Stop the War Coalition hosted a webinar on November 30 in which Jeremy Corbyn and Tariq Ali discussed What is the American Foreign Policy after election of Joe Biden?
It won't be a surprise to anyone that although it's a great relief that President Trump will be leaving the White House on 21 January following his convincing election defeat, Joe Biden is unlikely to be what we would term a President for Peace.
Tariq Ali explained that the most progressive step is likely to be the re-instatement of the Iran Nuclear Deal, which Trump stymied under pressure from Israel. This deal, supported by, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany is important as it hopefully ensured that Iran will refrain from acquiring nuclear weapons, thus destabilising the Middle East even further. The USA, after pulling out of the agreement, then put crippling economic sanctions onto Iran. ( Tariq also mentioned in this context that in President Obama's new book, just being published, he says that his biggest problem in office was the constant nagging interventions by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.) Tariq warned that Biden is likely to continue with the hostility to China started by Trump over trade and technology and will need to draw in many Asian countries as allies in this.
Jeremy Corbyn warned that Biden has promised a high level of military expenditure and to maintain American "leadership" around the world. He will re-establish better relations with Nato and Europe, and continue the quasi-cold-war with Russia. He will also continue the disastrous and destructive war on Yemen in co-operation with Saudi Arabia, all aided by our appalling continuing arm sales to Saudi Arabia. He then went on to warn of forthcoming austerity, insecurity, poverty, inequality, in both our countries, fuelled by the problems of Covid-19 and climate change.
Seeing Through The Rubble: The Civilian Impact of the Use of Explosive Weapons in the Fight Against ISIS is the new 46-page report from Airwars, a not-for-profit transparency organisation which monitors military actions and related civilian harm claims in conflict zones, and Dutch peace organisation PAX.
This report looks at the impacts of the US-led air campaign against ISIS since 2014, focusing on Raqqa in Syria and Mosul and Hawijah in Iraq.
Ian Sinclair writes "Given their interest in the well-being of Iraqi and Syrian civilians when the government was proposing joining the bombing, you might assume British journalists have been tripping over each other to cover and comment on the report, so I asked Chris Woods, the founder and director of Airwars, about the level of coverage the report has received in the British media. He told me .
“As far as I understand no UK news organisation picked it up though there has been widespread coverage in the Netherlands.
He adds: “It speaks, I’m afraid, to a worrying complacency towards civilian harm from UK military actions — from Parliament, the press and from the Ministry of Defence itself.”
Perhaps the media have ignored the report because it isn’t newsworthy, or of little interest to the British public?
Let’s have a look at some of the report’s key findings to see if this is the case.
“Most Western militaries claim that their operations have been conducted in compliance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and that they are already well-equipped [with precision weapons] to limit civilian harm from explosive weapons during operations fought” in urban areas, the report’s introduction explains.
However, the authors note “precision has not prevented significant levels of reported civilian harm in Syrian and Iraqi cities from the use of explosive weapons.” In addition to appalling injuries caused by blast as well as by direct hits and shrapnel, the report confirms, “the civilian harm caused by explosive weapons use in towns and cities extends well beyond the time and place of the attack. They are a main driver of forced displacement and have a profound impact upon critical infrastructure services such as health care, education, water and sanitation services.”
During the battle to drive ISIS from the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2016-17 “the 500-pound general-purpose bombs that the US-led coalition used contained around 200 pounds of high explosive, and were lethal up to a 230-metre radius,” the authors observe.
Which doesn’t sound very precise . Indeed, in July 2017 Amnesty International concluded that Iraqi government and the US-led coalition “appear to have repeatedly carried out indiscriminate, disproportionate or otherwise unlawful attacks, some of which may amount to war crimes.”
Airwars and PAX estimate between 9,000 and 12,000 civilians died in the fighting — “with most killed by explosive weapons with wide area effects.”
Approximately 700,000 people were initially displaced from the city, with the United Nations estimating around 130,000 homes were destroyed.
Shamefully, the report notes “despite declaring that it had struck more than 900 targets in Mosul during the battle for the city, the official UK position remains that no civilians were harmed in its own urban strikes.”
The report’s conclusions about the US-led coalition’s actions in Mosul are damning: the “unwillingness on the part of most Western militaries to investigate properly whether their own use of explosive weapons in populated areas resulted in civilian harm critically undermines any claim that their implementation of IHL is enough to protect civilians against these weapons.”
Turning to the coalition assault to take the Syrian city of Raqqa back from ISIS between June and October 2017, the report highlights how “by spring 2017, the US-led coalition was acutely aware of the risks to civilians of intense bombardment of heavily populated areas — even while using precision munitions.” But these harsh lessons were not learned nor applied at Raqqa,. Airwars and Amnesty International conservatively estimate at least 1,600 civilians died as a result of coalition strikes on the city.
The local monitoring network Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently reported that 90 percent of the city had been levelled in the fighting, with eight hospitals, 29 mosques, five universities, more than 40 schools, and the city’s water irrigation system all destroyed.
According to the UN 436,000 people were displaced during the fighting.
The report notes: “The great majority of both the urban destruction and civilian harm in Raqqa resulted largely from the actions of just one party to the fighting: the United States.”
Far from not being newsworthy, or of no interest to the British public, the report includes very important information about the huge loss of civilian life caused by US and British military intervention in Iraq and Syria.
Indeed, given that the British government, supportive MPs and pro-war media outlets bear significant responsibility for this death and destruction, you would think they would be particularly interested in the outcome of their policies, votes and journalism.
The reality is far more telling. An inverse relationship can be divined: the more responsibility the British government and media have for the deaths of people around the world, the less interest the British government and media take in these deaths.
All of which suggests the media is as much a well-oiled propaganda machine as it is a reliable news source.
Seeing Through the Rubble can be read at airwars.org. Follow Journalist Ian Sinclair on Twitter @IanJSinclair.
Thanks to the Morning Star for these two reports (edited)
Alternative Remembrance ceremonies took place across Britain on Sunday 8th November to commemorate all victims of war.
The official Remembrance Sunday memorial went ahead at the Cenotaph in London, though much reduced owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
Supporters of the Peace Pledge Union and other pacifist campaign groups staged alternative ceremonies.
The PPU also staged a one-hour online remembrance which included film of alternative events.
The online memorial included a moving contribution from Amina Atiq, a Yemeni Liverpudlian, who condemned the British government’s involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen through the licensing of the sale of British-made bombs and other weapons.
“I remember growing up in school and I always identified myself as British,” she said. “But I am Yemeni- British -Yemeni-Scouse.
“When the war began I asked myself how can my British government profit from a war that is killing my home country, destroying buildings that are older than Britain, destroying young people’s hopes?
“Why is it that the war is continuing? Why has it not stopped?
“The answer is very simple – profit.
“I am urging people to challenge their MPs. The Yemeni people cannot wait any longer. I am not saying that as a Yemeni person, but as a human being.”
Among the alternative memorials which took place was an event in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh, at a site where Opposing War, a bronze tree sculpture, is to be installed soon.
Quakers and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament were among other organisations who staged events on or before November 11, including in Bridgend, Bury St Edmunds, Aldershot, Leamington Spa and Leicester.
Symon Hill of the PPU said that its project to ensure pupils hear more than one perspective on remembrance was growing, with 280 schools requesting its remembrance education packs, up from 59 last year, and despite some outlets being closed white poppy sales were only slightly less than last year.
The altruism that Cuba has shown during the Covid-19 pandemic is just the latest chapter in a long history of international co-operation and solidarity from the small island nation.
The Henry Reeve Brigade was created in 2005 and is formed of voluntary healthcare workers who provide urgent relief to countries affected by natural disasters. The brigade has saved more than 80,000 lives, fighting deadly diseases like Ebola in West Africa, and helping in the aftermath of the Kashmir earthquake in 2005.
This year more than 3,700 Cuban doctors, nurses and technicians have volunteered alongside health workers in 39 countries to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
In March, the first brigade of 51 Cuban doctors and nurses arrived in Lombardy, Italy, at the time the epicentre of the pandemic, to cheering crowds.
Their acts of solidarity have rightly caught the attention of academics, trade unionists, MPs, actors and musicians across the world. including in Britain Len McCluskey of the Unite Union and actor Maxine Peake.
As well as signatures to the online petition, the campaign is also encouraging nominations to the Nobel Prize committee in Oslo.
Already three members of Parliament, two members of the Scottish Parliament and three academics have submitted formal nominations from Britain.
Chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Cuba Grahame Morris MP said in his submission: “The Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade’s response to Covid-19 is unparalleled and their inspirational internationalism warrants the global recognition of a Nobel Peace Prize.”
At a time when the small island nation sends healthcare workers to some of the world’s worst-affected areas, the Trump administration continues its policy of blame and division.
The US State Department has actively spread false and inaccurate information about Cuba’s medical internationalism, claiming it to be part of “international people-trafficking.”
It has pressurised third countries to stop co-operating with Cuba.
It has been heartening to see Cuban medics being welcomed in European countries like Italy and Andorra. And very good to see that the current Westminster government has worked with Cuba to facilitate the deployment of Cuban medical brigades to British overseas territories including the Turks and Caicos Islands, Virgin Islands, Montserrat and Anguilla.
All this international co-operation, sharing and exchange between Cuba, Britain, and with many countries across the globe is a vital counterweight to the US blockade.
Sign the open letter supporting the call for the Nobel Peace prize to be awarded to the Cuban medical brigades at cuba-solidarity.org.uk/nobel-peace-prize.
Thanks to David W Golding of Newcastle University for this letter in the Metro, 30 November. (edited)
"I'm amazed that in all the discussion about the government pledging to cut international aid, the truth about the climate crisis is rarely mentioned, despite the fact that rich countries are largely responsible.
According to the International Red Cross, two million people each week in low income countries need emergency assistance because of the climate crisis. And this at a time when the UK is supposed to be taking a lead on tackling the climate emergency.
Support for developing countries adapting to changing conditions has always been accepted as required by developed economies. And other truths fail to get a mention - unfair trade rules, fiddles by corporations and repayments of historic debts all cost poor countries far more than they receive in aid. And then the UK poaches their brightest and best-trained people.
Aminata Traore, former Malian government minister put it as "Hypocrisy. they are killing us while saying they are developing us but they are lying. We are not being developed. we are being subjugated more and more"
At the end of the AGM of this excellent organisation we watched a short film which left me, and I think everyone else present, deeply moved.
Kingston Community Refugee Sponsorship (KCRS) is preparing to receive a Syrian refugee family but at present the scheme is on hold because of Covid. KCRS has raised the money needed to welcome a family plus a bit extra as a reserve. The organisation also has to ensure there are volunteers and plans ready to help the new family cope with life in the UK. Kingston Council is now satisfied that all the necessary preparations have been completed but final approval from the Home Office is still needed.
Ed Davey MP opened the meeting saying he would be there to help if needed which was encouraging. A Syrian girl who had arrived as a refugee told us about adapting to life in Kingston and what she had found helpful. The normal business of the AGM was conducted with enthusiasm and efficiency by the Chair, Vincent Daley, who was re-elected.
We then watched a short film made by a Syrian refugee describing the events that had overtaken him and his family. They were not activists but simply fell foul of the authorities and were imprisoned, later fled to Lebanon and were eventually put on the UN scheme for vulnerable families because of the health problems resulting from torture and mistreatment. The maker of the film said that, for him as a father, the terrible pain he felt witnessing his son’s suffering in prison had been the most traumatic part of the long ordeal.
It’s good to feel that we’ve been able to contribute to the Refugee Sponsorship scheme. KPC gave £100 last year. The trustees are not asking for further contributions from supporters at present while they wait to have a family allocated.
Here is another suggested answer we can use from the ICAN booklet "Talking to Friends and Family”
The military-industrial complex and the arms industry will prevent any serious progress on nuclear disarmament. It is unrealistic to expect to be able to overcome such powerful economic interests
"There are indeed economic and commercial factors working against nuclear disarmament. Nuclear weapons are big business! It is only natural that people who stand to lose money if nuclear weapon stockpiles are reduced or eliminated will oppose any moves in that direction. The same challenge is found in many social and environmental causes. But elite economic interests can be overcome. Prohibiting nuclear weapons under international law is a key step in persuading banks, financial institutions, and other investors to divest from corporations involved in producing or maintaining nuclear weapons.
Annual research shows that a number of financial institutions are already choosing to divest from nuclear weapons .The TPNW’s foundation in humanitarian principles and international humanitarian law, and its focus on the catastrophic effects of any use of nuclear weapons also helps to counter economic arguments for nuclear weapons. Preserving jobs and boosting economic prosperity is something all politicians like to do (or at least to talk about doing), but defending the manufacture of instruments of mass murder and indiscriminate destruction as a job creation scheme or regional economic stimulus starts to look like a grotesque perversion of responsible government.
Many corporations, too, will find that the stigmatising effect of the TPNW becomes an increasingly unwelcome burden on their public image, and eventually will move to distance themselves from any business connected with nuclear weapons. Public awareness-raising and consumer boycott campaigns can accelerate this process."
This stark message from António Guterres follows a year of global upheaval, with the coronavirus pandemic causing governments to shut down whole countries for months at a time, while wildfires, hurricanes and powerful storms have scarred the globe.
Guterres said: “Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back – and it is already doing so with growing force and fury. Biodiversity is collapsing. One million species are at risk of extinction. Ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes. Human activities are at the root of our descent toward chaos. But that means human action can help to solve it.”
He listed the human-inflicted wounds on the natural world: the spread of deserts; wetlands lost; forests cut down; oceans overfished and choked with plastic; dying coral reefs; air pollution killing 9 million people a year, more than the current pandemic; and the fact that 75% of new and emerging human infectious diseases have, like Covid-19, come from animals.
Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century,” he said, in a virtual address entitled The State of the Planet, at Columbia University in New York. “It must be the top, top priority for everyone, everywhere.”
He said that future generations would face ruin from our actions today. “This is ultimately a moral test. We cannot use resources to lock in policies that burden future generations with a mountain of debt on a broken planet.”
He also put inequality firmly at the heart of the problem, warning that the poorest and most vulnerable – even in rich countries – were facing the brunt of the attack.
He warned that greenhouse gas emissions were 62% higher than when international climate negotiations began in 1990. A report from the World Meteorological Organisation, also just published, found 2020 was on track to be one of the three warmest years on record globally, despite the cooling effects of the "La Nina" weather system, while the past decade was the hottest in human history and ocean heat was found to be at record levels.
Even with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic emissions are set to rise again this year.
However, Guterres also struck a note of hope. Many countries, including the biggest emitter, China, the EU, and the US president-elect, Joe Biden, have adopted targets of reaching net-zero emissions around the middle of the century. Renewable energy is now cheaper than coal in many regions, and new technologies such as electric vehicles are gaining pace.
He said: “I firmly believe that 2021 can be a new kind of leap year – the year of a quantum leap towards carbon neutrality. Sound economic analysis is our ally.”
Investors and governments must seize the opportunity to “flick the green switch” while there was still time, he said. He looked ahead to the vital UN Cop26 climate talks, to be hosted by the UK next year, as the moment when nations should make a decisive turn towards a green global economy.
On December 21 Guterres, along with the French government and Boris Johnson, were hosting a summit of world leaders to prepare for the Cop26 talks that were postponed by a year to next November because of the pandemic.
At the Climate Ambition Summit which marks five years since the forging of the Paris agreement, governments are expected to affirm plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically in the next decade, in line with their long-term goals.
Earlier, the Climate Action Tracker calculated that if all the net-zero pledges made by governments and leaders were to be fulfilled, temperatures would rise by about 2.1C above pre-industrial levels.. That is not far above the upper limit set by the Paris agreement, of holding temperatures to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels, regarded as the limit of safety beyond which climate breakdown is likely to become catastrophic and irreversible.
Boris Johnson unveiled the Government’s ten-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution on November 18.
The prime minister announced £525 million support for new nuclear power as part of his green industrial revolution and is expected to approve a major new nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk – reciting the common myth that the renewables will be unable to supply all our electricity needs.
Dr Ian Fairlie, vice-president of CND, says the PM has questions to answer about his support for expensive and potentially dangerous nuclear power.
Dr Ian Fairlie, ends:
“Renewable energy sources, especially offshore wind, are cleaner, safer, more sustainable and much cheaper than nuclear. We need urgently to decarbonise Britain’s economy and create millions of well-paid, unionised green jobs while doing so. But this can only be done through mass investment in renewables, and keeping fossil fuels in the ground.
More nuclear means dither, delay, and another potential cause of catastrophe”.
Facebook is one of the ways in which KPC can spread its message and comment on relevant issues of the day. But its usefulness increases when the message is spread around. So if you use Facebook, please go to our page, facebook.com/kingstonpeace, ‘Like’ the page, allow ‘Notifications about activity on Pages that you follow’ and ‘Share’ the posts.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Rosemary Addington
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND