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The purpose of this blog is to allow me to record my journey, the formation of the No New Wars organisation (whatever form that may take), the Eleven Eleven Twenty-Eighteen campaign and the supporting resources and networks of people and organisations.

This idea crystallised for me in 2012 when I decided it was not enough to be angry about wars being started in my name (that is, by my government) that I could not prevent.  Instead I would do something.  Not march with a banner, or send a letter to my MP, or write to the embassy of the enemy state, but instead stop the war in the first place.

I realised that I could not stop foreign countries starting wars.  But I can do something to influence my own government.  I could start a movement that makes it clear to our politicians that we do not want war, and that we will make them pay if they start one.

In a democracy we have only one tool available: our vote.  If enough of us pledge to remove our vote from any politician promoting an unjust, illegal or unnecessary war and to instead give that vote to an opponent, then we can make the politicians and major political parties too frightened to want to start a war.

It does not even need many of us to sign up to this.  In many constituencies it would only take about half of the MP’s majority to take the pledge to make the MP realise their next election might be their last.  And if people who do not vote – which is most of us – sign this pledge saying we will turn up and make a protest vote, it will make the political parties sit up and think about the consequences of the actions of a few war mongers.

I haven’t done the sums in detail, but if this campaign had been in place by 2003 when the 2nd Gulf War started, and if just 1% of the electorate had signed this pledge, then 170,00 non-voters voting against Labour plus 1% of Labour voters voting for either of the other major parties, would have resulted in Labour losing the 2005 General Election.

Between 750,000 (Police figures) and 2,000,000 (organisers’ figures) people marched in London alone to protest against the 2nd Gulf War.  Just 400,000 registered voters making a pledge would have more effect.

We actually can stop wars from starting by targeting the real cause: politicians who want to start a war.  By telling them we as voters will end their political career and wreck their party’s future prospects of power at the same time.

Would you consider war prevention a big enough cause to change your vote, or to make you go out and vote?

ICC, ICJ and World Court confusion

I have seen comments saying Vladimir Putin should be taken to the World Court.  Individuals are not taken there, it is not that sort of court.  Instead it should be to the International Criminal Court (ICC). ‘World Court’ is the common name for the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The International Court of Justice is a United Nations organisation. It exists to settle questions of international law and give legal opinion on disputes between nations. It has said what Russia is doing in Ukraine is wrong. It is a panel of judges who give an opinion: any action has to be taken by nation states.

The International Criminal Court  is a very different body. Although it is an intergovernmental organisation, it is not part of the United Nations. It exists to prosecute individuals for matters such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It can issue arrest warrants, try people and has a detention centre.

It issued an arrest warrant for Putin on 17th March 2023 for the situation in Ukraine.

Confusingly, both are based in The Hague, Netherlands.

Press release about Putin’s arrest warrant.

 

Artificial Intelligence – the threat

There’s a 9 to 5 cartoon with someone holding a banner:

Down with “Artificial Intelligence”.
Bring back “Natural Stupidity”.

Someone commented:

That’s the exact reason that artificial intelligence is so popular.

Sadly, though, it is only a tool.

Thinks: “I have the solution to society’s problems! It’s This Stupid Thing. We must do This Stupid Thing!

Then go to your AI such as ChatGPT and ask it for all the good in This Stupid Thing, all the reasons This Stupid Thing might help society, how to convince people to support This Stupid Thing and how to counter arguments against This Stupid Thing.

By carefully phrasing your questions (‘prompting’), you can get whatever answer you want.

You are then ready to propose, promote and implement This Stupid Thing.

You even get your AI to write press releases and social media posts promoting This Stupid Thing. It will create memes and fake photos of people protesting in support of This Stupid Thing. It will give you the sound bites and catchphrases for the trolls to repeat.

Whereas wicked and stupid people currently have to find corruptible or evil or spineless people to help them implement stupid ideas, AI has no conscience at all. And it won’t tell the papers what happened or publish a book revealing your secrets.

And you can be absolutely sure that political parties, corporations and hostile states are already very experienced in doing the above.

Believe me, AI will magnify “natural stupidity” to new heights.

Yep. Yep, yep, yep, yep, yeppity yep.

There are almost no controls in place yet; we don’t even understand what the real threats will be.

It’s like the first days of the motor carriage. “Think of the harm it might cause, and all the disruption to existing businesses and people” “Sod all that, think of the profits!”

Car manufacturers still resist proper seat belt designs. Tobacco companies still promote cancer sticks. Governments and corporations really could have fixed spam email thirty years ago. Governments and banks could have done much more to prevent online fraud which funds serious crime and terrorism.

But while it is only the little people suffering and there’s profit to be made, meh, who cares?

With the existing setup, we suspect we are being lied to but struggle to find the truth (and those who leak the truth get locked up). When AI gets being used in anger, we won’t have a clue what is true any more.

Russian disinformation about Ukrainian Nazism

Someone was alluding to Russia’s claim that the invasion of Ukraine was to tackle Ukrainian Nazism.

If we had called out Zelensky, American support for Ukraine would not have been there and America would be involved in one less “New War[s]”.

In direct reaction to that comment, I spent three hours reading up on Zelensky, accusations of Nazism in Ukraine, accusations against military units and political parties in Ukraine and comparing what has been said from different sources. I read up on the American position, the Israeli view, the view of Ukrainian Jewish groups and the Jewish international media.

I have no axe to grind here, it was genuine impartial curiosity.

Apart from Russian disinformation, there is nothing of any significance in what this person was alluding to. Various media, government, NGO and social groups have looked at what had been going on in Ukraine regarding Nazism, far right politics, treatment of Jews,involvement of Jews in Ukrainian government and military and the like and concluded there was nothing going on that is unusual for 21st century Europe.

The American government did indeed discuss and analyse the accusations about Zelensky and Ukraine and concluded the accusations did not stand up and decided continued support was the right thing to do. This decision was later supported by Jewish academics, media and Ukrainian Jewish groups.

So, what this person was wishing for, did indeed happen, and it concluded continued American support for Ukraine was appropriate.

In short, the reason for the Russian invasion of Ukraine was false.

The reflective part of this is that I am so pleased I did my undergrad and Master’s degrees.  Between the lecturers, librarians and other support and training I had, my already-existing research skills were strengthened by the ability to find counterarguments, be open-minded, evaluate sources, understand political and media biases and find an answer for myself in which I can be confident.  Although my conclusion above is lightweight and unreferenced, in three hours I covered a heck of a lot of different sources very efficiently.  I’m please I can do that.

 

10,000 dead children in Gaza? Really?

From someone in a social media discussion:

85,000 children dead in Yemen due to their civil war. More than 10,000 dead in Gaza since October.

Which got the reply:

The 10,000 number for Gaza is an exaggeration. Hamas is a terrorist organization that pulls numbers out of a hat. The only way the 10,000 could be accurate is if they are counting their teenage soldiers as children.

My response:

1) HOW MANY DEAD CHILDREN?

It is so unusual to have precise numbers in a conflict it made me doubt the figures too. So I did some light research. Checking with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the medical, reporting and conflict resolution sectors, plus the UN and independent aid agencies gives some insight.

These figures are validated, verified and the records independently checked. Trusted news organisations have looked into how they come about and are content.

The US government challenged the numbers because israel’s were one tenth of the Palestinians’ numbers. Israel was wrong and released much bigger numbers nearly the same as the Palestinians were giving out.

The numbers you see online of total deaths and child deaths and confirmed and trustworthy.

The IDF claims they are killing just two civilians for each combatant. They give no more details at all than that. The US says the IDF has killed between 5000 and 9000 Hamas combatants, meaning a ratio of between 1:2 and 1:4. Let’s assume the IDF figure is accurate, and not as flawed as their previous numbers.

Let us also pretend that ratio applies to the use of child soldiers, regardless of how young so including babies.

That means there are at least 6,600 confirmed civilian child deaths.  Is that an acceptable number?

By the way, teenage soldiers are still children. Child soldiers are victims too.

2) ACCURACY OF THE NUMBERS

The principal source is the Gaza’s Ministry of Health (MoH). On the face of it, probably the least reliable of sources since it is run by Hamas. However…

In December, when the MoH reported 15,899 dead, the Times of Israel reported the IDF confirmed 5,000 combatants + 10,000 civilian = 15,000 deaths. So the IDF is giving similar numbers. This is far higher than the Israeli government had been claiming in November; it is the Israeli government that has had to revise its reporting, upwards by a factor of ten! It later said this was because they were providing numbers of confirmed terrorists, not Palestinians. This discrepancy was used by Joe Biden to erroneously say the MoH figures were wrong.

MoH uses a centralised computer system with each hospital providing details of each casualty and corpse. They release figures every few hours. When the US queried the details in October, the MoH provided the raw data including names, ID numbers and so on. At that time it was 6,747 named dead and 281 unidentified.

The data is shared with the totally separate health ministry in the West Bank. It confirms the numbers itself and says it trusts the figures provided. The ID numbers for Gaza, West Bank and Israel are held by the Israeli Population Registry Office and so can be validated.

The MoH has a long track record of being reliable, according to the World Health Organization and the UN. In conflicts in 2008, 2014 and 2021, the MoH’s figures at the time matched the UN’s own subsequent investigation figures to within 4%. Israel’s own figures for the 2014 war were 2125 killed, UN said 2251 and MoH said 2310 – so within 9% of Israel’s estimate. When Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem tallied up deaths in 2014, it made it 2185 (9% fewer) but said such differences were “fairly normal” and down to different ways of counting.

3) WHO TRUSTS THE NUMBERS?

Médecins Sans Frontières confirm the numbers (plus detail attacks and airstrikes on medical facilities and staff).

Airwars – a charity that investigates civilian deaths in conflicts – has done a specific analysis of scores of these records to check them and confirmed them. They have now checked and independently confirmed the details of over 900 of the bodies.

The charity Every Casualty Counts studies death tolls in wars and they say all they found was one person recorded twice in the data.

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analysed the data statistically, such as correlating ID numbers and age, and could find no evidence of falsification.

Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director: “These figures are professionally done and have proven to be reliable”.

The Guardian newspaper, generally considered a very reliable source for such information, are content the numbers are realistic. The BBC has also investigated and reported on the numbers with the same conclusion. Ditto for Reuters.

Note that these numbers are only the known deaths. They do not include people missing or bodies still buried under rubble and not reported. The Palestinian Red Crescent and US government’s assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs say the numbers must be higher than those published.

It is also only confirmed dead. Tens of thousands have had hospital treatment, many with life-changing wounds. That will include children, and have created orphans.

ICJ’s judgement on Israel

The International Court of Justice is an important part of the United Nations.  It adjudicates disputes between nations and provides legal advice on international law.  Its rulings and opinions on a case are binding on the parties involved.

On 26th January 2024 the ICJ ruled that Israel must prevent genocidal acts in Gaza.

On social media, many people are saying this is meaningless as the ICJ has no teeth.

I think it does have some effect.

In the workplace, when someone bullies another, one can either call it out or let it go. When someone objects to poor behaviour, we can support them or just say “toughen up” or “that’s just they way they are”.

Another outcome is to stand up and say “This is wrong. Do not behave that way.” That gives others the confidence to also stand up and say “We agree, that is wrong.”

That makes most other people think twice before also bulling people. They don’t want to be called out and embarrassed. We have said bullying is no longer normal behaviour.

The same thing really does apply on the world stage. When the ICJ says “This is wrong”, it might have little effect on Israel, but it does send out a message to diplomats, politicians and the media round the world that it is not acceptable. They can’t say “But Israel did it, so we can too”. People feel empowered to say to their leaders “I don’t think we should do that”.

Some see it as ironic that it is South Africa calling it out, given their history. It is not ironic, it was inevitable. They have been through the pain of apartheid, terrorism, revolution but then peace and reconciliation process. South Africa today is not the South Africa of 50 years ago. Change can be radical, and a bad example can become an exemplar.

It is one of the ways the world is very slowly becoming more humane.

Reflections on Diplomacy

I wrote this short essay on 4th September 2022 as part of my work on the University of London’s Coursera course Global Diplomacy – Diplomacy in the Modern World.

This essay argues that diplomacy is even more a key part of our world today than it was in the past.  This will be substantiated with claims that diplomacy occurs on more levels than before, that it is active locally and even within society both at home and abroad.  It uses arguments from Brown, Laffey and Rudin who say diplomats work ceaselessly, that their role has expended to include international development and that it has become more complicated.  It concludes by speculating about challenges for diplomacy in the future.

Diplomacy is, in part, discussions between states to form international agreements, such as the European Union, the International Labour Organisation and the United Nations.  These organisations are an increasing part of our world, so diplomatic interaction with them is ongoing.

Diplomacy has a mediation role, maintaining relations with other states whether an outcome is achieved or not.  As nation states continue to be the structure we have in the world, so diplomacy between states will continue to be needed.

Diplomacy occurs in multi-national organisations such as continents (African Union), regional (League of Arab States), global market (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries – OPEC), religious (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation), military (NATO), pacifist (Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons), research (International Space Station), health (World Health Organisation).  As we go from nation states interacting to these multiple layers of interaction, so the need for diplomacy is increasing.

In addition to international relations, diplomacy can produce and maintain global agreements such as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the Geneva Conventions, and the International Standard Book Number (ISBN).  It ensures USB plugs go into USB ports and that passports are recognised around the world.  It gives a means to negotiate the protection of endangered species, reductions in carbon dioxide production and the sharing of Covid-19 vaccines and other medication.  As greater awareness of issues arises in the public globally, so there is greater need for collaboration on these issues, thereby increasing the demand for diplomacy.

It is assumed that when violent conflict breaks out that diplomacy has failed.  What is rarely appreciated is that every conflict ends when the participants talk and listen to one another: every conflict ends in diplomacy.  As long as conflict continues, there is a need for diplomacy.  And since good diplomacy is invisible, just because it is not apparent does not mean it is not not happening.  So much current diplomacy is invisible while it is happening; it continues to be a key part of our world.

There are major conflicts going on in the world.  Some are violent such as that between Russia & Ukraine.  Others are cold but high risk, such as that regarding North and South Korea.  Diplomacy is vital in managing the situation around these encounters, either by stopping them getting worse or keeping a door open for talks.

One can also ask if diplomacy is a key part of our world today locally?  In the UK we have Brexit causing issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol and risking sectarian unrest and potentially either new outbreaks of The Troubles or serious problems with the relationship with the EU.  The UK is part of the united response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  It has also recently hosted a convention regarding the international agreements to reduce CO2 before we kill all life on the planet.  Diplomacy is vital to the well-being of the UK in the near and long terms.

Dr Martin Brown refers to how, when communication with Iran was difficult, discussing sport such as weight-lifting and wrestling gave a way to allow the communication to continue.  It is important that diplomats keep open the lines of communication despite it appearing that there are irreconcilable differences between states.

We still have nation states which are concerned with their own agenda and these differ by nation.  As long as this situation continues, there will be a need for diplomacy.

Diplomacy can also be applied be within society, as expressed by Omah Salha whose interest is the integration of Moslems into British society.

As Dr Mark Laffey says, “diplomacy’s about maintaining communications and contact in the midst of on-going disagreements”.  He says diplomacy is increasingly about trade and economics relations.  Indeed, in the UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (created in 1782 as the Foreign Office) has in 2020 been merged with the Department for International Development to become the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.  This is very relevant in the UK as it renegotiates trade deals with the rest of the world post-Brexit.

Public diplomacy is where a state tries to influence the view of people in another state; it is not dissimilar from propaganda.  As shown in the Middle East about the USA, the behaviour of a state on the world stage – how it implements its foreign policy – has a huge impact on how that state is perceived, despite efforts to give an impression to the contrary.

In 1956, an article by Harry R Rudin in Political Science Quarterly lists a number of reasons why diplomacy in the 20th century was far harder than in the 19th century.  In the 21st century technology is moving even faster, communication is faster, easier and far less controlled and there are multiple strata in the communication layers between people, groups, states and whatever cross-sections of society one might care to imagine.  Trade has become more globalised.  International corporations are more powerful and wealthy.  New factions have arisen in global society such as religious extremists using terrorism, a global drugs trade, ecoterrorism starting to appear and organised crime being able to use the Dark Web and cryptocurrencies to operate globally but beneath the radar.  Meanwhile demand for finite resources such as fossil fuels, cash crops, rare minerals for high tech good production, water and even land to live on mean increasing conflict between states and societies.  Diplomacy has become exponentially more complicated since the early Cold War years.

Not only is diplomacy as important now with regard to international relations as it was in the past, it now is more broad and deep in how societies interact, both within nations and at supranational levels.  It is a key part of our global economy, especially now as states are less self-reliant and more dependent upon trade with one another for their essential food, energy and goods.  The global impact of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has made this clear with rising prices globally and the many negotiations being conducted internationally to manage food stocks and energy distribution.

As everything becomes more interconnected over time within nations and societies, the role of diplomacy can only increase in the foreseeable future.  Whether existing institutions such as the United Nations and trade cartels will be sufficient to provide the infrastructure for diplomats needs to be seen, and whether diplomacy needs to become a formal profession.

(1,150 words)

References omitted to hinder plagiarism.

Heroes among the civilians

In response to a cartoon about the Israeli response in the Gaza strip on GoComics, someone wrote:

Do not look for heroes in this conflict. There are victims and terrorists on both sides.

I felt compelled to reply.

There are heroes.

  • The war reporters. Over 80 dead and many imprisoned.
  • The aid workers. Over 100 UN aid workers dead.
  • The medics. Over 280 healthcare workers killed and at least 14 strikes on Doctors Without Borders medical facilities or vehicles.
  • Then the less glamorous ones who are trying to keep the sanitation working, digging people and bodies from buildings, burying corpses, trying to identify people’s remains.
  • And there will be countless incredible feats of courage by civilians that will never be known or recognised.

No medals for any of the above though. Medals are saved for the people with the armour and guns and creating the harm.

Christian Just War Theory

From a comment on a comic:

“Martin Luther explains that God and government are not constrained by the commandment not to kill, but that God has delegated his authority in punishing evildoers to the government. The prohibition of killing is forbidden to the individual in his relation to anyone else, and not to the government.”

My reply:

The Christian Just War Theory or Doctrine was produced and expanded upon by Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Hugo Grotius and others. (I never came across Martin Luther as a proponent of war.) Between them they did a good job of saying “That there God geezer, yeah, didn’t say ‘not kill’, he said ‘not murder’, right? And it can’t be murder if it’s not illegal, can it? And how can it be illegal if the King or Pope said to do the killing? So it’s not murder and God’s perfectly fine with it. Stands to reason, doesn’t it?

Another argument is that killing non-believers who refuse to convert is doing them a favour by saving their souls. That was the excuse in Africa and other places where exploring and conquering was going on.

A third was that provided you are careful in your killing, then that’s reasonable. So kill people nicely and proportionately, and even Jesus would be OK with that. This argument is used by politicians today.

So, despite Holy Scripture from God, and prophets and the Son of God saying not to kill people, it is fine if a rich or powerful person tells some poor person to kill another person, because the rich and powerful said so. They know better than God, Jesus, Moses and that lot what God wants.

You’ll find the same pro-killing arguments in the Jewish and Moslem Just War arguments too.

Why are bullies attractive?

“Tough guys have always had their hangers on. And no, they don’t have to be physically tough. They just have throw their weight around and generally act like a bully. That’s what Trump does so well. The real question for me is … WHY is that attractive to so many people?”

I think it is three-fold, based on evolutionary psychology, ignorant fear and social psychology.

Firstly, evolutionary psychology: the herd mentality. Go where the majority goes, or seems to be heading. Some head off for a different corner of the field, follow them because they must have seen something worth having. And if you really want to benefit from what is there, run and get there first, go further than the others, become an extremist.

Second, superstition and religion. If we try harder than anyone else to follow the will of the god(s) or not upset the demons / volcano / weather then we will have better harvests and more good luck and less disease. So we look to the priests and wise men for ideas. And we sacrifice our children, flagellate ourselves or hand over our possessions to appease the gods through the priests. So when a leader implies they have divine wisdom, we so want that to come true, we will do anything.

Third we see the person is a competent leader because they have followers. People like following winners because it makes them feel safe, that will be on the winning side at the end. It is easier than making decisions for themselves. So we form gangs and tribes and armies and political parties. Hence people switch their political allegiance to best suit themselves. Even politicians who swear they are totally aligned to one set of values, will change sides if it suits their career. Alliances change between nations: so leaders will send their people to fight and die to support X against Y, then later send them to die for Y against X. So who was right, X or Y, or is it down to the leader’s whims and because they have power? So we will go and kill and die just because someone says so, and without really knowing why.

We think we’re clever. We’re just stupid sheep who think we’re smart.

Conflict in the Middle East

Some highlights since the start of the millennium:

2001 iPod launched.  First self-contained artificial heart. First  space tourist.  The Segway launched.

2002 Launch of the Euro. Formation of the International Criminal Court.

2003 Human genome completed.

2004 Facebook. Union of South American Nations formed.

2005 Kyoto Protocol. Hurricane Katrina. Germany’s first woman chancellor. First face transplant.

2006 Nintendo Wii.

2007 First female Speaker of the US House of Representatives. The iPhone.

2008 Large Hadron Collider completed. Global financial crisis.

2009 Bitcoin launched. USA got a black president.

2010 The iPad and Instagram. First African World Cup. First woman Prime Minister of Australia.

2011 Arab Spring. Minecraft. Snapchat. World population reaches 7 billion. NASA missions to Mars and Jupiter.

2012 Higgs Boson discovered.

2013 Edward Snowden revelations.

2014 Rosetta lands a probe on a comet.

2015 Water found on Mars. China and Taiwan leaders meet. USA and Cuba establish diplomatic relations.

2016 Detection of gravitational waves. Tunnel completed under the Alps. Paris Agreement on climate change. First female President of Taiwan. Panama Canal capacity extended. TikTok.

2017 Five million women marched for human rights.

2018 Leaders of USA and DPRK meet.

2019 Dark side landing on the Moon. First all-female spacewalk.

2020 Covid-19 pandemic. First commercial human space launch. Touchdown on an asteroid. 15 Asia-Pacific countries form the world’s largest free-trade bloc.

2021 The African Continental Free Trade Area formed. First arm and shoulder transplant. First woman, first African American and first Asian American vice president. International agreement to ban nuclear weapons. First flight on another planet. Theory of General Relativity confirmed. Leaded petrol phased out globally. 1st malaria vaccine.

2022 All permanent Security Council members state “A nuclear war must never be fought”. World population at 8 billion. ChatGPT. First fusion ignition.

And conflict in the Middle East throughout.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même