Make peace not war
Derek Miller writes in the Guardian about the Strategic Bombing Survey produced by the US following the Second World War. The Survey summarised itself by recommending two important things: 1) “The great lesson to be learned in the battered towns of England and the ruined cities of Germany is that the best way to win a war is to prevent it from occurring.” 2) That for times of peace as well as in war, ‘’the highest possible quality and stature of personnel are to man the posts within any such organisation … quality, not numbers, is the important criterion.’’
The Second World War resulted in the death of anything between fifty to eighty million people. Given world population figures at the time that would be approximately three percent of the entire population of the earth, or more. Over two million of these persons were Indian.
It took seven years and cost more than ten million pounds for the Chilcot Report to emerge, all twelve volumes of it in the UK. It represented some slight acknowledgement of what the war in Iraq really was: a ghastly crime. About Britain’s choice to jointly invade Iraq with the US the Report says ‘the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.” About the role of British Administration in post war Iraq it says, ‘’Whitehall departments and their Ministers failed to put collective weight behind the task.”
As a direct result of the Iraq war over four million persons were displaced from Iraq and within it, and over a hundred thousand civilian and combatant deaths took place; the victims included men, women and children. There was malnutrition in Iraq, and abuse, torture and death in prisons such as Abu Ghraib. There have been other even more far reaching consequences of this war such as a sharp escalation of sectarian conflict and extremism both within Iraq and in other countries in the bloc, and the spillover of this conflict into the rest of the world, a process that began with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. This worldwide violence, or terrorism as it is now better known is causing as many casualties as the war, and is likely to cause countless more unless something is done to prevent it. I use the word ‘prevent’ rather than ‘stop’ quite deliberately.
The lessons that ought to have been learnt, that were enumerated and pointed out in both these reports are being disregarded. Will we as a country, learn anything from the terrible consequences of the Iraq War and the wars before it, consequences which are there for everyone to witness and suffer through? Will we learn from the Chilcot Report which points out all the errors that were made, even though its remit is restricted to Britain?
Both reports lay stress on the quality of personnel, administration and leaders in war and in times of peace. Eventually they both state in no uncertain terms that war must be a last resort, something that must not indulged in unless all other avenues are exhausted.
In Pakistan the attitude towards the military and confusion between civilian and military roles is a clear indication that violence remains an easy and convenient option. We have never been more wrong. War is like the fire that feeding on the hearths of a myriad individual homes grows to mushroom over the entire world.
This is not an attempt to hand Pakistan the blame for the violence so prevalent today because Pakistan alone is not responsible, not by any means. But we must each mind the tiny fires we start at home to prevent a conflagration, and we must do this now. We may not be able to stop the George W Bushes or Tony Blairs of this world but one can attempt to stem the tide of militancy that has burgeoned right here in response to their actions, and if nothing else prevent a convenient excuse for war from being made available. Recent violent events in Belgium and France for example provide just such an excuse. It is unclear whose hands this is playing into, probably more than one, but the end result is always the death of innocent persons in massive number.
You’d think that the West would learn some lessons from the reports pushed under its very nose, but their response seems to be a retreat into greater conservatism, as is ours. The world appears to have become wary of the liberal path and the Trumps, Mays and Johnsons, and even Clinton who voted for the Iraq invasion, have centre stage which is the last thing that this war torn world needs. As much does the world need the Taliban and other so called ‘Islamic’ militants.
In a geopolitically sensitive country like Pakistan where are the ‘highest possible quality and stature of personnel’ to man sensitive posts? And the focused collective effort to invest in Pakistan and its long term prospects, for peace in the country, in the region and in the world? Instead the Prime Minster retains the portfolio of foreign affairs to himself, a particularly foolish brand of hubris, a statement justified by the results it has produced.
Above all in the supremely overarching sense where are the attempts to teach peace and alternatives to war in schools and the debate on those subjects at any level of education? The youth of this country is being liberally fed on misguided concepts of religion and world affairs, supplemented by a hefty dose of rabid Friday sermons. Bangladesh by the way is clamping down on those sermons following the spate of terrorist attacks on its soil. Ours is hardly the way to prevent conflict.
If another war is what the country desires it can be available any time. But it is peace we need, and it is peace the country wants. War is just what the very few desire. Sadly though the few might win the day and get what they want at this rate.