Sunday, 13 November 2011

End all wars

This week in the Senedd the Conservatives held a debate calling on the government to plan a commemoration of the start of world war one in 2014. This was my contribution to the debate, from the Assembly's Record of Proceedings:

Leanne Wood: This debate is timely, given that there will be many families remembering past and present wars, and the loss of their loved ones at remembrance services throughout the country this coming Sunday. Those who have lost their lives in the conflicts of the twentieth century, and the more recent ones this century, will all be remembered. As they are remembered, I hope that there will also be time for reflection on the war that sparked remembrance Sunday. That war, which ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, started almost 100 years ago. Let us not forget that that was meant to be the war to end all wars.

The last known survivor of that war was the late Harry Patch. I will take some time to remember Harry’s words; words that, in my view, powerfully sum up the dark reality of what war is all about. When he was 107, Harry Patch said

'We’ve had 87 years to think what war is. To me, it is a licence to go out and murder. Why should the British government call me up and take me out to a battlefield to shoot a man I never knew, whose language I couldn’t speak. All those lives lost for a war finished over a table. Where’s the sense in that?’

Later, he said

'Too many died, war isn’t worth one life’

He said that war was 'calculated and condoned slaughter of human beings’. I know from my involvement in the recently formed Justice Unions all-party group, which I have helped to set up, that the wars ongoing today are creating big problems that are impacting on families and communities up and down our country. Physical injuries are visible, but mental problems and, in particular, post-traumatic stress disorder, is all too often not dealt with. In many cases, it is not even diagnosed. Work carried out by the corresponding Justice Union group in Westminster and research carried out by my Plaid Cymru colleauge Elfyn Llwyd has uncovered the vast numbers of ex-service personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder in the prison system or living on the streets. Elfyn Llwyd has led the way in campaigning for better services for mentally and physically injured service personnel. We are hoping that the Wales all-party group can do something similar at a Welsh level. For everyone who has contributed to this debate today, and who is interested in being involved in that all party group, please let me know.

In remebering the first world war, and all other wars, I hope that we can also remember all people affected: soldiers and civilians on both sides. We must learn the lessons from the past wars? Will we heed the words of Harry Patch?

To conclude, I support the amendment put forward in the name of Jocelyn Davies, which calls for an exploration of the idea of setting up a peace institute. I ask people to look at what peace institutes do in other countries: in Norway, Finland, Catalunya, Ireland and Germany. We have the powers to do this here. A peace institute could be an important educational resource and a vehicle for bringing together peace-related research; for example, on conflict resolution and arms conversion. The majority of peace institutes elsewhere in the world are self-financing, so it need not be something that requires any major financial commitment. All of the existing peace institutes enjoy academic independence. The setting up of a Welsh peace institute, working with other peace institutes around the world, would be a good way for Wales to commemorate the first world war, by making a contribution to a project that aims, finally, to end all wars.


Richard said...

Diolch Leanne - a very timely and important post. Such wise words from the late Harry Patch. I sometimes worry that war and violence are glamourised. We must do all we can to end conflict and support the people affected and their families.

You mean there's more??? said...

I have always found the poppy thing a bit dificult.

My father was very badly affected by events in the second war, fate placed him in Coventry as a civilian that fatal night.

1947 he survived the brutal events in Palastine.

People should get the help they need because they need it. Not if enough people buy poppoes to raise the money.

Maybe if governments had to shoulder the proper cost of the wars they wage there might be a greater reluctance to start them.

Certainly in 1982 and in 2002 would wars have been promoted with such enthusiasm if Thatcher Bush and Blair had been required to lead the first wave in..