The Chilling Chilcot Report

And we ask why extremists hijack planes and fly them into our western towers, why suicide bombers blow themselves, and us, to kingdom come as we travel in our buses and on our metro systems.

Seven and a half years in the making, six and a half million words, a damning indictment of UK military action against Iraq

Apologies to the distraught relatives of 200 UK military killed in the operation and rightly so. But for every UK death you see a hundred or more Iraqis dead, many, most of them,  civilians. And for every Iraqi casualty of this misguided intervention another terrorist sympathiser born.

We see the imperial power temporarily glow in the recall of its former glory and unquestioningly tie itself to the shoestrings of a world policeman intent on a “war on terror” but never asking the question “Why do these people hate us so much?”

Imperialism breeds resentment and hatred and produces a response which we call terror.  Every bomb dropped leaves people remembering and many of them determined to seek revenge.

And remembrance can be long, so very long.  You only have to look at the inscriptions our western war graves “From the rising of the sun to its setting we will remember them” to realise how long it will take before people forget and forgive.

And it is not as if the public did not try to call a halt before this disastrous war was unleashed.  Recall the marches, worldwide, the millions of people who cried “halt” and who were ignored.

And what now?  A heartfelt apology, to say the least, unconditional compensation in terms of rebuilding lost lives.  But how long and how much will it take before a devastated people forgive?

When will we in the West learn to allow other people to select their own leaders and political systems and to sort out their own issues about “regime change”?  For too long we have attempted to rule and exploit the world for our own purposes.

Above all, we need a determination “Never again” and written large the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson “Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding”

Tony – 7 July 2016

 

 

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Place names and other controversies

 

Unionists in Northern Ireland have expressed understandable annoyance following the decision by Derry City and Strabane District Council to vote in favour of changing the official name of the city of Londonderry to Derry.

 

The vote on Thursday last at the Guildhall on the controversial name change was passed with support from Sinn Fein, the SDLP and independent councillors. Understandably the proposal was opposed by the minority unionist group on the nationalist-controlled council.

 

Why, in the name of all that is good and reasonable, cause needless tension and dispute by tinkering with the city name? The name Derry/Londonderry has been in common use for some time and that seems, to an outsider like me ay least, to be an acceptable solution in a place where opinions are still strongly divided along nationalist/unionist lines. Derry/Londonderry seems to be a peace-bridge type of name which accommodates two traditions living side by side in one recently very troubled place.

 

Raising sectarian disputes by proposing what was clearly going to be a controversial vote on a name change is just as de-stabilising to peaceful relations as the wearisome regular call by Sinn Fein for a plebiscite on the question of whether Northern Ireland wishes to be united with the Republic of Ireland.   Do Sinn Fein really believe that if a day dawns when (a) nationalists in the north slightly outnumber unionists and (b) vote en masse for unification, that the new slender minority of unionists will be happy to unquestioningly throw in their lot with the people south of the border?  Is this simple majority rule the Sinn Fein idea of democracy?

 

The Good Friday agreement has been a wonderful, and rather amazing, resting point along the road to better relations, north and south, east and west between the diverse traditions on these islands. If, as a follow up to that agreement, friendship and co-operation can be fostered in the very many areas where it make sense to work together, that will be good job, a wonderful job and, for now, a sufficient job. Marriage proposals can be left until both parties are truly in love. The pain of recent events on all sides requires time and careful attention in order to heal. The flower of co-operation requires time and careful attention in order to bloom.

 

We have to learn to celebrate diversity and not to fear it.  The two main traditions on this island have much to offer each other.   It is painful to see sectarian views expressed in relation to flags and symbols, parades and celebrations, the wearing and non wearing of poppies, the use of words in church.   I happen, by good fortune, to belong to a church, the Unitarian Church in Dublin, where diversity is celebrated.   If a survey was to be taken in our church I expect that no two of us would hold the same views and yet week by week we worship together to seek meaning and celebrate the wonder of existence. I pray that unionists and nationalists, inspired by progressive, patient and far seeing leaders will one day be happy to celebrate their differences and live together in that peace which is the entitlement and hope of all people.

 

Tony  10 November 2015

 

 

 

 

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70 years after Hiroshima

It is painful to look back 70 years today to the huge loss of innocent human life caused by the of dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

War is brutal. It is never a pleasant experience for the military participants.  Witnessing the killing and maiming of one’s comrades must leave marks on a soldier for as long as he or she lives.  The killing and wounding of opposing military personnel must take an equal or greater toll on the personality and psychological well-being of the perpetrator even if what is done is carried out in a moment of on-the-spot self-defence.

But the indiscriminate bombing (and in this case obliteration) of an entire city population can never be justified. Seventy years on the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki must still rank high among the bloodiest and ugliest acts of cruelty in mankind’s long and tragic history of war and conflict.

Two Japanese cities and their people were transformed in two instants of unprecedented horror into clouds of choking dust. Hundreds of thousands of people who happened to be in places more remote from the initial blasts endured long painful illnesses. Many faced slow and difficult deaths caused by the radiation effects of the world’s first (and mercifully only) wartime use of nuclear weapons.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not proud moments in the history of the United States or the world.

The 70th anniversary of this outrage should cause us all to press for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.  We have more than enough weapons and fire power for hand to hand combat than society should ever need.  The leaders of modern warfare never take part in the bloody action on the ground.

The Hiroshima anniversary is also a reminder of the horrors that can be unleased when our technology advances beyond our sense of morality.  Today the power to kill can be delegated to programmable machines.  Drones are already in use delivering payload of destruction under the control of people at computer screens far remote from the target zone and for whom the manipulation of these devices is little more than the equivalent of a video game.  The controller sees nothing but a flash.  He or she does not hear the explosion, does not see the pain on the faces of the unfortunate recipients of this fire from the sky.

Today more than ever we need to heed the call of John F. Kennedy in his inaugural speech when he addressed, as he put it, “those nations who would make themselves our adversary”:

“Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce.”

The earth today faces unparalleled challenges which affect the future of every man woman and child born and to be born on the planet.  Can we work together to face this common threat and concentrate our resources and imagination in ways which will enhance life for everyone?

Can we all work to finally bring into reality the words of Isaiah “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Tony – 6 August 2015

PS: since publishing the above I have seen on Netflix the BBC TV movie Hiroshima (available on Netflix) and featuring harrowing descriptions by some survivors of the dreadful Hiroshima event.

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