Of course, by the time you read this everything may have changed, but at the time of writing we don’t seem to have made any progress in the last two months.
On 18 December 2018, Gavin Williamson MP, the UK Defence Secretary, discussing the possibility of a no-deal Brexit in the House of Commons, said, "What we will do is have 3,500 service personnel held at readiness, including regulars and reserves, in order to support any government department on any contingencies they may need."
On 17 January, Mark Lancaster MP, Minister of State for Defence, published the formal order to enable the calling-up of reserves to "mitigate the potential immediate impacts" of Brexit.
Following this, the Sunday Times quoted anonymous sources in the civil service saying that preparations are being made for a possible introduction of martial law.
As if this isn’t sufficiently worrying, Gavin Williamson said in a speech on 11 February at the Royal United Services Institute that he intends to send HMS Queen Elizabeth, his new aircraft carrier, round the world to frighten China. He will equip it with a squadron of F35 fighter jets, purchased from America. Also he wants to build two British military bases, one in Asia and the other “in the Caribbean”. They are to “strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality and increase our mass.”
Brexit, says the Defence Secretary, “has brought us to a great moment in our history”, when we must be ready to deploy “hard power” against those who “flout international law”.
But, as Simon Jenkins wrote in The Guardian “The Queen Elizabeth cannot sail until 2021. It has no business whatsoever in the South China Sea, where such a vast and unwieldy ship would be a sitting target. The Chinese could sink it in an hour. As for new military bases in the Caribbean and east of Suez, they would cost billions and be an invitation to terrorists. And regarding Williamson’s eagerness to go to war against ‘international law-breakers’ can he not recall the last three times his department tried that, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya? They were Britain’s stupidest military fiascos since Gallipoli, if not the hundred years war.”
By Kees Van Der Pijl (Manchester University Press, July 2018,
ISBN: 978-1-5261-3109-6, Pbk, 208pp, £18.99)
There was a terrible loss of life when the Malaysian civil airliner MH17, which left Amsterdam on 17 July 2014 bound for Kuala Lumpur, was brought down over Donetsk during the civil war in the Ukraine. What followed was an immediate condemnation of Russia for the disaster, without waiting for the results of the official Dutch investigations into the crash. These results have never been released due to a veto given to Ukraine over its conclusions.
Kees Van Der Pijl, the author of this densely argued and important book, goes into convincing detail regarding this issue, while examining the events in the Ukraine that preceded it.
He notes that on the same day, and following a similar route, the Russian President Vladimir Putin was flying back from a visit to Brazil where he had met with the leaders of Brazil, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) to sign a charter to set up a New Development Bank. He had also met Angela Merkel during the World Cup finals to discuss the Minsk agreement for a settlement of the ongoing Ukrainian civil war, and a proposed Land for Gas agreement with the EU. The latter would have allowed an extension in 2017 of the existing Russian Nord Stream gas supply to Europe via a South Stream through Italy to Austria, in return for a massive rehabilitation of Ukraine’s economy. These proposals were violently opposed by the US.
Whether by accident or design, the downing of MH17 by a land or air missile attack put an immediate end to these agreements and triggered the subsequent western identification of BRICS states as ‘contenders’ to US world hegemony, with Putin as their enemy. Putin’s project for a Eurasian custom union was seen by the US as a restoration of the Soviet Union. The West’s aim was for regime change in these countries. Under the cover of the ‘War on Terror’, designed to consolidate US power in the Middle East, the result has produced disastrous wars that have paradoxically strengthened Russian influence on the international scene, together with that of China.
The concept of a New Cold War is the theme of Van Der Pijl’s examination of the issues behind the downing of MH17. He classifies the current Cold War between East and West as the third one since 1945. The first took place from 1945 to the 1970s when capitalism was forced to compromise, faced with the post-World War II emergence of the USSR as a major international power supporting anti-colonial and working-class struggles. The second was the establishment of the USA as the sole world superpower following the disintegration of the USSR, and the advance of NATO and the EU to the borders of Russia.
The author sees the third Cold War as the fight between speculative international capital carrying out high risk operations in a casino-like society with strong links to public and private security sectors, including state-guaranteed bank bail outs for failed adventures, versus state-directed capitalism as in Russia and China.
The author forensically demolishes media misinformation about the so-called 2008 ‘Russian invasion of Georgia’, the ‘annexing of the Crimea’ and ‘Russian aggression in the Ukraine’. He shows the opposite to be true. As Goebbels stated, if you repeat a lie often enough, it will come to be believed. The western media has turned this into a fine art, particularly regarding anything to do with Russia or its allies. He also gives frightening facts about the militarisation of space, leading to unidentified ‘accidents’ to civil airlines.
This book is proof of the effects of US hegemony on countries like the Ukraine, leading to corruption, the rise of greedy oligarchs, civil wars and Fascism.
Reviewed by Jean Turner
This review first appeared in the SCRSS Digest, No 1, Spring 2019
It Starts Here
Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) is an arms fair held every two years in London Docklands. It returns in September 2019.
The movement to #StopDSEI is growing. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is organising a weekend event to plan the campaign to shut down the arms fair. There will be panel discussions, introductions to key issues such as the war in Yemen, and workshops in skills from social media to ad-hacking and creative resistance. They are hoping to have the participation of migrant solidarity groups, anti-nuclear crews, LGBTQIA+ folk, Palestine solidarity activists, academics, anti-frackers, women, green groups, anti-racism organisers, those moved by their faith. People from the local community will join those from all over the world.
Sat 9 March 2019 10.00am – Sun 10 March 4.30pm
Resource For London, 356 Holloway Road, London, N7 6PA (Tube: Holloway Road).
You can book tickets at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/54750576448
Free lunch will be provided on both days, and there will be childcare support. On the Saturday evening they will move to a local community centre for food, chatting, linking up and some entertainment. Sunday will have longer skills sessions, then a big space to meet up and work out how to work together. If you would like to represent Kingston Peace Council/CND at this event – on one or both days - and then report back to us, please let us know (see the Contacts page for our contact details). Of course, in September we shall be fully supportive of the protest activities.
There will be further ‘Stop the Arms Fair’ meetings on 30 March and 8 June 2019.
If you have doubts about the effectiveness of protests against arms fairs, you may be interested to know :
26 March will mark four years since the Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen began. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) will be in the Court of Appeal from 9 to 11 April 2019 trying to overturn the verdict of the High Court case in 2017, regarding the legality of UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen.
Local authorities across the UK have £500 million worth of staff pensions in arms companies that have profited from the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen. (The Guardian, 10 January 2019)
Welcome news from War on Want in December - HSBC has announced that it has removed its investments from Elbit Systems, a major Israeli drone producer. Its weapons have been used against Palestinians and for surveillance of the US-Mexico border.
Several major companies, including Google, HSBC, CNN and The Financial Times, pulled out of Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment conference in October, following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. BAE Systems is in negotiations to sell more fighter jets to the regime, and did not cancel its visit.
In December the UK Defence Secretary announced a £400 million investment for nuclear-armed submarines, as he unveiled a £25 million BAE Systems academy that will train employees to work on UK Navy submarines.
This year the BAE Systems AGM is on 9 May. If you are interested in attending as a token shareholder, so that you can ask awkward questions of the board, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Raytheon and MBDA are also involved in the Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen.
Raytheon manufactures Paveway IV bombs in Glenrothes, Scotland. HumanRights Watch has linked these bombs to attacks on civilian infrastructure. MBDA Systems produces Brimstone missiles in Bolton and StormShadow missiles in Stevenage. Both are being used in the war.
Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, has asked the German government to exempt big defence projects from its arms sales halt to Saudi Arabia or face damage to its commercial credibility. Berlin’s decision was delaying deliveries of Eurofighter Typhoon, Tornado and Hawk warplanes, and could result in contractual penalties for 500 companies in the supply chain of Britain’s BAE Systems, he said. But Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas said the government was sticking to its weapons exports freeze (introduced after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi). “We will make future decisions depending on how the Yemen conflict develops and whether what has been agreed in the peace talks in Stockholm is being implemented,” Mr Maas said after meeting Mr Hunt in Berlin.
(The Independent, 21 February 2019)
Lots of support for Palestine in the UK but a challenging year lies ahead
This photo is from the 2018 Labour Party conference when a motion calling for a freeze on UK arms sales to Israel was passed with massive support in the main hall amid Palestinian flags and jubilation. Similarly there was a motion in support of Palestine in the main hall at the TUC conference in 2018.
Membership of Palestine Solidarity Campaign increased by 31% in the last year and 400 people had booked for the AGM in Conway Hall. The hall was full and so was the agenda, with excellent speakers including the new UK ambassador for Palestine, Husam Zomlot, Diana Buttu a Palestinian Canadian now based in Ramallah, and an inspiring presentation by student activists. There was of course also discussion of the plan for the year and campaigning issues, and some well-argued debates on the motions being considered.
So yes, support for the cause is increasing but sadly the lives of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and of course Gaza continue to get more difficult. Before I talk about the AGM I want to highlight two issues that marked 2018 and which were referred to during the day.
One was the Great Return March launched from Gaza on 30 March. This took the form of a citizens’ protest at the fence around the enclave. Horrifically protesters including children, aid workers and journalist were shot and killed. Not only have over 200 people been killed but a doctor at the AGM, who had worked in Gaza, reminded us that over 20,000 people, mainly young men, have been deliberately injured. Treatment facilities are limited and these people will find it very difficult to recover and support their families in future.
The other issue was the passing of the Israeli Nation-State Law in 2018. This specifies the nature of the state of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The first motion passed at the AGM condemned the passing of this law and said it makes yet more explicit the nature and actions of the Israeli state, which in relation to Palestinians in Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territories, can be described at best as apartheid and at worst as attempted slow motion genocide. These are both crimes under international law. Of course, Palestinians citizens in Israel have always been treated as second class citizens with fewer rights and poorer services. However the Nation-State Law does clearly define Israel as a state where racism is actually part of the constitution.
Looking at the prospects for 2019 both Palestinian speakers and also Hugh Lanning, the outgoing chair of PSC, were concerned with the attitude and actions of Trump and the US in relation to Palestine. Hugh said Mustafa Barghouti had suggested that what the US wanted was not a ‘two state’ or ‘one state’ solution but a ‘no state’ solution with Palestinians living in a patchwork of Bantustans.
Diana Buttu said she found herself using the names of Trump and Netanyahu interchangeably because they had the same agenda. She felt Trump didn’t really have a plan but was just happy to fit in with what Netanyahu wanted.
There was the decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem for example and recognise it as the capital of Israel, which aims to prevent East Jerusalem ever being the capital of a Palestinian state. Diana Buttu suggested we ask the Foreign Office if our diplomats would be visiting the new Jerusalem embassy.
Another US move has been first to cut, and then to stop completely, the funding of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). Diana said this meant funding for education and other necessary services was reduced or had to be made up by other donors. She pointed out though that the aim behind the cancellation was to get rid of the idea that those needing help were Palestinian refugees with the rights of refugees. The US would rather see them as just Palestinians so the whole ‘right of return’ concept no longer exists.
Trump has closed the Palestinian embassy in Washington so Palestinians do not have a voice at the highest level of diplomacy in the USA. Hasam Zomlot was the ambassador in Washington when it was closed. He was then posted to London.
Diana also highlighted the continuing situation on the ground with settlements and Israeli only roads separating one Palestinian area from another. Although there is talk of a Trump Plan she felt that all Trump and Netanyahu wanted was some kind of ‘peace process’ but there was absolutely no intention of giving up an inch of land by the Israelis as they continued to build new settlements and demolish Palestinian homes.
She urged us to continue and grow the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.
Ambassador Zomlot had lots of energy and had obviously been very busy meeting people and speaking to groups, since arriving in the UK at the time of the November lobby. He thought next year the PSC AGM should be streamed live so people in Palestine could see it. He said that all he was asking of the UK government is that they should uphold international law with reference to Palestine and Israel. This seems quite a reasonable ask. He said that if the UK recognised Israel as a state it should also recognise Palestine.
There was a very encouraging presentation by students from several different universities. Some students had been investigating the financial affairs of their university and were outraged to learn that it had invested in part of the Caterpillar conglomerate, which is involved in the house demolition programme in the West Bank. The action of these students inspired other student groups to find out about the funding of their universities, and for example students at Leeds were able to stop their university investing in the Israeli arms firm Elbit after a well organised protest campaign. Maybe it would be worth the local PSC group meeting with students at Kingston to see if they were doing anything similar or if not would be interested in the idea.
The AGM finished with thanks and a presentation to Hugh Lanning who is retiring as PSC chair. He will be followed by the current vice-chair Kamel Hawwash. It certainly was an interesting day and I’m sure those who would like a copy of the 2018 Annual Report could get one from PSC.
This is just my view of the day. I apologise for any mistakes. Please get in touch with KPN if there are points you would like to correct.
Mary Holmes, 2 February 2019
KPC member Bob Dean is due to run the London Landmarks Half Marathon for Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) on 24 March.
MAP provides medical aid to Palestinians living under occupation and as refugees. As well as immediate medical aid it also provides training to ensure the long-term development of the Palestinian healthcare system.
The World Health Organisation is reporting that the Palestinian health services are on the brink of collapse. On Friday 11 January, one Palestinian woman was killed, and at least 25 others injured, including one paramedic, as a result of the use of live fire by Israeli forces at the ongoing “Great March of Return” demonstrations in Gaza. On top of the pressures on Gaza’s health situation caused by large numbers of casualties and more than a decade of illegal blockade there is now a shortage of fuel so that electricity is severely rationed.
Bob has started longer distance training and would be very grateful if you could add a donation on the Just Giving page:
Report by Maya Evans of Voices for Creative Non Violence UK
A new round of Afghan peace talks has been underway first in Doha, Qatar, and then in Moscow, Russia; respectively between the Taliban and the US Government, and then between Afghan politicians and the Taliban.
Amid the analysis and comments most are talking about how the Afghan Government has been left out of talks, and how realistic are Taliban demands for all US troops to be withdrawn in exchange for a Taliban promise that they will never again harbour terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda. While it’s interesting to muse over what a peace agreement between groups which have been at loggerheads for nearly four decades might look like, few are asking:
“Where’s the voice of the Afghan people?”
Today, Afghan women and youth combined make up the majority of the Afghan population. But neither the older generation of Talibs, the US appointed special reconciliation envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, nor the Afghan politicians (all older men) represent the experience or perspective of an average Afghan. It’s hard to see where the interests of ordinary Afghans, at the tail end of four decades of war and violence, are being represented. In fact, of the fifty Afghan delegates attending the talks in Moscow, only two were women.
Afghan women’s groups are voicing their grave concerns and worries as their rights are being glossed over and potentially sacrificed for a peace deal being forged in the interest of the US Trump administration’s will to withdraw their military from Afghanistan. Women’s greatest fear is that the Taliban regime of the nineteen-nineties will be re-installed with all the horrors for women that that entailed. Afghan women’s rights groups are demanding as an absolute minimum a written statement by the Taliban agreeing equality and rights for women.
The talks between historically misogynistic warring groups already seem disingenuous as the Taliban continue to carry out violent attacks across the country, most recently with twenty border police killed in Southern Kandahar by Taliban.
As in all war-torn countries, women and children suffer disproportionately. Afghanistan is still ranked the worst place in the world to be a woman.
An estimated two thirds of Afghan girls do not attend school, 87% of Afghan women are illiterate, while 70-80% face forced marriage often in their early teens.
Last September a watchdog report called the USAID’s $280 million ‘Promote’ program – which was the largest single investment that the US government has ever made to advance women’s rights globally – a flop and a “waste of taxpayer’s money”. While according to the Afghan Government, in 2014, 80% of the suicides were women.
And what about the Afghan Government who have up to now been excluded from peace talks? Just last week President Ashraf Afghani was in Munich and talked about the importance of including the Afghan people in peace negotiations, saying: “Peace needs to be citizen-centered, not elite-centered”, but he fudged the issue of women merely saying that they will attend a national debate. In practice his administration, like all those before, has failed to take responsibility for implementing and protecting women’s rights.
This time last year Afghanistan passed into law a new criminal code that the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) hailed as a milestone in the country’s criminal justice reform. However, one chapter of the code was removed before it was passed: the chapter penalizing violence against women, including marital rape.
In 2015, 27-year-old Farkhunda Malikzada was beaten to death by a mob in Kabul after being falsely accused of burning the Quran. The government did little to bring about justice and ignored demands for more action to combat violence against women.
On Valentine’s day 23 year old poet and student Mazhar read his poem in a small auditorium at Kabul University as an emblem of dissent:
Every step, every destination, I love you.
To spite the murderous traditions, I love you.
You are pious, your kisses are your prayer.
You are different, your kisses are your protest.
You are not afraid of love, of hope, of tomorrow.
I kiss you amid the Taliban, you are not afraid!
Expecting a shoe to be thrown at his head by fellow students he also delivered this message; that the mostly older leaders who sat with the Taliban in Moscow did not represent the values that shaped his generation. His classmates greeted him with applause.
In the last 18 years young urban Afghans have grown up with a degree of education and freedom of expression, something they very much fear will be lost with these peace talks going the way they are.
If meaningful peace is to succeed in Afghanistan it must include the voices and interests of the people, and at the moment women and young people together are the majority.
Maya Evans, 20 February 2019
VCNV UK will soon be setting off to Kabul to be in solidarity with the Afghan Peace Volunteers. Themes they will be exploring this trip include:
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND