On Wednesday 5 June David Collins of Veterans For Peace UK gave the following speech at a D-Day event in Portsmouth.
I am a member of Veterans for Peace UK and we do not believe that war is the solution to the problems of the 21st Century.
This is a day to respect and remember those soldiers sailors and airmen and countless civilians, women, men and children who died or were injured both physically and mentally during the allied invasion of Europe.
I served 9 years in the Royal Marines and I am not here to criticise those men and women who have served in past wars or those serving in the armed forces of today, unless they are responsible either personally or by giving orders, for war crimes or breaches of the Geneva convention. We need sound defence, however we do not need the aggressive foreign policies which have resulted in a series of futile and catastrophic interventions and wars since WW2.
As for the visit by the President today, we don’t get involved in politics however at VFP we do resist the recent actions of US intervention in the internal affairs other nations such as Venezuela and many others, signing off $8 Bn of arms sales to Saudi Arabia that will probably be used in the bombing of Yemen, increasing the US military budget by $200 billion by 2029, which is already 50% of the entire US 2020 discretionary budget, militarisation of space with the ‘space force’, ongoing deployment of US troops and air strikes in Syria, sabre rattling with China, reneging on the hard won Iran agreements and tweeting: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again”
But what of the UK – the only country in the world that has been involved in military conflicts every year since WW2. Who is threatening us? Anyone out there? Yet Britain has soldiers deployed in over 80 countries and has bases in 14.
Gavin Williamson former Defence Secretary stated in Dec 2018: “The UK could build new military bases around the world after Brexit, this is our moment to be that true global player once more, looking into new opportunities for the armed forces – our biggest moment as a nation since the second world war”…“Our former colonies & dominions and many nations across Africa would look to the UK for the moral leadership, the military leadership and the global leadership”.
Of course the reality is that we do not even have control of our own military strategy, that is largely dictated by our ally the US, the price for access to nuclear arms, weapon systems and a slice of the lucrative arms trade.
What of the civilians, the collateral damage as these war crimes are described. The compounded experiences of many Syrian children caught up in the violence has given rise to a new medical condition called Human Devastation Syndrome which describes the level of PTSD severity suffered by the children of Syria and other states such as Iraq and Afghanistan. These children of war have experienced more trauma, physical and emotional, than the medical professionals who care for them have ever seen: the shredded remains of their mom or dad, blown apart by a regime barrel bomb, a Russian cruise missile or increasingly, U.S. airstrikes. Yet the children of the entire world this year have demanded that from this moment all resources should be concentrated towards averting the extinction of human and animal life on earth.
Sometimes there is progress. On 7 July 2017 an overwhelming majority of the world’s nations adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, a global agreement to ban nuclear weapons, which has legal force once 50 nations have signed and ratified it. Already 23 have ratified it and 70 signed it.
The USA (6,800 nukes) and United Kingdom (215), did not even participate in the negotiation of the Treaty. Neither intends ever to join the treaty. Both voted against the UN General Assembly resolution in 2016 that established the mandate for nations to negotiate the treaty. Both failed to fulfil legally binding disarmament obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In truth though, nuclear weapons have always been illegal under International Law, Hague Conventions, Geneva Gas Protocol, Genocide Convention and Geneva Conventions. Because they do not discriminate between civilian and military targets.
As for the UK, with our Continuous at Sea Deterrent (CASD), the new sanitised name for our own Armageddon, our response on May 3rd this year was to hold a Christian Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey celebrating 50 years of nuclear weapon submarine deployment to outrage from many clergy.
Whilst we remember D Day let’s hear again the words of another President of the USA, and the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who worked tirelessly to defuse the Cold War and avoid nuclear conflict following World War 2.
• “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”
• “I think that people want peace so much that one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it.
• We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security.”
• “War settles nothing.”
Veterans for Peace, including men and women from several countries, marches each year at the cenotaph under a banner with just two words chosen by the generation that fought in the First World War. NEVER AGAIN. Yes, NEVER AGAIN. But In Bob Dylan’s words – When will they ever learn? When WILL they ever learn that war is NOT the solution to the problems of the 21st Century.
David Collins served with the Royal Marines and is now a member of Veterans For Peace.