Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

Paris Attcks: We shall not be moved. Nous restons en place. 14 November

November 14, 2015

After the murderous bombings in Paris what now?

The day after the July 7 bombings I was in London, sitting on a near empty Tune train, pulling into one sparsely peopled station after another. I felt afraid, as did everyone else. There was hardly any talking between us few passengers.

From somewhere inside me came the old protest song ‘We shall not be moved.’ I sang it quietly to myself. ‘We shall not, we shall not be moved.’ The song bolstered my confidence, quietened my fear, strengthened my determination to keep travelling where the bombers had attacked. ‘Just like a tree that’s planted by the riverside, we shall not be moved.’

 The thought of singing out loud came to me. I wasn’t bold enough to do it. Apart from having a notoriously bad singing voice, I worried that the scattered few passengers would think me odd, at least.

 Now I wish I had sung out. Maybe someone would have understood. Maybe it would have helped a fellow passenger as it had done me. Maybe it would even have spread…

 WE SHALL NOT, WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED. We shall not be moved from eating out in our city centres. We shall not be moved from going to concerts and football matches. We shall not be moved from living in a free and open society. We shall not give in to the terrorists’ aim to make us terrorised. We shall act as unterrorised, as normal, as free.

 The public response after the Charlie Hebdo killings was the same. People took to the streets, holding pens. We shall not be moved from publishing and reading satire, of anything and everything.

 Now the French Government is calling people to stay indoors. Communal events are closed. No street demonstrations are allowed until Thursday. Is this the right response?

 I understand the need to keep people safe. Parisians must be stunned by shock. Eating out now, celebrating over food, could feel disrespectful to the many dead and injured.

 Yes, let those who need to stay at home and mourn do so. But, please, let those who want to go out, who want to find and create solidarity, who want to sing ‘We shall not be moved…’ also do so, as they did in Paris and other towns at the beginning of this year.

Please keep the friendly football match between England and France on Tuesday. Maybe the stadium will resound, maybe even in French as well as English: ‘We shall not, we shall not be moved!’ ‘Nous restons, nous restons en place!’

Roger Harper

PS I’ll be at Wembley on Tuesday for the match!

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The Qu’ran vs. Jesus: 18 January

January 18, 2015

The Qu’ran has always been at odds with Jesus. We need to live Jesus’ way

Sebastian Faulks wrote in the Times a while ago, as I have quoted before:

‘With the Koran there are no stories. And it has no ethical dimension like the New Testament, no new plan for life. It says “the Jews and the Christians were along the right tracks, but actually, they were wrong and I’m right, and if you don’t believe me, tough — you’ll burn for ever.” That’s basically the message of the book.’

The claim that Mohammed is the last and greatest prophet is in clear contradiction to the claim that Jesus is the prophet who is more than a prophet, God’s Son. The Qu’ran was written partly to correct or contradict the Jesus of the Gospels.

The opposition is clear.

The Qu’ran is intolerant of mockery.

Jesus accepted people mocking Him. Jesus said ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.’ Jesus taught people to invite more slaps on the cheek!

The Qu’ran’s enemies are ‘the infidels / unbelievers:’

Jesus’ enemies are not flesh and blood, but unclean spirits, ideologies, systems, ‘principalities and powers in the heavenly places.’

The Qu’ran is militaristic. Before receiving the messages recorded in the Qu’ran, Mohammed was a trader. Afterwards, he became a warrior chief. In the last 10 years of his life, Mohammed either led or sent out 65 military campaigns (according to the Introduction to the English rendition of the Qu’ran published by the UK Islamic Mission Dawah Centre.)

Jesus led no military campaigns. Jesus refused to use violence. Jesus instead allowed himself to be a victim of violence.

The Qu’ran teaches retaliation: ‘There is life for you in retaliation , O men of understanding, that ye may ward off (evil.)’ (2:179) ‘And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers.’ (2:191) ‘and fight them until persecution is no more and religion is for Allah.’ (2:192) ‘And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you.’ (2:194) (Surah 2 is seen by Moslems as a summary of the whole Koran.)

Jesus teaches no retaliation – ever. He tells his followers to love enemies, to pray for those who persecute them, to look to God to bless enemies, change them.

Looking at the history of Christianity and Islam you wouldn’t know that their origins are so different. Christianity followed Jesus faithfully for about 350 years. Then came the great compromise between Christianity and the Roman Empire. Christianity embraced, and restricted, militarism and retaliation. When Islam emerged, it copied and countered a State Religion with a powerful army.

The Christianity of the Crusades, of military retaliation, was far from following the teachings of Jesus. The ‘Christianity’ of the invasion of Iraq, the bombing of IS etc. is far from following the teachings of Jesus.

Christians need to return to the teaching and Spirit of Jesus, especially in responding to terrorist attacks:

No retaliation, ever.

No military response. No relying on weapons, on the ‘security’ industry.

No deeming people evil. People can be infected and misguided by evil but there are no ‘evil people.’

No giving up the freedom to mock and be mocked.

No further restriction on the welcome we give to strangers, despite the differences and the dangers.

Christians need strength, inner strength, not to retaliate, to keep loving. We need strength to fight fear and anger / vengefulness etc. etc.

Christians need to encourage and strengthen each other:

We shall not be moved…

We shall not give up our civic freedoms. We shall not give in to the fear of strangers, of immigrants. We will not cower behind more and more security, more weapons. We will go out into the streets and squares of our towns, lighting candles, carrying pens. We will not be moved from being an open, democratic, welcoming, fair, just society.

Just like a tree that’s standing by the waterside…

To have the strength not to be moved, we need a river to feed into our roots. Europe has never seen a wholeheartedly Christian country, rather various compromises between the State and Jesus. Yet there has been a river flowing from Jesus which has watered, influenced, the roots of Europe. We need to keep drawing from that river.

The Qu’ran has always been at odds with Jesus. We need to live Jesus’ way, now more than ever.

How British Leaders Ruined the 20th Century: 5 January

January 5, 2015

Two great myths shattered in front of me as I read the Church Times before Christmas.[i]

Myth One:    The Christmas truce of 1914 was only day-long, a spontaneous idyllic but impossibly unrealistic moment in contrast to the real world of warring nations.

Myth Two:     The British have reason to be proud about decently fighting and winning two 20th Century world wars into which they were dragged by other more violent nations.

The Christmas truce of 1914 lasted, in some places, for weeks. One British soldier swapped a tin of bully beef for a German soldier’s spiked helmet. The German soldier then explained that he was on parade next day and would give it to his new mate afterwards, which he did. ‘In some cases … troops contrived to shoot over the heads of their opposite, or simply managed not to engage in warfare at all for considerable lengths of time. Major Buchanan-Dunlop, in a letter to his wife on 3 February 1915, mentions that the fighting where he was based had only just resumed. Captain F. E. Packe, in a letter on 19 March 1915, mentions an “absurdly quiet” time in a spot they had relieved where a truce had taken place.’

Each time the fighting resumed, the British started firing. Sgt George Ashurst, 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, recalled chatting with his ‘oppos’ until British artillery started shelling German lines, endangering him and his mates.

The Christmas truce was not entirely a spontaneous outbreak, but part of a serious effort to return to negotiation instead of fighting. Pope Benedict XV, and others, had asked the warring nations to agree to a truce. The Germans and Austrians had agreed. The British, and presumably the French and Russians, had refused. General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien had issued an order explicitly prohibiting Christmas ceasefires. He, and other Generals, knew that ceasefires were a distinct possibility, which they needed to countermand.

The German soldiers who put up Christmas trees for their enemy to see and shouted Christmas greetings and sang Silent Night for their enemies to hear, and were the first to step into no-man’s land, were South German, Bavarian, Catholics. (One German soldier told his new British friend that they were being replaced by North German, Prussian, Protestants, and asked the Brits to give the Prussians hell, because they hated the Prussians too.) It is probable that the German Catholic soldiers’ initiative was an attempt to support the serious diplomatic initiative of the Papacy, most likely with support, or at least acquiescence, by the local German officers and maybe by some of their High Command. One British subaltern drank champagne at the local German HQ, well behind the trenches before returning safely to his own lines.

The Christmas truce was a ‘real world’ initiative. This was a serious opportunity for the nations to negotiate for a while, always able to return to fighting should they consider it necessary. There was a serious, even if slim, opportunity for a negotiated German withdrawal from Belgium. If the Germans were not willing to make compromises, they would not have agreed to the Pope’s initiative. The Crowned Heads of Europe, so interrelated, could have come into their own as natural mediators. The First World War could have finished in December 1914. It could have been all over at Christmas, in the real world.

No Battles of the Somme and the Marne. No Gallipoli. No Russian Revolution. The Communist Bolsheviks took advantage of a Russian population desperate to end the war which the new democratic government was committed to continue. No Stalin. No Hitler. No Second War. It is generally agreed that the humiliation of the ending of the First World War and the punitive demand for Germany to make reparations created the conditions for Hitler to grow Nazism. No Holocaust…

The 20th Century could and should have been hugely different, a Century of evolution towards widening democracy and negotiation of disputes. It would not have been perfect. There may well have been wars, battles, as the old Empires learnt slowly to allow smaller and newer nations to grow strong. But it is unlikely that there would have been slaughter on the scale seen in the First and Second World Wars, in the Soviet forced collectivisation, in the Holocaust.

The German leaders in 1914 were willing to at least talk about the possibility of resolving the dispute by negotiation. The British leaders in 1914 were unwilling. They insisted on fighting. They deliberately re-started the war after Christmas 1914. Far from being the 20th Century’s reluctant, decent, warriors, the British were the original violent militarists, creating the conditions for other aggressive militarists. British leaders ruined the 20th Century for everyone.

[i] Church Times 19/26 Dec 2014 The day the war stood still by Andii Bowsher and Nick Megoran with material from Silent Night: The remarkable Christmas truce of 1914 by Stanley Weintraub

Parliament Endangering British Security: 29 September

September 29, 2014

Bombing IS in their own territory will inspire more bombs on UK territory. Our Government now count IS as enemy combatants, a rival to Great Britain. Our Government thereby makes them heroes in some people’s eyes. More young men will want to join this IS army which is proving a challenge and a match for the UK and the US.

We will have more airport security, more expensive surveillance equipment, more taxes spent on people to monitor the threat of terrorism, more detention without trial. The defence and security budget will grow like a cancer, while social care is cut back inexorably.

‘But we can’t just do nothing! We have to challenge IS and try to stop them from expelling, kidnapping, beheading more people!’ Yes indeed we need to challenge IS but bombing them will not work. Bombing may subdue them for a while, but, when they later come out of hiding, they will be fiercer than ever. Bombing will destroy too many homes, roads, farms. Decent ordinary people will have no resources to stand up to the militants. (The UK Government is not committed to repairing our bomb damage should IS go into hiding for a while.) Bombing has made society worse in Iraq and in Libya. Bombing IS will, in the long run, make things much worse, not only in Iraq and Syria, but also in the UK.

We need to challenge IS through the Law. Bring cases to the International Court of Justice against the IS leaders and all who support them substantially. Issue arrest warrants against IS leaders and their supporters, especially those who supply their weapons. Strengthen Interpol and give them new powers to search for weapons trails and weapons payments across countries and within banks. Track down and close all bank accounts with any connection to IS. Arrest the account holders. Search for the ideological supporters of IS, arrest them and bring them trial. Treat IS as a criminal gang not as an enemy army.

‘But this will take too long.’ Yes it is not a quick, knee jerk response. It is an effective long term strategy. Immediately we care for the victims of IS. We give them new homes and new livelihoods.

‘But this will never be 100% effective. Some weapons and money will still get through.’ Bombs also will never be 100% effective. IS will go into hiding and wait for the bombs to stop. In the end the Law will be more effective.

‘But we are only doing what the Iraqi Government are asking us to do.’ The Iraqi Government were installed through UK and US bombs and troops. Of course they think they need UK and US bombs. We need to work with them to find a better way.

Challenging IS through the Law will take as much, if not more, commitment from a range of countries than bombing IS. Countries will need to invest money and people in the legal battle. Countries will have to forge new agreements, maybe new institutions. With this long term commitment to challenging and containing militant extremism, the world will become more united, more civilised, more secure.

Great Britain needs to take a lead. We have experience of challenging the IRA through the Law. We did not bomb IRA bases in Eire or IRA leaders in Northern Ireland. We did not dignify the terrorists as enemy soldiers but imprisoned them as criminals. We need to return to the same, effective, tactics. Stop the international bombing. Send in the international police.

Roger Harper

The Threepenny Opera in Nottingham, Ipswich, Birmingham and Leeds: 24 February

February 24, 2014

The Threepenny Opera has just begun a run at Nottingham Playhouse, before travelling to the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Brecht and Weil’s famous musical is performed by Graeae, a lively company ‘boldly placing deaf and disabled artists centre stage.’ I went on Saturday with friends.

The Threepenny Opera, from Berlin 1928, is a relentless gruesome tale of an unlovable criminal who is ridiculously reprieved in the end. It mocks and challenges notions of the deserving poor and the worthy Establishment, also of Christian charity, ethics and salvation. It is ‘in your face’ and preachy, especially at the end. The music is occasionally likeable but blunt and repetitive. The ‘Opera’ celebrates a culture of violence, and violent leaders. Although Brecht and Weil, writer and composer, had a very left wing stance, the play gives a somewhat chilling indication of a society that could welcome Hitler. Quite how it can be deemed so wonderful is a mystery.

The cast played with energy and enthusiasm. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, which helped the audience to enjoy the show as much as we could. The female singer-actors were all good, especially Victoria Oruwari playing Mrs Peachum. It would be good to hear her in concert. The supporting actors were impressive, with accuracy and verve. Unfortunately Milton Lopes as the main villain / hero Macheath was miscast. His laconic delivery of lines was flat and formulaic compared to the other cast and his singing voice weak. Overall, the company kept the audience interested and engaged, but, for me, they were struggling against a simply nasty script.

The Threepenny Opera has been described as the crowning symbol of the Weimar Republic, the Germany between the First World War and the Nazi dictatorship. Here we have leading, celebrated, intellectuals mocking ordinary people’s sense of hard work, reward, fair play, marital faithfulness and community care. There is no appreciation of the human values, just an assault against all that these self-appointed preachers, Brecht and Weil, deem ‘bourgeois.’ There is no vision of a better world, just an adolescent denigration of status quo. There is no sympathy or support for democracy, for diversity and fair play, just a glorification of people who win fights in an urban jungle and long to ‘shoot the lot of them.’ No wonder that many ordinary people were affronted and felt they needed protection from this left wing intellectualism. No wonder that democracy had no champions, even on the left wing. The winner in the real German urban jungle, the man with more brownshirted bullies at his disposal than anyone else, Adolf Hitler, was indeed ready and able to ‘shoot the lot of them’, beginning with left-wingers like Brecht and Weil who had to flee Germany. But he was only proving better at the game they had celebrated and promoted.

We in England cannot crow. The Threepenny Opera is set in London, and is an adaptation of ‘The Beggars Opera’ by John Gay of 1728. Brecht and Weil thought that Germany and England had much in common. They were reacting against the Imperialism that dominated both countries, the selfish misuse of power and position by the haves against the have-nots. They failed to understand that the teaching and life of Jesus was essentially anti-imperialist, a force for everyone, non-violently tearing down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly. They wanted to throw out the life-giving baby with the bathwater of imperialism. It was not only Germans who had a ‘shoot the lot of them’ attitude. The British Empire, underneath its veneer of Christendom, was sustained by the use of machine guns against people with spears. Thank God we live in different times, aware of the dangers of repeating the mistakes of history.

Comments welcome, especially from theatre-goers in Nottingham, Ipswich, Birmingham and Leeds.

Roger Harper

Israel, Impressions and Reflections: 18 January

January 18, 2014

A Congress of Cousins in Tel Aviv after Christmas followed by New Year.in Jerusalem. A return to Israel after 17 years…

A friendly, civilised country. Cafes are full, especially over the Sabbath. People love to meet, to talk, to relax with others in the open spaces. The weather is right, even in winter. Most people live in small apartments. Meeting outside makes sense. It is also relished. I felt drawn into the friendliness.

No noticeable litter. No noticeable drunkenness. Out with many young Israelis in West Jerusalem at night, no-one seems bothered about getting pissed. Nights out without the barbaric undercurrent of alcohol are delightful.

No mansions, no slums. Israel looks more equal than anywhere else. Our tour guide lamented that the old egalitarian vision has been replaced with a strident capitalism of the haves and the have-nots. The look and the feel is still that there are no extremes of rich and poor. This makes everyone happier, as it always does. (See http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/)

Freshly squeezed pomegranate juice is great. Thinking this is Mediterranean, tomato-growing, land I kept asking for tomato juice. I kept being offered carrot juice – nice but no sense of stored sunshine. Carrot juice seems Eastern European. Israel is Eastern Europe on the Med.

Proud to be military. We were shown where the first Jewish settler armed ‘protectors’ lived. We were taken to the first Holocaust Museum, dedicated not to all who perished, not to all who perished in Warsaw, but to the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. I ducked out of the visit to the underground bullet factory. After centuries of putting up with violence and persecution, these Jews chose to fight back. Israel was built with them. The financiers may have been more influential but it is the fighters who are celebrated.

Very religious Israelis don’t serve in the army. They know to live ‘not by might but by God’s Spirit.’ Yet they don’t actively make peace either, they don’t build cooperation with the Arabs.

A British invention. We visited the first settlement of the first wave of modern immigrants from Romania, financed by Edmond Rothschild. The guide later told me that the Romanians had been recruited by a Scottish Lord. Some British, well-connected, fairly fundamentalist Christians were advocating Zionism before any significant Jews. George Eliot popularised the idea in Britain in her novel, Daniel Deronda, in 1875. 20 years later Theodor Herzl, the Hungarian journalist, known as the Jewish founder of Zionism, wrote his influential book ‘The Jewish State.’

In 1917, the British Government, grateful for the key contribution of a Zionist Jewish chemist to British production of cordite for the war effort and hoping to gain the support of influential US Zionists for US involvement in the war, declared their support for ‘the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people’ which would not ‘prejudice the existing civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…’ A blithe declaration that the British Empire could now square a circle. As with Syria and Iraq, questions are asked as to whether British country-creating was such a good idea…

The British found that it was very hard, to say the least, to support both a Jewish national home and the existing non-Jewish communities in the same small area. They tried to police the inevitable tensions, more or less successfully. With and after the Holocaust, Jewish fighters did not want to wait any longer for the British to work things out and fought to remove the British from Palestine. My grandfather thought that the British should be given longer to broker an agreement. We have a newspaper cutting of an interview with my grandmother stating this unusual view. Instead, the United Nations voted for the creation of Israel.

The circle is still not squared. A key issue now is that Jews have settled in Palestinian areas, effectively claiming these areas for an enlarged Israel. A cousin lives in such a settlement, on the East of Jerusalem, an inner suburb. He explained that he is not there for ideological reasons, but simply because housing is much cheaper. The neighbouring Arabs are happy to have the Jews and their business. Plenty of Arabs live happily inside Israel. He is confident that when a final border is agreed, his suburb will be in Israel. He recognises that it took hundreds of years of conflict for Europe to settle on its borders. Israel and Palestine will get there eventually.

I briefly suggested that, just as some Arabs live happily inside Israel, he and his Jewish neighbours could happily live inside a Palestinian State. As long as the borders are open and he can still get to work in Israel, he wasn’t strongly opposed to the idea. But the many more ideologically motived Israelis would not consider Jews living in land which is not Israel. Fewer and fewer people now support this hard Zionist view.

Israel, then, is also isolated. The friendly, warm, civilised Israelis are fixed in their military determination to continue to build Israel. The need for a mighty Israel is a fact which cannot be questioned. Part of me wonders if what I experienced was ghetto life writ large. The ghettos of Eastern Europe were renowned for their civilisation, their orchestras even amidst the very worst persecution. Is Israel, behind its separation wall, a country-sized ghetto? What will be its fate?

Roger Harper

Help Syria: 27 October

October 27, 2013

Could we do something to help bring an end to the murderous mess in Syria? A good petition is at http://www.barnabasfund.org/UK/Act/Campaign/The-church-in-Syria/Syria-petition/ This calls on the UK government to make it a priority to work towards a peace in Syria, in which all Syrians, especially Christians, can be secure.

Our government must not base policy on their understanding of ‘British interest.’ It is deemed in the British interest that we maintain good relations with Saudi Arabia, who are supporting the Syrian rebels. It is deemed in the British interest to support the Americans in their opposition to Iran, who is supporting the Syrian government. Therefore we tacitly support the rebels and do nothing to weaken them. No matter than the outcome of a rebel victory is likely to be a strict Islamic government who will oppress Christians and others. No matter that the country needs peace now. It can even be argued to be in the British interest that Saudi Arabia and Iran fight each other, in Syria, weakening each other in the process. If more British weapons are used and sold, this is clearly in British interest.

Our government must base policy on the well being of Syrians, especially the minorities. Our government must base policy on upholding internationally recognised human rights. Our government must base policy on strengthening international cooperation, especially through the UN. Our government must lead a firm boycott of all arms to Syria, including to the allies of both sides. Our government must simply think of what is decent and right for the people Syria, doing for them what we hope someone would do for us..

How will our government take the unusual stance of making British interests secondary? When public opinion pushes them. Public opinion stopped Britain supporting military action in Syria earlier this year. Public opinion needs now to keep up the pressure. You and me and our friends… Please sign http://www.barnabasfund.org/UK/Act/Campaign/The-church-in-Syria/Syria-petition/ and any other similar petition you know.

I have been reading up on the 1930s for book research. The British interest was to maintain the Empire, especially India and commerce with China. The British interest was to oppose the Communists, who were making worrying ground in both India and China. The British interest was to oppose and weaken Communist Russia and the Communists in China. A strong anti-Communist Nazi Germany, allied to a strong anti-Communist Japan, was in the British interest. Nazi Germany was on a collision course with Communist Russia, over both ideology and Nazi colonial ambition in Eastern Europe. Imperial Japan was on a collision course with the Communists in China. The British interest was for the collisions to happen, with Britain watching from the sidelines.

The British interest was more important than securing the future of a democratic Czechoslovakia. If Nazi Germany took over Western Czechoslovakia, Germany would become stronger and more of a threat to Communist Russia. No matter that the Czech and Slovak peoples would be tyrannised and enslaved. Hitler was given what he wanted in the Munich Agreement of September 1938 not only to avoid war, but because the British interest was paramount. We must not think and act the same with Syria.

British policy changed dramatically on March 17 1939. The Prime Minister, Joseph Chamberlain, made a speech in Birmingham. He was scheduled to speak on domestic matters with special emphasis on social services. On the train to Birmingham he had no Foreign Office minders. He abandoned his prepared speech and jotted down notes for a very different one, broadcast across Britain and the world. He pointed out Hitler’s lies, manipulation and aggression against Czechoslovakia. He committed Britain to resisting any further aggression. For the Foreign Office, it was not in British interest to fight for Poland. But for Chamberlain, eventually, it was simply the right thing to do. If British policy had been different earlier, Hitler would have been halted without war.

What caused Macmillan to change policy? Public opinion. MPs were being pressed to abandon Britain’s tacit support for Nazi Germany. MP’s, even senior Conservatives, were angry that Britain was conniving in blatant evil. The British interest was secondary. Doing the right thing, throwing our weight on the side of fairness, standing by the weak, who were threatened by the strong pursuing their interests, was primary.

Let us at least try to put our weight, such as it is, on the side of the weak in Syria. As we do this firmly, with other nations, we won’t need military action, but we will need to be prepared to be swayed less by Saudi Arabia, America and Iran.

Roger Harper

King and Armies: Debate! 1 November

November 1, 2011

‘Buzz Lightyear’ has commented on a post from last November. Alleluia! May debate continue:

Greetings Roger. Thank you for posting this item.

Hopefully my comments below might generate some discussion. You make lots of interesting points – too many to address in one reply. Indeed, it would be possible to write a book discussing in detail all of the items that you raised. However, playing devil’s advocate and in favour of the existence of our military I offer the following viewpoint.

It would be great if we lived in a world without war, terrorism, famine, natural disasters, etc. Sadly that isn’t the case. There is an argument for the existence of military power alone whilst hoping that it will never have to be used. After all, the use of military force is a last resort when the diplomatic process has failed and our politicians absolutely have to find a solution to a particular problem.

Let’s take the Falkland Islands for example. Since the war of 1982, the UK has military forces stationed on the islands for deterrence (to ensure that Argentina don’t try to invade again) and reassurance (of the Falkland Island locals and the UK population back home). If you asked a Falkland Islander if they thought that the military should be drawn down to the extent that it would affect the military presence on the islands, I think I know what they would say!

The British government has been forced to reduce our military levels substantially since the fall of the Berlin wall and reduction in justification for an enormous military. The current economic situation has accelerated this reduction and whilst cuts in military spending may not be in line with cuts to other areas of government spending, the effect has still been quite noticeable. As a maritime nation, Britain has always placed significant emphasis on military power. We no longer have an empire to defend and we are no longer considered the global policeman that we once might have been. However, our strategic influence has, to a certain extent, been as a result of our military capability. Britain holds a Permanent Seat on the UN Security Counsel and is seen as a leader when it comes to influence amongst other developed nations. Would our global influence remain the same if we were to downsize or completely remove our military?

Military capability also has utility in disaster response – earthquakes in Haiti, peace support operations in Africa. Would disparate aid organisations like the red cross or MSF be able to respond in a similar way to these disasters without military support?

The recent conflict in Libya is another interesting situation. Without military intervention there can be no doubt that there would have been many of the residents of Benghazi killed as a result of Gaddafi’s imminent intention to quash the rebellious uprising. No doubt much blood has been spilt in supporting the rebels but arguably Libya is in a much better place now than it would have been if it was subjected to a continuation of Gaddafi’s oppressive regime.

I could go on, but I won’t as I’ll be here all day! Interested in your thoughts.

Gee, I’m honored Buzz. Many thanks for taking the time to write. More seriously, yes indeed these are matters about which much has been written and much more could be written.

The old American idea, explained by Alastair Cooke, is that military action as a last resort does not happen with a standing army. The difficulty of calling up recruits means that it will always be a last resort. This was the Biblical system of the Book of Judges, superseded by the establishment of the monarchy with its standing army, against the clear, godly, advice of the prophet Samuel. With a standing army it is far too easy to use military action as a second or third option, rather than a last resort.

You refer to the Falklands conflict. At that time, I was studying at theological college. The father of one of my fellow students worked in the diplomatic service. My fellow student told me that the father and his colleagues were distraught that diplomatic attempts to reverse the occupation were not considered. The Argentinean army had gone in. We had to send our army in. End of argument. Now we have to keep our army there indefinitely at great cost.

It was the same withIraq and Afghanistan. A ‘military’ attack had been made on the symbols of American power withinAmerica. Military action, ‘war on terror,’ was rushed into without exploring proper legal action. How many options were tried before the bombs started falling on Kabul?

What non-military options were tried before NATO bombing in Libya? It may be that military power there achieved its result in a short time and with comparatively low loss of life, But what is the evidence to show that bombing was clearly ‘the last resort?’

Do we want our global standing and influence to depend on our military capability? ‘Listen to us or we send in the boys!’ This is indeed too close to our old imperial attitude. I would far rather people across the world respect and heed us for our experience, wisdom, and creativity, our sense of fair play and adherence to the rule of law. It is righteousness which exalts a nation, according to the Bible, not military power (Proverbs 14:34).

Disaster response would be better carried out by a dedicated UN organisation, properly funded and monitored, or by the Red Cross. A concerted international capability is better than separate, rival, national armies. Civil airlines could be used more. Chartering them when needed would be cheaper than maintaining military planes. An older member of the congregation at my church used to work for British Airways, or its predecessors, in less profit-motivated times. She has flown into disaster areas with relief, often, she says proudly, the first on the scene, ahead of the military.

Roger

More Nurses (fewer soldiers): 25 July

July 25, 2011

We, the people, we, the Church, need to press for fewer trained killers, more trained carers. It’s what God has always wanted for His people.

I posted these words on November 25th. A couple of weeks ago my wife Sarah had 6 days in hospital, experiencing an understaffed NHS ward.

Sarah had had leg and back pain for some months. Her GP saw some signs for concern about the possibility of ‘cauda equina’ syndrome: paralysis from the waist down and double incontinence. An urgent (two weeks) referral was made to ‘the spinal people’.

Sarah saw a hospital doctor eight weeks later. He looked at her MRI scan. ‘Operation first thing next Monday’ was his surprise, alarming, decision  Unexpected problems with putting a tube down Sarah’s throat, for while she was under general anaesthetic, meant that they kept her under for longer – in Intensive Care, the only place with ventilators. Intensive Care was well staffed, with cheerful, relaxed, motivated nurses.

Next day Sarah moved to a normal ward, with a machine which allowed her to give herself a shot of morphine when she needed it. After another day she went onto oral morphine, which she could have every hour as she requested. Except that…. Two nurses working together needed to give her the morphine. When were two nurses free at the same time? Not often enough for adequate pain management.

Tramadol, another painkiller, was suggested on the ground that it only requires one nurse to administer. Sarah tried and it was no help. Medication according to staffing level, not patient need.

A couple of days later someone else in the ward was recovering from a similar operation, similarly having to wait much longer than an hour for oral morphine. Other elements of nursing care for which the nurses had no time were: not being available to take newly mobile post-op patients to the toilet, discharge planning, communicating non-urgent messages at changeover and / or to the ward doctor (some of which then became urgent.) This is not counting ‘spiritual care’ the ‘helping a person to feel personally recognised’ which is now part of all nursing training but has no hope of being delivered with current staffing levels.

The ward nurses worked as hard as the Intensive Care nurses but looked very different: they tried their best to be cheerful, but were never relaxed, often looking harassed. When I worked in a hospice the nurses told me that they never wanted to go back to working in a hospital. Hospice levels of nurse staffing are much higher than hospital levels. Nurses feel they can do the job they want to do. Adopting hospice levels in NHS hospitals would be too expensive. But the present levels are too cheap. Patients and nurses feel cheap, misused. Not at all what God wants.

Roger Harper

Supporting soldiers: 19 February

February 19, 2011

A round robin email shows photos of American troops in Afghanistan and the extremely uncomfortable conditions they have to live in. Readers are urged to remember that these soldiers are fighting for our freedom, to pay tribute to their fallen comrades, to honour the pride they have in serving our country. We are urged to support them, in word and finance, and what they are doing.

Reading this, my heart flared. These poor soldiers are not defending my freedom – they are endangering my freedom and yours. I will not pay literal tribute – a phrase straight out of Roman pagan religion – to any humans, dead or alive. I bow the knee to Jesus. Their pride in serving their country has been cynically manipulated by war-mongering, oil-hungry, leaders in commerce and politics.

There are two ways of ‘supporting’ soldiers in Afghanistan. One is to support them and what they are doing. This is what this email does. The other is to support them by campaigning to get them out of there now.

Why are the soldiers in Afghanistan? Because America wanted revenge for 9/11 and our leaders were scared by 9/11. Because the West cannot cope with nations who oppose them vehemently and threaten their economic interests. British soldiers are in Afghanistan now for much the same reason as they were there years ago as part of the British Empire – to defend our insistence that Britannia has to rule the waves and the lands.

What is the effect of British soldiers in Afghanistan? Terrorists are more motivated to hit back at us. We need far more security at our ports and airports than any other country in Europe. Money that should be spent on paying nurses and teachers goes on soldiers. Cuts in all non-military government spending are harsher and deeper than they need to be.

Don’t support what the soldiers are doing in Afghanistan, even if this makes them feel bad about sacrificing their comfort and lives for the wrong cause. They are better disillusioned and alive than conned and dead or maimed.

Support the soldiers by campaigning to take them out of Afghanistan now, even if this means that we recognise failure and stupidity, maybe even fault. Let’s get the soldiers out of danger and into their own beds. And let’s not replace them with ‘military consultants’ as is planned at present.

What can you do? Pass this email on. Consider supporting www.stopwar.org.uk or a local group.

Roger Harper