Another year has drawn to a close.

Another humanitarian disaster, this time Afghanistan. I won’t go into the details, except for one: parents forced to sell their children, mainly girls, to buy bread.

There are famines in Ethiopia and the Yemen. 

And so the customary appeals for help go out from the aid agencies. Government spokespeople tell us how much they are doing. Pictures of emaciated children on day time TV urge us to give more. 

Then the camera crews leave. We give a fiver to charity and forget until the next disaster. Such is our acceptance of the suffering of others that we have almost forgotten to ask why they suffer.

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There’s no easy answer, but war is a good place to start because it’s at the root of the catastrophes in these three countries. Food shortages have always been a challenge for communities across the globe. In response, people have developed strategies to survive, the most marginal communities being the most inventive. 

Throw a war into the mix, however, and things quickly go wrong. One conflict is bad enough but societies can rebuild and do move on. It’s when a country is at war for decades that, despite best efforts, life becomes intolerable.

War has been a stain on human history. That said, kings and the occasional queen used to lead their troops into battle. Now our leaders insult each other on Twitter before sending in the troops, soon to be robots, another frightening dimension to the picture.

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Of course, weapons of war need to be manufactured and that’s where the global arms makers come in, usually disguised as ‘aerospace’ manufacturers, heavily subsidised, extracting huge profits from a multi-trillion pound industry. A fraction will make its way back to those in power just to say thanks for keeping the wheels of war turning. And worse, our leaders know the weapons they sell will kill innocent people.

How do they justify this?

Defence, the minister for defence would say. How does selling weapons to Saudi Arabia to kill Yemenis help with our defence? If anything, it puts us at greater risk from retaliation by those who don’t like what our government is doing. 

Jobs, says the minister for employment. Bull. The skills of the bomb maker are transferrable and can be put to better use. Look at Germany.

Those in power won’t answer because they’ve got too much to gain through the revolving door.

Only those on the end of the bullets and missiles can tell us why we wage war. And they would say the question shouldn’t be asked in the first place. In the words of Private Harry Patch:  ‘War is legalised mass murder’.

Why can’t we understand that?

Blwyddyn newydd dda i chi gyd.

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