STOP THE WAR Aberystwyth and Ceredigion, a new grouping in the local peace and justice movement, organised a seminar entitled ‘War is Peace – the meaning of imperialism today’.
On Saturday (Sept 22), the seminar took place in the Round Theatre of Aberystwyth Arts Centre. The expression ‘War is Peace’ originates in George Orwell’s novel 1984 as one of the core ‘newspeak’ slogans of the totalitarian party that rules Oceania. That party’s concept of ‘doublethink’ demands that people simultaneously believe both the truth and the falsity of statements without being troubled by the contradiction. And, indeed, perhaps there is none for Imperialism when geography is considered.
Because the argument might be made that war ‘over there’ ensures peace ‘at home’. Conversely, waging wars against distant others may increase the danger to our nearest and dearest. Again, doublethink allows us to believe both of these propositions simultaneously without disquieting ourselves.
In the introduction to the seminar, organiser Johnny Gaunt noted that it is 15 years since the ‘War on Terror’ was launched in retaliation for the devastating 9/11 attacks:
“This war, we were told, was to make us safe. A decade and a half later, and the world is much less safe than it ever was before the attacks in New York. Each country that has been privy to ‘Western intervention’ is in turmoil: Afghanistan; Iraq; Libya; Syria. The repercussions, the rise of ISIS and the sharp increase in global terrorism have become incalculable.”
‘EVIL’ AND WHAT LIES AHEAD
The more than 50 people who attended the seminar heard Professor Ken Booth, senior academic researcher and author on international diplomacy at Aberystwyth University, explore the use of the word ‘evil’ in politics.
John Rees, activist, writer and national officer of Stop the War Coalition, gave his account of UK foreign policy and an analysis of what lies ahead after the US presidency election. Ayla Gol, originally from Turkey, Reader and Director of Graduate School at the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University, had been due to talk about Syrian Refugees and Turkey but, unfortunately, had to cancel at the last minute.
BLAIR ‘A POST-TRUTH POLITICIAN’
Ken Booth described the root of war as ‘violent clashes of interests beyond diplomacy’. He noted that many wars do not happen because people disagree on the way they see the situation, rather ‘they agree completely, both parties want the same thing – but for themselves and not for the other!’ Booth’s research shows that there are many reasons for war, with language being one important factor.
He explained how war is justified by the heavy use of words like ‘national interest’, ‘nation state’, ‘independence’, ‘democracy’ and the use of words like ‘inhuman’ and ‘evil’ to describe the ‘enemy’. Calling Blair ‘the first example of a post-truth politician’, Booth explained how Bush and Blair used the words ‘evil’, ‘monster’ and ‘inhuman’ in describing Saddam Hussein, thus effectively barring any possibility of diplomatic resolutions to the situation and justifying their attack upon him because he was not a human being.
Booth views ‘evil’ as a lazy, sensationalist word, used in place of nuanced analysis with accurate words describing a situation. In 1984, Orwell wrote: “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” In the response to those who clamour for military action, currently focussing on Syria, Ken Booth advocated less military and more diplomatic action and quietly noted that ‘sometimes the best we can do is to help alleviate suffering and apply humanitarian help’.
FAILURE OF THE WAR ON TERROR
John Rees looked at UK foreign policy, condemning the lack of learning from previous experience and the continuous rolling out of the same arguments that caused the problem in the first place.
“We live in the era of failure of the war on terror! We further live in a competitive system with a competitive arms industry, favouring engagement in actions of war rather than diplomacy. Conflict from smaller countries increasingly escalates to larger countries, as can be seen in Syria, with risks of conflict between the US and Russia, both wanting the same thing: access to a friendly base in the area and instability is growing.”
Rees also lamented the lack of accountability and noted the ‘coincidence’ that David Cameron resigned two days before the report on the Syrian intervention. As for future military engagement by the US, Rees believed that Hilary Clinton’s record was consistently hawkish, from her endorsement of the regime change in Libya in 2011, her intervention in the Syrian war from 2012 onwards, and her public glee at the deaths of Gadhafi and Bin Laden.
Her election to the presidency, he suggested, would herald an escalation of intervention in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. “If Trump is elected, nobody knows! He is totally unpredictable on these questions!”
ACTIVISM FOR OPTIMISM
Rees, like Booth, was not overly optimistic about the prospects of a world at peace.
He did, however, propose that the ‘third big global power’ was international public opinion. Public opinion was, he claimed, immensely influential. Despite what many consider a failure of public opinion to stop Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq, Rees believed the huge anti-war marches of the time had changed the politics of military intervention.
On February 15, 2003, across the world, an estimated 36 million people marched in around 3,000 protests against the Iraq war. ‘Legitimised’ by the collusion of then Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, of course, Bush and Blair pressed ahead with their war plans.
A lifelong activist, Rees described the dilemma that we all face every day: “When I get up in the morning, do I engage or do I ignore?” He concluded that ‘if you fight against war, you may not win, but if you don’t, you certainly won’t!’ Returning again to 1984, Orwell wrote: “It was curious to think that the sky was the same for everybody, in Eurasia or Eastasia as well as here. And the people under the sky were also very much the same – everywhere, all over the world, hundreds or thousands of millions of people just like this, people ignorant of one another’s existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies, and yet almost exactly the same – people who had never learned to think but were storing up in their hearts and bellies and muscles the power that would one day overturn the world.”
Alerts issued ahead of Storm Brian
NATURAL RESOURCE WALES (NRW) is warning people that parts of the Welsh coast could see localised flooding as Storm Brian combines with high tides this evening and tomorrow.
The conditions could cause a storm surge, which in some areas could lead to overtopping of sea defences. Current predictions show that the worst affected areas are likely to be along exposed sections of the west coast of Wales from Southern Gwynedd to Llantwit Major.
High tides in these locations are expected to peak between 6am and 11am tomorrow (Oct 21).
NRW has already issued a number of flood alerts for the west coast, and is likely to issue flood warnings for Aberystwyth and Newgale later today. Further alerts or warnings for other areas will be issued as necessary.
24/7 Emergency response workers from NRW will be out at key areas of the coast over the next couple of day to monitor the high tides and condition of its sea flood defences.
NRW has also contacted its partner agencies such as local councils and the emergency services to ensure that appropriate responses are in place should the need arise.
Richard Hancox, from Natural Resources Wales said: “Conditions across the coastline are likely to be extremely dangerous this weekend and we urge people to stay clear, and avoid visiting the coast during this time.
“We know people are tempted to try and take photos of these storms, but it really isn’t worth putting your life at risk. Sea spray and flood water can knock you off your feet easier than you might think, and the large waves can send debris flying onto shore.
“If anyone is concerned about the risk of flooding to their home, please check to see if flood warnings are available in your area, and visit our website for advice on how best to prepare.”
Flood alerts and flood warnings are updated on the Natural Resources Wales website every 15 minutes.
Information and updates are also available by calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188. People can also register for free flood warnings either by calling the Floodline number or at NRW’s website.
Major bequests for Aber research
TWO major legacies to support postgraduate research have been announced at Aberystwyth University’s Founders’ Day held in the Old College on October 13.
The University revealed that Eleanor and David James had donated £2m to the institution where they both worked for 35 years, while former student Margaret Wooloff has bequeathed £400,000.
Both bequests will be used to fund postgraduate research at the University, in line with the wishes of the benefactors.
The legacies were announced as part of the University’s now annual Founders’ event, which echoes the celebrations held in the town back in October 1872 when the first students arrived at Old College.
The Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, Professor Elizabeth Treasure, said: “It is extremely fitting that these very special bequests have been the focal point of this year’s Founders’ Day event. They remind us how the University has been supported since its early beginnings by the generosity of the people of Wales and the wider world.
“Eleanor and David James, and Margaret Wooloff all dedicated their lives to the furtherance of knowledge and their valuable contributions to education in Wales will live on in their legacies. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”
The Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Aberystwyth University, Louise Jagger, said: “There is a very strong bond between the University and our family of alumni across the world. Eleanor and David James and Margaret Wooloff were all active members of the Old Students’ Association during their lives and we are immensely grateful to them for their support over the years. Their generous legacies will now enable the scholars of the future to pursue their particular fields of expertise and undertake research with impact, which is integral to our mission as a leading University.”
Members of the local community joined staff and students at the Old College to mark Founders’ Day.
The guest speaker at the event was Ceredigion MP Ben Lake who said: “The story of how Aberystwyth University – or the University College of Wales as it was originally called – is one in which we can all take pride as a nation. Driven by the vision of its founders, the dream of establishing a college with University status in Wales was made possible thanks to the generosity of ordinary people. The roots and foundations of the University reflect our values in Wales and it is vitally important that we commemorate and celebrate this very special heritage.
“May I take this opportunity to congratulate Aberystwyth on being named recently as the University of the Year for Teaching Quality by the Good University Guide – a well deserved accolade which is testament to the dedication of all its staff.”
In July 2017, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced that it had earmarked £10.5m for ambitious plans to redevelop Old College in time for the University’s 150th anniversary in 2022.
Driving Wales to international skills success
AS SKILLS CHAMPION for Wales, Coleg Sir Gâr and Coleg Ceredigion principal Barry Liles is at the forefront of aspiring young people to develop high quality, world-class skills.
The vehicle used to drive this ambition are skills competitions, which are held on a Welsh, UK and international level.
Competitions in Wales begin with regional Welsh Government supported competitions which are events that culminate to find Wales’ top competitors who progress to take part in UKSkills national and WorldSkills international events.
This year, 36 competitors from the UK are competing at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi, four of which are from Wales, two of which represent Coleg Sir Gâr, which is an impressive percentage of UK representation. These competitors have undergone a rigorous training process by WorldSkills UK, supported by training providers and employers.
Coleg Sir Gâr students have been selected for Team UK since 2009 when carpentry student Cliff Williams made the team in 2009 competing in WorldSkills Calgary. He was followed by web designer David Bowen who competed for in WorldSkills London, 2011. Carpenter Gareth Jones won gold in EuroSkills in 2012 followed by Simon McCall and Eleni Constantinou who won two silvers at EuroSkills in 2014 for hairdressing and carpentry with Eleni progressing to represent the UK and Coleg Sir Gâr in hairdressing at WorldSkills, Sao Paulo in 2015.
Last year, the college was ranked joint third place in the UK for its medal success in the Skills Show – the UK final, for achieving three golds, one silver and one bronze award. The show, held at Birmingham’s NEC every year, brings together medal winners from all nations to compete and showcase their skills and to hopefully continue their journey to the international arena, representing the UK in Worldskills which brings over 50 competing countries together and is likened to the Olympic games.
Barry Liles, Skills Champion for Wales said: “To have an impact on the economy and raise Wales and UK’s GVA, we must raise the skills of the UK population and we’re trying to do this from a young age and we’re significantly targeting industries that are important to Wales’ economy.
“The anticipated result is hoped to impact on young people and help them raise their ambitions and to find highly skilled work.”
In Wales, to help achieve this ambition, is a Welsh-Government funded project called Inspiring Skills Excellence (ISE), which is providing a supportive infrastructure to enable competitors from Wales to achieve success at national and international level.
“Much of our work is supporting competitors across Wales in their participation, training and mentoring to help them achieve excellence in skills relevant to economic growth and delivering medal winning success at national and international competitions,” said Paul Evans, ISE pan-coordinator for Wales.
“Using state of the art equipment we also engage with schools, providing hands-on and exciting experiences for young people to raise awareness of careers and the pathways available to them.”
Barry Liles added: “Being Skills Champion for Wales is a long-held ambition perhaps because I came from a vocational engineering background, I am very passionate about it.
“Industry skills are vital in our economy and I don’t want Wales to be left behind, in fact in the last seven years we have helped drive the nation forward to being one of the leading and successful nations in UK skills competitions.”
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