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Billy King


Nonviolence News


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(Issues 58-107)
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Dawn Train

Number 241: August 2016 (supplement)

Please note this is a short supplement with mainly time-limited or immediate information, not a full issue (the next one will appear at the start of September)

Hiroshima commemoration, Saturday 6th August in Dublin
The annual commemoration for the victims of the Hiroshima atomic bomb will take place on Saturday, 6th August, the 71st anniversary of the bombing, at 2.00 p.m. at the memorial cherry tree in Merrion Square park, Dublin 2 (note later starting time than previous years). An estimated 80,000 people were directly killed by the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, with casualties reaching 140,000 within a year. Approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons remain in the world today. While this is less than the Cold War peak, it is still enough to destroy life on earth as we know it many times over.

The ceremony will take place at the memorial cherry tree planted by Irish CND in 1980. The Japanese Ambassador to Ireland, Mrs Mari Miyoshi, the President of Irish CND, Canon Patrick Comerford, and a representative of the Lord Mayor of Dublin will speak at the ceremony.  There will be short contributions of poetry and music from Irish and Japanese artists (weather permitting) and the laying of a wreath at the memorial tree. Representatives of several other embassies will also be in attendance.

Fractured Thinking, Manorhamilton
In an Artist Residency Project by Brian Connolly, at the Leitrim Sculpture Centre in Manonhamilton, Co Leitrim, 'Fractured Thinking' continues until Thursday 18th August. It explores the effects of fracking and links up with local communities affected by the plans for fracking in the North West Carboniferous Basin of Leitrim, Fermanagh and Cavan including the local Love Leitrim campaigners. In addition, Connolly has granted part of the gallery space to the Young Friends of the Earth campaigners from Dublin who, along with the artist and Love Leitrim, are trying to raise awareness about the potential risks of chemical fracking and its incompatibility with the community of life forms it comes in to contact with. Gallery hours: Tuesday to Saturday 11am - 4pm.

Doors open at front of house from Thursday to Saturday, exhibition can be viewed by calling into reception on other days.

Pitstop Ploughshares: 10 years on
On Monday 25th July 25th there was a gathering in Dublin to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the acquittal of the Pitstop Ploughshares on charges of $U.S. 2.5 million criminal damage of a U.S. Navy War Plane at Shannon Airport en route to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Those joining the event included Damien Moran, Deirdre Clancy and Ciaron O'Reilly of the Pitstops, and Kathy Kelly, an eyewitness to both the 1991 Gulf Massacre and 2003 Shock and Awe U.S. invasion of Iraq.  Kathy had also initiated the sanctions busting Voices in the Wilderness movement in the 1990's.  Artist Seamus Nolan displayed the Pitstop hammers, playwright Donal O'Kelly read from his new play dealing with military whistleblowers, the "Chelsea Manning Support Band" comprising of Joe Black, Paul O'Toole, Robbie Synnot and Roj Whelan performed.  Harry Browne author of the book "Hammered by the Irish" and members of the Pitstop legal team were also in attendance.

The theme of the event was "The Resistance Continues" which was enhanced by the presence and speeches of Dave Donnelan and Colm Roddy presently awaiting trial for a recent trespass action at Shannon Airport.  Calls for solidarity with Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning were also made. Those who gathered included folks from Afri, Veterans for Peace Ireland, Young Christian Workers and many who had accompanied the Pitstops through their 3 trials at the Four Courts 2005-06. Source: Ciaron O'Reilly and

Creation Time – 1st September to 4th October 2016
Eco-Congregation Scotland has published material for use by Christian congregations during Creation Time 2016. It follows the theme, 'Followers of Jesus, Caring for Creation', emphasising the readings from the Gospel of Luke which appear in the Revised Common Lectionary in September. The materials can be found at

Editorial: Blair feels the Chilcot

The monumental (2.6 million word) Chilcot report in the UK, released in early July, did not ascribe illegality to Tony Blair's decision to back George Bush and the USA going to war in, or on, Iraq in 2003 but it did make some devastating judgements about failures before, during and after the war. It does seem Blair was backing Bush 'whatever' well before he was letting on, the intelligence about Weapons of Mass Destruction being acted upon was rubbish, the clear warnings about difficulties which would emerge were manifold, the preparation for British military engagement was poor, peaceful options had not been exhausted, and planning for the aftermath was woeful. The Iraqi regime was no threat to anyone outside its own borders and indeed intelligence assessments showed Britain would face a greater terrorist threat if it went to war on Iraq.

Tony Blair made a disastrous decision – as did George Bush and his neocon supporters or advisors who were gunning for regime change in Iraq for a significant period, even before 9/11. There is no question that Blair's judgement was appalling. The evidence of Hans Blix, the on the ground UN inspection head, was discounted by Blair in preference to dodgy intelligence assessments. There were no WMDs. Other figures in the British intelligence apparatus, the political sphere and the military also get substantial criticism from Chilcot.

The one positive Tony Blair tried to take from the report was that he acted in good faith, that he was not a liar, that the intelligence was not 'sexed up' (not the phrase he used but the one in common parlance). No, he really believed that all in the Garden of Eden (where what we usually label as civilisation emerged) in Iraq would be wonderful; a peaceful, democratic state as a model for others would be produced. The actual result has been devastation, carnage, incessant warfare, proliferation, and no end in sight.

As to the legality of the war, it did not have UN sanction and was clearly outside UN guidelines regarding self defence or threat. The British Attorney General's view on the legality of war changed to it being legal after considerable pressure and lobbying by the USA just before the start of the war. Whether there is sufficient grounds for legal action to be taken against the decision makers on illegality, however, is very doubtful but not impossible.

It is possible to argue that Blair did not lie outright. But it does look like he did something which was just as bad, or even worse. He was so convinced of his own vision and message that he ignored the masses of evidence presented to him that indicated the result of the invasion would not be a garden of roses. In one piece of the jigsaw not recently retold, a small group of Middle Eastern historians were summoned to Downing Street to talk to Blair before the war. They warned, on the basis of history and the nature of Iraqi society, that getting in was easy but getting out would be very difficult. But, as one of them told subsequently, Blair was not interested in that painful (for Blair) prognostication; what he wanted to know was whether Saddam Hussein was 'uniquely evil'.

It can be quite clearly seen that Blair was only listening to, or looking for, evidence which would boost his foregone conclusions. This is, and was, a disastrous approach. Instead of looking honestly, he had his eyes tightly shut. He did not listen or take caution, either, from the millions who demonstrated around the world against the war. It would have been better if he was an outright liar because then we would have known what to be wary about. If he had been a liar who took the UK to war but noted and planned for the difficulties ahead then the result might have been marginally better.

Tony Blair did presumably believe what he was saying but it was presumably on the basis of deceiving himself by ignoring other views. It is thus not hyperbole to say that Blair was worse than a liar. The irony is that the man who helped bring 'peace' to Northern Ireland helped death and destruction on a far more massive scale elsewhere – and this has eclipsed domestic achievements such as the fact that his governments helped reduce child poverty in the UK, for example.

It is also clear that the war was not about 'installing democracy' in Iraq. That was way down the list. The UK government would have been happy with a 'Saddam lite' (another dictator who did the West's bidding) or a friendly autocracy. They had no idea, because they did not listen, of the possibilities of sectarian strife which they were about to unleash.

The war may not have been primarily about oil but oil was a factor in the deliberations of the UK (let alone the USA where it would have been even further up their shopping list). The blatant profiteering by US firms following the invasion is well known. What is not so well known is that British oil companies were also determined to get a 'slice of the action'; "Another declassified government paper described securing contracts for British companies as a 'second order objective' of the war. Christopher Meyer, then British ambassador to the US, responded by arguing that this should actually be a 'top priority' in planning for the postwar period...."" (Milan Rai in the August-September 2016 issue of 'Peace News', partly drawing on coverage in the Financial Times). And to imagine that there were some who thought 'oil interest' arguments for the war were a conspiracy theory....

Another aspect of the lead up to war, also covered in Milan Rai's excellent coverage in 'Peace News', draws on the fact that weapons inspection in Iraq was, for the USA and Britain, part of trying to provoke Iraq to justify war; "the [Chilcot] report fails to point out what is clear from its own evidence, that war (for Bush and therefore for Blair) was the first resort. Non-military options, including weapons inspections, were judged in terms of how they supported or caused problems for the war effort, not in terms of how they dealt with Iraqi WMD."

Whether things have changed in the UK in terms of future warmaking remains to be seen. Trident nuclear weapons systems are to be replaced, one of the 'toys for the boys' who want to be at the top military table but useless for meaningful military action and extremely wasteful financially (aside altogether from the arrogance and violence of threatening others, and the world, with nuclear destruction). Yes, there may be greater cabinet and parliamentary scrutiny of plans for warmaking in Britain after the Iraq war but what that means also remains to be determined. Theresa May, as British prime minister, has said she would push the nuclear button if she considered it necessary, during the debate on Trident in parliament.

But things are changing on the British and world stage. A report like Chilcot might come 13 years after the war but it has appeared. It is inconceivable to imagine that anything like this could have emerged 13 years after the First World War. We have made some progress in terms of accountability.

One of the issues arising is the value of Western lives versus 'other' lives. Mass deaths of the order of the First World War are no longer acceptable in the West, and probably have not been since the time of the Vietnam War. 179 British soldiers died in the Iraq war, 4,502 US soldiers and over a quarter of a million Iraqis through violent action, maybe twice that number if you take everything into account. But then the severe western sanctions on medicines and so on before the war had also been killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis – including up to half a million children.

What this goes to show is that the West is no longer willing to lose thousands and thousands of 'its own' lives in war and, indeed, we would say one death is too many. But 'other' lives are considered expendable, and still are, in war or 'peace', as witnessed by ongoing US drone attacks which have no immediate risk for the perpetrators. It is totally asymmetric warfare; we kill, you die. Such 'other' deaths rarely figure large in Western media and certainly very little in 'popular' media. What we need to move to is a situation where all lives, of anyone, anywhere, are considered of equal value and all deaths are of equal concern. It is rank hypocrisy to do otherwise.

We also need to explore much more the possibilities for nonviolent interventions in large scale conflicts, by both involved and third parties. This is not easy, and never will be, but there are unexplored possibilities. There is enough experience of mass nonviolent action, and smaller scale third party interventions, to build up some real possibilities. Nonviolence is often written off when it would be difficult to be as disastrous as violent interventions.

Ireland, meanwhile, cannot be let off the hook in relation to Iraq or other US military actions. The North is obviously part of the UK and therefore the British war machine in a very direct manner. The Republic gave, and continues to give, the USA the one thing it looked for – the use of Shannon Airport. Ireland therefore also has blood on its hands. The carte blanche given to US military use of Shannon is astounding for a country which purports to be neutral, and where neutrality is a popular political choice. Standing up against the likes of the USA has to be done and it can be done from a position of moral strength, building on past Irish work for peace. The Republic was not a direct belligerent in this conflict but it certainly contributed its bit to the conflagration and shamefully continues to contribute its bit to the USA's military efforts in its superpower hegemony.


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