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Kathrin Winkler: Where is that workshop entitled Never Again?

Speech by peace activist Kathrin Winkler at Saturday’s rally against the Halifax International Security Forum at the Peace and Friendship Park in Halifax. Kathrin is member of the Nova Scotia Voice of Women for Peace.

Kathrin Winkler. Photo Simon Devet

Good afternoon – my name is kathrin winkler. Although the statue is gone, the shadow of the past continues to fall on us. That past of racism and genocide has not been exposed to the light of truth long enough to be turned into action. Let’s keep this in mind when we refer to the Halifax Security Forum as we commit to end the oppression of the arms trading industries. 

It is a killing industry. This industry has an insatiable appetite and gorges itself devouring the taxpayers money; the resources for food security and affordable housing; medical care; a liveable wage….destroying the air we breathe, the oceans we swim in and the land under our feet. 

I want to thank all of you. We can stand together against a storyline that can only end in tragedy and suffering. Thank you to El Jones, Isaac Saney, Tamara Lorincz, Tony Seed, Alan Bezanson and all those who spoke at the webinar. Dr. Saney your moderation led us into an inspiring evening and your courage is contagious. Nova Scotia Voice of Women for Peace has a long history with ‘No Harbour for War” and with all voices insisting we can do better! I share my thoughts on behalf of the many women of peace – Sandy Greenberg, Joan Smith, Fatima Cajee, Sarah Morgan, Mary Rigby, Betty Peterson, Murial Duckworth, Maya Eichler, Linda Ruffmann Christiansen, Catherine Martin and all of our members. 

I have a few comments but bear with me if I begin on a personal note. For the last 5 days I have participated in a silent on line retreat at home – a yearly activity or inactivity that is part of my zen practise and my partner, Paul’s. You can imagine that silence is a dramatic change that challenges our habits and views and can bring about a backlash. You can imagine yourself perhaps in silence in a shared space, feeling some awkwardness, discomfort, resistance and a longing for escape, an urge to affirm the familiar. I mention this because I see a connection to the growing resistance and discomfort in the spin from the Forum..the old story lines don’t work anymore. The Youth for Climate action are not willing to ignore the unrecorded contributions of military carbon. The old order, and by old order I mean all those that have enjoyed their comfortable nest of whiteness, of patriarchy, of endless capitalism and imperialism, of sexism and surveillance – those in the old order are bristling. The rules are changing and their power is threatened. 

A climate of care cannot integrate the protection of our children with masks on the one hand and accept the bombing of children and hospitals on the other hand. Make no mistake, the industries represented at the FORUM and promoting the FORUM include the biggest weapon manufacturers on the earth and that is exactly what they manufacture. Bombs that kill children. They are responsible for the chain of events leading to 22 young students killed recently at the University of Kabul; the floating bodies washed up in the Mediterranean; and the deaths on the streets and in the homes on this continent because of the epidemic of racism. Why do we think for a moment that cyber and drone warfare and more sophisticated, long distance, hybrid killing can lead to peace? Ridiculous. 

I attended a recent book talk – entitled Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil. Panelist Dr. Afua Cooper questioned what could be learned fron the Germans when the first genocide of the last century is not even spoken about. She referred to the case brought by Indigenous Ovaherero and Nama and descendants of the estimated 100,000 people who were systematically killed by colonizing Germans between 1904 and 1908 in what is now Namibia. This genocide is a “precursor” to the events of World War II less than four decades later. German colonists seized 50,000 square miles of indigenous land plus livestock without compensation, according to the amended complaint. They raped Indigenous women and girls, and enslaved others for manual labor.The Germans killed 80 percent of the Ovaherero people and half of the Nama, according to the complaint. Those who survived initial slaughter were sent to concentration camps. Some of their bodies were used for experimentation by German doctors.The case centers around the return of the skeletal remains, the skulls and bones of the ancestors that were taken to Germany.

This is the ‘old order’ the legacy and lineage of a century of genocide that funnels into NATO, into NORAD into violent interventions and oppression. But I believe that more and more of us in the grassroots are noticing some discomfort by the powers. They have to create an enemy for their industry. They are scrambling, making up booklets about China, pulling in great artists like Ai Weiwei to broaden their credibility, adding women to womanless panels – truly an example of a desperate action, don’t you think? 

This is what I believe is threatening this old order. Suddenly we are looking to the healers for leadership. We are waking up to the idea that we are, as feminist Judith Butler writes, all equally grievable. A child dying in detention without citizenship papers is equally grievable. 

Suddenly we look to a leadership that is protecting lives and not protecting interests. We look to the doctors, the experts at the World Health Organization, the land and water protectors, the coalition of 570 NGO’s that have brought a treaty to end nuclear weapons to the world! The Halifax Security Forum machine can’t spin fast enough to counter this narrative. The Canadian Defence department is spreading propaganda that sending troops into senior’s residences has strained their 31 billion dollar a year budget. I say, repurpose the military as personal care workers, the cost of a hospital is less than a fighter jet. In fact one flying hour of the 19 billion dollar expenditure for those 88 jets – one flying hour costs more than the yearly salary of a personal support worker. 

Last year over 300 military and government personnel attended the gathering at the Westin. Entirely based in Washington, DC., we have to ask ourselves, why does this group use our good name? It isn’t enough to have 800 military bases around the world with covid filled warships lingering about, now Halifax has to virtually harbour this nonsense. 

See also: Warmongers not welcome in Halifax!

Why isn’t the real story at a Security Forum about the security news of the year? Those non-governmental organizations that came together in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) negotiated with the armour of hope and of the heart. They forged a collaborative road to justice resulting this year in 50 nations ratifying the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons . This treaty will be international law on January 22, 2021. Cities from Vancouver to Halifax have urged the Federal government to courageously support a new way forward – with the power of the people leading the way and not the war machine. 

There remains an empty spot on the Treaty, waiting for Canada’s signature. 

Instead what is the ‘Halifax Security Forum offering? The lighthearted workshop descriptors — titles like ‘London Outs, Brussels Pouts” and ‘Afghanistan’s Final Piece’ and “Biden his Time” are an insult to the true cost of militarism and gloss over how the world remains constricted in the straitjacket of NATO’s promotion of US exceptionalism. Are there any workshops encouraging a nuclear weapons free NATO as an ultimatum for Canada’s membership? Where is that workshop entitled “Never Again?”

See also: A woman’s going to send the drones, a poem by El Jones