Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Syria: No rush to war

Joan Ryan has asked for her constituents views on today's Commons vote on military action against Islamic State in Syria. Here is the substance of my response to her:

1.  Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Iraq again, Syria. The recent Western track-record does not encourage confidence in the judgement, or even truthfulness, of our MoD-intellgence-military complex. The situation is visibly worse than pre-911 and much (not all) of the worsening is due to Western military action.

2.  No military action is defensible except in pursuit of a clear and defensible STRATEGY. I see no sign of such a strategy and it may be that no such strategy is possible. Intervention without a strategy is no more than revenge or macho posturing and is more likely to cost lives than save them.

3.  There is one partial exception to this analysis. The Kurdish forces are disciplined and effective and the Kurds are trying to build communities based on mutual tolerance and democracy. Their attempts may fail but they seem to be the only communities even trying to go in the right direction. I think we should support their efforts and this may require limited military action in Syria as it has in Northern Iraq.

It would be good to have a solution to the region's problems which are both serious and contagious. But I have yet to hear one. To kill civilians without a reasonable hope of a good outcome is simply outrageous.

Since I wrote this Joan Ryan has announced her support for airstrikes against ISIL in Syria.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Green Pioneer: Who Was Chico Mendes?

Chico Mendes (1944-1988) was a Brazilian rubber-tapper who became a campaigner for his people and for sustainable use of the rainforest. He built links between politics, trade unions and environmentalists and won international awards for his work. He was murdered by a local rancher who wanted to clear-cut an area of rainforest that was designated as a nature preserve.

Francisco Alves Mendes Filho (Chico Mendes) was the son of rubber tappers and became one himself at age 9. Life was hard and the arrival in the 1970s of ranchers who wanted to clear the forest for grazing was set to make it harder. Mendes became a leader of the non-violent resistance to the ranchers and called, successfully, for the government to set up forest reserves in which only sustainable harvesting would be permitted.
He became a highly effective organiser helping to establish the local and national rubber-tappers unions and the (left-wing) Partido dos Trabalhadores. He worked for better education, stronger communities and the development of new sources of income, including nuts, fruit, oil and fibre. He also built links with the environmental movement both in Brazil and internationally.
Mendes won the United Nations Environmental Program Global 500 Roll of Honor Award in 1987, and the National Wildlife Federation's National Conservation Achievement Award in 1988.
He summed up his philosophy as follows: “At first I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest. Now I realise I am fighting for humanity.” He saw defence of the people and of the forest on which they depended as a single struggle.
For more information see: