1- Neutrality Project
VGPN Neutrality Project
Since the end of the Cold War, wars of aggression for the purpose of grabbing valuable resources have been waged by the USA and its NATO and other allies in gross violation of international laws and the UN Charter. All wars of aggression have been illegal under international laws including the Kellogg-Briand-Pact, August 27, 1928, which was a multilateral agreement attempting to eliminate war as an instrument of national policy. The UN Charter opted for a more pragmatic option of ‘collective security’, a bit like the Three Musketeers – one for all and all for one. The three musketeers became the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, sometimes known as the five policemen, who were tasked with maintaining or enforcing international peace. The problem is that these five UN policemen, or at least the three NATO members, US, UK and France, have taken the rule of international law into their own hands, and become the greatest threat to international peace. The Nuremberg Principles outlawed wars of aggression, and the Geneva Conventions on War sought to regulate how wars are fought, as if wars were just a sort of game. In the words of Carl von Clausewitz, “War is the continuation of politics by other means”. In theory, only the UN Security Council can authorize military actions against member states of the United Nations and then only for the purposes of maintaining genuine international peace. In practice most NATO member states have become rogue states and have usurped the role of the UN and with the help of other allies have waged wars of aggression against Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.
Armies of aggression should not exist in these dangerous times for humanity where abusive militarism is doing untold damage to humanity’s living environment. Genuine defense forces are necessary to prevent the war lords, international criminals, dictators and terrorists, including state level terrorists such as NATO from committing huge human rights abuses and destruction of our Planet Earth. The international law concept of neutrality was introduced in the 1800s to protect smaller states from such aggression, and The Hague Convention V on Neutrality 1907 became and still remains the definitive piece of international law on neutrality. In the meantime, the Hague Convention on Neutrality has been recognized as Customary International Law, which means that all states are bound to comply with its provisions even if they have not signed or ratified this convention.
It has also been argued by international law experts such as L. Oppenheim and H. Lauterbach that any state that is not a belligerent in any particular war, is considered to be a neutral in that particular war, and is therefore bound to apply the principles and practices of neutrality during the course of that war.
There are many variations in the practices and applications of neutrality in Europe and elsewhere, Switzerland is considered to be the most neutral country in the world, so much so that it did not even join the United Nations until as recently as 2nd September 2002. Some other countries such as Austria and Finland have neutrality enshrined in their Constitutions but in both cases, neutrality was imposed on them after the end of World War 2, so both are now possibly moving towards ending their neutral status. Sweden, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta are neutrals as a matter of Government policy and is such cases this can be changed by a government decision. Cyprus neutrality is compromised by the fact that Britain still occupies two large so-called Sovereign Bases in Cyprus that Britain uses extensively to wage its wars of aggression in the Middle East. Costa Rica is an exception as one of the few genuinely neutral states in Latin America and a very successful neutral one at that. Costa Rica ‘squanders’ a lot of its financial resources on stuff like health care, education, looking after its most vulnerable etc., and is able to do this because it has no army and is not engaged in wars with anyone.
After the end of the Cold War, the US and NATO promised Russia that NATO would not be expanded into the eastern European countries and other countries on the borders with Russia. This would have meant that all the countries on Russia’s borders would be considered neutral countries, including existing neutral Finland, but also the Baltic States, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, etc. This agreement was quickly broken by the US and NATO, and moves to include Ukraine and Georgia as members of NATO forced the Russian Government to defend its national strategic interests by taking the Crimea and the provinces of North Ossetia and Abkhazia under Russian control. There is still a very strong case to be made for neutrality of all states close to the borders with Russia and VGPN should campaign for this and campaign to encourage the existing neutral states in Europe to maintain and strengthen their neutrality, and campaign also for other states in Europe and elsewhere to become neutral states.
There are some other important variations on the concept of neutrality, and these include that of negative or isolationist neutrality. An insult that is sometimes thrown at such countries is a quote from the poet Dante: ‘The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in a time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.’. We should challenge this by responding that the hottest places in hell should be reserved for those who wage wars of aggression.
Ireland is an example of a country that has practiced positive or active neutrality, especially since it joined the United Nations in 1955, but also during the interwar period when it actively supported the League of Nations. Although Ireland has a very small defence force of about 8,000 soldiers it has been very active in contributing to UN peacekeeping operations since 1958 and has lost 88 soldier who have died on these UN missions, which is a high casualty rate for such a small Defence Force. In Ireland’s case positive or active neutrality has also meant actively promoting the decolonising process, and assisting newly independent states and developing countries with practical aid in areas such as education, health services, and economic development. Unfortunately, especially since Ireland joined the European Union, and especially in recent decades, Ireland has tended to be dragged into the practices of the EU larger states and former colonial powers in exploiting the developing countries rather than genuinely assisting them. Ireland has also seriously damaged its neutrality reputation by allowing the US military to use Shannon airport in the west of Ireland to wage its wars of aggression in the Middle East. The US and NATO members of the EU have been using diplomatic and economic pressure to try and get the neutral countries in Europe to abandon their neutrality, and are being successful in these efforts.
Geography can also play an important role is successful neutrality and Ireland’s peripheral island location on the extreme western edge of Europe makes it easier to maintain its neutrality, combined with the reality that unlike the Middle East, Ireland has very little oil or gas resources. This contrasts with countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands that have had their neutrality violated on several occasions.
The Hague Convention (V) respecting the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and Persons in Case of War on Land, signed on 18 October 1907 can be accessed at this link.
While it has many limitations, the Hague Convention on neutrality is regarded as the foundation stone for international laws on neutrality. Genuine self defence is allowed under international laws on neutrality, but this aspect has been very much abused by aggressive countries. Active neutrality is a viable alternative to wars of aggression.
2- Statement on Afghanistan war
VGPN statement on the war in Afghanistan
The Veterans Global Peace Network, made up of veterans’ organizations from different countries, wishes to denounce as criminal the failed intervention initiated by the US in Afghanistan; a war based on lies, in which not even the military on the ground themselves were clear about why they were there.
The disastrous US strategy dates back to the 1970s, when they began to feed the mujahideen in order to destabilize the USSR and establish docile regimes in Central Asia. The consequence was a terrible civil war that brought the Taliban, the most radical among them, to power.
The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 with the excuse of removing the Taliban from power, although the invasion was already decided before 9/11; 20 years later, they shamefully withdrew, with the Taliban back in power.
It is the big economic interests that control the real power in the US that have promoted this war: the Caspian to Indian pipeline, strategic minerals, the huge profits from opium cultivation and, above all, the invocation of a ubiquitous and elusive enemy, which they themselves have been busy feeding, to justify the need for exorbitant spending on arms and concessions to security companies.
In their mad military campaign, they dragged the whole of NATO out of its natural defensive space, and many other countries, which went along with the hegemon’s game without objection, even though nothing had been lost to them in Afghanistan.
Their early encouragement of Islamo-fascism has given rise to the most bloodthirsty terrorist organizations, which have been spreading throughout the world in their various denominations. Although their consequences are clearly felt in the metropolises, they are nothing compared to the damage suffered by Muslim-majority countries.
The excuse of the war on terror has only resulted in an expansion of terrorism far worse than before.
The cost in lives of the war has been terrible: about 4,000 US soldiers are reported dead (plus some 1,100 from other allied countries) and 20,000 wounded; and suicides among US veterans, shocked by post-traumatic stress disorder and the absence of career prospects, amount to between 6,000 and 7,000 a year. No one seems to have bothered about casualty figures among the Afghan population, although estimates range from 50,000 to 100,000 dead, three times as many wounded and 5.5 million refugees.
The widespread use of torture, the use of contractors not subject to public scrutiny, and drone bombings on targets that were not an imminent risk and with a high number of non-combatant victims (especially women and children), have become common practice, in a radical and immoral questioning of international humanitarian law.
The Anglo-American model of managing the world’s security problems is based on the use of brute force, rather than dialogue and negotiation, with little regard for the fact that, as some of its main implementers have acknowledged, in this blind and senseless war, efforts to eliminate one element of resistance are met by the emergence of ten more.
The long-term outcome of this catastrophe remains to be seen: there are sufficient indications that the agreement with the Taliban for withdrawal was aimed at tertiarising their endless war, leaving them the task of sowing chaos in their midst (China, Russia and Iran), while the US focuses on its ultimate imperial objective: war against China, which although it has never in its history shown expansionist or aggressive impulses, is now seen as its ultimate existential threat.
As veterans who have served in this and past wars, we are enraged by leaders that lie to us and lack the moral courage to act even when there is proof. We demand accountability in real and tangible ways. The pandering and posturing of so many politicians today is infuriating.
We must see a shift towards a future that holds the military and government officials accountable. We must reduce the western powers military budgets and reallocate those funds towards social programs that prioritize meeting people’s needs and to support the masses of refugees that seek safety for their families.
In the name of all victims, VGPN demands from the powers involved in this war the reception of all Afghan refugees and resettlement aid, as well as war reparations for Afghanistan and all Afghans. All those countries responsible or complicit must be forced to pay punitive war reparations for all the casualties and structural damages. To our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan, we at VGPN wish to express our heartfelt sorrow for your losses, and send prayers of strength for your rebuilding efforts.
VGPN also demands the recognition and acceptance by the US of the authority of the International Criminal Court and the submission to its jurisdiction of those who have promoted and conducted the war in Afghanistan as war criminals.
18 September 2021