Sunday, 28 April 2013

The scandal of Britain's mutating conflict without end

Seumas Milne                       Guardian/UK                       23 April 2013
Torture camps are on the way out. Their place has been taken by proxy and drone wars that are more popular at home.' More than four years after Barack Obama pledged to close Guantánamo, over half its 166 inmates are on hunger strike, 16 are being violently force fed, and soldiers last week used rubber bullets against "non-compliant" prisoners. Guantánamo, along with Abu Ghraib, long ago became a symbol of the lawless brutality of George Bush's war on terror. Set up on US-occupied Cuban territory, it was filled with supposed "enemy combatants" seized in post-invasion Afghanistan, the vast majority of whom were then held without charge or trial, brutalised and tortured. But instead of shutting this monstrosity, the camp is being rebuilt. Congress has played a central role in keeping Guantánamo open. But the president only tried to move it to Illinois, not end the scandal of indefinite detention without trial. And he's personally blocked the release of dozens of prisoners, even when they've been cleared.
That's at the heart of why the detainees are striking. Among them is Shaker Aamer, a Saudi-born British resident held without charge for 11 years, much of it in solitary confinement. As with half of the rest of the prisoners, the US authorities now accept that there is no case against him, and he was cleared for release six years ago. Aamer hasn't seen his family since 2001, and has never met his 11-year-old son, Faris. He has refused food for 71 days, and his case is due to be debated in parliament in response to a petition of over 100,000 names. But it now turns out that, uniquely among the prisoners, Aamer has been cleared for release to only one country: Saudi Arabia.
Despite the British government's claims to be lobbying for his return to London, the evidence suggests neither London nor Washington wants anything of the kind. As Aamer's lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, puts it: "The sole reason to send Shaker to Saudi Arabia is to have him silenced, most likely by sentencing him to a long imprisonment after a sham trial."
The reason is not hard to find. Soon after he was seized, Aamer says he was assaulted and tortured (into falsely confessing links to al-Qaida) by US officials at Bagram air base in Afghanistan in the presence of MI6 officers – abuse that continued at Guantánamo. Even more dangerously, he was also present, along with British intelligence agents, when Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi was tortured at Bagram into alleging that Saddam Hussein was training al-Qaida terrorists – bogus claims Bush and Colin Powell used to justify the invasion of Iraq.
The Metropolitan police has now opened three new investigations into UK intelligence collusion with torture and "rendition", including Aamer's case. That's on top of MI6's role in the kidnapping of Libyan dissidents and their families in 2004, for which the government has already paid out over £2m in compensation.
Earlier this month Scotland Yard detectives interviewed Aamer in Guantánamo. No wonder the British government is so keen to force through secret court hearings in "national security" cases through its justice and security bill – or that it has struggled to convince the courts that the Salafist cleric Abu Qatada, regularly detained without charge for years, would not be at risk of torture if packed off to a police state such as Jordan.
The scale of torture, kidnapping and detention without trial unleashed by the US government after 9/11 is, as the US Constitution Project report found last week, "indisputable". And at every stage it's been backed and emulated by its closest allies. At least 54 states, including Britain and 24 others in Europe, took part in the CIA's secret "extraordinary rendition" programme, it's now emerged. And British forces have carried out plenty of beatings and torture in Afghanistan and Iraq themselves, either on their own or in cahoots with US and local forces, as multiple reports and inquiries have now made clear.
It's hardly surprising in the wake of such a saga that western claims to be the champions of human rights and humanitarian intervention are treated with derision across much of the world. But as its dirty secrets are seeping out, the war on terror itself has already mutated. Obama hasn't closed Guantánamo or held those who authorised these barbarities to account. But US torture camps and boots on the ground are on the way out. Their place has been taken by air and proxy campaigns, such as in Libya and Syria, and drone wars that have already killed thousands in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia – but are more popular at home.
We don't yet know the motivations of the two men accused of carrying out last week's atrocity in Boston, which killed three people and seriously injured many more. But we do know that 61 were killed the same day in bomb attacks in Iraq that were blamed on al-Qaida, brought to the country by the US-British invasion. And 16 were killed in Pakistan the following day in a suicide attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, which mushroomed as a result of the invasion of Afghanistan. What is certain is that so long as the US and its allies intervene, occupy and wage war across the Arab and Muslim world – whether directly or by proxy, with daisy cutters or drones – such outrages will continue. It's the logic of a war of terror without end.                [Abbrev.]

‘We don’t really know what war is like'

Robert ‘Fisk      The Independent's Middle East correspondent,            15 April 2013
 “The unbearable lightness of being.” I apologise to Milan Kundera, who wrote the line. But this is Damascus and that is the only title. I was on the phone less than 24 hours ago, offering my pathetic condolences to an old friend. “Thank you for calling, Robert,” was all he could say, in tears. We had been chatting in the morning, arranging to meet later in the day. Then at two o’clock in the afternoon, on the way to her home, his mother – at the wheel for she was an engineer – was murdered. A single shot. The only shot fired into the car. And it killed her. She was buried yesterday morning, in the beautiful hill village above Latakia.
My friend had told me that as a journalist, he walked on ice. It was becoming more and more dangerous to go to his family home. His father is a retired army officer who served in Lebanon. A proud family, loyal to the regime but free with its criticism. Victims, all of them now, of the President’s enemies.
Within hours, I am in a restaurant on the Mezzeh boulevard; swish cars, fine food, laid-back middle-class customers, 10 at night, talking freely, all of them contemptuous (fearful too?) of al-Nusrah Islamists – and a sentence pops up in the middle of a conversation with a good friend, a lawyer. “Three of my employees were murdered,” he says. “They were taken from their car north of Deraa. They were tortured first, then murdered. They were Alawites.”
I am taken aback by the frankness of it all. The suddenness with which it enters our conversation. When I tell him about my friend’s mother and tell him I am upset, he says simply: “That’s because you don’t live here all the time.” And it’s true, you hear things in Damascus and, after a few hours, the human double-take stops operating. I am chatting to a government official, and out of the blue she tells me that a member of her family was murdered.
His head was cut off – by a young boy. His execution was videotaped by his killers. She actually saw the video of his decapitation. I am stunned. Or am I? Damascenes no longer are. Nor, I fear, is the rest of Syria. Listen to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon and they talk of their losses – a baby to government air strikes, a husband missing to the intelligence services – with the same bleak nonchalance.
I drop by to speak to a minister, an adviser to Assad – and discover that she now starts her day with yoga sessions. Yoga! In Damascus? She is a prolific author. Her new book contains hitherto confidential Syrian documents on the secret Clinton-Hafez al-Assad negotiations and she is optimistic, talking of government army gains. I am more circumspect.
A businessman admits that he “let go” an employee because he was a Sunni Muslim. You simply have to look after yourself, he explains. I am shocked, like a good Westerner should be. This is the sectarian wedge in all its reality, right there, freely admitted. But then, of course, there is the old question. What would I have done if I were a Syrian Christian?
Then yesterday afternoon, I am chatting to another confidant, a man involved in children’s charities. I assume the people of Damascus have taken in the shock of war. “No, we don’t know what it’s like – we haven’t really seen it yet,” he replies. “A lot of people don’t understand it. The people who carry bodies from Douma, they understand it. But I don’t have the guts to go and do that, to carry bodies.” A jet flies over us and there is the smack of an air-dropped bomb, almost certainly on the opposition-held suburb of Daraya. The windows rattle appropriately, a slight change of air pressure.
At my hotel, the staff watch television, one of them literally open-mouthed, as captured rebels explain the details of their battle against the government, how money arrives in untold quantities from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. When one of the prisoners speaks, his face is inter-cut with videotape of his own press conference after originally defecting from the government army. There he is in green uniform, a bearded member of the Free Syria Army, self-confident, safe. And then he is back full-face on television, a bamboo curtain behind him to screen the walls of his Damascus dungeon.
In one way, I fear all Damascus is a dungeon. Or do you have to live here to appreciate that?

Monday, 15 April 2013

Nuclear weapons must be eradicated

No nation should own nuclear arms – not Iran, not North Korea, and not their critics who take the moral high ground
Desmond Tutu                     Guardian/UK                  4 March 2013

We cannot intimidate others into behaving well when we ourselves are misbehaving. Yet that is precisely what nations armed with nuclear weapons hope to do by censuring North Korea for its nuclear tests and sounding alarm bells over Iran's pursuit of enriched uranium. According to their logic, a select few nations can ensure the security of all by having the capacity to destroy all.

Until we overcome this double standard – until we accept that nuclear weapons are abhorrent and a grave danger no matter who possesses them, that threatening a city with radioactive incineration is intolerable no matter the nationality or religion of its inhabitants – we are unlikely to make meaningful progress in halting the spread of these monstrous devices, let alone banishing them from national arsenals.
Why, for instance, would a proliferating state pay heed to the exhortations of the US and Russia, which retain thousands of their nuclear warheads on high alert? How can Britain, France and China expect a hearing on non-proliferation while they squander billions modernising their nuclear forces? What standing has Israel to urge Iran not to acquire the bomb when it harbours its own atomic arsenal?
Nuclear weapons do not discriminate; nor should our leaders. The nuclear powers must apply the same standard to themselves as to others: zero nuclear weapons. Whereas the international community has imposed blanket bans on other weapons with horrendous effects – from biological and chemical agents to landmines and cluster munitions – it has not yet done so for the very worst weapons of all. Nuclear weapons are still seen as legitimate in the hands of some. This must change.
Around 130 governments, various UN agencies, the Red Cross and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons are gathering in Oslo this week to examine the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons and the inability of relief agencies to provide an effective response in the event of a nuclear attack. For too long, debates about nuclear arms have been divorced from such realities, focusing instead on geopolitics and narrow concepts of national security.

With enough public pressure, I believe that governments can move beyond the hypocrisy that has stymied multilateral disarmament discussions for decades, and be inspired and persuaded to embark on negotiations for a treaty to outlaw and eradicate these ultimate weapons of terror. Achieving such a ban would require somewhat of a revolution in our thinking, but it is not out of the question. Entrenched systems can be turned on their head almost overnight if there's the will.
Let us not forget that it was only a few years ago when those who spoke about green energy and climate change were considered peculiar. Now it is widely accepted that an environmental disaster is upon us. There was once a time when people bought and sold other human beings as if they were mere chattels, things. But people eventually came to their senses. So it will be the case for nuclear arms, sooner or later.
Indeed, 184 nations have already made a legal undertaking never to obtain nuclear weapons, and three in four support a universal ban. In the early 1990s, with the collapse of apartheid nigh, South Africa voluntarily dismantled its nuclear stockpile, becoming the first nation to do so. This was an essential part of its transition from a pariah state to an accepted member of the family of nations. Around the same time, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine also relinquished their Soviet-era atomic arsenals.
But today nine nations still consider it their prerogative to possess these ghastly bombs, each capable of obliterating many thousands of innocent civilians, including children, in a flash. They appear to think that nuclear weapons afford them prestige in the international arena. But nothing could be further from the truth. Any nuclear-armed state, big or small, whatever its stripes, ought to be condemned in the strongest terms for possessing these indiscriminate, immoral weapons.

The Kissinger Cables and Bradley Manning

by Amy Goodman                       April 11, 2013         Common Dreams

WikiLeaks has released a new trove of documents, more than 1.7 million U.S. State Department cables dating from 1973-1976, which they have dubbed “The Kissinger Cables”.One cable includes a transcribed conversation where Kissinger displays remarkable candor: “Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, ‘The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.’ [laughter] But since the Freedom of Information Act, I’m afraid to say things like that.”
While the illegal and the unconstitutional may be a laughing matter for Kissinger, it is deadly serious for Pvt. Bradley Manning. After close to three years in prison, Manning recently addressed the court at Fort Meade: “I believed that if the general public had access to the information ... this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general, as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Bradley Manning, in his own words, explaining his actions. He testified about the helicopter gunship video that he released to WikiLeaks, which was later made public under the title “Collateral Murder.” In stark, grainy black-and-white, it shows the gunship kill 12 men in Baghdad on July 12, 2007, with audio of the helicopter crew mocking the victims, celebrating the murder of the people below, two of whom were employees of the Reuters news agency.
Manning said: “The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemingly delightful bloodlust the aerial weapons team. They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as ‘dead bastards,’ and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers.”
Reuters had sought the video through a Freedom of Information request, but had been denied. So Manning delivered the video, along with hundreds of thousands of other classified electronic documents, through the anonymous, secure online submission procedure developed by WikiLeaks. Manning made the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history, and changed the world.
The WikiLeaks team gathered at a house in Reykjavik, Iceland, to prepare the video for public release. Among those working was Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of the Icelandic parliament. She told me: “When I saw the video in February 2010, I was profoundly moved. I was moved to tears, like many people that watch it. But at the same time, I understood its significance and how it might be able to change our world and make it better.” Jonsdottir co-founded the Icelandic Pirate Party, a genuine political party springing up in many, mostly European countries.
The “Collateral Murder” video created a firestorm of press attention when it was first released. One of the soldiers on the ground was Ethan McCord, who rushed to the scene of the slaughter and helped save two children who had been injured in the attack. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He recently penned a letter of support for Bradley Manning, writing: “The video released by WikiLeaks belongs in the public record.
In the three years since “Collateral Murder” was released in April 2010, WikiLeaks has come under tremendous pressure. Manning faces life in prison or possibly even the death penalty. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spent a year and a half under house arrest in Britain, until he sought refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has remained since June 2012, fighting extradition to Sweden.
WikiLeaks’ latest release, which includes documents already declassified but very difficult to search and obtain, is a testament to the ongoing need for WikiLeaks and similar groups. The revealed documents have sparked controversies around the world, even though they relate to the 1970s. If we had a uniform standard of justice, Nobel laureate Henry Kissinger would be the one on trial, and Bradley Manning would win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.    © 2013 Amy Goodman               [Abridged]

Swiss Salvo

By Ian Harris        Otago Daily Times           March 22, 2013

You’ve got to hand it to the Swiss. They acted decisively this month [March 3] to rein in the money-grubbing excesses of the top business echelons. In other countries the public has been left seething helplessly at them.
That happened because Switzerland’s constitution provides for binding referenda on important public issues – and because Thomas Minder, who runs a family toiletries business, became incensed by the self-indulgence of the corporate elites. In particular, he never forgave Swissair for backing out of a contract when it flew close to bankruptcy in 2001, and then awarded its former chief a mouth-watering bonus – a procedure now almost routine among the big banks and corporates.

Three Sundays ago a citizens’ initiative to shut that practice down won 68 per cent support, a majority no doubt boosted by news that pharmaceutical giant Novartis intended to lavish a severance package of SFr72 million (NZ$92 million) on departing chairman Daniel Vasella. After an outcry, Vasella refused it. The initiative, which will be written into the constitution, will give shareholders a binding voice on executive pay and ban severance packages, side contracts, and rewards for buying or selling company divisions. Ignoring it will carry a maximum penalty of three years’ jail or forfeiting six years’ salary.

Switzerland’s Social Democrats are now pushing for another referendum that would limit pay for top managers to 12 times that of the lowest-paid employee. The multiple of 12 may be debatable, but such a step would at last restore a semblance of proportionality to pay structures across the board. Fuelling public revulsion at “Abzockerei” (rip-off or fatcat pay) is the way it is justified by the coterie who stand to benefit from it. Big money is said to be necessary to attract talent, who may or may not then deliver. The lure of bonuses has at times undermined ethics, distorted decision-making, and worked against a company’s long-term interests.

To all of which the Swiss have cried “Enough!” Opponents of the initiative were sobered, saying: “The clear support for the initiative reflects the understandable anger of the electorate at the self-serving mentality of certain managers. With their misconduct, they have done the economy as a whole a disservice.” The same unleashing of greed and entitlement has also contributed to New Zealand’s lurch away from the ideal of a just society. As salaries have become more and more bloated at the top, unemployment has put downward pressure on wages at the bottom.

So we have former Solid Energy boss Don Elder happily sitting on a salary of $1.3 million while on “gardening leave” following the company’s $389 million plunge into the red. That makes “enticing talent” and “rewarding superior performance” look like a sick joke. And the run of golden handshakes bestowed on public service chiefs in recent years only adds to public cynicism.

Contrast the $425,000 payout to departing education CEO Lesley Longstone with Labour Minister Simon Bridges’ announcement of a 25c-an-hour increase for those on the minimum wage. He said it illustrated the Government’s firm focus on growing the economy and “boosting incomes”. Another sick joke. This steadily widening inequality of income bodes ill for our social future. New Pope Francis’s excoriation of growing inequality in Argentina in 2009 as “immoral, illegitimate and unjust” applies equally here. “Human rights are violated not only by terrorism, repression or assassination,” he said then, “but also by unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.”

I am haunted by a phrase in the Lord’s Prayer that shines a light, both disturbing and encouraging, on our current social dis-ease: “Give us this day our daily bread”. Those who pray that are setting their sights on everyone having enough to live at a reasonable standard – not hundreds of thousands for the few while the poor scratch a living on wages too low to ensure them adequate food, shelter and participation in society. The prayer is for enough – a living wage – for everyone.

Ah, but the cost to the economy, the affordability to business, the squeeze on profits, the impact on jobs – the objections come thick and fast. A living wage is dismissed as a pipe-dream, “Give us this day our daily bread” as a dewy-eyed vision. It is far from that. It is a test of New Zealanders’ basic instinct for fairness. It is an aspiration everyone can and should share. It is a realistic goal for political leaders to pursue. It is part of what Christians mean when they pray for the kingdom of God to become real among us.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Power, Prison and Pacifism

Arthur Palmer, Downtown Rotary, 12 March 2013
Thank you for inviting me to talk to you today.
Some background may help you to understand what came later.
You must forgive me for being born in Australia.  This was put right five years later when the family crossed the Tasman and settled on a 5-acre section on the Ruawai Flats just south of Dargaville. 100 hives of bees and some horticulture gave us a very modest income.  It was when I became a pupil at a big new consolidated school in 1929 that problems arose for me. I slowly realised that there were two communities where we lived. All around us were shocking hovels in which the Maori community lived on the other side of the road.
In fact it was a very racist society.  Maori, and Yugoslav immigrants from Dalmatia, were at or near the bottom, with very few exceptions, until the middle or late Thirties.  Clearly that was contrary to all the Christian talk and claims that our Methodist church was promoting.  So the Thirties were a period of great confusion and questioning for me.  Many people were struggling and some were challenging the current state of things. There were more questions than answers.
Our Methodist Church in NZ had a strong emphasis on social justice and peace. A number of our best known ministers were declared pacifists. One of these was Ormond Burton, a much decorated returned soldier, now regularly giving voice to a passionate condemnation of war and social deprivation.  He was by no means alone in that.  And there were groups and books that offered a new vision of life that appealed to me hugely.  By the time I was 18 I was convinced that war was a huge backward step in an international crisis. War was at odds with all that I believed.
All this sounded quite naïve and irresponsible to most folks.. How could we lie down in the face of Nazi aggression?  Must we keep our hands in our pockets in the face of evil?  No, I agree. That’s a poor model for anyone, Christian or not.  Those questions and many more had swirled around in my head for some time.  But I had come to see war itself as an unacceptable answer to a crisis. Not only would there be huge loss of life, the majority of it civilian, but the seeds of further conflict would remain embedded in both victors and defeated, just as after past wars.
 So in 1940 when I received a notice to report for army service I wrote to say that I was a conscientious objector. But the calls to report for a medical exam continued, until I was called to appear before an Appeal Board who were to decide whether I was sincere in rejecting violence and war.  The Board had power to recommend that you be assigned to the Army Medical Corps. So a good many accepted army uniform and discipline on that basis.  I knew several of those men, and they were fine chaps.
You may consider that I should have done that too.
Well, some of us felt strongly that we had a much more important job to do than simply avoid carrying a weapon.  Yes, Nazi doctrine was abhorrent, and we must fight it.  But the method of war was counter-productive and also abhorrent.  Unless we are willing to pay the price for a just world where ideas of racial superiority and competing empires are on the way out, we will have endless strife and pain. And surely we are being taught by current events that this still holds true.
Of course that was not convincing for many in 1939.  “We must turn back this tide of evil and then talk about a better world.”  That was the argument then.  That will also be the argument when next we stumble into a similar crisis. It’s the only real response that we have prepared our nation to make. So when a crisis like the one over nuclear missiles in Cuba erupts, what do we do? 50 years on we are realising again how close we were to a nuclear holocaust at that time. 
 I think we all want to find a way of being effective and actively involved in building a world where peaceful interaction is the normal state of things, not just in our own backyard but everywhere.  And one of the worst aspects of detention life was that we were being told that there was no place for us in NZ society unless we were in military uniform. If we refused that, we were usually labelled insincere by the Board.
So that led in due course to an appearance in the Dargaville Court where the magistrate took ten minutes to sentence me and two others to one month in Mt Eden Prison, to be followed by detention for the duration of the war. 
When I arrived at Strathmore Detention Camp in April 1942 after serving my month in Mt Eden, I found 300 men already there.  Some of them had been  there for several months, and a few  had also spent time before that in an Army Camp under discipline in the Guardhouse while the Govt worked out what to do with us. What they came up with in the end was a wartime expedient that tried to satisfy the Returned Soldiers Association on the one hand and the Churches and sympathisers on the other.  Strathmore Detention Camp was born out of that. It was about 30 miles south of Rotorua, roughly where Reporoa is now.
Life in Detention Camps or prisons was not too difficult for me to come to terms with. It was much harder for some whose families were unsympathetic.  The work was close to useless.  But that didn’t matter. It was felt that our society had to show a united front.  No one of military age should be allowed to opt out or have an easy ride. 
So we were told to just sit there and obey orders. And for most of us that was okay for a while. We had groups delving into all manner of things: Study groups under skilled tutors from our own ranks were learning First Aid, several languages, Esperanto, weight-lifting, Philosophy, Navigation, Economics, you-name-it. 
And of course groups such as Jehovah Witnesses and Evangelical fundamentalist Christians – lots of those – there was strong pressure from their leaders to hold fast to their beliefs and not buckle. But the Methodists, somewhere between 40 and 50 of us, were not happy to be silent on questions of peace and justice, which had never been excluded from our discussions in Bible class groups.  We had some straight talkers who made it clear to the Camp boss , when the pressure came, that we would continue as in the past. At the end of 1942 there were 30 COs serving their sentence in various prisons, either because they refused to work in the detention camps, or because they were considered to be detrimental to good order and discipline there. According to Govt records 15 of that 30 were Methodists.  I was one of those. I thought that this way of sidelining political and religious undesirables was a dangerous precedent and should be opposed. So prison was the alternative.
I was sorry to lose touch with so many stimulating friends. But our group of eight, after another appearance in court, were sent to Mt Eden for three months and then to Hautu Prison Camp near Turangi, where the daily work programme was not greatly different from that at Strathmore. And it could hardly be called Hard Labour. What can you give 40 men to do on one medium sized farm?
This is the unsettling thing about detention and prison.  Everyone needs to have a life and work that has meaning, that leads somewhere. And when that is lacking it can be very destructive.  Here we were doing work of no real value, designed to keep us out of sight, while others outside were fully engaged in keeping society functioning and the armed forces too. So there was some rethinking going on. What is the use of taking this stand? No one is taking any notice, the war continues, and we make no difference to anything. Some men chose the uniform.   And the three men that I knew who did that were men I respected.  My friend Jack was one of them.  After 2 years in detention he went off to Italy in late 1944. He was involved in some costly front-line fighting as the German forces retreated in Italy, and when he visited me in Mt Crawford Prison after he returned to NZ he had Sgt’s stripes.  After the visit a warder told me that he also had a Military Medal decoration.

All that is almost forgotten history now. Do we have to repeat it? New Empires and threats have arisen since the 1930s. Do you feel that the umbrella of US military might is our best hope for a peaceful and prosperous future? Having seen what that new Empire has done, and persuaded its allies to give assent to, I want to argue strongly for another road. Armaments and Empire-builders are very bad counsellors.  I long to see NZ give up reliance on that deceitful form of insurance. It has a terrible record.
Ed Hillary had a better idea.  Many Nepalese and Indians revere him for his example of simply giving opportunities to people who were hungry for access to education and health.  He wasn’t thinking of winning hearts and minds, just of simple human obligation to meet need.  Contrast that with uninvited foreign troops breaking down resistance and bringing token gifts, along with enforced conditions…  It clearly doesn’t work.  The most powerful nation in the world finds that it cannot prevail in one of the poorest areas of the world without the cost of unacceptable losses in money and men. Yet it seems clear that the decision-makers in most of the world have no plans to meet the next challenge in any different way.   Is violence part of our genetic make-up?   I don’t believe so. 
I was delighted to learn that Rotary is not males only in these days. I think that historians may well say that the major advance that humanity made in the 20th century was to slowly give women more power, so that now it is almost equal to men in legal terms in Western nations. We are still learning what a difference this makes in every aspect of social life.  Nurturing is the special skill that women are born with. Physical strength or power to threaten is not the basis of their authority.  That is not what holds the family together. It’s mutual concern.  Parents caring for children, children learning to respond and also care for parents and others.
So I still put my faith in those old maxims that were banished in wartime, and are still regarded in many places as idealistic foolishness.  Accumulating killing power is no basis for any good outcome. Don’t learn how to repay evil for evil. Love your enemies. If they are hungry, feed them. You do not need to fear us. We want to share this planet with you.
 I must conclude.  If we are serious about peace and justice, then empathy and compassion are the way of the future in a needy world. That’s the language we must learn. And there is real power in that. The action that follows from that has been proven to be more powerful than any military Defence Dept plan.  Yes, it may be dangerous at times. We took that for granted in wartime. Yes, it will demand sacrifice and hard work. We cannot be sentimental and easygoing on this. But instead of a bleak desert of lethal conflict it holds out great promise. It’s our job to make that a reality.  I believe that’s what we are here for.