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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Number 245: December 2016

[Returned to related issued on Nonviolence News]

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts–

Well, what a strange year it has been in some places (e.g. UK and USA). While many commentators have noted the decline in the influence of the Orange Order in Norn Iron over the last number of decades, it is notable that there is now an Orange Man as incoming POTUS in the White House. Remarkable.

Imagine a religion... Imagine a religion so primitively and atavistically violent that it provides active support, unconditionally, to members of armies in countries where it is dominant, and where religious leaders visit soldiers in the battlefield to provide them with practical and spiritual support (and indeed the religious support is an integral part of those armies). Imagine a religion which developed and perfected the concept of holy war, fighting bloody and unnecessary wars. Imagine a religion where a prominent early warrior-king appropriated the symbol of the religion as a military victory symbol. Imagine a religion where its concept of ‘God’ has been used to justify mass slaughter with no protest from religious leaders, indeed with their active support and collaboration.

Imagine where the dominant symbol of remembering those who fought in a prominent country of that religion celebrates only its own soldiers and martyrs and not others. Imagine a religion where members have been so uncaring of other members that sectarian differences have been used to justify indiscriminate slaughter. Imagine a religion which provided succour and justification to its leaders in fighting unnecessary and hugely destructive wars in recent times. Imagine a religion where prominent leaders continue to select people for extrajudicial killing in countries far away, with many of those killed having no connection whatsoever with the reason they were ‘selected’ to die.

Which religion am I talking about? Christianity of course. The references above are, in order: army chaplaincies and church support, the crusades, Constantine (‘In hoc signo vinces’), World War 1 (for example), the red poppy in the UK, Northern Ireland, the Afghan and Iraq wars and Bush and Blair, and finally drone killings. I’m not saying Islam has a clean card in relation to war and killing, it certainly does not, but if you analyse the role of Christianity in both past and present, you can present it in exactly the same negative way as Islam is often presented in the western media currently. And all this despite the Founder of Christianity being profoundly nonviolent/anti-violence. It’s all about the victory of power, violence and self interest over any more selfless philosophy, religious or other belief system.

And extrapolating from the title of this piece, it’s no wonder John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ includes the line “And no religion too”.

Tipping it up to Nancy peace prizes
The award of the Tipperary Peace Prize in October to a top US administrator, Secretary of State John Kerry, raised a few eyebrows and understandably caused some protests. He “was chosen for his work to bring an end to conflict globally, in particular his role in the negotiations for the surrender of Syria’s declared chemical weapons”. However, given the USA’s contribution to destabilisation and war in the region (and continuation of its world dominance model through military bases everywhere) then even that seems rather hollow, aside from US military interventions elsewhere, and this apart from the question of who was responsible for the Syrian regime getting rid of chemical weapons (it is not short on other brutalities). See here

From a peace movement point of view the problem with generic peace prizes and awards is that recipients may be little to do with peace, might even be very unpeaceful and, indeed, in some cases downright violent. Kissinger is one of the most notorious of Nobel Peace Prize examples, a man who bore major responsibility for millions of deaths in south-east Asia and, indeed, the rise of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. I think I have written before about how the Nobel Peace Prize is now a Norwegian foreign policy weapon and not a representation of what Alfred Nobel wanted when it was set up.

And even when peace prizes are on the mark they may simply be giving another peace prize to someone who has recognition and has already notched up other peace prizes, such as Sean MacBride being given the very first award of the Tipperary Peace Prize in 1984, or indeed Ban Ki-moon.

The awards over the years from Tipperary are an eclectic mix of the deserving, the undeserving, the local, the international, the well known and populist, and the not so well known. You can see a list at and make up your own mind though this list ends in 2012 and subsequent awards have gone to Ban Ki-moon, Richard Haas and John Kerry. Some awards have gone to people for their deep humanitarian commitment and the problem here is what ‘peace’ means, and a lack of definition of the same; in this context does it simply mean ‘humanitarian’? That is a major issue for ‘peace’ prizes. Others have gone to people posthumously following their assassination or a particular atrocity (then Mayor Rudi Guiliani and the New York City Fire Department received the award for 2001 because of 9/11). And it also looks like if you have been a US politician involved with Ireland you have stood a pretty good chance of getting the award.

One law for us
‘One law for us, another law for everyone else’ seems to be the motto for US drone strikes, targeted assassinations which also often murder people who were not intentionally targeted. An excellent recent piece in the Guardian by Jameel Jaffer looks at some of the implications and is an extract from his book (the references are there).

Maybe we shouldn’t be amazed but the thing is that it is President Obama who has been responsible for the ‘normalisation’ of such assassinations, though of course the USA tries to justify such strikes in ‘taking out’ ‘terrorists’, even including US citizens. Borders do not apply. The conventions of ‘normal’ warfare do not apply. Judicial procedures do not apply. Obviously, international law does not apply or, if it does, the USA flouts it with impunity, and can do so as the biggest bully in town.

But you reap what you sow. And perhaps someone could kindly explain to me how when such strikes kill people who are not involved in politics or armed struggle they differ at all from indiscriminate Islamic State-type attacks on Western targets. An eye for an eye – you know the rest.

Well, I hope consumerist craziness is going to spare you, and the associated angst, as we approach Christmas, that great western festival of mid-winter. It is also the end of the calendar year coming up and a new year dawning though as I get older [more ancient – Ed] it seems one year runs into another with increasing speed. Which reminds me of ‘Hernia’, the satirical back page of ‘Hibernia’ magazine (obit. 1980) which, when a founding father of what became the Republic hit his 10th decade, did a headline about “De Valera at 90 – Vroom, vroom!”. Anyway, I look forward to a good holiday break and, as is my wont, I take this opportunity to wish you a Happy Christmas and a Preposterous New Year - Billy

Who is Billy King?
A long, long time ago, in a more innocent age (just talking about myself you understand), there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train' and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor around with you).

Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little about horses even if someone with a similar name is found astride them on gable ends around certain parts of Norn Iron).

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