25-29 April 2013
People Want Peace:
International Peace Conference in solidarity with the Syrian people
Istanbul, Turkey
Presentation By Dave Webb


The Global Network has supported the demonstrations against the installation of US-NATO Patriot missiles in Turkey in January (supposedly because of concerns of a possible attack from Syria) and was invited to attend an International Peace Conference organized by the Peace Association of Turkey under the auspices of the World Peace Council. This was a follow-on from a similar event held in Antakya (ancient Antioch) in November 2012, very close to the border with Syria. Antioch is being used a springboard by the Turkish government for training exercises, preparations and interventions into Syria. This time the conference was to take place in two parts, the first being a 3-day event in Istanbul followed by two days in Antakya. It was in Istanbul in April 2012 that 70 nations met at a conference to support the Syrian opposition and increase pressure on the Syrian government.

Dave Webb and Agneta Norberg attended on behalf of the Global Network.

Agneta Norberg demonstrates her excellent 3-D teaching aids at the Nazim Hikmet Cultural Centre in Istanbul

What follows is the speech I gave at the conference, I was a member of the first panel speaking on the "Concept of Peace and Anti-imperialist Struggle."

First let me thank the organisers, helpers and attendees who have put this important International Peace Conference together. It’s a great pleasure to be here in this important place at this important time and to meet so many wonderful people.

As we have already heard, it is so important for us to stand in solidarity with all oppressed people in the world and in particular today with the people of Syria. The situation there is a terrible indictment of imperialism and non cooperation. It is undeniably criminal that the violence is being inflamed by the provision of arms from imperialistic interests. If we are to survive as a species we have to change the ways in which we approach conflict and the development of war machinery.

I am the current convenor of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space and our work involves the need to recognize the growing use of space technology to further the interests of imperialism and the desire by the US to dominate the planet through an ability to deploy military force anywhere at short notice and with devastating effect.

We will all have seen news and reports about the situation in Syria from national and international media which comes to us through space technology and it is of course extremely biased and heavily edited as it is from any region of conflict. My aim today is to inform you of our involvement in preventing the US empire from achieving the goal of global military reach through similar kinds of space technology. The GN is a network of over 160 affiliated groups from the US, Europe, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia and Asia. Some are small local community groups, some are larger regional, national or even international organisations but they are all working for peaceful change and they all recognise that imperialist wars are being conducted largely through the growing militarisation of space. Satellites enable the command, control, communication and intelligence gathering that is needed to achieve a military global reach across the globe. Of course, the US is the greatest practitioner of space warfare and is leading the way with remotely piloted armed aircraft, commonly known as drones, which are controlled through satellites from the US, some thousands of kilometers away from where they are being deployed to target specific individuals or groups. We know that considerable numbers of civilians, including hundreds of children, are among the victims in the drone attacks.

During the 20 years or so of working with the Global Network, we have visited many communities around the world for our annual meeting. We have met with, talked to and learned from people working in campaigns centred in major cities such as New York, Washington, Melbourne, Seoul and Vancouver. But we have also joined smaller, locally based groups who can’t and won’t let the presence of a nearby contributor to the war machine go unchallenged. Today I am pleased and privileged to add our voice of solidarity and support to the many people who are protesting at the US missiles being placed in Eastern Turkey. In the Global Network we work to link groups and people who are involved in the same struggle together in the realisation that war has to be made obsolete and the huge US war machine dismantled. For that to happen the roots of war have to be unearthed wherever and whenever they appear. This includes not only the ways by which war is fought but also the ways and means by which it is justified and enabled.

Last year we were in South Korea at the small fishing village of Gangjeong on Jeju Island where we were supporting the villagers in their epic struggle to prevent the construction of a huge naval base that is destroying their environment and their livelihoods. The base is being built by the South Korean Government at the instigation of the US because of its proximity to mainland China and the naval base will give a convenient birth for US war ships.

In fact Asia has been a focus of the Global Network for the last few years and our campaigning message has been to resist the US encirclement of Russia and China with missile ‘defense’ systems that are key elements in the Pentagon’s hegemonic programmes. President Obama’s deployment of US Navy Aegis destroyers, armed with SM-3 missiles in the Mediterranean and Asia pacific region are not positive steps towards a more secure and peaceful world. The US and NATO joint installations of ground-based Patriot interceptors in Central and Eastern Europe, including those in Turkey, and the large number of US support bases around the world (such as Menwith Hill – the huge US spy and surveillance base near my home in Yorkshire, England) are increasing international tension and are among the greatest threats to world peace. It is not difficult to see why Russia and China are very concerned about the stationing of bases and missiles close to their borders.

Under the pretence of threats from Iran and North Korea, the US and NATO are building up forces and weapons at an astonishing level, while at the same time claiming that austerity measures are required that involve the removal of welfare and education facilities for the poorest members of society. These missile and troop deployments will be directed by space technology controlled from the US through its military bases. The importance of space technology to the war-fighter is increasing as is the number and spread of bases and installations around the world that support this globalised network centric warfighting system. It is so important that the resistance to this is also networked – working together we must become a force for peace that is more powerful than any force for war.

As peace campaigners we often visualise a world in which governments have agreed to abolish weapons of mass destruction and strive towards, what the philosopher Immanuel Kant, called “perpetual peace”. However, advocates of peace are often accused of being out of touch with the harsh realities of political life and human nature and are often caricatured as well meaning visionaries who simplistically and ineffectually dream of a return to a non-violent golden age. Therefore, two years ago I was working with a group of academics and activists in a project called “Projecting Peace” which was an attempt to provide an interdisciplinary forum for exploring the complexities, ambiguities, and varieties of peace-making and peace-thinking with the aim of addressing how this work and schools of thought can address, in some practical way, perhaps the greatest challenges in history – anthropogenic climate change and nuclear proliferation.

The ‘scramble’ for sustainable natural resources within a technologically-changed and -challenged climate is an increasingly important source of global conflict. The self interests of governments for national survival run counter to the evident necessity for collaboration and cooperation on an unprecedented scale. Therefore, our main focus in “Projecting Peace” was on the practicalities of applying and maintaining ethical, ecological, and humanitarian considerations beyond national boundaries in the fragile economies of emergent cultures of peace and security. In so doing we also hoped to be contributing to the current interest in “cosmopolitics”, i.e. a politics which reaches beyond - or even supersedes – the nation state and to whatever form - pacific or otherwise - this might take in the future.

It is now widely recognized that the future of our planet is threatened by two man-made dangers – nuclear proliferation and the effects of climate change. These self-inflicted problems have generated the necessity for an elaborated strategy of global cooperation. So the question therefore becomes - can we join together to ensure our future survival by developing a better understanding of the underlying human aspects of our past and current predicaments? One thing is clear - the kind of cooperation needed for our survival does not come from mountains of weapons, threats, counter threats and violence. At present most governments are not fulfilling their obligations to their citizens, and are more interested in ensuring the security of themselves and the state machinery than the security of the people.

Even so the principles of peacebuilding have become well established over the years.  The need for change should be obvious to everyone. We need to transform societal values and overcome the fatalistic acceptance of violence and the apparent attraction of global power. For this to happen, societies that are currently infused with not only direct but also structural and cultural violence (that is, inbuilt injustices in the structures of society that cause conflict between included and excluded sectors, and the militaristic nature of a culture that encourages violence and war as a legitimate way of resolving problems) would have to be changed into ones that nurture, understand and practice non-violent methods of conflict resolution. The deep rooted myth of military violence as a means of enforcing people’s safety and regressing wrongs has to be debunked once and for all.

The importance of building peace from the bottom up and of focussing on nurturing and empowering local communities is becoming clear to many activists and practitioners. Imperialism is the exploitation of the many by the few and is not the answer to any human problem. It has been shown throughout history that empires do not last but they are often at their most dangerous when they are in their final stages - as they die. As the US and empire begins to crumble we need to ensure it does not behave like a cornered and wounded tiger and attack anything that it thinks might be a challenge. But we also need to ensure that the demise of one empire is not immediately followed by the rise of another.

So we will continue to build networks with groups working for peaceful change – we will challenge militarism at every level and every opportunity, we maintain the vision of peace but work to bring together the academic debate and analysis and the practical aspects of political activism to create the changes needed for a truly peaceful and secure world.


Global Network