We have a problem, rather, a preoccupation with power.
It is human nature to want and crave it, but the ways we get it and keep it are usually inhumane.
The simplest, most base feeling of power is that of physical might. The ability to defeat one's foes in combat. It gets every layer of our psyche buzzing, from our amygdala governed emotional centre to the sense of moral righteousness that defines the zeitgeist. Now add in greed and you get something that should horrify us, but it is now something we accept as normal: the weapons trade and power projection via proxy wars.
The S-300 air defence system launches a missile during the International Army Games 2016 at the Ashuluk military polygon outside Astrakhan, Russia, Aug. 7, 2016. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)
Take the 2003 Iraq war. The United States and Britain drummed up fears about weapons of mass destruction and the imminent danger we were all in and led the world into the quagmire that continues to have deadly consequences
The 2003 Iraq War as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman put it:
"...wasn't an innocent mistake, a venture undertaken on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be wrong...The public justifications for the invasion were nothing but pretexts, and falsified pretexts at that."
On the Syrian side of the border, the conflict initiated by players such as but not limited to members of NATO and the Kremlin are playing their proxy war in a country of over 20 million people. The question is again why did we get caught up in a war that was not ours, in a country that most of us had rarely (if ever) thought about? Strip away the veneer of excuses and you are left with the answer: power.
In 1995, then popular and rapidly rising Tony Blair stated that "Power without principle is barren. But principle without power is futile," which is illuminating because it was him just a few years later who abandoned those principles and asked Britain to go to war without just cause.
In 2016 Frank-Walter Steinmeier, then Foreign Minister of Germany and currently the President of Germany, spoke out against NATO conducting military exercises as a show of power against Russia, he stated:
"The one thing we shouldn't do now is inflame the situation with loud sabre-rattling and warmongering...We would be well advised not to provide a pretext to renew an old confrontation."
It is the obsession with having and demonstrating power that leads us to fall in love with the very notion of it, as if might makes us right. The power of a weapon is intoxicating, and much like any other intoxicant, it clouds our judgement and rationality. This distorted view of minds is apparent when looking at how police conduct themselves. In the 12 months leading up to March 2016 police in Britain fired their weapons on only seven occasions.
Contrast that with the U.S. where in 2015 alone police had killed approximately 776 people by September. It is the absence of weaponry which leads to more rational and human approaches.
So deep is the love-affair with armaments that it is acceptable to admit it. When discussing a $1.1-billion arms deal for Saudi Arabia, CNN host Wolf Blitzer chided U.S. Senator Rand Paul's opposition, stating "So for you, this is a moral issue. You know, there's a lot of jobs at stake." adding "...if a lot of these defense contractors stop selling warplanes and other sophisticated equipment to Saudi Arabia there's going to be a significant loss of jobs, of revenue here in the United States. That's secondary from your standpoint?"
In Canada, the government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper struck a $15-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. If the Trudeau government wanted, it could have rescinded but it is easy to quell our moral heartburn with a nice dosage of money. The Canadian government even looks the other way, as a UN report pointed out, Canadian companies violate international embargoes by selling weapons to Libya. As CBC Columnist Neil Macdonald put it, "we've stopped pretending."
Fast forward to the poignant and iconic images of women linking arms along Westminster Bridge in solidarity against violence. People of all races, religions, and creeds came out in unity and in a segment covered by CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour where the statement of "Love For All; Hatred For None" is particularly important.
At the 14th National Peace Symposium, an event praised by British Prime Minister Theresa May, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the Caliph of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at, whose adherents number in the tens of millions of Muslims spoke about the need for world peace. The Caliph urged world leaders to strive for justice and to fulfill their obligation to guarantee the rights of their people, including that of safety. It cannot be only one group of Muslims that calls for peace, in this case Ahmadi Muslims. It must be all people of all religions and from every walk of life.
Setsuko Thurlow a survivor of the Hiroshima bomb and peace activist was also honoured at the Symposium for her valiant efforts and campaigns calling for nuclear disarmament. We should draw courage from the efforts of all those who speak out against war and hatred.
Seeking disarmament is not about surrendering to force, rather, it is about standing strong against violence and standing firm in the belief that peace must endure and prevail, lest we forget. Former New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange's utterly fearless stand against nuclear weapons received a standing ovation with this:
"Rejecting the logic of nuclear weapons does not mean surrendering to evil; evil must still be guarded against. Rejecting nuclear weapons is to assert what is human over the evil nature of the weapon; it is to restore to humanity the power of the decision; it is to allow a moral force to reign supreme."
Perhaps such a time will come when we can reclaim our humanity and discard our desire for all weapons.
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