All posts by Rob Fairmichael

Nonviolent News 292

EU and Irish militarisation

The European Network Against the Arms Trade www.enaat.org based in Brussels has produced a new pamphlet on the Militarisation of the EU which can be read on PANA’s website  www.pana.ie “In 2019, the total defence expenditure of the 27 EDA members (including all EU countries except Denmark) stood at €186 billion, marking a 5% increase on 2018. There was also a significant increase in investments in new weapons and military technology: EU Member States spent €41.4 billion on equipment procurement and R&D. There is a great deal of pressure on EU countries to spend more on arms, mainly because of the commitments taken under PESCO ….. but also because of the NATO framework.”

The PANA website also has a statement by its chair, Roger Cole, on Afghanistan: “…The Republic of Ireland backed the war on Afghanistan not just by destroying Irish Neutrality as stated in International law of the Hague Convention of 1907, and allowing millions of US troops land in Shannon Airport on their way to the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq by sending over 200 members of the Irish Defence Forces to take part in the occupation of Afghanistan directly under the command of the nuclear armed military alliance NATO.”

Shannonwatch on Afghanistan

Shannonwatch has welcomed calls for Ireland to do more to resettle and provide international protection for people fleeing from Afghanistan. It also calls on the government to urgently assess its role in creating the conditions leading to the current catastrophic situation there. It continues, “In particular, there is an urgent need to assess and end the use of Shannon Airport by the US military, in light of what the twenty-year occupation of Afghanistan has led to…..The Irish people have never supported the US military use of Shannon. Now is the time to end it.” For more information see http://www.shannonwatch.org/ which also has news of US cargo planes flying to the USA from Afghanistan via Shannon “almost certainly carrying heavy loads of military equipment “.

l A statement by Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire on Afghanistan can be seen at http://www.peacepeople.com/the-afghan-war-200l-2021/

Irish CND Hiroshima Day commemoration, Dublin

The annual ceremony organised by the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, marking the 76th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, took place at the memorial cherry tree in Merrion Square, Dublin on 6th August. The speakers included the President of Irish CND, Patrick Comerford, and Joe Costello, deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin, the latter laying a white wreath at the memorial. Joe Costello spoke of pride in Ireland’s contributions to moving nuclear disarmament forward in the international arena, most recently through Ireland’s role in bringing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to reality; Ireland has divested state-held funds from companies involved in the nuclear weapons industry. He also reaffirmed Dublin’s commitment to the goals of Mayors for Peace, welcoming their newly-released Vision for Peaceful Transformation to a Sustainable World. http://www.mayorsforpeace.org/english/vision/index.html Patrick Comerford warned of the dangers and inappropriateness of nuclear weapons in dealing with the issues facing the world today. The Japanese ambassador to Ireland, Mitsuru Kitano, was another speaker at the event. http://irishcnd.blogspot.com/ The Peace People also organised a commemorative event in Belfast for the anniversary.

WRI: Nonviolence in Action, centenary conference

War Resisters’ International international online conference on activism, solidarity and antimilitarism – marking the WRI’s centenary – takes place in the period 20th – 28th November. See https://wri-irg.org/en/story/2021/nonviolence-action for more details. There will be a mixture of discussion groups, workshops and plenaries. Participation is free with a suggested donation of $10/€10 towards costs.

Good Relations Week in the North

Good Relations Week in Northern Ireland runs from Monday 20th to Sunday 26th September this year on the theme Brighter Days Ahead to celebrate and shine a light on the peace building and cultural diversity efforts of young people and the challenges they are facing. As usual a wide variety of free events can be expected which showcase the work of diverse groups across the North, including some face-to-face events. The event is coordinated by the Community Relations Council. https://www.community-relations.org.uk/good-relations-week

NI Equality Coalition on Covid recovery

The Equality Coalition in Northern Ireland has issued a statement urging decision makers to address inequality, and avoid austeriuty, as part of the pandemic recovery.. Covid-19 has disproportionately affected protected groups such as older people; persons with disabilities and those who are clinically vulnerable; women; black and minority ethnic people; and those with dependents. See www.equalitycoalition.net

Disrupting rights: Putting people at the centre of change

This 18-page resource by Nicola Browne of Participation and the Practice of Rights in Belfast can be found through a link on the Social Change Initiative’s website at https://www.socialchangeinitiative.com/disrupting-rights-to-deliver-real-change as well as at Change from the Ground Up at https://www.changefromthegroundup.org/disruptive-rights

Conflict Textiles

The Conflict Textiles website at https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/conflicttextiles/ is a very comprehensive overview on this topic and listing of current and past events and the arpilleras and other textiles which have appeared in exhibitions. Current online exhibitions include the online Nonviolence in Action: Antimilitarism in the 21st Century (marking the centenary of the War Resisters’ International) https://wri-irg.org/en/story/2021/conflict-textiles-exhibition-nonviolence-action-antimilitarism-21st-century and seven textiles which appear in the Ulster Museum, Belfast, in the Troubles and Beyond exhibition on Following the Footsteps of the Disappeared.

de Borda news; Refer-endums and government formation

Open Democracy has published a short piece on looking beyond binary referendums, see https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/can-europe-make-it/why-ireland-needs-look-beyond-binary-referendum-unification/ following University College London’s report on unification referendums in Ireland. Meanwhile on 4th October at 4pm, a week after the German general election, the de Borda Institute will be running a virtual workshop on the matrix vote ‘in’ Germany, a role-play to show how a Bundestag, rather than spending weeks in inter-party negotiations selecting a new Government, could elect one in less than a week. Run in conjunction with the Centre of Conflict Resolution in Munich: http://www.ccr-munich.de/ccr.htm this will be an English language, online matrix vote role play; in the webinar itself, they will elect a proportional, all-party, power-sharing Government, choosing not only who is to be in Cabinet but also in which Ministry… all in just the one matrix vote election.  See https://politicalreform.ie/2021/08/31/pluralism-is-possible/ and www.deborda.org – volunteer participants still welcome/

Season of Creation

Eco Congregation Ireland (ECI) has shared the following resources for Creation Time/Season of Creation which takes place at this time of year: Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference – https://www.catholicbishops.ie/2021/07/21/season-of-creation-2021/; Season of Creation 2021 – https://seasonofcreation.org/; Climate Sunday Resources – https://www.climatesunday.org/; Prayer Vigil for COP26 – https://prayandfastfortheclimate.org.uk/2021/07/31/prayer-vigil-for-cop26/; Eco-Congregation Scotland – resources on COP26 can be found at https://www.ecocongregationscotland.org/ See also ECI’s own website at https://www.ecocongregationireland.com/

Feasta’s COP26 youth delegation

FEASTA is supporting the youth climate justice movement by nominating a number of young activists from Ireland and around the world to be delegates as part of FEASTA’s accredited observer status at the UNFCCC at the next climate conference (COP-26) to be held in early November 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. Their profiles are available on their website at https://www.feasta.org/ (along with a huge amount of other material).

Covid restrictions in Republic

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has welcomed the plan to end all Covid restrictions by 22nd October.ICCL Executive Director Liam Herrick said: “ We hope this will mean the overarching emergency legislation will be allowed to lapse on its 9 November sunset clause. We also hope this means previous government statements – that quarantine and vaccine passports will remain with us for longer – are now null and void.” ICCL also calls on government to commit to ending mandatory quarantine, a form of detention, and the discriminatory use of the vaccine passport, as soon as possible. Without the overarching emergency legislation, which lapses on 9 November, there will be no legal basis for restrictions on movement or gatherings. In the meantime, ICCL has called on Government to relax the regulations for attendance at funerals, which has a deep impact on families and has been one of the hardest restrictions for those faced with it during the pandemic. ICCL’s report on Covid and human rights in Ireland is at: https://www.iccl.ie/resources/publication/human-rights-in-a-pandemic/

Stop excluding military pollution…….

As a result of final-hour demands made by the USA government during negotiation of the 1997 Kyoto treaty, military greenhouse gas emissions were exempted from climate negotiations. World Beyond War has a petition, available at https://tinyurl.com/ytj8effe which includes “We ask COP26 to set strict greenhouse gas emissions limits that make no exception for militarism, include transparent reporting requirements and independent verification, and do not rely on schemes to “offset” emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions from a country’s overseas military bases must be fully reported and charged to that country, not the country where the base is located.” https://worldbeyondwar.org/

Local leadership in peace processes

From 13-14 October, Principles for Peace (P4P) and Peace Direct invite peacebuilders, activists, changemakers, and anyone committed to preventing conflict and restoring peace to a two-day conversation on ‘Local Leadership in Peace Processes’ using Platform4Dialogue online discussion platform; this is part of a series of consultations on this topic. Having already established the need for a fundamental shift in how peace processes are undertaken – one that encourages local responsibility and accountability by placing local leadership at the centre and empowering peaceful elements of society to deliver on the foundations of a sustainable peace – the next session will look more at what this entails. They are keen to learn from practical real-life examples of good practices. Further info at https://tinyurl.com/cf53abb8 which includes a registration link.

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Editorials: Afghan debacle, Underdogs and overdogs in Northern Ireland

Afghanistan debacle for ‘the West’

There are no easy answers in relation to a complex situation like Afghanistan, and recent events, but certain aspects are clear.

Western powers (the USA, NATO, the UK etc) were quite wrong to invade Afghanistan in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks on the USA. Yes, Bin Laden was in Afghanistan but he was quick to try to go into hiding, and the Taliban regime did offer to deliver him up if there was clear evidence for what he had done. There was no basis in international law for the invasion or for instigating regime change, no matter how repressive the Taliban were. And there is the simple pragmatic fact is that it is easy for great powers to invade a country but very much more difficult for them to get out with any shreds of dignity and without further atrocities being perpetrated by all sides (as happened), or indeed to achieve lasting results which might provide at least some justification for their actions. Around a quarter of a million people died in violence in the two decades of Western occupation.

History should have been a guide for the likes of the USA and UK but it was foolishly diregarded. This is at least the third time the UK has come to military grief in Afghanistan; previous British invasions were in 1838 and 1878, and there was another British-Afghan war in 1919. The USSR had to retreat with its tail between its legs in 1989 after direct military intervention a decade earlier. But resistance to USSR control was aided by the USA, arming and training the mujahidin who they would subsequently come to fight. Military intervention often sets loose forces which cannot be controlled.

There have been some gains in twenty years of Western occupation regarding modernisation of the country and increased education and rights for women. Opposition to women’s rights in Afghanistan stems from both a reactionary reading of Islam and local tribal culture and customs. A certain amount of the modernisation will remain or be difficult to stamp out; how much of women’s rights (e.g. to work and get a full education) will last is doubtful.

The jury is yet out on whether the relative tolerance and forgiveness promised by the Taliban as they were coming to power is a smokescreen and if Taliban rule will be nearly as repressive as before. It is difficult to know at this stage whether retribution and repressive actions against women that have taken place actually portray the true face of Taliban rule or whether they may to some extent be the result of local Taliban members not getting the message. Certainly there is much fear and the overall effect will be felt by women and many ordinary citizens as severely repressive.

But it does also have to be said that the Afghan democratic system which ‘the West’ attempted to construct, in alliance obviously with some Afghanis, collapsed very rapidly like a house of cards because it had not won Afghan hearts and minds. The amount spent on equipping and training the few hundred thousand military was, from any point of view, a total waste of money; they succumbed to the much smaller and ill-equipped Taliban force. And most of the couple of trillion dollars money spent by the USA went to the US military-industrial complex in terms of weapons sales and contractors. Some western control was achieved in alliance with local, and brutal, warlords. The Afghan system was corrupt and inefficient, and that is part of why it collapsed so suddenly, and obviously in the situation of Taliban threats and manoeuvring with US withdrawal coming there was no desire by Afghan national military personnel to risk their lives or die for a cause that had little allegiance.

Some in ‘the West’ are concerned about an ‘isolationist’ USA. But the fact of the matter is that when the USA has seen itself as the ‘world’s policeman’ it has been the world’s big bully. You only have to look at the overthrowal of all sorts of regimes, democratic and undemocratic, by the USA, to work that out and that the policeman image is one that almost always hides a much less benign face, that of right wing ideology, big business, and in particular the military-industrial system which dominates in many countries.

It remains to be seen how isolationist the USA becomes in military terms. It retains upwards of a thousand (!) military bases around the world – which does not include other arrangements with countries such as US military use of Shannon Airport which is a US base in all but name. The USA may now be less likely to intervene directly with ‘boots on the ground’ but its continuing use of military drones to kill perceived enemies – and frequently civilians – is not likely to be curtailed, and indeed was extended during the presidency of Barack Obama. Drones and other air attacks can now be considered a permanent feature of the USA’s ‘permanent war’ status..

There are different kinds of power to that which grows out of the barrel of a gun, and as Afghanistan has clearly demonstrated, gun power is not even a sure bet in terms of success when a much more poorly armed force, but with dedication and belief on its side, can win.

Gun boat diplomacy has had its day but many countries in the world, not just ‘Western’ powers but Russia and to some extent China also, have yet to move beyond it – though China has been exploring and exploiting its economic power. Military might can certainly change situations but it cannot easily win long terms victories or change hearts and minds.

So how can those who are concerned about situations internationally intervene if they are committed to a just world? There are a variety of approaches, all of which require humility rather than hubris, and may not have the supposed (but false) glamour of military intervention. Dialogue is always underrated. Funding for economic progress, particularly for those who are most repressed and in need, is an important part of a response. Research and technical aid of an appropriate nature, both regarding agriculture and industry, or assitance to local people in doing this, is another response. Supporting green development is a step forward not just for the local society but for the world.

Building on positive aspects of local culture is also part of an answer rather than teleporting new western systems in to traditional cultures (much as we might think they are a good idea). Cultures can evolve but generally are hard to change rapidly. Basing change in indigenous culture and thinking can be a way forward. Take the traditional jirga (elders’ council) system of decision making and conflict reolution in Afghan and Pashtun culture; this offers many possibilities for restorative justice. Most cultures have similar structures which can be used to work on thorny issues of dsagreement. Building on such mechanisms, and making them more inclusive (jirgas would not traditionally have included women) is one valuable approach to dealing with conflict. Other involvement in promoting mechanisms of nonviolent conflict management or resolution is also of vital importance, particularly in early stages when issues may be more resolvable.

The military approach sometimes looks like an easy and safe option. It is not. What is needed is a very different approach to the world, sharing knowedge and expertise, offering a helping hand, exploring how to assist in a way which builds permanent positive change, particularly for most oppressed sections such as women and minorities in a situation like Afghanistan, and simply listening to what people are looking for. In relation to a militant macho ideology in power in certain countries this is far from easy, and in societies where international engagement is labelled treasonous then it is particularly difficult. But there is no other way. NATO militarism has, for example, encouraged Russian xenophobia.

The world is a complex place. Afghanistan is, like any country, not homogenous. Building on the best, in whatever way possible, is the way to proceed so that local cultures can evolve and be more equitable and inclusive. This applies at home just as much as it does anywhere else and what has been spoken of here in relation to Afghanistan could also apply substanrtially to the residual conflict in Northern Ireland, despite very significant cultural differences.

Northern Ireland:

Underdogs and overdogs

The term ‘overdog’ is not anything as much used as ‘underdog’ but one can be understood as the opposite of the other. In the first fifty years of the Northern Ireland state or statelet it was clear that Protestants and unionists were the overdogs and Catholics and nationalists the underdogs. Some aspects of this continued through the period of the Troubles and there being a clear numerical majority for unionism. That majority has now evaporated due to demographic change.

As we frequently state, the end of a majority for political unionism does not necessarily mean a united Ireland but it does mean a change of ethos and atmosphere in the North. However political unionism has not yet adapted to this reality. Indeed, the reckless backing of a hard Brexit by the DUP half a dozen years ago – bahaving as if they owned the whole show – was, from a unionist point of view, a tragic overplaying of its hand; it ended up with the last thing unionism wanted, a buereaucratic economic border in the Irish Sea due to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The other major aspect of unionism currently is the fall from popularity of the DUP, because of the debacle of their handling of Brexit; a recent Belfast Telegraph/Lucid Talk poll put the Ulster Unionist Party on 16%, the TUV of Jim Allister on 14%, and the DUP on 13%. Even if these figures are not wholly accurate, and they are only a snapshot, it is no wonder DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson is calling for ‘unionist unity’.

While some inter-unionist cooperation may emerge prior to the May 2022 Assembly elections, this fragmentation has pluses and minuses. Exiting monolithic sectarian political blocs – on either side – has to be part of progress. But if political unionism as a whole feels weak and divided this is good for no one and may create space for the hard men of the loyalist paramilitaries to come more to the fore, and loyalist parmilitarism is still very much around.

One of the few things which has united people on the island of Ireland recently, including all political parties North and Republic, has been in opposition to British government plans to introduce a ‘Troubles amnesty’ without other and adequate mechanisms to ‘deal with the past’. The British government has made its move on an English/British jingoist basis to protect its former soldiers and the state from accountability and this move is also in accord with its militarist mindset; it is not compatible with international law. However this rare unanimity across the board in Ireland does not herald any breathrough for peace and light on a broader front. For the British government to proceed with its plans would be contemptible and a vicious slap in the face for all victims; to proceed against universal rejection in both jurisdictions in Ireland would be an incredible act of contemptuous disregard for everyone on the westernmost island in Europe..

In many situations people love an underdog. If political unionism is on the cusp of possibly becoming such an underdog then it needs an appreciation of how to wear minority status, and how to adapt. This is difficult given its insistence in the past on ‘majority rule’ and many loyalists currently see the state and police being ‘agin them’ without any decisive evidence beyond Boris Johnson’s clear betrayal of them with the Northern Ireland Protocol (betrayal because of what he had previously promised). However what else could have come to pass with a ‘hard Brexit’ is difficult to see.

There continue to be many dangers in Northern Ireland, and many obstacles remain in building a peaceful society. Moving beyond a situation where any community sees itself as an underdog, but valuing everyone, is an important and difficult goal, whatever the constitutional situation. Those who believe in peace and reconciliation will have to continue to be imaginative and creative for a very considerable period of time. No one deserves to be left behind but what any of us want may not be exactly what we can possibly get so compromise has to be an important word in the political lexicon for everyone. Despite its image, it is compomise which requires bravery and not intransigence.

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Eco-Awareness with Larry Speight

The IPCC Report & Exceptionalism

The August report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is not a flippant document. It is based on the contributions of 230 of the world’s leading climate scientists and was eight years in the writing. Nearly 4,000 pages in length it was approved by 196 national governments. Its key deduction is clear and unequivocal: humankind, which is you and me, our family, friends, colleagues and neighbours are responsible for climate breakdown.

Among the report’s findings is that if the present level of emission of greenhouse gases continues unabated the average global temperature will rise above the critical level of 1.50C by 2040, as against the pre-industrial level. This we are told will be catastrophic for humanity and the life forms we share the planet with. The day-to-day circumstances of our lives will be so changed that few will find any joy in living. What should serve as a wake-up call is that the two decades left before the planet warms to 1.50C is within the life-span of most people alive today.

The year 2040 is not a bold white line at a road junction marking pre and post 1.50 C for as the average global temperature rises so will the magnitude of ecological disasters and human suffering. This year with the temperature at 1.10 C above the pre-industrial level many people living in temperate climatic zones directly experienced the consequences of global warming.

A combination of drought and high temperatures turned forests into ash. The fires destroyed towns, killed hundreds of people, displaced hundreds of thousands and subjected tens of millions to toxic smoke. The fire in British Colombia killed at least a billion creatures, mostly marine life living close to the shore. The Dixie Fire in California, which started on 13 July, has to date burnt over 1,167 square miles of forest destroying public facilities and family homes. This July and August fires in California burnt 2,500 square miles of forest.

We know from our newspapers and TV screens of the terrible forest fires in Algeria, Cyprus, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and Siberia. The fires in Siberia are ominous as it is normally one of the coldest regions of the world. Floods washed away villages in central Europe killing in excess of 200 people, while over 300 people died in floods in China. The intensity of Hurricane Ida, which swept through Louisiana and Mississippi in late August, was likely heightened by climate beak down. In Armagh the temperature reached 31.40 C on 22 July, which is the highest temperature in Ireland since records began.

Giving voice to the seriousness of climate breakdown the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, described the report’s findings as “code red for humanity”. We have as it were been given our orders, which is to radically reduce our emission of global warming gases through changing every aspect of how we live.

Contrary to the negative clichés, the outcome of the necessary changes will likely mean improved physical and emotional wellbeing. Cycling for example will make us healthier and fitter, prolong our expected life-span whilst saving us money. Travelling by public transport and car sharing should lead to greater social cohesion. Buying local produce will contribute to the local economy. Some people will have to make what they might initially consider sacrifices. These include significantly reducing their consumption of meat and dairy and flying less frequently. The former will lead to better health and the latter can mean we get to know and enjoy the world on our own doorstep. We will also be required to devote some of our time to petitioning public bodies, financial institutions and large corporations to play their part in reducing global warming emissions and protecting biodiversity.

If we really are the ‘wise ape’ we like to think ourselves as we can make the world a more liveable place through having a clear understanding of how we see our place in the world. An inherited view, one so embedded in our psyche we for the most part are unaware of it, is that we are exceptional. We for example consider ourselves the exception among all the species that have ever existed, so exceptional that we think of ourselves as immortal, destined for an eternity in either Heaven or Hell. This belief allows us to claim moral licence to commit ecocide and in any particular year incarcerate 70 billion sentient creatures in horrendous conditions for our culinary gratification.

For many the idea of exceptionalism encompasses the belief that Aboriginal peoples have no soul and thus can be exterminated and their possessions and lands taken at will. The papal bull Romanus Pontifex issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1455 provided European colonialists with the rationale to regard Indigenous people as soulless whilst giving them the legal authority to invade their lands, steal all they owned and subjugate them. In 1835 the Reverend William Yates expressed the view that Australian Aborigines “were nothing better than dogs and it was no more harm to shoot them than it would be to shoot a dog when he barked at you.” (*1) In 1902 the politician and businessman King O’Malley told the Australian Parliament that: “There is no scientific evidence that the aboriginal is a human being at all.” (*2) In our own time Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, told an audience that: “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated their Indians.” (*3)

This is the language of genocide. Taking other peoples’ land is theft. Obliterating nonhuman nature is ecocide. Destroying the entire biosphere for convenience is madness. From the exceptionalism perspective all this is nought against the belief most commonly held by religious people that “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John: 18:36) We not only think of ourselves as the exceptional species but also as the exceptional generation as we diligently disabuse the biosphere at the expense of all future human beings.

We almost certainly won’t accomplish what is required of us in regard to caring for the Earth unless there is a change in our collective mindset and we regard ourselves as Nature, without exceptions. Then we should be able to apply the golden rule of “do unto others as you would them do onto you” to the life forms, bar certain viruses, for whom Earth is also home.

(*1) The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, Wade Davis, 2009, p. 151

(*2) The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, Wade Davis, 2009, p. 151.

(*3) Ernest Londono, The New York Times, 10 November 2018.

Readings in Nonviolence: Truth, Accuracy in Media

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)What and where is truth in the media? In relation to Afghanistan, or indeed anywhere else, we have to sift through a morass of self-interested opinions and ‘facts’ which may be anything but the unvarnished truth, insofar as that can be accessed. What follows is a slightly edited editorial from Transcend Media Service of 23/8/21 which has loads of links (these have been removed here); you can access the original, and links, at https://www.transcend.org/tms/2021/08/afghanistan-and-the-mainstream-media-manipulation-methods/

This is of specific relevance to peace because the reality of situations can be twisted and distorted to justify a stand – or, indeed, in the case of Afghanistan, excuse massive failures by those who supported armed intervention.

In printing this article we are certainly not saying we should take everything in it as true and accurate either but rather it should be taken as an alternative view which can help us provide a reality check on our usual media sources. There are wider issues in relation to ‘peace journalism’ which are not covered here.

Truth, Accuracy in Media:

An Analysis

by Jan Oberg, Ph.D. for TRANSCEND Media Service [23/8/21]

When it comes to Western mainstream media’s coverage of international affairs, I would today dare the hypothesis that 10-20% is truthful, 20-30% is fake and narratives and 50-70% is omitted (see definition in point 2 below).

This is not a scientific statement or hypothesis that I have tested empirically; rather, it is my judgement based on two things: a) witnessing over some forty years the decay of the mainstream media’s international affairs coverage and b) my experiences from conflict zones such as e.g. all parts of former Yugoslavia, Georgia, Iraq before it was occupied, Iran, Syria and China and comparing them with the media images conveyed by the mainstream Western press.

In TFF’s recent analysis ”Behind The Smokescreen. An Analysis of the West’s Destructive China Cold War Agenda And Why It Must Stop”, we make use of the following nine Mainstream Media Manipulation Methods, MMMM:

  1. Fake – lies, deception, inventions or whatever else that cannot be judged/verified as empirically valid; presentation of institutes and scholars as ‘independent’ and defining publications as based on scholarly research when they are not – are typical examples.

  2. Omission – leaving out essential perspectives, facts, analyses, experts/expertise, literature, counter views, possible alternative hypothesis and explanations of found results. When taken together, the omission is often much more distortive than fake (and less easy for the public to detect).

  3. Censorship – meaning a government tells the media (by law or less open and verifiable methods) what the limits are. When a few of the countless millions of possible stories that could be told from around the world are selected for the front-pages, it is also the result of censorship, not only omission.

  4. Self-censorship – news bureaus, editors, reports and journalists know the standard operating procedures and stick to them because it is convenient and typically secures that they keep their job. It’s built on a kind of group think. Censorship and self-censorship define the discourse and its framework and what thetruth is, commonly understood/accepted as part of that local culture and perceived as ‘natural’ – that is, also politically correct.

  5. Framing – is a somewhat difficult concept because it can mean many different things. It can mean setting the frames of “what are we talking about here?” It can also be framing as orientation and interpretation – “In social theory, framing is a kind of interpretation, perhaps a set of anecdotes, historical events and stereotypes that individuals rely on to understand and respond to events.” Media framing builds on these dimensions but adds something specific – “the parameters of the discussion itself – the words, symbols, overall content, and tone used to frame the topic. When compared to agenda setting, framing includes a broader range of cognitive processes – such as moral evaluations, causal reasoning, appeals to principles, and recommendations for treatment of problems.” Simply put, it’s about how a story is packaged.

  6. Constructed narratives – stories that more or less substitute for reality and makes reality- and source checks superfluous or even dangerous (for the maintenance of the fake/omission report). Narratives are often gross simplifications of a complex reality and use everyday ways of thinking that everybody can relate to without much knowledge of the substantive issues. Boiling down a complex conflict to a struggle between bad guys and good guys is an example.

  7. Propaganda and other distortions – let us quote the Cambridge Dictionary: “information, ideas, opinions, or images, often only giving one part of an argument, that are broadcast, published or in some other way spread with the intention of influencing people’s opinions” – one example being political/wartime propaganda.

  8. Psychological warfare or psychological operations (PsyOps) – close, of course, to propaganda but often defined as influencing other people, not our own. However, that is not the case today. Undoubtedly, governments also do PsyOps on their own citizens – such as constantly instilling in them a sense of being threatened by foreign countries, weapons, terrorists – or by Some has called this fearology – governance by instigating fear. People who fear are much more willing to accept controls and limitations and to obey than those who do not fear – as we have seen when it comes to accepting all kinds of measures to combat terrorism and pandemics. PsyOps are broader and aim to influence a target audience’s value system, belief system, emotions, motives, reasoning, or behaviour. It can be used to induce confessions or reinforce attitudes and behaviours favourable to the originator’s objectives and are sometimes combined with black operations or false flag  tactics.

  9. Cancel culture – a more recent term – is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrown out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those subject to this ostracism have been “cancelled” mostly because of their views or behaviours. The expression “cancel culture” has predominantly negative connotations and is commonly used in free speech and censorship debates. From another perspective, it is a demand/punishment having to do with someone who is politically (non)correct and/or challenges the framework of the “Zeitgeist.”

These methods are an integral part of today’s Western mainstream media and, thus, political reality. While each has its distinct character, they also overlap and are used in clusters that fit the chosen political agenda.

In the above-mentioned report we apply them to the Western mainstream media’s treatment of everything China but it is part and parcel of all mainstream global media coverage. In what follows, I shall try to apply some of them to the war on Afghanistan in general and the August 15, 2021, Western military withdrawal from Afghanistan in particular – aware that it can only be hints without lots of documentary links. (The numbers below do not indicate priorities).

We are/were told…

1… that all this started on October 7, 2001.

It didn’t. The ”it” that started was not the violence but the conflict and that was all about the first Cold War between the US/NATO and Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact. Concerning Afghanistan, it began with Operation Cyclone in July 1979, four months before the Soviet invasion. It is one of the longest CIA operation having cost more than US$ 20 billion.

2… that the purpose of the war and occupation was to fight terrorism which had manifested itself in New York and Washington on ”9/11.

That was the pretext; however not one Afghan had participated in the terrible terror attack (which wasn’t a war by any definition) and should never have been misused to start the thousandfold more killing Global War On Terror (GWOT) still going on with exclusively counter-productive results (see later). George W. Bush refused to deliver documentation for the US assertion that 9/11 was masterminded by Osama bin Laden and, therefore, the Taliban refused to deliver him in exchange for such documentation.

3… that the installed government and the Afghan military forces cowardly ran away and there was no purpose in trying to fight for Afghanistan when its own government and military didn’t do it.

The simple fact is that the US spent US $ 86 billion on giving Afghanistan the wrong kind of military with which no one would have been able to win in what is fundamentally a rather low-tech guerilla war in a mountaineous environment. (Nothing learned since Vietnam).

4… that it wasn’t about nation-building but about eradicating the forces that hit the US on 9/11 and develop a national defence force to guarantee that Afghanistan would no longer serve as a base for terrorism that could reach the West.

On the contrary. It was, at the very least, about some nation-building and imposition of Western values. The US has promoted and increased militarism and terrorism worldwide instead of defeating it. In 2000, US State Department had about 400 people dying in global terrorism annually; according to the latest Global Terror Index, the figure today is 16.000, or 40 times higher. GWOT must simply be the most stupid war ever fought.

5… that improving the lot of Afghan women through e.g. education was a major – noble – motivation for the invasion and occupation.

Undoubtedly, over these 20 years of Western presence, millions of Afghan women have been educated and now see more opportunities. However, it is naive beyond the acceptable to believe that such a human rights motivation was central to US/NATO policies. Additionally, if you improve education – what’s the use if you do not do a lot of other things – which could have been done as US economist Jeffrey Sacs has eloquently stated.

Had the US done anything wise and good for the Afghan people, the Taliban would not have had a chance to come back. So, it can be argued, the US has fought the Taliban for 20 years only to make its return unavoidable. Had the US/West’s mission been predominantly civilian, respectful of Afghan culture and really about human rights – the military would have gone home at least 15 years ago and the rest been one huge foreign-assisted development project.

And a final observation on this: Western mainstream media’s only reference to George W. Bush – perhaps the largest contemporary non-convicted war criminal – is that the withdrawal was bad because he fears for the future of Afghanistan’s girls and women – one of the more shameful interviews brought by Deutsche Welle.

We were/are not told…

1… that 9/11 was a pretext rather than a cause. Neither what the real story of 9/11 was. Too much in the official account doesn’t make sense.

2… that Afghanistan’s geo-political position and its incredible reservoir of minerals was a much stronger motivator for the operation.

3… that the US fundamentally saw Afghanistan as a piece in a very large puzzle of the game at the time against the Soviet Union – and, more recently, against China. Remember Kissinger and Brzezinski? And the writings of Ahmed Rashid? And the role of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence ISI – there isn’t much it has not been involved in…

4… that the US has created (the preconditions for) and supported terrorist movements where and whenever it saw it fit be it the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS and, and the Muslim Uyghurs from Xinjiang – 5000 of them operating in Syria fighting with Western-supported terror groups mostly trained, equipped and financed by leading NATO members, Turkey in particular. They organisation, East Turkistan Islamic Movement, ETIM, has its exile government in – yes, of course – Washington. Former Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, already in 2017 told VOA that ISIS is a tool of the US..

5… that NATO’s involvement in Afghanistan, as in – say – Yugoslavia, is one huge violation of the letters and spirit of its North Atlantic Treaty of 1949 (and the UN Charter, Article 1 in particular) and that 9/11 was not a war and, therefore, the Treaty’s paragraph 5 should never have been activated and NATO should never have been in Afghanistan.

6… that there were alternatives to war on Afghanistan and that it would not take much intelligence to have shaped some kind of presence in and influence on the Afghan society in ways totally different from the militarist approach that would likely have yielded much better results today.

7… that the heroin element of it all has always been very important – among other reasons to finance CIA’s covert operations in and around Afghanistan.

8… that the US has operated in ways that could not but make Afghanistan one of the most corrupt places on earth and that the US gave up already in 2011 to do anything about it. And corruption here means both economic and in terms of the ”puppet” people (and CIA operatives) it appointed and relied upon, fleeing President Ashraf Ghani only being the latest.

9… that if you look at maps of oil and gas pipelines, a huge Great Game has been played for decades; one of the world’ leading analysts and commentators on this region, Pepe Escobar, has called Afghanistan “Pipelinestan” for a reason. .

10… that Afghanistan – and the withdrawal – may have a lot to do with the US’ China Cold War Agenda, CCWA ,and the Biden Administration’s Number 1 priority to destabilise, contain and demonise China and its Belt & Road Initiative, BRI.

11… that the US has learned nothing from its war fiascos since Vietnam and that, as Andy Mack stated it brilliantly as far back as 1975 that big countries lose small wars or wars in small countries mainly because over time the aggressor loses domestic cohesion and the war itself legitimacy. Afghanistan has always been ”the graveyard of empires” – it may well turn out to be the fate of the US Empire too, but Afghanistan won’t be in the future simply because after the demise of the US Empire, there will be nobody who is mad enough to impose its own system on the rest of the world or try once again a ”mission civilisatrice;”

12… that every and operation of this type fundamentally rests on racism or white ”cultural” superiority or as Norwegian philosopher, Harald Ofstad, has termed the same – our contempt for weakness quite similar to the values of Nazi-Germany. See his immensely important book, Our Conetmpt for Weakness (1989).

13… that the human and other costs of the war on Afghanistan and all the Global War On Terror, GWOT, are obscene and absurd and a major reason the United States is in decline and its empire will fall (which will lead to the breakdown of NATO); a very comprehensive  – and heart-breaking – documentation is found at the Costs of war Project at Brown University.

14… that, simply put, to fight terrorism by killing terrorists is as stupid and morally reprehensible as eradicating diseases by killing the patients; one must understand the much more comprehensive mechanisms by which a human being turns into a terrorist. But that is too sophisticated for an Empire which is/will be second-to-none only in military power and therefore has only one tool in its toolbox – a hammer.

In conclusion, with Afghanistan being yet another predictable fiasco, one must ask questions today such as:

  • How would it be possible to spend US$2,261 trillion, cause millions of deaths in the Middle East as well as 37- 50 million people’s displacement plus 7,000 US servicemen and 30,000 vetyeran suicides – the latter alone 10 times the number of people killed on September 11 – only to achieve nothing good and still be seen as a world leader? It won’t.

  • The Soviet Union wasted 7 years in the ”Graveyard of Empires,” and Gorbachev was smart enough to see that it was futile and morally wrong to be there. It took the US more than double that time and with a disastrous withdrawal chaos and suffering still going on at the time of writing. What fragmentation inside the US is this the consequence of? And how much stronger will that fragmentation become now inside the US – thanks to real issues and blame games in (Brain)washington and NATO? Is The US Empire survivable or will it be over in 4-5 years like the Soviet Union after Afghanistan? (Add this to the above 14 points of what is omitted from the media – and political debate and research).

  • Will the US try to be in Afghanistan in another way because the withdrawal also has to do with freeing resources for the new US China Cold War Agenda? And how will China, India, Pakistan, Iran and Russia handle this new situation?

  • Will Russia, Iran, India and, not the least, China the next 10-20 years handle Afghanistan in a fundamentally different way? (It would be easy to do better than the US). Will Afghanistan’s future as an important member of the BRI become something different from what it was and is at this moment?
    We are living in very interesting – and dangerous – times. And we will until the – new Evil – US Empire has sunk like Titanic and the US decides to pursue fundamental domestic structural changes, abolishes its Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex, MIMAC, and – thus – can again thrive as a normal and creative country that is a force for the global common good and not the common evil of the world.

It’s perfectly possible and those who can should lend the self-destructive US a helping hand before it is too late.

Billy King: Rites Again

Wandering and wondering around the universe

I don’t know if you are into astronomy and astrophysics but the discoveries which seem to keep coming are mind boggling. If you keep an eye on the news or are on mailing lists for new discoveries, as I am, there are constantly astonishing things and new learning to take your breath away: light captured being bent by black holes, a white dwarf star travelling out of our galaxy at two million miles an hour, the capturing of an image of a supernova, wandering planets and black holes (the mass of a black hole may be many million times that of our sun), not to mention the discoveries that await about planets and their moons within our own solar system.

The search for exoplanets (ones outside our solar system) with the signatures of life (most likely microbial) has extended to types of planet different to our own Earth. However there is a huge amount we don’t know about even our own solar system, e.g. whether there is a ninth planet (after the demotion of Pluto) and whether there is microbial life on Mars or the moons of other planets.

Partly because our solar system is in the middle of it, there is much we don’t know about our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Its visible diameter is 200,000 light years or more. It may contain 400 billion stars. And there may be a couple of trillion galaxies in the universe. You do the maths. Most stars have planets. And is there a universe of universes?

Of course there is wonder at the simple time and space involved; learning about objects in space where the light we see was emitted thousands of years ago, or in some cases very considerably more, with the hope to be able to learn more about light emitting from not long after the Big Bang (an event estimated to be 13.8 billion years ago). How about looking in some detail at a system eleven billion light years away? It is being done.

All of this is part of the amazing universe we live in and it doesn’t matter whether you are atheist, theist, pantheist or agnostic, it is all amazing. Whatever your beliefs or philosophy it is hard to get your head around the reality of the universe – of which we actually understand quite little. The universe in its vastness, diversity and scale is a challenge to us all to try to understand.

Meanwhile back on Earth, billionaire businessmen like Branson and Bezos justify their commercial flights to ‘inner space’ (for upwards of half a million dollars you get a short period of weightlessness and you see the curve of the Earth) by the inspiration it gives. Rubbish. This space tourism, for no scientific purpose, must use more than a lifetime’s per capita helping of fossil fuels in just a few minutes. It is a black hole of their own making. As such they should be banned immediately – along of course with, for the same reason, a lot of military manoeuvres which in scale are far more damaging. And at the moment military carbon emissions aren’t even counted in a country’s total.

Helping to destroy the one Earth we have and share is a crime against humanity and should be treated as such however much it might be dressed up in flowery language and it being a different experience for the rich and gullible. If said billionaires seriously wanted to provide inspiration they could do this through education including film about the beauty, knowledge and mystery about the universe (though of course the space flights involved are ego trips more than space trips for both participants and organisers).

Cue the song ‘From a distance’, written by Julie Gold and sung by many including notably Nanci Griffith who sadly died recently (she had great affection for Ireland despite no Irish roots; for her Irish related songs look out for Christmas on Grafton Street and It’s a hard life). Apart from the allegation that God is watching us from a distance – unlikely to please either atheists or Christian theologians who wouldn’t go for the ‘distance’ bit – it is somewhat of a peace anthem through some might consider it a bit schmaltzy (a word of German and Yiddish origin, indicating overly sentimental): “From a distance you look like my friend / Even though we are at war. / From a distance I just cannot comprehend / What all this fighting is for.” It is easily found online.

Our sense of wonder at the universe and at the nature of our Earth should extend to a sense of wonder at human life, and the uniqueness and preciousness or sacredness (in religious terminology) of it. Destroying our world? Killing human beings? Totally nonsensical. We human beings have a lot to learn. There may well be a Planet B but it is likely many thousand or million light years away.

Black, white, and Browne

It was the very start of indoor dining in the Republic, at the end of the hot weather in July but before the resumption of ‘normal’ Irish summer weather, and we were walking around Lough Eske in south Co Donegal, a few hours trek mainly on the circular road around the lake. We booked to have lunch at Lough Eske Castle Hotel en route, and very pleasant it was too. As we were getting ready to leave we noticed some photos on the stairs to the downstairs bar which had been renamed after Fr Frank Browne, the most famous photographer of the Titanic.

Thinking that it might display a dozen or two of his well known pictures, we hesitated and then went down. The bar was closed but the lights were on. It is an amazing collection of well over two hundred of his photos from the first half of the twentieth century mainly of Ireland and Irish people at work and play; the walls are filled with photos. He was a fantastic photographer and must have been a natural with people as well, not least in making friends on the first Titanic voyage from Southampton to Cobh (Queenstown in Cork as it then was) with rich US Americans who offered to pay his passage to the States. Asking permission, Fr Browne received the famous telegram that saved his life, from his superior – “Get off that ship – Provincial” – he joked that it was the only time religious obedience saved someone’s life.

The bar is filled with excellent photographic prints of Irish life of the time including a barefoot girl in winter, a couple of gents waiting for the pub to open after the ‘holy hour’ closure in the middle of the day, people at work and play in countryside and town, and some great photos of children. His work for the Jesuits involved travelling around Ireland so most corners of the country are covered in his photographic work. When the trunk of his photos was discovered in a Jesuit house a couple of decades after his death with 42,000 negatives, many had never been developed. His Titanic photos had earned him free film for life from Kodak – but he didn’t necessarily have the money to develop the photos he took, and any photographic fees he earned went to his religious order.

If you are into photography or recent Irish history it is well worth a visit for the price of a pint (which seemed reasonable to me) or a coffee and scone. It is perhaps ironic to name a bar after him given that he never took photos inside pubs so presumably did not frequent them but ignore that and visit if you get the chance – if you manage to visit when the bar itself is closed you can probably have the whole exhibition to yourself. When the bar is serving then clambering over people to see a photo might not be appreciated at the best of times but in the Covid era is impossible to do. Don’t forget your vaccination cert either to get in if current guidelines require it.

It was a brilliant surprise on our walking route around Lough Eske and is an amazing permanent exhibition. We will go again.

Maus

I have written before about bandes dessinées, and I proclaim this (‘illustrated strips’) is a more appropriate term in French than the English – the terms cartoons, comics or even graphic novels don’t seem to be appropriate (they may not be novels). In the case of the latter, graphic as an adjective has different meanings including detailed and explicit with possibly harrowing detail. But that would be appropriate for a classic of the genre, Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’, published three decades ago.

I bought a copy of ‘Maus’ (300 pages, Penguin) some time back but set it aside to read when I had the time and concentration (and it is a book which does require some of this) and I read it this summer. The Wall Street Journal is quoted on the back cover as saying it is “The most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust”; I could not possibly say if that is true but it is certainly both affective (creating emotion) and successful in telling its story, the survival of Polish Jew Vladek Spiegelman, the father of Art, the author and creator of the book.

The Holocaust/Shoah was such an apocalyptic event that it is difficult to do it justice in any narration. Art Spiegelman’s methodology is simply brilliant however in doing it through two main innovative mechanisms; portraying different groups as different animals (Jews as mice, Nazis as cats etc), and interweaving the story of his father in later life as Art works to get his survival story from him. The animals artifice and the juxtaposition of an elderly (and often stubborn and awkward) survivor and his previous existence as a young man intent on living make for a remarkable and thought-provoking work which will stay with you.

Another amazing aspect of the book is the stages- and strategies – which Vladek and his wife Anja had to go through to survive. They tumbled from one frying pan into the fire, to revert to another frying pan and another fire, and so on before eventually ending up in Auschwitz and being separated. At any one of these points they could have succumbed. At the end of the war neither knew whether the other had survived. They were then reunited until Anja killed herself in 1968; her mental health had never been good but going through the Holocaust would have incredibly difficult to process for anyone.

If someone should say that bandes dessinées cannot be serious works of art and political or historical commentary (some people may still do so despite the genre’s evolution over the last couple of decades in the English speaking world – the genre is more accepted in France and Belgium) this book is a major refutation of that argument. Maus is an important work of historical recall in the struggle against the dehumanisation of supposed enemies, and in remembering this terrible period in European history.

It seems appropriate to end this mention of Maus on an affective note which comes from the very end of the book. The final frame (or penultimate one if you take into account a final illustrative and informative flourish) shows the elderly Vladek, ill and tired, in bed, having finished telling his son Art the end of his survival story and reunification with Anja. In telling Art that he is tired from talking he calls him Richieu, the name of Vladek and Anja’s first son who died – was killed – as a young child in the Holocaust. If that does not bring a tear to your eye or a lump in your throat then possibly nothing will.

Pop

It was recently announced that the population of the area occupied by the Republic is just over 5 million, a couple of million more than at the start of the 1960s at which point the population of the 26 counties stopped going down (from the time of the Famine). With the North being around 1.9 million that takes us to almost 7 million on the island, only a bit over a million less than the population in 1846 at the start of the Famine; another couple of decades and it will likely catch up with that – two hundred years later, a unique demographic profile.

The population of Dublin is over 1.4 million. The scattered habitation pattern in the countryside in Ireland stretches back at least 5,000 years, to the Céide Fields of north Mayo, but in terms of the cost of infrastructure and ecology, urban can be much better (it depends on the nature of the urban and there is a huge task in retrofitting housing to implement the greening of Ireland). But if the move out from large urban/city areas under Covid breathes new life into towns and villages in the countryside that can also be a Good Thing for the country as a whole.

Obviously inward migration has played a role as well as natural population growth – and this has been an important cultural factor too. While family size has decreased it hasn’t done so in the same way as other relatively prosperous societies; maybe Irish people just like having children despite the huge cost of child care and rearing. And that is a nice and positive thought to hold on to…..even if it does raise questions about asset and resource use with an increasing population and increased numbers of older people.

Letter of the month

It is only occasionally that I pick a ‘Letter of the month’ so maybe it is a ‘Letter of the season’ or ‘Letter of the year’ but anyway….. You might not think every last detail is the same but still, here is a letter from Brendan Lyons in the Irish Times of 19/8/21: ““A war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity, brought to a close after suffering and disaster, without much glory attached either to the government which directed, or the great body of troops which waged it. Not one benefit, political or military, has been acquired. Our eventual evacuation of the country resembled the retreat of an army defeated.” Rev GR Gleig writing in 1843 on the first Anglo-Afghan war of 1839-42.”

Well, here we are at autumn again, not quite a normal autumn with Covid but not quite like last year either. Every season and time of year has its plus and minus points but there is still time to enjoy some September warmth, I hope, before you have to start generating your own. I hope things go gently for you anyhow, whatever you are up to, and I will see you again in a month’s time, Billy. 

Raging Grannies

Raging Grannies Say its Time to Confront Eamon Ryan

For release: 5th July 2021

On Wednesday July 7th Ireland’s Raging Grannies will gather outside the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to demand that the Minister, Eamon Ryan, stop authorising the daily transit of weapons through Shannon Airport by the US military. They are asking the public to join their colourful protest at the department in Leeson St, Dublin from 12 noon onwards.

The Raging Grannies also plan to make themselves heard at the Department of Foreign Affairs which is authorising the use of Shannon by other US military planes.

“Anyone who feels as we do (rage, humiliation and emotional abuse) is invited to confront Ministers Eamon Ryan and Simon Coveney who are almost daily authorising aircraft operated by or contracted by the US military to refuel at Shannon airport or to fly through Irish sovereign airspace. These aircraft are carrying weapons and munitions of war and armed American soldiers to fight in wars that they know nothing about” said the Raging Grannies.

“Most of the young soldiers come from the most disadvantaged sections of American society and they return home mentality and physically traumatised. They are used as fodder and are victims of the American war machine as are the countries they invade.”

Research by the Costs of War Project at Brown University found an estimated 30,177 active duty personnel and veterans who have served in the military since 9/11 have died by suicide, compared with 7,057 killed in post 9/11 military operations.

The costs of these wars on the peoples of the wider Middle East have been far greater. Up to five million people including up to one million children have died due to war related reasons since the First Gulf War in 1991. Some died due to bullets and bombs but many more died due to hunger and diseases and unjustified sanctions caused by these wars. All these wars were facilitated by US military use of Shannon airport.

Activist, actress and author Margaretta D’Arcy who is one of the Raging Grannies said “We feel rage, shame and abuse as this not only contravenes Ireland’s neutral status, but it is against the wishes of the vast majority of Irish citizens and makes us complicit in the mass killing of millions of people in the Middle East.”

The Green Party’s 2020 General Election manifesto proposed the establishment of regular random spot checks on all aircraft landing in Shannon and other Irish airports to ensure that none were carrying weapons, engaged in the rendition of individuals, or in breach of the terms of the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation or the provisions in place to protect Irish neutrality. The is no indication that any spot checks have taken place however.

“It’s time to confront Eamon Ryan as Minister for Transport and Green Party leader” said another of the Raging Grannies. “Let you concerns and your anger be heard. Otherwise by our silence we are all complicit.”

The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport is located at 2 Leeson Lane, Dublin, DO2 TR60.

For more information, and for interviews, contact: Margaretta D’Arcy 091 565430 or Anne O’Dea 089 4310965

Nonviolent News 291

StoP the arms trade; Raytheon Derry exit chronicled

StoP, Swords to Ploughshares, is the name of the relatively new network on the arms trade in Ireland. It meets online about every 6 weeks and, as well as business and planning sessions, organises speaker webinars. The last one, in mid June, was on how Raytheon was forced to leave Derry in 2010 due to hard work and campaigning over the period of a decade by FEIC, Foyle Ethical Investment Campaign, and DAWC, Derry Anti-War Campaign. The speakers at this session were all Derry activists in the campaign – Jim Keys, Eamonn McCann, and Goretti Horgan. The video of the speakers, running for just under an hour, is available at https://youtu.be/Y0MxO1GmACQ and it makes for a riveting and rewarding view.

An article by Eamon Rafter, summarising the webinar, appears in the e-mail and web editions of this issue of Nonviolent News.

In addition, there is now an album of Derry Raytheon campaign photos at https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/albums/72157719426151321 consisting of well over a hundred images (with more photos and links still to be added).

StoP is run on a cooperative basis by people from a number of different groups and places, including 5 cities on both sides of the border, and can be contacted c/o INNATE innate@ntlworld.com You can ask to be added to the mailing list.

Shannon Airport viability should not depend on the US Military

The peace and human rights group Shannonwatch have called on the Irish government to avoid using the US military to help keep Shannon Airport open as it struggles to remain viable. In light of the recent Aer Lingus announcement that it was closing its passenger operations at Shannon, Shannonwatch call for a development strategy for the airport that does not include a reliance on the transit of foreign troops and their weapons to keep it open.

US troop carriers, US Air Force planes and other military and diplomatic flights continue to pass through Shannon with worrying regularity” said a Shannonwatch spokesperson. “Despite Covid-19 travel restrictions, these flights have continued uninterrupted throughout the pandemic. Not only is this a breach of Irish neutrality, it has also put the health of workers at the airport at risk. Over just three days at the end of May, Shannonwatch recorded nine US military related flights at Shannon.

The Shannonwatch spokesperson said “At a time when Foreign Minister Simon Coveney was quite rightly critical of Israel for failing to protect civilians in Gaza during two weeks of bombing, he is allowing their staunchest ally, the US, to take troops and military planes through Shannon without any oversight or inspection. Both Israel and the US have obligations under international law, as do all States. We cannot be critical of one while supporting another as its ignores the mechanisms of the United Nations and continues to create instability globally”.

Shannonwatch have resumed their peace vigils one Sunday in the month at 2pm at the entrance to Shannon Airport. These call for an end to the US military use of Shannon Airport, and will be conducted in line with Covid-19 regulations. For more information, see http://www.shannonwatch.org/ which includes evidence from June 2021 of arms coming and going from theatres of war, contrary to the assertions of Simon Coveney, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Also contact 085 8519623 or email shannonwatch@gmail.com

Peace Brigades International (PBI)

PBI Ireland, founded in 2014, is part of a community of country groups worldwide who work to strengthen and support the protection of human rights defenders that it offers in its field projects. It promotes nonviolent approaches to conflict resolution and contributes towards building a culture of human rights that it believes will lead to a more just and peaceful world. See the website https://www.pbi-ireland.org/ for more details (you can also donate financially via the website). It periodically looks for volunteers for field projects, e.g. recent calls for Mexico and Honduras, typically for one year minimum. You can see its videos at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKBprJmEBhEBaLMp-fpRrtg

AVP working away

AVP, the Alternatives to Violence Project, is working away ‘quietly’ with six week postal courses, and, for example, has been delivering a course for 5-6 participants in Limerick Prison every month, and have run a first successful pilot workshop in Addiction Response Crumlin (Dublin). Their website is at https://avpireland.ie/ and their newsletter (and link to previous ones) at https://mailchi.mp/a19b6795333e/avp-newsletter-summer-2021?e=df6e54c0da AVP Ireland is a community of volunteers inside and outside prisons who run experiential workshops in conflict resolution and restorative practices. AVP is for anyone who wants to learn to build better relationships, prevent conflict and resolve it when it occurs and who is willing to share his/her skills and experience. Workshops are non residential and are run mostly in prisons around Ireland and during week-ends.

Good Relations Week 2021

This year it runs from Monday 20th to Sunday 26th September and is an opportunity for groups in Northern Ireland to showcase their ‘good relations’ related work. The theme is ‘Brighter Days Ahead’ which celebrates and spotlights the range of projects young people are involved in to break down barriers, unite communities and act as a catalyst for meaningful change in society. See https://www.goodrelationsweek.com/ for more details and registration.

Glencree Journal: Legacy of conflict

There are 19 articles in the online 253 page edition of Glencree Journal 2021 on “Dealing with the legacy of conflict in Northern Ireland through engagement and dialogue”. You can choose from a wide number of areas addressed including loyalist women’s voice, the political theology of Fr Alec Reid, the bottom-down (!) approach to making peace with the past, the churches’ addressing of inter-communal violence, Protestant displacement in Derry/Londonderry, drama in addressing inter-communal violence, women in peace mediation among many others. To download go to https://www.glencree.ie/homepage-highlight/glencree-journal-abernethy-riley-murphy/

Front Line Defenders: Annual report, Cypher ‘zine

Front Line Defenders annual report for 2020 – with a global round up and analysis – is available on their website at https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/ And don’t forget their impressive ‘Cypher’ digital comics magazine illustrating (literally) stories of repression and human rights resistance – see under ‘Visibility’ on their menu bar.

Environmental Justice Network Ireland (EJNI)

EJNI, launched in 2019, is a community of practice connecting interdisciplinary academic researchers, NGOs, regulatory staff, environmental lawyers, representatives from industry and government with community activists and the ‘barefoot lawyers and planners’ . It aims to support communities and individuals that are engaged in both promoting environmental justice and challenging environmental injustice through enhancing knowledge about complex environmental and legal issues that exist on the island of Ireland. See their website at https://ejni.net/ for more details.

Feasta: Transformation catalysts

New material on the Feasta website includes Seán Ó Conláin interviewing Dr Sandra Waddock on her decades-long research into the role that certain organisations can play in bringing about societal change on a profound level; look under ‘Bridging the Gaps’ on their website at https://www.feasta.org/ Other new material includes a Feasta submission on the Irish government’s updated Climate Action Plan and a short piece on ‘cap and share’ for meat production (an issue not being tackled in Irish climate plans).

Eco Congregation Ireland: Gold awards

The Eco-Congregation Ireland Gold Award is for those churches who have already received their initial Eco- Congregation Ireland Award but have been continuing work in all four areas of their initial ECI Award, and mentor another parish/community on their Award journey. In June the first three Gold awards went to Westport Eco-Congregation, Co Mayo; Shankill Action for a Green Earth (SAGE), St Anne’s Parish, Co Dublin, and Faith in Action Group, Ballineaspaig Parish, Co Cork. See the impressive details at https://www.ecocongregationireland.com/2021/04/05/eco-congregation-ireland-launches-gold-awards/

People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland

This has a petition to pressure the Irish government to support global COVID-19 vaccination efforts and end vaccine inequity by the temporary waiving of intellectual property rights to vaccines and by encouraging pharmaceutical companies to share their know-how, so that the manufacture of vaccines can be scaled up to meet demand. The campaign launch is 1pm on 8th July, online. See https://peoplesvaccine.ie/

Include military pollution in climate agreements

Due to action by the USA in 1997 at Kyoto, greenhouse emissions caused by military forces – a major contributor – is excluded in climate agreements and ‘not counted’ – but it does count to this globe and its people. World Beyond War is putting together a coalition effort to ask the COP26 climate meeting in Glasgow in November to include military greenhouse gas emissions in limits on such emissions: “We ask COP26 to set strict greenhouse gas emissions limits that make no exception for militarism, include transparent reporting requirements and independent verification, and do not rely on schemes to “offset” emissions.” See link at https://worldbeyondwar.org/

CAJ on vaccine passports, rights

The wide range of concerns dealt with by CAJ, the Committee on the Administration of Justice in Northern Ireland, is well represented on its website https://caj.org.uk/ including in the July issue of their publication “Just News” which leads with Brian Gormally’s analysis of the human rights implications of vaccine ‘passports’.

INNATE, an Irish Network for Nonviolent Action Training and Education, 16 Ravensdene Park, Belfast BT6 0DA, Phone 028 (048 from Republic) – 90 64 71 06, e-mail innate@ntlworld.com and web http://www.innatenonviolence.org and https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland Nonviolent News is produced in e-mail and web editions and usually a shorter paper edition – however It is intended to mail out the ‘missing’ (due to Covid) paper editions of Nonviolent News soon. As usual in summer, there is a short news supplement for August, deadline 2nd August, rather than a full issue; the deadline for the next full issue, for September, is 1st September. INNATE networking meetings are held regularly in Belfast, currently remotely; all welcome, please enquire for details. SUBSCRIPTIONS UK£10 or €15 minimum, £5 or €8 unwaged or you can have Nonviolent News e-mailed, suggested donation £5 or €8 minimum. Pay by British or Irish cheque or PayPal; subs are on a calendar year basis.

Editorials 291

Northern Ireland:

Confident unionism needed

The recent crisis or crises in unionism, and the DUP in particular, should not be the opportunity for schadenfreude since taking pleasure in others’ misfortune is the last thing which Northern Ireland needs. This is for several reasons. Militant and military extremisms flourish in political uncertainity in Northern Ireland. And mediation and negotiation theory – and experience – tells us that for agreements to be made and stick, the different sides need to be relatively confident and secure. Whatever the future of and for Northern Ireland, there has to be a forward-looking unionism to stand up for its people in a reasonable way and help fashion the future.

Unionist dominance in Northern Ireland is at an end. Of course that does not necessarily mean the end of instransigence on any side (unionist, nationalist, British, Irish). Perhaps the last fling for unionist dominance came through the throw of the electoral dice in the UK as a whole which gave the DUP inordinate influence over Theresa May’s British government policy, then backed Boris Johnson, and significantly helped fashion a ‘hard’ Brexit.

A hard Brexit was against the wishes of an arithmetic majority in Northern Ireland which did not want to leave the EU at all. Polls show a majority in the North today want the UK to align its standards with the EU as a means of dealing with Britain-Northern Ireland trade checks. The DUP justified its Brexit policy by referring to the small overall UK decision in favour of Brexit but that did not by any means necessarily entail or justify a hard Brexit either. And it is probably disengenuous of unionists to choose as their primary ‘democratic unit’ either the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland or simply Northern Ireland according to which suits them best.

While favouring the UK union, as well as thinking about themselves unionists it is in their interest to also think about the whole people of Northern Ireland. When the statiistics are released in due course for the recent census, it will be clear that cultural Protestants no longer outnumber cultural Catholics in the North, and may even be a minority. As stated here frequently before, this does not in any way automatically translate into a united Ireland just around the corner but nor does it necessarily mean that a united Ireland is not just around a few corners.

The problem unionist leaders have had, for fifty years and more, is that moving from a position of dominance to one of equality can look like submission, failure, and the dominance of the other. This feeling of being dominated is the understanding of many unionists and loyalists in relation to the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed by the UK government with the EU. This may look like Northern Ireland being a place apart in its membership of the United Kingdom but the whole point is that it is a place apart, across a sea from Britain and part of a country which was colonised. Given the disastrous DUP backing for a hard Brexit, and the original, and democratically flawed UK decision to leave the EU in the first place, there was going to be a border either on ‘the Border’ or in the Irish Sea. So a seeming victory for one side, whichever, and defeat for the other was guaranteed.

No longer able to dominate, the choice for unionism is further change and compromise or a negative intransigence which may take Northern Ireland more rapidly into a bitterly fought united Ireland, and certainly no further forward. To maximise the possibility of Northern Ireland continuing as part of the UK, unionists need to bend over backwards to meet nationalist demands within the Northern Ireland context. Acht na Gaeilge? Tomorrow. North-South cooperation? 100%. Specific and comprehensive human rights legisation for Northern Ireland? Next week. The last would also be a wise move for unionists in protecting themselves in the future.

Obviously delivering on this would be a complex task for unionist leaders. It may go over many people’s heads but actually explaining what is necessary in terms of negotiation and decision making, and why, may help many Northern Protestants and unionists to understand why something which might look ‘weak’ (‘giving in’ to the other side) is actually strong and in their interests. It is understandable why unionists feel betrayed – because they have been by Boris Johnson – and they certainly should be listened to carefully. But they are no longer in a position to make one-sided demands, and this also needs pointed out by their leaders; they still have, and should have, a certain amount of power, but it is ‘power with’ rather than ‘power over’ others.

While they certainly can try, it is highly unlikely unionists and loyalists can force a removal of the NI Protocol – and no one has suggested any realistic alternatives; putting a boundary at Dublin and Rosslare ports is unrealistic since the Republic was firmly of the decision to stay with the EU – and why should the Republic suffer more than it already has because of a UK decision which has already impacted negatively on it?. And a boundary at the North-’South’ border is going to exchange one set of undesirable repercussions for another, albeit with a different set of people suffering the consequences.

And demographic change is not in unionists’ favour. You have to go well into middle age cohorts to find a Protestant majority in the North, and at primary school level Catholic schoolchildren far outweigh Protestant ones. What direction the Republic takes in terms of social policies including healthcare may be a critical factor in who in Northern Ireland wants to remain in the UK and who wants some form of united Ireland. What kind of polity a united Ireland might be is also a major factor.

If all sides play their cards for the common good as well as their own sectional interest, Northern Ireland could traverse difficult waters with a modicum of self respect on all sides. It will certainly not be easy and it is a big ask but not an insuperable one. And what is even in someone’s sectional interest can be counter-intuitive; witness the comment above about unionists being willing to accede to nationalist demands within Northern Ireland. It has to also be stated that if republicans push too far too fast with a united Ireland agenda they may end up with what they wish for and an extremely disunited and violent people, a Pyrrhic victory.

Unionists may not want to engage in discussion about what form a united Ireland would take, if it came about, and that is understandable. On the other hand it is, in Peter Robinson’s words, an insurance policy. It also makes sense, as we have stated here before, that if there was a move to a united Ireland that it would be a process and not an event. If it is clear that it is going to happen in due course, whatever, then it is clearly in the interests of unionists to get what they consider the best deal possible and most would engage.

But it is also necessary to point out that the current situation is dangerous. If unionists and loyalists dig themselves into a hole over the Northern Ireland Protocol (that it has to be replaced, end of story, rather than mitigated) they may help precipitate the very outcome they don’t want – further moves to a united Ireland – as well as in the mean time an even more divided, and violent, Northern Ireland. It is as yet unclear if the new DUP leader, Jeffrey Donaldson, has enough resolve and political dexterity and room to manoeuvre not to jump into the hole that has already been dug.

The British government and the EU have the major roles to play in dealing with the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Full and fulsome British cooperation and EU flexibility can, and hopefully will, help defuse a rather volatile situation, and the economic advantages for Northern Irish exporters may come to outweigh the disadvantages for Northern Irish importers (and obviously some economic enterprises may fit both categories). If there is full real time disclosure of trade across the sea from Britain to Northern Ireland that should show the EU any risk, in what is a relatively small market in European terms, North and Republic, of single market regulations being flouted. And any such risk could then be quickly assessed. However more lies and flag waving from Boris Johnson’s government will only exacerbate the situation.

We also need a clear understanding that unionism, like nationalism or any other ideology, is not monolithic, and never has been despite greater uniformity in the past. Scratch the surface and all sorts of different pictures emerge, a theme well captured by Susan McKay in relation to Northern Protestants in general. The majority of Northern Protestants vote across several different parties including increasingly the middle ground Alliance Party. It also means that all sorts of things are possible. Just as the pattern of immigration to Ireland over the last few decades has been positive in many ways, economically and culturally, we can learn to celebrate diversity – something well done in the Belfast Mela intercultural festival. We can learn to appreciate difference as part of the richness of life, including across the major divide in Northern Ireland, both ways. Now that is a goal worth achieving in and in relation to Northern Ireland. Unionism has a role to play in that, and will do so, whatever political outcomes emerge in coming decades.

Armed to the teeth?

The emergence of a network on the arms trade in Ireland, encompassing people in various locations on both sides of the border, is a very welcome development in opposing the further development of the military-industrial complex in Ireland, and militarism in general. See news item about StoP, Swords to Ploughshares, in this issue.

While the pictures either side of the border are quite different, with Northern Ireland being part of a NATO-member state, the Republic is increasingly drawn into alignment with NATO, not least through developing EU militarism and support for it which is closely linked to NATO.

Under PESCO, the Republic is obliged to dramatically increase the amount it spends on the military. The Irish political elite, in most of the major parties, clearly see this as a Good Thing and it is the slippery slope to doing the equivalent of serving King and Kaiser. The media often play the same game; an article in The Irish Times of 19/6/21 declared “ ‘Gaping gap’ in Ireland’s airspace defence” without defining how significant real risks existed that needed a military response. Developing European militarism is not to be welcomed since hearts can follow money, and policies follow possibilities, and stronger military capability leads to perceptions that this can be utilised. If there are resource wars later in the 21st century, expect the ‘European army’ to be in the thick of it.

The best form of defence Ireland has is non-offence, i.e. neutrality. The best role Ireland can play in relation to conflict is that advocated in the constitution, i.e. arbitration and its corollary, mediation (which was not so developed when the Irish Constitution was written or it might have been explicitly included). Part of Article 29 of Bunreacht na hÉireann reads: “Ireland affirms its devotion to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation amongst nations founded on international justice and morality. Ireland affirms its adherence to the principle of the pacific settlement of international disputes by international arbitration or judicial determination.”

It is dealing with conflict through early warning systems, support for developing conflict mediation services, and, of course more broadly, international justice and fair economic systems which are needed, and in very considerable need of resources. Money spent on arms is a dead (sic) loss. Ireland needs to put money into the pacific resolution of conflict, not into armed force.

An underlying problem is drift. Ireland is very well linked into international economic systems and ‘naturally’ firms with arms link may come to Ireland, or indigenous dual use and arms related manufacture develop. In relation to Irish neutrality, there have been considerable steps away from neutarlity since Ireland joined the EEC, now EU, in 1972. In both arms production and policy, each step backwards towards militarism is only a step but collectively it amounts to a change in policy.

We should not give up hope. The story of Raytheon being kicked out of Derry [see links in the news item on StoP in this issue] is both inspiring and instructive. The population of the Republic is very much in favour of neutrality. ‘Arms are for linking’ and military arms and the arms trade is a costly trip up a violent one way street. That anyone in Ireland, especially the North after what it went through in the Troubles, should even or ever consider any involvement with the arms trade beggars belief. These are all points which we can utilise in working for a peaceful world and an end to arms madness.

Eco-Awareness 291

The Delusion of the Green Economy

The idea of success has always played an important role in human society; putting food on the table, finding a compatible mate, acquiring the means to protect one’s self from severe weather, maintaining good relations with one’s neighbours and receiving respect and admiration for attributes and accomplishments such as being a good tool-maker, weaver, story-teller, singer, artist, healer, planner or negotiator. An aspect of success that should be an integral part of our sense of what it is to live a meaningful life is the effort we make towards leaving the biosphere a more diverse and healthier place than it was when we each become a short-term resident.

Outside of sports and the arts the meaning of success that society most embraces is illustrated by the case of the CEOs of large corporations receiving millions in annual bonuses, in addition to high salaries, for increasing the financial wealth of their company whilst the environmental damage done and the impoverishment caused to communities whose livelihood is dependent on the health of these ecosystems is ignored. In this all too common facet of the international economic order the harm done to people and planet is called development and is celebrated. Reinforcing this perverse view of success the CEOs are more likely to receive a state honour than a school teacher or a nurse.

As measured by the success – failure scale used by society, people are hailed successful if they are prolific consumers as in living in a large house, drive an expensive vehicle, or two or three, and take more than a few aviation-based holidays a year. By way of contrast the person who by circumstance or choice lives in a small house, uses public transport and holidays in nearby locations is considered mediocre on the consumption scale. I am sure we have all observed that the mega consumer driving a luxury vehicle and wearing expensive brand clothes receives admiring looks but not the person wearing tatty clothes and cycling to their destination. That the latter person has a considerably less negative impact on the biosphere than the former is considered unworthy of comment. In a society living by an inverse set of values people who avoid causing irreversible harm to the environment and impoverishing others would be commended.

The prevailing widespread view of success has to change if we are to make the necessary rapid transition to an ecologically sustainable society. This not only means achieving zero net emissions of greenhouse warming gases but also zero emission of pollutants, the burning, dumping and landfilling of ‘waste’ as well as protecting what biodiversity remains and healing degraded habitat. Regardless of what governments say most of the above cannot be done without a major reduction in our consumption of meat and diary products.

It is a tragedy that in spite of more and more local councils and governments declaring a climate emergency there are no signs of a substantial shift in society’s understanding of success. Perhaps this is because the model of a “new green society” proffered is based on the norms and structures of our ecologically failed one. This is no better illustrated than the drive to leave fossil fuels in the ground.

Given climate breakdown there is no doubting the need to cease using fossil fuels as quickly as possible. What, however, is not questioned is consumerism and the enabling material infrastructure that the new forms of energy will fuel. In the utopia of non-fossil fuel electrification, for which corporations and governments have drawn-up a blueprint, adults will still have their own car, be able to fly to near and distant destinations, eat as much meat and dairy as they like and be encouraged to buy the latest technological devices not to mention clothes and beauty merchandise. Given that there are close to 7.9 billion people on the planet there are simply not enough resources to enable this to happen, certainly not enough to sustain unlimited consumption for an indefinite period of time. At present the rich world uses 50 per cent more bio- resources each year than the Earth produces. If the blueprint for the “green economy” were presented to early-year primary school pupils in the form of a story they would understand it as fantasy.

The fantasy nature of the new green society is underscored by the case that the materials essential for it such as cadmium, cobalt, copper, lead, lithium and platinum have to be mined and as Thea Riofrancos informs us in The Guardian, 14 June 2021, mining causes enormous environmental damage:

extractive activities like mining, are responsible for 90% of biodiversity loss and more than half of carbon emissions. One report estimates that the mining sector produces 100bn tons of waste every year. Extraction and processing are typically water-and energy-intensive, and contaminate waterways and soil. Alongside these dramatic changes to the natural environment, mining is linked to human rights abuses, respiratory ailments, dispossession of indigenous territory and labour exploitation. “

The “green society” as envisaged by governments and corporation, and which mainstream media accept without question, is incompatible with an equitable, ecologically sustainable society. Some of the reasons include the following:

– The environmental devastation that will be caused by mining on the gigantic scale necessary to fuel and sustain it.

– The additional trillions of litres of fresh water needed annually for the industrial processes in a period of increasing worldwide droughts.

– Mining of the minerals can emit more tons of carbon than the mined minerals. (*1)

– The environmental problems associated with disposing of trillions of defunct batteries. (*2)

– The industrialization of hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of land and sea.

– The plethora of economic injustices and human rights abuses that will underpin the drive for low costs.

With regard to the industrialization of the countryside The Economist, 12 June 2021, reports that in the United States the land occupied by solar and wind installations by 2030 might well measure 61,000 square miles. This is approximately twice the size of Ireland. Similar amounts of land and sea will be required in other parts of the world. (*3) In the envisaged clean energy utopia the idea of success will, as at present, be judged by how much we consume, the material wealth we have accumulated and the power and influence that goes with this. In other words the blueprint put forward by governments and corporations for an ecologically sustainable society is delusionary.

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(*1) Austin Price, The Rush for White Gold, Earth Island Journal, Summer 2021.

(*2) Millions of electric cars are coming. What happens to all the dead batteries? Ian Morse, Science, 20 May 2021.

(*3) Environmental minister rules huge renewable energy hub in WA ‘clearly unacceptable’, Adam Morton, Guardian, 21 June 2021.

Readings in Nonviolence 291

Art and peace series

Music is the dialogue

– An interview with Darren Ferguson

“My identity and my history are defined only by myself – beyond politics, beyond nationality, beyond religion and Beyond Skin.”

Darren Ferguson, is a musician, a community worker, and a peace activist. He founded Beyond Skin in 2004 to tackle racism and sectarianism at a local level, to encourage positive social change and empowering people to celebrate diversity.

Beyond Skin is a diverse team of artists, facilitators and peacebuilders who design and facilitate different creative projects using intercultural music, arts, dance, digital media and sensory engagement.

Beyond Skin has been using artistic methods for global education and peacebuilding with local councils, education boards, schools, community groups, businesses and social enterprises across Northern Ireland and has been collaborating with different organisations and individual internationally.

This year Beyond Skin will deliver 35 different projects active involving people from 23 different countries. To name a few: Orchestra for change, Peace in Mind – The 100, Youth4peace, Blueprint are some of the projects which connect local artists and communities with artists and organisations in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Japan, Zambia & Kenya.

https://www.beyondskin.net

The interview was conducted by Stefania Gualberti.

Stefania – How did your background and experiences lead to your involvement in music and peacebuilding?

Darren – I was influenced by a lot of things I was doing as a community worker. In my youth I was volunteering for different faith groups, and I volunteered to go to Romania and worked for a couple of projects which ended up lasting over a decade and set up a charity there with various other people. I was influenced by both the community sector but also by popular culture. Musicians like Peter Gabriel, who was using music for speaking out about human rights and also Nitin Sawhney, a British born Asian artist – we took our name Beyond Skin from one of his albums Beyond Skin. There was another project called “1 giant leap” with these two music producers who travelled the world to try to find out what connects us all as human beings and used music as their narrative. Those three different projects really influenced me as well as popular culture, and as a community worker I just loved being around people and I got involved that way.

Stefania – What do you feel is special about art and especially music to transform conflict, connect and build peace?

Darren – I’m always learning from other people, every day. A good friend of mine Mark Smulian who did amazing thing with music bringing young people from Israel and Palestine together and is doing lots of things with music for mental health, he reminds me constantly that we are all creative, everyone is creative. Some people have talents such as someone can sing, others are really good dancers. We are all creative. Those of us who are blessed with legs doesn’t mean we are Usain Bolt. Some people have talent, and they can run really fast.

People are creative beings, it’s innate in us, it’s in our DNA. We can also clap together in time randomly, no other creature on earth can do that.

We are creative and we are designed to work together. We have all seen the power of music, especially during COVID time, it got everybody through this traumatic experience. When you see the impact of music and other art forms it makes it obvious to connect it into peace building and community work, why wouldn’t you?

I get invited to a lot of peace conference, peace events and they don’t lead themselves in a way that we function best as human beings. Human beings function at their very best around music, art, green spaces, food, and drink. When we are together in these spaces, we create things, things will come out and we have great time building relationships, relating with one another. When you are in four walls in a hotel room for a conference you don’t have that, it doesn’t have that big impact.

I think we have got to look at how we interact and relate as human beings and integrate that more into peacebuilding.

We tend to think of arts and culture as something you go to: you go to the theatre, to the cinema and so on. But when you wake up in the morning art and creativity is in everything. What we choose to wear in the morning is being creative, we create when we cook, and we are creative when we navigate life challenges, how we deal with things. It’s in us and that should be brought more into peacebuilding so people can relate to that more.

Stefania – How do you overcome the barriers in groups especially people who would not consider themselves as musicians or knowledgeable about music?

Darren – At Beyond Skin we try to engage people into music and sound. Sound is very important in how we relate to our environment; it is all around us. A great example is a project we did for Make Music Day4’33. It is based on a famous, very experimental composer called John Cage who is no longer with us. He composed 4’33”, a piece where musicians don’t play anything for 4 minutes 33 seconds and he copy righted. We are replicating that project in collaboration with the John Cage Trust, and we asked 23 musicians from different places in the world to send us videos of themselves not playing anything for 4 minutes 33 seconds and we put a compilation together. https://www.beyondskin.net/433

His thought process as composer was that there is always sound. As I am talking to you, I can hear the fridge buzzing, I can hear birds outside, I can hear traffic from the motorway. That is a composition. When we hear the musician from Sri Lanka you can hear the sounds from the environment there. In the piece from the Victoria Falls in Zambia, you can hear the water in the background. Sounds and music are often separated but they are so connected. If you look at Belfast, in West Belfast you have big diesel black taxis which service that area. That is a sound familiar only with that area, you have always that sound on the background and people do not realize that, but when they wake up in the morning they know where they are when they hear that sound. If you were to take those taxis away people would miss that sound and feel maybe a slight unease, as it wouldn’t sound as their environment.

All those elements are important when we interact music and sound. What makes us feel safe and how we step out of our comfort zone and meet people from different cultures and engage with them because, it is all relevant to all of us as human being. How do we engage people with sound? The 4’33” is a great example of that, and everyone can take part, you don’t have to play an instrument.

It is a mindfulness exercise as well, so important coming out of this pandemic which affected everyone in our mental health, if people say they were not affected they are lying. Sound and music give a great opportunity to be mindful, be still and focus on sound. How our brain respond to music is a chemical reaction and the benefits are widely researched.

Inner peace, once you have inner peace you can bring peace into the world. It is that simple, we have to be at peace with ourselves and with our neighbours and then extend to the wider world. The different levels are very much related.

Stefania – How do you think the creative process can help healing trauma at both individual and collective levels?

Darren – It has been well documented, especially in the last few years with the neuroscience research, the impact of sound and music in the healing process.

We work with people who live in countries experiencing violent conflict. Music is a good way to process what might have happened to you. Not to put it away, as it will always be there, but to help move on. We all have this music centre in our brain, it is a chemical reaction, which trigger us, music can be used to deal with trauma in a certain way. It works both way for the people creating and playing the music and for the people listening to it. Art is a very personal experience. When you look at an art gallery you could have someone sticking a bit of tape on the wall and that’s considered art, or somebody could consider the Mona Lisa art, but in my opinion, it is all art. That’s the beauty of art. It is not about being good, that’s subjective.

I think art can have purpose and no purpose. Art is about freedom and expression. Sometimes we forget that. Some of the peacebuilding projects which involve art limit people. I have done a lot of research on social media and YouTube and I have done a presentation on how we make peace infectious. You look at YouTube and there might be a well-done video on the issues of refugees, and it might have 2 million views. Then there is a video of a cat in a bath, and it got 80 million views and you go: “how is that more attractive to people?” We are obviously missing something of what attracts people to things and why that is. I believe the peacebuilding sector needs to look at popular culture to bring new people into those spaces and attract new people.

At Beyond Skin we have always done wacky things. An example is one day I noticed there were all these pop-up stands and people sitting behind tables presenting themselves at events, why would we do that? So, we decided to retire our pop-up stand. We had an official photographer to do a story for us, in a very humorous way but also as a way of challenging the sector in a creative way. If you want to do something as an organisation, association or collective, you don’t need a pop-up stand, just do it. Instead of sitting behind a table, sit in front of it, speak to people. You are the pop-up stand; you are the story you don’t need a pop up stand. It was a way to give people a wee shake and look at why we do things? How we do things, and do they work? Why things like the pop-up stand become normal? We love to challenge the status quo in a creative way.

Stefania – How do you work with people who reject certain music as ‘theirs’ rather than ‘mine’?

Darren – Yes, interesting question as here in Northern Ireland music has divided communities. We have a project at the moment with people part of a marching band from Protestant culture working alongside heavy metal rock musicians. We always bring it back to the music.

We did an event at the Black Box- a music venue in Belfast- and we had three Loyalist marching bands (all men) and we had guest musicians from Colombia and female musicians, as it can be very male dominated sector. We did it and it was great. We got great feedback and one guy came to me and said: “It is great what you have done here” and I responded, “What is so great about bringing musicians together into a music venue?” Sometimes the politics take over. Those were just some guys learning to play, read music, the band gave them a place where they felt they belonged and gave them the space to be creative. That’s overlooked.

In the new project we are creating a heavy metal flute marching band. That is to open up to audiences who might have not listened to that kind of music and going beyond the stereotypes. Music is a great way to do that, connect people. https://www.beyondskin.net/marchingmetal

We did another project with Afghanistan and Northern Ireland, and it opened up to people who said “I have never listened to that music” but through these projects they have been introduced to this other music and I find this interesting.

As my friend Mark would say “Music does not assist the dialogue, music is the dialogue”. Getting people together to do art and play music is a way of building relation and relax to talk about their culture. In some peacebuilding events you bring people together, strangers, and they are encouraged to talk about the issues. You would not do that in real life, why would you do it there. You need to build up trust and relationship.

At Beyond Skin we need to justify it with the funders that we are doing it in a different way, but this is more effective. Sometimes peacebuilding can get very boring! I have been to many boring peacebuilding events. Why are we here? I could be doing something much more interesting, fun and get people to talk about serious issues as well.

I was in Japan before the pandemic last year and I was at an event organised by this organisation who is doing music and peacebuilding. They are the largest music peacebuilding organisation, they are called Min-on Concert Association, they have been going on for 40 years and they have one million volunteers. How do we get one million volunteers? How do you sustain that? I had a meeting with the founders to talk about how they did that. I could see their smile the joy was apparent. I thought, whatever you have, I want that and that is what is really attractive. I had been at a antiracism event where lots of people were really angry and they were right to be angry but I left feeling angry. I don’t want that, that is not attractive, no wonder they struggle to get members. In this association, you have people with smiles on their faces, they are well aware of the problems of the world and they say: let’s deal with that!

There is nothing fun about racism and sectarianism but there is a way to use fun and joy to deal with those issues by engaging people in dialogue. We have to find ways to attract people (the cat in a bath).

Stefania – How can global education help tackle racism and sectarianism locally?

Darren – Before Beyond skin I worked with developing organisations who worked with countries struggling with poverty and in global education programmes. The project “1 giant leap” looked at issues that connect us, love, faith, death, sex, money… all the subjects that relate with all of us.

 

One of the big issues at the moment is health as well as gender inequality. I have a four year old girl and I am thinking about her future and what she will be dealing with, we should have tackled those issues years ago (pay gap, accessibility and patriarchy).

Global education for me is listening and learning from our global neighbours. When the pandemic hit, we contacted our friends in Africa, they always had restrictions and always have done with less than we have. So, we asked how are you doing it? We should be doing the same. Learning from them. Our partners in Zambia are well ahead of us in terms of renewable energies, they are doing tremendous stuff! It is important to learn from our global neighbours.

Stefania – Is there a particular project or engagement that stands out for you that you can talk about in relation to this conversation on art and peacebuilding?

Darren – Not one particular project. We did a conference in a very different way as we left 50% of it unprogrammed, a space for what was emerging. It was March 2017 and it is difficult to describe, it was powerful. At that event my friend Mark got up to the stage saying, “Music does not assist dialogue, music is the dialogue.” We got into this discussion on how the funding can be restrictive and put you in a box. A lot of artists felt like that. If you are from Africa that doesn’t mean you need to do drumming; you like jazz, do jazz. Don’t let people put you in a box, be creative. That opens the door for us. A big initiative called Art Dialogue was born out of that. 30 artists collaborate together from different countries in very creative and innovative ways. That conference was one of those moments of realization, we need to be freeing artists and not being restricted/restrictive. Freedom in art to make a difference; freedom from labels, expectations and stereotypes and bringing fun and joy into the process.

We get invited to help organise multicultural festivals. I ask, what is the difference between a festival and a multicultural festival? Just mainstream it and call it festival so it becomes normal to have a diversity of people collaborating in it. When I hear Chinese people called minority when they are in fact a global majority, I think we need to change perspective, from our inward perspective. Let us focus on our language, what is a minority? What are we saying? It gives a distorted perception of reality. I think with art you can “shake the tree”, challenge people and wake them up a little bit.

Stefania – Could you share or summarise some of your learnings in your years of experience?

Darren – Every day is a school day, every day I am learning. There are no experts in peacebuilding. Peace is a process, a process of learning.

Get people together around food, music, art and green spaces and things happen.

Take risks, we constantly say let’s do this and deal later with the consequences.

Understand where people are coming from, you don’t know what they are going through. We have to be really empathetic with our fellow humans. We can’t judge people from what we see, as we don’t have the full picture -social media doesn’t help as it is very reactive, you wouldn’t do that to somebody in person, we need to bring back people to human interactions.

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Raytheon in Derry

June 2021 StoP webinar report

by Eamon Rafter

The webinar was organised by StoP – Swords to Ploughshares, a new Irish network against the Arms Trade. With Spirit AeroSystems in Belfast grant aided by the UK government to manufacture military drones and their continued support for arms production at Thales, it was decided that it was a good time to get together to celebrate the removal of Raytheon from Derry to inspire resistance to current development in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The webinar was introduced and moderated by Joe Murray of AFRI. He spoke about how he saw a picture of John Hume and David Trimble welcoming Raytheon to Derry in 1999 as the ‘first fruits of the peace process’. The shocking irony of this had inspired him to hold a public meeting in Derry along with Children in Cross fire and this included students from East Timor at a time when weapons from the UK were being sold to the Indonesian military for use in East Timor. Out of this meeting FEIC – Foyle Ethical Investment Campaign was founded who along with Derry Ant-War Coalition (DAWC) and others built the campaign against Raytheon.

Jim Keys was one of the people behind the FEIC campaign and he gave an overview of how this cross community group with no party affiliation operated as a loose alliance who took on Raytheon. Following the AFRI meeting they had worked on an East Timor mural and set up a citizens jury to consider the appropriateness of Raytheon coming the Derry. The jury returned a verdict of ‘not welcome’ and a monthly vigil was established outside the Raytheon offices. A symbolic grave was dug here to mark the innocent victims of the weapons industry and signs around the city, the appearance of the theatrical ‘stealth monster’ and various actions took place which included the use of the Free Derry wall.

Politicians didn’t engage though in 2003 the City Council did oppose the war in Iraq. Raytheon did not engage or make a response to any of this, though they claimed that the Derry operation was essentially a civil one. Jim pointed out that Derry was a place where people understood what it was like to be ‘collateral damage’ and this was important in the development of the campaign. With a vigil in the Guildhall Sq, a shroud covering the Free Derry Wall and the Black Shamrock symbol of Irish neutrality and opposition to war, the campaign broadened across the city and in Feb 2008 a plaque was placed on the city walls dedicated to lives lost as a result of weapons made in Derry. Though the campaign would continue with regular vigils it would take a more public action to have greater effect.

Eamonn McCann, who had been a key leader in the civil rights movement, was one of the six of the Raytheon 9 who stood trial for occupying the Raytheon offices in August 2006. He talked about what had led to the occupation and how they were vindicated in court. A meeting of DAWC had taken place in Sandino’s Bar on 2nd August to hear former U.S. army interrogator Joshua Casteel. Hearing about the recent Israeli massacre in Qana, Lebanon on 30th July, the Raytheon connection was made and it was decided to occupy the plant.

It was felt that everything had been tried to engage the politicians and media and that vigils would not be enough to close down Raytheon. There had been no support from the mainstream who said they were against weapons manufacture but did nothing against it. The occupation of 9th August (the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing) was a last resort and McCann talked about the ‘semi-spontaneity’ of the event. They didn’t expect to get in but had managed to rush the door as an employee went in and once inside proceeded to throw computers and materials out the window. The eventual arrival of riot police in full armour saw nine men seated quietly playing cards and they were arrested and subsequently put on trial.

Eamonn Mc Cann talked about the case that was presented at that trial in 2008 and how the six men were acquitted. The case was based on the fact that the law would not see their action as defensible, so they had to show that they were actually trying to save lives, stop or delay a war crime, not just protest against it. They had to show that they had previously done everything that was possible and only after that failed did they commit to action in the reasonable belief they could stop war. The involvement of the Derry Raytheon plant in the development of rocket guidance systems and interconnectedness of the computer system with the Scotland plant meant they had legitimately targeted this to put the system out of action to help prevent a greater evil. In effect they put Raytheon on trial and their defence was McCann claimed ‘unassailable’. This gave it a certain international resonance and he felt that the Derry action had a real effect on the morale of victims in Qana, who they later went to visit.

He said it was the best thing he ever did and that it is never futile to stand up against war, even though you think it won’t achieve anything. The accumulation of actions, protests and messaging had been important so it was not a one off event. The trial victory was the pay-off for many previous events. It was important that the occupation was not over-planned and had some element of spontaneity. Neither was it just about the ‘burly men’ who were arrested, as women had been hugely involved. He said it was essential ‘to do everything patiently, but not to be afraid to be daring when the moment comes’. You need to wait and be alert for that moment.

Goretti Horgan was one of the nine women who entered the Raytheon offices in a third occupation in 2009. She spoke about being motivated by the Shannon 5 who had earlier attacked a US military aircraft in Shannon Airport and been through a long trial at which they were acquitted. Goretti had been present at the second occupation though at the time left before the arrival of the police to avoid being arrested. She emphasised that women had always been involved in the protests and actions and that Israeli bombings of Gaza had also been an influence on the women’s occupation. The precision guidance systems used in the Israeli attack were developed by Raytheon.

The women’s occupation may not have done as much damage as the men’s but it had stopped the plant functioning and kept the opposition to Raytheon going which was important. This time the main frame computer had been encased in steel so water couldn’t damage it. She said it was an educational process where they learnt a lot about the arrogance and lies of the arms industry. The sheer horror of the weapons they manufactured was shocking and it was hard to conceive how people thought them up in the first place. ‘We have to do whatever we can to end this evil trade for once and for all’ she said. The women were also put under trial and acquitted.

There was some discussion at the end of the session and some conclusions were drawn. Protests had never stopped after the trials and Raytheon eventually announced their departure in January 2010. They denied this had anything to do with the protests but under Freedom of Information it was revealed that they had said they couldn’t stay because the legal system could not guarantee their safety. It was mentioned that global solidarity is important and the protests at Raytheon in Tucson, U.S., had taken inspiration from what happened in Derry.

It is essential to know your rights and work together to get rid of the arms trade. We need to draw on victories like the one in Derry to give us momentum, just as the Dunnes Stores strikes against South African apartheid and solidarity with East Timor had had an effect. A new phase of protest would now be required to oppose recent arms contracts in Belfast and extractive industries. Derry activists were ready to be involved again and this time would make connections with climate change and what arms trade does to the environment.