2005/2006 report by the Secretary



The year of MAKE POVERTY HISTORY began with the most appalling disaster in the Indian Ocean; the Tsunami - thousands dead; millions homeless and destitute -  the British public donated £400,000,000. Tony Blair promised to “far and away more than match it”, so should it surprise us that government contributed £275,000,000; 69%? It could have been worse; the Central America typhoon fund of 2004 received just 17% of money pledged. Our members and friends joined Bob Geldof in Edinburgh and CND at Faslane Trident Base.

Kingston Peace Council bid the Friend’s Meeting House farewell with a jumble sale and meeting in March …. or did we? It is still there and our ‘pram’ has been reinstated. Seems Kingston Council plus tame developer have other ideas! Having previously scuppered the Friends’ own plans for relocation and development, (saying that the Eden Street site must remain a place of worship,) now they want to prevent the Friends rebuilding there so the site can be commercially developed! All clear so far? Watch this space for more news ….

Arguments about the Iraq invasion proliferated. Kofi Annan pronounced it illegal. Reports from inside Iraq show the invaders are part of the problem, not the solution, and should be withdrawn. Here there are attempts to pursue justice in the courts plus a movement to impeach Bliar – he says “nobody lied”, in fact “nobody” told the truth. Lord Goldsmith’s ‘advice’ was leaked in April. We analysed every syllable and found it flimsy and dubious argument for complete reversal of British policy based on Jack-the-war-Straw’s “material breaches” report, (it was suggested it might be ratified in court) …. and all obligingly summarised on a page or so on the eve of war! The Iraq debacle cost £200 billion - most of the money went to weapons, armies, security, contractors, corruption …. Little progress so far on essentials - water, electricity, hospitals, schools, reparations ….

May saw another Bliar government empowered by only 21.6 of the electorate – twice as many voted for other parties and twice as many just stayed at home! ‘New’ policies include detention without trial on the basis of  totally secret evidence!

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in May was frustrating as existing nuclear powers showed clear disinclination to disarm. The USA presses on with the nightmare “Starwars”, bombs-in-space, project and word is ‘mini nukes’ are being developed for battlefield use! Most debate was about North Korea and Iran, small fry by comparison.

July 7 saw the London Transport bombings. Political leaders famously blamed sinister fanatical foreign organisations, determined to destroy our way of life and our freedoms – “nothing to do with Iraq or British foreign policy”! Turned out to be four British lads who had independently decided to commit the atrocities in retribution for Iraq and British foreign policy! They plotted with the aid of the internet, and one went to Pakistan’s NW Frontier to record a message beforehand. Seems they were on MI5’s radar but weren’t considered a threat. The ensuing tidal wave of Islamophobia persuaded me to mug up on Islam and some of us made contact with the Kingston Mosque. Islam developed two distinct tendencies after Muhammad died in 632 AD: a liberal tendency; and a rigid tendency convinced that the original Islamic texts should be followed (according to their particular interpretation) to the letter, shouldn’t be revised or challenged - non-believers and liberals ‘threaten’ their vision of purity. Dispute bubbled up over centuries but more recently the rigid tendencies and Osama bin Laden were boosted through funding, training and weapons from the US & UK. The catalogue of western chicanery and skullduggery, particularly by the USA, over many years is a gift to Osama’s propaganda. Also Saudi Arabia, wallowing in western oil $remuneration and influence, promotes Wahabism around the World; stimulating the Bali bombers “to prevent evil deeds” for example. Mainstream Islam has had to contend with fanatical malcontents for centuries.

We were well represented at the peaceful protest against the DSEi (deadly) weapons fare in London Docklands which welcomed the custom of numerous human rights violators. Peace protesters were unwelcome; policing cost £4million; now the cost is unwelcome and maybe there won’t be another!

Displeasure at Brian Haw’s Parliament Square protest panicked the government into passing a dodgy law prohibiting protest. The unintended effect was to legitimise Brian’s protest which predated it! What a Hoot! But Walter Wolfgang was arrested at Party conference and a battalion of police arrested a young female for naming dead British soldiers at the Cenotaph!

Protest at wrongful detentions and torture continues and dominated the secretary’s correspondence this year. We all know of the numerous cases of sexual abuse and of innocent men subjected to Rumsfeld’s regime of ‘torture lite’ for years, before being released and acknowledged innocent. We continue to campaign on behalf of several who remain in Donald (Blue Beard) Rumsfeld’s clutches. Meantime we pursue issues of torture ‘heavy’ and “extraordinary rendition”; which extraordinarily everyone save Bliar and Straw-in-the-wind know about. The Home Office approve of torture securing (unreliable) information, whilst roundly condemning its use! (How do they do that?) Fortunately sane judges ruled that unreliable “information” is useless evidence, to use which is illegal under human rights law. Well, well, well ….

Discussion about the UN and UN reform abound. Abuse of the UN by US & UK over Iraq invasion provoked bitter disagreement. Now ‘modernisers’ want to see peacekeeping and humanitarian intervention roles clarified and enshrined in a revised structure and Charter.

We rehearse arguments against Trident replacement with anyone who will listen. Each Trident carries 48 warheads – the equivalent of 800 ‘Hiroshima’ bombs; (a point not overlooked at our annual Hiroshima Day commemoration.) Independent it ain’t – more like a wholly owned subsidiary of USA Corp., and utterly US! Who to aim it at and why? Would it really be used against a non-nuclear state?  Would it protect from terrorism, or make us a target? What would protect us from retaliation and protect everyone from radioactive fall-out? Is it productive use of taxpayers’ money?

We continue to protest and march, and we oppose brutality, war and terrorism in equal measure. We don’t accept that one must lead to the other though in practice it often does. The idea of imposing some western style democratic structure upon populations which have history, culture and belief systems which aren’t compatible is pea-brained. To make war and create chaos isn’t conducive to consensual debate, and American ‘justice’ is such a very bad example; ask Falluja, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib ….

BUT whilst bad news makes good headlines there is an abundance of good news; in fact it is so commonplace that it is not considered remarkable. Every one of us is living proof of good news, particularly our army of officers, helpers and volunteers who continue to give their time, energy and goodwill to organizing meetings, fundraising, stalls, leafleting campaigns, publicity and numerous events during each and every year, including 2005/06. Very very very many thanks to you all! And thanks to Chris Busby who travelled 12 hours to give us the facts on radiation poisoning and Depleted Uranium weapons in November.


February 2006                                                                                         Noel Hamel