is secretive, and based in North Carolina. They have lost about 30 men in Iraq. Blackwater employees (paid up to £325 a day) have recently (May 07) got into trouble for firing on and killing 11 civilians; they opened fire when a vehicle failed to stop, killing the driver and his wife – 12 other civilians were injured. Although Blackwater says the convoy fired back when it was attacked, the Iraqi government wants it expelled, and has revoked its license to operate in Iraq.  There is no effective system of oversight or accountability governing contractors, says Jeremy Scahill author of a book on Blackwater: see SM4 Section 5 (Conclusion and References). They cannot be prosecuted in Iraq because of edicts imposed by the Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremer.


Blackwater’s management has deep ties to the Republican Party, and it provided personal security for Paul Bremer, the American “proconsul” in Baghdad. Blackwater provided guards for the better properties in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina… An organisation called Blackwater Watch says that it is out of control. Jeremy Scahill, points out that whilst there have been 64 courts martial of US soldiers, no private contractor has been prosecuted, despite numerous incidents. Blackwater employees have to sign a lifelong non-disclosure contract that carries a $250,000 penalty!


In America they are being sued for unlawful deaths (of US employees) in relation to incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blackwater here is arguing it should have the same immunity as the US army!


More on Blackwater: founded in 1997 by two former navy Seals, its mission is “to support security and peace, and freedom and democracy everywhere.” It has trained more than 40,000 people at its base in North Carolina, and has more than 21,000 “soldiers” on its books. It had its first government contract in 2000. Had a $1bn five-year contract to protect US officials in Baghdad.  It has more than 20 aircraft, including helicopter gun-ships, and the world’s largest private military facility – 7,000 acres in North Carolina, and facilities elsewhere in the US. It manufactures an armoured vehicle (the Grizzly).

It is being investigated by the FBI (Guardian). It has had “diplomatic security” contracts with the State Department, since 2004, worth $750m. 


Also operating in Iraq are: Aegis Defence Services, which is run by a former Scots Guard called Tim Spicer (implicated in the Arms to Africa scandal of the late 1990s – weapons were shipped to Sierra Leone during an embargo), and chaired by Field Marshal Lord Inge, former chief of the defence staff (!) – they were awarded a $300m in 2004 to co-ordinate security for Iraq’s construction projects, and $475m over two years in 2007 – the biggest single deal in Iraq, and their turnover in 2004 was £62 m; ArmorGroup International is London-based, and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former Tory defence secretary, is a Director - it protects a third of all non-military convoys in Iraq, and has contracts in Basra. The private security industry in Iraq is worth $100bn, according to Carolyn O’Hara, assistant editor of Foreign Policy magazine in Washington DC (New Statesman 27.08.07). Control Risks has contracts with UK and US agencies, including Foreign Office.


In Afghanistan, Dyn-Corp is protecting president Hamid Karzai; it also operates in Colombia and Bolivia and elsewhere in the “war on drugs”.


According to Ben Quinn (NS 180208) the amount of taxpayers’ money that goes on Private Military Security Companies has reached £200 million, and will increase to £250 m this year. Foreign Office spent £50 m last year on PMSCs, e.g. £24 m to Control Risks, £19 m to ArmorGroup (non-exec chairman since 2004 Malcolm Rifkind). Liberal Democrats point out that by comparison government spent £125 m on UNHCR work in Iraq. These mercenaries are not subject to British law, and perhaps not to any law, argue War on Want and CAAT.


Care International UK has also expressed concern. Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine talks of outsourcing leading to “the hollow army”, much as multinationals are “hollow companies” outsourcing the dirty work to poorly-paid contractors. (Not that mercenaries seem to be poorly-paid!).


*War damages the natural environment:*


The most striking examples are “agent orange” (defoliant, that causes deformed births, used in Vietnam), and the burning oil wells in Kuwait; but so does the arms trade: the processing of heavy metals at arms factories pollutes the soil and groundwater; some 30,000 tons of chemical weapons have to be destroyed in the US as part of an international treaty – but incinerating them is dangerous to the environment. However, in the US a group called Military Toxics Project has been set up to oppose dangers such as these, and there is some opposition in developing countries – where, of course, dumping by the over-developed countries takes place.  As noted in…, the cost of Trident is equivalent to the cost of reducing CO2 to required levels by 2030.


*New technology and war*


Some would say that technology has made war “smarter” - e.g. cruise missiles that are guided to their target. However a lot of myths have been perpetrated about how smart this weaponry is. Nevertheless, some of the new weaponry has more devastating effects than ever, on civilians or ground troops:


            napalm (a sticky substance that burns into the flesh),


            cluster bombs: these release hundreds of “bomblets” with an explosive range of 10 metres, some of which (up to 25%) fail to explode, leaving danger for anyone who picks them up; they are especially attractive to children… They have been used in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. After only 34 days’ war (against Israel?) 89 cluster bomb sites were found and many more expected. Already there have been 4 dead and 21 injured: this could run into thousands (G 210806). Cluster bombs are not permitted to be used in urban areas. The British used them in the first 1991 Gulf War.


            The US has 370,000 M26 rockets, each with 644 bomblets, which scatter over 20,000 square metres. The US stopped exporting them to Israel in 1982 because they had been used on civilians. Exports were resumed in 1988. US military aid to Israel was $2.2 bn in 2005.


Des Brown the Defence Secretary announced early in 2007 that the British armed forces would be banned from using “dumb” cluster bombs, and would only deploy ones with a self-destruct mechanism. Last year the MoD described the CRV-7 rocket system as a cluster weapon. However, more recently, Margaret Beckett, then foreign secretary, said that it was not “dumb” because virtually all the bomblets explode on impact, and in July Bob Ainsworth, the armed forces minister, told MPs that it did not fall within the government’s understanding of a cluster munition. The argument goes that it has “too few submunitions” and a “direct fire capability” (since it is fired from a helicopter?). But others say that the weapon has 19 rockets in a pod and therefore 171 submunitions, and the MoD have admitted it has a 6% failure rate. A Commons foreign affairs committee report estimated that the M85 cluster bomblets, which are supposed to self-destruct, have a 10% failure rate. Groups opposed to cluster bombs say Britain has been the third largest user of them over the past 10 years. In February 2007, 46 countries, including Britain, called for a worldwide ban on these weapons. (Richard Norton-Taylor, Guardian). Only Belgium has banned them.


However, May 2008 an agreement has been reached banning cluster bombs…


            landmines also are to be found scattered over territory after a war has finished, maiming and killing anyone who comes across them. They were still being laid in 2003 in Burma, Burundi, Columbia, India, Iraq, Pakistan, Philippines, Chechnya, Somalia, Sudan and Nepal.


            aerial bombs can be exploded above troops (as in the first gulf war), - they burn above an area and suck out the oxygen, suffocating those underneath


- and some new technological developments raise ethical issues:


            robots: hundreds of research projects are underway at American universities and defence companies (New Statesman 22.06.06). So much is being invested, it is being called the “new Manhatten Project.” Project Alpha is developing robots for the US army, and one of its team leaders says that robots are so accurate that anyone who fired at them would be killed. They can respond automatically to gunshots they detect – without, of course, the moral scruple that might affect a human soldier. Nor would US personnel be put at risk. Some are questioning whether it is right to automate war in this way. It is also noticeable how the border between computer games and reality is being blurred. According to Pete Warren (Technology Guardian 26.10.06), 32 countries are working on the development of unscrewed combat systems, and the US has already got 20 “unmanned ground systems” that can be controlled from a laptop, and 2,500 uncrewed systems deployed around the world. UAVs (uncrewed aerial vehicle) have been used to detect the location of, and then guide missiles to take out mortars and their crews in Fallujah. In the Tora Bora mountains, when hunting for bin Laden, and where it was too dangerous for soldiers, Talon reconnaissance drones were used. These are small tanks with camera and sensing equipment, armed with anything from a sniper’s rifle to a rocket launcher. By 2015 the US wants to have a third of its fighting strength in the form of robots. This is part of a Future Combat Systems Project (FCS) costing $127bn.


spy systems: some are talking of developing spy systems and sensors that would “map a city and the activities in it, including inside buildings, to sort adversaries and their equipment from civilians and their equipment, including in crowds, and to spot snipers, suicide bombers or IEDs” (improvised explosive devices)… (Tony Tether, director of Darpa, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in the US – New Statesman 22.06.06). Will this lead to “military omniscience”? Another method is to build a computer simulation of a target area: this has already been done with eight square miles of Jakarta, including 1.6 million buildings, the cellars, sewers, 109,000 vehicles and people and their movements... This information can then be used to “take out” targets more precisely – in theory. That is, provided you trust the judgements made as well as the equipment!!! And of course this kind of capability has implications for “homeland security.”


*Nonviolent Revolt*

Book by Mark Engler: This Is An Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt is Shaping the Twenty-first Century – to be released early 2016.  see also 

*Nuclear proliferation:*


- it is clear that now (2007) we live in a very different world with regard to nuclear weapons: there are a growing number of nuclear powers (see nuclear stockpiles above), and even “minor” powers such as Iran and North Korea are getting close to having nuclear weapons. We can also see - from the situation with regard to Iran - how much pressure it takes to dissuade a country from getting nuclear power (and possibly nuclear weapons) once it decides that is what it needs!

* Pacifism *


Pacifism: World War II: why did we fight it? (Apr 2008) – see sm4...


Peter Wilby comments on “Human Smoke” by Nicholson Baker, which “puts the pacifist case against the second world war”. Britain fought to maintain the balance of power. At the end of 1941 most of the people killed in the war were still alive – so he argues the war didn’t help anyone. Wilby argues that the war started when we went to Poland’s aid, and he quotes A.J.P. Taylor in “The Origins of the Second World War”, to the effect that we didn’t try to assist Czechoslovakia, and they lost less than 100 lives. Poland lost 6½ million… [The extermination policy came in around 1942, when Hitler realised he faced serious military opposition.] Nor did we go to war to rescue the Jews: when Rabbi Wise tried to raise the threat to them in 1942, Roosevelt and the British Commons took no action. The war prevented any rescue in fact (and if Britain had made peace after the fall of France in 1940, the Jews might have just been sent to Madagascar). Eden merely expressed the “hope that the German government will refrain from exterminating these unfortunate people.”

Moreover, once we went to war we put ourselves on the same moral plane as the Germans: we were the first to bomb at night; Churchill did not allow food relief to occupied Europe; Russians found in previously Nazi-controlled areas were returned to Russia to be shot… [I would add the blanket-bombing of German cities, the “dam-busters” who only succeeded in killing Ukrainian POWs, and of course Hiroshima and Nagasaki].


A letter in reply from Geoffrey Goodman, ex-RAF (G 290408) says he cannot believe Wilby is serious: he should read Richard Evans: “The Third Reich in Power”, rather than Taylor or Baker. The Nazis had built 70 concentration camps within a few months of taking power in 1933 – well before Kristallnacht and the Nuremberg laws of 1935.


But the concentration camps didn’t at first involve genocide, and it is my belief that the “final solution” dates from later – especially from the Wannsee conference of January 1942. My view is, however, that pacifists and others who oppose discrimination and war need to be aware of the earliest signs of discrimination and persecution – since these can lead incrementally by escalation to enormous horrors. By incrementally I mean that the changes are so slight that most people don’t realise where the situation might be leading. Until it is too late.


This may be the weakness with Baker’s book: pacifism needs to stress what should be done before armed conflict breaks out...


Of course, Wilby is also making the point that we didn’t go to war with Saddam Hussein because he was an evil dictator, (which is the current justification now that we all know there were no WMDs...) The aim of the war was (as with World War II) to maintain a certain balance of power – and, I would add, this would be done by keeping control over oil.


* A Palestinian Peacemaker *


Guardian 16.08.10 article: Dr Izzeldin Abulaish from Gaza, 3 of whose daughters were killed in an Israeli raid in 2008 - 9, and another seriously injured, doesn’t seek vengeance and is against violence – has written a book ‘I Shall Not Hate’ to published in Canada in April, to be published in UK January. Translated into 13 languages… Charity: Daughters for Life. Gave a broadcast on Channel 10 in Israel which Prime Minister saw, and two days later the PM announced a ceasefire.

Abulaish has now gone to Toronto University as professor in global health.



* Peace memorials *


Poppies... Jonathan Jones has caused a stir with his piece that is critical of the poppies around the Tower.


Public Mourning by Will Self (New Statesman, 14 - 20 Nov 2014):

The 888,246 poppies at the Tower of London – representing British soldiers killed in the First World War - have drawn more than 4 million visitors. But what exactly are they commemorating? (And what about the 5,120 lost since 1945? Or the 453 British lives lost in Afghanistan since 2001?)

‘...what matters with these very public acts of “remembrance” is precisely that they be public: to be seen to be mourning the fallen is the loyalty oath of the contemporary British state, and if you take it you’re helping to ensure that no matter what your personal cavil may be about this or that “illegal” war, overall you’re still prepared to back our government’s use of lethal force in the prosecution of its foreign policy.’

And is it just a coincidence that in the same week as Remembrance Day, the government decided to send troops to Iraq? (Again!) The government is surely trying to point to some equivalence between the First World War and the current conflict with ISIS? Are ISIS, like our enemies in 1914, an ‘existential threat’? And we are pursuing military means of dealing with ISIS despite the number of top soldiers who have said the best thing to do about ISIS is to leave it alone.

The poppies will be ‘flogged off to raise money for ex-servicemen and women’s charities, but what sort of a state is it that doesn’t make adequate provision for those wounded, or the dependents of those killed in its service, out of the public purse?’

Finally, how ironic that there is now more heroin than ever before coming out of Afghanistan – a drug made from poppies, so called because it made its users feel ‘heroic’!!


Woodford Green ‘protest against war in the air,’ and to commemorate failed 1932 conference at Geneva to ban bombing by planes, instigated by Sylvia Pankhurst, ‘All the love in all the mothers’ hearts cannot prevail against the stern economics of Capital’ said Pankhurst. (Letters, G, 170710, in response to proposed memorial to bomber command in Green Park… Other statues: Burghers of Calais, Edith Cavell, Fenner Brockway, Gandhi – see


War: Richard Drayton, G 140610 – re the gun battles in Kingston Jamaica: they are linked to the security establishments in the US, Britain and Canada; drones are being used... and ‘passes’… blanket surveillance of electronic communications... all tactics recommended in US manuals on counterinsurgency. For two years the Canadian Special Operations Regiment has trained Jamaican forces; joint US-Canada intelligence op being mounted from Kingston (acc to local press). History:

- in 1972 Michael Manley of People’s National Party elected as PM; he increased taxes paid by US and Canadian mining companies, opened relations with Cuba and defended Cuba sending troops to Angola when US and S Afr were arming anti-govt rebels; large CIA station in Kingsland; weapons flowed in , arson and bombings; trans-shipment of cocaine from S America began in late ‘70s; gangs at the centre of the unrest, including Lester Coke (Dudu’s father) – these criminals were enforcers for the Jamaican Labour Party and gave help to the allies of the Nicaraguan Contras… Drayton is Rhodes Prof of imperial history at King’s London.


* Poetry and War *


2nd May 2011. Ivor Gurney: (from an article by Adam Thorpe, G 10.11.07)


The Silent One


Who dies on the wires, and hung there, one of two –

Who for hours of life had chattered through

Infinite lovely chatter of Bucks accent;

Yet faced unbroken wires; stepped over, and went,

A noble fool, faithful to his stripes – and ended.

But I weak, hungry, and willing only for the chance

Of line – to fight in the line, lay down under unbroken

Wires, and saw the flashes, and kept unshaken.

Till the politest voice – a finicking accent, said:

“Do you think you might crawl through there: there’s a hole?” In the afraid

Darkness, shot at: I smiled, as politely replied –

“I’m afraid not, Sir.” There was no hole no way to be seen.

Nothing but chance of death, after tearing of clothes.

Kept flat, and watched the darkness, hearing bullets whizzing –

And thought of music – and swore deep heart’s deep oaths.

(Polite to God) – and retreated and came on again.

Again retreated – and a second time faced the screen.


From Collected Poems by Ivor Gurney, Fyfield Press.


(See also ‘Poetry I Like’ file: link)



Anne Karpf wrote sympathetically about the Society of Friends in September 2011 during Quaker Week:


She makes the point that they ‘would sooner not believe in God than in pacifism’. Some do not believe in God...


Note the blog-site: where Friends discuss issues of sustainability, a just economy etc.


* Rape as a weapon of war *


1. Guatemala: between 1960 and 1996 more than 100,000 women were victims of mass rape during the civil war. The war was between CIA-backed rightwing generals and leftwing insurgents. 200,000 died in the conflict. Then general Jose Efrain Rios Montt grabbed power in a coup in 1982, and there was yet more brutality (G2 29.07.11 – Ofelia de Pablo, Javier Zurita, Giles Tremlett). Spain’s national high court has been investigating claims of genocide, but Montt has not been extradited, and is now a congressman. Maya were particularly vulnerable – caught in between and seen as the other. Spain’s national court has now agreed to investigate the mass rapes and gender violence. Mayans see the atrocities as an attempt to wipe out the Maya (by targeting the women especially).


There is a legacy of violence in Guatemala: in 2010 685 women were killed, and so far this year there have been 120 cases of rape, torture and even dismemberment.

Guatemala has been forced to start trials of human rights abuses, and arrest warrants prevent those accused of leaving the country.


2. Rape of men also occurs, and in some ways the consequences for the victims are worse – men are often unable to admit what happened, for fear of being shamed and seen as ‘women’, when the do tell their wives their wives often leave them. Horrific descriptions in article by Will Storr, Obs. Mag. 17.07.11:


The extent of this is not yet known, largely because of the shame experienced – Storr visits the Refugee Law project in Uganda – first example quoted is a man who was captured in Congo and raped three times a day for three years… he saw others raped, and some died of their injuries.


Journal of the American Medical Association, in 2010 published result of a survey: 22% of men and 30% of women in Eastern Congo reported conflict-related sexual violence. While over 4,000 NGOs have addressed wartime sexual violence, only 3% mentioned men.


G2 22.07.11 – Eleanor O’Hagan reports on failed accusation of gang rape by US service woman against colleagues in military contracting firm KBR.  Adds that according to military reporter Adam Weinstein a US servicewoman is twice as likely to be raped as her civilian counterpart, as female US soldier in Iraq is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by the enemy, and possibly, Pentagon estimates, 90% of sexual-assault cases go unreported.

* Rape and sexual violence in the US armed forces *




- horrifying article, especially in the accounts of how victims are vilified or at least not taken seriously (for example the woman who, having just been raped by a fellow soldier, went into an officer’s office to complain without remembering to give the customary three knocks – he then made her do so many press-ups [“get down!”] that she was unable to say anything. Or the male soldier who was reporting to a doctor when the doctor received a phone-call as a result of which he said ‘there’s nothing wrong with you’ – despite the fact he had been beaten up and had blood everywhere.




New Statesman 18 – 31 March 2016 (Second Life, by Sophie McBain) has disturbing statistics: In 2015 the number of people fleeing war or persecution reached 60 Million. Of these 19.5 million are registered with the UN (which gives them the right to protection in the country from which they have made their asylum claim). More than 50 countries have not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, and don’t recognise any obligations. The parts of the qworld that can best support refugees (N America, western Europe) are the hardest to reach. About 86% of refugees live in poor countries. Although the UNHCR believes there are 1.15 million refugees needing to be resettled, only 80,000 places were made available in 2015.

\The US resettles most: 50,00 a year. UK is behind Australia, Canada, New Zeeland, Germany and several Scandinavian countries which take in more than a thousand a year.


*Religions and violence*

See the New Statesman, 12 December 2011, Mehdi Hasan on how all the major religions have a basic appeal to non-violence. Only when (as Kurlansky argues) a religion becomes tied in with the identity of a state does it (naturally!) become obsessed with persecuting those who think or believe differently.



*Control over resources:*


More conflict occurs now over control of resources, and less as a result of ideology (hopefully, fascism was a passing phase, and the end of the Cold War means that differences between “communism” and “capitalism” are no longer likely to explode into direct armed conflict). Resource control, I would argue, lies at the heart of much conflict, even if it is overlaid with religious or ideological difference.


* Secrecy *


Guardian 150611, Daniel Ellsberg regrets that he didn’t reveal more of the papers he had at the time of the Vietnam War. The Pentagon Papers were released in 1971. He had other secret papers that showed that claims of an unprovoked attack on US destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf were lies – if he had reveled this in 1964 the Tonkin Gulf resolution – giving a blank cheque for war – would never have been passed according to Senator Morse (one of only two senators who voted against the resolution).  Other documents proved that Johnson was lying when he claimed there would be ‘no wider war’ in his election campaign (he was in fact determined to escalate the war, even though he didn’t believe it could be won). The papers have recently been declassified…


Note the parallels with the Iraq war and ‘wikileaks’…

*Soldiers are trained to kill – Giles Fraser*


See the Guardian article for one reaction to the killing by a US soldier of 16 civilians in Afghanistan. (See also March 14th piece by Seamus Milne which lists other violations by soldiers).


It’s not natural for us to kill each other, so methods have to be found e.g. psychological distancing (de-humanising), but troops need special methods. Brig Gen SLA Marshall wrote Men Against Fire in 1947 arguing that many soldiers actually couldn’t fire at the enemy, and the army etc have learned from this: targets are now made to look like people, video and computer games help make violence seem ordinary, a kind of ‘psychological warfare against our own troops’. War involves a process of systematic dehumanization says Fraser.


*Syria – western intervention?*


Oct 2016: Boris Johnson, now Foreign Secretary (!) has suggested there should be demonstrations outside the Russian Embassy to protest against their support for President Assad. They are accused of war crimes, as hospitals have been hit, and many civilians killed. Responses in letter to the Guardian include one from the coordinator of the PPU, Symon Hill. He says Boris Johnson is wrong to ask where are the demonstrations against Russia? ‘The PPU has for years opposed all warfare and militarism... We support the thousands of Russian peace activists resisting Putin’s militarism and we liaise with peace groups around the world through networks such as the War Resisters’ International.’ He adds: ‘the Foreign Secretary is happy for the UK government to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, whose forces are committing atrocities [in] Yemen. UK forces are themselves complicit in the killing of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not peace campaigners who are inconsistent, but politicians such as Boris Johnson who condemn the atrocities carried out by their enemies, but excuse those committed by their friends.’


June 18th 2013: Syria Conflict...

Alastair Crooke, director of Conflicts Forum and a former security advisor to the EU, warns (Guardian 17th June) how wrong it would be to supply more arms to the Syrian opposition. ‘Syria is already awash with weapons. But as we discovered in Afghanistan, however much is given, it is ‘never enough’. And if the opposition fails, then the west’s lack of ‘enough’ support will be blamed. Twenty years ago we armed the mujahideen in Afghanistan against the soviet forces. The amount of arms supplied was very small in comparison with what is shifting around now in the Syrian conflict: ‘the opposition has received, since the beginning of 2012, possibly as much as 3,500 tons of weapons’ (according to the New York Times).

When will we ever learn?


May 29th. Simon Jenkins on the Middle East:

An excellent piece – showing how ludicrous our foreign policy is. When will we learn that our enemies’ enemies are not necessarily our friends? When will we stop intervening with arms in a misguided attempt to solve other countries’ problems? (And I often disagree with Jenkins – but not this time!!)


Seamus Milne has a good piece in Guardian 06.06.12 – against western intervention. Massacres have occurred, and most agree they are the work of shabiha, i.e. pro-government sectarian militias – but the regime blames them on the opposition (Free Syria Army). This is similar to the situation in Kosovo 13 years ago, when contested killings led to western/NATO bombings (outside UN). However, intervention in Syria would cause civil war and regional conflagration: the internal struggle in Syria has already become part of a western and Saudi proxy war against Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah. In fact the US has been giving (‘non-lethal’ and ‘communications’) support to Saudi Arabian and Turkish military support for the opposition.

Milne claims the intervention in Libya last year led to an increase in the death toll by a factor of 10 to 15, and left a country of lawless warlords, torture and ethnic cleansing.




See Philippe Sands’ book Torture Team (Penguin). Several reports (3 in 3 years) indicate that there has been “force drift” i.e. where interrogators come to believe that some force/violence is good, then more will be even better – an observation made a long time ago by Sartre in his preface to Henri Alleg’s book (La Question) on torture in Algeria… Sleep deprivation whilst hooded and cuffed, stress positions etc. Court Martials found soldiers not guilty because the senior officer Col. Jorge Mendonca argued these techniques had been cleared by the chain of command. But in 2006 Supreme Court ruled that Geneva conventions still applied to the detainees at Guantanamo. One judge even said: violations of Common Article Three, part of the law of war and treaty ratified by the US, are considered ‘war crimes’ punishable as federal offences.


* UN peacekeeping *


See Wikipedia web page:


Guidelines for UN:


NB wiki notes on page defining peacekeeping perhaps need amending to use UN distinction between peacemaking and peace enforcement? 


*War On Want*

War on Want says that ‘conflict is a major source of poverty’: Iraq gains 95% of its revenue from oil, but international oil companies are being given control (see below) when such resources should be under the control of the people of Iraq. See The pressure-group is also campaigning to have mercenaries controlled…  


* ‘websites and other resources’ – additions *

*World War I*

Coming up to 1914, discussion is taking place on how to commemorate it...


Oldest items first:

Interesting piece by Matthias Strohn, senior lecturer in war studies at Sandhurst, Guardian Tues 23rd July 2013:


Other articles: on conscientious objectors...


Review of Frank Furedi: First World War: Still no end in sight (Bloomsbury), Observer 26th Jan 2014, by Yvonne Roberts – argues there was widespread support at the time (in contrast to current disillusionment, he claims: in fact he says too many people see the war through this atmosphere of disillusionment). The war marked the end of empire, deference, white racial superiority, and the docility of the masses – and it was followed by epidemics, revolutions, failures of states, currency collapses, unemployment, dictatorship and fascism... Hence our disillusionment with institutions and with authority. Sees ‘how to ensure that popular consent serves as the foundation for authority’ as the ‘question of our time.’  Conflict now, he says, is over cultural issues (homosexuality, abortion, marriage) – ‘culture wars’ have replaced wars of ideology. Argues for re-politicising democracy. I agree with Yvonne Roberts – hard to see this happening!! And isn’t the description of current times over-simple? I find most generalisations of this type hard to take. - comments are interesting!


Adam Tooze: The Great War and the Re-making of Global Order 1916 – 1931 (Allen Lane). How the war re-shaped the world in terms of America becoming a super-power – how weak the enemies of the pax Americana (e.g. Russia) actually were – how the depression led to Roosevelt wanting to abandon America’s world role in order to exit the depression, which led to the collapse of the gold standard, and countries strengthened the state to deal with economic problems. A few countries (especially Germany, Japan, Italy and the USSR) then set out to challenge American superiority with extreme nationalism, and militarism. ‘The American challenge forced fascist and communist regimes to devise forms of political enlistment that had no precedent.’ (Mark Mazover’s review, Guardian 26th June 2014). Raises the question of whether the US will stick with a view of its indispensability and how much it will scale back its commitments?


*World War II - The Zohn family*


May 2008: Have been checking the stories of the Zohn family, helped by my parents to flee Austria early in the second world war. Surprised to find that Harry Zohn (Fritzi’s brother) went on to become a well-known professor at Brandeis University – died in 2001 (born 1923). Well-known as a translator, of many German texts (Martin Buber, Karl Kraus, Walter Benjamin, Kurt Tucholsky for example) and of texts on the Jewish experience, e.g. Bruck uber dem Abgrund (A bridge over the Abyss – reflections on the Jewish experience…)


See: - for Harry Zohn’s Obituary – mentions that Elsa is still alive.


See also worldcat.


All this also derived from largely hostile reviews of the book by Nicholson Baker mentioned above (though Peter Wilby’s review is favourable). It would be good if I could assemble examples of what can be done before war breaks out… preventing war is the first thing; pacifism should be seen as a final stance taken in the event of failure (rather like the ideal position on abortion described by Nuala O’Faolain: we should be pro-life and pro-choice, and do all we can to prevent unwanted pregnancies first…). [The death of Nuala O’Faolain, the Irish writer, also produced observations on feminism – see notes on feminism (not written yet)].


The death of Irena Sendler, who worked to get Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto (Obituary G 140508) set me thinking: how little attention is paid to these real heroes of the war, and to what was done in the build-up to war to prevent the persecution of the Jews. (See below on “liberal interventionism”). I need to find out more about what my parents were involved in, since I always thought their awareness of the danger to the Jews came before others outside Germany/Austria.       I have begun to do some research: I know that Fritzi Zohn was always grateful to my parents for their assistance in getting her (and her sisters and brother) out of Austria – Harry Zohn (1923 – 2001) was the young brother, but all I have is rather half-baked memories at the moment. My brother Stephen believes someone (our grandparents?) provided work certificates for them. My aunt June wrote to me of how the sisters arrived at “the bungalow” (what we called the house where my mother’s parents lived): they didn’t speak much English, but found a copy of some Schubert songs (my mother and my aunt Betty used to sing! I never knew this…) and they spent a lot of happy time singing together. June also remembers that Harry was travelling separately, and when they went to meet him at the station they couldn’t find him – there was much distress until he was found.


Irena Sendler’s obituary includes her statement, when praised for rescuing children: “Every child saved with my help and the help of all the wonderful messengers is the justification for my existence on this earth, rather than a claim for honour.”


If only I had some “justification for my existence…” Perhaps doing a bit to rescue the memory of my parents and their stance against the war might help.


*The Two World Wars and war today*


Geoffrey Wheatcroft (Independent on Sunday, Comment, 11.11.07) rightly, in my opinion, points out that our attitude to war has changed dramatically. In the two World Wars there was an incredible loss of life – today’s wars produce comparatively few casualties. Thus the death toll of Americans in the Iraq war to date is 805. British dead in the First World War: 750,000 (of whom 300,000 had no known grave – this is in an article on Jack Kipling whose father made sure he went to war, and who was killed within days at Loos in the autumn of 1915), and in the Second: 300,000. During these wars hundreds were killed within hours – not over months as now.


There are also many more civilian casualties: we do not know exactly how many Iraqis have died, but it is likely to be in the hundreds of thousands. During the Kosovo war, a French General asked if we now only kill civilians in war. And maybe our soldiers are ready to kill but not to die…


With regard to the political class, the contrast is also striking: None of our present government has any experience of military action. In the First WW, 22 sitting MPs were killed in action., and every PM from 1940 – 1963 had previously served as an infantry officer in that war. 85 sons of MPs were killed: does any MP now have a son serving?


Of the men who went to Oxford in 1913, 31% were killed over the next five years. The Bush administration is composed of “chicken-hawks”… Only 12 Harvard men died in Vietnam. See: Roth-Douquet, Kathy and Schaeffer, Frank: AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes from Military Service – and How It Hurts Our Country.


As Kipling himself put it:


“If any question why we died,

Tell them because our fathers lied.”


Wheatcroft says perhaps this should now read “rulers”.


Good book on how Europe ended up in the two world wars: Susan Pedersen’s review makes some interesting points too: Kershaw’s book misses out the ‘imperial dimension’. That is, Europe was too busy thinking about its empires, and thinking in an imperial frame of reference, to realise what was developing in Europe viz. the ‘neo-mercantilist assumption that one state’s advantage could only come at another state’s cost’ – coupled with the growth of nationalism, and the effects of rapid technological change, economic uncertainty, the rise of discourses of planning, population and ‘racial hygiene’... that affected most European states. Thus there were not only half a billion people in Europe, but hundreds of millions more in empires subject to Europe: 400 million in the British Empire alone (!!). The descendants of these countries want to understand not just ‘why Nazism’ but ‘why empire’ – also ‘how central was racism to the imperial project’? More people were killed in Belgium’s Congo (10 million) than soldiers in the first world war...   Maybe e.g. Italian aggression against Ethiopia meant that they didn’t turn their aggression on Europe. Maybe the British missed the significance of the growing Nazi threat in the mid ‘30s because they were working on the Government of India Act. The militarization of the Rhineland was the last chance to stop Hitler, and it was missed. It was foolish to think Hitler could be appeased with ‘extra-European territorial swaps’ – but that had worked (kept the peace) for Europeans for centuries.