Category Archives: Readings

Only the ‘Readings’ from 2021 onwards are accessible here. For older ‘Readings in Nonviolence’, please click on the “Go to our pre-2021 Archive website’ on the right, and select ‘Readings’ there.

Readings in Nonviolence: Resources on nonviolence in Ireland, past and present

This piece is based on a handout which was part of a presentation by INNATE coordinator Rob Fairmichael on Nonviolence in Ireland, past and present to a Pax Christi/Loyola Institute seminar on Advancing nonviolence held in TCD in October.

See the February 2023 issue of Nonviolent News for a different take, listing all of INNATE’s online resources, covering both the main INNATE site and the Flickr photo/documentation one. See

Please get in touch at if you are think INNATE can assist you in exploring any of the INNATE material concerned, you have suggestions for additions, or would like to explore being involved in any projects such as peace trails.


There are many issues regarding definitions of what is ‘nonviolence’ which cannot be fully explored here. This includes differentiating between ‘non-violence’ (action which is not violent) and ‘nonviolence’ (committed either ideologically/philosophically/religiously, or pragmatically as with Gene Sharp – ‘it works’). All of this determines what actions and groups we consider to be non-violent or nonviolent.

The term itself is difficult as it contains a negative (April Carter compared it with the original term for a car as a ‘horseless carriage); there have been suggestions in other languages for different terminology, e.g. ‘relentless persistence’.

We need an analytical but not imperialist (grabbing and labelling) viewpoint as to what is nonviolence/non-violence, and appreciation of different campaigns working non-violently for social change, saving the climate, etc, While we can understand other people’s actions for social or political change as part of non-violence or nonviolence we have to understand that they may not understand it that way and therefore we have to be careful and sensitive in our labelling; however there is nothing to say we cannot understand particular actions in a different way to those involved.

And is nonviolence a) an ideology, b) a spiritual or life imperative, c) a methodology, d) a pragmatic choice, e) all or some of these? f) other?

And where is the greatest imperative to be involved?

What follows are primarily resources from INNATE –

lNonviolence in Irish History pamphlet (Dawn, 1978) – covering O’Connell, Davitt, Quakers, Boycott, US ‘westward’ moving Irish, peace groups; link at

lNonviolence – The Irish Experience Quiz link at This is a short attempt at a ‘prejudice reduction exercise’ to show Irish history, distant and contemporary, consists of a lot more than violence…. It starts off with a mention of the Céide Fields where people lived peaceful, settled lives 5,000 years ago, with no evidence of enemies or violence, and in 15 different examples includes the classic non-violent action of switched allegiance and setting up alternative institutions when republican MPs in 1919 set up the first Dáil rather than attend the Westminster parliament.

lPeace groups in Ireland through the years

With the notable exception of Corrymeela (which predates the Troubles in the North) and possibly Cooperation Ireland, all the Troubles-era peace and reconciliation groups in Northern Ireland are defunct or inactive. However this pamphlet covers all groups from the early 19th century onwards in the whole island. Download from

This draws for some early history on Richard Harrison’s “Irish Anti-War Movements 1824 – 1974”; his Stair na Síochána in Éirinn [le Risteárd Mac Annraoi, as gaeilge] is to be published by Coiscéim and is currently at the printers – 300 pages and illustrated.

lThe Peace People Experience (Dawn Train, 1986), this is a detailed study of the most prominent Northern peace group which began in 1976, link at

lPeace People and other peace groups

INNATE’s photo site is also a documentation site with information and links. Peace groups covered, North and South, include (in alphabetical order) Afri, CND, Corrymeela, Dawn, Drumcree Faith and Justice Group, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Glencree, INNATE, Irish Pacifist Movement, Northern Ireland Peace Forum, Pax Christi, Peace and Reconciliation Group, Witness for Peace, Women Together. Go to and select ‘Albums’.

lNonviolence in Ireland: A study guide

A short study guide for individual learning and reflection or group use. Download at It consists of 16 or 17 short parts with online resources and questions for individual or group reflection.

lMy kind of nonviolence

Fifteen people from different parts of Ireland, and with different takes on the topic, write about what nonviolence means to them, available online at

lINNATE’s photo site has over 2,600 photos or entries, historical and contemporary, and the easiest way to use it is through the albums (groupings of photos on a particular topic or group) of which there are 54.

Go to and select ‘Albums’ from the toolbar, scroll down to see the ones that interest you. It includes albums on individual peace groups, and subject albums such as monitoring and accompaniment, Troubles and peace in Northern Ireland, disarmament and particular campaigns in this area.

lPeace trails – telling local stories of work for peace, justice and inclusion – plans got derailed by Covid but will take off again.

lVideo of seminars on recent peace movement history from seminars organised by INNATE, 2021.


Larry Speight’s column in Nonviolent News (since 2004) has been an important part of INNATE’s insistence on ‘nonviolence towards the earth’.

Issues more generally include local and global justice, climate justice, peace and neutrality, social and cultural inclusion, interpersonal and ’domestic’ violence issues.

Current groups: Just some include Afri, Alternatives to Violence Project/AVP; CND/Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; Corrymeela: Glencree: PANA/Peace and Neutrality Alliance; Pax Christi, StoP/Swords to Ploughshares; Financial Justice Ireland, Green groups (nonviolence towards the earth and thus humanity) including FOE, Feasta, Stop Climate Chaos, Friends of the Irish Environment, Eco Congregation; civil liberties groups inc, ICCL, CAJ.

Readings in Nonviolence: Where are the peace proposals on Ukraine?


If at first you don’t succeed…….then you haven’t been quite doing it right, and failing better may be necessary before finally, we may hope, breaking through to the goal. Various people have made peace proposals regarding the war in Ukraine but not, as this article writes, the EU – so much for the EU being a peacebuilding organisation, it is more concerned these days with building its own army and promoting its arms production (an act the Irish government is keen to get in on).

The war in Ukraine is the biggest military confrontation in Europe since the Second World War, so all the more reason that Europe in general and European countries that proclaim themselves to be peace-loving should be continuously exploring ways to bring the war in Ukraine to an end.

This article, from Transcend Media Service, looks at some of what has been happening and not happening and points a way forward including a proposal from some prominent German figures. Ukraine, Russia, Europe in general, indeed the world has a sword of Damocles hanging over its head, not just from the war in Ukraine but from nuclear weapons, global heating and other factors. Removing this ‘sword’ or indeed many swords hanging by a thread is not easy but if you don’t try you certainly won’t succeed – and some people (EU, Irish government etc) are certainly not trying.

A groundbreaking German peace proposal for Ukraine

Michael von der Schulenburg

It Could Save Us from an All-Out War

18 Sep 2023 – At the end of August this year, four highly respected German personalities (*1) presented a peace proposal for ending the war in Ukraine through a ceasefire and subsequent peace negotiations: It is arguably the most comprehensive and groundbreaking peace proposal made by any government, international organization or, as in this case, any private party since the war began 18 months ago.

This peace proposal comes at an extremely critical time in the Ukraine war. With a possible failure of the Ukrainian counteroffensive and the resulting weakening of the Ukrainian armed forces, NATO could be faced with the decision in the next few months, perhaps even in the next few weeks, to either further escalate the war against Russia or to go down the path of negotiations. A decision to continue the war, however, carries the enormous risk that it could increasingly develop into a direct NATO-Russia confrontation. This would not only result in further suffering of the Ukrainian population, but it would also bring the world one step closer to nuclear war. It is only to be hoped that reason will prevail, and NATO, Ukraine and Russia will opt for a ceasefire with immediate peace negotiations. The detailed German peace proposal has now shown the way to this end. It is therefore of utmost urgency to draw the attention of political decision-makers around the world to this peace proposal and to win public support for it.

The African Union, China, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia have made peace proposals and a peace proposal was earlier developed at the invitation of the Vatican. In addition, Turkey and Israel have undertaken laudable peace initiatives. However, the European Union, that should be most concerned about peace in Europe and that itself is deeply involved in this war, has not yet made any proposal on how to end this war through a political solution. Moreover, except for a proposal for peace negotiations by former Italian Prime Minister Draghi a year ago, none of the EU member states has undertaken any form of peace initiative of its own either. Sadly, this is also true for the German government.

At a time, the Ukraine war presents Europe with a supreme peril, the European Union seems to have lapsed into political rigidity. Neither does it have an obvious strategy of its own for what it wants to achieve with its military support for dragging on the Ukraine war, nor has it developed any ideas of what a peaceful Europe might look like after this war. As if this old continent had learned nothing from the terrible experiences of the two World Wars, which, like the Ukrainian war now, were fought mainly on European soil, it still clings to increasingly unrealistic maximum demands and the shocking idea that these can be achieved on the battlefield. That in the process Ukraine is being bled dry in the truest sense of the word is apparently being accepted. EU policy also seems to be deaf to the political, social and economic consequences the continuation of the war will have for the people of Europe and around the world, and the enormous dangers that would emanate for humankind from its continuous escalation.

Against this background, it becomes clear why such a detailed German peace proposal is of such great importance right now. It breaks with the fatal belief that military victories could bring peace and, in contrast, outlines ways to achieve a peaceful solution to this war through political negotiations. In the present prevailing highly belligerent atmosphere in European politics, media and think tanks, this requires considerable personal courage on the part of the initiators to stand up for peace.

Their peace proposal is also based on the Western view that Russia has started an illegal war of aggression and that thus Ukraine has every right to defend itself militarily and to accept foreign military support to do so. However, they go a decisive step further by emphasizing that this “does not absolve the government in Kiev and its supporting states … from politically promoting the achievement of a just and lasting peace“. Now that this war has entered a highly destructive stage, in that there can be no more victors, their call on all warring parties and their supporting states that it is time to seek a political solution for peace has become even more urgent.

Thus, the initiators not only call for an immediate ceasefire along the existing frontlines, but also demand the simultaneous start of peace negotiations to prevent a ‘freezing’ of this ceasefire line and thus of the entire conflict. To avoid any delays through political rankling, they propose that these peace negotiations go straight to the core controversial issues of the conflict: a neutral Ukraine, security guarantees for Ukraine, the future status of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson regions as well as Crimea. For each of these controversial issues, they outline possible solutions that are based on the outcomes of the Russian-Ukrainian peace talks in March 2022 and on Ukraine’s negotiating position at the Istanbul peace summit on March 29, 2022.

This peace proposal originating from Germany complements the peace proposals already being made by countries or regional organizations from outside Europe. Like those, it assumes that Russian security interests as outlined in Russia’s letter to NATO and the U.S. of December 17, 2021, must be considered. But in contrast to the views prevailing in the EU, the initiators of the German peace proposal share the assessment of non-Western countries that Russian President Putin is very much willing to negotiate peace. This does not yet mean that the negotiating positions have converged. As in all other peace negotiations, also in the case of the Ukrainian war, one will have to painstakingly negotiate over conflicting interests of the warring parties and their supporting states. This will, no doubt, be extremely difficult because there is no trust between the warring parties – peace negotiations take place between war enemies and not between friends. Nevertheless, the path now charted by Germany’s peace proposal for a negotiated peace represents a major advantage over any further attempt to achieve a militarily enforced solution.

Therefore, it should be in the self-interest of the EU and its member states to embrace this peace proposal wholeheartedly. For it will be the EU that loses in this war. Not only would the EU find itself at the frontline should this war escalate into a direct NATO-Russian confrontation, but it will also be left with all other adverse aspects of the fall-out of the war. This will not only include the present costs of the war but more importantly, the long-term costs of having to support a destroyed, impoverished, and depopulating Ukraine. While the U.S. has the option to withdraw back across the Atlantic, the EU, however, will continue to face many of the world’s crisis regions in its immediate neighborhood. It will also be the EU’s economy that will suffer most not only from its homemade sanctions but also from an increase in the cost of raw materials, from the loss of sales markets and the disruption of direct trade routes to the growth regions of Asia. And if one correctly reads the signs of the BRICS+ summit, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and now also the G-20 summit, one may conclude that it is not Russia that is internationally isolated, but rather that it is the EU that loses international influence over its Ukraine policies, its failure to have prevented the Ukraine war and now its unwillingness to end it. It is the EU that now desperately needs peace, and the German peace proposal should be accepted as a one-time chance that would allow it to switch its policies towards achieving this peace while moving away from supporting a continued war.

The German peace proposal relies heavily on a decisive role for the United Nations in its implementation. According to the proposal, the framework for a comprehensive cease-fire is to be decided in the UN Security Council while the monitoring of the demilitarization of the now Russian-occupied territories and the military separation of forces along the cease-fire line is to be guaranteed by UN peacekeepers. Subsequent peace negotiations should take place under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General, or a High Commissioner appointed by him. Since the United Nations, the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary-General have played rather disappointing roles in this conflict, these proposals will certainly be questioned by many observers.

And yet these proposals in particular could be of far-reaching significance for global peace. It would lead to the rehabilitation of this world organization that is so indispensable and central to the maintenance of world peace. It would mean that within the confines of the UN, the various peace proposals and peace initiatives of the member states could come together, not as competing but as mutually reinforcing forces for peace. Such a strengthening of the United Nations and the associated affirmation of the universality of the UN Charter would certainly be welcomed by the vast majority of member states. The German peace proposal could make a decisive contribution to this end.

The United Nations and the UN Charter once came into being in response to Germany’s awful war crimes and atrocities it committed during World War II. Germany should hence feel a special responsibility to upholding the UN-Charter’s obligation for all member states to seek peaceful solutions of conflicts and the prevention of wars. This groundbreaking peace proposal now presented by four imminent German personalities is a step towards Germany fulfilling its special responsibility. If the EU, and indeed the international community want to end the war in Ukraine peacefully and preserve global peace, there will be no alternatives to this peace proposal!


(1) Peter Brandt, son of the former German Chancellor Willy Brandt, initiator of the Ostpolitik, formerly history professor and strong voice of the German peace movement, German trade Unions and the Social Democratic Party

Hajo Funke, formerly professor on antisemitism/rightwing populism and international conflicts at the Otto-Suhr-Institute, Germany’s leading political university think tank

Harald Kujat, highest ranking German General (rtd.), served as German Chief of Defense (Generalinspekteur der Bundeswehr) from 2000 to 2002 and from 2002 to 2005 as Chairman NATO-Military Committee, Chairman NATO-Russia Council and NATO-Ukraine Commission of Chiefs of General Staff

Horst Teltschik, formerly chief foreign affairs adviser to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl during the end of the Cold War and the negotiations with the four powers leading up to the reunification of Germany in 1991.

– Article taken from Transcend Media Service, 25th September 2023,

Readings in Nonviolence: Humanity needs a completely different peace and security system in the future


The world looks like it is going to hell in a handcart whether you look at conflict, ecology, migration and responses to migration, inequality and world justice, whatever. Potential sources of extremely violent hot conflict, such as between the USA and China, are waiting in the wings. Learning lessons does not seem to be on the curriculum as evidenced by NATO’s goading of Russia in advancing membership towards Russia’s borders.

Peace activists are often accused of being unrealistic, a totally unsustainable jibe given that research shows nonviolent struggle to be more likely to achieve its ends than violent, and with better outcomes. But it is the followers of militarism and confrontational approaches who are unrealistic, always taking the same approach ending in disaster and then blaming the other for the resultant mess and carnage.

The following piece by Jan Oberg offers short, practical advice on a global scale for dealing with conflict. You might say it is too simple but the crux of the matter is that, in Tommy Sands’ words, the answer is not blowing in the wind, the answer stares you in the face.

By Jan Oberg

The world’s taxpayers give US$ 2,240 billion annually to their national military defenses. That is the highest ever, more than 600 times the regular budget of the United Nations, and three times the total trade between China and the US. Such are the perverse priorities of our governments; the five largest spenders are the US 39% of the total, China 13%, Russia 3,9%, India 3,6% and Saudi Arabia 3,1%.

Worldwide, governments maintain that they need that much to secure their people’s survival, national defense, security and stability – and that global peace will come.

With the exception of the elites of the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complexes (MIMAC), we all know this is a huge fallacy. Today’s world is at a higher risk of war–including nuclear–, more unstable and militaristic than at any time since 1945.

At the end of the West’s Cold War a good 30 years ago, peace became a manifest possibility, NATO could have been dismantled since its raison d’être, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, fell apart. A new transatlantic common security and peace system could have replaced NATO.

Tragically, ’defensive’ NATO did everything not only to cheat Russia with its promise to not expand ‘one inch,’ but also to expand up to the border of Russia, “not one inch off limit for the alliance,” to quote Marie Sarotte’s brilliant 550-page book, Not One Inch.

The NATO world now postulates that both Russia and China are threats to be met with even higher, de facto limitless, military expenditures.

But wait! How would you think and act if you witnessed a team of doctors do one surgery after the other on a patient who, for each, came closer to death?

You’d probably say that they are quack doctors. Their diagnosis and treatment lead to a devastating prognosis. Instead of health, they produce more of the problem they claim to solve!

Given that the highest investment on peace and security in history has caused the highest risk to humanity’s survival, why don’t we have a vibrant global debate? What is fundamentally wrong with the entire paradigm of security through arms? Where are the critical analyses of the world’s most enigmatic and dangerous logical short circuit?

The dominant security paradigm builds on factors like these:

  • deterrence – we shall harm them if they do something we won’t accept or don’t do as we say;

  • offensiveness – our defense is directed at them even thousands of kilometers away, not on our own territory;

  • military means are all-dominant;

  • civil means – like minimizing society’s vulnerability; civil defense, nonviolent people’s defense, cooperation refusal, boycott – are hardly discussed;

  • our intentions are noble and peaceful, but theirs are not;

  • our defense is not a threat to them, but they threaten us with theirs;

  • ignoring the underlying conflicts that cause violence and war, the keys to conflict-resolution, and prepare instead for war to achieve peace.

This is, by and large, how everybody ’thinks’ and then they blame others for the fact that this type of thinking can not produce disarmament or peace.

Even worse, when that peace doesn’t come, everybody concludes that they need more and better weapons. In reality, this system is the perpetual mobile of the world’s tragic militarism and squandering of resources desperately needed to solve humanity’s problems.

There must be better ways to think. But there is far too little research and debate and the MIMAC elites thrive on war. Thus, decision-makers lack political will.

What would be the criteria for good peace and security?

Conflicts are to be addressed and solved intelligently by mediation, international law, and creative visions that address the parties’ fears and wishes. Violent means should be absolutely the last resort as is stated by the UN. Peace is about reducing all kinds of violence (there are many kinds) and creating security for all at the lowest military level, like the doctor who shall never incur more pain than necessary to heal a patient.

Here some alternative ideas and thinking to promote discussion:
instead of deterrence, seek cooperation and common security; the latter means that we feel secure when they do;

  • go for being invincible in defense but unable to attack anybody else; have weapons with limited destruction capacity and range;

  • make control/occupation impossible by our country’s non-cooperation with any occupier;

  • balance defensive military and civilian means;

  • prevent violence but not conflicts;

  • never do tit-for-tat escalation; do something creative to de-escalate;

  • show that your intentions are non-threatening and take small steps to invite Graduated Reduction in Tension (GRIT) without risking your own security;

  • handle conflicts early; build peace first and then secure it;

  • address underlying conflicts, traumas, fears and interests;

  • educate and use professionals in civilian conflict-resolution and mediation, not only military expertise;

  • develop and nurture a peace culture through education at all levels, ministries for peace, emphasis on conflict transformation instead of confrontation and rearmament;

  • replace outdated neighborhood ethics with a global ethics of care.
    The possibilities are limitless. Conflict and peace illiteracy have brought us to where we are today. It is not whether human beings are evil, good, or both. It is a
    systemic paradigmatic malfunctioning that must change in name of civilization.

We can learn to peace.

Masters of war are hated worldwide. Countries that take concrete leadership in developing new principles and policies for true global peace and human security will save humanity and will be loved forever.

Let a thousand peace ideas bloom!

Prof. Jan Oberg, Ph.D., is director of the independent Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research-TFF in Sweden.

This piece, edited by the author himself, was originally written for ‘China Investment’ and is taken here from Transcend Media Service which has an introduction about it origin.

Jan Oberg spoke at an online seminar organised by StoP (Swords to Ploughshares Ireland) in 2022 on ‘EU militarisation, Irish neutrality and the war in Ukraine; The case for peace’. The video of this seminar can be found at

Readings in (Non)violence: Review of ‘Terrorism’ book by Louise Richardson


What terrorists want: Understanding the enemy, containing the threat” by Louise Richardson, Random House, 2006, 213 pages. Page numbers refer to the 2007 paperback edition.

Reviewed by Rob Fairmichael


Louise Richardson may be the chair of the Irish government’s current (2023) Consultative Forum on International Security but in this piece I try to restrict myself to a review of the book concerned which helped ‘make her name’. Already a lecturer and academic in the field of international security (the book was published in 2006), she recalls how terrorism was more of a personal interest (page xi) until she started teaching a course on it in response to student interest; then 9/11 made her in widespread demand as a speaker. She has been a high flyer on both sides of the Atlantic (there is plenty about her online) and the subject of some controversies.

This is a competent and comprehensive book within her terms of reference. I am structuring this review to first of all give a brief summary of the book – sensible and informed on many aspects of the topic – before then giving a critique pointing out where I feel she is neither sensible nor informed. This is to allow her analysis and arguments to be digested first. But even in a fairly lengthy review I cannot cover many points she makes.


The book is written from a sometimes guardedly critical US American viewpoint (she is a US citizen of Irish origin), post 9/11. She begins at the very beginning by asking “What is terrorism?” She comes to a precise definition: “Terrorism simply means deliberately and violently targeting civilians for political purposes” (page 4) and goes on to state clearly “Terrorism is indeed a weapon of the weak”. (page 5).

However she also states emphatically, while noting it is controversial, that “terrorism is the act of sub-state groups, not states”. She goes on to give instances of states using terror or terrorism but says “if we want to have any analytical clarity in understanding the behaviour of terrorist groups, we must understand them as substate actors rather than states.” However she does mention the term ‘terror’ coming from the French Revolution when it was terror “from above, imposed by the state” (page 29). She goes on to detail the fact that terrorism has been used by many different kinds of groups, on all ends of the political spectrum, with both secular and religious backgrounds.

She also quickly seeks to establish that terrorists are normal people, not deranged: “Their primary shared characteristics is their normalcy, insofar as we understand the term”. And she continue that “Terrorists are substate actors who violently target noncombatants to communicate a political message to a third party”.

She gives a number of Irish illustrations in the book, from reputable sources, for example referring to the Fenian bombing of Clerkenwell Prison in London in 1967 to emphasise it is not a new phenomenon – and she goes back rather further in history to look at ‘Zealots’, ‘Thugs’, ‘Assassins’ etc. She also refers a number of times to aspects of the recent Troubles in Northern Ireland.

As to the causes of terrorism, she states “The emergence of terrorism requires a lethal cocktail with three ingredients: a disaffected individual, an enabling group, and a legitimizing ideology.” (page 40) “Terrorists see the world in Manichean, black-and-white terms; they identify with others; and they desire revenge.” But leaders in terrorist groups are often from higher socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. (page 45) Ethnonationalist terrorist groups tend to last the longest because they have close ties to their communities. (page 48) State sponsorship can strengthen terrorist movements but it is not a cause of terrorism (page 64) while poverty and inequality increase the likelihood of terrorism emerging. (page 67)

She depicts terrorists as having three aims: revenge, renown and reaction. (page 71) As to whether terrorism works, she certainly details how it can have effects, includes pushing the state to further repression. She argues correctly that those who say the power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland ”has rewarded the terrorism of the IRA are quite wrong. The IRA did not wage a terrorist campaign to share power with Protestants in Northern Ireland. Quite the contrary…” (page 75)

She rightly points out that the USA’s invasion of Afghanistan provided (terrorists with) “a great many more actions to be avenged”, (page 92) and elsewhere criticises the false linking of Iraq and Saddam Hussein to 9/11. In terms of ‘knowing your enemy” she points out that US leaders did not realise the enmity between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. (page 168) She spends a chapter on suicide terrorism, and discusses different forms of weapons (and difficulties with using chemical or biological weapons, for example).

Regarding 9/11 itself, she quotes George W Bush saying 9/11 changed the world but says that it was “our reaction to September 11 that changed the world” (“our” here meaning, as its does elsewhere in the book, the USA). (page 167) She also states quite clearly that the USA declaring a ‘war on terror’ was declaring war on a tactic, not on those who committed the crime (9/11) and was a war that could not be won. US reaction led to rapidly making most people in the world have more negative views about the USA; “By declaring war yet refusing to be bound by the agreed constraints on warfare and refusing to conduct the war through existing international institutions, the United States alienated its allies and confirmed the worst views of neutrals and adversaries.” (page 179)

Missed opportunities “were the opportunities to educate the American public to the realities of terrorism and to the costs of our sole superpower status and the opportunity to mobilize the international community behind us…” (page 170).

She quotes the British “Thompson Principles” (page 185) for counterinsurgency warfare: “1. The primacy of the political 2. Coordination of government machinery 3. Obtaining intelligence 4. Separating the insurgent from his base of support 5. Neutralizing the insurgent 6. Postinsurgency planning”. I would point out that it is debateable the extent to which the British followed these rules in relation to Northern Ireland, particularly rules 1, 4 and 6.

Her own guidance for counterinsurgency or containing the threats of terrorists (page 203+) has the following headings: Rule 1: Have a defensible and achievable goal Rule 2: Live by your principles Rule 3: Know your enemy Rule 4: Separate the terrorists from their communities Rule 5: Engage others in countering terrorists with you Rule 6: Have patience and keep your perspective.

She is right in stating that (page 219) “The fact that someone who has committed heinous crimes makes allegations against us does not mean that those allegations are without foundation and should be dismissed out of hand” and takes the example of bin Laden’s criticisms of US sanctions on Iraq (which may have killed half a million children because of lack of medicines and so on).

She also criticises the tactic of supporting one group using violence against another (page 229) with the example of the USA supporting the mujahedin in Afghanistan against the USSR: “This tactic inevitably backfires.”

The language of warfare connotes action and immediate results. We need to replace this language with the language of development and construction and the patience that goes along with it.” (page 232)


This book is a thorough treatment of the subject written from a fairly pro-state point of view, and, despite many criticisms of the USA, still from a US viewpoint (it is ‘we’ throughout). It is a pro-state view because she opines that terrorism is a substate action despite referring to some state terrorist actions (see earlier in this review and more examples in the book). She makes many sensible judgements about the nature of ‘terrorism’.

However I would say that not to include ‘state terrorism’ in ‘terrorism’ is a colossal mistake. This lets states off the hook. And amazingly (page 5), in her limited coverage of state terrorism, she does not include the USA! Think Vietnam and Cambodia. Think Afghanistan or Iraq. Think Chile, Nicaragua and Cuba. In fact in relation to the last three countries, she states (page 52) “An examination of these cases reveals that the United States had very good reasons to object to the governments of Chile, Cuba and Nicaragua. Their ideological orientation was inimical to its own, so it supported local groups that used whatever means were available to them to try to bring them down.” For the full context of this you need to see the section concerned but, whether this is her own view or a summary of some US views (it is not quite clear), not making further comment is without doubt whitewashing US government state terrorism. Whether this whitewashing Is intentional or unintentional does not matter because it is still a massive misjudgement in the book.

You can argue that she is a) a US citizen, and b) an academic, and therefore her language is measured. But occasionally I feel she lets things slip out such as (page 198) “By pursuing terrorists like the criminals they are….” Having argued that they are rational, she now labels them as ‘criminals’. Of course they may be, according ot the laws of the land they are fighting, but this is a more definite labelling in a derogatory sense.

I would firmly argue that only talking about substate actors in relation to terrorism makes it meaningless. I don’t tend to use the term ‘terrorism’ myself, although I do in certain contexts (e.g where other people do, as in this review), preferring to talk about the level of violence used and the context irrespective of it emanating from state or non-state sources. Using the term ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist’ immediately introduces many derogatory assumptions though Richardson’s coverage does get behind a lot of that prejudice.

Substate ‘terrorists’, if they are effective and luck is on their side, can kill or murder dozens, or, in the case of 9/11, up to a few thousand. State terrorism can be effective in killing and murdering hundreds of thousands or even millions. And there are no shortage of examples; Stalin’s ‘Terror’ is another example of where the term is a recognised one in relation to state action.

There is no reason you cannot differentiate, as appropriate, between state and substate ‘terrorism’ or does she, at some level, feel state violence can be more legitimised or is qualitatively different? Her argument, mentioned above, to not include state terrorism is weak and not developed (and, I would argue, wrong in any case). Saying that one must reject the concept of state terrorism for “analytical clarity in understanding the behaviour of terrorist groups” is simply not true; all you need to do is say you are talking about ‘substate terrorism’, if that is what is being done.

The extent to which ‘terrorists’ target noncombatants and civilians (quoted earlier, page 20) varies significantly, and this is not necessarily a very valid description. She should have qualified her (quoted) statement. In Northern Ireland at some stages republican paramilitaries, while stating that they were attacking state agents, extended that so far in their range of ‘legitimate targets’ as to include a very considerable section of the population. Obviously they did target uninvolved citizens at times, particularly as part of their campaign to make Northern Ireland look ungovernable and uncontrollable through attacks on public spaces, transport and new infrastructure; but this was attacks on structures more than people Their first aim was to attack army and police, not civilians (I am not trying to go into any detailed analysis here of sectarian aspects of republican violence in Northern Ireland, of which there were plenty).

Loyalists in Northern Ireland, while targeting high profile figures on the republican side, had a more fluid concept of who to target – the ‘any Taig will do’ approach (mirrored in Sunni/Shi’a attacks in Iraq). However the bald statement that terrorists attack civilians for political purposes is simply not accurate. It only makes sense if she had (which she doesn’t) a separate category such as ‘guerrilla fighters’ to cover those who attack state agents.

She is beyond morally and strategically dubious grounds when she says (page 52) that “It’s not only the bad guys who use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy. Sometimes the good guys do too.” So this would seem to be supporting ‘good guy’ terrorism – would that by any chance be the US actions in Chile, Nicaragua and Cuba mentioned earlier? This is a downright contradiction of international law, as she should know as a former lecturer in law at Harvard Law School. It is an appalling and unworthy justification. And who should decide what is ‘good guy’ terrorism? The USA? Louise Richardson? She does not qualify her statement by saying “and that is a mistake”.

In relation to her analysis of the aims of terrorism being the 3 ‘R’s – revenge, renown, reaction – this is part of it, but for some groups, certainly in their own estimation, ‘success’ was a larger goal. The chances of the IRA getting the ‘Brits out’ might have been slim in more rational consideration but it was a real goal for a period for them. Similarly the LTTE in Sri Lanka wanted success. People engaged in violence of this sort may be partly blinded by their own ideology but does this make their ultimate goal not an aim? Not in every case but the ‘S’ of ‘Success’ should surely be added to the 3 ‘R’s, although you can distinguish between immediate and ultimate aims.

In addition, ‘terrorists’ are not the only people to see the world in black and white terms, and want revenge. Saying that “Terrorists see the world in Manichean, black-and-white terms; they identify with others; and they desire revenge” could be talking about the US response to 9/11.

The war in Ukraine is, unfortunately, a classic current example of this. ‘The West’ seems incapable of understanding how it has contributed to the unfolding catastrophe, primarily through the expansion of NATO but also not giving Russian speakers in the east of Ukraine their proposed relative autonomy, and possibly also in not supporting Russia in the transition from communism. The failure to push for negotiations in the war, and stymieing what opportunities existed early on, are monumental errors occasioned by that wartime ‘black and white’ illusion. I am not saying that Putin is not the main person to blame for the bloodshed (with his own illusions or delusions); I am saying ‘the West’ contributed significantly in the lead up to the debacle, and has continued to add fuel to the flames.

Some final comments relate to the accuracy of her facts. I noticed errors in relation to her coverage of Ireland which, given her Irish origin, I find astonishing and makes me wonder about the accuracy of other facts given in the book. She refers to coming as a 17 year old to Trinity College Dublin, presumably 1975, and joining “the student branch of the IRA.” (page xv) She may have been writing primarily for a US audience but this is incredibly sloppy and misleading language; she may indeed have joined the student branch of Sinn Féin which was in alliance with the IRA, the latter even being the senior partner at the time in what participants referred to as the ‘republican movement’ – but joining the IRA at a freshers fair she did not.

She also refers (in footnote 4 to the Introduction) to the IRA before the split into Provisionals and Officials as being the “Old” IRA. No it wasn’t. “Old IRA” refers back to the War of Independence. And while quoting approvingly Denis Halliday’s insights on UN sanctions on Iraq (p.220) she inexplicably refers to him as ‘Fred’ Halliday (the footnote link has his correct name). If she gets these Irish details wrong, what other mistakes are there that should have been weeded out in a proper proofing?

There is much that is sensible in this book in trying to understand the phenomenon of ‘terrorism’. However while she can be very critical of US actions post-9/11, there is no indication that she is, per se, opposed to US state power and superpower status, nor indeed to NATO – reading between the lines it would seem she feels that post-9/11 action should have been coordinated through NATO. NATO is not solely a ‘defensive’ body; as well as being committed to first use of nuclear weapons (illegal) there are interventions like the disastrous one in Libya in 2011. Nor does she mention the possibility that the Taliban in Afghanistan, if the USA played its cards right, might even have ‘given up’ bin Laden and al-Qaeda to international justice without any war anywhere. And, as analysed above, some of her definitions of terrorism are simply inadequate, even within her own parameters.

Part of the subtitle of the book is ‘Understanding the enemy”. That subtitle might have been added by the publishers rather than Louise Richardson herself, but what do you do to enemies? Defeat them/kill them militarily or turn them into friends? She deals with the failure of the USA post-9/11 to take the globe with them and despite detailing how US funding could win friends and influence people (she gives the example of US funding to Indonesia after natural disasters) still seems to fall into some of the traps of tending to see security in military rather than broader human terms.

There is a downloadable INNATE poster (available at and go to ‘Terrorism….’) which states “‘Terrorism’ – The big terrorists get away with it”. The illustration or cartoon accompanying this from Len Munnik shows a large figure with a sizeable bomb under his arm giving out to a very much smaller figure who is lighting the fuse on a small stick of explosive. That is the situation we have in relation to ‘terrorism’ and unfortunately Louise Richardson does not deal with that.

Readings in Nonviolence: Nonviolent civilian defence and extending Irish neutrality

As stated elsewhere in this issue, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin, under general instructions from the Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin, rejected INNATE making an oral presentation on nonviolent civilian defence and possibilities for extending Irish neutrality. While this was included in INNATE’s written submission to the ‘Consultative Forum on International Security’ it is quite clear that if you were not involved in presenting at the four days of oral hearings then your thoughts were unlikely to get attention.

But INNATE was in good company in being excluded. Dr Karen Devine, an academic and expert on modern Irish neutrality including the non-aligned, anti-imperialist and pro-disarmament policy of Fianna Fáil under Minister for External Affairs Frank Aiken in the 1950s and 1960s, was, incredibly, omitted from the speaking roster. A ‘forum’ is defined as ‘a public space for open discussion’ so it was clear it was not a ‘forum’ in any meaningful sense – it was a long conference with all the content decided by the Minister and his civil servants who he would obviously have instructed as to what he wanted.

Anyway, below is the link for the 11-page INNATE submission, containing later on the sections on nonviolent civilian defence and extending Irish neutrality in a positive way. We used the term ‘nonviolent civilian defence’ in this context rather than the related term ‘social defence’ to be more comprehensible in the context of discussing geographical state security. We would prefer the term ‘social defence’ in general as a more progressive and less state-oriented term but we stand over everything in the submission.

The submission can be downloaded at

Readings in Nonviolence: Approaches to nonviolent defence

Defence and offence


A lot of water has flown under many bridges since 1983 when the following piece was written but some of it is not only still very meaningful today but extremely relevant in the Irish context as the process is underway to dismantle the last parts of Irish neutrality, and the Irish state seeks to effectively join NATO and EU nuclear armed and provocative alliances.

What follows are extracts from a paper given by renowned British peace activist and academic Michael Randle to a conference on Building Nonviolent Defence organised by WRI (War Resisters’ International) and IFOR (International Fellowship of Reconciliation) in the Netherlands in July 1983. The wider context then included renewed fears of nuclear war and a strong anti-nuclear weapons movement; currently we have wide fears of escalation in the Russia-Ukraine war but no strong peace movement in relation to it or other critical peace issues, and still the danger of escalation to nuclear war. Reading ‘Russia’ today for ‘the Soviet Union’ then is fascinating and disheartening, and shows how little we (all of us) have progressed in forty years.

The issue of nonviolent defence and non-offensive defence is further dealt with in INNATE’s submission to the Consultative Forum on International Security Policy which will be meeting in June (2023) in Cork, Galway and Dublin; this submission will be included in the July issue of Nonviolent News. The online webinar by StoP on ‘Human and ecological security’ – much more meaningful than a narrow emphasis on ‘military’ security – is online and can be seen at with Diana Francis, John Maguire and John Lannon.

Dotted lines in the following indicate a section, large or small, which has been omitted from the original (overall a considerable amount is omitted). As with all such pieces we are not saying we agree or disagree with particular points but that the issues and arguments covered are important for any peace movement to consider and look at in relation to ‘our time’.

Extracts from

Approaches to nonviolent defence

by Michael Randle (at WRI/IFOR conference, July 1983)

Alternative Defence has become a major area of discussion within the resurgent peace movement in Europe. In my view it is right that this should be so. First saying no to nuclear weapons – indeed saying no to war – is not a defence policy; second there may well be a large constituency of people who are deeply concerned about the moral implications of nuclear deterrence and the sheer magnitude of the risks involved but who nevertheless go on supporting the present policies because they see no viable alternative. This then may be a particularly opportune moment for advocates of a nonviolent approach to present their ideas.

The need for defence

……. First, attacks from outside on states and communities do occur and can vitally affect the lives of the population……Second, the main threat to a community and the individuals that comprise it does not always and necessarily come from within in the form of an oppressive state machine or exploiting class….Third, a disarmed (or disarming) Western Europe would be at some risk from the Soviet Union and perhaps also from the United States……..

….Nor I think is it sufficient to produce analyses seeking to show that it would not be in the political or economic interest of the Soviet Union to attack Western Europe, though of course every effort must be made to put the Soviet threat into perspective and to show the absurdity of the new Cold War images that are being projected….

Finally I think it has to be said that the Soviet Union has shown itself capable of acting with brutality and cynicism, just like any other superstate one could say, and not only within its so called sphere of influence in Eastern Europe……

Models of Transition and the Role of the State

Two main models of transition are advocated within the nonviolent movement, though there are obviously variants of these.

The transarmament model envisages the possibility of persuading the state to transfer resources currently invested in military defence towards research and preparation for nonviolent defence…..The ultimate aim would be to have the country rely entirely on nonviolent methods for its defence – though there are non-pacifists who see the evolution being towards a mixed strategy of military and non-military defence.

There is more to changing the defence system of a country however than securing transfers of investment, and if transarmament is to become a concrete programme that governments could be pressed to adopt its advocates will have to address themselves also to he question of how the military posture and military strategies of a country or alliance might be modified over time so that they become less provocative and less likely to lead to war; the ‘defensive’ military postures now being widely discussed in the broader peace movement and in some military/strategic circles would be relevant here. But a discussion of this kind would underline the tension for pacifist organisations between their uncompromising anti-militarism – their advocacy for instance at the personal level of non-cooperation with any form of military organisation – and the espousal of a programme of change which envisages military defence for the forseeable future and perhaps even a system of conscription to maintain it.

The libertarian, anti-statist model

The main alternative model looks to the development of nonviolent methods of defence from below by peace and radical movements and rejects collaboration with the state. Its advocates point to contradictions for pacifists of such collaborations, and above all stress the danger that the state might take-over the notion of nonviolent civilian resistance but treat it simply as a technique and incorporate it as a minor element in a total defence strategy which would remain overwhelmingly military in its emphasis, and might indeed have a nuclear element in some cases.

The great problem here is to see how a changeover to a different system could occur……

I share by and large the libertarian vision of the possibilities of developing societies that do not have the concentration of the means of violence, the political specialisation and the generally hierarchic structures that characterise the modern state. But I feel that for the forseeable future we are going to have to deal with states and be prepared to exert pressure on them to modify their structures and change their policies especially their military policies. And there will be tensions, perhaps even contradictions……But this is not to say that the demand for total unilateral disarmament should necessarily be central in the day-to-day campaigning of nonviolent and peace movements; it may be more fruitful at a given moment to press with others for less radical changes that have some prospect of being accepted within the current order of things – the acceptance of no-first-use of nuclear weapons policy, the abolition of battlefield nuclear weapons from Europe, even the adoption of a more reasonable position in bi-lateral or multi-lateral disarmament negotiations……………..

Meeting points. Differences of emphasis will undoubtedly continue within the nonviolent movement on the question of alternative defence. But it is important also that we do not waste too much energy on the internal debates but have a sense of the shared assumptions and objectives.

a) At the individual level we are committed to non-cooperation with the military. In the long term at least this implies societies run on very different lines to those of the present day. This commitment is also an important point of identification for pacifists and nonviolent activists within the broader peace movement.

b) There is consensus that nonviolent defence must remain rooted in the population and the institutions at the base of society – trade unions, cultural, religious, political and similar organisations. Libertarians insist on this to the total exclusion of the state, but advocates of transarmament also say that the nonviolent defence must be popularly based and not in the hands of a state bureaucracy; thus the Belgian movement uses the term ‘popular nonviolent defence’.

c) There is a shared awareness of the danger not only of war but of the militarisation of society, and this may prove an important basis for judging the modified military strategies which are already being discussed and which may assume increasing importance if the anti-nuclear peace movement continues to grow.

Non-provocative Military Defence – An Interim Stage?

The concept of ‘non-provocative defence’, sometimes also referred to as ‘defensive deterrence’, is attracting increasing attention both within the peace movement and outside it. The idea is that the capacity of a military system to conduct offensive operations would be severely restricted, even if one could not eliminate it altogether; thus long range rockets and bombers would be eliminated; fighter aircraft and surface-to-air missiles would be used for anti-aircraft defence; there would be fewer tanks but more anti-tank munitions; and troops would be deployed and equipped in a way that would make it much more difficult for them to be mobilised and used in offensive operations.

It is further agued that since the defence enjoys certain inherent advantages in any conflict, and the offence needs normally something like a three to one superiority to be reasonably sure of success, a purely defensive system could operate with smaller forces Thus one might escape from the process of mutual escalation that characterises the present situation; moreover potential opponents would feel less threatened and this should create a better atmosphere for disarmament and political negotiations.

Clearly such a system would be preferable to the present posture of the NATO alliance with its heavy emphasis on nuclear weapons at every level and its commitment to use nuclear weapons first under some circumstances against a conventional attack……..Yet this specific example serves to highlight the problems involved in the whole exercise of seeking intermediate solutions.

a) If people come to see non-provocative defence as a reasonably secure alternative to nuclear deterrence, they may lose the incentive to search for the more radical alternatives that we favour…..

b) One of the weaknesses of the concept may be that it concentrates too much on the military battlefield as such and pays insufficient attention to the fact that the pattern in the development of warfare in the 20th century has been to turn the whole of society into the battlefield. This fact is illustrated by the increasing civilian casualties in the major wars that have occurred this century…..

c) Some versions of non-provocative defence involve a much higher level of participation by the whole population (or more usually the male section of it) in military preparations; in some sense at least they involve the militarisation of society……

Combining Military and Nonviolent Strategies

If change occurs gradually, there is likely to be a point at which preparations for military and non-military defence exist side by side….

Preparing simultaneously for military and non-military defence may present no insuperable difficulty, but the problems of operating a ‘mixed strategy’ of violent and nonviolent resistance during an actual conflict are another matter. The dynamic of the two approaches is so different that one could easily work against the other…..

Nevertheless the civilian resistance in occupied Europe from 1940-45 followed in most cases an unsuccessful military resistance, and if a nonviolent campaign is separated from the military defence in terms of time and space and organisation, one may avoid some of the major problems of a mixed strategy…..

Limitations of Nonviolent Resistance as a Means of Defence


Limitations as a deterrent

The sanctions that nonviolent resistance imposes are slow acting, and might not deter a potential aggressor intent upon some immediate strategic or practical goal.

Limitations in defending outlying areas, or attacks to gain strategic goals

Nonviolent resistance is far more suited to resisting political and cultural domination of a society, and perhaps denying an opponent economic goals, than to defending tracts of territory…….

Limitations at the level of collective security and peacekeeping

The possibilities for co-operation between states relying mainly or completely on nonviolent defence are at present very limited; there is no equivalent in the nonviolent sphere of the kind of collective security that can be provided by a military alliance, or international military guarantees. Similarly peacekeeping operations within the United Nations or other international bodies at present always involve armed forces. Perhaps unarmed forces could take on the peacekeeping role in some situations, but in others it would be very difficult to imagine how this would work.

Readings in Nonviolence: Leaks reveal reality behind U.S. propaganda in Ukraine


In ‘the West’ we are fed a very distorted picture of the war in Ukraine – not as distorted as in Russia but very partisan and partial nevertheless. Truth may not always be the first casualty of war but it is certainly an early casualty, indeed it can be discarded well before hostilities begin. If we are not rooting for Putin then we should not be biding with Biden either.

This article by well known US peace activist Medea Benjamin and Nicholas Davies tries to look behind the headlines and between the propaganda lines at some of the dreadful reality of what is taking place and what the USA is up to. It does not however go into whether the USA is using the Ukraine war as a way to attempt the isolation of Russia and undermine its power as part of geopolitical one upmanship. Of course the USA may support Ukrainian freedom from Russian control but what else is going on?

By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies – (TRANSCEND Media Service)

The U.S. corporate media’s first response to the leaking of secret documents about the war in Ukraine was to throw some mud in the water, declare “nothing to see here,” and cover it as a depoliticized crime story about a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman who published secret documents to impress his friends. President Biden dismissed the leaks as revealing nothing of “great consequence.”

What these documents reveal, however, is that the war is going worse for Ukraine than our political leaders have admitted to us, while going badly for Russia too, so that neither side is likely to break the stalemate this year, and this will lead to “a protracted war beyond 2023,” as one of the documents says.

The publication of these assessments should lead to renewed calls for our government to level with the public about what it realistically hopes to achieve by prolonging the bloodshed, and why it continues to reject the resumption of the promising peace negotiations it blocked in April 2022.

We believe that blocking those talks was a dreadful mistake, in which the Biden administration capitulated to the warmongering, since-disgraced U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and that current U.S. policy is compounding that mistake at the cost of tens of thousands more Ukrainian lives and the destruction of even more of their country.

In most wars, while the warring parties strenuously suppress the reporting of civilian casualties for which they are responsible, professional militaries generally treat accurate reporting of their own military casualties as a basic responsibility. But in the virulent propaganda surrounding the war in Ukraine, all sides have treated military casualty figures as fair game, systematically exaggerating enemy casualties and understating their own.

Publicly available U.S. estimates have supported the idea that many more Russians are being killed than Ukrainians, deliberately skewing public perceptions to support the notion that Ukraine can somehow win the war, as long as we just keep sending more weapons.

The leaked documents provide internal U.S. military intelligence assessments of casualties on both sides. But different documents, and different copies of the documents circulating online, show conflicting numbers, so the propaganda war rages on despite the leak.

The most detailed assessment of attrition rates of troops says explicitly that U.S. military intelligence has “low confidence” in the attrition rates it cites. It attributes that partly to “potential bias” in Ukraine’s information sharing, and notes that casualty assessments “fluctuate according to the source.”

So, despite denials by the Pentagon, a document that shows a higher death toll on the Ukrainian side may be correct, since it has been widely reported that Russia has been firing several times the number of artillery shells as Ukraine, in a bloody war of attrition in which artillery appears to be the main instrument of death. Altogether, some of the documents estimate a total death toll on both sides approaching 100,000 and total casualties, killed and wounded, of up to 350,000.

Another document reveals that, after using up the stocks sent by NATO countries, Ukraine is running out of missiles for the S-300 and BUK systems that make up 89% of its air defences. By May or June, Ukraine will therefore be vulnerable, for the first time, to the full strength of the Russian air force, which has until now been limited mainly to long-range missile strikes and drone attacks.

Recent Western arms shipments have been justified to the public by predictions that Ukraine will soon be able to launch new counter-offensives to take back territory from Russia. Twelve brigades, or up to 60,000 troops, were assembled to train on newly delivered Western tanks for this “spring offensive,” with three brigades in Ukraine and nine more in Poland, Romania and Slovenia.

But a leaked document from the end of February reveals that the nine brigades being equipped and trained abroad had less than half their equipment and, on average, were only 15% trained. Meanwhile, Ukraine faced a stark choice to either send reinforcements to Bakhmut or withdraw from the town entirely, and it chose to sacrifice some of its “spring offensive” forces to prevent the imminent fall of Bakhmut.

Ever since the U.S. and NATO started training Ukrainian forces to fight in Donbas in 2015, and while it has been training them in other countries since the Russian invasion, NATO has provided six-month training courses to bring Ukraine’s forces up to basic NATO standards. On this basis, it appears that many of the forces being assembled for the “spring offensive” would not be fully trained and equipped before July or August.

But another document says the offensive will begin around April 30th, meaning that many troops may be thrown into combat less than fully trained, by NATO standards, even as they have to contend with more severe shortages of ammunition and a whole new scale of Russian airstrikes. The incredibly bloody fighting that has already decimated Ukrainian forces will surely be even more brutal than before.

The leaked documents conclude that “enduring Ukrainian deficiencies in training and munitions supplies probably will strain progress and exacerbate casualties during the offensive,” and that the most likely outcome remains only modest territorial gains.

The documents also reveal serious deficiencies on the Russian side, deficiencies revealed by the failure of their winter offensive to take much ground. The fighting in Bakhmut has raged on for months, leaving thousands of fallen soldiers on both sides and a burned out city still not 100% controlled by Russia.

The inability of either side to decisively defeat the other in the ruins of Bakhmut and other front-line towns in Donbas is why one of the most important documents predicted that the war was locked in a “grinding campaign of attrition” and was “likely heading toward a stalemate.”

Adding to the concerns about where this conflict is headed is the revelation in the leaked documents about the presence of 97 special forces from NATO countries, including from the U.K. and the U.S. This is in addition to previous reports about the presence of CIA personnel, trainers and Pentagon contractors, and the unexplained deployment of 20,000 troops from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Brigades near the border between Poland and Ukraine.

Worried about the ever-increasing direct U.S. military involvement, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz has introduced a Privileged Resolution of Inquiry to force President Biden to notify the House of the exact number of U.S. military personnel inside Ukraine and precise U.S. plans to assist Ukraine militarily.

We can’t help wondering what President Biden’s plan could be, or if he even has one. But it turns out that we’re not alone. In what amounts to a second leak that the corporate media have studiously ignored, U.S. intelligence sources have told veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that they are asking the same questions, and they describe a “total breakdown” between the White House and the U.S. intelligence community.

Hersh’s sources describe a pattern that echoes the use of fabricated and unvetted intelligence to justify U.S. aggression against Iraq in 2003, in which Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Sullivan are by-passing regular intelligence analysis and procedures and running the Ukraine War as their own private fiefdom. They reportedly smear all criticism of President Zelenskyy as “pro-Putin,” and leave U.S. intelligence agencies out in the cold trying to understand a policy that makes no sense to them.

What U.S. intelligence officials know, but the White House is doggedly ignoring, is that, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, top Ukrainian officials running this endemically corrupt country are making fortunes skimming money from the over $100 billion in aid and weapons that America has sent them.

According to Hersh’s report, the CIA assesses that Ukrainian officials, including President Zelenskyy, have embezzled $400 million from money the United States sent Ukraine to buy diesel fuel for its war effort, in a scheme that involves buying cheap, discounted fuel from Russia. Meanwhile, Hersh says, Ukrainian government ministries literally compete with each other to sell weapons paid for by U.S. taxpayers to private arms dealers in Poland, the Czech Republic and around the world.

Hersh writes that, in January 2023, after the CIA heard from Ukrainian generals that they were angry with Zelenskyy for taking a larger share of the rake-off from these schemes than his generals, CIA Director William Burns went to Kyiv to meet with him. Burns allegedly told Zelenskyy he was taking too much of the “skim money,” and handed him a list of 35 generals and senior officials the CIA knew were involved in this corrupt scheme.

Zelenskyy fired about ten of those officials, but failed to alter his own behavior. Hersh’s sources tell him that the White House’s lack of interest in doing anything about these goings-on is a major factor in the breakdown of trust between the White House and the intelligence community.

First-hand reporting from inside Ukraine by New Cold War has described the same systematic pyramid of corruption as Hersh. A member of parliament, formerly in Zelenskyy’s party, told New Cold War that Zelenskyy and other officials skimmed 170 million euros from money that was supposed to pay for Bulgarian artillery shells.

The corruption reportedly extends to bribes to avoid conscription. The Open Ukraine Telegram channel was told by a military recruitment office that it could get the son of one of its writers released from the front line in Bakhmut and sent out of the country for $32,000.

As has happened in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and all the wars the United States has been involved in for many decades, the longer the war goes on, the more the web of corruption, lies and distortions unravels.

The torpedoing of peace talks, the Nord Stream sabotage, the hiding of corruption, the politicization of casualty figures, and the suppressed history of broken promises and prescient warnings about the danger of NATO expansion are all examples of how our leaders have distorted the truth to shore up U.S. public support for perpetuating an unwinnable war that is killing a generation of young Ukrainians.

These leaks and investigative reports are not the first, nor will they be the last, to shine a light through the veil of propaganda that permits these wars to destroy young people’s lives in faraway places, so that oligarchs in Russia, Ukraine and the United States can amass wealth and power.

The only way this will stop is if more and more people get active in opposing those companies and individuals that profit from war – who Pope Francis calls the Merchants of Death – and boot out the politicians who do their bidding, before they make an even more fatal misstep and start a nuclear war.

lTaken from

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace. Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, and a researcher with CODEPINK. Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies are the authors of “War in Ukraine: Making sense of a senseless conflict”, OR Books, November 2022. The CODEPINK website is at A photo of Medea Benjamin speaking at the 2018 Dublin conference on US/NATO bases appears at

Readings in Nonviolence: Practical wisdom in peacebuilding


Theorising civil society peacebuilding – The practical wisdom of local peace practitioners in Northern Ireland, 1965-2015 by Emily E. Stanton. Routledge, 219 pages.

Reviewed by Stefania Gualberti

In this book Stanton explores whose knowledge and what kind of knowledge is considered valuable within peacebuilding theory and practice. The author reviewed academic literature focusing on peacebuilding theory development within bottom up, grassroot and civil society approaches.

Looking at peacebuilding and civil society, she asks the questions: who is a peacebuilder? and what knowledge do they need to have to build peace?

Theory and practice can operate in silos. Peacebuilding practitioners are not seen as valued knowledge makers but more often as people in need to receive knowledge. The author using Aristotle’s concept of phronesis, practical wisdom, makes the argument that peacebuilding practitioners have a valid and valuable kind of knowledge, unique in the peacebuilding knowledge creation.

Stanton brings to the academic attention a form of knowledge which would otherwise be overlooked. It is not an easy read for its academic language, but a thorough study of peacebuilding in Northern Ireland, a true and needed celebration and recognition of the value of interventions and the lesson learnt from the grassroot and civil society in those troubled fifty years.

The eBook and paperback options are now available at around £30 making the book more accessible from the previous only hardback copy (£130).

The reader learns to recognize the lost concept of phronesis.

Aristotle defined three different kinds of knowledge:

episteme – scientific logical knowledge,

techne – skill based, artistic knowledge and

phronesis – practical based knowledge, wisdom.

In modern language we find the first two kinds of knowledge while the last has disappeared.

Aristotle thought all three kinds of knowledge are useful (episteme, techne and phronesis). Phronesis is knowledge gained through experience over time, it is always context dependent and cannot be considered scientific or theorized, that might explain why it was lost as part of creating knowledge. Enlightenment also gave a lot of importance to episteme.

Phronesis, practical wisdom, is knowledge needed for judgement and decision making in action and it is aimed at a good life for individual and the collective.

Phronesis is used by the local peacebuilding practitioner to read the context and navigate its complexity.

When situations are “swampy lowland-confusing messes”, phronesis is vital as practitioners know what to do “learning from experience, trial and error, intuition and muddling through”. In conflict the sense of uncertainty requires phronesis. To do the right thing at the right time practitioners need to understand the general context and the specific situation, decide what’s needed to be done by themselves and others and implement it. Judgement on what to do are drawn by recognition of patterns on context. Peacebuilding practitioners use this knowing-in-action judgements even when they can’t tell why.

Phronesis is conceptualized by the author as an embodied wisdom with five dimensions:

– gained by experience,

– embodied – intuition gut instinct bodily sensation,

– organically developed through experimentation- awareness that outcomes are nonlinear, and that value of intervention is difficult to measure,

– uses tacit recognition of context patterns- at first, they might appear invisible, but they can be drawn with reflection,

– demonstrate context relational judgement- what to do is decided based on experience and it is very context dependent.

Reintroducing phronesis in peacebuilding means being able to name and make visible the practical wisdom.

Stanton uses the phronesis framework to review the history of peacebuilding in Northern Ireland. She divides in six the period between 1965 and 2015. Each period is described according to the stage of conflict, phase of peacebuilding and she narrates examples of activities that civil society organized.

In this part of the book, she gives voice to the peacebuilder practitioners and the lessons learnt.

She interviewed forty reflective practitioners with experience in peace and conflict transformation. To ensure representation each practitioner was mapped for the sector they were involved in (Education and research, Economics, Justice and equality, Community Relations, Community development, Culture: media, arts and sport, Contested and Shared spaces, Dealing with the past, Gender, Former combatants, Funders, Faith based, Victims; their gender; their background (PUL, CNR, Other); their geography; their years in practice (<10 years- 10 to 17 years; 18 + years).

Those lessons learnt in the 50 years of peacebuilding are summarized in three points:

  1. Close attention to process is necessary, it may require invisibility at times.

  2. Relationships are crucial but paradoxical, they both extend and limit agency.

  3. Peacebuilding in short term appears ephemeral, it can create social change in the long term.

Peacebuiding practitioners use phronesis to bring change in their context. She highlighted the importance of trust and outlined the four phronetic dimensions of trust: personal, proxy, process and pragmatic trust. The increased professionalization of peacebuilding is a challenge to make phronetic knowledge important. Another challenge to peacebuilding is the community gatekeepers.

Stanton doesn’t negate the importance of theory or technical skill, but in peacebuilding, she argues, those form of knowledge are incomplete without phronesis, which brings contextual relevancy. Phronesis is the primary source of knowledge used in peacebuilding, the analysis of the context will inform which methodologies and skills needs to be used in the intervention. Phronesis becomes a set of lenses through which the context is read to then determine how to intervene. The phronesis lenses look at four elements: relationship, place/spaces, time/timing, fault lines. All those elements are influenced by local identity construction, cultural norm, and world view.

Grassroot and civil society peacebuilders hold a valuable knowledge for peace, they are uniquely positioned as they are in between challenges and possibilities for change.

Integrated peacebuilding gives importance to the middle level leadership as it has the possibility to connect to both the grassroot and political level. That middle position has potential as well as challenge to be mistrusted (Whose side? Whose agenda are they operating for?).

Professionalisation of peacebuilding increased in Northern Ireland by European funding and their request for bureaucracy and technocratic skills which have subordinated local grassroot practitioner knowledge, taking away the focus to being responsive to the context.

Looking at phronesis means gaining a lens to look at everyday peacebuilding in conflict situations to analyse, adapt and innovate. This form of knowledge is used by practitioners to make judgement on what to do to create change; when valued it is hoped to be retransferred to both practitioners and theorists of peacebuilding. Phronesis in peacebuilding includes long term thinking, and the impact of intervention might be seen in decades and practitioners in the research referred as two steps forward and one step back to indicate the slow pace of social change.

Practitioners interviewed were aware of the importance of the phronetic knowledge while funders, evaluators and monitors seems to prefer theoretical and paradigm knowledge, not taking into consideration the fluid dynamic and organic relational processes of everyday peacebuilding. When peace is seen as product, avoiding the cost to invest in it for the risk of failure, this decreases space for learning and flexibility.

We could recommend this book to all peacebuilders, hoping it will bring awareness on the important contributions of grassroot and civil society in Northern Ireland and the need to connect the different kinds of knowledge and wisdom for a combined and cooperative effort towards peace.

Ed. note: Information on Emily Stanton’s Troubles peace trail for Belfast, “Untold stories of Belfast peacemaking” is available at and the entry beside that.

Readings in Nonviolence: Peacebuilding and community development


Peacebuilding, Conflict and Community Development

ed. John Eversley, Sinéad Gormally and Avila Kilmurray

243 pages, £26.99.

Rethinking Community Development, Policy Press, 2022

Reviewed by Rob Fairmichael

The contribution of the community sector and community development to society can be analysed and even quantified, with some difficulty, but it is clear that a healthy civil society at all levels is part of maximising well being. There are many questions arising about what should be done by communities and what should be done by the state, and the relationship between the two. In any case the state may not have the financial resources, or even desire, to do much that is positive. Everything gets rather more complicated in divided societies and situations of conflict, especially as the state may be a big – or the largest – part of the problem for people at community level.

Work in the community can be constrained by authoritarian controls or by the level of conflict in violent societies. On the other hand, in very violent situations some aspects of community action and development may be the best or only possible arena of work when other more political or wider involvements are impossible. Addressing general human needs and issues arising from the conflict can be of vital societal importance; this was certainly the case in Northern Ireland during the Troubles – and it can be strongly argued that work at community level was an important factor in the level of violence not escalating further.

That is all where this book comes in. It is a thorough work with nine case studies sandwiched between chapters written by the editors (and a chapter on ‘everyday peace’). It is a mixture of more academic and practical analysis and the case studies – Colombia, the Caucasus, Nigeria, Eastern Sri Lanka, Brazil, Nepal, Palestine, Northern Ireland, and Myanmar Rohingya – are very varied both geographically and what is covered. The book is not always easy reading but it repays a bit of concentration and packs in a lot – and their initial chapter, an introduction to the whole issue, is a very compact, competent and comprehensive summary which can be recommended as a primer on the topic.

It may be familiar to some activists but the editors give definitions of peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding (page 7) along with many other terms and concepts. They have a table (page 17) detailing community development interventions at different stages of conflict; this could be usefully compared with Emily Stanton’s outlining of peacemaking interventions that took place in the Belfast/Northern Ireland context Some of the latter were at different levels though mainly ‘in the community’. The root transformation of conflict is, of course, dealt with. (page 9)

However, referring to Emily Stanton’s book (“Theorising civil society peacebuilding…”, 2021) the editors say that their book “illustrates the observation that knowledge of what to do may come from theoretical knowledge (also called propositional knowledge or episteme); practical knowledge of the art or craft of how to do things (techne); or practical knowledge from experience (sometimes called embodied or tacit knowledge or phronesis) which is often the same as indigenous knowledge…” (page 211). Wisdom takes different forms.

The buzz phrase at the Belfast launch of the book was ‘everyday peacemaking’ which is a phrase dealt with in the first chapter after the introduction. ‘Everyday peacemaking’ can be positive, neutral, or manipulated by powerholders but the authors of the chapter say “Everyday peace is presented in the literature as the means by which ordinary individuals and groups navigate everyday life in deeply divided societies, in ways that first avoid or minimise both awkward situations and conflict triggers, and (only) then consider active steps to engage with the other…….However, everyday peace can grow….to evolve into wider peace formation, and become a foundation upon which social cohesion can be (re)built…..” (page 26)

People living in Northern Ireland can be experts in everyday peace. I still frequently retell a story from twenty years ago about the skill of one person in avoiding a possibly awkward sectarian situation. I am deliberately not going into details here but I was in the company of a West Belfast Catholic atheist when we were speaking to a member of the Protestant community that we had just met whose political and social views we did not know. As the good West Belfast Catholic atheist would not tell a lie, about where an event took place, he deliberately used a rhetorical question which might have led the Protestant to believe that the venue was a neutral one rather than in a Catholic area, and might be less inclined to ask. It was done with the best intentions – to avoid awkwardness and possible ill feeling – but it was still a kind of deceit. The skill with which it was done left me gobsmacked, as someone from outside Northern Ireland though living there for a couple of decades at that stage.

The chapter on Northern Ireland by Monina O’Prey is a very comprehensive look at, and analysis of, community action and development through the Troubles and ends with a look at programme for dealing with communities with weak infrastructure. It also has some key learning points from the whole experience (p.187). It is not referred to but it bears repeating that the British government insist on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (and succeeding resolutions) on the involvement of women in peacebuilding and peace processes, and awareness of their needs, to be at the forefront internationally in all instances – but not in its own backyard of Northern Ireland. This is of course is as ironic and exceptionalist as you can get.

We are also talking about what are likely to be long term processes, and work at one stage coming to fruition some time later through conscientised activists and capacity building. In writing about the work in Sri Lanka (page 112) the authors of the chapter speak of how the women leaders during the war continue today: “It is those very same women who worked during the war that continue to maintain solidarities in the post-war context. NGOs have closed down. Funding has dried up. There is hardly any international presence in the east any more. It is those activist women leaders across Muslim and Tamil communities that have again taken on the role of articulating rights, justice and peace….” and dealing with crises. For human community infrastructure to remain when a funding circus moves on is a massive achievement.

The words ‘nonviolent’ and ‘nonviolence’ make occasional appearances in the book but it is all relevant to those concerned with building societies which not only seek to get beyond violence but move to inclusion and social justice.

The issues concerned are complex, and the book’s contents deal with a range of different issues in a wide range of countries including the involvement of youth, women, dealing with state violence, human rights, even storytelling in the Palestinian context as a vehicle for community development. This all points to the importance of appropriate and imaginative interventions and the fact that one size only fits one situation and certainly not all. However activists in any conflicted situation will find many resonances in the different areas of the world which are covered in the book.

The chapter on working on Myanmar Rohingya issues ends on a very upbeat note in what has been, and continues to be, a dire situation. A programme of relationship building between Rakhine and Rohingya villages actually led to the Rakhine villagers advocating on behalf of the Rohingya about regaining their access to education which was “a significant act of solidarity and highlights the important and transformational outcomes that can occur as a result of micro-solidarities and actions accumulating over time.” (page 205) And that remarkable and upbeat note is a good point to end this review apart from stating that so-called ‘normal’ societies can also have elements of the conflict and divisions covered in the many examples in this book . So this work may repay reading for activists in a wide variety of societies, not just those which are labelled as conflicted – although the latter are estimated at up to a third of the world’s population (page 2).

Readings in Nonviolence: Nonviolence as the only way

What is nonviolence? And what is nonviolence at a time of war? It is easy to get disillusioned, or sidetracked, but our thinking can be quite clear and simple, as in Maria Giovanna Farina’s article below. INNATE previously produced a pamphlet, “My kind of nonviolence”, which allowed people from around the island of Ireland to ‘think aloud’ about what nonviolence means to them. This pamphlet is available in the Pamphlets section of the INNATE website at

Nonviolence as the only way

by Maria Giovanna Farina

29 Jan 2023 – Nonviolence seems distant and agonizing in a historical situation where only Pope Francis makes appeals for peace. The war that we are most concerned about at this moment in history is the one being fought in Ukraine; by now the peace negotiations have been shelved to a time to be determined, to a vague tomorrow where, by the time the situation is taken in hand, everything will have been destroyed and many more human beings will have died under the bombs.

Nonviolence seems to have become an empty word and this cannot, must not, be accepted. Powerful tanks are about to begin their journey to Ukraine where it will take months of training to deploy them, so the war is far from over. Some fear the widening of the conflict, a concern that can be shared, a fear that has yielded to the demands of the Ukrainian president. His needs have now gone as far as the explicit call to be sent weapons no longer for counterattack but for attack, a clear signal that this is no longer just about defense.

I do not point the finger at the contenders, I do not want to be on the side of one or the other, but I must point out the “amnesia” of those who forget history and the wars that have bloodied it, here on our own peaceful continent. The much acclaimed dialogue is not being put into practice; I know well that Russia started this war, but I know equally and very well that only real peace treaties can prevent a dangerous and deadly escalation.

Socrates taught us that if we accept war we turn our backs on what our nature can give us with tools to avoid the worst. And, the philosopher continues [by saying that] if some wars are justifiable, we are solely responsible for our choices. Five centuries before Christ, it was already clear to a philosophically enlightened human being how much war was a choice, and it is important to reflect on this. What does it mean to choose? First of all we must remember that it is a fundamental passage of existence, a formative passage capable of making us responsible for our actions and free. Yes, choice is linked to freedom; if we can choose it means that we are free to do so, and if we do not enact the right choice we are responsible for it. Staying out of the Christian conception of free will in which divine intervention also enters and takes us into a transcendent dimension, we instead remain with our feet in the immanent and loudly criticize those who use and sponsor war.

But why do we still resort to weapons? As many say, war is a way to earn money, lots of money, and the lust for power along with the lust for wealth prevents peace and nonviolence from becoming the best choice. One can choose to seek peace or to enhance war; the tools for a peaceful solution are there [and] it would be enough as a first step to stop making excuses. If I insist on accusing my contender, even justifiably, I will not land on anything good.

War, as Gandhi said, is a crime against humanity; nonviolence is the only way to peace. I will never tire of stating this in an optimistic vision of the world born of philosophy.

As I have already pointed out in my other article, war is also an anti-ecological practice; it destroys life and the environment and pollutes the seas; think of the bombs dropped in our Adriatic Sea during the Balkan War, ordnance that lingers on the seabed for who knows how many hundreds of years. Bombs pollute, undermine health and life itself. And what about the immense consumption of fuel, because tanks and missiles do not move by inertia; where does all the green vision go? In an ecological vision that goes beyond nature and the environment, war is also anti-ecological in the most abstract and mind-bound meaning: we are all connected as beings-in-the-world. Our bad actions affect the whole system, the whole union of body and mind of all human beings. That is why nonviolence is the only possible way not to succumb, not to make the world a death trap but a garden of rebirth.

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This article is taken from Transcend Media Service for 30th January 2023. and originally Maria Giovanna Farina is a philosophical counselor, communication analyst and author of books to help people resolve relationship difficulties.. Her website: