The Brussels Bombings: What We Can Do

 

In the face of the attacks in Brussels and Mosul, the wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, the attacks before in Paris, and what seems to be a constant barrage of incidents of violence, terror and war in so many parts of the world, many of us often feel powerless – left wondering what we can do and whether it will ever end or change. Many of us also – many, many millions and hundreds of millions – want and know that it must change – and that what is being done now, whether by governments or non-state actors like ISIS, isn’t the solution, but part of the problem we need to overcome.

Below are 10 actions we can do – short and long-term – to overcome the terror and war we are seeing – in Brussels, in Paris, in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere. There are 10. There are many, many more. We would invite you to add comments, suggestions, and additional ideas for action and practical steps. More than that: we would ask and invite you to join us and millions more, and work together to bring an end to cycles of war and violence intensifying rather than solving the very problems we need to address. PATRIR – the Romanian Peace Institute – is committed to practical action and work on the ground with our allies and partners in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen working to end the wars and violence in those countries, and practical action and work to engage governments and people in Europe, North America and elsewhere to change our own policies and actions which are both fuelling and part of the terror and war taking place in these countries and elsewhere. We know though that this can’t be done alone. That there are many amazing individuals, citizens, students, parents, journalists, artists, politicians, activists and others around the world who know that terror, war and violence as a response to terror, war and violence are not the solution but a continuing intensification and escalation of the problem. We know this – and so we are reaching out to you to see how we can do more together, and stop it.

10 Actions: Please share these broadly. This article may be reposted / reprinted. 

1. Campaign for a Ban on Weapons Trade & Sales to all countries in the Middle East and North Africa involved in funding wars and attacks on civilians in the area, including Saudia Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Israel and Egypt. Belgium has already led the way with a ban on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. This should be built on and extended in including a total EU-wide ban;

2. Development of an active, robust international solidarity platform with the people of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen working to end the wars in their countries – including direct / active campaigning within countries in Europe, North America, and through the Middle East and North Africa to end policies of our own engagement in, contribution to and escalation of wars in those countries. The response of tens of thousands of citizens across Europe to provide humanitarian aid and support is excellent – and needs to be increased. In addition to this though, we need to go several steps further and begin i. active and practical, real support to courageous citizens IN Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen working to end the wars in their countries; ii. engage IN OUR OWN COUNTRIES to change negative / violence and war escalating policies and actions which further feed into and fuel wars in the region – and which are themselves leading to wide-spread destruction and civilian casualties; iii. work actively to bring about real engagement at the diplomatic and political levels to bring about peace agreements in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq.

3. Citizens – and governments, media, and social, cultural, religious and other figures – can also do much more to put a narrative and practice of dialogue, celebration and respect for diversity and each other, and positively affirm the values and principles we believe in; and not leave the space principally or only to messages of ‘securitisation’, ‘terrorism’ or ‘us versus them’. This is not what most of us believe in. This is not what most of us want – in Belgium, in Europe, in North America…and in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere – but we need to be much more active, more creative, more…joyful, inspired, courageous in making that visible.

4. As part of 1, 2 and 3 above, it would be wonderful to hold forums in every major city and in schools and universities across Europe and internationally addressing exactly the issue of how do we address, respond to, and overcome the drivers, conditions and causes of intolerance, enemy images, and all extreme violence, terrorism and war – from states and non-state actors – across Europe, North America, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and more broadly. These ‘attacks’ are not happening just in Europe or the United States. European Governments and the US are ALSO themselves involved in carrying out attacks in Syria, in Iraq, in Libya, and in providing weapons for attacks in those countries and Yemen, responsible for killings tens of thousands of civilians in total. In the same way we had a global anti-apartheid movement to support the people of South Africa in the 1970s and 80s, in the same way we’ve built movements on environment, civil rights, women’s rights, and much more, we need a global movement now – and in all of our communities and countries – to transform how the world deals with conflicts, violence, war and “terrorism” – to end constant cycles of violence and policies and measures which are themselves violent and which escalate and intensify violence, and fail in any way to actually solve or address the real issues – and to bring forward real alternatives. It is our lives, our communities, our countries – all of us – that are affected, and it is time for us to change the policies and measures which are escalating this problem from all directions.

5. Creating a single web-site / web-platform which would bring together the best articles, analysis, speeches, videos, tutorials, and good information and sources that can help people ‘make sense’ of what’s happening and why, and also show what we can do – in our communities, internationally, together – and help people creatively share ideas, encourage action, inspire engagement, would also be an important step. There are SUPERB materials, videos, publications, articles out there, and a lot of good and great work being done, but all too often we’re simply not aware of it, or don’t know where we can find it or how we can get involved. A good, multi-lingual web-site which could be a resource for people in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, North America and more broadly would be a great platform to help support and catalyse efforts.

6. There’s also this summer a ‘Global Youth Rising’ gathering at which activists, movements, organisations and citizens passionately involved from across Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and all across Europe, North America and internationally are coming together for 10 days to look at what we can do in our own communities and countries and what we can do together globally to end these wars. People interested, passionate, engaged are welcome to come and be part of this (https://www.facebook.com/groups/GlobalYouthRising/). You can also help by helping to fund those coming from Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen to make their participation possible.

7. Another great step, in our communities, schools and universities, would be to organise a global week of action in which we foster and promote events, discussion, sharing, workshops and training on how to deal with the wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen; how to deal with our own countries’, militaries, and weapons companies’ contributions to these wars, and what we can do – as citizens, as students, as human beings – to help change these policies and end them.

8. Going further from this – it would be good to have an international forum before the end of 2016 to bring together organisations, activists, movements, peace workers to take our work on making all of this happen to another level.

9. And, for the immediate, medium and long-term: working to have peace education introduced as part of core curriculum into all of our schools and education systems world-wide.

10. A real challenge at this moment are also the ‘security’, ‘military’ and ‘academic’ experts, media and government officials, some / many of whom respond with ‘stock’ answers of increased securitisation, monitoring, restrictions on civil liberties and freedoms, and increased support for war and armed attacks in the region. Like hate speech and extremism everywhere, this should be actively challenged and not simply accepted as ‘expert’ advice – often by experts who have never been in the region, often promote quite extremist views, and who’s ‘recommendations’ have in many cases been proven time and time again to be the problem, not part of the solution.

We are not powerless. We are not alone. We do not have to sit back and feel that nothing can be done. We are each of us. We are all of us. We are many, different, beautiful and wonderful – in Syria, in Belgium, in Iraq, in France, in Libya, in the United States, in Yemen, in Italy, in….every home, school, office, community and country around the world.

We have as a species overcome incredible injustice, violence, tyranny and oppression in the past. Wherever there has been ‘wrong’ there have been those who with creativity, courage, love and passion have struggled to help overcome it and work for better. We can do this – with respect, with sound, intelligent, real solutions that actually address and solve problems rathe than making them worse. With action. Like marshalling our resources to respond to the outbreak of Ebola, we need to marshall our resources to respond to, overcome and transcend the war making, war intensifying, war fuelling policies of terrorist attacks – from airforces and suicide bombers, from politicians and ‘extremists’ of all shapes and stripes, whose answer to killing and war is killing and war.

This is the moment at which the candles we light…for New York, for Baghdad, for Paris, for Raqqa, for Misrata and Bengazi, for Ankara, for Sanaa, Mosul and Brussels, become lights that spread from heart to heart and mind to mind, and call us to rise, call us to stand, call us to have a dream and know that a world beyond war, hatred and violence is possible. Call us to act.

And not to stop, until we have changed and overcome this terror-war system. It can be stopped. It will be stopped. We are the ones who must stop it.

***
By Kai Brand-Jacobsen
Director, Department of Peace Operations (DPO) – PATRIR

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Of Mosul and Brussels

In two days there have been bombings and death in two places close to my heart – Mosul and Brussels. In Mosul the university – used by ISIS as a headquarters but surrounded by residential areas – cafes and other areas were struck in what was described as a ‘massive daylight barrage’ of bombs dropped by the US-led coalition. In Brussels, as yet unidentified bombers carried out a suicide attack on the airport and bombing of the Maalbeek Metro station. At least 25 civilians were killed yesterday in Mosul, possibly (probably) many, many more. At least 13 people have been confirmed killed so far in Brussels. And all of these…are people who had families, who had mothers and fathers, friends, relatives, colleagues. They had hopes, dreams, fears. They woke up in the morning, and now they are dead. The point is the horror, the killing, on all sides, is wrong. ‘We’ can’t use ‘their terror’ to justify our bombing and mass killing, because ‘they’re’ also using ‘our’ killings to justify their bombings and indiscriminate killings. And who dies? People, dreams, hope, civility, all that is best in us. And in their place, a graveyard of bankrupt policies, escalation of fears, hate mongering, military expenditures, devastation, destruction. I much prefer the seed of life, than the sewage of hatred and violence. My heart, my mind, everything that I am…mourns..for the people in Brussels, for the people in Mosul. For those who have done the bombings – whether from state of the art planes we misspent millions or billions of dollars to create as instruments of death, or by strapping bombs around themselves and blowing themselves up. They weren’t born wanting to hurt, to kill. What did we do along the way, how did we fail them, to reach this moment. This is not something we can simply angrily blame on ‘them’. On ‘others’. ‘Them’ is ‘us’ if we were in that situation. Them is ‘us’ in our own governments and companies fuelling, funding, arming ‘that’ situation. ‘Them’ whether in a fighter plane or suicide vest is ‘us’, as long as we don’t unite and stop it. There is no christian, no muslim, no Iraqi or Belgium. There are human beings. Someone who woke up yesterday morning, or this morning, and won’t anymore. And the emptiness, the hole, the unspeakable sadness and pain for those who knew them, loved them, laughed with them, cared for them, at least some of whom may now want ‘them’ to suffer, to be bombed or killed for what they’ve done…and the cycle continues. Until we stop it.
Mosul. Brussels. Ankara. Raqqa. Sinjar. Paris. Not sites of bombings. Not sites of killings. Sites of…millions, millions of people. Of life. Of creativity, hope, diversity. Let us make them sites, and seeds, of change, so that no other cities, no other lives, will be added to this list.
*** This note may be reposted / shared further *** Please see also and share:
Brussels Explosion: We can do this. Not alone, but together”
We are working to build a global movement to overcome the policies, drivers, causes and dynamics fuelling war and violence in all their forms – in Mosul, in Brussels, globally. This summer there will be a Global Youth Rising international forum – gathering f0r 10 days, going in-depth into how to build and deepen our peacebuilding work globally, going into building a solidarity movement with the people of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen working for peace in their countries; and for all of us, everywhere, to engage in real, meaningful change in our countries. You can find out more at:

Global Youth Rising
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Glo…


We don’t need to just accept what is happening. We can change it. You can help – by joining and helping to develop and build the global movement, and by helping to share and inform people about the global gathering this summer.

Brussels Explosion: We can do this. Not alone, but together.

Thinking this moment…of friends in Brussels, of friends in Iraq and Syria, in South Sudan and Mexico. Thinking of our deep need to overcome currents of anger, hatred and fear and systems of violence and war. Thinking, feeling, hoping friends in these places and more are safe, and knowing that it will not end as long as we pour fuel onto fire, as long as we respond with the very same weapons of violence that we ourselves are hurt and angered by; that it will not end until our ‘we’ is extended to include each other and not only us versus them. Brussels, like Syria, like Iraq, like Mexico, like South Sudan and so many other places, is a place of vibrance, of parents and children, of at least 200 people I know working in peacebuilding and for people’s rights and justice around the world, of people who wake up with hopes and dreams as well as fears and insecurities, of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, secularists, liberals, conservatives, socialists, communists, anarchists, bureaucrats, artists, journalists, street cleaners, guitar players, and so, so, so, so much more. It is a place of life. We’re not going to end the terror of violence – whether it comes from our soldiers, planes and missiles or other people’s bombs or corporations’ sales of weapons, unless we begin to deeply, fully, truly overcome our global war system, and the dynamics and drivers of hate, violence and war – within our own countries and internationally. This challenge is much, much more acute, intense now. Not ‘now’ today, but ‘now’ for more than a decade. We need the people of courage, of heart, of love, of determination, of vision, of passion, of humanity, of joy…who will work together, and together…transcend it. A better world is possible. It’s up to us to make it a reality. Not by hoping, not by aspiration, but by actual engagement and real choices. I’m thinking this moment, of friends in Brussels, friends in Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Mexico and elsewhere, of my own children safe now at home, of so many children not safe in war zones, and I will recognise, witness, and honour this moment…by rising. We need to build a truly global movement to abolish war. We need to campaign actively to end arms sales to the MENA region and gradually take apart / abolish weapons companies. We need to introduce peace education into schools at all levels. We need to build upon the incredible, inspiring work that has been done in peacebuilding, especially in the last 10 years…and multiply it ten thousand fold. We can do this. Not alone, but together.
*** This note may be reposted / shared further however it may be helpful *** Please see also and share:

Of Mosul and Brussels
We are working to build a global movement to overcome the policies, drivers, causes and dynamics fuelling war and violence in all their forms – in Mosul, in Brussels, globally. This summer there will be a Global Youth Rising international forum – gathering f0r 10 days, going in-depth into how to build and deepen our peacebuilding work globally, going into building a solidarity movement with the people of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen working for peace in their countries; and for all of us, everywhere, to engage in real, meaningful change in our countries. You can find out more at:

Global Youth Rising 2016 – July 10 – 20

We don’t need to just accept what is happening. We can change it. You can help – by joining and helping to develop and build the global movement, and by helping to share and inform people about the global gathering this summer.
Those who wish for peace

Living Peace – Statement from the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates

LIVING PEACE
Final Statement
Living Peace Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates
Nothing is as antagonistic to peace as the human mind without love, compassion, and reverence for life and nature. Nothing is as noble as the human being who chooses to bring love and compassion into action.

This year we honor the legacy of Nelson Mandela. He exemplified the principles for which the Nobel Peace Prize is granted and serves as a timeless example of a truth he lived. As he himself said: “love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

He had many reasons to give up hope, even to hate, but he chose love in action. It is a choice we can all make.

We are saddened by the fact that we were not able to honor Nelson Mandela and his fellow Peace Laureates in Cape Town this year because of the refusal of the South African government to grant a visa to H.H. the Dalai Lama to enable him to attend the planned Summit in Cape Town. The 14th Summit, which was moved to Rome, has nevertheless permitted us to consider South Africa’s unique experience in showing that even the most intractable disputes can be resolved peacefully through civic activism and negotiation.

As Nobel Peace Laureates we bear witness that – as has happened in South Africa during the past 25 years – change for the common good can be achieved. Many of us have faced guns and overcome fear with a commitment to live with and for peace.

Peace thrives where governance protects the vulnerable, where the rule of law brings justice and the treasure of human rights, where harmony with the natural world is achieved, and where the benefits of tolerance and diversity are fully realized.

Violence has many faces: prejudice and fanaticism, racism and xenophobia, ignorance and shortsightedness, injustice, gross inequalities of wealth and opportunity, oppression of women and children, forced labor and slavery, terrorism, and war.

Many people feel powerless and suffer in cynicism, selfishness, and apathy. There is a cure: when individuals commit to caring for others with kindness and compassion, they change and they are able to make changes for peace in the world.

It is a universal personal rule: We must treat others as we wish to be treated. Nations, also, must treat other nations as they wish to be treated. When they don’t, chaos and violence follow. When they do, stability and peace are obtained.

We decry the continued reliance on violence as a primary means of addressing differences. There are no military solutions to Syria, Congo, South Sudan, Ukraine, Iraq, Palestine/Israel, Kashmir and other conflicts.

One of the greatest threats to peace is the continuing view of some great powers that they can achieve their goals through military force. This perspective is creating new crisis today. If left unchecked this tendency will inevitably lead to increased military confrontation and to a new more dangerous Cold War.

We are gravely concerned about the danger of war – including nuclear war – between large states. This threat is now greater than at any time since the Cold War.

We urge your attention to the annexed letter from President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Militarism has cost the world over 1.7 trillion dollars this past year. It deprives the poor of urgently needed resources for development and protection of the earth’s ecosystem and adds to the likelihood of war with all its attendant suffering.

No creed, no religious belief should be perverted to justify gross violations of human rights or the abuse of women and children. Terrorists are terrorists. Fanaticism in the guise of religion will be more easily contained and eliminated when justice is pursued for the poor, and when diplomacy and cooperation are practiced amongst the most powerful nations.

10,000,000 people are stateless today. We support the campaign of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to end statelessness within ten years as well as its efforts to alleviate the suffering of over 50,000,000 displaced persons.

The current wave of violence against women and girls and the perpetration of sexual violence in conflict by armed groups and military regimes further violates women’s human rights, and makes it impossible for them to realize their goals of education, freedom of movement, peace and justice. We call for full implementation of all UN resolutions addressing women, peace and security and political will by national governments to do so.

Protecting Global Commons

No nation can be secure when the climate, oceans, and rainforests are at risk. Climate change is already leading to radical changes in food production, extreme events, rising sea levels, the intensity of weather patterns, and is increasing the likelihood of pandemics.

We call for a strong international agreement to protect the climate in Paris in 2015.

Poverty and Sustainable Development

It is unacceptable that over 2 billion people live on less than $2.00 per day. Countries must adopt well-known practical solutions to eliminate the injustice of poverty. They must support the successful completion of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We urge adoption of the recommendations of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons.

A first step to ending the oppression of dictatorships would be the rejection by banks of money arising from their corruption as well as constraints on their travel.

The rights of children must become part of every government’s agenda. We call for universal ratification and application of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The widening jobs gap needs to be, and can be, bridged and credible action must be undertaken to give the millions of new labor market entrants a viable job. An effective social floor can be designed in every country to eliminate the worst forms of deprivation. People need to be empowered to claim their social and democratic rights and achieve sufficient control over their own destinies.

Nuclear Disarmament

There are over 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world today. As the recent 3rd International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons concluded: the impact of the use of just one is unacceptable. A mere 100 would lower the earth’s temperature by over 1 degree Celsius for at least ten years, causing massive disruption of global food production and putting 2 billion people at risk of starvation. If we fail to prevent nuclear war, all of our other efforts to secure peace and justice will be for naught. We need to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.

Meeting in Rome, we commend Pope Francis’ recent call for nuclear weapons to be “banned once and for all”. We welcome the pledge by the Austrian government “to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons” and “to cooperate with all stakeholders to achieve this goal”.

We urge all states to commence negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons at the earliest possible time, and subsequently to conclude the negotiations within two years. This will fulfill existing obligations enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which will be reviewed in May of 2015, and the unanimous ruling of the International Court of Justice. Negotiations should be open to all states and blockable by none. The 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2015 highlights the urgency of ending the threat of these weapons.

Conventional Weapons

We support the call for a pre-emptive ban on fully autonomous weapons (killer robots) – weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without human intervention. We must prevent this new form of inhumane warfare.

We urge an immediate halt to the use of indiscriminate weapons and call on all states to join and fully comply with the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

We commend the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty and urge all states to join the Treaty.

Our Call

We call upon religious, business, civic leaders, parliaments and all persons of good will to work with us to realize these principles and polices.

Human values that honor life, human rights and security, are needed more than ever to guide nations. No matter what nations do every individual can make a difference. Nelson Mandela lived peace from a lonely jail cell, reminding us that we must never ignore the most important place where peace must be alive — within the heart of each one of us. It is from that place that everything, even nations, can be changed for the good.

We urge wide distribution and study of the Charter for A World Without Violence adopted by the 8th Nobel Peace Laureate Summit in Rome 2007.

*********

Attached hereto is an important communication from President Mikhail Gorbachev. He was unable to join us in Rome due to health concerns. He is the founder of the Nobel Peace Laureate Summits and we urge your attention to this wise intervention:

Mikhail Gorbachev’s Letter to Participants in the Nobel Laureates Forum

Dear friends,

I am very sorry I am unable to participate in our meeting but also happy that, true to our common tradition, you have gathered in Rome to make the voice of Nobel Laureates heard around the world.

Today, I feel great concern at the state of European and world affairs.

The world is going through a time of troubles. The conflict that has flared up in Europe is threatening its stability and undermining its capacity to play a positive role in the world. The events in the Middle East are taking an increasingly dangerous turn. There are smoldering or potential conflicts in other regions as well while the growing global challenges of security, poverty and environmental decay are not being properly addressed.

Policy-makers are not responding to the new realities of the global world. We have been witnessing a catastrophic loss of trust in international relations. Judging by statements of representatives of major powers, they are preparing for a long-term confrontation.

We must do all we can to reverse these dangerous trends. We need new, substantive ideas and proposals that would help the current generation of political leaders to overcome the severe crisis of international relations, restore normal dialogue, and create the institutions and mechanisms that fit the needs of today’s world.

I have recently put forward proposals that could help step back from the brink of a new cold war and begin restoring trust in international affairs. In essence, I propose the following:
• to finally start implementing the Minsk Agreements for resolving the Ukrainian crisis;
• to reduce the intensity of polemics and mutual accusations;
• to agree on steps to prevent the humanitarian catastrophe and rebuild the regions affected by the conflict;
• to hold negotiations on strengthening the institutions and mechanisms of security in Europe;
• to re-energize common efforts to address global challenges and threats.

I am convinced that each Nobel Laureate can make a contribution to overcoming the current dangerous situation and returning to the path of peace and cooperation.

I wish you success and hope for to see you.

This statement reflects the general consensus of the deliberations of Nobel Peace Laureates and Nobel Peace Laureate organizations gathered at the 2014 Rome Summit but does not necessarily bind any particular participant. For example, some organizations, such as the IPCC, by their constitution cannot endorse specific policy proposals.

* Participants in the Summit were the Dalai Lama, President Jose Ramon Horta, Lord David Trimble, Betty Williams, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman, Mairead Maguire and twelve Nobel Peace Laureate organizations: American Friends Service Committee, Amnesty International, European Commission, International Campaign to Ban Landmines, International Labour Organization, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, International Peace Bureau, International Physicians for the Prevention of War, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the United Nations.

This November 11, let us not dishonour those who died

This November 11, let us not dishonour those who died

Kai Brand-Jacobsen

[This note may be shared, reprinted or reproduced freely as long as proper citation/reference is made]

Across Britain today at many sites commemorating the First World War and 100 years since that terrible slaughter began, there are seas of red poppies laid down as part of November 11 “Remembrance Day”

Commenting on this picture people spoke of its beauty, that it is overwhelming and graceful in commemorating those who died. It was also asked if this way of commemorating "Remembrance Day" (November 11) properly recognises the loss of so many lives in the First World War. This note was written initially in that context.
Photo by Bente Brandt. Commenting on this picture people spoke of its beauty, that it is overwhelming and graceful in commemorating those who died. It was also asked if this way of commemorating “Remembrance Day” (November 11) properly recognises the loss of so many lives in the First World War. This note was written initially in that context.

ceremonies and the dedication to “never forget.” Commenting on these displays (see picture), many people have spoken of their awesome grace, dignity and beauty – that they are almost “overwhelming”.

And yet, at the same time, there’s something very sad about this. The official state sanctioned commemoration of November 11 has gradually transformed from an honouring and recognition of those killed to a legitimisation of state sanctioned violence. While being touched by the ‘gracefulness’ of honouring and remembering we forget: these millions who died in World War 1 did so not for great causes, not in ‘defence’ of homes and freedoms otherwise ‘under attack’, but because of the ineptness, incompetence and, by and large, criminality of state and political ‘leaders’ who could use the resources of their countries not to generate well being and opportunities, invest in education, health, roads, and actually improving quality of life for citizens, but into war. Those who died where fathers, sons, brothers…as well as many civilians including people of all genders and ages. They died for a war that need not have been fought, for interests which were not theirs. And thus, sadly, the way in which most of us practice or reflect upon these seas of red poppies actually…does a disservice and dishonours the memory of millions of men as well as many women sent to slaughter and be slaughtered. It fails in our own moral and human duty to ask the question: why? Was it a ‘heroic’ sacrifice? In some cases actually yes – under savage, barbaric and horrifying circumstances, many, many human beings showed extraordinary camaraderie, humanity and courage – including those soldiers that famous Christmas who reached out across fighting lines and refused to fight with each other, sitting down instead to celebrate Christmas and play football together in the midst of a ‘war’; including those who had the courage to refuse to be ‘soldiers’ and refuse to kill and slaughter others and be conned into the criminal and brutal agendas of leaders who themselves – on all sides – should have been held accountable and tried for murder, war crimes and crimes against humanity, not celebrated and learned about later as ‘statesmen’ by future generations so removed from slaughter that we can find ‘war’ heroic and exciting and forget that seed of humanity within ourselves to actually empathise with and grasp its horrifying reality; and those who rose up…in Germany, in France, in Russia…against brutal states and ‘leaders’ sending them to kill and be killed, and who had the courage to say no. If you want to ‘honour’ those who died, go one step further, not by disgracing their memories with red poppies which treat war as a heroic act, but by remembering that those people who went to kill and be killed were human beings – sons, fathers, brothers by and large – who might have lived another day, who might have gone on to be poets, engineers, teachers, or simply woken one morning to feel the sun upon their skin, to fall in love, to cry, to do any of the thousand things that we do daily and take for granted…but which they can’t, because they were sent to war. We say that November 11 is so that we will ‘never forget’, and yet, almost by definition, how most of us commemorate and reflect upon November 11 is the act of forgetting. We “honour”, “remember” and “recognise the heroism” of those who died – making us think somehow that war is actually about honour and heroism. No, it’s not, no more than rape, domestic violence or murder are. War is simply that: institutionalised murder. It does not solve the conflicts from which it in part arises. It does not contribute to meeting the needs of all the parties and stakeholders involved. To study, learn about, honour, respect or celebrate war would be like celebrating, promoting and spreading the plague or ebola instead of studying medicine, wellbeing and health – for yes, by our complicity acceptance and unquestioning, we perpetuate and allow dangerous “leaders” and decision-makers to continue war-making and dropping missiles from drones rather than the difficult and challenging task of finding actual solutions to real issues and needs. In almost every book store in the UK, and to nearly the same degree in the US and Canada, ‘history’ sections are filled with books on war – 95% plus celebrating, glorifying, legitimising war and its ‘heroism’. Would you sit silently by or do the same if books did the same about rape and other forms of brutalisation? Would it not be so much greater of us, if instead of accepting false certainties such as ‘war is necessity’, ‘war is normal’, ‘it’s human nature to go to war’, ‘people have always fought and they always will’, we actually apply the extraordinary capability, creativity and intelligence of our species to find clear, concrete, practical and effective ways of addressing, transforming and dealing with conflicts without the use of violence? The fact that that concept seems so outrageous or in some cases ‘naive’ or ‘idealistic’ to people shows how little most people even know about, understand or have been exposed to peacebuilding and conflict transformation. Believing that war is inevitable and that to ‘conceive’ of (let alone do) peacebuilding and conflict transformation is idealistic is about as intellectually solid as to believe that ‘death’ is inevitable so to study and learn medicine would be idealistic. No. We study medicine not because we believe in ‘world health’ or that by studying medicine we’ll cure every human being or people will never fall sick again. We study medicine because we know, see, understand and are aware of the scale of the problem – and will do all we can to solve it, or at least work to improve health, well being, and ameliorate pain and suffering. Not believing that healing is valid only if there is ‘world health’, but recognising that if we can abolish a disease, or save one child from cancer, or assist in healthy birth, or any number of the millions of achievements that medicine has accomplished and accomplishes daily for the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world – it is part of what it is necessary for us to do. The same is true for peacebuilding, conflict transformation, violence prevention and post-war reconciliation and healing. We do not need to train soldiers. We do not need to simply commemorate and ‘honour’ soldiers as we so often do – forgetting also the many, many millions more who died as well. We need, today, to truly honour those men and women around the world….by abolishing war, by abolishing the incompetence, arrogance and bad decision-making which leads to and fuels war, and by training human beings – men, women, girls, boys, grandparents – in how to deal with conflicts effectively, constructively and by peaceful means. We need peace education in schools. We need peaceworkers professionally trained, equipped, and supported, not soldiers and trillion+ dollar investment in weapons most people cannot conceive of or comprehend. We need governments and non-state actors developing effective conflict and peace intelligence, early warning systems, joined-up approaches to addressing societal conflicts and addressing root causes, and transcending, overcoming demonisation, stereotypes, enemy images and hate-mongering, war-fuelling propaganda..that leads ordinary men and women to extremism and violence, whether in or out of uniform.

There are very, very many people, who on November 11, pay dignified, solemn respect to those who gave their lives, who took lives, who had their lives taken. There are those who commemorate and remember the many who died, the many who fought – sometimes spouses, sometimes parents, grandparents or great grandparents – and we reflect and think upon those through the last decades and beyond who have made the ‘ultimate sacrifice’. If this be your case, if you choose to respect, to honour, to remember and commemorate, then do so truly – not by dishonouring the memory of those who died by accepting the lies of those who sent them to be killed, but by stopping, reflecting, and asking yourself “where does our responsibility truly lie”. We live in a world today in which there is far, far too much violence. So much that it has become normal, that we have grown to accept it, to believe that it is ‘inevitable’ or the way things are – or the result of some of us being good, and some being evil. It is no more the ‘way things are’ than the earth is flat – another belief that went far too long without being challenged.

As long as we continue to accept media which demonises and distorts, showing others as “the enemy” who intrinsically hate us and want to carry out violence and atrocities; as long as we accept the use of trillions of dollars and the investment of our scientists, resources and capacity in development of weapons and instruments to kill; as long as we maintain university programmes called ‘security studies’, ‘political science’ and ‘international relations’ in which students/people are often unquestioningly taught not to question and to accept the ‘legitimacy’ or inevitability of war while never learning about peacebuilding and proven and effective policies, methods and approaches to deal with conflicts, in fact, instead often having these derided by professors themselves who have never studied, learned of or taken upon themselves the challenge and responsibility to understand them; as long as people like Blair, Bondevik, Bush, Obama, Mobutu Sese Seko, Kim Jong-Un, Omar al-Bashir, Bashar al-Assad, Cameron, Benjamin Netanyahu, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are allowed to be ‘leaders’ and to promote and fuel demonisation, war and hatred of others and not be held accountable – legally accountable – for war crimes and crimes against humanity; as long as we do all of these things and more, then wearing and commemorating November 11 with red poppies is not honouring, commemorating, remembering or respecting those who died, it is actively condoning the decisions, decision-makers and systems which sent them to their deaths. Which killed them, and which continue to kill people today. This November 11, please, let us stop commemorating and passively accepting the systems, ideologies, leaders, decisions and glorification of war and violence – or the false belief and acceptance that they are necessary and inevitable – and take up the true responsibility that we all have: to honour those who have died, by refusing to allow any further to be killed; by refusing to accept so gullibly and unacceptably the myths and bad policies pushed upon us by small cohorts of ‘leaders’ engaging in militarism, war and aggression; by refusing to be complicit as tax dollars and human and societal resources are used for wars, rather than addressing and actually solving the factors which drive them. This November 11 let us finally recognise and understand that there will not be a ‘war to abolish all wars’. There simply needs to be the abolition of war. That, is how you truly show respect. That is how we commemorate, and ensure – never again.

[Note: I have spent much of the last 17+ years in war zones around the world. I have worked in Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Colombia, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Lebanon, Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Israel and Palestine, Burma-Myanmar, southern Thailand and elsewhere. I have spent more time in war zones than the overwhelming majority of soldiers in the world today. I have had and seen friends and colleagues killed. I have had a gun in my mouth and held a 9-year old boy in my arms as he died. I write, not from naivete, idealism or ignorance of war, but from profound and deep dedication, experience and engagement with it – and with peacebuilding. To those who can conceive/utter/believe that to work to address war, to prevent violence, to engage in peacebuilding is naive or idealistic: it is not naive or idealistic to see that there are challenges in the world and to honestly engage to see how to address them, nor is it ‘realistic’ to unquestioningly accept the inevitability of what is obviously wrong. It is, however, realistic and responsible, to recognise that we must, as societies and as a species, find better, more effective ways of dealing with and addressing conflicts. There is a field that does that, and it needs to be studied, learned, developed and improved, just a we have done and continue to do with medicine. This is what needs your intelligence, your engagement, your mind, resources, capacities and effort. This is what we need to train men and women in around the world. This is not a ‘sacrifice’. It is, however, an ultimate responsibility.]