Don’t send boilerplate letters to politicians

Don’t ask supporters to send standardised letters to politicians, but to write in their own words.Sometimes organisations ask you to click on a link to send a pre-written email to politicians supporting some campaign or other.  Alternatively, they provide the words for a letter asking one to send it.  I have been told a couple of times that politicians ignore these standardised letters.  I’ve just seen the following text from the debate in the Commons about air strikes on Syria in 2013:

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con)


My constituents’ instinct is also against any direct UK military action. Like, I am sure, all my colleagues throughout the House, I have received not just form e-mails sent by some lobbying organisation but individually composed e-mails showing the strength of feeling and fear that lie in the British population. Having said that, and despite feeling strongly that my constituents’ instincts and my own should be followed, what I have seen on the television and experienced through reports of what has gone on in Syria has struck at the very fabric of my being. However, I am unclear about our response and our objectives. What are punitive strikes? Will they send a message to Assad to use it or lose it when it comes to chemical weapons? What will be the reactions of other countries? What are the capabilities of the people who may be deployed in support of Syria? There are still many questions that need to be answered.

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.

How does one prevent war?

From a discussion about life goals:

How does one prevent war?

Stop others starting them by demonstrating they are not the most cost-effective solution and creating an environment where it is not in the starter’s best interests.

Selling licences to kill

Acid rain became a publicly known problem in the 1980s and 1990s. Industrial pollution in the form of sulphur dioxide, SO2, would dissolve in atmospheric water to produce sulphuric or sulphurous acid. This falls in rain away from the pollution-causing industry and kills forests.

The solution was not regulation, which no politician would support, but a quota of how much could be produced and selling permission to produce SO2 up to that limit. Those permits to pollute could themselves be sold.

Trading in SO2 permits began in 1995. It was considered a huge success in that SO2 pollution was cut by half.

So how about introducing war quotas?

That is, the UN could sell licences to kill people, be it troops or civilians. Determine how many people are killed per year globally, and provide licences to kill people – initially say 90% of that number – and reduce the quote each year by 10%.

Year 1 – 100%
Year 2 – 90%
Year 3 – 81%
Year 4 – 72.9%
Year 5 – 65.6%
Year 6 – 59%
Year 7 – 53%
Year 8 – 47.8%

So after just 8 years we could reduce deaths by government-sanctioned war by half!

The licences would be for sale on the open market to despots or global police according to who can afford them. If democracies are willing to fund killing people, then fine, they can. Otherwise the despots get to do so, if they can afford to raise the necessary funds.

It would also allow an alternative way of prosecution major organised drugs crime organisations, international pirates, the Mafia, and so on. Provided they pay their way and can buy the licences on the open market, then they can continue in business

If it is OK and ethical for governments to kill people by war but we don’t like it, then why can’t we take a leaf from the environmental lobbyists book and introduce quotas to reduce the unwanted behaviour – killing people with bullets and bombs – to a more acceptable level?

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.

I only open my mouth to change feet …

I’ve been going to Job Club sessions on a Saturday morning; last Saturday we had Interview Practice.  For this we had to take in a CV and a job advert for a job we wanted and we were each interviewed in turn.

The mock interviews were done by an accountant from Accenture.  After a few minutes my ‘interview’ morphed into a chat about why I want to get out of IT.  I said I am going into conflict resolution, in particular, war prevention.  This got him interested and I got the best part of 45 minutes to explain:

  • why most of the people I knew in IT are now no longer in it because the UK has outsourced the IT industry overseas (hey, guess what Accenture do);
  • how the NHS has wasted £12 billion on NPfIT (National Programme for IT) and CFH (Connecting For Health) because the NHS “knows best” and refuses to use government-mandated (by the Cabinet Office) government best practice methods like MSP and PRINCE2 (he agreed about the NHS behaviour but didn’t know it applies to IT there too);
  • why arming civilian Syrians would create another Afghanistan in that we’d be back in 20 years fighting the people we’d armed (“I hadn’t thought of it that way”);
  • how it is not right for the government of a democracy to use warfare, or worse, arming civilians and generating proxy wars, to cause death as a way of promoting peace when alternative methods of change do exist (“Really?  Like what?”).

Some of what I had to say really took his interest. He asked whether I knew about the local Peace Centre, I told him how I helped with the planning for an event in July, have been researching new contacts for them and just last week spent two days there adding to a briefing paper on extremist violent groups worldwide.  He was most impressed.  I came out feeling it had gone rather well.

Anyway, my good lady wife said to me today “So, are you going to blog about the interview?


Because it sounds like you did a good job of informing David Mowat of your views.

The interviewer, the accountant from Accenture, is David Mowat MP, the Conservative MP for Warrington South.

And today the EU is debating whether they should be arming the Syrian civilians.  (The US, unsurprisingly, says the EU should dump arms in the region, while Austria and others are saying the EU is a peace organisation and should not be adding to the conflict.)

The Austrian foreign minister has said it was wrong for the EU to be receiving the Nobel peace prize on the one hand and taking sides in the Syrian civil war on the other.

And I’ve just been adding my 2p worth with a member of the UK government.

Oo-er.  I think I’ve just done my first political lobbying.

No New Wars 11 11 2018

No New Wars 11 11 2018

Meaning, let’s ensure No New Wars start as from 11th November 2018.

How?  By making it clear we expect our leaders to use other means to achieve change.

It will have been a hundred years since the Armistice, a hundred years in which we have learned an awful lot not just people’s ability to harm other, innocent, people, but also about communication, reconciliation, change management, energy creation, environmental management, understanding, and sharing.

In our name, and with our financial support, people are dropping air-bombs, firing guided missiles, shooting long-range heavy-calibre machine-gun fire, remotely-controlling armed drones…to kill people, including civilians.  And is a person who picks up a gun to defend their home a soldier or an armed civilian?  Much of the 20th century involved the deaths of tens of millions of civilians; the 21st century so far has comprised the deaths of 100,000s of civilians, and if you include civilians carrying guns, it is already in the millions.  And the media is glorying in the “Arab Spring” ignoring that it is the worst kind of war: a civil war armed, funded, supported and maintained by external forces who benefit financially or politically from the suffering and deaths of those involved.

Wars are the principle cause of this suffering, and it is time they stopped.  They are not necessary for peace.  There are other means, and not just financial sanctions which are only a feeble exercise in trying to show the futility of peaceful solutions.  Governments and politicians are not ”’trying”’ to end war; it neither adds to their power nor is it financially attractive for their sponsors.

Wars are started by politicians being manipulated and promoted by the media.  If politicians can be made to see that war-mongering is no longer going to create votes, they will become peace-makers.  And if the media are hit financially by not getting readers and web page hits, they will lose advertising revenue and so will cease that behaviour.

The trite cliché “”War is the continuation of politics by other means”” is not only facile, but also two hundred years out of date and inappropriate in a nuclear-energy, internet connected, post-empire world.

I am not so naïve as to think existing wars can be just stopped.  But we can do our bit to create a world where it is not necessary or politically wise to start any new wars.

We—that means you—can tell politicians they will lose their jobs if they start down the path of war.

We—that means you—can tell the media they will lose advertising revenue and sales if they promote war.

I am not saying we should not support our troops nor have a defence facility.  I am not saying the campaign to stop population growth is wrong.  But I am saying we must actively prevent our leaders from starting down paths that lead to the deaths of thousands of civilians just because that is easier and more attractive to them than any alternatives.  We must make peace more attractive.

Other thoughts: I’ll need leaflets, email signatures and other means of publicity.  Also, a blog, a wiki and a forum.

I need to form a No New Wars movement.

I need to start a 11112018 – The Eleven Eleven Twenty Eighteen campaign.

Other thoughts: the modern heroes – the new Ghandis – e.g. the Tienanmen square person with shopping bags in front of the tanks; the people who stand in front of Israeli guns; wikileaks to expose the leaders who lie.  They should not be needed.

(This article was originally published on or before 13/09/2012.)