|These are regular editorials
produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent
[Return to related issue of Nonviolence News]
As a nonviolence network on the island of Ireland, ‘networking’ is close to INNATE’s heart. But how do we do what in an effective manner? We all need to ‘network’ but it is also the case that if that is all we do, we are failing in our allotted tasks. So this piece will look at just some aspects of networking.
The first point is that networking has to be grounded in concrete tasks and purposes. Vagueness is satisfactory where there is a desire to build something more concrete but is totally unsatisfactory if it is the longer term outcome. The point of ‘Nonviolent News’, for example, is to inform people on the island of Ireland about work and initiatives in the fields of peace, nonviolence, human rights and green issues with an emphasis on peace and nonviolence, including responses to the Northern Ireland situation.
But INNATE (for example) is also involved in various projects to advance concepts and possibilities. The idea of peace trails is to take the concept of peace to every corner of the island. While the possibility of work internationally is very limited, INNATE also has the goal to share what is being done in Ireland with a wider peace constituency who may be interested, and to help bring concepts and knowledge that exist abroad to Ireland and the attention of people here.
There is always the danger of preaching to the converted, or networking for the converted – though this is certainly needed. Our own group or organisation is presumably the most important group for us but we can easily miss what other people are doing, and go about inventing square wheels when round ones exist elsewhere. However in the era of social media and the internet there is the opportunity to get information ‘out there’ to people outside the ‘usual suspects’; this, however, requires work and imagination, to have information that people may find useful in a form that is accessible and ‘pulls them in’. In days of yore the difficulty was getting any information at all; today it is much more a question of your message before drowned out by a hundred other messages.
Individuals may network in one particular manner; you may be good at person-to-person contact of the face-to-face variety, and pulling people in that way; you may be good at using social media; you may be the person who remembers when someone offered to do something years ago and now there is a need for that something to be done. But in an organisation and movement there is a wide variety of approaches which are needed.
There are also different geographical layers to networking; local, regional, national and international. Depending on our capacity, we may have to limit what we do in some of these four areas; it depends what is most relevant to our work. But awareness of what others are doing whose work is not currently of immediate relevance to us is useful for when our paths cross of should cross. In other words, we should have both deeper and shallower networks and awareness; deeper networks for those most relevant on a day to day basis, shallower networks for more occasional contact or cooperation.
We can analyse what is most important in our networking using simple tools such as depicting links individually and/or then collectively on paper. This can give us a vivid picture of our links and which are important. An important part of networking may be membership of related bodies working in our field, or those which network more widely, at home or abroad.
Networking outside of the usual box can be both interesting and useful but a challenging activity. Trying to build international broad based international cooperation to oppose US and NATO military bases worldwide is the business of a new network which was formally launched at a recent conference, attended by people from 35 countries, which took place at Liberty Hall in Dublin, organised by the Global Campaign Against US/NATO Military Bases with PANA, the Peace And Neutrality Alliance, being the Irish end of the organisation of the conference. Working together on something like this requires a cooperative mindset and a willingness to compromise on non-essentials with the aim of advancing our common goals. In this case, NATO should have been wound up long ago and while US military hegemony may be perceived by some as providing stability it actually acts selfishly in US economic and strategic interests, and contributes to instability and violence, ecological degradation, and mindless militarism.
Back at home, and even closer, INNATE tries to advance peace and nonviolence through projects and information. Other organisations have their own networking and in some cases local group systems and contacts. Being part of a network like INNATE can make us aware that the adage of ‘different strokes for different folks’ is not just a glib saying but a very important reality; what we have to offer may be important to us, and others, but this does not preclude the importance of other types of work. Respect for others in the field can be difficult when we all feel that ‘our’ approach is the most important but it is an essential lesson to learn if we want to maximise our chances of building a peaceful Ireland and world; we need not just to let a thousand flowers bloom but also learn how to actively cultivate those different flowers, providing them with the very best growing environment.
- - - - -
Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –
“The truth was dawning on me of how terrifying it was not to be numb, but to be aware, to have facts, be present, be adult.” - Anna Burns, Milkman (2018), p.294
The recent election of Jair Bolsonaro as the 39th president of Brazil is a disaster for everyone he regards different from him. This includes the indigenous peoples, women, sexual minorities, non-Christians as well as people who campaign for economic and social justice and protection of nonhuman nature most especially the Amazon rainforest. Fiona Watson gives us a sense of Bolsonaro’s character in The Guardian, 31 October 2018, informing us that he once said “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated their Indians.” He is also reported as saying “Indians smell, are uneducated and don’t speak our language, and that “the recognition of indigenous land is an obstacle to agribusiness”.
President Bolsonaro is pro-mining, logging, drilling, dam building, corporate agriculture, the purchase of guns with the minimum of restrictions, state torture and capital punishment. His policies unashamedly favour the rich and if acted on will entrench social and economic inequality in the country. They will also lead to ecological catastrophe through the rapid contraction of the biological wonderland and lungs of the world which is the Amazon rainforest. Yet in spite of Bolsonaro’s well-publicised views he was elected president by fifty-seven million people winning 55 per cent of the vote.
It seems utterly bewildering why political candidates who are clearly against the common good and have a demonstrably crude and ill-informed understanding of the world, believing for example that climate chaos is not a result of human behaviour, get elected. Why did millions of women vote for President Bolsonaro, as well as President Trump, after both men publically denigrated them? Why did millions of poor people in the United States vote for a presidential candidate who vowed to abolish the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act when they benefit from it? Why do people not only vote against their own interests but vigorously campaign against them?
A pivotal reason is most people vote on the basis of emotions rather than reason. Drew Westen in The Political Brain, (2008) argues that stories always trump statistics, which means that the political candidate with the best stories is almost certain to win. Evidence-based reasoning and statistics illustrating gross inequality or damage to the environment are not as emotionally arresting or as easy to assimilate as a graphic story centred on righting wrongs and preventing the election of someone who will take everything the electorate value from them. Emotions enable one to be wilfully blind and not see the obvious. (Wilful Blindness, Margaret Heffernan, 2011).
Anna Burns in Milkman (2018) illustrates peoples’ unwillingness to see the obvious when she draws her students’ attention to the multitude of colours cast in the sky by the setting sun. The students think the sky can only ever be blue and even on bearing witness to the contrary they are unable to admit otherwise. Burns has the narrator explain why:
“It was the convention not to admit it, not to accept detail for this type of detail would mean choice and choice would mean responsibility and what if we failed in our responsibility? Failed too, in the interrogation of the consequences of seeing more than we could cope with? ...
It seemed to our minds that no, what she was saying could not ever be true. If what she was saying was true, that the sky – out there - not out there – whatever - could be any colour, she meant anything could be any colour, that anything could be anything, that anything could happen, at any time, in any place, in the whole world and to anybody – probably had too, only we just hadn’t noticed. So no. After generation upon generation, fathers upon forefathers, mothers upon foremothers, centuries and millennia of being one colour officially and three colours unofficially, a colourful sky, just like that, could not be allowed to be.” (p. 70-73)
Most people, including those who voted against Bolsonaro and Trump, want sharp contrasts, simple explanations and seemingly straightforward solutions. They don’t want to spend time and energy considering options and consequences. They want certainty. They also want confirmation of their values and view of the world. Thus the prevalence of conspiracy theories, reductionist and binary depictions of the world as expressed in slogans such as Donald Trump’s “lock her up” and “drain the swamp”.
As Burns suggests people intuit that to admit to one thing that is supported by evidence and contrary to one’s worldview could lead step by step, rationale by rationale, to the collapse of all that one has hitherto believed to be true including sense of identity. As the politics of Northern Ireland show a high proportion of people hold onto their ascribed identity with the intensity one would dig their fingers into a cliff face for fear of falling into the abyss. This accounts for why people point-blank ignore reality and undermine it if it is counter to their prejudices and inclinations.
Fear is a powerful emotion and characters like Bolsonaro and Trump know its potency and use the garb of the irreverent as a gateway to the emotional brain of the electorate who feel existentially threatened. Their coarseness, blatant lies, distortions, negative caricatures and proclaimed distain for experts, elites and the establishment is an integral part of their story. Aside from fear and sense of identity what hooks voters is the story of magical wish fulfilment. The desire for the transformation of circumstances through the weaving of a magic wand does not end with childhood as the number of people who do the lottery testify. Aspirations are emotionally based and often immune to reasoning. The poor aspire to be rich which helps account for why they vote for wealthy candidates financed by large corporations who will further impoverish them.
There are solid strands of reasoning in the depiction of one’s political opponent as a fool, and even a law breaker, especially if the opposition is in power, or recently so, as they can be accused in spite of their achievements, integrity, good intentions, and evidence-based arguments as having failed to deliver on promises. How then to elect politicians who will serve the common good, the long-term interests of their community, which by definition means protecting the natural environment? The answer is utopian but there is no better place to start on that long path than education for critical thinking, making connections and realizing every life is entwined with every other.
- - - -
‘Readings in Nonviolence’ features extracts from our favourite books, pamphlets, articles or other material on nonviolence and related areas, or reviews of important works in the field (suggestions and contributions welcome)
A feature following the Global Conference Against NATO/US Military Bases which took place at Liberty Hall in Dublin from 16th – 18th November (2018).
In this feature we include three talks given at the conference. David Swanson of World BEYOND War in the USA gave a very well crafted talk hitting numerous nails squarely on the head. Mairead Maguire provided a vision of working for general and complete disarmament. Frank Keoghan gave us a detailed and succinct analysis of where Ireland and the EU are in terms of development of a militarist response. But first of all there is an introduction to the conference by Rob Fairmichael.
An introduction by Rob Fairmichael
How we can effectively organise to bring to book the greatest military enterprise the world has ever seen is a big question. It might seem too big a struggle to even contemplate. However this nay-saying represents a failure of imagination. Obviously our response has to include significant international cooperation, and mobilisation around issues of importance to local people (e.g. the massive cost to the taxpayer, of PESCO in the Republic – multiplying the military budget a number of times) – which can be not just a response to local need but also a tactical response to gradually build an awareness of the stupidity of the militarist response to world problems. Just look at a couple of the maps of the tentacles of US military bases (in INNATE’s photo site coverage of the conference), e.g. here and here.
Building alliances is obviously a key aspect of any such work. This Global Conference Against NATO/US Bases which took place at Liberty Hall, Dublin (16th-18th November 2018) was a good start for building an alliance around opposition to foreign military bases, all foreign military bases hopefully but 95% of these are NATO/US facilities. There are a thousand US foreign bases, plus of course a whole military-industrial complex within the USA itself. The very presence of this conference in Ireland recognised Shannon Airport as a de facto US military base, which it assuredly is, despite the Irish state’s totally head-in-the-sand and sleeveen approach to the issue and abuses which it has assisted.
The first point about civil society alliances is that they are just that, a mode of cooperation between disparate groups and organisations who have a common aim. This conference had quite a mixture of people present. The majority present may have been classic (e.g. WILPF) or ‘new’ peace movement people. But then there were campaigners on local bases, left activists and anti-imperialists of different hues, and others, so it was certainly not a nonviolent or pacifist event even if it included many people coming from that background. One impressive example of local resistance to US bases is by the people of Okinawa, Japan. PANA, the Peace And Neutrality Alliance, who were the organisers of the conference in Ireland, is itself an alliance of people who are committed to building a positive and progressive Irish neutrality, among other things advocating that “Irish troops should only serve abroad as peacekeepers under the auspices of the UN”, see www.pana.ie
We realise that the selection of talks in this feature is somewhat parochial and does not deal with many aspects of the wider world which were covered. This has been deliberate as we simply do not have the capacity to cover everything, and the papers of the conference will be published, and further information available on the website; the communiqué from the conference is available online and other materials on the same website, including videos of inputs.
One paragraph from this Declaration reads “While we call for the closure of all US/NATO military bases, we consider the closure of bases and military installations in certain countries and areas as needing special attention by the international movement. These, for example, include the Guantanamo US base in Cuba, the US bases in Okinawa and South Korea, the US Base in Rammstein/Germany, Serbia, the old and new US/NATO bases in Greece and Cyprus, the establishment of the new US African Command (AFRICOM) with its affiliated military bases in Africa, the numerous NATO bases in Italy and Scandinavia, the Shannon airport in Ireland, which is being used as a military base by US and NATO, and the newly established bases by the United States, France and their allies on and around the Syrian soil.”
However I will refer to, and comment on, some of the content relating to worldwide issues – it was, after all, a worldwide conference, with upwards of 300 people attending and 35 countries had representatives there from 6 continents (not all continents as one person commented from the floor on the final day – there was no one from Antarctica!). It was reported that 172 countries have US military bases on their soil, over 1,000 in all, which is twenty times more than other countries combined. Why? While some speakers used the term ‘imperialism’ (a term I am happy to use but would tend to qualify to avoid the impression of using socialist jargon) as in ‘the US army is the military wing of the capitalist project’, I would certainly qualify this by adding “US and western” before ‘capitalist’. The mighty dollar is a reflection of US military might, and US military might is used, directly and indirectly, to favour US and western corporations and profit; just look at the scramble to make $ in Iraq after the US initiated war there. Not so much then ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ as ‘the land of the freeloader and the home of the grave’.
In addition to a thousand or more US military bases abroad, there are 400 or more at home in the USA itself. The justification for those abroad is sometimes about ‘advancing democracy’; if it was interested in democracy it would not ally with Saudi Arabia, and if it was interested in justice it would not ally with Israel against Palestine. As for the reason for having bases ‘to protect US citizens’, this is a threadbare lie attempting to appeal to US citizen interest and is far from the truth almost all of the time. Aledia Guevara made the fascinating and accurate comparison of asking how many military bases does Mexico need in the USA to protect its many millions of citizens there? Meanwhile the USA occupies (sic) military bases such as Guantanamo or Okinawa against the wishes of local people.
Guantanamo was reported as being the first US overseas military base, and in this era is the most infamous, associated with internment and torture. Its presence is unwelcome to both Cuban government and people. In Okinawa the US military presence has strong opposition from local people but support from the Japanese government. Okinawa suffered greatly at the end of the Second World War and as a result most people are anti-militarist. However there are 30 US military bases on the island with 25,000 troops, on an island reported to be ‘half the size of Long Island’ in the USA.
The idea which may be around that ‘today’ the US has cleaned up its act in relation to foreign interventions is farcical. Obviously in the past it has engineered more coups d’état, particularly in Latin America, than some people have had hot dinners. It may be more careful to try to cover its tracks, or appeal to some of the spurious justifications mentioned above, but it has not changed; you can look to Venezuela as proof of that, or the continued growth of US military bases. And the Afghan, Iraqi and Libyan wars are not so far in the distant past with the resultant chaos and violence still to the fore. Nor can you contrast Obama (for example) as a ‘peacemaker’ and Trump as a potential warmaker; it was Obama who championed frequent drone strikes in independent countries and he who also increased US military bases in Africa from 3 to 84.
Interestingly it is Italy which has more US bases than any other country in the world, reported by one speaker to number 114, around 10% of the total. This makes Italy feel less like an independent country and more like a US aircraft carrier. The number is largely due to its strategic location, in Europe but handy for both North Africa and the Middle East. There is a presentation on Italy here http://nousnatobases.org under ‘Europe’. It was interesting to hear Medea Benjamin state that it was the presence of US bases in Saudi Arabia that was partly responsible for radicalising Osama bin Laden; it might be added that his position would be quite typical of US military policies in war zones of being in favour one year (supporting the fight against Russians in Afghanistan) and being rather out of favour the next, when he turned his attention to the US military presence abroad. Medea Benjamin also spoke about US bases ringing Iran in humorous terms as “Look how closely your country has put itself to our bases”.
In the conference coverage of the Middle East, rather than two talks on the injustice of the Palestinian situation, it would have been good to have analysis of the war in Syria, a situation where it has been Russian military intervention which tipped the balance in favour of the Assad regime. I think talking about the injustice of the situation for Palestine, while excellent, would have largely been talking to a converted audience; both speakers however emphasised the importance of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) in bringing Israel into serious negotiations, whether the answer is a one state or two state solution. The root of the problem also comes from imperialism, a different imperialism, that of Britain and the 1917 Balfour Declaration. The point was made about Israel that it looks like a big US military base so there is no need to overt US military bases there, and this is true, but it does receive a massive US financial subvention.
The division of the whole world into US military regions was dealt with partly through coverage of AFRICOM, the US military command for Africa which is based in Italy and was set up by Obama. And while the flexing of Chinese military might in the South China Sea is unwelcome, the ringing of China by US military might is an unwelcome and unnecessary presence.
One worrying feature was that several proposed Palestinian speakers were denied visas to come to Ireland, as well as a few from other places. Some people may smell a conspiracy, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that despite various sounds in favour of Palestinians from Irish politicians, the state toes a very conservative (= reactionary) line on the issue - which of course some of those politicians could change if they wanted to. I should say that it was great to see Clare Daly TD speaking at the conference; as someone who has backed up her words with action at Shannon (along with Mick Wallace TD).
The environmental effect of militarism was one of the conference topics (as issue taken up in Ireland by Afri www.afri.ie ) in a session chaired by Senator Grace O’Sullivan. This included Pat Elder dealing with the terrible effects of PFAS and PFOS flame retardants polluting groundwater, with drastic results for reproductive health including very significant miscarriage, birth defect and cancer risks.
Developments in EU militarism were dealt with in a plenary which included British. Portuguese and Irish speakers. This situation may be the best known to most readers of this article and the detail is given in Frank Keoghan’s talk which is included below; massive increases in expenditure and tie ins with arms companies, an EU army, a ‘shared [nuclear] bomb’ and full adherence to NATO diktats are all on the cards. NATO’s broken promises, following the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, not to extend its membership towards Russia, was also covered and fits the Len Munnik based poster; “NATO – Helping to create and maintain enemies since 1949”.
The fact that the conference consisted of wall-to-wall speakers apart from one concentrated regional networking session for about an hour on the Sunday (followed by a feed back in plenary) meant that networking had to be mainly informal and off-programme. It is possible that as this was the first event of its kind the feeling by organisers was that ‘the world’ had to be dealt with in plenary session, though even so some important areas remained untouched, e.g. Syria. The short European caucus session went relatively well, I would say, but if it was me I would have had rather more time for networking and allowing people to process the information – though of course hearing what more people were doing did provide an opportunity for participants to say “I would like to support that if I can”. And it was good to hear about situations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East as well as something on Europe.
One agreement was on using NATO’s 70th anniversary and related summit in Washington DC, on April 4th 2019, to organise protests and events worldwide. So you could put that date in your diary.
Is the question of foreign military bases a likely candidate for an effective worldwide campaign and alliance? I would like to think so and this conference was a good start. But while in some things ‘well begun is half done’, in this case the task is so huge that ‘well begun is ½% done’ might be more accurate. If the longest journey begins with a single step, at least that step has been taken and hopefully in the right direction. Creating general awareness of the ludicrous extent and dangerous nature of the US military machine worldwide is one of the next steps, and it was great that there was a strong US representation, and indeed origination, of the conference Well done to the organisers on both sides of the Atlantic and ‘a luta continua’...
As mentioned above, the campaign/conference website is at http://nousnatobases.org INNATE’s photo album, including all the speakers.
Ellen Davidson’s photos of the conference.
David Swanson, Director, World BEYOND War
I’m willing to bet that if I asked everyone in Ireland whether the Irish government should take orders from Donald Trump, most people would say no. But last year the Irish Ambassador to the United States came to the University of Virginia, and I asked her how allowing U.S. troops to use Shannon Airport to get to their wars could possibly be in compliance with Irish neutrality. She replied that the U.S. government “at the highest level” had assured her it was all perfectly legal. And she apparently bowed and obeyed. But I don’t think the people of Ireland are as inclined to sit and roll over on command as their ambassador.
Collaboration in crimes is not legal.
Bombing people’s houses is not legal.
Threatening new wars is not legal.
Keeping nuclear weapons in other people’s countries is not legal.
Propping up dictators, organizing assassins, murdering people with robotic airplanes: none of it is legal.
U.S. military bases around the world are the local franchises of the greatest criminal enterprise on earth!
And NATO involvement doesn’t make a crime any more legal or acceptable.
A lot of people in the United States have trouble distinguishing NATO from the United Nations. And they imagine both of them as murder-laundering operations — that is, as entities that can render mass murder legal, proper, and humanitarian. A lot of people think the U.S. Congress possesses this same magical ability. A presidential war is an outrage, but a Congressional war is enlightened philanthropy. And yet, I have not found a single person in Washington, D.C. — and I’ve asked Senators and street vendors — not a single person who tells me they would give the slightest damn if Washington was being bombed whether it was being bombed at the order of a parliament, a president, the United Nations, or NATO. The view is always different from under the bombs.
The U.S. military and its European accomplices make up some three quarters of the world’s militarism in terms of their own investment in wars plus their dealing of weapons to others. Attempts to claim that an external threat exists have reached ludicrous levels. I can’t imagine weapons companies would like anything more than some intra-NATO competition. We need to tell advocates of a European military that you can’t oppose U.S. madness by imitating it. If you don’t want to buy more weapons on Trump’s orders, the answer is not to run off and buy even more under another name. This is a vision of a future dedicated to high tech barbarism, and we don’t have time for it.
We don’t have the years left to be monkeying around with medieval balances of power. This planet is doomed as a habitable place for us, and the hell that is to come can be lessened only by outgrowing the acceptance of war.
The answer to Trump is not to outdo him but to do the opposite of him.
A tiny fraction of what just the United States spends just on foreign bases could end starvation, the lack of clean water, and various diseases. Instead we get these bases, these toxic instigators of war encircled by zones of drunkenness, rape, and cancer-causing chemicals.
War and preparations for war are the top destroyers of our natural environment.
They are a top cause of death and injury and destruction.
War is the top source of the erosion of liberties.
The top justification for government secrecy.
The top creator of refugees.
The top saboteur of the rule of law.
The top facilitator of xenophobia and bigotry.
The top reason we are at risk of nuclear apocalypse.
War is not necessary, not just, not survivable, not glorious.
We need to leave the entire institution of war behind us.
We need to create a world beyond war.
People have signed the declaration of peace at worldbeyondwar.org in more countries than the United States has troops in.
People’s movements are on our side. Justice is on our side. Sanity is on our side. Love is on our side.
We are many. They are few.
No to NATO. No to bases. No to wars in distant places.
See also worldbeyondwar.org which includes video of this speech.
For a photo of David Swanson taken at the Dublin conference.
By Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate
It is good to be here with you all. I would like to thank the organizers for inviting me to address the conference and to be present to support the call to close all US/Nato Bases. Firstly I thank you for your work for peace. It is good that we will have an opportunity in the next few days to get to know each other and together discuss what kind of a world we want to live in?
There will be many different perspectives on this and the way forward, but let us agree to respect each other and to engage in deep listening and conversation no matter how hard and where the dialogue might take us! Let us be encouraged by the fact that we have made an important first step when we agree to enter into dialogue, and when we agree that Peace is both the means and the great achievable gift. It would be wonderful too no matter what area of social/political change we work in, if we can unite on a shared vision of a demilitarized world and find strength in agreeing we will not limit ourselves to civilizing and slowing down militarism, but demanding its total abolition.
Some people might argue that Peace is not possible in such a highly militarized world. However, I believe that Peace is both possible and urgent. It is achievable when we each become impassioned about peace and filled with an ethic that makes peace our objective and we each put into practice our moral sense of political/social responsibility to build peace and justice.
To build peace we are challenged to reject the bomb the bullet and all the techniques of violence. Unfortunately, we are constantly bombarded with the glorification of militarism and war so building a culture of Peace and nonviolence will not be an easy task. We are hearing about the building of a European Army and we are asked to accept austerity and budgets cuts to our health and education, etc., whilst increasing money to our own armies and also European Military expansion.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which should have been disbanded when the Warsaw Pact was dissolved, continue to carry out wars and proxy wars in many countries, pushing towards the borders of Russia, and resurrecting a cold war between the East and West. I believe that NATO should be disbanded and should be made accountable and make restitutions, to the millions of people in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and many others it has illegally attacked, invaded, destroyed. We will never be allowed by our Governments, or our mainstream media, to hear the stories of the lives of so many civilians killed by US/NATO forces. NATO forces has targeted and assassinated individuals, and entire families. It is to all our shame in the International community, that their illegal criminal acts of horror and bloodletting which embodies the comeback of barbarism, is allowed to continue. NATO should be brought before the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
It would be all too easy to point fingers and play the blame game but unless we all take responsibility for the highly dangerous militarised situation with which we are faced in the world today, things will not get better. Ireland with the militarization of its Foreign and Defence Policy, I feel has been unfaithful to the Irish peoples’ wish for a Neutral State and worse been complicit by accommodating illegal wars. Ireland’s peace activists have been peacefully protesting US military use of Irish airports where by over two and a half million armed US troops have passed through Shannon airport on their way to and from the US led Afghan and Iraq wars. I believe Ireland should refuse permission to any further stopover and refuelling facilities being granted to aeroplanes ferrying troops or munitions to the wars and also withdraw Irish participation from all NATO and EU military operations overseas.
Ireland is deeply admired in many countries and has a proud record in helping developing countries. Their role as mediators and peace negotiators is well known. I would like to propose that Ireland disband their Army and focus their finance and people on developing their great expertise in the Science of Peacemaking through a Government Department of Peace. Recommitting to its tradition of neutrality and multilateralism, placing ethics, morality and justice as core values at the heart of its Foreign Policy would send out a clear message of the Irish Government rejecting the road of militarism and war and choosing the road of peace and reconciliation, both locally and internationally.
For Humanity’s survival, through a reformed United Nations, we need to move to General and Complete Disarmament – including nuclear weapons. This is not an impossible dream. I commend the Irish Government in their work at the United Nations to work for Nuclear Disarmament. I believe we can take hope from Pope Francis’ statement after pointing out the dangers of nuclear weapons, he says ‚“the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned.”
And the Pope quotes as an example the ’’historic vote at the UN the majority of the members of the International community determined that nuclear weapons are not only immoral, but also must be considered an illegal means of warfare.’
It is to be hoped that the USA, Russia, UK, Israel and other nuclear armed states will begin to dismantle their nuclear weapons, and help turn back the hands of the doomsday clock. Up to the end of l96l at the United Nations, general and complete disarmament was the aim of all governments. In a joint Soviet-United States statement of 20th September, 1961 they stated: ’the goal of negotiations is to achieve agreement on a programme which will ensure (a) that disarmament is general and complete and war is no longer an instrument for settling international problems’.
Let us unite our voices to call for an end to enmity and war, and for President Trump and President Putin to join together with all world leaders in a World Peace Conference to work for an agreed Programme of General and Complete Disarmament. Such courageous Leadership towards dialogue and disarmament would give hope to humanity.
For a photo of Mairead Maguire speaking at the Dublin conference.
By Frank Keoghan, Secretary, People Movement, Ireland
In 2017, Jean Claude Juncker, EU Commission President proclaimed that: “By 2025 we need a fully-fledged European Defence Union. We need it. And NATO wants it.”
Now, Brussels has signalled that military union is the preferred next stage of EU integration. This development is facilitated by the Lisbon Treaty, or EU Constitution, which obliges Member States to support the EU’s security policy “actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity” (Art 24.3 TEU). In 2016 Juncker called for a “security union with the end goal of establishing a European army” while the EU Parliament called for the EU to upgrade its military to be able to use “its full potential as a world power”.
The Lisbon Treaty contains a mutual defence clause (Art.42.7 TEU) and a separate obligation to participate in an EU “common defence”, - an EU Army. Furthermore, “The common security and defence policy shall include the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy. This will lead to a common defence when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides.” (Art.42.2 TEU).
“Member States shall make civilian and military capabilities available to the Union for the implementation of the common security and defence policy …. Member States shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities.” This last provision is a commitment to continual arms build - up amongst EU States – exactly what is envisaged in Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).
The Lisbon Treaty also established the European Defence Agency (EDA), which identifies “operational requirements, promoting measures to satisfy those requirements and…shall participate in defining a European capabilities and armaments policy…” (Arts.42.3 and 45 TEU). This body is now the focus of continual lobbying by Europe’s arms manufacturers, who continually push cross-national integration and a common security and defence agenda.
The European Council decided just months after the Britain’s Brexit referendum to increase the emphasis on EU militarisation in response to calls by Germany. Britain had opposed greater EU cooperation on defence, seeing this as the preserve of NATO. Now, the Franco-Germans and the Brussels bureaucracy could press ahead on military matters without Britain restraining them – though nuclear-armed Britain has pledged to continue military cooperation.
The Lisbon Treaty explicitly recognises the NATO alliance as the prime forum for the collective defence of its members and EU military policy as complementary to but separate from NATO’s. (Art.42.7 TEU and Protocol No.10).
But, “The current level of cooperation between NATO and the EU is unprecedented,” according to Elżbieta Bieńkowska, internal market commissioner, while the Conclusions of the July EU Council called for ‘further deepening of EU-NATO cooperation.’ This was reinforced by NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg, following the July NATO summit: “We just finished a fruitful meeting on NATO-EU co-operation. Over the past two years, we have achieved unprecedented levels of cooperation and we have been working together in 74 concrete areas.”
In his “State of the Union” address delivered in September, Juncker emphasized his demand for the EU to play a united, powerful role in global policy, repeating verbatim formulations used by German politicians to promote a more aggressive German military policy. He called for “Europe to get off the side-lines of world affairs.” It should no longer be a “mere commentator on international events.” The EU must finally act as a “global player” and take “its destiny into its own hands” and must become an “architect of tomorrow’s world.”
A primary focus in Juncker’s plans was the EU’s militarisation, promising that he would “work day and night,” to see the European Defence Fund and Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) become fully operational. He is also contemplating “to increase defence spending by a factor of 20.”
In 2017 the Council of Ministers established PESCO under Arts.42 and 46 TEU. These commit the participating Member States to” the principle of a single set of forces;” to increasing their military spending to reach specific monitored target levels, and to providing troops for EU combat missions.
At the same time the EU Commission proposed the establishment of a European Defence Fund, EU defence chief, Federica Mogherini, calling it “a historic day for European defence.”
Up to 2020, the defence fund will receive an annual €90 million from the EU's budget – to which Ireland is a net contributor - for military research, and half-a-billion euro for military development. It is projected that the fund will spend €49bn between 2021 and 2027 on research into new military technologies, such as robotics and cyber defence. The EU Council asked the European Investment Bank to support these projects and it has recently changed its rules. Horizon 2020 an €80bn research programme has also allocated significant funds for military programmes.
In October, German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen, said that the structures for a European Defence Union have been “activated.” “The structures that have been ‘sleeping’ for a long time inside the Treaty of Lisbon; we have activated them. That means we now have a legal framework for a European Defence Union, we have a joint planning process, so that as Europeans we can also develop a structure that tells us when we are going to use our forces.”
EU military interventions in Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East are titled “peace-making” or “peace-keeping”. Troops wear EU uniforms on these missions. Their actions are supported by the European Defence Agency, the EU Satellite Centre and the EU Military Committee (EUMC). The latter oversees the EU Military Staff (EUMS) headquartered in Brussels.
Simultaneously, the EU Commission is continuing the fortification of the EU’s external borders. The European Border and Coast Guard was established in 2016, with a force of 1,500 members. Original proposals estimated that this would increase to 10,000 by 2027; but a recent proposal by EU Commission President Juncker, accelerates this timetable by seven years. He aims to spend €1.3 billion to add an additional 10,000 border guards by 2020.
The powers of this proposed force are particularly notable. It would operate with executive powers and its own equipment, being deployed “wherever and whenever” along the EU’s external borders, as well as in non-EU countries. Its equipment is to include “vessels, planes and vehicles, available to be deployed at all times and for all necessary operations.”
It can send its soldiers even if the destination country doesn’t want them, and member-states surrender the legal right to have a monopoly of force within their own borders. For the first time there will be a pan-EU military force with the right to go anywhere it wants within the EU.
There are also eighteen EU Battlegroups, each able to deploy 1500 men speedily from different Member States on a rotating basis. Ireland will participate in a 2019 EU Battlegroup, forming a "significant element" within a German - led battle group on standby.
And will Brexit diminish the effectiveness of an EU Army? Well, the old imperial powers, Germany and Britain, have signed a “joint vision statement.” It provides for common steps in training missions outside Europe, in the “fight against terrorism” and in weapons development.
And last month, it was decided that Britain (and US) will have access to PESCO on a case-by-case basis after Brexit. “The invited third state should provide substantial added value to achieving the objectives of the individual project (contributing with resources or expertise),” creating a permanent link between Brexit Britain and the EU Army.
A review by the Bundestag earlier this year determined that Germany could legally finance French or British nuclear weapons on German soil in exchange for their protection. The EU could do the same, if it changed its budgetary rules.
Germany could be granted shared control over the use of warheads under a “dual-key” system and German ruling circles have renewed a debate about “going nuclear.” A “Euro-bomb” with a German finger on an EU nuclear trigger would be an important step on that road.
Meanwhile, France is planning a €37 billion seven - year revamp of its nuclear arsenal and it seems increasingly likely that they will be able to provide an EU nuclear capability. Upgrades to France’s land-based and sea-based nuclear deterrent will be part of the astonishing €300 billion to be spent by 2025. German bases and German financing would enable it to pose as a guarantor of EU security.
NATO’s 2018 Summit Declaration characterises the EU as a “unique and essential partner for NATO,” and speaks of a “strategic partnership” between the two organisations while agreeing that capabilities developed under PESCO be available to NATO and be “complementary and interoperable”.
“Our security is interconnected,” the document stipulates, while confirming that “EU efforts will also strengthen NATO.” Both will encourage member states that belong to only one of these organisations to participate in the initiatives of the other. Alignment with NATO is expressed in PESCO’s founding documents and reiterated by the EU leadership at every opportunity. And on 18th May last, the EU Military Staff was confirmed as a “guest mission partner” of NATO’s “combined federated battle laboratories network.”
The joint Summit declaration identifies military mobility as a priority and the EU, plans to invest €5.7 billion in the project during the 2021–27 budgetary cycle.
Then there’s the nuclear-armed European Intervention Initiative (EII) launched in July. This development is facilitated by the enhance cooperation provisions of the Lisbon Treaty (Art. 20 TEU). Ten EU states including France, Germany and Britain have signed up, prepared to act outside the EU’s borders without help from NATO or the US. The initiative involves “joint planning work on crisis scenarios that could ‘potentially’ threaten EU security.” This is a potential vehicle for post Brexit military co-operation outside the EU framework and would combine Europe’s only two powers with both the military capacity and the strategic will to use force overseas—Britain and France — with a handful of smaller, but willing, EU states.
But there’s also a belt and braces approach implicit in the creation of an ‘anchor army’ in which currently, the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and, significantly, Netherlands have place significant sections of their armies under German control and command. This army’s function is unspecified but is plainly a shadow EU Army in case of failure of the Commission’s plans.
On 13 June the Commission proposed a new €10.5bn Orwellian “European Peace Facility,” an instrument outside the EU’s long - term budget, which would improve the EU’s ability to “prevent conflicts, build peace, and guarantee international security.” Federica Mogherini, said: We are taking measures that will facilitate the rapid movement of Member States’ forces in Europe. Furthermore, with the Commission’s support, I am proposing the establishment of a European Peace Facility that will improve the financing of EU military operations and improve our support for actions by our partners.”
The fund would facilitate the EU’s contributions to “peace operations” led by “partners” such as Somalia and the Central African Republic in the shape of “infra-structure, equipment or military assistance,” which Mogherini confirmed could include the purchase of weapons. No wonder Macron, said in April that “Europe has its destiny bound with Africa!”
Only last month, bipartisan legislators in the US passed the National Defence Authorization Act (2018), which includes $6.5 billion to finance the “European Deterrence Initiative,” building military capabilities of EU states near Russia, and contributing to the further militarisation of the EU. Other additional funds support an increase in EU/US military cooperation. This, despite member-states questioning the commitment of the US to European “security,” following Trump’s campaign statements.
Overall military spending in the EU countries totals some €200 billion annually. 2 per cent of GDP has been pledged by members of PESCO, to be spent on weapons development and procurement.
If Germany alone reaches the agreed target of 2 per cent of GDP, it will have a military budget much larger than the putative enemy’s; Russia’s—and that’s by 2027. (The 2018 Russian military budget is $55bn, while Germany’s is $43bn). In 2016, the EU 28 spent €206bn, while France spent €43bn and Russia €42bn.
In 2016, Irelands’ military spending was the lowest in the EU and one of the lowest in the word at 0.3% of GDP; in real terms around €960m per annum, so, the potential Irish military expenditure to reach the 2% level demanded, is an unbelievable €6bn+ per annum or half the total national health budget, our biggest budget item! This is absolutely staggering!!
In 2016, the highest levels of military expenditure in the EU were in Estonia (2.4 % of GDP), and Greece (2.1 % of GDP).
Aside from the considerable moral, political and ethical considerations associated with militarisation and the increased risk of conflict, this is an appalling waste of resources at a time when the poor are getting poorer and the rich richer. The constitutional amendment permitting Lisbon’s ratification in Ireland included the sentence: “Ireland affirms its commitment to the European Union…” So, Ireland, a supposedly neutral independent State has affirmed a constitutional “commitment” to a superior entity made up of other States sharing the common objective of creating an EU army!
Recently, the biennial delegate conference of Connect, Ireland’s largest engineering union, unanimously adopted a motion calling for Ireland’s immediate withdrawal from PESCO.
This illustrates a growing public awareness that the cost of involvement in PESCO, represents a new priority in government expenditure, to the inevitable detriment of public goods such as housing, education and health. This, at a time, when members of the Irish Defence Forces and their families are forced to apply for supplementary income benefits because of poor wages and conditions.
According to the EU’s statistics agency, in 2016, 117.5 million people in the EU were threatened with poverty or social exclusion – 23.4 percent of its population; corresponding closely with statistics from 2007. The EU has proven incapable of reducing poverty – particularly in the peripheral states. The concentration of resources in Western EU centres of power – and above all in the German hegemonic pole, continue to fuel the EU’s ambitions to achieve “global player” status through the creation of an EU military – industrial complex and attendant EU Army in close partnership with NATO. Eventually, all military bases in the EU will effectively be NATO bases.
And last week, Finland brought the number of members of the EII to eleven, while Macron, on the centenary of the ‘war to end all wars’, called for an EU Army – a call supported days later by Merkel in the EU Parliament. Astonishingly, the Commission expressed ‘delight’. One shudders to contemplate their sentiments in the event of conflict!
And so, the rush to an EU Army continues at an alarming pace. The much - vaunted EU ‘peace project’ has morphed into the EU war project, led by former colonial powers eager to plunder the resources of poorer countries. They have issued a call to arms and we must respond with a call to action, while those of us in EU Member States – including Ireland – must ponder and discuss whether we wish to continue to be members of the EU war machine.
The Peoples Movement website is at www.people.ie
For a photo of Frank Keoghan speaking at the Dublin conference.