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Peace News log archive: January 2014

Articles from the Peace News log.
For archive articles from the whole site, look here

Drawing undercover at arms fairs.

ImageThere is a long tradition of official war art where artists are commissioned to draw in war zones. My work reverses this tradition. Instead of drawing war zones to commission, I draw the arms trade uninvited.  My drawings are made undercover in arms fairs, arms company dinners, and AGMs. I draw in A6 concertina sketchbooks - they are small enough to hide, but can be opened out to work on a larger scale.
War and repression are big business. Arms companies expanded into multinationals in the late C20th as part of wider processes of globalisation. With few ties to any state, they sell to both sides of disputes, unstable governments, and repressive regimes. Most of these deals take place in arms fairs - trade shows for military equipment. Here, bombs, drones, tanks and guns are promoted like luxury goods. Hostesses give away show catalogues, sweets and condoms. 

Products are promoted for each political moment - heavy arsenal for  the war on terror, 'less lethal' weaponry for the Arab Spring.  New lines are launched with spectacular displays - a fashion show alongside racks of missiles, a string quartet on the back of a of military truck. And between the vast bombs, tables are laid with champagne and pretzels.

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From opposing Ireland allowing the US military to use Shannon Airport to Limerick Prison

ImageOn Saturday 25 January, Zoe Lawlor and John Lannon of Shannonwatch visited Margaretta D'Arcy in Limerick Prison. She has been there now for 10 days, as a result of her conscientious refusal to sign an undertaking that she would stay away from the restricted areas of Shannon Airport. She has made it clear that she has no problem signing a peace bond - after all, peace is what she is campaigning for. However, the runways at Shannon Airport are directly linked to crimes against humanity, and Margaretta has made it clear that her integrity would be violated if she undertook not to confront this improper use of the runways of a supposedly civilian airport in a supposedly neutral country.
During the visit Margaretta was told of the great support there is for her and her principled stance against the state's collusion in US war crimes. She was brought photographs and reports of demonstrations in Galway, Limerick, Dublin, London and Bil'in in Palestine, as well as a selection of some of the many articles written about her since her imprisonment. She was pleased that the issue of the U.S. military use of Shannon was being highlighted, and expressed her thanks to everyone who has shown their support.

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US perspective on Emily John's arrest, trial and recent sentencing following protests against the Bexhill Link Road.

ImageEmily Johns, Peace News co-editor and Hastings-based activist, was arrested last spring and sentenced last week after protesting for government transparency.

Her trial is part of a larger issue. With the Combe Haven Defenders, she is fighting against the Bexhill Hastings Link Road and the Department of Transports’ refusal to release crucial economic information. “It is a local way to tackle national issues of climate change and sustainable transport,” Johns said.

The Bexhill Hastings Link Road is the first of 190 planned roads to be built across England and Wales in the coming years. A total of £113 million has been committed to the Bexhill Hastings project, according to the Campaign for Better Transport, and construction leads the road through a valley with “exceptional tranquillity and beauty,” Johns said.

Anti-road activist Andrea Needham said the road will cut through the countryside between Bexhill and Hastings, to allow the county council access to build housing and industrial buildings.

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Carol Fox on the background to Margaretta D’Arcy's latest imprisonment ...

ImageOn Wednesday, January 15th, 79-year old Margaretta D’Arcy, writer, member of Aosdana which honours outstanding contributors to the arts in Ireland,  and widow of the late playwright John Arden, answered a knock on the door of her small Galway City terraced house. It was the Irish police. She was arrested and ferried by squad car to Limerick Prison to serve a three month sentence. Her crime: failure to sign a bond pledging to no longer trespass onto unauthorised areas of Shannon Airport.

Margaretta D’Arcy has been arrested twice for sitting on the runway at Shannon. Her first trial in December at Ennis District Court in Clare, found her and her co-defendant, Niall Farrell, guilty of interfering with the ‘proper’ use of Shannon Airport. Their second trial – the same charge,  – will probably be held next month. The defendants’ main argument is that Shannon Airport is not being ‘properly used’. It is supposed to be a civilian airport, yet it is being transited by US warplanes, military cargo and troop carriers as well as by planes implicated in the infamous ‘rendition’ flights, involving the kidnapping and transporting of people to secret detention centres for ‘interrogation’. Opinion polls have consistently shown that the vast majority of Irish people are opposed to Shannon being used by the US military.

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A letter from Peace News published in The Guardian, 16 Jan 2014

In his 2011 book To End All Wars – the only recent account of the first world war to foreground the anti-war movement – Adam Hochschild asks: "If we were allowed to magically roll back history to the start of the 20th century and undo one – and only one – event, is there any doubt that it would be the war that broke out in 1914?" Perhaps, then, we should pay heed to the actions of those who tried to stop the first world war and resist its barbarism (Echoes of 1914: are today's conflicts a case of history repeating itself?, 16 January).

Today we will be launching a year-long project to celebrate these people – English and German, men and women, socialists and feminists, conscientious objectors and soldiers – with a talk by Adam Hochschild and the unveiling of the first of 10 new posters. Over the next four years, as we mourn the dead, let us also learn from those who, in the words of Bertrand Russell – himself imprisoned for six months for opposing the war – "were not swept off their feet …[and] stood firm".
Emily Johns
Gabriel Carlyle
Peace News


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Renowned US author to give talk on the courageous men and women who opposed the First World War.

Image7pm, Friday 17 January 2014, London: Award-winning author Adam Hochschild [2] will be speaking about his history of the First World War To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914 - 1918 – the only recent history of the conflict to foreground the anti-war movement – at a talk at Friends House in London on Friday 17 January [3].

This will be his only talk in the UK in 2014, the War's centenary year. He will be available for a limited number of media interviews on Thursday 16 January: please contact Peace News on promos [at] peacenews.info to find out if there are still slots available.

Winner of the 2012 Dayton Literary Peace Prize and a finalist for the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award, To End All Wars is a unique history of the First World War, featuring a 'cast of characters ... more revealing than any but the greatest novelists could invent', including 'generals, trade unionists, feminists, agents provocateurs, a writer turned propagandist, a lion tamer turned revolutionary, a cabinet minister, a crusading working-class journalist, three soldiers brought before a firing squad at dawn, and a young idealist from the Midlands who, long after his struggle against the war was over, would be murdered by the Soviet secret police' [4].

The talk, which is co-hosted by Peace News [1] and Quaker Peace and Social Witness[5], is also the launch event for a series of ten new posters by artist and Peace News co-editor Emily Johns, celebrating 'the people and movements that opposed the First World War' [6].

Adam Hochschild said: "The First World War changed the world for the worse in every conceivable way, but despite its folly and devastation people in Britain have one thing they should feel proud of. From 1914 to 1918, this country had the largest and most outspoken antiwar movement of any of the Western Allies, filled with brave, remarkable and largely unknown men and women who deserve to be remembered as national heroes."

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Kathy Kelly reports from Chaman e Babrak in Afghanistan.


Refugees in the Chaman e Babrak camp stand amid the rubble


Kabul: The fire in the Chaman e Babrak camp began in Nadiai’s home shortly after noon. She had rushed her son, who had a severe chest infection, to the hospital. She did not know that a gas bottle, used for warmth, was leaking; when the gas connected with a wood burning stove, flames engulfed the mud hut in which they lived and extended to adjacent homes, swiftly rendering nine extended families homeless and destitute in the midst of already astounding poverty. By the time seven fire trucks had arrived in response to the fire at the refugee camp, the houses were already burned to the ground.

No one was killed. When I visited the camp, three days after the disaster, that was a common refrain of relief. Nadiai’s home was on the edge of the camp, close to the entrance road. Had the fire broken out in the middle of the camp, or at night when the homes were filled with sleeping people, the disaster could have been far worse.

Even so, Zakia, age 54, said this is the worst catastrophe she has seen in her life, and already their situation was desperate. Zakia had slapped her own face over and over again to calm and focus herself as she searched for several missing children while the fire initially raged. Now, three days later, her cheeks are quite bruised, but she is relieved that the children were found.

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From Egypt and Afghanistan two outlooks on who are our emenies.


Najib, his grandma and Hakim


From Sherif in Egypt

My dear enemy, I kill you with love…

As my mind was growing, by reading and opening my eyes, my enemy took different shapes. At first, I thought he was the guy who beat the teenager pride out of me in a train fight over a girl, but that went by, forgotten and forgiven, leaving no scars, but rather a smile.

Then there was my neighbour on the farm land who was moving the border between us towards my land about five centimetres every year. He had the determination of an ant, but with time he couldn't drive me crazy any more. In fact, I feel pity for him, for I now know his sickness and what causes it.

Then Bin Laden became an icon for terrorism and hatred, so as a civilised human, I hated him and wished the marines would kill him, as I considered him my enemy. But after reading about history and politics, I realised the purpose he existed for, and whom he served, and then I couldn't hate him anymore. I couldn't see him as my real enemy. I saw him as someone's mad dog; you don't hate a mad dog, you may kill it, but you don't hate it.

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As condemnations of Haiti's minimum wage increase are ringing out the long and disturbing history of external interference leading to a race down to the bottom needs to be remembered.

Apart from being Haitian Independence day whereby former slaves successfully removed the cruel grasp of colonial slavery 210 years ago in 1804, today is also supposed to see a much needed increase in the minimum wage in Haiti but has sparked controversy.

Protests have broken out in Haiti demanding a greater increase than has been proposed whilst a somewhat inevitable a race down to the bottom backlash from industry and the international community has argued against even the modest increase citing a concern about competitiveness.

Today’s increase lifts the wage from 200 to 225 Haitian gourdes (£2.76 to £3.11) for an eight-hour day. UNDP has reported that more than half of Haitians live in extreme poverty, less than $1 per day, and that 76% of the population lives on less than $2 per day.

Apart from being an important issue in of itself due to the fact that Haiti is a desperate poor country, the history of the minimum wage in Haiti is actually a useful microcosm to illustrate in part why Haiti is so poor. Despite a prevailing narrative that seeks to blame Haitians for this plight and sees little to no outside influence there is also an extremely strong external hand that has influenced events and the developmental path in the country. Lurking underneath the minimum wage issue is also a wider issue of liberal economics and its imposition on a weak and vulnerable country by the international community. To discuss issues about the minimum wage in Haiti is necessarily to also discuss issues of liberal economics more broadly. How the external influences on Haiti helped create the social calculus that results in the social disaster that followed the earthquake in 2010 has previously been addressed on this blog and is available here as a wider discussion to these issues.

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On January 1, 1804 Haiti became an independent nation free from colonial slavery but this important history is often missing from the prevalent narrative that blames Haiti for its current plight.

Having broken free of the shackles of French colonial slavery, 210 years ago today Haiti become an independent country and in doing so became the first, and only, country to be born out of a successful slave revolt.

Despite its huge historically significance, the scope of the human ideals upon which Haiti gained its independence from a brutal colonial ruler is often lost in the modern narrative about the country.

In gaining its independence Haiti superseded the French and American revolutions that came before it as it became “the first and most dramatic emergence of the ideal of human rights - beyond race, nation or gender - in the modern world.” Whilst the French Revolution was about social justice and the American Revolution sought to end colonial rule, “Neither seriously considered putting an end to human slavery.” In this sense, Haiti was “the first country to articulate a general principle of common, unqualified equality for all its citizens”. Haiti’s abolition of slavery came some fifty-nine years before the Emancipation Proclamation came into effect in the United States and that even dedicate humanitarians of the time, by comparison, “failed to recognize the full equality of all persons” as the Haitians had.

The scope of the Haitian revolution was such that has been described as “the most thorough case study of revolutionary change anywhere in the history of the modern world” and that it represents “one of the truly noteworthy achievements in the annals of world history”.

Despite these achievements their historical significance is largely unknown.

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