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.”
Ceredigion gritters prepare for Winter with a visit from ‘Goldie’
AS WINTER maintenance training preparations continue, a specially-painted golden gritter named ‘Goldie’ visited Ceredigion on 2 October to mark Econ Engineering, UK’s biggest manufacturer of gritters, 50th anniversary.
‘Goldie’ is spending the autumn visiting local authorities across the UK as they prepare for the winter ahead.
Ceredigion County Council prepares for winter all year round; salt replenishment starts in early June to ensure that by the time winter begins stock levels are up to approximately 10,000 tonnes. This is the amount of salt that gives Ceredigion the resilience it needs if it cannot secure additional salt supplies during the winter season in a timely manner.
The winter service fleet is operated by 51 qualified gritter drivers and maintained by 9 mechanics who all work on a rota basis over the winter period. There are 10 primary gritting routes covering 437km of Ceredigion’s roads, including the Trunk Road network.
One of the first tasks for the winter service team is to ensure that over 400 Grit bins across the county, which are for the motorist to use, are filled and any damaged bins replaced. Depending on the severity of the winter and the availability of resources, these bins may need to be replenished again during the season.
Councillor Dafydd Edwards is the Cabinet member responsible for Highways and Environmental Services and Housing. He said: “Although autumn has just begun, our staff have been preparing for winter for many months already and now are taking the next step to ensure our winter fleet is ready for any frosty occurrence. Training is being completed and maintenance checks are being carried out on the gritters. Our fleet consists of 10 frontline gritters, 5 situated in each of the north (Glanyrafon) and south (Penrhos) depots and 7 reserve gritters.
“The decision as to whether gritters are deployed depends on what information is received from MetDesk, our weather forecast provider. Each day during October through until the end of April, the council will receive three forecasts a day. This information is analysed by a group of experienced duty officers, who are on duty 24hrs a day, to determine whether a gritting run is required or not.
“Having Goldie here has been a timely reminder that winter is on the way and the council is doing everything it can to minimise disruption to travelling over the winter. If you are a motorist, it’s also time for you to be mindful of how you should prepare for winter too – in the way you drive during icy conditions.”
Andrew Lupton Econ Engineering Sales Director said, “Econ Engineering has worked with Ceredigion for many years now and we’re delighted that Goldie has been able to make a guest appearance as preparations for winter get into full swing. Ceredigion has always shared Econ’s own belief in the important role that technology and innovation can play in keeping winter roads safe and the council has taken great care to specify that their Econ vehicles are fitted with the most up-to-date technology. We have fitted the fleet of gritters with high-tech kit including navigation aids for the drivers, which ensure gritting routes are treated accurately across the region, both maximising road safety and minimising the impact of salt on Ceredigion’s environment.”
For more information on Highways During Winter and advice on driving in Winter go to https://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/travel-roads-parking/highways-during-winter/
Trains could be opening from Carmarthen to Aberystwyth
THE REOPENING of the Aberystwyth to Carmarthen railway is not only possible, it’s now on the cards. This was the message of a meeting at Plaid Cymru’s Annual Conference in Swansea, arranged by Ben Lake MP, Elin Jones AM and Traws Link Cymru.
The meeting came after the publication of the Welsh Government’s rail strategy document, ‘A Railway for Wales – Meeting the needs of future generations’, in which the Welsh Government states that it wants to ‘improve connectivity on the nation’s key corridors – especially the western corridor from Ynys Môn to Aberystwyth, Carmarthen and Swansea Bay.’
Over the years, Plaid Cymru has secured commitments by the Welsh Government to invest in scoping, feasibility and technical studies. It has also made several manifesto pledges to reopen the line.
The inclusion of the rail route in the Welsh Government’s rail strategy document is a major step as it lists, for the first time, that the re-opening of the line is part of the Welsh Government’s overall transport plan for Wales.
Ben Lake MP said:
“I am grateful to Mike Walker and Geraint Blayney for preparing such a detailed presentation, and indeed to the entire campaign for working so diligently to ensure that this important proposal receives the attention and consideration it deserves.”
Elin Jones AM said:
“It’s great to see that the campaign to reopen has now for the first time been given official status within a Government transport strategy.
“Whilst Welsh Government had commissioned both a scoping study and a full technical feasibility study for the reopening in recent years, it is only now that they have included the line as part of its future thinking.
“It will be for Westminster Government under the current devolution settlement to fund new rail infrastructure, but Welsh Govenrment has a role in ensuring that it is high on the agenda for rail investment.”
Mike Walker, a campaigner for Traws Link Cymru said:
“Following the Feasibility Study into the re-opening of the Aberystwyth to Carmarthen railway that was published in 2018, and which showed that there are no insurmountable engineering problems associated with the re-establishment of the line, Traws Link Cymru is further encouraged by the recent document released by the Welsh Government “A Railway for Wales: Meeting the needs of Future Generations’.
“This outlines future Strategic Corridor Developments for Wales including enhanced connectivity from Ynys Mon, through Dolgellau, Aberystwyth and Carmarthen, to Swansea and South West Wales. For the first time, the Welsh Government has publicly acknowledged the need for a north-south rail corridor, a key element of which is the Aberystwyth to Carmarthen line that has been the focus of the Traws Link Cymru campaign.
“The onus is now on the Welsh Government to accept that the re-opening of this railway line is a transport priority for Wales, and to seek funding from Westminster to deliver the project.”
Hate Crime Awareness Week 2019
NATIONAL Hate Crime Awareness Week will take place from October 12 – 19 this year. Ceredigion County Council is highlighting the campaign by reminding residents of what is a Hate Crime and signposting people to the necessary support; whether they may be a victim or a witness to a hate crime incident.
Ellen ap Gwynn is Leader of Ceredigion County Council and Members’ Champion for Equalities. She said: “We will not tolerate any form of Hate Crime in Ceredigion. Everyone should be respectful of each other’s individual characteristics and beliefs. This national week of raising awareness is an important reminder to us all that we need to live in harmony with each other to make our communities safe and prosperous places for our residents to live in without fear.”
Hate crimes may be physical or verbal attacks, threats or insults that are motivated by the victim’s age, disability, ethnicity, religious belief or non-belief, sex or gender identity or sexual orientation.
Hate crimes can be any criminal action that is perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by prejudice and hatred.
Kay Howells is the Mid and South West Wales Community Cohesion Coordinator. She said: “Hate crimes often go unreported, leaving offenders free to commit further offences. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a hate crime, please make sure that it gets reported. By reporting these offences a picture of the number, type and range of incidents taking place in Ceredigion can be recorded, enabling resources to be targeted in order to deal with them.”
If you are in immediate danger call the Police by dialling 999 (non-emergencies 101).
You can make a report online using the Victim Support website, http://www.reporthate.victimsupport.org.uk/ this can also be made anonymous if that’s better for you.
Alternatively, you can call Victim Support directly 24 hours a day on 03003 031 982. If you would like support they can arrange this at the same time as making the report.
Visit the council’s Hate crime page for more information: http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/your-council/strategies-plans-policies/equality-diversity/hate-crime/
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