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This is an archive of material
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Billy King


Nonviolence News



These are regular editorials produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent News.

Issue 125: December 2004

Also in this editorial:

Unassembled once again

Déjà vu. Once again Northern Ireland arrives at a sticking point on a deal to bring back the Stormont assembly. There is nevertheless the prospect that any deal struck in the near future could work better this time - if the DUP and Sinn Féin can get over the disagreement on the provision of photographic evidence on decommissioning of IRA weapons (which Paisley claims is essential and Adams sees as humiliation) and other issues which may have been hidden. Since any deal would a deal with the two 'further out' parties on the unionist and nationalist side (DUP and Sinn Féin), both being the big boys this time, there is no one to convincingly challenge it. Irony of ironies, it has taken these two parties being in the driving seat to be tantalisingly close to making a deal which has the best chance yet of sticking. But not yet close enough.

So were 'the photographs' essential evidence or essentially humiliation? Whose word do you believe, if anyone? Certainly photographs in this digital day are meaningless without people there, such as the two clergyperson witnesses, to verify them. And they could verify the process without photographs. Maybe it was Paisley being triumphalist and so ingrained in the way of saying 'no' that he doesn't know a good deal when he sees it. But then the IRA should also have destroyed its weapons stocks a long time ago (though in terms of taking its hardliners with it you can also understand why not).

The power-sharing executive of 1974 is thirty years ago. Mark Durkan's comment about the current prospective deal that it is not new but the players are, is very true, though presumably he was referring only to post-1998 events. There are some differences between the 'deals' of 1974 and 1998/2004, but it is a tragedy for so many people, killed, wounded, lives destroyed through the death of loved ones, that 1974 was not the culmination of the Troubles. That is all now wishful thinking. Of course neither the DUP nor Sinn Féin were included in the Sunningdale Agreement of 1974, nor did they wish to be, but there are various messages here about inclusivity. However to say that one lesson in divided societies is simply to vote for the 'more extreme' parties and get a deal sooner rather than later would be dangerous - how solutions emerge is unique, and when parties such as the DUP and Sinn Féin are ready to compromise to achieve power cannot be guessed at from a distance.

Of course, and we have said it before, a deal would not be the end of history in Northern Ireland. Decommissioning of IRA weapons might not go according to plan, aside altogether from the evidence deemed necessary by the DUP or anyone else. Paramilitary activity on either side (and the IRA is certainly not the only player) could put things in jeopardy. What happens to unionism when the DUP is no longer led by Ian Paisley will be in interesting one to watch in due course. Lots of other issues may arise to divide and conquer Northern Ireland. Demographic change (the Catholic/Protestant balance) may shift things further over a few decades. Even the system of balances introduced under the Good Friday Agreement may still cause problems.

And so it is not yet the end of this impasse. When the gap will be closed we cannot say. We wish all the Northern Ireland political parties bon voyage and a fair wind in their sails to take them where they need to go - when they actually manage to set sail and push off the shore where they have been beached for so long. There are many who at this stage wish they would simply push off.

Here comes the judge
The two-year suspended jail sentence for Mary Kelly at the very start of December was a relief as it looked like she would do hard time, though as we argued in the last issue she should never have been found guilty for attacking a US warplane at Shannon in January 2003. Before he imposed the sentence, Judge Carroll Moran said "Society at large expects me as a judge to stop and prevent the social anarchy that would prevail if people were allowed to take the law into their own hands."

How wonderfully wise and perspicacious Judge Moran is! If the likes of the USA and UK are allowed to do whatever they like around the world with no regard for international law, world public opinion, or human life (a hundred thousand killed we are told) what will the world be like in the future let alone today? There will be more chaos, more misery, more 'terrorist' attacks because oppressed societies will learn it is the only language a superpower understands (we don't agree but that is still what they will learn), and there will be more 'homeland security' to oppress people. It's a pity that the learned judge in Ennis and Limerick was not pronouncing sentence on those who deserve it, George Bush and Tony Blair. They are guilty as charged of lies on a monumental scale, misappropriation of absolutely enormous funds for war, the horror of war and the resultant deaths of hundreds of thousands - and this sounds very much like a crime against humanity. In the light of all this, Mary Kelly is to be congratulated and maybe the 'socialist' Taoiseach could think of a special award for Shannon activists who have spent so much time doing what they should not have had to do - opposing the US war machine at its staging post in Ireland.

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Eco-Awareness Eco-Awareness
Larry Speight joins us with his regular eco-thoughts [try to spot the pun in the title!]:

Christmas is here once more and the earth grimaces. The 20 per cent of humanity who have money to spend on things beyond meeting their basic needs will in time honoured tradition take part in an orgy of feel-good buying, wuite a significant amount of which will have a short life-span and end up in land-fill sites, and as greenhouse gases by way of incineration. To get an idea of the amount of valuable things that we throw away I suggest you visit a Local council waste collection centre. The one I am familiar with serves a small village, most days of the week the three skips and the ground around it are filled with people's clutter.

Some of the things I noted on a recent visit are the following; Furniture made of red hardwood from a tropical rainforest, hundreds of unblemished books, clothes, cooking utensils, food waste from shops including chickens, cuttings from gardens, unused carpets and linoleum, meeting room chairs, and of course televisions, fridges and microwave ovens. In spite of liking to think of ourselves, our ethics clearly do not encompass our relationship with the Earth. As a society we have managed to exclude the well-being of other life-forms and the integrity of eco-systems from our view of the world. As James Jones writes in the Guardian, 22nd November 2004 - "The modern world has lost much of its connection with the earth. ....we are so removed from the consequences of our actions that we live comfortably in denial, ignoring the prophets if doom who predict an impending environmental crisis of epic proportions."

This Christmas we would make a few small changes in our consumer habits. I suggest the following:

1) Buy our family and friends gifts from a Fairtrade outlet.

2) Give local native trees as presents . e.g. in Northern Ireland contact the Ulster Wildlife Trust whose nursery produces more than 1000,0000 competitively priced trees of local origin every year, phone 028 - 2176 1403 or e-mail or in the Republic you can contact the Tree Council at: 01 2849211 / / The Tree Council can also help one give trees, or have them planted as gifts.

3) Offer your skill and labour as a gift, perhaps mending someone's bicycle, tidying up their garden or teaching them a skill.

4) give gifts from your stock of possessions.

5) make a pledge to particular people to be a better listener, more patient and compassionate. I am sure readers can think of many other ways by which we can give Christmas presents without destroying the Earth, or forcing people, mostly in far away places, to toil in sweatshop conditions. Good cheer to everyone.

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'Terrorism and other threats to Humankind'
A speech by Mairead Corrigan Maguire
At 5th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome,
10-12th November, 2004.

Dear Friends,

On 11th September, people everywhere were shocked into the realization that we live in a dangerous world. Those who lost loved ones, and the American people, had our sympathy. But how did the American Administration respond? Tragically, very badly. There was no breath of vision, no wisdom, only violence, terror, and war. In spite of millions of people calling for 'no war' British and American Forces, rained death and destruction on the people of Afghanistan and then Iraq. Iraq, a country where, when I visited in l999, not only their children, but the whole country, was being destroyed by the effects of the Gulf War, economic sanctions of UN/USA/UK, and the cruelty of a Military dictator. As if their lives were not desperate enough, they were brutally bombed again. These wars were not heroic, courageous, or honourable. They were immoral, illegal, and unnecessary. In time all those involved in the murder of many thousands of Iraqi people ( the latest figure is 100,000 civilians), and Afghans, will want to say they are sorry. Over 1,000 US and many British soldiers, were killed, and untold thousands of US soldiers injured. The Russian war against Chechnya was another example, of State terror against a civilian population. This planted seeds of revenge and hatred, and resulted in desperate acts of terrorism, such as those against the children of Beslan. As sure as Spring follows Winter, terrorism follows State Violence and Repression. In spite of this, we are promised ongoing Wars by the United States. I believe that War is State Terrorism by another name, and is itself a threat to humankind. It may well be, only a matter of time, before some Government, or terrorist group, decides to use Nuclear weapons, and that is why Nuclear Proliferation is also a threat.

We must do all in our power, through the United Nations, to abolish War, and make it illegal under International Law. The US is a Superpower, but we the people of the World, when united, are a stronger Superpower, because we state a truth 'every human life is sacred and we should not be killing each other in violence, ethnic conflicts, and war'. It is time now for the United Nations to recover the mantle of responsibility and authority that has been unfortunately usurped by the United States, The people of the World demand this as our right.

Violence and war are immoral and are not an acceptable way of solving the problems of the human family. There are alternatives. In the past, in response to injustice, we had two choices, fight or flight, but there is a third way, the way of nonviolence. This way was open to the political leaders of Britain and America, but they choose the old way of war. The world was taken to war under false pretences. There were no weapons of mass destruction, and it was only a matter of time before the people of Iraq would have changed their Regime. There was no political will to solve the problems nonviolently, but only a military mindset steeped in the fantasy that might is right, and war works! How sad that, amongst many people, the moral authority of both US and Britain has been lost, as has trust in both countries' political leadership. We need political leaders with vision, who are trusted, and have the ability to give people hope and confidence in themselves and others, belief that they matter and can make a difference.

September 11th raises many questions. What motivated those who carried out this cruel and inhumane attack? In order to deal with insurgency violence, we need to understand the psychology behind such violence. We humans share the same basic human nature. We have an innate sense of justice. We feel injustice deeply; it can make us fearful, angry, and frustrated. We each have a war of emotions going on in our hearts. If injustice is constant, severe, and unrelenting, with no avenue of redress, it can bring about a violent, explosive, even murderous response. We are each murderous, given the right circumstances, and that is why we need to teach nonviolence, such as meditation, to help us deal with our emotions. Also strategies which work, to deal with the injustices.

I lived this experience myself, in 'the troubles' in Northern Ireland. Witnessing State violence and injustice, I understand how people can react with violence, often seeing it as an alternative to doing nothing. It is important we do not demonize, dehumanize, or under-estimate the commitment to justice, held by those who choose the 'armed struggle' as a way of change. But it is equally important that we do not glorify violence, make heroes of those who use violence, or be ambiguous about the use of violence. Such ambiguity leaves people, (who themselves are trapped in a unjust, violent, emotional, politically charged situation) often confused about the use of violence. In Northern Ireland the 'armed struggle' was engaged in, and supported, by some as a reaction to State injustice and violence, and by others for their own political agenda. Some political activists argued the phoney theory of 'Just War' in a misguided attempt to give religious credence to their use of violence. The 'armed struggle' appealed to some as heroic and gave them a role of authority and power in an otherwise bleak and hopeless situation. In the height of their inner emotional war and outer societal war, it was easy for people to get caught up into violent revolutionary zeal and fervour. They argued any means justified the end, even dying on Hunger Strikes for their political cause. In Northern Ireland, the "Hunger Strikes to the Death" were, I believe wrong. Palestinian Suicide bombers are, I believe, wrong. The lives of Hunger Strikers and Suicide Bombers are sacred, as are the lives of all others. Whilst, I understand what drives people to such violent actions, often in an attempt to call attention to injustices, nevertheless, if we want justice, we must use just means to attain it.

By using Nonviolent Resistance (which we all must do when faced with injustice) we acknowledge both our own humanness and the humanness of opponents. Nonviolent Resistance opens the possibility for people to change. I have come to believe that the only hope for real change, is when we the human family, refuse to hurt or kill each other, and begin to build Nonkilling societies, and world. By rejecting totally violence and killing, as inhumane and unacceptable, and solving our problems by peaceful means, we will be living out of the true spirit of our human nature, and we will be happy. This is possible, and it starts with each one of us, seeking truth and living our lives with as much integrity as possible.

Governments have a responsibility to use means consist with their ends, upholding ethical policies, and the highest standards of justice, human rights, etc., They must also recognize the right to nonviolent dissent, and open channels of communications so that all grievances can be addressed. The US new doctrine of war without end, i.e. "war on terrorism" is itself creating a climate of fear and hatred. "War on terrorism" is also a myth, as there is no such thing as a war without an enemy. Terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy. The problem is one of small, but growing, cells of people in various countries, using violence, in a misguided attempt to right wrongs. They have deep grievances, which must be addressed politically. They cannot be solved militarily. In Northern Ireland, there was and is, a recognition that militarism, paramilitarism, and emergency laws, are counter-productive, and that the only way forward was to deal with the root cause of the conflict, through all inclusive dialogue. Thus began the process of dialogue with paramilitary representatives, demilitarization, and a peace process. As part of this conflict resolution process, we were encouraged by the Irish, British and American political leadership to negotiate with representatives of Paramilitary Organizations. There are lessons to be learned from the conflict resolution process in Northern Ireland, including the need to talk to the terrorists or their political representatives.

We can increase our security by States implementing the highest standards of Justice and Human Rights, and implementing law built on the principles of the universality of human nature. When Government laws respects people, people will respect the law. Also international co-operation and outreach to other countries will help stop violence. But most importantly, dealing with the root cause of violent conflict, and taking the guns out of the situation, so people can begin to build peace across the ground.

A key factor in stopping insurgency in the Middle East is the necessity of a genuine Peace Process. I am inspired, and take hope from the Israeli/Palestinian peace movement. I believe every help should be given to them and the civil community, as their efforts are necessary to build trust and peace on the ground. The International community is concerned at the injustice against the Palestinian people by the Israeli Government. Demolition of homes, building of the wall, and the military repression, suffered daily by Palestinian people is cruel, inhumane, and breaks International law. The occupation is wrong. Such Israeli State Violence and Injustices leads to suicide bombing, which also is a cruel and counterproductive, method of resistance. The Israeli people will never know safety and security, until they make justice and peace with their Palestinian, Iraqi, Syrian and Iranian neighbours. The International community must implement economic and political actions against Israel, until a genuine peace agreement with Palestinian Leaders is in process.

We hear talk about a clash of civilizations. I do not believe this and I think we have to stand against those who, for their own agenda, try, to whip up enmity between people and nations.

The Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, wrote:
"We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart's grown brutal from the fare;
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love... " (The Stare's Nest by My Window).

For a new generation, a new age, we must use our love to overcome the fear and enmities of past generations. I am full of hope, because I believe in people, and I believe passionately in the power of nonviolent love to build a unified world civilization with a heart.

Thank you,
Mairead Corrigan Maguire

Copyright INNATE 2021