“Let Us Begin”, John Denver

In June 1986 John Denver released the album One World which has the track Let Us Begin, an anti-war song, which had been released as a single.  On this day of that year, 30th July 1986, his record label, RCA, pulled the single.  RCA had been acquired by General Electric, a major arms manufacturer, and they did not like this song with its lyrics of feeding the war machine but not babies.  Thus the powerful, who get rich from making killing devices, get to silence the pacifists to protect their profits.

A video John produced to go with the song, with a short introduction from him, is here on YouTube.

The lyrics.

This is simply the best piece of work that I’ve done in my career.

John Denver, 10th December 1987

Source: www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=10947# amongst others.

Would an anti-apartheid style campaign work regarding guns?

I’ve just been cheerfully posting this in various groups’ pages on FaceBook:

Idea: someone maintain a site of what international companies support the NRA so those of us in the rest of the world can boycott them in our countries.
We’re sick of this insane gun mentality too – what starts in America usually spreads elsewhere and the insane gun-worship mentality needs to stop.
So let’s start an international NRA boycott campaign like the anti-apartheid campaign!
We just need to know who to boycott, starting with any of this lot with overseas divisions:

Those companies are, of course, all arms manufacturers or retailers.  Yes, the NRA really is the marketing and political arm of the arms industry.

Re: I feel depressed because of war 2

I get so sad , and also can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t ignore the fact that they are suffering.

The solution to feeling sad is action.

How are you going to stop war in the world?  You can’t it’s impossible.  You can stay as positive as you want its not going to stop war.

There have been, over the past few centuries, many treaties which have defined and redefined what is and is not permitted in a war.  We’ve moved on a long way from the massive horrific hack-people-to-death battles of the middle ages that in a couple of days could kill a significant percentage of a country’s men.

  • All sorts of tactics and weapons have been banned because of their cruelty or long term effects.
  • Rules have come in about targeting civilians and what is permitted by those in uniform and what is forbidden by those who are not.
  • The law has changed around much of the world regarding conscription; it is no longer legal to force someone to fight and kill others if it is against their conscience to kill.

So, there have been many changes made to violent conflict.

There have also been changes to prevent conflict, such as:

  • The formation of the EU which arose from a treaty designed to prevent another war between France, Italy and German.
  • International courts have been set up on every continent to prosecute those who break these treaties and laws.
  • The League of Nations and then the United Nations were formed to provide somewhere for communication to occur so war can be avoided.

So, there have been changes made to prevent conflict.  These have all happened because people have been active and made them happen.

I don’t think violent conflict will ever be eliminated. But we can continue to prevent it, reduce it, constrain it and clean up after it to minimise its impact.

There is no pax Americana

Bringing down stable governments of countries and failing to put something in its place is the principal cause of the terrorism and conflict going on in the world at the moment.

When the Romans invaded, they took control, dictating foreign policy, providing defence in exchange for a promise to not rebel and pay tribune.  In so doing peace reigned over the Roman Empire at the cost of freedoms at a national level. This was the pax Romana.

The Islamic Golden Age, inspired by the philosophy that “the ink of a scholar is more holy than the blood of a martyr“, in which huge advances were made in medicine, mathematics, culture and science, was also a period of peace, sometimes called the pax Islamica.

A thousand years later the Mongols conquered much of Asia and held it to produce the Pax Mongolica.

The Ottoman Empire in turn provided peace to its citizens in the pax Ottomana.

A similar arrangement to the Roman Empire was achieved by the British Empire to produce the pax Britanicca.

Chinese empires have come and gone and provided their own periods of internal peace, as have many other cultures.

The concept of “empire” has come to be seen as purely a bad thing since the mid 20th century as countries gained their independence, partly through economic consequences of the World War 2, partly through improved communication and education and partly through the disruptive influences of the Cold War.  In place of an imposed external governing body, freedom for those of a territory has been granted, often with disastrous consequences.  The lesson that could and should have been learned from those experiences are that independence should be done slowly, replacing institutions and structures with new ones, a part at a time.  It is frustrating, but far more stable. [Note to self: specific examples needed.]  A clean break leaves a county with no stable government and civil war and decades of turmoil is the usual result.

But the desire to ignore the beneficial benefits of a benign empire has resulted in much chaos, death, suffering and desire for revenge of late years.  The removal of stable governments from countries like Iraq and Libya without replacing it with something else that works has been far worse than what most empires have done in the past.

It would have been cheaper and less destructive (but probably no more productive in the long term) to simply assassinate those leaders that were considered undesirable.  At least there would not be hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed civilians and a world-wide problem with revenge terrorism.

The idea the USA has been the global policeman producing a pax Americana is a fallacy.  They are not spreading peace: just fear and hate, chaos and disorder.

Instead of toppling a regime, take it over and change it from within, fools.  Learn from thousands of years of history.

War and Peace in the Lonely Planet

Just reading the Lonely Planet guide to Scotland’s Highlands & Islands and a couple of lines stood out.  Firstly, about violence:

The Vikings were probably no more blood-thirsty than the Romans, Picts or Celts, but they made the fatal public relations error of attacking the monasteries, which produced all the history books from the medieval period.

Alternatively, it could be they had a reputation for brutality because they attacked the monasteries; and it wasn’t a bit of light shop-lifting from the monastery visitor centre shop.  Top tip to modern day marauders: stop destroying religious sites, it gets you a bad name that lasts quite a long time.

Secondly was about the construction of roads into the Highlands as part of the suppression / taming (choose your own standpoint) of the clans:

New military roads were driven through the glens and garrisons were established…  As a side effect, the new roads increased trade between the Highlands and the lowlands, reducing the traditional suspicion of Highlanders in the lowlands and exposing the Highland clan leaders for the first time to the wealth of the lowlands.

So, from this interpretation communication and trade finally brought peace in Scotland.  I wonder what high speed rail links and motorways into Afghanistan and the Middle East might achieve.  Form—or find—the Afghanistan Tourist Board, tell people what to visit, and communication and trade will increase.  So will understanding.  People are already going, and it’s not as bad as it was.  And here’s what the Lonely Planet web site has to say about it.

Meanwhile, the gov.uk web site says:

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all or all but essential travel.

with the latest bad news being from three days ago ‘13 May 2015 – an attack on a guesthouse/ hotel in Kabul‘.  What to do?  Leave them to their own devices, or go and buy trinkets and see one another as just people.  It reminds me of growing up in London when there were no tourists—except the brave Japanese, of course—because of the IRA.  England was seen as far too dangerous to visit.

I wonder where the reality lies?  And is the risk to the individual outweighed by the benefit to world peace?

“What’s the European union and why do we keep hearing about it?”

Another answer to a query from an aspiring author.

RJ: “What’s the European union and why do we keep hearing about it?”

Are the British Isles part of Europe, or some independent islands in the North Atlantic? What looks like a geography question is really a socio-economic question: do we want to be part of of Europe?

Firstly, what do we mean by “Europe”. Currently, that appears to be something called the “European Union”.

After a century of fighting Germany in ever expanding wars, in 1951 France formed the European Coal and Steel Community with them plus Belgium, Italy and others to pave the way for international co-operation that would make future central European war both unnecessary and undesirable.  And right there is a great example of an alternative to war being implemented.

This expanded in scope to include atomic energy and governance to produce, in 1957, the Economic European Union or EEC. For many years we debated in Britain: should we join the EEC? It was a difficult question because of the fear of loss of sovereignty.

The original French vision had been to create a single Europe with one government, one defence force, one agricultural policy and so on. This vision was quashed back in the 1950s by the founding countries as they feared the consequences of it and it seems they still don’t want it. It may have meant the loss of cultural heritage, loss of control, failure to recognise differences in values and loss of identity.

These concerns are what put us off: would be be forced to eat garlic sausage and other foreign muck, like snails?

In 1973, we took the plunge and joined. We immediately stopped driving on the left, started speaking French, began eating frog’s legs and stopped buying beer in pints. Well, maybe not. But there were changes, especially around trade, travel and the legal system.

This became the European Union in 1993 when we signed the Maastricht Treaty. Amazingly, this got little press at the time but it is one of the most significant events in British history. We also do not notice the changes it brought about.

Anyway, the European Union is the current name of this ever expanding organisation (although some surprising previous members have left, such as Algeria and Greenland). It expands both geographically and in scope and so is ever changing. And nobody enjoys change.

But after 40 years of membership we still drive on the left, don’t like garlic sausage, still can’t speak anything other than English and measure distances in miles.

So back to the question. “Do we want to be part of of Europe?

We’ve identified “Europe”, but who are “we”? Ireland wants in. Scotland, traditionally allied with France against England, wants in while nearly being out of the UK. Wales can’t make its mind up. And England? Who knows?

All you need to do is predict the future, and the answer to the in/out question will be clear.

Online queries from an aspiring author

RJ: “I just want to open a discussion here (definitely not criticizing) but don’t you think it’s our job as a first world country to protect the innocent and defend what’s right even if it is overseas, and surely that sometimes must mean going to war? Just curious to hear another point of view on the subject.”

1. In what way does our country have the right to assume sovereignty over another country? Isn’t that the old colonial / great power attitude that we get criticised for? Perhaps we should stop making the assumption that we have the right to impose our will over other countries just because we can.

2. Does “defend what’s right even if it is overseas” mean protecting our financial interests such as access to mineral resources? Should we be allowed to replace a government of another country to suit our economic needs? Many think that was the reason for two Gulf Wars and behind the Arab Spring. These incidents have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians – if that is our fault, are you OK with that?

3. “surely that sometimes must mean going to war” I don’t think so and so do may others. Just because we can fire missiles and drop bombs on people to change the opinions of their leaders, I don’t think it is right that we should.

There is a common assumption that because there has been wars, that war is the solution to problems. If you have a dispute with a neighbour, is the solution to fight it out in the street? There are alternatives to war including education, sanctions, charity, freedom of movement, lowering trade barriers and listening.

War is easy and sexy and makes people rich. It is also ugly, random, lazy, cruel and no longer necessary. It is an anachronism.

RJ: “I see what you mean! sorry if it seems rude I’m just curious”

No, you were not rude at all and I am sorry if I came across in a way other than responding to your query.

I got to a point a few years ago of thinking “Nearly a hundred years ago we had The War to End All Wars and yet we’re still having them. Why?” And the more I thought about it, and the more I read, the more I discovered it is down to ignorance, laziness and greed.

Imagine you are a male Prime Minister. Let’s pick one at random like Tony Blair. The President of the USA calls you and says his advisers have a fool-proof plan for a quick and clean war that can be called a “liberation of oppressed people by a tyrant”. It will result in you looking like a serious statesman on the world stage, you’ll go down in history as a war-leader and there’s a promise of some valuable non-executive directorships in armaments companies plus very well-paying consultancy work that would come your way if you play along. All you have to do is get someone to “sex up” some stories about weapons of mass destruction and missiles – stuff that could never be dis-proven. Bish bosh it’ll all be over in a few days and you’ll be a rich hero.

Or, you can say “Can’t we just negotiate with this tyrant, use sanctions, make it impossible for him to travel and generally make his life a misery. If he isn’t toppled by his own government, then we’ll quietly offer him a pension to retire to Saudi Arabia (like Idi Amin).

You are an alpha-male who has got to the top by showing off and being The Man, all powerful and macho and most definitely A Man of Action. Which would you do?

I cannot stop the Tutsis being massacred by the Hutus, nor can I stop ISIS. Other people have skills and knowledge in those areas that I will never have.

But I have an idea or two for stopping artificial wars that result in 600,000 civilian deaths just to eliminate one man.

And if I come across as passionate about the subject, it’s because I am. I do not want artificial wars being started in my name, using my tax money.

RJ: “I can agree to that, but what you’ve got to understand is I am doing this because I want to be writer and although I’d like my writing to be read and enjoyed a fantasy novel is meant for enjoyment purposes. What I’m saying is my intentions in life are not to change the world, just to keep it entertained for a short while. So I’m sorry if I seem obtuse at times it’s not that I either agree or disagree I just find it interesting to hear people’s views and sometimes when doing that it’s also interesting to hear what they think of other people’s views on the same subject. Sorry if this is infuriating at times 🙂 “

Not taking sides can be the side that really matters

Nick Taylor, CEO for Warrington’s Foundation for Peace, recently posted an article on LinkedIn saying they don’t take sides and that’s how they work. He asks:

Violent conflict is increasing, the first time since the second world war, and yet many of us are immune to the news feeds and the horrors that are taking place in front of our eyes. So what can you do to help? What do you think of our position? Do you think the side of ‘peace’ we take is right and will make a real and lasting difference? Join in the debate and let me know your thoughts.

These are my thoughts.

I’m already a convert to that way of thinking. Revenge creates more revenge. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. If things don’t change, they’ll stay the same.

Mind you, not taking sides and tackling the violence with peaceful means is slow, it is hard work, it is a long slog, it is not glamorous, it does not win votes and does not result in valuable non-executive directorships in weapons manufacturers. It also reduces widows, orphans and embittered young men but also reduces opportunities for global corporations to implement ‘economic developments’ for the benefit of their shareholders. Before we know where we are we’ll be talking about open communication, understanding, cautious respect, individual empowerment and sustainable local economies.

So, can’t we just send in some more airstrikes? (I don’t mind who just so long as it is someone else.) They make better TV news than peace talks. I know they’ll mean another generation or two of easily-recruited martyrs, but I’m sure yet more airstrikes can deal with them. If we bomb them enough (whoever ‘them’ might be next week), they’ll thank us eventually.

Forgive the above sarcasm, but current and recent foreign policies of “bomb / drone / airstrike / missile them into submission to gain peace” is blatantly insane, ignorant and short-sighted.

War ends when the remaining survivors prefer peace. The sooner we get there, the better. But adding more guns and explosives to the conflict surely cannot be the way to get to that point, can it?

For humanity’s sake all this killing needs to slow down, calm down, and pause long enough for some listening to happen. Or genocide. It’s one or the other.

Go on retreat

Lard’s World Peace Tip for 25th June 2014 is “Go on retreat”. I felt the need to comment:

I saw this strip this morning and wanted to say something about those young men advancing to Iraq with a desire to be freedom fighters or mercenaries. It felt so negative and unhopeful that I didn’t post it. But my melancholia won’t go away.

It reminds me of the pain and anguish generated by the Spanish Civil War. To all those young men aspiring to go to Iraq to be heroes, I wish I could make them read George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia before they go. It describes how the volunteers in a civil war are just grist to the mill, cannon fodder, pawns to the writhing mist-like politics of power struggles between factions run by self-serving, inhumane, sociopaths that called themselves ‘leaders’. Leaders that lead from behind, sending brave, hopeful, naïve young men to happily receive hot lead in their belies, limbs and faces.

Spain fought a civil war (fully utilising volunteers from abroad) and now has a monarchy again. It served only to let Hitler prove his Blitzkrieg philosophy worked and his air force improve their dive-bombing techniques

England fought a civil war, the most bloody war in its history, and it has been erased from the statue books and the monarchy put back on the throne. It seems Ireland will never forgive nor forget the consequences.

The USA had a civil war and afterwards was still the United States. What was the point of that?

Iraq will emerge from this civil war angry, embittered, poorer. And the young men heading off there from places like the UK thinking they are off for a happy time in the sun, those who survive will either be dead, physically damaged beyond repair, mercenaries or mentally scarred for life.

In a civil war, a war in one’s own homeland, fought by volunteers from overseas and fuelled by foreign governments, there is nowhere to retreat to. The Iraqis have no home, nowhere where you can close the door, turn off the lights and feel safe.

After all these thousands of years of conflict, can there never be peace for Mesopotamia?

The long term effect of airstrikes

When the airstrikes begin, such as they did at the start of the second Gulf War, and as is desired by US, UK and French leaders against Syria, large numbers of government buildings are attacked, resulting in the deaths of large number of civil servants in the country being attacked.

(The legality of targeting civilians is another question worth considering another day: link1, link2, link3, link4, link5, link6.)

The elimination of these civil servants has the desired effect of damaging the military organisation of the target country: supplies are not ordered, shipments are not arranged, payroll does not happen, communication is disrupted: information does not get escalated and orders do not get distributed, intelligence is not analysed.  In this way the machine of war is halted despite the troops and armour being intact because the troops have no food or bullets, the guns have no shells, the tanks have no fuel, the aircraft have no targets.  It is a seemingly ‘humane’ way of disabling an opponent or one party in a civil conflict.

The reality is, the combatants are left intact while the civilians are killed, maimed or forced to flee, adding them to the numbers of refugees.  Amongst those refugees will be the pacifists, the civil rights specialists, the conscientious objectors and the fearful who left the country during the crisis.

How very ironic is it that those who speak for our armed forces say killing civilians instead of soldiers is more humane?  That makes it quite clear where their allegiances lie.

If the external influence is effective, and the targeted government falls, then who will form the civil service of the new administration?  Certainly not the corpses and the cripples and the refugees of the deposed government.

It will be recruited mostly from the victorious liberating army, that group of ‘rebels’, ‘terrorists’, ‘insurgents’ and ‘insurrectionists’ that became redefined as ‘freedom fighters’ because their winning suited our political convenience.  An army including reactionaries, the vengeful, hot-blooded young anarchists, psychos, criminals, malcontents, sufferers of post-war stress syndrome and anyone who decided to pick up a gun and kill their police officers, armed forces members and government officials despite them being fellow citizens.  It is from these ranks the new government’s officials will be constructed.  Those who can answer the questions:

What did you do in the war, Daddy?


How many did you kill?

Experienced administrators from the previous government, those who left because of their conscience, the displaced – these people are least likely to get their old jobs back.

So is it any wonder that when we interfere with another country by applying airstrikes that the incoming government is itself full of turmoil with police recruits shooting their colleagues, suicide bombers, corruption, instability, ongoing car bombs and ultimately another revolution?

Perhaps if we stopped killing their filing clerks, accountants, data analysts, IT staff, secretaries, junior supervisors, PAs, human resources officers, trainers, typists, middle managers, and office cleaners then maybe their future governments might be competent, organised, capable and stable.

The outcome of using airstrikes are:

  • the deaths or injury of many fit, intelligent, taxpaying, civilians;
  • the armed forces and their matériel are left intact;
  • ongoing national incompetence for many years;
  • the need for greater external influence in maintaining stability;
  • those who may have a bias towards peace and reconciliation become personae non gratae;
  • a continuation of civil disorder and violence;
  • the likelihood of major armed conflict in the future.

So what are the real agenda when airstrikes are used?  Anyone would think it was advantageous foreign policy, commercial interests and the maintenance of the arms industry.  It certainly is not humanitarian reasons.