Mar 242017
 

On March 12th, in California, a Trump Golf course was vandalised by protesters. By contrast, in this very British protest, the important issues were discussed over a cup of tea!

Dr Jo House, University of Bristol with Ms Yashinee Aulum, TIGLS.

With thanks to Martin Ford.

On Saturday 18th March, climate scientists travelled to Trump International Golf Links, Scotland (TIGLS) to present a copy of The Ladybird Expert Guide to Climate Change, authored by HRH The Prince of Wales, and a statement on the importance of science and evidence in climate change policy making issued earlier this week by the Royal Meteorological Society.

The climate scientists wanted to highlight concerns that recent rhetoric and decisions from the Trump administration are contrary to the overwhelming evidence base on climate change and how it needs to be addressed.

Unexpectedly, they were offered the opportunity to discuss their concerns over a cup of tea!

The Head of Hospitality and Guest Services for TIGLS, Ms Yashinee Aulum, was pleased to receive the presentation. TIGLS is a business greatly affected by day-to-day weather, and one potentially at risk from future climate change.

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The visit to TIGLS followed a public science meeting at the University of Aberdeen entitled ‘Science and climate change in an alternative facts world’ which was held as part of British Science Week. The meeting was chaired by Prof Jo Smith (University of Aberdeen), and talks were given by:

Prof Piers Forster, University of Leeds,
Prof Terry Dawson, Kings College London,
Prof Pete Smith, University of Aberdeen,
Dr Jo House, University of Bristol,
Cllr Dr Martin Ford, Aberdeenshire Councillor.

Before the meeting, Prof Pete Smith, University of Aberdeen, who has served as Convening Lead Author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said:

“Climate change, and the way to deal with it, has been accepted by 196 countries at the Paris Climate Agreement, but Mr Trump has appointed a climate denier as the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and has previously pledged to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The fact is, we need the US to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet the ambitious targets set out in the agreement.

“We all share the same atmosphere, so misguided actions in the US will not only affect Americans, it will affect everyone on the planet. We cannot allow decisions based upon ideology to replace those based on scientific evidence – and that is why we are holding this meeting today, during British Science Week – to urge Mr Trump’s administration to take the advice of its own climate scientists, and stick to US commitments under the Paris Agreement.

“The US will benefit from this. Failing to act when you don’t have the evidence is in some cases understandable – but failing to act when you are in full possession of the facts, which amounts to wilful ignorance, is inexcusable, and will cause great damage to the world we leave for our children and grand-children.”

Prof Piers Forster, Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate, University of Leeds said:

“The US is a democracy that I am not part of so they are entitled to pass what ever crazy laws they want. If they want to burn more coal it upsets me but it is ultimately not my call.  However, I worry when their policies threaten science.

“The US administration are really contradicting themselves, saying there is not enough evidence that carbon dioxide causes global warming, then promptly threatening to cut agencies that collect the evidence. Scientists around the world depend on NASA and NOAA satellites and on the efforts of many US colleagues. More than ever we should be basing decisions on evidence rather than ideologies, and I hope the US administration wakes up and realises this.”

Prof Jo Smith, University of Aberdeen added:

“The lives of people in low income countries are already challenged by extreme weather events; climate change will make this worse. We can’t gamble with their lives. Climate change will mean more droughts and floods, and more people will die. The science is clear, so climate policies must be based on this evidence.”

Prof Terry Dawson, Chair in Global Environmental Change, Department of Geography, King’s College London commented:

“This year, the United Nations predicts the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II with several East African Countries being severely affected by drought. The lack of rain has contributed to massive livestock deaths, food and water shortages, acute malnutrition and widespread famine.

“Future climate change is expected to increase the magnitude and frequency of extreme climate events, such as droughts or floods and it is the poorest people in society that are most vulnerable to its negative effects.

“Climate change is a serious risk to poverty reduction and we, as scientists, feel a moral imperative to urge our political leaders act now – inaction or delay is inexcusable.”

Dr Jo House, Cabot Institute, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol said:

“The Trump administration is choosing to ignore or deny the overwhelming scientific consensus on dangers of climate change to people’s health and well-being already, as well as in the future, and the urgency of putting in place long-term plans.

“We are affected in the UK by America’s emissions, but I have no voice there. Sadly similar denial or lack of action is taking place in our own country from a small number of newspapers, businesses and politicians.  UK governments since Margaret Thatcher have been at the forefront of climate action, as they, like the 196 governments who just signed the Paris Agreement, listened to the evidence and understood its importance.

“Climate change has recently slipped down the agenda of the Government. Many countries, states, and businesses have managed to slow or reduce their emissions while still increasing profitability. I am taking part in this meeting to stand up for evidence and for action, not just in America, but here at home.”

Aberdeenshire councillor Martin Ford said:

“Mr Trump is an environmental disaster. We knew that from his actions in Aberdeenshire over the last ten years, but now he can take decisions with global consequences. Mr Trump’s denial of climate change science will make progress with tackling the biggest threat facing the world immensely more difficult.”

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Sep 212016
 

penny-wellsBy Penny Wells.

Well, today is International Day of Peace 2016, and as I sit with a coffee at home I ask myself the question ‘does Aberdeen care about peace?’ It does, and this is how.

In the seven years I have been singing at folk/open mics clubs in the area (Tin Hut, Fyvie, Cellar 35, Musa, Stonehaven, Blue Lamp) I regularly hear songs and poems about peace, although to be fair, there are also many which seem to revisit various historical battles and indeed, almost glorify war.

It is responsible reporting to mention both.

To see real imbalance, try looking around a good bookshop. How many books are there on wars? How many are there on peace building?

I consider myself a peace activist, although a passive activist (if that is not an oxymoron), and as this is International Day of Peace, naturally, it is peace I wish to focus on and reflect on how it connects with my musical activities.

I sing either solo or as part of a duo (Millbrig) with Steve Allan, and when not job-hunting (no easy task in Aberdeen’s current oil recession) I am busy writing/recording in my spare time.

There is an excellent series of events currently underway, and more being planned by local musician, Nigel Lammas, in which musicians and poets express themselves as pro peace.

I took part in one such event last Sunday at St Andrews Cathedral. Much of the material performed, by about ten very different acts, was self penned – as were my own contributions ‘Old Soldier’ and ‘Song for Syria’. However, most of the targeted audience from other cultural backgrounds were enjoying Eid in the Park … so perhaps I was at the wrong venue at that time.

‘Old Soldier’ empathises with ex-combatants. The song suggests that peace talks may be more productive than combat. Admittedly, the song was originally gendered as it included the line ‘Women prefer to hold peace talks’. I changed this to ‘Many prefer to hold peace talks’ at the request of men who wish to be considered as part of this.

‘Song for Syria’ was written after hearing Dr Samer Attar on Radio 4 (26.07.16). Dr Attar is one of many medics who volunteer to help in conflict zones, at considerable risk to themselves. An mp3 copy of the song was sent to Dr Attar in Chicago as a world exclusive, as a gesture of thanks and appreciation for his work and that of his colleagues. Steve and I were pleased to tell this story on Keith Community radio recently as guests on their ‘live lounge’ programme (an hour of chat and music).

The song expresses the wish that a safe place to live could be found for children of conflict, and bewilderment that we train medics to the highest standard, yet despatch them to places of conflict to patch people back together again after man made conflicts, which seems counterproductive.

A major contribution that Aberdeen makes, in my humble opinion, comes at grass roots level, as there are many musicians who think similarly. But it is not always considered acceptable to express these views at work, or in certain social circles, and some are reluctant to be named for fear of reprisal.

However the freedom to express oneself through song, poetry, spoken word or art is clearly evident in Musa café/wine bar, which I have enjoyed going along to since last November.

Musa is presenting a themed peace evening this coming Monday. Billed as ‘A Night of Peaceful Protest through Songs and Spoken Word’, Performers, including those who regularly attend Musa’s open mic sessions will be joined by invited guests from the UN Association Aberdeen. All are welcome to come along, whether to do a turn, watch, listen, or chat in celebration of peace. That my friends is how Aberdeen ‘does’ peace.

A Night of Peaceful Protest through Songs and Spoken Word’

Monday, 26th September – 8pm to 12 midnight
Regulars welcome!
Plus participation from UN Association, Aberdeen

Musa,
33 Exchange St,
Aberdeen AB11 6PH

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Aug 302013
 

Ahead of the demonstration against involvement in Syria taking place this Saturday at 12 noon to 1pm outside Marks and Spencers being organised by Don’t Attack Syria Coalition (Aberdeen), chair of Aberdeen and District CND, Jonathan Russell writes about the background to the Syrian conflict, as well the current situation and warns of the dangers of armed intervention.

Syrian flag2According to the UN, the two-year old conflict in Syria has led to 100000 deaths with a further 1.7m Syrians forced to seek shelter in neighbouring countries. Aberdeen and District CND firmly believes that any military intervention by Western powers is certain to exacerbate the situation and bring even worse consequences for the Syrian people and their neighbours.

That US, UK and French governments are now preparing to attack the Syrian regime without having tabled any compelling proof that the chemical attacks were carried out by the Assad government is of overwhelming concern to us.

Furthermore, without the agreement of the UN Security Council, any attack would be in breach of International Law.

The Syrian conflict is primarily between Sunni, many of whom support the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and Shia Muslims together with the Alawites and Christians who primarily support the Assad government. The FSA consists of different entities with the largest fighting group aligned with Al Qaeda.

The principal supporters of the Syrian government are Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon, whereas the FSA is backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. There is every possibility that western missile attacks on Assad will widen the conflict and, as with Iraq and Afghanistan, lead to long-standing civil strife of a horrendous nature, possibly even worse than we have witnessed before.

Who was responsible for the reported chemical attacks is not clear. On one hand, Israel, the UK and the US claim to have information to demonstrate that the Assad regime is responsible, whilst Russia and Iran believe that responsibility lies with the FSA.

More telling perhaps, is that the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria and the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Nava Pillay, have laid the responsibility at the FSA’s door. Moreover, since the US had stated that the use of chemical weapons would be the red line on intervention, the Assad government would have nothing to gain from such an attack.

Whoever was responsible has to be held to account, but the facts need to be made public. Unlawful military action will only internationalise the conflict further.

Aberdeen CND calls upon the UK government to allow a UN inspection of the chemical attacks so that the evidence can be properly evaluated. Aberdeen CND regrets the decision by the US to withdraw from negotiations and calls for diplomatic resources to be made available to facilitate negotiations between the warring parties.

The view of Aberdeen CND is that any intervention should be in the form of humanitarian aid for people displaced, made homeless or hospitalised by the conflict. Once these initial steps are taken, conditions may then favour the deployment of a UN peace-keeping mission. Aberdeen CND also supports cessation of arms sales to the countries of the Middle Eastern region.

For further information contact Jonathan Russell on 0758-245-6233 or Mike Martin on 0797-476-3082

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Mar 212013
 

With thanks to Richard Bunting.

Conservation charity Trees for Life has welcomed the first United Nations International Day of Forests with a call for more people to get involved in helping to create a renaissance for Scotland’s beleaguered forests.

The UN General Assembly has proclaimed 21 March to be the International Day of Forests – a day to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of forests and trees for all life on earth.

Across Scotland, forest restoration efforts are bringing new or renewed life to many ancient native woodlands, from Rassal Ashwood in Wester Ross to the Carrifran Wildwood in Dumfries and Galloway, and from the Loch Sunart Oakwoods in Lochaber to Abernethy and Glenfeshie in the Cairngorms National Park.

Yet with increasing concerns about climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss – as well as tree diseases such as ash dieback and Dothistroma Needle Blight, which is a potential threat to the iconic Scots pine – the need for concerted action to conserve and regenerate Scotland’s native woodlands is more important than ever before.

Alan Watson Featherstone, Trees for Life’s Executive Director, said:

“There are signs of hope for woodlands throughout Scotland, but we urgently need more people to help make a difference now – the future of Scotland’s forests is literally in our hands. We are the last generation with the opportunity to save the CaledonianForest, for example, as many of the remnants of this Scottish equivalent of the rainforests are in terminal decline.

“Fortunately projects such as ours provide an inspiring and practical way for people from all walks of life to help make a personal and positive difference – to help restore natural wonders such as the CaledonianForest and to reverse the global trend of deforestation.”

 For 2013, the Year of Natural Scotland, Trees for Life is:

  • Working to double its rate of restoration work in the Caledonian Forest.
  • Running a Million More Trees campaign – an ambitious bid to establish a further million trees by planting and natural regeneration by 2017.
  • Expanding its acclaimed Conservation Weeks, offering more opportunities for people to make a personal contribution to the environment and to gain hands-on conservation experience. The weeks are being held in eight locations across the Highlands, in a longer season than ever before that has begun this week and runs until November.
  • Launching Wildlife Weeks for conservation volunteers who want to spend extra time learning about and observing the CaledonianForest’s remarkable wildlife.
  • Running fortnightly Conservation Days, for local people to take practical action.
  • Enabling disadvantaged volunteers from diverse backgrounds, including older people and those who are unemployed or on low incomes, to help directly in forest restoration work – an initiative made possible by a £45,900 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Following a long history of deforestation, some 150 years ago the Caledonian Forest reached a critical point of no return. Since then, with too few remaining trees and too many deer eating all the seedlings that germinate, young trees have struggled to get established. This has left ‘geriatric’ forests made up of old trees at the end of their lives, with no new ones growing to replace them.

Today, only a fraction of the former Caledonian Forest survives, with its native pinewoods reduced to 35 isolated remnants. However, Trees for Life is restoring the forest to a wilderness region of 1,000 square miles in the Highlands to the west of Loch Ness and Inverness.

Volunteers from the award-winning charity have helped to plant more than one million trees at dozens of locations, and to create 10,000 acres of new forest. Amongst these emerging forests, a complex web of life is renewing itself. Habitat restoration is making a big difference to the wildlife of the Caledonian Forest, which includes the strawberry spider, wood ants, red squirrels, rare sawflies, ospreys and capercaillies.

For more details, see www.treesforlife.org.uk or call 0845 458 3505.

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Sep 172012
 

With thanks to Jonathan Russell. 

Aberdeen Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament will be running a Song and Poetry Night on Friday 21st September at 7.30 at the Quaker Meeting House to mark the International Day of Peace.

Special activities will be taking place across the world. To inaugurate the day the Peace Bell is rung at the United Nations. The 21st September is the opening day of regular sessions of the United Nations.

The idea of an International Day of Peace came from one man James Gilley who hounded world leaders to make it happen.

It was put forward at the United Nations in 1981 by the United Kingdom and Costa Rica (the only country in the world not to have a standing army)

The day is dedicated to Peace and the Absence of War.

Jeremy Gilley along with the film star Jude Law have organised a concert this year at the Wembley Arena to be headlined by Elton John.

If you want to be part of the celebration in Aberdeen please come along to the Quaker Meeting House at 7.30pm on 21st September. Those performing include Kirsty Potts, Dave Davies and Hilda Meers- you can bring along your own peace related songs/music or poetry if you so wish.

For further information contact Sally e-mail Sally @hjke.org

 

 

 

Feb 192012
 

On March 1st the Aberdeen branch of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign will be hosting three exciting speakers at Aberdeen University: Fathe Kdirat and Itaf Njoum Karma from Jordan Valley Solidarity, and Leehee Rothschild from Boycott from Within (Israel).

Fathe and Itaf, both Palestinians, will be discussing Israel’s destruction of communities and the environment in the Jordan Valley, and the on-going illegal Israeli settlement construction that continues to drive Palestinians from their land.

The Jordan Valley makes up a large section of the West Bank, around 28% in total.  It has been one of the worst affected areas of the West Bank during the Israeli occupation, which began in 1967.

The occupation saw the Jordan Valley’s population drop by 88% and was thereafter the site of Israel’s first settlements.

Since the occupation Israel has gone about taking almost complete control of the area.  This map (click to follow link) published in December 2011 by the United Nations Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) shows that 15% of the Jordan Valley comprises  settlements (blatantly illegal under international law[i]), 27% comprises nature reserves, often used to control natural resources such as water supply (to the detriment of Palestinians) and 56%  comprises  closed military areas.

In addition, 87% of the Jordan Valley is designated Area C, i.e. under Israeli control. The 1993 Oslo Accords divided the occupied West Bank into 3 sections: Area A, under the full control of the Palestinian Authority (3% of the West Bank); Area B, under Palestinian civilian control and Israeli military control (25%); and Area C, under the full control of Israel (72%).  Designating land as Area C gives Israel unlimited autonomy to do as it pleases and to ignore the rights of Palestinians.  For example, according to UN OCHA 94% of Area C planning applications submitted by Palestinians were denied between 2001 and 2007.

One of the main focuses of Israel policy in the area is to clear the Jordan Valley of its Bedouin population.  In September 2011 the Israeli government announced its plans to expel 27,000 Bedouin from their homes and lands in the Jordan Valley.  This process is due to be completed in the next 3-6 years; the initial stages have already begun.

The role of activism, resistance and international solidarity is crucial in the fight to prevent this attempted ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley.  Fathe and Itaf will talk on how Palestinian communities and internationals are working together to witness, catalogue and resist Israel’s actions, and the importance of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against apartheid Israel.

One crucial component of the BDS campaign is the small but important resistance movement within Israel itself.  This includes the campaign group Boycott from Within.

“We, Palestinians, Jews, citizens of Israel, join the Palestinian call for a BDS campaign against Israel, inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid. We also call on others to do the same.” Boycott from Within Website

Organisations like Boycott from Within are operating within a state becoming increasingly reactionary to the growing success of the calls for the end of the occupation, equal rights for Palestinians within Israel, and the right of return for Palestinian (the three main tenets of the BDS campaign).  In July 2011 the Knesset (Israeli parliament) passed an anti-boycott bill, criminalising those who support boycotts of Israel or its illegal occupation and settlements.

The bill has implications for individuals and organisations alike; for example companies deciding not to source products from illegal settlements in the West Bank may be barred from government contracts.  More recent Knesset bills have turned their attention to NGOs working in Israel, such as groups aiming to promote human rights.

One such law proposes to place a limit on the funding NGOs can receive from foreign governments and institutions, meaning many will be unable to function.

Leehee Rothschild will be speaking about her involvement in internal resistance movements such as Boycott from Within and Anarchists Against the Wall, as well as exploring issues of propaganda within the Israeli education system.

The talk starts at 7pm on March 1st in room 268 in the MacRobert Building at Aberdeen University.  For more information contact: Aberdeen@scottishpsc.org.uk


[i] for example see the International Court of Justice ruling 2004, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and UN Security Council Resolution 446

Sep 012011
 

By Jonathan Hamilton Russell.

In June of this year I  wrote an article on the situation in Libya called ‘Libya another Brutal Conflict’.
In it I suggested a way forward would have been via negotiations, which would include the expectation for fair elections run by the United Nations, the withdrawal of NATO and the use of UN peacekeepers.

Qaddafi would have been forced to face his opposition but in a non-bloody way. Only if such negotiations failed would military action be considered.

The mantra regarding the war on Iraq was ‘weapons of mass destruction’; this proved to be a lie. The mantra in relation t oLibya has been ‘the defence of innocent civilians’. This, as the conflict has escalated, has proved clearly not to be the real objective. Investigations by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and a UN commission headed by the legal scholar Cheri Bassioni found there was no evidence of the atrocity stories which were given as the reasons for NATO action.

Yet this was not listened to by our politicians and was not widely reported by the media. What has clearly happened is a mission of regime change which went far beyond the UN mandate. Such developments were opposed by the US Congress and never properly debated in our own Parliament.

Rather than protecting civilians, NATO weapons have inevitably killed them.

Their targets increasingly widened from attacking tanks that were moving towards Benghazi, to attacking all Libyan Military installations, to attacking any building that was seen as supporting the Gaddafi administration.

Inevitably there were civilian casualties. On the day of the rebel attack on Tripoli, more bombs were dropped than on any other day in NATO’s history. The rebels were also being supported and trained by troops from NATO countries, and as evidenced by the Sunday Times, some were Libyan exiles living in the UK. This has led to an even more bitter war between the ‘rebels and Kaddafi loyalists with disastrous human consequences.

The hospitals are not coping and Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are reporting human rights violations on all sides. Human Rights Watch consider that the evidence suggests that the old governments Khamis Brigade killed 45 detainees. The horrors of what happened to Kaddafi troops and the disappearance of all the medical staff at Abu- Salim hospital is just unfolding as are other atrocities, but these are only the most heavily reported incidents.

We never seem to learn the lesson of the horrors that war can bring.

Richard Seymour in the Guardian reported on Peter Bouckaert from Human Rights Watch findings that he had not identified one mercenary among scores of men being arrested and falsely labelled as such by journalists. Many Libyans are black but have been labelled as black mercenaries from Africa and led to racist incidents.

Qaddafi’s regime became increasingly oppressive over time

On top of this, much of the country’s infra-structure has been destroyed. The Libyan Transitional Council estimate it will take ten years to repair the damage done to the country’s infrastructure.

So what is the future for Libya? It is almost certain that Qaddafi will be eventually defeated, but how long that takes and at what continuing human cost is still to be seen. Worryingly, anyone supporting Qaddafi will not be seen as a civilian but as a supporter of a mad and dangerous dictator. The rebels are not a united force. The National Transitional Council has been recognised by over 40 foreign states; however, has it been recognised by the militias on the ground?

Abul Fatah Younes, the leader of the  Rebel army, was murdered by one of the Islamic militias and this in turn led to the sacking of the whole cabinet by Musta Abdul Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Government.

Will this Government be able to rule or will fighting continue between the various factions, in particular those aligned to a more Islamic agenda and those not? These groupings are now highly armed and as our policies did in Afghanistan, they could easily come back to bite western interests. Atiyha Abdl al Rahman, the deputy leader of Al-Qaida who was killed by US drones in Pakistan, was Libyan.

Qaddafi’s regime became increasingly oppressive over time. In his early years as a revolutionary leader, he was involved in pulling down prisons.  Being active himself over the years led to the atrocities that more recently took place of Islamists in Libyan prisons. Hopefully human rights will improve, but that has yet to be seen, and Libya was far from being the only country which has tortured and killed the more extreme Islamists.

Any new government will still have to find ways of dealing with Islamic groups and could end up being equally oppressive.

The Qaddafi regime was oppressive to its enemies, they did however have the highest social indicators in the Third World with better housing, health care and standards of living than in other Middle East and third world countries. As with Iraq these social strengths and the resulting effects on the countries well-being are sure to decline particularly if conflict continues.

Libya was not a country in debt, but it is now, and like us it will have to become beholden to the banks for money borrowed to rebuild the country. Who will own the huge reserves held in foreign banks which were there in part to deal with Libya’s future when the oil stocks have gone?

This has caused considerable indignation on the African continent.

Libya has historically produced 1.5 to 2 million barrels of oil a day. Qaddafi was hated by the west for nationalising Libyan oil and though he has more recently been co-operating with Western firms he has still been directing considerable investment into the economy and saving for its future.

Any new government will, unless clearly Islamic, be beholden to the West, and as such oil is almost certain to be obtained by the West more cheaply; the cost of oil on the markets has already gone down. Libya will also likely have military NATO bases for any future developments in the Middle East.

The poorer Libyans will, I suspect, be those who will be the most badly affected but others will gain and disparities in wealth will increase to the overall detriment of the country. Hopefully human rights will improve, but that has yet to be seen. Qaddafi was supportive of women’s involvement in society and was one of the reasons that he opposed so strongly the more extreme tenants of Islam and its supporters in Libya.

The future for women could go either way, but is certain to cause tension in the new Libya.

Qaddafi was instrumental in setting up the African Union and financially supported African infrastructure projects. The West, unless replaced by Chinese interests, will now have greater control over the African continent. However despite for instance South Africa supporting Resolution 1973 which led to intervention in Libya, their and other African countries attempts through the African Union to set up peace talks were knocked back. This has caused considerable indignation on the African continent.

overall spending on wars leads to fewer resources to be spent on other areas

Due to the way that NATO overstepped the UN resolution, there is now reluctance by many countries to do anything in Syria or the other Middle East countries. Damage has been done to International relations and the workings of the United Nations due to NATO’s actions.

Why have we, and why are we continuing to arm dictatorships in countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, etc.  which are oppressive to their people? In fact, why are we arming any country? All armaments have the potential for use both between warring countries and on countries own citizens. Yet selling more arms is a key target of the present UK Government.

The selling of arms does lead to profit and work for those involved and money for Government. However overall spending on wars leads to fewer resources to be spent on other areas and in the United Kingdom, France and the United States it will lead to increased cuts in public services which will affect us all, but in particular the more vulnerable people in our society.

The United Nations was set up to try and stop wars between countries. Libya had not invaded another country.

The intervention was, however, based around the doctrine of  ‘the responsibility to protect’ following The Rwandan genocide. The way NATO has acted by clearly taking sides in Libya has brought this doctrine into disrespect. The press in the UK have in the main been heralding the success of the Libyan intervention, but if you dig deeper this can only be questioned.

The United Nations needs itself to have increased power to stop the manipulation that has clearly taken place around the Libyan conflict.

So what can we do?

  • We can protest. Stop the War and CND are holding an anti-war rally on October 8th to mark 10  years of  military intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya. The demonstrations against the Iraq war may not have stopped the war but they did shake the establishment and led in part to the downfall of Tony Blair
  • We can support the United Nations associations to help make this a stronger organisation that gets back to its original basis for existing
  • We can protest against our pension funds being invested in the arms trade as is in the case of Aberdeen City Councils pension fund.
  • Campaign Against the Arms Trade ( CAAT  ) will be holding their yearly demonstration on September 13th in London. ‘ Cut the Arms Trade not public services’. Please see:  Stop the War  or CAAT website.
Jun 102011
 

By  Jonathan Hamilton Russell.

The situation in Libya is complex and an understanding requires a historical perspective and the realisation that Libya is a tribal society which has many tribal and political interests. Gaddafi when he took power in Libya in 1969, in a bloodless coup, nationalised the oil and took it away from Western Control.

He used the money gained to invest in the social structure, i.e. health, education and social housing in Libya.

Gaddafi became involved in supporting’ Liberation’ wars in Africa and Ireland  and this along with the Lockerbie tragedy led to sanctions and to initial bombings by the US in 1986. Sanctions led to a decline in the wealth of Libya and In the late 90’s Gaddafi changed his policy to the West due to the effects of  these sanctions  and  to his even greater dislike of fundamentalist Islam in the form of Al Qaida and the Taliban. Libya was returned into the international fold and welcomed warmly by our own Prime Minister at the time Tony Blair.

Gaddafi admits that he has carried out human rights violations and torture on his opposition in particular to those linked to Al Qaida, to whom he is strongly opposed and for this he should, like any other abuser of human rights, be prosecuted. Al Qaida has had a strong following in Libya and Libyans were the largest grouping of fighters within Al Qaida in Iraq.

Gaddafi says he got his lead on the use of torture from the United States and if he is to be tried for human rights and war crimes so should lots of other national leaders and all those affiliated to NATO.

Gaddafi was instrumental in setting up the African Union and has helped in the development of infrastructure projects in Africa. According to the United Nations, Libya until the present conflict had the best social indicators in the Third World.  Gaddafi has promoted the equality of women and is opposed to the backward attitude of most of the Arab world in relation to their attitudes towards women. Gaddafi did instigate his own form of democracy very similar to Soviet Style Workers committees and had no formal position as head of state. In reality he has been at the head of the country and has increasingly been concerned about hanging on to power.

Gaddafi is a complex man who has done both good and bad but the media portrayal of an evil dictator is to say the least over simplistic This does not mean that his desire to hold onto power has not led to an over controlling and oppressive state but it does mean that our response to him should be more balanced particularly when you compare Libya to other regimes in the Middle East which are equally repressive but also have greater disparities in wealth. There have been reports of Gaddafi’s troops having been involved with rape in Misrata a common occurrence in war which is barbaric and unacceptable.

The United Nations staff, on the ground in Libya say there is no hard evidence of this. However a spokesperson from the International Court on war crimes say they have evidence that systematic rape is being used by the Gaddaffi regime. This clearly needs further investigation before any firm conclusion can be reached.

Libya is a tribal society and the West of the country has benefited more than the East.

The bombings were aimed at stopping a humanitarian disaster yet where has the outcry been about those supporters of Gaddafi tortured and killed

Gaddafi clearly has his opponents but these are a mixture of Western sympathisers including those who want more democracy and those who follow Al Qaida. The majority of leadership of the Rebels in Banghazi is presently made up of ex Libyan Government ministers who previously had no interest in Western Democracy but are defecting as they see the imminent collapse of the regime.

A significant number of the more experienced of those fighting for the revolution gained their military skills fighting for Al Qaida in Iraq and are to be feared by many of those who support Gaddafi. Getting rid of Gaddafi is not likely to lead to a peaceful democratic Libya but is much more likely to lead to greater internal division and continued violence.

The oil is to be found in the East of the country.

The eastern leaders have already agreed to give oil contracts to the West. The bombings were aimed at stopping a humanitarian disaster yet where has the outcry been about those supporters of Gaddafi tortured and killed, the killings and general plight of African Workers and to the casualties of NATO bombings? Why has Libya been selected for this type of intervention when the evidence is that equally bad oppression is taking place in other Middle Eastern countries.

Libya compared with most countries had only a small army and arms sales to Saudi Arabia  – an equally oppressive state – are far greater. From 2008 until the last quarter of 2010 arms sales to Saudi Arabia from the UK were three times  less than those to Libya.

War is always brutal and people always suffer on all sides, yet it appears to have become the norm to intervene in this way rather than to find ways forward via negotiation. This policy of military intervention has been used to disastrous effect in Iraq, Afghanistan Pakistan and Palestine.

The only beneficiaries of these conflicts are the arms companies burgeoning profits. Ordinary people on the ground pay for war by the murder or mutilation of their loved ones. Why were the attempts by the African Union and Venezuela to act as an intermediary for negotiations in the Libyan conflict so easily turned down?  Nor any other attempts to broker negotiations put in place? Surely all forms of negotiation should have tried before the policy of protecting civilians turned into a  military intervention aimed at regime change at any cost.

The cost of this action and the resulting likely cries for more military spending will lead to even greater cuts in our own social spending

NATO  has moved from a position of ‘protecting civilians’ to regime change and is in effect putting many civilian lives in jeopardy.

This policy has never been sanctioned by our own Parliament and does not fit with the United Nations own charter as Libya has not invaded another country.

Our own Prime Minister, who was caught promoting the sale of arms to Middle East dictators at the beginning of the Middle East uprisings, has with his ally President Sarkozy of France been the main instigators of this military Intervention in Libya and have in many ways replaced Bush and Blair as the main instigators  of military intervention in other states. President Obama initially hesitated but – as has sadly become his style – eventually taken a hawkish position in Foreign policy.

The results of these actions have lead to more civilian casualties and to the destruction of buildings and infrastructure and to the loss  of social gains.  The cost of this action and the resulting likely cries for more military spending will lead to even greater cuts in our own social spending. The United States spent over £750 million on the conflict in its first few weeks. In the UK the corresponding figure currently stands at around £300 million and it is forecasted that this will rise to one billion by September.

One factor that has got lost is that when Libya’s Foreign Secretary  Moussa Koussa was interviewed by the Scottish police in relation to the Lockerbie bombings,  yet we have heard nothing of these interviews.

Surely if he had  evidence of Libya’s involvement this would have been given huge publicity and given as a justification for military action. Dr Jim Swire has warned against any evidence from defectors being taken seriously as they have interests of self-preservation. There is still significant concern about the correctness of the present verdict regarding the Lockerbie bombing

We appear to have become numb to the use of brutal military action by our own Government and have fallen for the media’s over-simplistic justification of getting rid of a mad and brutal dictator. NATO has extended it’s timescale for operations and calls from South Africa are going unheeded. Al Jazeera has shown footage of Western troops West of Misrata yet one of the main points of the UN Security Council was to exclude foreign involvement on the ground.

I  believe that a negotiated settlement should be sought with the clear aim of setting up elections. It would then be up to all the Libyan people to decide on their future. All bombings by NATO should stop while negotiations take place. One of the main demands of the UN Security council resolution was for a cease fire. Given any ceasefire it should be United Nations Peacekeeping forces that should be put on the ground not NATO troops that are on the ground.

All those responsible for war crimes and torture should be tried at the International War Crimes court.