Tag Archives: foreign policy

TTIP – the Battle between Big Business and Democracy

TTIP_banner_cropped560with_text2TTIP isn’t a deal for citizens, small farmers, consumers, workers or small business. It’s about pushing a ‘big business’ agenda.

At a meeting in Derby on Wednesday 8th January, 2015 we heard a very clear presentation on the implications for us if TTIP becomes law. The meeting was organised by Derby Peoples Assembly and Derby Trades Union Council. The speaker was John Hilary, Director of War on Want. John explained he has worked for the past 20 years in the international development and human rights sector.

John said that although TTIP is being promoted as a way of getting out of recession and recovering from the financial crisis of 2008, the ideas actually started back in 1990 with the Trans-Atlantic Business Diologue when big executives got together to sweep away barriers that stopped their profits. He also said that ‘Austerity’ was not a recent policy but was part of a long term engineering programme.

The intention to launch TTIP negotiations was first announced by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address in February 2013, and the first round of negotiations took place between European Commission and US officials in July of the same year. The aim is to rush through the talks as swiftly as possible with no details entering the public domain, in the hope that they can be concluded before the peoples of Europe and the USA find out the true scale of the TTIP threat. It was hoped to finish plans by this year, 2015, as next year the US Presidential Elections take place so America won’t be able to deal with negotiations in election year.

TTIP is being negotiated ‘on our behalf’ by unelected European officials. Even our MP’s don’t know – and aren’t allowed to know – what’s being negotiated away.

It will cost at least one million jobs. It will pave the way for the introduction of genetically modified food into Europe. It will irreversibly extend the privatisation of key public services such as the NHS and it will give US corporations the power to sue the UK and other states for loss of profits when these governments introduce public policies designed to protect their citizens.

It is based on three pillars:
• De-regulation
• Privatisation
• Power to sue host governments – Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)

De-regulation – John explained that TTIP is not a traditional trade agreement designed to reduce tariffs between economic partners. Tariffs between the EU and US are already at minimal levels. The stated aim of TTIP is to remove regulatory barriers which restrict the profits to be made by transnational corporations on both sides of the Atlantic.

The worry is that these ‘barriers’ are in reality some of our most prized social standards and environmental regulations such as labour rights, food safety rules (including restrictions of GM food), regulations on the use of toxic chemicals, digital privacy laws and even new banking safeguards introduced to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.

John explained that the EU works on a ‘precautionary principle’ – the onus is on the corporation to prove a chemical is safe or it will be banned. In America it is different. There, the onus is on the government to prove something is unsafe before it can be banned. To highlight this difference, in the cosmetics industry there are 1300 banned substances in the EU. In America only 12 substances are banned.

If TTIP is adopted, then the EU would be forced to lower its standards in food safety to the US level.
• In America you can’t chose what food you eat. 90% of beef in America contains growth hormones and 70% of processed food contains genetically modified ingredients.
• Environmental regulations would be harmonised and reduced to US levels allowing a US-style fracking boom in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

Privatisation – There is grave concern at the recent confirmation that health services, education, postal services and sewerage services are all included in the TTIP negotiations, with only audio-visual services (at the insistence of the French government) excluded. TTIP will open up our public services and government contracts to competition from multinational corporations and would make privatisation of the NHS irreversible in the future. (See below for information about a meeting organised by NHS Campaign Groups in February)

Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) – TTIP would enable huge multinational corporations to sue governments for loss of profits resulting from public policy decisions. It would allow a secretive panel of corporate lawyers to overrule the will of parliament and destroy our legal protections.

This is already happening in relation to existing treaties. For example:
• Swedish energy company, Vattenfall, is suing the German government for 3.7 billion Euros over the country’s decision to phase out nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
• The French company, Veolia, is suing the Egyptian government for loss of profit as a result of the country’s decision to raise the minimum wage.

Good News – The good news is that there has been huge uproar about these plans. Thanks to massive people-powered campaigns across Europe, the European Commission was forced to suspend negotiations on ISDS at the beginning of 2014 and conduct a public consultation. A record 150,000 people took part in the consultation – including War on Want supporters and Green Party members – and the overwhelming answer was ‘no’, we don’t want companies to be handed these destructive powers. Fifty groups in Britain have signed up to the NoTTIP coalition – including all the largest trade unions, social justice groups, environmental campaigners and of course, the Green Party.

Bad News – Unfortunately, despite this, the European Commission has confirmed its intention to press forward regardless and to use TTIP to introduce the controversial new powers and the British government is hell bent on getting TTIP agreed. David Cameron calls the deal a “once in a generation” opportunity which will create ‘growth and jobs’.

What we can do? – At the heart of it, TTIP will lead to a shift in the values upon which our society is based. The movement against TTIP is growing, but for it to succeed all the groups in society who are threatened by this corporate power grab need to be mobilised. Some suggestions:

Attend a meeting “TTIP and the attack on the NHS” – Tuesday 17 February 7.30pm in St Peter’s Church Hall, St Peter’s Street, Derby. Organised by NHS Campaign groups, supported by People’s Assembly. Will TTIP mean the wholesale privatisation of the NHS? John Hilary, Director of War On Want, will be speaking again along with an NHS Speaker.

Local Councils – A city council in the German town of Erkrath unanimously declared its opposition to TTIP. This follows the initiative by hundreds of French municipalities to declare themselves TTIP-free zones. It was suggested at the meeting that we might press for Derby City Council to declare themselves a TTIP-free zone.

May 7 Election – Push TTIP up the agenda by contacting candidates, sharing our concerns and asking them where they stand.

European Parliament – contact MEPs – John suggested that many MEPs are not fully aware of all the implications.

Small Businesses – contact the Small Business Federation to find out their views and get them involved.

Young People – The effects on the lives of the young and underprivileged could be phenomenal. Mass youth resistance is needed.

We need to keep building the movement against TTIP because we can win.

Jean Macdonald  
Green Party Activist

Links:

http://www.waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/ttip – sign the European Citizen’s Initiative against TTIP and CETA

http://www.waronwant.org/news/latest-news/18256-ttip-the-fight-is-on-for-2015 video of John speaking short presentation at seminar in Stockholm

http://www.waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/more/inform/18196-ttip-will-cost-one-million-jobs-official download the TTPI myth buster

http://www.waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/more/inform/18078-what-is-ttip download a booklet written by John Hilary

http://www.nottip.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/TTIP-Newspaper-Issue-02-04.pdf read a copy of The #noTTIP Times, October 2014

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Getting Organised Against TTIP

TTIP

Should Refugees be Rescued?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADerbyshire Green Party opposes the British Government’s withdrawal of support for future search and rescue operations to prevent migrants and refugees drowning in the Mediterranean.

The Governments rationale for this, as with other EU nations, is that by continuing to rescue people it encourages more to risk the trip. Such a response shows the callousness of this Government and is unlikely to prevent desperate people trying to make their way to Europe, although it is likely to increase the number who die on route.

Refugees do not embark on such a journey lightly, but do so because the risks of staying outweigh the risks (real or perceived) of going. For what people spend on illegal journeys they could fund first class air tickets, but such routes are not open to them because the Government prevents safe and legal entries to those seeking refugee status in this country.

People become refugees for a variety of reasons, almost always related to the unjust and unequal distribution of power and economic prosperity across the world. In the Middle East people are fleeing from the effects of intervention by the West to protect its oil ‘rights’. In Africa people are fleeing from the effects of changing environment, a globalised market forcing people into poverty and wars which are a legacy of colonial borders which took no account of ethnic or tribal identities. We are all complicit in the reasons people become refugees because we have all benefited for so long from the existing status quo. We therefore owe it to these people to respect and protect them.

The Green Party recognises that the refugee crisis will not go away until we address the underlying causes and therefore its highest priority is the creation of a just and ecological world. In the meantime we believe that the UK government should fully honour the right to asylum enshrined in the UN declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on Refugees. Withdrawing search and rescue missions to teach desperate people a lesson is an appalling act.

Charlotte Farrell
Green Party target candidate for Hope Valley in the High Peak

Is War an Important Tool in Resolving Conflict? Part 4

Material prepared for a 6th Formers Debate (in 4 parts)

Part 4 – War is a Crime Against Humanity

640px-Sculpture_silhouette_Armed_Forces_Memorial cropI do not want to wait until the next war comes along and do nothing in the meantime. I think Governments should talk to one another, discuss ways of abandoning war as a useless, wasteful, costly way of resolving conflict. I think Governments should work through the United Nations to outlaw war, give up armies, and work together for peace and the common good.

I think defence spending should be drastically reduced and populations trained in the ways of non-violent resistance. During World War 2 in Denmark and Sweden there was considerable success in undermining the Nazis by non-violent passive resistance. In Germany itself, during the last year of World War 2, there was a credible record of German citizens defying Hitler. We don’t hear much about it because vested interests want wars to continue. Surprise, surprise, many of our warmongering MPs and Lords have investments in weapons manufacture, oil and other commodities.

Governments the world over are concerned about oil security and food security. Already the conditions for more wars are being allowed to build up. Governments are still not taking Global Warming and the consequent Climate Change seriously. How long will it be before we ask our troops to line the beaches at Dover to fight off the hordes of poor people from Africa and beyond who want a share of the bounty we are greedily and selfishly enjoying?

There is massive evidence that the root causes of virtually all wars are economic. Before you decide how to vote today, remember that you and your children are the next generation of cannon fodder for the rich, privileged elites to use to protect their interests. War is never an important tool for resolving conflicts, it is disastrous, monstrous and only ever a sign of the failure of Governments to seriously work at building peace, co-operation and understanding.

According to the current Web Site of The Peace Pledge Union: “Human beings invented war, and human beings should make it obsolete. War, like a disease, can in time be eradicated; and that’s what we should be working to achieve. That means learning to overcome the conditioned belief that armed force is an acceptable way of dealing with disputes. It’s a human weakness, not a strength, to solve problems with cruelty, brutality and murder. As a species we have already matured enough for modern societies to decide that wartime atrocities are crimes; people can be arrested for them, tried and punished. Now we should realise that war is itself a crime against humanity, and grow wise enough to solve our problems another way”.

Note:   This material was prepared by the Rev’d Canon Donald Macdonald as part of his contribution to a debate for 6th Formers on the motion “In the year we commemorate the 1914-1918 war this house believes that war is an important tool in resolving conflict between nations”. His address is quite long and has been split into four parts which will be posted over four days.
Part 1 – A Parable
Part 2 – Lessons Not Learned
Part 3 – Violence Breeds More Violence
Part 4 – War is a Crime Against Humanity
Donald has been a member of the Green Party for over 30 years.

 

The Green Party position on War

120px-Welfare_Not_WarfareMuch international conflict today arises directly or indirectly from the abuse of power by rich Northern nations. So called ‘peace’ enforcement is preferred to conflict prevention and this helps to drive the highly lucrative arms trade.

“Defence” is the protection of homeland against attack and does not justify pre-emptive strikes against nations and organisations. Military intervention for peacekeeping or conflict prevention cannot be justified unilaterally, or outside UN control. It is irrational and immoral to continue activities that exacerbate threats to international and local security, yet this is what is happening with our military interventions.

The Green Party recognises that ‘terrorism’ is a loaded term often used in propaganda to justify attacks on desperate people. The underlying causes and sense of injustice that fuel terrorism have to be addressed. However, democratic societies need to protect themselves against those who seek to use terror and violence against them. Any measures to protect society should not undermine the fundamental values that shape a green society: inclusion, justice and equality.

For the Party’s full Peace and Defence policy go to:
http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/pd.html

Is War an Important Tool in Resolving Conflict? Part 3

Material prepared for a 6th Formers Debate (in 4 parts)

 

Part 3 – Violence Breeds More Violence

640px-Sculpture_silhouette_Armed_Forces_Memorial cropThe people who actually do the fighting are always the victims of inadequate funding – in the most recent war that this country fought in Afghanistan, the Army had the wrong type of personnel carrier, and the soldiers had the wrong kind of kit. In Battlefield conditions things rarely go according to plan. In both World Wars it was confidently assumed that a massive artillery barrage would soften up the enemies defences and make it a piece of cake for allied troops to march into German territory. In practice such bombardments rarely achieved their purpose and young, healthy, fit men went over the top, got entangled in barbed wire, and were ruthlessly cut down by enemy fire. The first time this happened- and maybe the second and the third, you could perhaps understand that the Generals hoped it would eventually work. In reality, in World War 1 the Army big wigs were still insisting on this madness four years after the conflict began, even though millions had by now been killed, shot down in cold blood – and for the sake of the gain of a few yards.

They carried on doing this in the Second World War. On D Day the German coastal defences were supposed to be virtually destroyed by allied aircraft, prior to the landing of thousands of soldiers. In most cases it did not work. Soldiers had to jump into the sea and swim into vicious and unforgiving enemy fire. It was only by sacrificing thousands of lives that eventually a foothold was gained.

It is often said that truth is the first casualty of war. The Ministry of Defence is notoriously secretive about casualty figures and is reluctant to even put a figure on civilian casualties. Fortunately journalists have compiled statistics based on casualty figures reported in the press. To use the recent Afghanistan War as an example, over 400 British troops lost their lives. But 18,000 Afghanis civilians were killed and some put this figure as high as 22,000. I’m sure they all think that war is an important tool in the resolution of conflict. In point of fact the real cost of the war in Afghanistan is estimated to be £37 billion according to the detailed analysis by Frank Ledwidge in his book ‘Investment in Blood’ (Yale University Press, 2013).

The sheer horror of war and the experience of it dehumanises the troops and leaves many of them severely traumatised. It took the Generals who lived in comparative comfort in French Chateaux during the Two World Wars a long time to take this seriously. Men who had volunteered, and even put themselves forward when they were underage were shot in cold blood for cowardice if they simply lost it and could not go on. Over three hundred British soldiers were shot by their own men. In the Vietnam War thousands of soldiers in desperation became addicted to drugs to numb their pain, and blot out the horror of what they were doing. In America today there are hundreds of Vietnam Vets who live with terrible injuries and mental and psychological damage.

The British Army has one of the better reputations for discipline and does not have a bad reputation for pillaging from houses and communities where they have conquered the enemy, or for raping the women of the villages and towns they have ‘liberated’; except in Kenya during the Mau Mau terror when British troops engaged in some of the cruellest and most vicious assaults on British subjects who lived in Kenya but were black and assumed to be on the side of the terrorists. Violence breeds violence and war breeds more war. Faced with a tyrant like Hitler a devout German Christian called Dietrich Bonhoeffer eventually decided in good conscience to support a plot to assassinate Hitler. The plot failed and 5,000 people lost their lives when Hitler ordered massive reprisals. Violence always breeds more violence.      To be continued…

Note: This material was prepared by the Rev’d Canon Donald Macdonald as part of his contribution to a debate for 6th Formers on the motion “In the year we commemorate the 1914-1918 war this house believes that war is an important tool in resolving conflict between nations”. His address is quite long and has been split into four parts which will be posted over four days.
Part 1 – A Parable
Part 2 – Lessons Not Learned
Part 3 – Violence Breeds More Violence
Part 4 – War is a Crime Against Humanity
Donald has been a member of the Green Party for over 30 years.  A statement on the Green Party position on War will follow at the end of Part Four

Is War an Important Tool in Resolving Conflict? Part 2

Material prepared for a 6th Formers Debate (in 4 parts)

 

Part 2 – Lessons Not Learned

The par640px-Sculpture_silhouette_Armed_Forces_Memorial cropable was a little far-fetched, perhaps, but it  enables me to expose the hypocrisy and callousness of the motion I am glad to oppose. I believe that war is a totally USELESS tool in resolving conflict between nations. Indeed, it is my conviction that to even describe ‘war’ as an ‘important tool’ is already granting war a legitimacy which it does not merit. To describe an instrument of wanton destruction, of legalised murder and an entity that is virtually impossible to control once it is unleashed as an ‘important tool’ seems to me to be both immoral and an insult to the countless millions of lives that have been sacrificed in its name.

Our warmongering Houses of Parliament, our elected MP’s and our unelected House of Lords, are so lazy, incompetent, unprofessional and so incapable of thinking outside the box of aggression as the ultimate solution to the world’s conflicts that when faced with a challenge such as what to do about ISIL they go for the easy option of war, rather than redouble their efforts at diplomacy, dialogue and the more effective use of the United Nations. This decision was taken while the nation is still in recession and massive cuts are being made to benefits, and the NHS. But incredibly no time limit has been set, and experienced military personnel have said that this war could last for years. Where, I wonder, is the money to come from?

There is nothing glamorous or heroic about war. War is about legalised murder. It took the Houses of Parliament a mere six hours to commit this nation to an unspecified period of war against ISIL, costing an unspecified amount of money and an unspecified loss of military and civilian life. And on what basis did Parliament decide that this time around, bombing terrorists would not achieve the same result as bombing in Iraq and Afghanistan, which many commentators think are precisely the cause of much terrorism. No lessons seem to have been learned from previous wars, of their failure to resolve any conflicts satisfactorily or without unpredictable and often disastrous consequences. I will show that this investment in war, this conviction that violence is the best way to oppose violence and that to kill is the best way to resolve conflicts is utterly useless, morally wrong and totally inept. It is the very opposite of an important tool.

One definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result. That is precisely what Governments repeatedly do – and it never works. Do not imagine that Wars resolve anything – they always sow the seeds of the next conflict and always give birth to ever more terrible weapons. The so-called victors at the end of the First World War made such a total bodge of negotiating the German surrender they created the appalling economic conditions in Germany that made it all too easy for Hitler to gain power. At the end of the Second World War the victorious allies carved up Europe in such a way that the Cold War set in and all sides spent hideous amounts of money on developing weapons of mass destruction.    To be continued…

Note:   This material was prepared by the Rev’d Canon Donald Macdonald as part of his contribution to a debate for 6th Formers on the motion “In the year we commemorate the 1914-1918 war this house believes that war is an important tool in resolving conflict between nations”. His address is quite long and has been split into four parts which will be posted over four days.
Part 1 – A Parable
Part 2 – Lessons Not Learned
Part 3 – Violence Breeds More Violence
Part 4 – War is a Crime Against Humanity
Donald has been a member of the Green Party for over 30 years. A statement on the Green Party position on War will follow at the end of Part Four

Is War an Important Tool in Resolving Conflict? Part 1

Material prepared for a 6th Formers Debate (in 4 parts)

 

Part 1 – A Parable

 640px-Sculpture_silhouette_Armed_Forces_Memorial cropOnce upon a time there was a school. Actually it was two schools which had been merged. Unfortunately the merger never really worked and the two original schools remained rivals even though they all worked on one site.

As time went by the rivalry became worse and there were playground fights and after school meets at which the two sides fought one another. Pupils took sides and developed fierce loyalties to the old school of their choice. As a result fights broke out during lessons and even the teachers began to take sides depending on which of the original two schools they had worked in.

Eventually the School Governors decided to legalise the fighting and actually encouraged the pupils to fight one another to settle their disputes – not just till one or the other got a bloodied nose but to the death. This made fighting an important tool in keeping class sizes small. Indeed, whenever gangs formed in the school community they too were encouraged to fight – to the death. This made violence an important tool in combating rivalry between school gangs and legitimized playground fights.

Sometimes when two pupils were in the middle of a gun fight one of them would fire at the other and miss and accidentally kill a pupil who was not involved in the dispute. The teachers reassured the pupils that this was merely collateral damage and they shouldn’t be too worried about killing innocent bystanders; after all, fighting one another to death was an important tool in resolving conflict.

From time to time the Deputy Head would give the pupils a pep talk, encouraging them to keep fit, learn the most effective ways to kill one another, and be ready to kill or be killed the moment a dispute or argument arose. If there were no particular arguments or conflicts between the pupils the Head Teacher would organise what he called ‘War Games’ and the different classes in the school would fight each other until one was defeated, no matter how many pupils died in the process.

As a result the pupils developed increasingly sophisticated weapons, graduating from conkers and bows and arrows to knives and eventually guns. The school chaplain encouraged the school orchestra to play stirring marches at assemblies at which he would give out medals to the pupils who had killed the most in that particular week and the whole school would cheer and applaud them.

Understandably some of the pupils, particularly new arrivals, were extremely distressed and upset about the way their school was being run – in fact they were terrified and scared stiff. But if they refused to fight or take part in the violence they were lined up and their fellow pupils were commanded to shoot them in cold blood for cowardice.

In spite of all the dead bodies that piled up week after week the School Governors insisted that killing one another was the best way to encourage discipline among the pupils and an important tool in resolving conflicts in the school and that the pupils would be acting quite legally as it was school policy to allow them to murder one another.

The Governors themselves never visited the school or took part in the fighting; they simply insisted that this was the best way to deal with conflict. The Prefects at this school were expected to take command in a conflict and motivate the pupils and force them to engage in murdering one another until the conflict was resolved.

You might think that no parent in their right mind would even contemplate sending their child to this school – but the parents were told that the legalised expression of violence was an important tool in building character, instilling discipline and making their child into a really tough guy. Indeed, if a child showed reluctance about being sent to this school the parents would accuse them of cowardice and if the pupil had a girlfriend she would threaten to break off the relationship unless the pupil joined up and fought for ‘his’ school along with the others.

The school chaplain assured both sides that God was on their side and gave dead pupils an impressive funeral. As the bloodshed and loss of life went on the Governors sometimes wondered if there might be a better way; but nothing ever changed, they were all too set in their ways.    To be continued…

Note: This material was prepared by the Rev’d Canon Donald Macdonald as part of his contribution to a debate for 6th Formers on the motion “In the year we commemorate the 1914-1918 war this house believes that war  is an important tool in resolving conflict between nations”.
His address is quite long and has been split into four parts which will be posted over four days.
Part 1 – A Parable
Part 2 – Lessons Not Learned
Part 3 – Violence Breeds More Violence
Part 4 – War is a Crime Against Humanity
Donald has been a member of the Green Party for over 30 years. A statement on the Green Party position on War will follow at the end of Part Four

Iraq: our military presence only makes a bad situation worse.

For the third time in 25 years, Parliament has voted to support military action in Iraq. The two conflicts have killed over half a million people, displaced four million and orphaned five million children. By any measure, Iraq is now in a worse state than it was before the 2003 invasion. There is civil war, the western backed government has no legitimacy among the majority of the population, real power is held by local war lords as in Afghanistan, another failed military intervention.

In recognition of the failure of military action in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, Parliament refused to back British involvement in the Syrian civil war. This conflict together with the sectarian policies of the corrupt Iraqi government, spawned ISIS, a brutal militia, armed and financed by governments hostile to the western presence in the middle east. Any engagement with ISIS will inevitably spill over into Syria where the Americans are already training and arming forces opposed to the Assad regime. No one knows the outcome, as in Iraq in 2003, there is no exit strategy.

Interviewed on Radio Derby, High Peak candidate Charlotte Farrell said that further military involvement would only make a bad situation worse and would further fuel the resentment many feel in the region to western interventions. Caroline Lucas was one of only 43 MP’s who voted to oppose further military involvement, joined in the ‘no’ lobby by Derbyshire MP’s Dennis Skinner, Bolsover and Tory MP for Amber Valley, Nigel Mills. The overwhelming majority won by the Coalition Government, supported by the Labour Party did not reflect public opinion. Despite the horrors depicted in the press of the actions of ISIS, 43% of British people oppose further military engagement.

Radio Derby’s political reporter noted that the timing of the Parliamentary recall suited the Tory party, giving its leader the opportunity to play big international statesman on the eve of their conference to cloud the issue of a ministerial resignation and a defection to UKIP. He reminded us of another Conservative prime minister, who in 1982 and facing electoral defeat, used a foreign policy adventure to drive up jingoistic popularity and win a year later. But cynicism aside, there are many good reasons why this new engagement should be opposed. We are endlessly told that the economy is struggling and that we must all tighten our belts. Despite this, close to £1billion was spent on bombing Libya and we can not suppose that this campaign will come any cheaper. This is about the sum saved by scrapping the Educational Maintenance Allowance, three times that saved by scrapping the disability living allowance. So our young people and disabled are having to pay for a military adventure that will solve nothing.

From recent past history we know that this action will further radicalise young men into joining the jihad against us. It will kill and displace yet more civilians, it will condemn more hostages to death, it will bring closer the time when Iran will feel forced to intervene itself. Military force will not solve anything, it will make a bad situation worse.

We have to do something, the whole region is in a state of collapse. As Charlotte said, we have to open negotiations, this can be difficult, talking to people involved in atrocities. But then we are now allied to countries that are brutal dictatorships. In August alone, Saudi Arabian courts ordered the beheading of nineteen people, mostly foreign nationals, this year it has beheaded six women, again mostly foreign workers.

In the light of the headline reports of ISIS atrocities, calling for talks seems an inadequate response. But Europe is the living proof that only negotiations can solve age old problems. In 1945, Europe lay in ruins, divided by generations of bitter hostility that had broken lives, displaced millions and brought the full horrors of war home to everyone. Something had to change to alter the course of events that could so easily have lead to yet more conflict, such has been the 2000 year history of Europe. The response by a few wise heads to the brutality of two world wars in a generation was to negotiate. Not as in 1918, the victors dictating to the vanquished, but as equals. The bitter enemies of just a few years earlier, joined together to find a collective vision to banish warfare, to allow their countries to cooperate in building a peaceful society in which people could flourish. This process led to the Treaty of Rome and the European Union. The dream of warlords from Charlemagne to Napoleon, of a united Europe was achieved without bloodshed, through negotiation among equals.

This is the only way forward for the Middle East and every new military campaign only serves to further delay the opening of these talks. They have to involve all parties, including Iran and Syria, including the representatives of the Kurds and on equal terms, Sunnis and Shias. The west and western interests can not dictate terms. Peace is possible and there is a profound desire among the people of the whole region and beyond to find this peace. But a small minority, protected from the horrors of war, see profit in further conflict, Iraq, broken as it is, is spending $1billion on weapons, good business for some. Weapons flow freely, from Russia as well as the west, earning great wealth and creating more markets. This is where the west’s action is needed, control international arms sales, stop fuelling the conflicts that are threatening to spiral out of control and engulf us all.

For more information, visit: http://www.stopwar.org.uk/

Derby March in support of Palestinians

On SaturdayGaza demo Aug 14 Derby 23rd August, three members of Derbyshire Green Party took part in a March and Rally in support of Palestinians in Gaza. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) campaigns for peace & justice for Palestinians and had called for a national weekend of support. PSC represents people in Britain from all faiths and political parties, who have come together to work for justice for the Palestinian people.

Taking up this call, the March in Derby had been organised by Derby Peoples Assembly with the Stop the War Campaign, Trade Unions, and other groups.

Gaza Rally 001The rally had three themes:

• End the blockade of Gaza
• End the occupation
• Stop arming Israel

Two hundred people, including many children, gathered outside the Jamia Mosque in Normanton and then marched through Derby streets to the Council House. On the steps of the Council House we heard speakers from a range of organisations, unions and faith groups. These included the Imam from the Jamia Mosque, Derby North MP Chris Williamson, Councillor Ranjit Banwait leader of Derby City Council, a speaker from the Derby Branch of the Indian Workers Association, Peter Robinson from Derby People’s Assembly and Liz Potter from Derby Against the Cuts. John Youatt, an active member of Derbyshire Green Party, added his message of support.

John’s Message to the Marchers
John Youatt 7 cropI’m John Youatt, a Green activist.  In the 80s, I used to talk to my great friend and neighbour, General Peter Cavendish.  In 1948, as a rookie Brigadier, he took his new Brigade to Palestine. He was briefed to look after the nice Israelis and to ‘move on’ the nasty Palestinians.  When he got there he found the opposite applied.  He remained a friend of Palestinians ‘til his death. That’s why I’m here today.  I support Medical Aid for Palestinians financially. I hope you support direct aid according to your ability

I’m an active member of the Derbyshire Green Party and the national party. Greens are the only party of the five main parties to unequivocally support justice for Palestinians

I believe the clearances of Palestinians’ from their homeland and the subsequent sixty years of repression, is the main cause of friction between Arabs and the west.

The Greens have supported justice for Palestinians for many years, for example calling for an end to arming Israel and an end to the occupation.

On 5th September, at the Greens’ Autumn Conference in Birmingham, 90 precious minutes have been allocated for discussion. A draft emergency motion might go forward. See below.

The motion, if agreed, will urge more resources for our campaign.

For me, the heart of the matter is to help the USA Greens to change hearts and minds among young Americans. There are signs this might be possible. It will take years of determined effort and international support, but it can be done.

Start now, Vote green http://www.derbyshiregreenparty.org.uk
© John Youatt for the DGP

Draft Emergency Motion to Green Party conference September 2014

“Conference condemns Israel’s ground invasion, aerial and marine bombing of Gaza, and calls on Green Party and Green Party elected representatives to take what steps they can to put existing Green Party policy into action and to ensure that the underlying causes are addressed, acknowledging there can be no lasting peace without justice.
Such steps include:
• Reiterating our calls on the UN, the EU and the US government to ensure that Israel complies with international law;
• Supporting these calls by active participation in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. This campaign aims to put pressure on the government of Israel to end the Occupation and to give equal rights to Palestinians. The campaign asks individuals, organisations, councils and governments to refuse to deal with companies and institutions identified as facilitating Israel’s military capacity, human rights abuses or illegal settlement activity.
• In particular to demand that the UK government halt all joint Israeli/UK military co-operation and approval for all arms sales to Israel.”

Gaza Day of Rage – London Rally – Saturday 9th August, 2014

Two Derbyshire Green Party members attended the London Rally. Charlotte and Tony give a short report in words and pictures.

As you know from the press it was really big, the organisers reckoned about 150,000. We got to Hyde Park at about 3.30 pm and it was already full with people arriving all the time.

Natalie Bennett Gaza RallyAs we were marching we saw a few Green Party banners and only one other party banner being Islington Labour Party (Jeremy Corbyn was the final speaker). There was such a variety of people, we were pleased to see Jewish people bravely joining in the appeal to Israel to end the violence. A young Jewish student addressed the crowd at the start of the rally at the BBC. He reminded us all that the lesson of history is that it is wrong always to turn a blind eye to crimes against humanity. With the civilian death toll in Gaza over 2000 people, 400 of them children, it is difficult to know what else to call this action by Israel.

You can see his speech in the Stop the War coalitions report from this link
http://stopwar.org.uk/resources/reports/9-august-2014-the-biggest-ever-uk-demonstration-for-gaza

Speeches had already started when we got to Hyde Park, good points were made by Seumas Milne and Owen Jones (guardian journalists) Natalie was also one of the speakers.  She talked about stopping arms sales and the humanitarian suffering.

To listen to Natalie Bennet’s speech click below. Recorded by Martin Francis.  Apologies for the sound quality
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Eef5CkMvY0U&list=UUMQdWx1-B7B-VRfD2-uETRw&feature=youtu.be

So a good day, let’s hope the government does actually realise the strength of public feeling and stop tacitly supporting Israel, including the selling of arms,

To catch the mood of the day watch this short video put together by Tony Youens
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDPNNchsD3U

‘Only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria’

Caroline-LucasSpeaking in the debate on Syria in the House of Commons last night, Caroline Lucas echoed the sentiment of the majority of members of the House in condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

‘I have no doubt that we are all united in complete condemnation of the deplorable chemical attacks on civilians in Damascus. The gut-wrenching images of those attacks are etched on all our minds as we sit here tonight.’

She went on to recognise the importance of opposition to another military intervention in this volatile region, recognising that the force of public opinion and the opposition in Parliament had stayed the Government’s hand and forced it to recall Parliament rather than fall in line behind the American determination to mount a military attack.

‘It beggared belief that, once again, we could have been about to embark on military engagement, without apparently having learned any of the lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan…. As Hans Blix pointed out earlier this week:

“If the aim is to stop the breach of international law and to keep the lid on others with chemical weapons, military action without first waiting for the UN inspectors report is not the way to go about it.”

Caroline went on to express her concern that once again it seemed that Governments were prepared to flout international law in taking military action without the full support of the UN.

‘… both the US and our Government are indicating that they are prepared to act against Syria without a UN mandate. For all that the Government’s motion talks of making “every effort” to ensure a Security Council resolution, the bottom line appears to be that they are happy to proceed without one.’

She outlined work that has been undertaken by Madeline Albright and others to clarify the legal position on military intervention in sovereign States and said that the clear conclusion was that explicit UN approval was essential.

‘ The conclusion from all this is clearly, if inconveniently for the Government, that military action against a sovereign state, other than in self-defence, without the authority of the Security Council cannot be justified under the responsibility to protect.’

Acknowledging the views of other members of the House, she said :

‘…we have an opportunity now with the new regime in Iran and we should be responding to a more moderate leader there, yet by going ahead and giving a signal that military action is the direction in which we are heading, we absolutely undermine the authority of that new leader in Iran.’

Referring to the wider consequences of any attack, Caroline expressed concern that these clearly had not been thought out.  She pointed out that in being asked of the likelihood of Assad taking retaliatory action in the event of an attack, Nick Clegg had no answer.

 ‘It was put to him [on radio] that Assad could well retaliate against an attack, but when he was asked what we would do in the face of such an escalation, answer came there none.’

Expressing serious concern of the implications of yet again taking military action that flouts international law she warned:

‘As the law of the jungle takes hold, it will be increasingly difficult to condemn similar actions by others. I am increasingly convinced, therefore, that only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria and by extension hold its spread beyond the region. That is why I will not support the Government’s motion.  Only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria ‘ 

[for a full transcript of Caroline’s speech, see:http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debate/?id=2013-08-29a.1479.0 ]

'Only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria'

Caroline-LucasSpeaking in the debate on Syria in the House of Commons last night, Caroline Lucas echoed the sentiment of the majority of members of the House in condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

‘I have no doubt that we are all united in complete condemnation of the deplorable chemical attacks on civilians in Damascus. The gut-wrenching images of those attacks are etched on all our minds as we sit here tonight.’

She went on to recognise the importance of opposition to another military intervention in this volatile region, recognising that the force of public opinion and the opposition in Parliament had stayed the Government’s hand and forced it to recall Parliament rather than fall in line behind the American determination to mount a military attack.

‘It beggared belief that, once again, we could have been about to embark on military engagement, without apparently having learned any of the lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan…. As Hans Blix pointed out earlier this week:

“If the aim is to stop the breach of international law and to keep the lid on others with chemical weapons, military action without first waiting for the UN inspectors report is not the way to go about it.”

Caroline went on to express her concern that once again it seemed that Governments were prepared to flout international law in taking military action without the full support of the UN.

‘… both the US and our Government are indicating that they are prepared to act against Syria without a UN mandate. For all that the Government’s motion talks of making “every effort” to ensure a Security Council resolution, the bottom line appears to be that they are happy to proceed without one.’

She outlined work that has been undertaken by Madeline Albright and others to clarify the legal position on military intervention in sovereign States and said that the clear conclusion was that explicit UN approval was essential.

‘ The conclusion from all this is clearly, if inconveniently for the Government, that military action against a sovereign state, other than in self-defence, without the authority of the Security Council cannot be justified under the responsibility to protect.’

Acknowledging the views of other members of the House, she said :

‘…we have an opportunity now with the new regime in Iran and we should be responding to a more moderate leader there, yet by going ahead and giving a signal that military action is the direction in which we are heading, we absolutely undermine the authority of that new leader in Iran.’

Referring to the wider consequences of any attack, Caroline expressed concern that these clearly had not been thought out.  She pointed out that in being asked of the likelihood of Assad taking retaliatory action in the event of an attack, Nick Clegg had no answer.

 ‘It was put to him [on radio] that Assad could well retaliate against an attack, but when he was asked what we would do in the face of such an escalation, answer came there none.’

Expressing serious concern of the implications of yet again taking military action that flouts international law she warned:

‘As the law of the jungle takes hold, it will be increasingly difficult to condemn similar actions by others. I am increasingly convinced, therefore, that only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria and by extension hold its spread beyond the region. That is why I will not support the Government’s motion.  Only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria ‘ 

[for a full transcript of Caroline’s speech, see:http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debate/?id=2013-08-29a.1479.0 ]

International Aid: Waste of Taxpayers’ Money or essential to Britain’s national interests?

Fair is Worth Fighting ForWhipped up by right wing media propaganda, public sentiment is turning against overseas aid.  In a recent public opinion survey 70% of respondents thought that aid was a waste of taxpayers’ money and should be spent at home. Inevitably in times of financial hardship people take the simplistic view that ‘charity begins at home.’

Aid has often been conceived in a paternalistic and economically colonialist fashion. Instead of serving the needs of the poor in poor countries, it continues to be used by donors as a means of furthering political, economic or military objectives, including the promotion of business interests.  The preponderance of donors, each with its own agenda, has also tended to reduce coordination and transparency, increasing the politicisation of aid, heightening the risk of corruption and placing a significant management burden on aid-recipient countries. Genuine participation of local people, let alone local control or oversight of aid expenditures, rarely occurs in practice, despite donor rhetoric. Similarly, while ‘sustainability’ has become a buzzword within the aid system, it is generally framed in terms of ‘sustainable economic growth’; defining poverty in terms of income alone and failing completely to prioritise equity and environmental quality, or to address ecological limits in the design and implementation of aid programmes.

East Midland Hunger Summit 2013

On the 7th June as a prelude to David Cameron’s Hunger Summit at Downing Street, an East Midland Hunger Summit 2013 has been arranged.  The venue will be Derby Cathedral 18-19 Iron Gate, Derby, DE1 3PG

The Summit will feature contributions from:

  • The Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, former Secretary of State for International Development
  • The Rt Rev’d Dr Alastair Redfern, Bishop of Derby,
  • The Rt Hn Pauline Latham OBE MP,
  • Jahangir Malin OBE, the UK Director of Islamic Relief
  • Fiona Twycross, the “Hunger Tsar” to the London Mayor
  • The IF Campaign
  • Christian Aid
  • Fare Share UK

The event will also host the launch of “Fare Share Derby and Derbyshire” supporting the County’s many food banks with a new multi-million tonne supply chain. 

The programme begins at 3.00 pm for 3.30 pm.  5.30 pm Summit reception.  6.00 pm Evening lecture and discussion with the Re Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, hosted by Mrs Pauline Latham OBE MP.

Participants are welcome to come for some or all of the time.  The event is FREE but you are asked to visit www.hungersummit2013.evenbrite.co.uk to book and for further information.  You can also use twitter:  #HS2013

The Green Party’s aim is to secure, in the long term, greater economic independence of poor countries so that an aid system need only respond to emergencies.  You can find Green Party Policies on Aid at http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/ip

 

Enough Food for Everyone

IF_logo_banner_2_420x210

Caroline Lucas reported in her News bulletin in January that a new campaign was launched in Parliament called Enough Food For Everyone: IF, which aims to use this year’s G8 to focus attention on tackling the fact that one in eight people around the world go to bed hungry every night.  Caroline said that she will be campaigning alongside groups like Oxfam, to ensure development and environmental issues are at the top of the agenda. The British Government is to host the next G8 Summit at a hotel and golf course complex at Enniskillen in Northern Ireland on 17th – 18th June 2013. 

The G8 is short for “Group of Eight – a group of rich, northern hemisphere, mostly white, countries.  Membership of the Group is by invitation, its workings highly secretive, its decisions affecting the whole world.

The eight members in order of their rotating hosting responsibilities are: France, United States, United Kingdom, Russia (as of 2006), Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada.  Among G8 leaders to attend this year will be British Prime Minister David Cameron, United States President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Since 1975, the heads of state or government of the major industrial democracies have been meeting to deal with the major economic and political issues facing their domestic societies and the international community as a whole.  In the past, the G8 Summit has dealt with big issues like international trade, and relations with developing countries, questions of East-West economic relations, energy, and terrorism. The Summit agenda has now broadened considerably to include social issues such as employment and the information highway, transnational issues such as the environment, crime and drugs, and a host of political-security issues ranging from human rights through regional security to arms control.

While some say that G8 helps build personal relations and allows for quick co-ordinated responses to a crisis, G8 can also be seen as an exclusive and powerful club which defends and promotes free-market capitalism and Western style democracy.  Many view it as an attempt at forced globalisation by the rich West and undemocratic because developing countries are excluded.  Free-market capitalism has not delivered on its claim that it is the best way to enable developing countries to be emancipated from their poverty.  Consequently non-governmental and civil society organisations and the Green Party are critical of the G8.  We use the media interest created around G8 meetings as an opportunity to advocate our concerns and to promote an alternative agenda. We are scandalised that the G8 makes decisions that affect many other nations and economies that are not represented such as the major ‘new’ economies like China and India.

The ENOUGH FOOD FOR EVERYONE IF campaign tackles 4 issues head on: aid, tax, land and transparency. The IF Campaign argues that IF we all act together, we can make the world leaders change the future by tackling the four big ‘IFs’, each of which relates to the major topics on the G8 agenda: 

AidIf we make the right investments to stop people dying from hunger and help the poorest people feed themselves.  The UK government has committed to spending 0.7% of its national income on aid. We must make sure they keep this promise.

Tax – If we stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries.  Too many unscrupulous businesses and individuals manage to avoid paying the taxes they owe in developing countries. They’re dodging millions of pounds every day.  Yet taxes are the most important, sustainable and predictable source of finance. The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) estimates that developing countries lose three times more to tax havens than they receive in aid each year.  That money could help millions of people to escape from hunger. We can help stop this tax dodging if our government steps up to close the international tax loopholes.

LandIf we stop poor farmers being forced off their land, and use crops to feed people, not fuel cars.  The poorest farmers are losing their land to giant corporations. These companies don’t care that the land is already being used by local people to grow food. Stopping them would help millions of people get enough to eat.

TransparencyIf we force governments and big corporations to be honest and open about their actions that stop people getting enough food.  Transparency and accountability are vital in the global food system. Decisions that can affect millions of people are made behind closed doors, without the participation of those affected. Corporates and governments must be more transparent about their affairs so that citizens can hold to account powerful players in the food system.

The IF Campaign recognizes that these are big IFs, but argues that if we press our leaders to make these happen, and IF they do, there really will be enough food for everyone.  

That’s why Caroline Lucas is joining with other organisations in a campaign to tell our leaders that if they take strong action to tackle the structural causes of hunger, there will be enough food to meet the needs of earth’s 870 million hungry people.

Because the venue for the G8 is in Northern Ireland, a Week of Action is scheduled to take place in London from 10-14 June.  You can join tens of thousands in Hyde Park, London on 8 June for one unmissable event to demand action on world hunger. More information on:   www.oxfam.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/our-campaigns/if

Donald and Jean Macdonald 

Vote Strategically, Vote Green

Voting for the Green Party is a powerful statement and the best way to make your vote really count this election. Although the other parties talk about change, only the Green Party offers true change by providing a real alternative to the stale, ‘grey’ politics that have got us into such a mess. Sometimes it feels like we are living in a one-party state because there is so little difference between the three main parties, but the Green Party offers a breath of fresh air. This election we are hoping to send our first Green MPs to Westminster, who could make a real difference in a hung Parliament, especially if they can count on the support of hundreds of thousands of national voters. The Green Party offers constructive policies to combat climate change, and transition to a sustainable economy. We also offer a unique vision and analysis.

The big political story over the last 30 years is the domination of so-called ‘free market’ economics. Some commentators even foolishly talk about the “end of history” because there seem to be no competing views. The media carry the free market agenda, encouraging debate over nuances within this dominant ideology, represented by the three mainstream parties, and excluding those who have big things to say, such as the Green Party.

The pillars of free market economics include privatisation, deregulation, and attacks on unions and the “nanny state”, all of which can be traced back to Mrs Thatcher, who pioneered this ideology of selfishness, even claiming that “there is no such thing as society”. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown happily picked up the Thatcherite baton and ran with it, continuing to privatise public services such as hospitals and the London Tube, while trying to hide behind complicated schemes like PFI and PPP. Instead of imposing effective regulation on big business, Labour has given carte blanche to corporations to regulate themselves, resulting in the near bankruptcy of the UK due to the banking and financial crisis. Attacking unions is part of the problem, because there is a clear link between the weakened bargaining position of workers, resulting in low wages, and the massive expansion of consumer credit required to maintain people’s standards of living – a bubble still in serious danger of exploding.

More than half a century has passed since World War Two and the end of Empire, yet Britain has still not found a positive role in the world. We are a poodle to American foreign policy, obediently following their military adventures (irrespective of how ill-conceived or immoral these may be), constantly needing reassuring pats on the back from Uncle Sam in response to our pleading “Tell us we still have a special relationship”.

There are two competing visions of wealth and value in the world, and the British establishment is besotted with the wrong one. The first vision sees the natural world as beautiful and valuable in itself, to be studied and cherished. It seeks to promote and enhance those aspects of human culture which emphasise harmonious relationships with nature and with other humans. The second view assigns no intrinsic value to nature, believing it valuable only for its instrumental use to humans, violently extracting minerals and industrially cultivating a few crops as ‘mono-cultures’, thereby inflicting massive, unsustainable damage on the environment. This second view also fails to recognise the intrinsic value of human beings themselves, only valuing us to the extent we serve money and power.

This is the real reason we have a “broken society”. Under current conditions we are alienated from nature and from each other – in other words we do not value our relatedness. Our lack of relatedness manifests in the extreme inequalities which now blight our society, destroying our collective well-being, increasing our fears, and making us ill.

Even if we don’t believe that nature has intrinsic value, we can surely see that the massive destruction being inflicted on the oceans, soil, forests and atmosphere will inevitably cripple the environment’s usefulness. For example, most of our medicines originate from the plant and animal kingdoms, but how are we going to extract and synthesise new medicines if we extinguish huge numbers of species? Impoverishing and stripping variety from nature is extremely short-sighted, as each species and ecosystem embodies millions of years of evolution and experience which can never be repeated. Eventually this environmental destruction will lead to the demise of humanity itself.

Apparently people are sceptical about the scientific evidence for climate change, but whether we agree that climate change is man-made or not, does anyone seriously think it is a good idea for a few human generations to extract from the earth’s crust the entire carbon deposits from millions of years of compressed rainforests and inject them into the atmosphere as smoke? We know how sensitive modern systems are to any disruption (e.g. volcanic ash), so put your hand up if you think this massive chemical pollution of the atmosphere is a sensible idea. Yet it seems that we will stoop to anything to keep pumping oil, whether this means invading other countries on false pretexts or pandering to some of the world’s most repressive regimes.

Your vote on May 6th can make a difference. Do any of the main parties have a coherent analysis or vision which will really improve our world and our society? Do they have the committment or policies to address these challenges? Please vote with both your head and heart. Vote strategically, vote Green.

Peter Allen On Afghanistan

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRft2EoW9XA

I do not doubt the commitment and heroism of our active service troops. It is their leadership that needs to be questioned. They are being ordered into battle to prop up a corrupt regime in Afghanistan and are fighting to protect corrupt global economic interests and not peace, freedom and democracy.

Over 260 British soldiers have been killed and uncounted thousands of Afghan civilians. A war that started as “Operation Enduring Freedom” has clearly failed. Foreign Secretary David Miliband himself has admitted that the strategy of a “war on terror” was wrong. Meanwhile the opium trade continues unchecked and a corrupt government appears to do little but line its own pockets.

As Green Party leader Caroline Lucas reminds us:

“Wilful amnesia in foreign policy has prevented us learning from past mistakes; attempts to impose a western model of democracy on a failing state, with ill-informed notions about the culture, geography or history of the place and it’s people, are bound to end badly. Worse still, attempting to do so through the barrel of a gun and via million–dollar bribes to corrupt warlords and criminals can only result in a failure of devastating proportions.”

The best support we can give to our soldiers is to bring them home. The best education we can give to our children is to help them understand our less-than-glorious imperial history, rather than take them out of lessons to cheer a military parade designed to shore up support for a failed adventure, undertaken by a bungling and crumbling government.

Peter Allen
Green Party Candidate
High Peak

Green Party Position on Afghanistan

The Green Party position on Afghanistan is quite clear: we are against the power of the military-industrial complex, and we  always doubt that violence and wars are a useful tool of policy, when all considerations are taken into account. We were against the invasion of Afghanistan, and if it were up to us, we would withdraw our troops immediately and unconditionally. However, given the real-politik of the present position, we can only advise Government on the best way to extricate themselves from the position in which they have foolishly placed our troops.

We accept that the government is not going to perform an immediate and unconditional withdrawal. Their plan, insofar as such may exist, is to train up the Afghan army, and to build up the competence of the Afghan government institutions until they can take over the security of the country.  The latest wheeze is to try to bribe moderate Taliban to stop fighting.

Our opponents will argue that immediate withdrawal will lead to the collapse of the Afghan state, effectively handing it back to the Taliban, with all that means in terms of religious freedom, human rights, the position of women, flying kites, stoning, amputations &c. There is also the point that the lives of all those British soldiers would have been sacrificed in vain.

Our counter to this is that, given the present situation, the best way to achieve success, both in terms of getting our troops out with honour and to stabilise the Afghan state with some semblance of democracy, is to buy the opium and use it to relieve the agony of 6,000,000 people who die in Africa each year with untreated terminal pain. Most here will have experienced a friend or relative die of cancer in the UK, aided by morphine. Just imagine what that process would be like without any painkillers.

The advantage of the Opium Purchase policy is:

1. Win hearts and minds of the farmers
2. Pull the financial rug out from under the Taliban
3. Greatly reduce the damage done to our society by illicit morphine
4. Relieve the suffering of terminal cancer in Africa
5. Reduce corruption in Afghanistan
6. Enable our troops to come home with honour.

This policy is endorsed not just by the Green Party of England & Wales, The European Greens, the Afghan Red Crescent, the Italian Red Cross, the European Parliament, the International Council on Security and Development, but most recently a serving US army officer, which shows that it is gaining ground.

The central objection to this argument, presented by the Foreign Office to Caroline Lucas  in correspondence, is that the mechanisms to buy and process the opium are not in place. This begs the question of why we do not use a fraction of the money being spent on the military effort to put them in place? That is what government is for, and it is what a Green Party government would do.