THE BLOOD-RED POPPY – NOT AT ALL ABOUT REMEMBRANCE

PART I

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Edited from a longer in-depth piece published in 2014 and divided into parts).

(Reading time main text: 8 mins.)

The dominant class in the UK and in some of the British Commonwealth will shortly be calling people to join in a cultural festival which they call “Remembrance” – but that’s not at all what it’s really about.

The organisation fronting this festival in the ‘UK’ is the Royal British Legion and their symbol for it (and registered trademark) is the Red Poppy, paper or fabric representations of which people are encouraged to buy and wear.

And in some places, such as the BBC for personnel in front of the camera, or civil servants in public, or sports people representing the UK, forced or bullied into wearing.1

In many schools and churches throughout the ‘UK’, Poppies are sold and wreaths are laid at monuments to the dead soldiers in many different places. The pressure to wear and display one of the symbols is intense and public figures declining to do so are metaphorically pilloried2.

Prominent individuals, politicians and the media take part in a campaign to encourage the wearing of the Poppy and observance of the day of remembrance generally and for a decade now, to extend the Festival for a yet longer period.

This alleged “Festival of Remembrance” includes concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and the military and veterans’ parades to the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, London, on “Remembrance Sunday”.

The Royal Albert Hall concert is replete with military uniforms, British Royals’ presence and “Poppy” symbols everywhere. The big Saturday evening concert starts and ends with the UK state’s anthem, God Save the Queen/ King played by military bands.

Tickets for the big event are restricted to members of the Legion and their families, and senior members of the British Royal Family (the reigning monarch, royal consort, Prince of Wales, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex). The event is televised.3

BUT WHAT IS IT ALL FOR?

We are told it’s for charitable purposes – the money raised from the sale of the “Poppies” and associated merchandise is to be used to support former military service people in need and the families of those killed in conflict.

We surely can’t object to that, can we? And isn’t putting up with the military and royal pomp a small price to pay for such charitable and worthwhile purposes?

Yet the main purpose of this festival and the symbol is neither remembrance nor charity but rather the exact opposite: to gloss over the realities of organised deadly violence on a massive scale, to make us forget the experience of the world’s people of war.

Worse, its purpose is to prepare the ground for recruitment of more people for the next war or armed imperialist venture – and of course more premature deaths and injuries, including those of soldiers taking part.

Video and song by Vincent Burke, “On Remembrance Day” from Veterans for Peace lists British conflicts (including Ireland) and condemns the Church of England for supporting the wars, calling also on people to wear the White Poppy.
The Veterans for Peace at the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall in 2014. Jim Radford, singer and D-Day veteran had been there for the first of the VfP Remembrance Day events and every year since until Covid-19 got him. He was a friend and comrade of mine and I marched with the civilian supporters of VfP contingent in

PARTIAL REMEMBRANCE – obscuring the perpetrators and the realities of war

The Royal British Legion is the overall organiser of the Festival of Remembrance and has the sole legal ‘UK’ rights to use the Poppy trademark and to distribute the fabric or paper poppies in the ‘UK’.

According to the organisation’s website, “As Custodian of Remembrance” one of the Legion’s two main purposes is to “ensure the memories of those who have fought and sacrificed in the British Armed Forces live on through the generations.”4

By their own admission, the purpose of the Legion’s festival is to perpetuate the memories only of those who fought and sacrificed in the British Armed Forces – it is therefore only a very partial (in both senses of the word) remembrance.

It is left to others to commemorate the dead in the armies of the British Empire and colonies which the British ruling class called to its support: in WWI, over 230,500 non-‘UK’ dead soldiers from the Empire and, of course, the ‘UK’ figure of 888,246 includes the upper figure of 49,400 Irish dead.5

Cossack soldier volunteers WWI. Imperial Russia was an ally of Britain and France; the war was on of the causes of the Russian Socialist Revolution 1917. The following year, the war ended. (Photo sourced: Internet)

The Festival of Remembrance excludes not only the dead soldiers of the British Empire and of its colonies but also those of Britain’s allies: France, Belgium, Imperial Russia, Japan, USA – and their colonies.

Not to mention thousands of Chinese, African, Arab and Indian labourers, mule drivers, porters and food preparation workers employed by the army.

No question seems to arise of the Festival of Remembrance commemorating the fallen of the “enemy” but if the festival were really about full “remembrance”, it would commemorate the dead on each side of conflicts.

German soldiers playing cards during WWI. Photos of Germans in WWI more readily available show them wearing masks and looking like monsters. (Photo sourced: Internet)

That would particularly be appropriate in WWI, an imperialist war in every aspect. But of course they don’t commemorate both sides; if we feel equally sorry for the people of other nations, it will be difficult to get us to kill them in some future conflict.

CIVILIAN CASUALTIES IN WAR

A real festival of remembrance would commemorate too those civilians killed in war (seven million in WWI), the percentage of which in overall war casualty statistics has been steadily rising through the century with increasingly long-range means of warfare.

Civilian war refugees in Salonika, NW Greece, WWI

Civilians in the First World War died prematurely in epidemics and munitions factory explosions as well as in artillery and air bombardments, also in sunk shipping and killed in auxiliary logistical labour complements in battle areas.

They died through hunger too, as feeding the military became the priority in food production and distribution and as farmhands became soldiers.

In WWII 50-55,000,000 civilians died in extermination camps or forced labour units, targeting of ethnic and social groups, air bombardments, as well as in hunger and disease arising from the destruction of harvests and infrastructure.6

Air bombardments, landmines, ethnic targeting and destruction of infrastructures continue to exact a high casualty rate among civilians in war areas: a Reuters study gave over one million killed by the war in Iraq and another study gave between 184,382 and 207,156 civilians killed in Iraq during the war and aftermath.7

That figure for Iraq does not include dead from pre-US invasion western trade sanctions (yes, economic sanctions frequently kill) or the 46,319 dead civilians in Afghanistan8.

The number of civilians injured, many of them permanently disabled, is of course higher than the numbers killed. Most of those will bring an additional cost to health and social services where these are provided by the state and of course to families, whether state provision exists or not.

Real and impartial “remembrance” would include civilians but not even British civilians killed and injured are included in the Festival of Remembrance, revealing that the real purpose of the Festival is to support the armed forces and their activities.

The 2014 slogan “shoulder to shoulder with our armed forces” underlines that purpose9 while contributing at the same time to a certain militarisation of society and of the dominant national culture.

The propaganda is more sophisticated this year: “Our red poppy is a symbol of both Remembrance and hope for a peaceful future” but “Poppies are worn as a show of support for the Armed Forces Community.”10

WEAPONS AND INJURIES

If the Festival were really about “remembrance”, they would commemorate the numbers of injuries and detail the various types of weapons that caused them.

But that might reflect unfavourably on the armaments manufacturers, who run a multi-trillion industry11 in whatever currency one cares to name, so of course they don’t. And if really concerned about death and injury in war, they would campaign to end imperialist war.

Gassed Australian soldiers awaiting hospitalisation 1916

But then how else would the various imperial states sort out among themselves which one could extract which resources from which countries in the world and upon the markets of which country each imperial state could dump its produce?

So of course the Royal British Legion doesn’t campaign against war.

SANITISED HISTORY, MILITARY PROPAGANDA AND PUBLIC RELATIONS

Partial remembrance was indeed embodied in the song chosen by the British Legion to promote its Festival in the WWI centenary festival in 2014.

No Man’s Land, sung by Joss Stone, is actually a truncated version of the song of the same title (better known in Ireland as the Furey’s The Green Fields of France), composed by Scottish-raised and Australian-based singer-songwriter Eric Bogle.

The Joss Stone version contains the lyrics of the chorus as well as of one verse and one-half of another, omitting two and-a-half verses of Bogle’s song.

Some of the British media created a kind of controversy, at the behest of who knows whom, to have the British Legion’s song included top of BBC’s Radio One playlist. The song is reproduced in entirety below, with the lines sung by Joss Stone in italics and those she omitted in normal type.

I.
Well, how do you do, young Willie McBride?

Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside?

And rest for a while in the warm summer sun,

I’ve been walking all day, and I’m nearly done.

I see by your gravestone you were only 19

When you joined the great fallen in 1916,

I hope you died well and I hope you died clean

Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

(Chorus)
Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?

Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?

Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?

And did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

II.
Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind

In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?

Although, you died back in 1916,

In that faithful heart are you forever 19?

Or are you a stranger without even a name,

Enclosed forever behind the glass frame,

In an old photograph, torn, battered and stained,

And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?

(Chorus)

III.
The sun now it shines on the green fields of France;

There’s a warm summer breeze that makes the red poppies dance.

And look how the sun shines from under the clouds

There’s no gas, no barbed wire, there’s no guns firing now.

But here in this graveyard it’s still No Man’s Land

The countless white crosses stand mute in the sand

To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man.

To a whole generation that were butchered and damned.

(Chorus)

IV.
Ah young Willie McBride, I can’t help wonder why,

Do those that lie here know why did they die?

And did they believe when they answered the cause,

Did they really believe that this war would end wars?

Well the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain,

The killing and dying, were all done in vain.

For Willie McBride, it all happened again,

And again, and again, and again, and again.

(Chorus)

It’s easy to see why the Royal British Legion might shy away from the omitted lyrics, which would hardly encourage recruitment or support for war.

Interviewed on video, Joss Stone herself said how important it was to be “true to the lyrics” and that “the last thing one would want to do would be to disrespect the lyric”.

Incredibly, she and John Cohen, the record producer, both separately claimed that they had captured the essence of the song lyrics in the British Legion’s version.12

Although Bogle stated that he did not think the Joss Stone version glorifies war, he did say that it did not condemn it and was ultimately a sentimentalised version that went against the intention and central drive of the lyrics.

Believe it or not I wrote the song intending for the four verses of the original song to gradually build up to what I hoped would be a climactic and strong anti-war statement,” Bogle said.

Missing out two and a half verses from the original four verses very much negates that intention.” (apparently in a reply from Bogle to a blogger’s email and quoted in a number of newspaper reports).13

The truncation of the song and the removal in particular of the anti-war lyrics epitomises partial “remembrance” and stands as a metaphor for it, the production of a lie by omission and obscuration.

Sanitised history, military recruitment propaganda and public relations is what this “Remembrance” is about.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Five reasons people don’t wear poppies – BBC News

2Ibid.

3Description on Royal British Legion website in 2014 and matched by Wikipedia account of 2015 event

4Their website in 2014 and confirmed by Wikipedia for 2015.

5Irish in the British Armed Forces – Wikipedia

6World War II casualties – Wikipedia

7https://www.wired.com/2011/06/afghanistan-iraq-wars-killed-132000-civilians-report-says/#:~:text=At%20least%20132%2C000%20civilians%20have%20died%20from%2010,how%20many%20civilians%20have%20di%20in %20these%20wars. And Iraqi Civilians | Costs of War (brown.edu)

8Civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan (2001–2021) – Wikipedia

9The slogan of RB Legion in 2014.

10All about the poppy | Royal British Legion

11“In 2021, the military spending worldwide amounted to 2.11 trillion U.S. dollars. The United States accounted for 38 percent of total military worldwide spending” Defense spendng and arms trade – Statistics & Facts | Statista

12Videos containing quotations from Joss Stone and John Cohen about how they have stayed “true to the song” or “lyric” of No Man’s Land by Eric Bogle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez1WBJaZZ7U#t=10 and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rotXZFXJWo were active in 2014 but now appear to have been taken down.

13Eric Bogle: I don’t like Joss Stone’s cover of No Man’s Land, but I won’t sue | Joss Stone | The Guardian

SOURCES & USEFUL LINKS

Against wearing the Poppy: Five reasons people don’t wear poppies – BBC News

A Unionist from the Six Counties’ view on the Poppy as a measure of support for the United Kingdom: Fewer people are wearing poppies in Belfast, as unionist symbols in the public space are successfully demonised by republicans | Belfast News Letter

Red Poppy Symbol:

http://www.greatwar.co.uk/article/remembrance-poppy.htm

http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/poppy-appeal

(see also Red Poppy and British Legion links)

British Legion:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Royal_British_Legion

and Albert Hall Remembrance Concert: http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/File:The Royal Albert Hall, London during the Festival of Remembrance MOD 45159095.jpg – Wikipedia

Videos containing quotations from Joss Stone and John Cohen about how they have stayed “true to the song” or “lyric” of No Man’s Land by Eric Bogle were accessed at the following in 2014 but now appear to have been taken down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez1WBJaZZ7U#t=10 and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rotXZFXJWoWhite Poppy symbol:

http://www.ppu.org.uk/whitepoppy/index.html

WWI war dead:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties

Joss Stone’s truncated and rather awful version:

‘No Man’s Land’ – Joss Stone Ft. Jeff Beck – YouTube

Eric Bogle, composer of No Man’s Land on Joss Stone version: Eric Bogle: I don’t like Joss Stone’s cover of No Man’s Land, but I won’t sue | Joss Stone | The Guardian
Joss Stone butchers No Mans Land | urban75 forums

“Controversy” over Legion’s 2014 Festival promotional song by Joss Stone (truncation of Eric Bogle’s No Man’s Land):

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2828041/BBC-branded-disgraceful-Royal-British-Legion-refusing-airtime-Poppy-appeal-song.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/bbc-snubs-official-poppy-appeal-4600035

http://johnhilley.blogspot.ie/2014/11/poppy-appeal-and-royal-british-legions.html

Civilian war deaths due to war in Afghanistan:
Civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan (2001–2021) – Wikipedia

Civilian war deaths due to war in Iraq: Iraq conflict has killed a million Iraqis: survey | Reuters Iraqi Civilians | Costs of War (brown.edu)

Images WWI: Various sources accessed on the Internet

Arms trade: Defense spendng and arms trade – Statistics & Facts | Statista

Veterans for Peace (June 2011-August 2022): http://veteransforpeace.org.uk

Video Veterans for Peace at the Cenotaph:
Remembrance Sunday 2014
(performing song and poem): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t34dnIabsGw
2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rsr15SZfVUw

Video and song On Remembrance Day from Veterans for Peace web page: (lists British modern armed conflicts): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPLtSkILwvs#t=62

NB: Sadly Veterans for Peace has ceased to exist as an organisation

A DIFFERENT PICTURE SLIPS THROUGH THE PROPAGANDA

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

We are being constantly reminded by the western press on a daily basis, quite rightly, of civilians being killed in the Ukraine conflict1. On the Ukrainian side. Somehow, the Ukrainian military never fire at the Russian side – or if they do, they somehow never manage to kill civilians.

Amazing, really, in a war which the media keeps telling us is ferocious.

The Russian side is rarely quoted but when it is, its statements are dismissed. They say that the Ukrainian military plant themselves among civilian housing and fire artillery from there. Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they and anyway, the Ukrainian State denies it.

The Russian military are, according to the Ukrainian State, not so much careless about the the targets of their bombardment but deliberately aiming at civilian structures.

Why they would do that when, according to the same sources, they want to extend the Russian empire there, is not explained. It’s all about terrorism, according to Zelensky, the Ukrainian premier and media figure.

The Russian State story, not so easy to come by, is that they never target civilian areas deliberately, unless the Ukrainian military are using them to fire from – which according to the Ukrainian State, quoted without question by the western media, the Ukrainian military never do.

BOMBARDMENT AND CIVILIANS

Yesterday’s issue of Breaking News Ireland carried a very unusual photo. It was unusual because it was taken during actual military action, whereas we normally only get photos of damaged buildings and occasionally Ukrainian military standing firm.

Ukrainian Soldiers run after missile strike in residential area of Kramatorsk, Donetsk Region, Eastern Ukraine (posted 13 July) (Cred: Nariman El-Mofty/AP)

But the photo was more unusual than that because it showed Ukrainian soldiers running for cover after a Russian artillery strike, naturally enough but a less-than heroic image for public consumption. The caption tells us it’s in a civilian area in the Donetsk region.

WAIT A MINUTE! In a civilian area? So the Ukrainian military were in a civilian area and got fired on by Russian artillery? Doesn’t that coincide with what the Russians have been saying? Were those Ukrainian military perhaps even firing from that area? We don’t know.

We don’t know because we get hardly any western media coverage from the actual battlefronts, just quotations from the Ukrainian State and, from time to time, commentary from US/ NATO sources. And never any detail from the Russian side.

If we want a more realistic picture, we have to go to sources banned or at least not promoted in the West.

One of those sources is Patrick Lancaster, reporting on the war. In a recent video, he interviewed wounded civilians in a hospital in Izium, Kharkiv region, an area the Ukrainian military left a couple of days earlier and which is now under Russian military occupation.

So refreshing to watch.

Some interviewees blame the Russian State, some blame the Ukrainian State, some seem impartial or keep their own counsel – as one might expect, really, if one thought about it past the propaganda line, which is that everyone there — except the “Russian separatists” — blames the Russians.

And actually, the Breaking News article reported the reluctance of many to leave Sloviansk and Kramatorsk as they are being publicly encouraged to do by the Ukrainian Donetsk Governor, presumably as those areas are going to be pounded by artillery (but by Ukrainian or by Russian?)

This too is interesting, because even anti-Ukrainian State or pro-Russia interviewees (not always the same thing) interviewed by Patrick Lancaster in the Izium town, said that the Russian artillery had hit their town “very hard”.

But then some also stated that Marchenko, the pro-Ukrainian Mayor of the city had announced publicly that the city had been evacuated. All lies, according to one, “only five buses here …. and 50 taxis (but) from Kramatorsk.”

So if the advancing Russian military believed that only Ukrainian military remained in the city …..?

This is a military conflict and of course both sides are firing and, as well as soldiers, civilians are being inevitably killed on both sides. When that happens, is it likely that either side is killing civilians deliberately?

Certainly less likely by the Russians in the Donetsk area, which is a largely Russian-speaking region that has been attacked by Ukrainian right-wing military since that state’s abrupt change of government in 20142.

By the Ukrainian military side, probably more likely on the basis of the previous eight years, or at least of being more careless.

The article I’ve quoted showed a range of attitudes to the call of Pavlo Kyrylenko, Ukrainian State’s Governor of the Donetsk region, for civilians to leave and to head into Ukrainian State-held territory — and also of different attitudes to the forthcoming Russian occupation.

Some are going, including a teacher of Russian, which is interesting, because another doesn’t want to go precisely because of the anti-Russian-speakers attitude of the State (and even more so of some of the Ukrainian military).

Some just don’t want to give up their homes and/ or be jobless (or elderly without support) in Ukrainian State territory. Some think they’ll be ok under the Russians while others think they’ll be no better off on the Ukrainian State side.

So, naturally enough a mixed picture but certainly very different to the one being projected day in, day out by the western media. How this article and photo slipped through that blockade is certainly curious.

DOES IT MATTER?

But at the end of the day, does it really matter much to us here in Ireland whether we are being subjected to inaccurate propaganda about the conflict in Ukraine?

Well, if that conflict was sparked by the expansion towards Russia’s borders of the NATO military alliance3, then it does.

If that conflict is part of the shaping up by US/NATO for a war against Russia and China (and possibly India), then it certainly does. Not just because all of those on both sides are nuclear powers and radiation can end up anywhere.

But also because the ruling elite of the British colony in Ireland is part of NATO and the ruling class of the Gombeen state is trying to push it into NATO — or at least into an EU military alliance, which would of course soon enough line up with NATO.

I don’t believe either side in this conflict without proof and analysis. But I do resent the completely one-sided propaganda coming from the western media. Maybe it’s the same in Russia with their own propaganda.

Maybe, but isn’t it the boast of the West that their democracies are superior, with free speech and press?

And if the western media is following the same propaganda line in its reporting out of common interest with US/NATO and EU, is the end result any different from the media in Russia saying what they are told to say?

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Would that they would equally well inform us of those beling killed by the Saudi proxy war in the Sudan or by the numbers of migrants being killed on a regular basis as they try to access safety or just a better life in western states – the same states that are usually responsible for their plight in the first place.

2Yes, eight years prior to the Russian invasion. On the rare occasions when the western media refers to this (they did in the Breaking News Ireland article) it is always portrayed as a problem caused by “pro-Russian separatists” without recording that those areas were attacked as Russian-speaking by Ukrainian fascist and far-Right military units, including the Azov Battalion and the people organised themselves in defence, then received Russian supplies and now, eight years later, a Russian invasion. The origin of the Crimea situation is a similar story.

3For those who think this is a ridiculous claim, type “NATO states in Europe map” into a search engine. Also look up “Minsk Agreement”.

SOURCES

Breaking News Ireland report: https://www.breakingnews.ie/ukraine/why-should-i-leave-some-ukrainians-refuse-to-flee-areas-caught-up-in-war-1334032.html

Patrick Lancaster reporting from Izum, Kharkiv region, 120 Km/ 75 miles southeast of Kharkiv city (random civilian interviews + civilians wounded in hospital): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iFv5jxInOc

From Sirotino, Luhansk, now controlled by Russian an Luhansk People’s Militia (interviews with residents): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRKNBYqb5DQ

Patrick Lancaster, December 2016 (yes, SIX YEARS AGO) in Luhansk People’s Militia trench, under Ukrainian shelling (breaking Minsk Agreement): https://youtu.be/DAo7go-4l0g

Senior Irish politicians thinking about joining a military alliance: https://www.irishtimes.com/world/europe/2022/06/08/ireland-would-not-need-referendum-to-join-nato-says-taoiseach/

THE FIRST WORLD WAR DEAD SHOULD BE COMMEMORATED

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Irish Republicans and revolutionary Socialists have traditionally been opposed to the commemoration of the dead in the “Great War”, WWI. Recently Michelle O’Neill, top Minister in the British colonial political regime in Ireland with the Lord Mayor of Belfast, both members of the Sinn Féin party, laid a wreath at the WWI memorial in Belfast, to the bewilderment of some and the disgust of others. But actually those emotions are misplaced, since the leadership of the Sinn Féin party were never Socialist and are no longer Republican.

The long-held position of Irish Republicans and Socialists that WWI should not be commemorated is however illogical and runs against history. The conflict was a hugely-important event in such areas as military, social conditions and mores, medicine, politics and economics.

The toll of WWI is around 40 million military and civilian casualties of which 20 million died. Of those, around 10 million were civilian dead. How can an event of such historical magnitude not deserve commemoration?

We should certainly commemorate the fact that a small group of monopoly capitalists, aristocracies and monarchies, in the course of an argument about how to divide up the world among themselves, sent millions of ordinary people, mostly workers, to kill one another to settle the argument. People who had no quarrel with one another and nothing to gain from killing one another; people whose real verifiable enemies were those very people who were mobilising and arming them before sending them forth to kill or be killed.

The conditions of the working classes at the time they were thrown into the killing arena should be commemorated. The lies that the war was fought for democracy and freedom of small nations should be exposed. The disciplinary court-martials and executions within the armies should be revealed, along with the treatment of conscientious objectors. The propaganda used for recruitment and to keep the home populations happy should be deconstructed and exposed. The fact that capitalism ends up as imperialism, which in turn causes war, should be made clear to all.

That wars are not alone fought for profits but that huge profits are made in the course of war is a grotesque fact that should become widely known.

A pile of used artillery shells used in WWI — all manufactured and paid for, exploded, more ordered, paid for, fired ….. Part of the huge profits made during imperialist wars. (Photo sourced: Internet)

All of this was true of WWI and is true (to one extent or another) of the wars caused by imperialism today, whether in Somalia, Western Sahara, Palestine or Ukraine. But now, in addition to the huge death toll of WWI, we have the possibility of the destruction of human cities around the world — and even of ecological disaster — in yet another war.

We should expose the fact that far from encouraging us away from war, WWI commemorations are for the most part about concealing those salient facts and encouraging us to be proud of how our forebears were conned into killing one another. By whipping up reactionary nationalism1, their commemorations make us vulnerable to being conned into fighting further wars, to agree to be sent to other countries to kill or maim people like us in other countries – or to be maimed or killed by them.

An innovative protest by the socialist Republican group Lasair Dhearg which however confines itself to pointing to the occupying British Army’s collusion with Loyalist murder gangs. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Commemorating the truth about imperialist wars past and present mean rejecting the wearing of the Poppy symbol. The Poppy is not about commemorating the dead in wars, as it is sold. This promotional emblem of the British Legion only commemorates the British soldiers who have been killed in wars – it does not commemorate all the soldiers of the colonies (for example Ireland) or the Commonwealth who died in the wars, not to mention all the civilian auxiliaries helping cook, clean, carry, dig, build etc for the British armed forces. The Poppy does not commemorate the dead soldiers of Britain’s allies, for example France, USA or Russia in the case of WWI. It does not commemorate the soldiers or auxiliaries of the hostile states who were killed, which might seem natural, until we ask ourselves why not, if the idea really is just to commemorate the dead soldiers in war. Most tellingly, the Poppy does not commemorate the millions of civilians who have been killed in wars – actually more than the total number of soldiers and a percentage of war deaths that is growing with every war.

The real role of the Poppy is to build social support for the imperialist British armed forces, including helping recruitment — so in other words, the emblem and its publicity is actually helping to build support for future armed conflicts.

The WWI soldier sculpture made from scrap metal, pictured in Stephens Green, Dublin. Republicans protested its siting in a 1916 battleground, (Photo sourced: Internet)

Not addressing the nature of imperialist war and just boycotting any idea of commemoration leads to missed opportunities. A few years ago a sculpture of a WW1 British soldier constructed out of scrap metal was installed in Stephen’s Green, a recreational park in Dublin’s city centre. Some Irish Republicans staged a protest around it in which they castigated it being located there in what had been a 1916 Rising battleground. They were correct in the historical reference but was that all that could be said about that war? Would most of the tourists passing by relate to that 1916 reference or would the whole international horror of imperialist war not have engaged them more?

A small protest emphasising the nature of WWI commemorations at one such attended by SF representatives (the commemoration) in the Irish National (sic) War Memorial Gardens 10th July 2021 (Photo: RTÉ)

We should indeed commemorate WWI but we should do it in the framework laid out, of exposing what the wars are about, who they benefit, what class contains the main victims – and not just the dead but also the injured, many of them crippled for life.

That is not how the ruling elites commemorate war and it is not how Michelle O’Neill and Tina Black did it. Michelle O’Neill said that she did this symbolic act in order to demonstrate that she is going to be “a First Minister for everyone” – clearly meaning Nationalist and Unionist. Liberals may laud O’Neill for that but one cannot represent national liberation simultaneously with colonialism, republicanism at the same time as loyalism, democracy at the same time as reactionary sectarianism. Making a war wreath green does not change its nature. Sinn Féin will often seem to try to present themselves as all things to different groups of people but essentially they are serving Irish Gombeenism2 in the 26 Counties and English colonialism in the Six.

Sinn Féin members Tina Black and First Minister-in-waiting Michelle O’Neill as they approach the WWI memorial in Belfast to lay a wreath. (Photo sourced: Internet)

In addition, workers and lower middle-class people from the Protestant or Unionist community were also killed and maimed in imperialist war. How does concealing the reality of war help those people?

End.

FOOTNOTES

1I use the term in the sense that not all nationalism is reactionary.

2Native Irish foreign-dependent capitalism

HUGE DEMONSTRATION IN MADRID AGAINST NATO AND IMPERIALISM

Rebel Breeze translation

(Reading time: one minute)

On 26th June 2022 tens of thousands took to the streets of Madrid in a rejection of NATO and imperialism. In addition to the people mobilised by the organisations and groups of the anti-NATO movement in Madrid, numerous buses were chartered from all over the state. The NATO Summit that was about to be held in Madrid (28 and 30th) has made it possible, after an important effort, to begin to revitalise and rebuild a movement opposing the armed wing of imperialism.

The groups attending with their slogans were many, from the anti-imperialist movement to some pacifist groups, through numerous organisations of the labour and popular movement, such as combative trade unionism or pensioners’ groups. Also noteworthy were representatives from abroad, such as a group of South Koreans against NATO, people from other European countries or groups from the Arab world, highlighting those who defend occupied Palestine and Western Sahara.

The repression has intensified during the previous two weeks and days: the city of Madrid has been militarised, organisers have even been arrested, they have been detained and threatened in their homes or they have been singled out in the press. Another demonstration called for the day of the summit, Wednesday the 29th, has been banned by the Government.

A section of the huge march on Sunday in Madrid (Photo: Insurgente.es)

COMMENT:

In addition to slogans against NATO (OTAN in Spanish), imperialism and war, one can also hear slogans specifically calling for the dismantling of NATO bases.

Not only will this huge demonstration and other acts in opposition to the summit lead to an intensification of general anti-imperialist struggle and against Spanish state repression but it will also likely encourage the forces for independence among the nations within the Spanish state, the Basque and Catalan nations and the Celtic nations of Galiza and Asturies.

SOURCES

NATO bases in the Spanish state: https://east-usa.com/us-military-bases-in-spain.html

BILBAO ACTIVISTS FORM BROAD COALITION AGAINST NATO & WAR

On 2nd June a number of Left anti-imperialist organisations and individuals held a public rally in Bilbo/ Bilbao. The municipal authority refused them use of a building and they held it in the open air in the Etxebarrieta Square. The organisers issued a statement in Euskera (Basque language) and Castillian (Spanish) calling for unity against the war plans of NATO and the EU and denounced the equivocating posture of the ‘official’ left Basque movement, denounced also the militarism of the Spanish coalition Government and advertised a joint demonstration for 18th June in Moyua, on the south side of the river in Bilbao1.

STATEMENT ISSUED BY COORDINATING GROUP (translated by D.Breatnach from Castilian Spanish version published in Ecuador Etxea)

For several weeks, various people and groups from Bilbao, Meatzaldea, Uribe-Kosta, Ezkerraldea and Busturialdea2 have been coming together in this broad initiative to respond to the escalation of war that we are seeing around us. An escalation of war promoted by NATO, with the aim of shielding the world hegemony of the United States against the rise of emerging powers such as China, India, Iran or Russia. A strategy that is doomed to failure, but that will cause, if we do not prevent it first, destruction, misery and death throughout the planet.

In Bilbo/ Bilbao 2nd June, reading the declaration and call to unite and for rally on 18 June in Basque and Castillian (Spanish). (Photo source: Ecuador Etxea)

In relation to the conflict in Ukraine, we believe that in no case can one speak of an inter-imperialist struggle between the NATO countries and Russia. Rather, it is an offensive planned for years to overthrow the legitimate government led by Vladimir Putin and gain control of Russian energy resources and markets. A policy of looting and plundering that the current Russian President put a stop to, no matter how hard it is for some to admit it. Ukraine is nothing more than the operations base and the cannon fodder of Atlanticist imperialism against its historical enemy, Russia.

Many on the Left say that the Russia of today is not the Soviet Union of yesterday. And they are completely correct. The problem is that even the slightest economic planning for social purposes by any State has become an obstacle to the viability of the parasitic capitalism that we live under. There we have the cases of Slovdan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi, sadly imprisoned and/or executed in the face of complicit silence or the enthusiastic support of what they call the “international community.”

Those of us who are here today have already learned our lesson: first they demonize the currently out of favour ruler through the media, and then they justify military offensives and imperialist massacres. That is why at this time we cannot make the mistake of placing ourselves at equidistance. Both Russia and the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics have every right in the world to defend themselves against the aggressions of NATO and the EU, which conspire and supply weapons to fascist governments like Zelensky’s to harass Russia and destabilize the region. Not to mention the openly Nazi battalions captured in Azovstal, whose release France and Germany now demand in order to advance in the negotiations. What do European governments owe the Nazis in Azov? What do they have to hide and why do they intend to buy their silence?

The truth is that we still do not know the exact reason why the States of the European Union have completely bowed to the interests of the United States. It is evident that the sanctions against Russia and the new oil and gas supply routes imposed by the US only benefit the Yankee tycoons, the Arab sheikhs and the absolutist monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates. NATO vassals like Borrell have definitively cast the old European project into History’s dump. They prioritize profit and military spending to the detriment of the health and living conditions of the broad masses and announce a future of misery and sacrifice for a war in favor of a capitalism that is against us. The European Union is definitely a rotting political corpse, in case anyone ever thought that it could have been a progressive alternative or for oppressed nations like ours.

Arnaldo Otegi, leader of “the institutional Abertzale Left” (Basque left-nationalist movement). (Photo source: Internet)

Precisely here in the Basque Country, the official position of the institutional Abertzale Left3 regarding what is happening in the Ukraine is especially embarrassing. It seems unbelievable that those who proclaim themselves heirs to the historic struggles of the Basque Working People, a people of which the majority in 1986 opposed remaining in this criminal organization4, now wave the flag of “no to war” and of ambiguity. It seems immoral to us, both the pacifism that denies the just right to defense of those who are attacked by imperialism, as well as the lukewarm posture of those who do not take a stand, thus facilitating the advance of imperialism. Anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism must be cultivated day by day, if we do not want the ideological and cultural offensive of NATO and the EU to continue having effect, in particular among the sons and daughters of the working class. Thirty-six years later we unambiguously reaffirm ourselves in NO to NATO, no to FASCISM, no to GENOCIDAL IMPERIALISM.

As we said, we are witnessing an implacable propaganda to make us part of this imperialist strategy, so that we do not rebel against what is happening. While they continue to spread one-sided thinking through the big media, television channels that question the official story — such as Russia Today — are closed without the slightest shame, content on the Internet is censored by appealing to supposed “verified information”, journalists like Pablo González5 are imprisonedor political information is systematically eliminated from our streets. They not only want to indoctrinate us, they directly deny us the right to be informed. Where are the defenders of freedom of expression? Are we already living in a hidden state of emergency?

It is our obligation, therefore, to denounce, not only the rise of international fascism, but also the fertile ground that the fascists have in the Spanish State of the bannings, the GAL6, the closure of newspapers and the systematic torture of political dissidents7. Atlantic capitalism will never be able to find a better ally than the PSOE8, veritable experts in the art of manipulating and deceiving the working and broad masses. Sadly, there are times when collective memory seems too fragile. Of course, for this new phase they have found a faithful shield-bearer, the party of Yolanda Díaz9. Seconds were never good, we are already seeing where these wolves in sheep’s clothing are leading us…

We said at the beginning that different people have come together to counteract this hegemonic discourse that manipulates consciences and protects the sequestration of rights and freedoms. From Muskiz to Gernika we rebel today here against this ominous imperialist offensive. All this suffering is not necessary, there is no reason to accept the misery and the war to which NATO and the EU want to condemn us. It is also not the time to stay at home watching, or to follow the war as if it were a video game.

We therefore issue a call to all the towns and neighborhoods of Euskal Herria and other nations to continue organizing the fight against imperialism, capitalism and fascism. And we also invite all the people who are against the imperialist offensive of NATO and the EU to participate in the demonstration that we will carry out in Bilbao, on June 18 at 6:30 p.m. from the Plaza Elíptica.

NO TO NATO! NO TO THE EUROPEAN UNION! NO TO IMPERIALISM!

End statement.

TRANSLATOR FOOTNOTES

1Which is also the location of the representation of the Spanish State in Bizkaia and guarded by armed police.

2A number of towns and districts across the SW Basque province of Bizkaia.

3The ‘official’ leadership of the left-Basque independence movement, e.g the EH Bildu party under the leadership of Arnaldo Otegi and others.

4In the 1986 referendum on whether to remain in NATO, the Basque Country gave the highest majority for No, with the Canaries and Catalonia coming behind. For the whole Spanish state, nearly 57% voted Yes against 43.15%.

5Basque freelance journalist reporting for Publico (Spanish left online media) and La Sexta, threatened and advised to leave Ukraine by state intelligence services, which he did but arrested by Polish intelligence on 28 February as he was about to re-enter Ukraine with a group of journalists. Poland has charged him with spying for Russia but to date produced no evidence and even denied him access to his lawyer. The Spanish State sent intelligence service agents to question his wife, mother and friends.

6GAL: A Spanish state terror and assassination organisation of the 1980s operating against the Basque resistance which was exposed as led by the Prime Minister (though never even questioned) Felipe Gonzales and directed operationally by the Minister of the Interior and senior Army and Police officers, a number of which received prison sentences.

7The Spanish state has long been accused by human rights organisations of torturing political dissidents and convicted in the European Court of Human Rights a number of times of failure to investigate complaints of torture. The State has closed newspaper and social media sites, jailed rappers, banned political parties, banned demonstrations, closed political cultural centres, disqualified political activists from representation in elections and jailed political activists.

8The main Spanish social-democratic party, currently in coalition government with Podemos.

9Yolanda Díaz resigned from Izquierda Unida (United Left – a broad coalition) but remained a member of the Communist Party of Spain; she is currently Deputy Prime Minister in the Spanish coalition government.

SOURCE

SPANISH STATE ARMS MADRID AGAINST PROTESTS AT NATO SUMMIT: €37 million (including the purchase of 6,000 Taser pistol chargers)

From La Izquierda Diario (the Daily Left) by Carlos Rubio (Translated by D.Breatnach)

Foreign Affairs and Interior Departments spare no expense when it comes to strengthening the Atlantic Alliance summit, scheduled for June 29 and 30th. The budget increase of 1.95 million euros for the State Security Forces includes the purchase of 6,000 Taser chargers for the convened protests.

On October 8, 2021, the next NATO summit meeting in Madrid was officially announced, where Prime Minister Sánchez announced that “they would have all the capabilities” to “guarantee security”, at a key “historic moment” for the organisation.

(Image from Social Revolution)

Two months before the official date, Ministers of the Interior Marlaska and Exterior Albares are already anticipating some of the measures to be taken to prepare for the Summit. €37 million will be the budget limit, which will include the cost of assembly and adaptation of Ifema (Madrid festival organising consortium — DB), the catering and the security of the meeting.

More specifically, the State Security Forces will have almost 2 million euros to reinforce their equipment, which includes the purchase of 6,000 chargers for Taser pistols, to guarantee “a safe environment in the face of a possible threat”, according to the Marlaska himself.

Together with this acquisition, the purchase of metal detector arches, parcel inspection scanners, digital personal video cameras and computer graphics equipment for the preparation of three-dimensional plans of complete buildings is expected.

(Image from Social Revolution): “70 years of war, NATO no, bases out”

The National Police will be the body deployed for this summit, which will be involved in “establishing a comprehensive security arrangement for it that will cover, in addition to the place where the meetings are held, travel and all those places of accommodation where the delegations of different countries that are planning their assistance will be staying”.

According to the Government, all these measures are a priority since “several organisations and social groups are already announcing protests.”

The leading issue at this summit, given the context, is the war in Ukraine and the position that NATO is to take against Putin’s reactionary invasion. This time, there will be 50 delegations, some of them invited from outside NATO but close to it, as in the cases of Ukraine, Sweden or Finland.

At this summit, it is foreseeable that the main trend that has already been taking place in recent months and has been justified by the war between Kyiv and Moscow will be strengthened: imperialist rearmament.

In recent months, from the various partners of the alliance and from the EU, weapons have been sent successively to Ukraine, defending the interests of the alliance, arming the Ukrainian Security Forces and militias, among which are groups such as the well-known Azov Battalion and the Pravy Sektor, to name a few examples. While Russian troops remain… on their battlefronts, these armed far-right groups are strengthening their hegemony and repression in the parts of the country they control.

(Image from Social Revolution)

In this regard, as Sánchez stated: “Madrid and Spain are going to play a determining role”. Last Thursday, the President of the Government announced that Spain was going to double military aid to Ukraine, at the same time that the Army ship “Ysabel” is sailing to Poland with 200 tons of ammunition and war material of various kinds.

Since March 2nd, when the first shipment of weapons by the Spanish State was approved in Congress, the efforts of the “progressive government” (i.e social-democrat and Podemos coalition – DB) to actively participate in the escalation of war have continued uninterruptedly.

(Image from Social Revolution)

Sánchez seems to reinforce his intention to turn the Spanish state into one of the main partners of NATO and the US in Europe. In accordance with the positive historical diplomatic relations between the US and Morocco, Spain legitimised less than a month ago the illegitimate occupation of Western Sahara by the Alaouite monarchy, selling the Saharawi people in exchange for a diplomatic relationship that maintains a strong border policy between Africa and the EU; and to ensure the economic interests of Spain over her former colony.

(Image from Social Revolution)

Spain is the seventh ranking country in contribution of money to the organisation and which, in line with the other members of the Treaty Organisation, raised its defence budget by 1.5 billion euros between 2020 and 2021, which is still far from the 2% requested by “the White House” from its partners.

With the 2018 budgets the “progressive government” approved from the beginning an increase of almost 11% in defence and 6.5% in the National Police and Civil Guard, so it is expected that this trend will continue to rise.

End.

“Prime Minister Sanchez and his master” (Image from Social Revolution)

WORLD WAR III?

APRIL 29, 2022

Reducing Tensions, Building Trust, De-escalating

From Counterpunch

BY JOHN LAFORGE

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The United States could immediately take direct actions that would de-escalate the over-arching nuclear threat that haunts Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. A few such actions would demonstrate good will and indicate a real intention to reduce tensions in the crisis which seems every day to grow more dangerous.

1. U.S. hydrogen bombs stationed in Europe could be withdrawn and their planned replacement cancelled.

The United States and Germany are formal states parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Articles I and II of the NPT flatly prohibit the transfer of nuclear weapons from one states party to another. Any fourth grader can understand that the NATO practice of “nuclear sharing” with Germany, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Turkey — which together have over 100 U.S. nuclear weapons — is an open violation of the clear, unambiguous, unequivocal and binding prohibitions of the NPT.

(Image sourced: Internet)

The United States stations an estimated 20 of its B61-3 and B61-4 thermonuclear gravity bombs at the German Air Force Base Büchel, 80 miles southeast of Cologne. These B61 H-bombs at Büchel are identified as “intermediate-yield strategic and tactical thermonuclear” bombs, and “the primary thermonuclear gravity bomb in the U.S.” according to the NuclearWeaponArchive.org.

Calling these weapons “intermediate” or “tactical” is shocking disinformation. The maximum yield of the B61-3 is 170 kilotons, and the maximum B61-4 yield is 50 kilotons, as reported by the Bulletin of the atomic Scientists. These H-bombs respectively produce over 11 times and 3 times the explosive blast, mass fire, and radiation of the 15-kiloton Hiroshima bomb that killed 140,000 people. (For background, see Lynn Eden’s “Whole World on Fire,” or Howard Zinn’s “The Bomb.”

The effects of detonating B61-3 or B61-4 bombs would inevitably be catastrophic mass destruction involving disproportionate, indiscriminate and long-lasting devastation. Plans to replace the current B61 with a new “model 12” could be cancelled now, and constitute a real ratcheting down of tensions in Europe.

2. The U.S. can discontinue its nuclear attack courses underway at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

The U.S. studies and plans nuclear weapon attacks at classrooms of its Defense Nuclear Weapons School (DNWS), and the one branch school outside the U.S. is at Ramstein in Germany, the largest U.S. military base outside the country, headquarters of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe, and NATO Allied Air Command. Outlines of nuclear attack coursework can be read on the DNWS website, which boldly declares the school: “is responsible for delivering, sustaining and supporting air-delivered nuclear weapon systems for our warfighters …every day.”

One class outlined on the DNWS website is for “Theater Nuclear Operations,” described as “a 4.5-day course that provides training for planners, support staff, targeteers, and staff nuclear planners for joint operations and targeting. The course provides an overview of nuclear weapon design, capabilities, and effects as well as U.S. nuclear policy, and joint nuclear doctrine…. Objectives: … Understand the U.S. nuclear planning and execution process…; Understand the targeting effects of nuclear weapon employment….”

Dispensing with this nuclear attack planning school would reduce tensions and help eliminate Russia’s dread of the U.S./NATO nuclear posture.

3. NATO can suspend its provocative military exercises.

Attacks with U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe are regularly simulated or “rehearsed,” as is often reported. Recent headlines noted: “German Air Force training for nuclear war as part of NATO” (Kazakh Telegraph Agency 2020), “Secret nuclear weapons exercise ‘Steadfast Noon” (German Armed Forces Journal 2019), “NATO nuclear weapons exercise unusually open” (2017), and “NATO nuclear weapons exercise Steadfast Noon in Büchel” (2015).

Giant NATO war games routinely zero in on Russia. In 2018, there was “Trident Juncture” with 50,000 troops in Norway, and “Atlantic Resolve” was conducted in Eastern Europe. In 2016, some 16,000 troops gathered in Norway for “Cold Response,” and in “Anaconda 2016” another 31,000 troops from 24 countries were again in motion across Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. In 2015, there was “Atlantic Resolve,” “Dragoon Ride,” and “Spring Storm,” all conducted across Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. In 2014, the routine “Cold Response” game in Norway involved 16,000 troops, and “Atlantic Resolve” took place in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

Beyond the annual “Steadfast Noon” simulations, complex, multinational NATO exercises in Eastern European countries just recently ballooned in number. In 2019, there was a single big exercise called “Atlantic Resolve.” In 2020 there were five. In 2021 the number leaped to eleven, and NATO that year made plans for a total of 95 exercises. Individual NATO states had plans for another 220 of their own war games. Nothing justifies Putin’s naked aggression, but the marked increase in NATO war practices would even make the Dali Lama defensive.

4. The U.S. and NATO could end their nuclear weapon “first-use” policy.

The public policy of readiness to initiate attack with nuclear weapons — not as a deterrent against being attacked with nuclear weapons, but its exact opposite — is at the heart of both U.S. and NATO “nuclear posture.” This perpetual threat to start nuclear attacks during a conventional conflict, especially in the context of routine NATO nuclear war exercises, is unnecessarily destabilizing and reckless. In view of the enormously overwhelming power of U.S. and NATO conventional military forces, the nuclear option is grossly redundant and militarily useless.

(Source image: The Irish Sun 2019)

After he retired, Paul Nitze, a former Navy Secretary and personal advisor to President Ron Reagan, wrote “A Threat Mostly to Ourselves” where he observed: “In view of the fact that we can achieve our objectives with conventional weapons, there is no purpose to be gained through the use of our nuclear arsenal.”

Now that the U.S. public as a whole has been transformed into one big anti-war group, it should recognize that it can influence our own government but not Russia’s. Our demands for negotiation, cease-fire, de-escalation and a peace agreement need to be directed in a way that has some chance of success. ###

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

SUMMARY OF A WESTERN SOCIALIST’S POSITION ON THE UKRAINIAN CONFLICT

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 1 min.)

We are taking the Ukrainian side, naturally. No, I don’t pay any attention to what Putin has to say.

Yes, I do look at the whole situation before I decide what’s right.

Well, of course I’m on Ukraine’s side, they got fucking invaded, right? By that fucking bastard Putin.

Yeah, I know his excuse about NATO squeezing him. Yes, I am saying it is just an excuse. He’s out to build an empire — doing what his corrupt oligarchs want.

Yes, of course Ukraine has businessmen too. And probably corrupt. And yes, I did know that they are called “oligarchs” as well.

Well, yeah, they are mostly NATO countries in Eastern Europe. But that’s those countries’ choice, right? And if Ukraine decided to join NATO, that would be their democratic choice too.

Yes, I have heard about the fighting in Donbas and other areas since 2014. Russian separatists against Ukrainian military.

Really? Up to 14,000 killed there? Around 30% of them civilians? Yes, it is a lot. Well the Ukrainians don’t want Russians taking over a part of their country and before you say anything, we do know that they are mostly Russian-speaking people in that region and that the fighting started after the change in government in 2014.

Well, yes, the Azov Battalion were fighting the Russians there and yes, they are quite right-wing …

ok, some are outright nazis …. But they are helping the Ukrainian government hold their country together. And yes we do know that the Azov are now integrated into the Ukrainian military.

Fascist Azov military training school for children

It is true that the elected Ukrainian Government was overthrown in 2014. No, I don’t believe fascists managed that. NATO may have favoured the next government, ok but so what?

Yes, I did hear about some fighting between Ukrainian nationalists and Russian separatists in Kyiv and other places during the coup.

And yes, I did read about the 40 or so Russian supporters burned to death in the trade union building. Terrible! But that doesn’t make the Ukranians as a whole fascist.

No, not their government either. Their President and Prime Minister are both Jewish, for God’s sake!

Yes, I know the Ukrainians are naming streets after national heroes, that’s pretty usual. Some from WWII.

It’s true that some of those were Nazis and Nazi collaborators. But it’s just the past, national heroes …. No, of course we don’t like it. But it doesn’t make the State fascist.

Yes, you’re right, Stephen Banderas was an outright Nazi, anti-semite, war criminal. Of course he shouldn’t be commemorated.

I wouldn’t support torchlight processions in his honour through Kyiv. But that’s not the Government.

Yes, we do know that some Ukrainian Left organisations have been banned. Some of them are Russian supporters …. No, of course, they shouldn’t be banned. But there IS a war on ….

No, I’m not worried about Russia being censored – they are in the wrong.

What two sides? There’s a right side, Ukraine and a wrong side, Russia.

Yes, well, people like Hedges and Oliver Stone are being blocked on social media. And we don’t feature Chomsky any more – they’re just wrong, that’s all.

You can call it censorship or just us not publicising irrelevancy.

No, we are not making the decision to take them off social media – that’s the social media companies.

Naturally they are Western capitalist companies – what else would they be?

Of course we understand that NATO is a western imperialist military bloc. That is not the point.

Yes, the biggest imperialist military bloc in the world. But the point is that Russia is in the wrong – it’s not our fault that NATO is backing Ukraine for their own reasons.

I already said it doesn’t worry us that Russia or some NATO critics on the Left are being blocked or sidelined. Look, whose side are YOU on? You’re beginning to sound like a Putinista!

Yes, an apologist for that Russian megalomaniac!

Russian tank

USA’s ambitions bring danger of war

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 13 mins.)

“Wars and rumours of wars …”1 The sabres are rattling around Eastern Europe. The mass media in our latitudes largely takes the position of the USA under the guise of democracy; however with some text and the use of a few maps I hope to show that Russia’s position is essentially defensive in this regard and that the USA is the main aggressor. I hope to do that without expressing any support for the Russian regime.

WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?

The USA sees Russia as its main opponent or competitor in Europe and has been working since the post-WWII decades to neutralise it, earlier under the guise of stopping the spread of “communism” and defending “democracy”. Since the fall of the USSR system the talk is no longer about defeating “communism” but “defending democracy” continues to used in anti-Russian rhetoric. Russia is no democracy but the notion that the US, the world superpower, the biggest imperialist power on the planet since WWII, cares about democracy should make us laugh. It would perhaps, except that the mass media keeps feeding us the USA’s rhetoric and shaping us to support it in war.

The USA is actually squeezing Russia from two directions — from Europe and from the Middle East. NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is a US-led military alliance which now has the membership of most states in the EU, along with the UK and nearly every state of the former USSR to the west of Russia. A look at the map of NATO states will demonstrate that2. Nearly every state in the Middle East is also formally or informally in the sphere of influence of US imperialism3.

“Russia says it wants Western guarantees that Nato will not allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join as members. Moscow has also demanded the alliance halt weapons deployments to Ukraine and roll back its forces from eastern Europe – demands flatly rejected by the West.4

Map NATO & non-NATO countries in Europe, showing also periodic expansion (Source: The Economist)

So the Russian ruling class is naturally worried and feeling besieged. On or near their European borders they only have Sweden, Finland, Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine which are not formally part of NATO and Ukraine has clearly indicated an interest in that direction. Beyond those last three aforementioned, all the states through central Europe are NATO members right through to the UK: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania actually bordering on Russia, with – heading generally westward and south-westward– Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and UK. In addition, some of those states have highly-developed military power such as Germany and two of them have nuclear armament of their own — UK and France – while the US has ready-to-launch nuclear missiles on the lands of many of the NATO states — Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey5.

Sweden, Austria and Switzerland may remain nominally neutral but are in general politically aligned with the EU and the USA rather than with Russia, while non-NATO Finland is definitely, for historical and geographical reasons, extremely wary of its Russian neighbour.

The smaller non-NATO states of the former Yugoslavia – Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Montenegro and Kosovo are in some cases friendly towards Russia (or not overly-friendly towards NATO) but they are completely surrounded by NATO states.

On its borders with the Middle East, Russia is also being squeezed. Turkey has long been a major NATO state in the region and only Georgia is located between it an Russia to the latter’s south-west, with Armenia and Azerbaijan to its south-east. Nearly all of the states in the Middle East are in formal or informal alliance with the West and therefore with the US: Cyprus, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates. Yemen is embroiled in its own Saudi and West-proxy war, while Syria is threatened by Israel, Turkey and NATO. Only Iran is fairly safe for the moment on that part of Russia’s border, which is why Russia will take its side in any conflict with the West, despite the Russian ruling class’ dislike of and vulnerability in some regions, as in Chechnya, to militant fundamentalist Islam.

Middle East states and Russia (Source: Internet)

Syria is next to Iran which is also why Russia has been supporting the Assad regime and why, during the past week, it has warned Israel about its bombing raids into Syria as the latter attacks Hizbollah bases there. In fact we may see the invasions by western alliances of Iraq and Libya as part of huge US/NATO ‘domino’ plan to attack Syria with Iran next; then the pressure on Azerbaijan and Georgia on Russia’s doorstep. While on the eastern side of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan are also allies of the West ….

Further east, there is India which has long been friendly to Russia and in tussles with Pakistan — and China, which is not openly hostile to Russia as a rule but which is not a real friend either, though its competition and contention with the US keeps it friendly enough towards Russia for the moment.

What the Russian ruling class is doing is attempting to bring a halt to its encirclement by NATO at the point of Ukraine. And the US-NATO and EU are issuing a counter-threat – an open one of sanctions and a more veiled one, in the case of US-NATO, of armed action.

This week it appears that some parts of Ukraine have sought to break away from the main part, probably instigated by Russia or at least promised support if they did – which has materialised in Russian diplomatic recognition and in troop movements. This may amount to an annexation or may not but what is clear is that Russia, in the face of what it considers a threat to its existence and NATO intransigence, has decided to take some decisive action.

WHAT IS REPORTED

The western mass media reports the situation painting a picture of big powerful Russia threatening its much smaller neighbour, by threat of invasion seeking to force it into submission to Russia’s regime, in denial of the small nation’s democratic rights. And the democratic West, through NATO, is moving troops to support the Ukraine, warning Russia of consequences.

Russian Tanks and Troops Reportedly entering part of Ukraine (Photo source: The Telegraph)

The picture contains much truth but overall it is a lie. Russia is much bigger than the Ukraine and it is threatening it with troop movements. And NATO is moving troops up to counter-threaten. But to evaluate a situation properly, we need to know its antecedents, what led up to it. We also need to see the situation through the eyes of the participants, whether we agree with them or not. The mass media, apart from a couple of honest analysts tucked away inside a newspaper, far from the headlines, does not supply us with that information.

The Irish Times, one of Ireland’s main daily newspapers, on 12 February reported that “Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine and a surge of Russia’s military activity has fueled fears that Russia could invade the country. Russia denies having any such plans. However a US official has said that the US had picked up intelligence that Russia is looking at Wednesday as a target date for an incursion.”

So on the basis of the quoted paragraph, we were to draw the conclusion that Russia was threatening to invade Ukraine. OK, Russia denied it but then why the military buildup near Ukraine? Finally, the authority voice of the USA, quoting what we are supposed to see as excellent intelligence sources (which we cannot of course question), predicting a probable Russian invasion four days away. So which state are most people in this part of the world likely to believe, the Russians or the US?

Some weeks earlier, on 25th January, another Irish daily newspaper, the Examiner, reported on reactions to a Russian naval fleet exercise in the Atlantic. The Irish Government told the Russians the exercise was not welcome although not illegal6, because the area of the exercise is regarded as international waters. This from the same government that facilitates US military flights via Shannon airport, i.e on its own national territory. And NATO carries out at least one major exercise in European waters annualy, with the UK doing so twice yearly without complaint from the Irish Government.7

The Ukrainian Ambassador to Ireland, Ms Gerasko moved to take advantage of the situation “A plan to hold a major exercise by the Russian navy and air force in the Atlantic off the southwest coast of Ireland is yet another demonstration of the threat that Russia poses for the world,” she said, in a statement to the Irish Examiner.” 8

Attempts were made at the same time to whip up Irish offshore fishermen against the Russians and to whip up the Irish public in defence of “our fishermen”. The latter project failed miserably since the Russian Ambassador to Ireland met and negotiated with the fishermen, leading one of their leaders to comment that the Russians had treated his members better than their own (Irish) government.

We might expect an alternative discourse about the Ukraine crisis from Al Jazeera but its report on the 24th of January, although emphasising US military movements in the area, attached a number of articles which were generally relaying the western line. The Irish Independent carried a much more in-depth explanation, though based on the position of the UK through its premier, Boris Johnson; however it did list the Russian demand that NATO cease pushing towards them and that Russia considered Ukraine joining NATO “an existential threat” while in general still following the general anti-Russian pattern9.

Closing ceremony of Sea Breeze, NATO-Ukraine joint naval exercises in the Black Sea 12 July 2019 (Photo by US Naval Officer)

POSITION OF THE IRISH STATE

An analysis piece in its business section by the Irish State’s national broadcaster, RTÉ, concentrated on the possible economic impact of loss or drastic reduction in gas and oil exports from Russia, either as a direct consequence of conflict or through imposition of sanctions by the West. “Russia produces 11% of global oil supplies and according to David Horgan, managing director of Petrel Resources, any significant loss of Russian energy exports would result in a further spike in prices.”10

Russia is the biggest supplier of gas in the world and the largest to Europe with a third of of its gas pipeline supply to Europe crossing Ukraine. Ireland’s electricity supply is highly dependent on gas for its generating stations so any disruption will impact heavily of prices which “have already gone from $2 to about $30 per million BTU”, according to the Petrel managing director.11

It is clear that while the USA is driving the agenda through its dominance of NATO and the the threat of sanctions on Russia, which the USA regularly insists upon when teaching other countries a lesson, its own economy would suffer little as a result. However, it is a different question for the European states, which would be obliged to bear the weight of economic impact. Mícheál Martin, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of the Irish State felt obliged to comment on this possibility but, rather than criticise the USA and NATO’s expansionism, spoke about the need to break from their dependence on Russian energy supplies.

Micheál Martin said the EU is unified in responding “very strongly” to any Russian invasion of Ukraine and stated that in Europe’s view the huge build-up of troops by Russia on the Ukraine border is “not justifiable” in any circumstances. While calling for “diplomacy and de-escalation” he clearly sided with the USA in the conflict as both the Irish ruling class and the EU’s would expect of him.12

Despite many criticisms to the contrary, the policy of the Irish state during WWII was essentially one of neutrality in favour of the Allied forces while the government of the Six Counties was of course wholly aligned with the UK. Nevertheless Irish commercial shipping was sunk by Nazi German action and cost many Irish seamen their lives.

So far the Irish state has remained outside NATO but over the past decade there has been discussion envisaging the creation of an EU rapid deployment force made up of personnel contributed from all member states. It would hardly be surprising if such a move appealed to some within the career personnel in the Irish armed forces, envisaging taking part in wider military action, alongside varied forces, employing advanced weapons and systems and with possibly better promotion prospects. Additionally in recent weeks there has been media discussion of greater funding for those forces.

Ireland – and not only the UK’s colony here – can be dragged into war more easily than we perhaps imagine and also into being targeted for retaliatory action. Indeed, the facilitation of US military personnel and materiel through Ireland’s airport at Shannon, along with CIA transport of secret prisoners (“rendition”) has already exposed the State (and succeeding governments) to accusations of military partisanship.

Contrary to popular belief, the Irish State’s ‘neutrality’ is in general a matter of government policy rather than a requirement of the Constitution or Statute law.13 

The principal statute governing the Irish Defence Forces is the Defence Act 1954, which did not oblige members of the Irish Army to serve outside the state (members of the Air Corps and Naval Service are not so excused). A 1960 amendment intended to allow deployment in United Nations Peacekeeping missions requires three forms of authorisation, since the 1990s often described as the “triple lock”:

  1. A UN Security Council Resolution or UN General Assembly Resolution;
  2. A formal decision by the Irish government;
  3. Approval by a resolution of Dáil Éireann (the lower house of the Oireachtas, to which the government is responsible).

From those last two it is clear that the 26 Counties can be put on a war footing by a decision of the Irish Government or even a majority vote in favour in the Dáil. Anyone who believes that the party with most TDs would necessarily vote against such a motion is fooling themselves since the SF party has been at pains to portray itself as a safe pair of hands for Irish capitalism and recently called for greater funding for the armed forces of the Irish state; in addition it has long had an uncritically friendly relationship with the USA, in particular – though not only – with its Democratic Party.

A resolution from the UN Security Council obliging the Irish state to go to war against Russia is impossible and though such from the General Council might be possible, albeit unlikely.14

These provisions were modified in 1993 to allow for UN Chapter VII missions and again in 2006 to allow for regionally organised UN missions.

Joint NATO-Ukraine military exercise September 2021 (Photo sourced: Internet)

WHAT WE CAN DO

There seems no middle way — either NATO will back down or Russia will. No doubt the Western powers think it reasonable that Russia be the one to blink but as commented earlier, for the latter NATO creep to their borders is seen as a threat to their very existence. The same people who thought it reasonable for John Kennedy as President of the US to threaten war on the Soviet Union for the location of some missiles on the Caribbean island of Cuba think Russia should accept the advance of NATO to its borders.

In practical terms there seems little we can do in Ireland except struggle to resist the state and colony in which we live being dragged into war – for which we need to mobilise the opposition we can on the street. Sadly the anti-imperialist war movement in Ireland of years ago was allowed to deteriorate — but we should work to rebuild it.

In order to assist in this it is essential that we expose the reality of what is going on in the world. Some will say that because the USA is the main aggressor in this case and the biggest bully, we should support Russia but to do so would be a big mistake. Not long ago, while joining others in anti-fascist solidarity with people in the Donbas region in SE Ukraine, I found us being increasingly nudged towards support for Russia which I did not view as being the same thing at all.

Russia has its own crimes against people and workers and calling for support for it now will cause confusion when in future we will need to condemn it. Our position should be that while neither the USA’s regime or Russia’s is to be supported, the biggest danger of war comes from the USA and therefore it will be the main target of our hostility – besides which it is the power with which the ruling classes of Ireland and the UK are aligned. It is the biggest imperialist power in the world by far along with being the biggest military power in most of the world.

Most Irish people have no wish to be dragged into an armed conflict anywhere where they do not feel threatened. On the other hand our society is conditioned not only by decades of strong cultural influences from the USA, in particular through film but also by media reporting that is biased towards the dominant western European view and that of the USA. In that paradigm, the Russians are the bad guys, the gunfighters in the black hats, while the US and the West in general are on the side of the angels.

With the 1916 Rising in the middle of WWI, Ireland became the first country to carry out an uprising against world war15, against the dominant trend throughout Europe at the time — a tradition worth upholding. As long as imperialism exists, the world will continue to suffer smaller wars and the danger of another major war. It is necessary to overthrow imperialism and we can best contribute towards that aim by coordinating our struggles with the aim of carrying out a revolution in Ireland, thereby depriving imperialism of one of its supporters in Europe.

End.

FOOTNOTES
1
“And you will begin to hear of wars and rumors of wars. Behold, do not be alarmed; for it is necessary to take place, but the end is not yet” — Christian New Testament Bible, Matthew, Chapter 24:6.

2See map NATO states

3See appropriate map for this also

4https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/white-house-calls-russian-moves-on-ukraine-an-invasion-1262219.html

5https://armscontrolcenter.org/fact-sheet-u-s-nuclear-weapons-in-europe/

6https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40792923.html

7https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/operations/united-kingdom/exercise-joint-warrior

8Ibid.

9https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/ukraine-crisis-why-russia-might-invade-and-what-could-happen-next-41279592.html

10https://www.rte.ie/news/business/2022/0128/1276522-ukraine-ireland-analysis/

11Ibid.

12https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40811598.html

13According to Wikipedia: “One exception is Article 29, section 4, subsection 9° of the Irish constitution:

The State shall not adopt a decision taken by the European Council to establish a common defence pursuant to Article 42 of the Treaty on European Union where that common defence would include the State.

This was originally inserted by the 2002 amendment ratifying the Treaty of Nice,and updated by the 2009 amendment ratifying the Treaty of Lisbon. An earlier bill intended to ratify the Treaty of Nice did not include a common defence opt-out, and was rejected in the first Nice referendum, in 2001.”

14Resolutions of the UN Security Council, the only ones binding on all member states, require unanimous agreement by all five Permanent Members: UK, France, USA, Russia and China. Forcing a vote such as this in the UN General Assembly would likely lead to the fracture of the organisation.

15The following year there were two in Russia and in 1918 another in Germany.

SOURCES

Matthew 24:6 https://biblehub.com › matthew

https://www.dw.com/en/thousands-of-russian-troops-leave-ukraine-border/a-60257452

https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/putin-orders-forces-to-maintain-peace-in-eastern-ukraine-1261744.html

https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/emergency-meeting-called-by-un-security-council-over-ukraine-crisis-1261794.html

Map Middle-East towards Russia: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/291678513336896419/

European states holding US nuclear weapons: https://armscontrolcenter.org/fact-sheet-u-s-nuclear-weapons-in-europe/

Map NATO states towards Russia: https://www.businessinsider.com/map-europe-divided-nato-russia-2016-7?r=US&IR=T

UK bi-annual military including naval exercises: https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/operations/united-kingdom/exercise-joint-warrior

NATO exercise 2021: https://mc.nato.int/media-centre/news/2021/nato-exercise-dynamic-mariner-and-joint-warrior-begins-in-the-atlantic#:~:text=It%20runs%20between%2018%20and,Kingdom%20and%20the%20United%20States.

Mass media:

Ireland, on Russian Naval fleet in the Atlantic and Ukraine Ambassador: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40792923.html

Al Jazeera on the Ukraine confrontation: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/1/24/uk-pulls-staff-from-ukraine-as-fears-of-war-rise-liveblog

Much more in-depth coverage with emphasis on the UK position: https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/ukraine-crisis-why-russia-might-invade-and-what-could-happen-next-41279592.html

Irish Government position: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40811598.html

Irish neutrality — facts: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_neutrality

Calls for a joint EU countries armed force: https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20210902-proposals-for-an-eu-army-re-emerge-after-afghan-pullout-%E2%80%93-but-many-remain-hard-to-convince

TEN SIMPLE STEPS IN INVASION VENTURE

Diarmuid Breatnach

Scene from Rambo film promoting USA-aided Islamic fundamentalist insurgency against Soviet puppet Afghanistan Government (Photo sourced: Internet)
  1. Foster Islamic fundamentalist groups and arm them to overthrow a competitor’s puppet government. Use a nearby ally as a conduit.
  2. Portray the fundamentalist insurgency as a liberation war and keep supplying them with weapons, training, through your nearby ally. This might cost as much as US$20 billion. Have a film made about it in which a former male porn film star is the USA hero with the local fundamentalist Islamic militias (underplay the Islamic part).
  3. When they’ve overthrown the competitor’s puppet, attempt to instal your own puppet instead.
  4. When your Islamic fundamentalist warlords don’t accept this and become a problem, invade the country. You have to get lots of your own soldiers killed because you armed and trained the opposition, they have grown more powerful and why should anyone fight them for you?
  5. Keep telling the relatives of your dead soldiers (and those not yet dead) that they are fighting for democracy and to protect their homes (although they are nowhere near their homes).
  6. Set up your own puppet regime, build a local army, let your investors back home in to gobble up what they can, dispense bribes (even to notorious warlords, torturers, murderers).
  7. Use airpower to bomb your previous allies, even though you will be killing a lot of uninvolved people (and even though airpower didn’t work in the end for the other’s puppet government).
  8. When it’s clear you are not going to win without an even more massive investment of money and your soldiers’ lives (which will make your politicians unpopular at home), pull out. Leave your puppets and local employees behind (shoot some as they try to get on your planes).
  9. Then blame your puppet government for running. Blame the puppet army soldiers for surrendering, ignoring the fact that thousands of them have been killed even when you gave them air cover and that was then withdrawn or that surrounded units fought on for days on promises of relieving columns that never came.
  10. You might lose some superpower status and get criticised at home. BUT your arms industry has increased its profits at least TEN TIMES since the invasion. After all, who really matters in all this?
  11. Get ready for your next adventure.
US troops in Afghanistan marching towards evacuation helicopter (Photo sourced: Internet)
Afghan people climb on plane Kabul Airport Photo- Wakil Kohsar / AFP 16 Aug 2021
Afghans crowd the tarmac of Kabul airport to flee the country. Photo- AFP
Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace in Kabul after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. Photo- AP/Zabi Karimi
U.S soldiers take a position to guard along a perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Picture- AP Photo/Shekib Rahmani
USA President justifying USA pullout of Afghanistan and blaming Afghan people (Photo sourced: Internet)

FURTHER READING

Quick overview of Afghanistan history (without listing USA support for Taliban: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/how-centuries-of-strife-shaped-modern-afghanistan

US support for Taliban: https://www.jstor.org/stable/29768089

https://www.democracynow.org/shows/2021/8/17# (For Afghanistan jump to Haran Rahoumi at 17.19 mins. on video to 31.4 mins; and again to from 37mins. with Azmat Khan to 46mins. In my opinion much more informative than ex-US Col. Amy Wright, now in Codepink, Vets for Peace.)

https://www.foxnews.com/world/taliban-fighters-execute-22-afghan-commandos