The bedrock document anchoring the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize winning Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs – the London Manifesto of July 1955 co-signed by our founder President Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein – advocated the abolition of war and nuclear weapons. It said – “We have to learn to think in a new way. We have to learn to ask ourselves, not what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps; the question we have to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to all parties?” This built upon the specific prohibition in the UN Charter of the “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state” (Article 2:4)
The just released U.K. Report of the Iraq Inquiry by Sir John Chilcot and others into the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the US, UK and others raises this and other fundamental questions for the governments and citizens of the world to ponder over collectively. While being a commendable, if woefully belated, accountability mechanism on the abuse of power in a democracy the report uncovers the reckless pursuit of war as a subjective and self-interested means of achieving regime change on the pretext that weapons of mass destruction existed when the objective and scientific process of international verification remained incomplete.
The invasion of Iraq and its aftermath contributed to the sectarian conflict – not just in Iraq but in the entire region – with tragic consequences for the people; and the unstoppable exodus of displaced persons and refugees to other regions of the world.
The Report does not come to any conclusions on the legality of the invasion despite the overwhelming global consensus on that issue but among other lessons we can learn are
– the inadmissibility of regime change as a unilateral act of any country or group of countries in a subjective judgment of threats to international peace and security
– the indispensable priority for peaceful settlement of disputes and diplomatic negotiations as we saw vindicated in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which resolved the Iranian nuclear dispute with the P5 plus I and a path which Pugwash is pursuing actively with regard to Afghanistan;
– the vital importance of international verification regimes such as those implemented by the Hague-based Chemical Weapons Convention Organisation in the Hague which eliminated chemical weapons in Syria and the Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Provisional Technical Secretariat which has successfully detected the nuclear weapon tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
In a world where nine countries possess over 15000 nuclear warheads and global military expenditure is at a staggering US $ 1676 billion, while terrorism fuelled by extremist ideologies add to the toxic mix of the traditional causes of war, the folly of not heeding the lessons of Chilcot will be catastrophic.
Jayantha Dhanapala, President
Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, Secretary General
Saideh Lotfian, Chair, Pugwash Council
Steve Miller, Chair, Executive Committee
Tatsujiro Suzuki, Pugwash Executive Committee
Sandra Ionno Butcher, Executive Director