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Poem – There Will Be Peace

Market in peaceful country
Market in peaceful country

There Will Be Peace

There will be peace:

when attitudes change;

when self-interest is seen as part of common interest;

when old wrongs, old scores, old mistakes

are deleted from the account;

when the aim becomes co-operation and mutual benefit

rather than revenge or seizing maximum personal

or group gain;

when justice and equality before the law

become the basis of government;

when basic freedoms exist;

when leaders – political, religious, educational – and

the police and media

wholeheartedly embrace the concepts

of justice, equality, freedom, tolerance, and

reconciliation

as a basis for renewal;

when parents teach their children new ways to think

about people.

There will be peace:

when enemies become fellow human beings.

David Roberts

November 2003

Based on a poem in Kosovo War Poetry, 1999

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A truthful politician

David Roberts picture
David Roberts picture

It isn’t often I lie awake at night thinking about troubles in foreign countries but that is happening now.

Partly what’s disturbing me is the scale and absolute horror of the cruelty of what is being done and partly it is our country’s standing staunchly in support of the perpetrators of the horror.

Calling for politicians with courage

I’d like to hear a politician speak the truth and call things what they are and recognise and condemn all terrorism. Dictionary definition “Systematic use of violence and intimidation to achieve some goal.” – Collins English Dictionary.

What sort of state holds over two million people hostage blockading them in a small territory, cuts off water, food and fuel to the territory, orders a million people to leave their homes and stay out of them indefinitely, bombs more of their homes every day – so far indiscriminately killing over 5000 people, seems intent on genocide, doesn’t recognise international law? If there is such a state surely it should be described as a terrorist state. I’d like to hear condemnation of such action. I’d like to hear that we do not regard such a state as a friend, and that we do not support such action. I’d like to hear the perpetrators called on to stop this horrendous behaviour. Extermination cannot be accepted as a legitimate policy of any state.

Achieving effective defence 

Defence against “an enemy” – the British solution. We have had wars and deadly enemies and great suffering in the past. How do we defend ourselves against these enemies today? We have treated each other as human beings, become friends and trading partners and both sides feel safe.

Today’s violence is delaying the time of security for both sides.

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Poem about Iraq

A poem about Iraq in 2003

Tony Blair's visit to Southern Iraq early in 2003. He explained the wisdom of the war.

MY  POEM

A Message from Tony Blair to the People of Iraq

(Written a few days after the start of the attacks by US and UK forces, March 2003. It has been claimed by Tony Blair and others that the problems caused by the invasion could not have been foreseen.)

Note, 2019. I wrote this bitter, sarcastic poem shortly after the first bombing of Iraq feeling extremely angry about the sanctimonious arrogance, dishonesty and criminality and cruelty of Tony Blair. I feel the same way today and regret that he has not been brought to trial as a war criminal. – DR.

A Message from Tony Blair to the People of Iraq

​Poem by David Roberts

Look into my honest eyes.
Listen to my honest lies.
Look into my angel face.
Just hear the sincerity in my voice.

​I want you all to understand
the better future we have planned.
We bomb with Christian love, not Christian hate.
We come,
not to conquer,
but to liberate.

​It is essential, and I want to make this very clear,
that our first aim is to make the world a safer place.
And with precision bombing you need have no fear.
And though you’ve not actually uttered threatening words
to Britain and America, or indeed the world,
and though you haven’t acted yet,
we believe you pose a threat
a threat that cannot be ignored.

​I tell you frankly that so great is the threat
that act we must, while there is still time,
or we may live to reap the bitter harvest
of regret.

​I’m sure you will appreciate
that we have the right
to remove regimes
that we dislike.
We have the right to assassinate.
We have the right to decide your fate.

​So the purpose of our mission,
now that war has started,
is also perfectly clear:
we come to bring you hope
and take away your fear.

​Your army, as you know, is hopelessly outgunned.
Resistance by your soldiers is completely senseless.
We’ll simply massacre. We’ll wipe them out.
They cannot touch us. They’re defenceless.

​We wreck your homes, your lives, your infrastructure.
You needed help.
Without it you would have had no future.

​Our peace, justice and democracy
you will soon enjoy and celebrate.
Remember, we come,
not to conquer,
but to liberate.

​Your cities shake and thunder with our bombs.
Tumbling buildings. Plumes of flames.
Roaring jets and shrieking men.
The crash of glass and children’s screams.
We see the mushroom clouds again.
Now you can appreciate the genius of our civilisation.
Remember, this isn’t war:
it’s liberation.

​We destroyed your tv station. We cut your phones.
Your power and water supplies we cut.
We destroy public buildings and private homes.
You see billowing smoke and conflagration.
But it isn’t war:
it’s liberation.

​Your hospitals overflow. They cannot cope.
We are killing you softly with our love.
Death and destruction are everywhere.
Your future fills with hope.

​And if you cannot comprehend this desecration.
Just try to understand,
it isn’t war:
it’s liberation.

​Cruise missiles, depleted uranium,
pulse, cluster and bunker buster bombs
may shock you.
And perhaps, you’re just a little awed.
But please understand we come to help
and this is your reward.

​Regrettably we can treat nothing as sacred:
it is a fact of war.
No artefact of God or man,
no suffering, no pain, no law
can impede the progress of our plan.

​One advantage of our attack
is that we will build for you
a new Iraq.
So don’t worry about the scale of the destruction.
Our companies will make it all as new
and your oil will pay for reconstruction.

​Look to the future.
Your children will not easily forget
how we came to help.
Round the clock bombing
may have left them traumatised
and perhaps a little mad,
but soon we are sure they’ll realise
just what luck they’ve had.

​Some ask if I’m untouched by human suffering.
I can tell you my sleep is undisturbed,
though I deeply mourn the thousands killed.
I am not shaken,
and I am not stirred.

​So finally I say,
that for a brighter future
a little bombing is a small price to pay.

​Ignore the carnage, terror and destruction.
Our purpose
is not
domination or exploitation.
This is not
a war of conquest.
It’s a war of liberation.

​David Roberts
28 March-9 April 2003

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Britain’s shameful bombing of Iraq

Britain's shameful bombing of Iraq

Twenty years ago Britain and the US indulged in a ruthless and immense bombing campaign against Iraq, a country which did not threaten us. This act was therefore a blatant war crime and the people who initiated it were, by definition, war criminals  – most notably Bush and Blair.

It was an outrage against humanity and a shameful blot on Britain’s reputation. Iraqi society was destroyed. With police and military removed terrible lawlessness erupted. Three million refugees fled Iraq, including Christians who had been protected under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Within Iraq six million people fled their homes. Terrorism was provoked. Out of this grew ISIS.

The bombing had been talked about for months and arguments for it were so obviously stupid that thinking people around the world were incensed and took to the streets in the biggest day of anti-war protests the world has ever seen. Tens of millions of people marched in 780 cities.

And yet, in what I think was the most shocking day in my lifetime, I saw hundreds of British politicians voting for war.

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Anniversary of amazing day of anti-war demonstrations

Anniversary of amazing day of anti-war demonstrations

Last week saw the 20th anniversary of an extraordinary and unique day in world history, 15 February 2003. It was the day when tens of millions of people marched in 780 cities around the world in protest against the proposed war by Britain and America, against Iraq.

Julie and I travelled up to London in a coach from Burgess Hill. We marched in a crowd of hundreds of thousands, (it turned out to be between one and two million) united in a common feeling of opposition to war and with an expectation that such a huge expression of public opinion could not be ignored.

The millions of marchers were right. Yet on 18 March 2003 hundreds of British MPs voted for war.

The ruthless and immense bombing campaign was an outrage against humanity and a shameful blot on Britain’s reputation. Iraqi society was destroyed. With police and military removed terrible lawlessness erupted. Three million refugees fled Iraq, including Christians who had been protected under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Terrorism was provoked.

Part of the anti-Iraq-war contingent from Burgess Hill, 15 February 2003.

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Willie McBride – a popular folk song relating to the First World War

I don’t know how widely known it is that some very popular and excellent folk songs were written about The First World War long after the event – poetry often overlooked.
One of the most popular is the lament for the death of Willie McBride, but its meaning is wider that just that.
I have heard it sung with great feeling many many times at folk clubs. There are several versions on YouTube but I think some of these make the song too sentimental.
Here’s one version
 
 

Eric Bogle

The picture above the video is of Eric Bogle who wrote the song in 1975 and returned to the grave of Willie McBride in 2018.
More on my war poetry website at   https://www.warpoetry.uk/willie-mcbride-folk-song
 
I’d be interested to hear of other folk songs about the First World War that you might recommend.

 

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A modern poem for Remembrance Day

One of nearly 400 memorials at The National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire

A Hymn for Remembrance Sunday

May be used as a prayer or sung to the music, Finlandia, by Jean Sibelius

Grant peace, O Lord, across our strife-torn world,
Where war divides and greed and dogma drive.
Help us to learn the lessons from the past,
That all are human and all pay the price.
All life is dear and should be treated so;
Joined, not divided, is the way to go.

Protect, dear Lord, all who, on our behalf,
Now take the steps that place them in harm’s way.
May they find courage for each task they face
By knowing they are in our thoughts always.
Then, duty done and missions at an end,
Return them safe to family and friends.

Grant rest, O Lord, to those no longer with us;
Who died protecting us and this their land.
Bring healing, Lord, to those who, through their service,
Bear conflict’s scars on body or in mind.
With those who mourn support and comfort share.
Give strength to those who for hurt loved-ones care.

And some there be who no memorial have;
Who perished are as though they’d never been.
For our tomorrows their today they gave,
And simply asked that in our hearts they’d live.
We heed their call and pledge ourselves again,
At dusk and dawn – we will remember them!

Voice:
At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

ALL SAY
We will remember them.

Charles Henrywood, 2009

From The War Poetry website  www.warpoetry.uk  and the book, Remembrance Poems and Readings.

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Blair and Brown on BBC2 – Will the truth come out?

Blair and Brown, 5 part BBC2 Documentary started  Mon 4 October 2021, 9pm

This could be an interesting series about these brilliant and eloquent politicians.

People will never forget the audacity of Blair and his colleagues in ignoring the biggest and worldwide demonstrations of opposition to the war against Iraq, or the worldwide disbelief in the arguments presented.

But will the BBC gloss over the Iraq war and the unprovoked wars against Serbia, and Afghanistan which constitute war crimes under international law.

Will the BBC dodge the question of why these apparent war criminals have not yet been brought to trial?

Does the BBC know the first thing about international law against war?

“To initiate a war of aggression  . . .  is the supreme international crime”  – 

Declaration of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, 1945. But, to see more of what international law says, please see my blog post, The Law Against Wars.

How often has the BBC ever challenged politicians on the legality of unprovoked attacks on other countries? Instead the BBC has given copious amounts of air time to those proposing war and the death, destruction and human misery it will cause. Criticism of such proposals has been minimal.

 

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Afghanistan, 20-years of disaster created by America and Britain

Afghanistan, 20-years of disaster created by America and Britain

Taking on Afghanistan in 2001 was an unnecessary and calamitous war on one of the poorest, most dysfunctional  countries in the world. It was started, we were told, to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and thus prevent terrorism. 

After 20 years of occupation by mainly American and British forces and 20 years of killing, peace prosperity and harmony are desperately absent so that the stream of refugees from Afghanistan continues. We are back where we started: with the Taliban in power. Now it seems we will negotiate with the Taliban, an idea that might have been tried instead of bombing.

Tony Blair and his colleagues, and British politicians who supported the war, should be held to account for the shame they have brought to this country, and the thousands killed and injured as a result of their decisions, crimes against humanity.

Was it terrorism?

America, Britain, and the others presented the war against the Taliban as a war against  terrorism. Terrorism may be defined as the use of violence for political ends. On this definition the terrorism delivered by Britain, America, and others far exceeds any terrorist suffering we may have  endured before or since this war.

Self-inflicted injury

Much of our own suffering has come to us as a direct result of our own actions in Afghanistan. Over 450 British soldiers were killed in this war and approximately another thousand seriously injured. These facts alone show that this military fantasy operation has made things worse for ourselves even on that small measure of achievement.

160,000 Afghans killed

Of course,  the general picture is far worse than this. Although we are constantly told of the benefits brought to Afghanistan by Western involvement in the last 20-years certain facts are mostly quietly overlooked. For example, over 160,000 Afghans were killed during the last 20-years,  many by direct US bombing, but others in the ongoing conflict which the Western presence promoted in the country, taking sides but never bringing peace, far from it. Our use of violence against Afghans must have brought about suffering on a wide scale, and anger against the west, a stimulus to retaliation. More details below.

Afghan Refugee Crisis reveals despair felt during the occupation by US and UK

This is what an Amnesty web report said on 20 June 2019:
“There are currently more than 2.6 million registered refugees in the world from Afghanistan.
There are more than 2 million people who have been internally displaced by the ongoing conflict. . .
In a report published in June 2019, the Institute for Peace and Economics said that Afghanistan is the world’s “least peaceful” country, replacing Syria.”

Cost to UK taxpayer

The cost of the UK taxpayer is in the region of £40 billion. 

The figure put out by the government is about half this but its figures overlook a number of factors.  For an analysis of the costs see the Fact Check web page by Channel 4..

https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/how-much-has-the-afghan-conflict-cost-britain

The death toll in Afghanistan    –    Associated Press and BBC statistics

Associated Press

American service members killed in Afghanistan through April [2021]: 2,448.

U.S. Contractors: 3,846. [employed to do military tasks or support the US military operation]

Afghan national military and police: 66,000.

Other allied service members, including from other NATO member states: 1,144.

Afghan civilians: 47,245.

Taliban and other opposition fighters: 51,191.

Aid workers: 444.

Journalists: 72.

[Total number of Afghans killed: 164,436. The number of Americans killed was more than twice the number that died in the 9/11 twin towers atrocity]

Evidence from the BBC  –  Frank Gardner BBC Correspondent, BBC web 17 April 2021

“The cost of this 20-year military and security engagement has been astronomically high – in lives, in livelihoods and in money. 

Over 2,300 US servicemen and women have been killed and more than 20,000 injured, along with more than 450 Britons and hundreds more from other nationalities.

But it is the Afghans themselves who have borne the brunt of the casualties, with over 60,000 members of the security forces killed and nearly twice that many civilians.

The estimated financial cost to the US taxpayer is close to a staggering US$1 trillion.”

My conclusion

Wars such as the one against Afghanistan are an affront to intelligence and affront to morality. They are unnecessary and counterproductive. Few countries in the world today involve themselves in such primitive military adventures and it is a matter of shame that the UK is one of the few countries that believes in violence as an acceptable mode of international relations.

David Roberts, 14 September 2021

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Ernest Hemingway – Fascinating BBC Documentary on i-player

Ernest Hemingway - 1899–1961 - Fascinating Documentary on BBC i-player

We have just started watching a fascinating BBC iPlayer documentary about the life of Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway was one of America’s most celebrated novelists and short story writers who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

He was a war reporter and himself a victim of war, being seriously wounded when he was an ambulance driver in Italy in the First World War.

My own attempt to read Hemingway as a teenager was not a happy one. I found his pared-down, colourless style barren and tedious to read. Perhaps I had chosen the wrong story to start with or maybe it was just my immaturity or maybe it was a very poor piece of Hemingway’s writing.

Hemingway’s colourful life

However, Hemingway certainly had a full, difficult and interesting life, and in his lifetime relished his macho image as a hunting, fishing, heavy drinking womanizer who married four times.
After a period of severe depression and ECT treatment he ended his life by shooting himself at the age of 61. His father, his sister Ursula and his brother Leicester also killed themselves.

First episode

I have watched only the first episode of the documentary. Hemingway’s story is told with thoughtful, intelligent detail and remarkable black and white footage to accompany the account of his prosperous but difficult childhood and his first world war adventure which led to him being seriously wounded in Italy. This first episode also covers Hemingway’s first marriage and his time in Paris when he met a number of well-known 20th century writers.

His first novel, The Sun Also Rises, depicts life among the dissolute thinkers and drinkers in Paris at this time, the early 1920s.

The programme has tempted me to take another look at some of Hemingway’s writing.

Availability

Each of the six episodes lasts for 50 minutes and is available on BBC iPlayer.

The series will be available for the next 11 months which will take us up to May or June 2022.

Accessing i-player with Chromecast

There are obviously several ways of accessing iPlayer but our own method is to find the programme on my Android mobile phone (about £150, which I have had for three years). Then, by pressing the “Cast” icon we send the programme to our telly. This happens with the aid of the very cheap but very effective Chromecast dongle (about £40) plugged into the back of the telly. The programme plays with great picture detail and sound quality. Our internet connection is part of the system and the phone is acting as a sort of remote control.

You can see what Amazon has to offer by clicking a link below.

David Roberts

30 July 2021

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Are aircraft carriers useful in a war situation? Expert opinion.

Are aircraft carriers useful in a war situation?

Expert opinion

Aircraft carriers of some of the biggest ships ever built and are therefore very impressive, as well as being extremely expensive to build and operate.
Here is expert opinion on the usefulness of aircraft carriers in the first Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, 1990-1991.

“Little in Desert Storm supported the Maritime Strategy’s assumptions and implications. No opposing naval forces challenged us. No waves of enemy aircraft ever attacked the carriers. No submarines threatened the flow of men and materiel across the oceans. The fleet was never forced to fight the open-ocean battles the Navy had been preparing for during the preceding 20 years.”

Statement by William A. Owens former admiral in the United States Navy and Commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet from 1990 to 1992. He became vice chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, the second-ranking military office in the United States, in March 1994.
From The Carrier Myth 1999, By Rebecca Grant, March 1, 1999
https://www.airforcemag.com/article/0399carrier/

Today’s aircraft carriers

Today’s aircraft carriers may be no more useful. They carry dozens of aircraft capable of dropping bombs and causing an immense amount of destruction, but what international problem will be solved by a massive bombing campaign and in which countries might this tactic be used?

And being so large won’t they be easy to find and easy to destroy?  

High tech solutions well adapted to fight the second world war

It seems defence planners are stuck in Second World War thinking. Mass bombing is not an answer to today’s international problems. The bombings of Iraq and Afghanistan have been disastrous and avoidable tragedies.

Britain’s two aircraft carriers, the biggest ships ever built in Britain, cost over £3 billion each, have crews of 700, with accommodation for up to 1600, and are built to carry normal maximum load of thirty-six American F-35 multirole combat aircraft and four helicopters. The theoretical maximum capacity is 72 aircraft. Currently the UK has just 21 of these planes costing around $100 million each. This military might is not constructed or planned to deliver real help to any country.

David Roberts

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First nuclear bomb dropped on a city 75 years ago, 6 August

Two BBC 4 programmes explore this tragedy.  Hiroshima Docudrama, 10 pm Wednesday 5 August, and at 11.30 pm Living in Dread and Promise, the story of nuclear power in the last 70 years.

75 years ago, 6 August, the first nuclear bomb to be dropped on people destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Thus began 75 years of a handful of countries threatening each other with nuclear annihilation and the wasting of billions of pounds on a weapon that remains an horrendous threat to human life on earth.