By Hilary Evans
|Hilary Evans and Rosemary Addington raise the banner outside Menwith Hill|
In the end, only Rosemary and I went, so we considered our trip to be a reccy, in preparation for the real thing (sign up now to avoid disappointment!).
Tuesday: train to Harrogate, took the waters at the Pump Room followed by afternoon tea at the genteel Betty's. Then to Menwith Hill to join Lindis Percy and six others for the weekly two-hour CAAB (Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases) protest outside this American Base, a vital part of the American Missile Defence programme. Supporters of CAAB, and in particular the amazing, admirable and delightful Lindis, have maintained this protest throughout the year for nine years - every single Tuesday evening from 6pm until 8pm (never again will I groan at the thought of one hour a month on our KPC stall!) but Lindis points out that this is only a small part of CAAB's work. Look at www.caab.org.uk to see how true this is - and find lots of interesting information including 'America's global military presence: mission creep'.
Only that morning, Lindis had been in court yet again for breaching a Section 69 'aggravated trespass' order. Her original crime? Putting a foot over the yellow line painted on the road to mark the entrance to the Base at a point which CAAB argues is part of the main highway. If a police officer states that s/he reasonably believes that a person trespasses on land in the open air with the intention of disrupting, obstructing or intimidating lawful activity then an offence is committed, a notice is issued and the offender must not return to the land within three months. The charge of 'aggravated trespass' has been persistently used by MoD police against Lindis at various US bases around the country. CAAB says it was never intended to include peaceful protest and is very difficult to challenge as an officer has only to 'reasonably believe' that an offence is likely to be committed when the trespass occurs.
By the end of two hours on this dry summer's evening, we were feeling pretty chilly - whatever must it be like on cold, wet, windy, winter Tuesdays?
Wednesday: pleasant bus journey from Harrogate to Bradford and straight to the country's only Peace Museum, housed in three rooms at the top of a flight of sixty stairs. A warm welcome and introduction from Peter Nias before the pre-arranged arrival of a small youth group from Rochdale with their two leaders.
The museum is run on a shoestring and there is a lot of material which can't yet be displayed but the three rooms are attractively and effectively hung with historic artefacts and explanatory panels covering peace issues including WWI through to WWII (Art of WWI, Portraits of Peacemakers in the 30s, 1930s descent into war, Pacifism, Internationalism, etc); the influence of Gandhi; NVDA; the 1960s, 70s and 80s campaigns for peace and nuclear disarmament; modern day ethics of peace and non-violent conflict resolution; local peace issues in and around Bradford. The museum organises training sessions for teachers and supplies educational material and ideas for activities with children as well as sending travelling exhibitions across the UK and the world. It has been invited to mount a permanent display in the Royal Armouries, Leeds (part of the Tower of London collection). The museum was in itself most interesting but the presence of the Rochdale visitors was the icing on the cake. The young people listened intently to Peter's introductory talk and contributed enthusiastically to the ensuing discussion which covered topics ranging from their ASBOs to Georgia! We saw and were inspired by the programme produced by their leaders for International Day of Peace celebrations in Rochdale. They had gained local council support for a Peace Parade through the town on 21 September and have organised a poetry competition, a football competition and a cake baking competition. Before they left, we all participated in a co-operative game involving a ball of string and our ideas for peace.
After leaving the museum, we followed part of the Bradford Peace Trail (a Peace Museum initiative) and visited the National Media Museum.
Thursday: a good look around Saltaire - the Victorian model mill town created by Sir Titus Salt for his mill workers, and now a World Heritage Site. We'd been supplied with titbits of information by the cheerful, chatty woman who served us breakfast at Shipley's answer to Fawlty Towers, where we spent two nights. She had grown up in Saltaire and several family members had worked at the mill. Finally, a wonderful walk in perfect weather taking in canal, farmland, a packhorse track, woodland and moorland.
Altogether, a worthwhile, interesting and extremely enjoyable few days.
Within the past month Jim McCluskey has sent these two letters to The Independent.
Whereas I appreciate your coverage of the Large Hadron Collider I find it curious that, in an age of nuclear weapons proliferation, the culmination of scientific progress is the expenditure of billions of pounds in creating (albeit in a small scale) possibly the most violent collision in the universe.
David Miliband's article ,'We badly need a treaty to control the arms race' (9.9.08), is welcome and most encouraging news. Treaties are a huge tool in the hands of those who work to achieve a more peaceful and sane world as well as for governments of benign intent. However it must be added that treaties, once established must be honoured. David Miliband's words would have even more force if the UK government honoured their obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to '...pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects...'
I think I've spotted a developing trend in US politics. First it was Bush-Cheney, now it's McCain - Palin. It seems the surest way to protect the occupant of the Oval Office from assassination is to pick a vice-president who would be infinitely scarier if they had to take over the top job.
In case you are still unconvinced by the danger posed by moose-hunting hockey mum Palin's being a heartbeat away from the presidency then you only have to reflect on her first televised interview in which she expressed the view that the United States might have to go to war with Russia over the current situation in Georgia. (it was unclear from the interview whether she thought that Russia had invaded the Eastern European state of Georgia or the southern United States state of Georgia!)
One thing is certain and that is that Palin, Sarah, does not share her namesake Palin, Michael's globetrotting experience. More's the pity. Her view on Russia seems to be restricted to the fact that from her state of Alaska it is possible to get a view of Russia.
Having only left the shores of the US once it now seems that she hasn't, as previously claimed, visited Kuwait, Iraq, Germany and Ireland. Investigative journalism has discovered that her plane only made a re-fuelling stop in Ireland and that she never set foot in Iraq, only Kuwait (but she could no doubt see Iraq from there, so that's alright then!)
One continues to hope that such stupidity will ensure that such people are never elected to a position of authority. The problem is that so many Americans make a virtue out of ignorance. The gun-tooting, Jesus-loving, pro-life label is all that is needed to win over the required support.
The rest of the world looks on with pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming amazement in the hope that the Obama/Biden ticket attracts sufficient black votes, white working-class votes, pro-choice women's votes and just plain intelligent votes to regain the White House for the Democrats.
I have a suggestion to make. The choice of president and vice-president is one for the American voter. If they want to pick an ageing former-POW and a homespun, know-nothing-and-care-less-about-the-world sidekick then let them. The rest of the world will stop complaining about the choice if the White House stops interfering in the lives of every other country and economy in the world.
Have we got a deal?
Campaign Update by Noel Hamel
Earlier this year the Ministry of Defence resumed test firing Depleted Uranium (DU) at Dundrennan firing range. Said to be needed to "monitor stocks of CHARM 3 ammunition nearing the end of their shelf-life", it was condemned by Scottish MSPs as a health hazard for billions of years; and as unusable discredited technology banned by the European Parliament. Service personnel in areas contaminated by DU were given warnings about their health; so government is fully aware that it poisons the environment with radioactivity; yet continues to deny it. Armed Forces Minister, Bob Ainsworth, says the weapons expire in 2009 and testing is essential to ensure they are safe to use! They are to be phased out and our Challenger tanks are to be refitted to use alternatives.
DU contamination at Dundrennan is the highest for 10 years, according to the Ministry, and some areas breach agreed limits. Between 1982 & 2004 more than 6000 DU shells were fired at Dundrennan and many misfired shells haven't been traced. The area is permanently contaminated with radioactivity which slowly spreads. In warm, dry conditions like Iraq it is blowing North West into the Kurdish areas.
The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) had a conference in Geneva to encourage information sharing, consider reports of ill health, and build support for a legal ban. Of major concern are continuing official denials and campaigners' inability to gather adequate post-conflict data, particularly from heavily contaminated Iraq where it is dangerous and co-operation is non-existent. Some were forthright about ill health effects and condemned earlier studies, much quoted by the military, which make ludicrous claims about DU safety. Official studies in the Balkans are hopeless. Government testing generally is inadequate and often US army veterans' illnesses are incorrectly recorded. Because the full effects of DU poisoning aren't properly demonstrated to the satisfaction of the scientific community, DU weapons aren't illegal WMDs, and a ban needs further international agreement. Some think the cluster bombs ban paves the way for further weapons bans. Belgium has a ban and it's suggested a Europe-wide DU-free zone could be a future possibility. Concern about European UN peacekeepers' health might offer leverage. Scientists estimate decades of research data from Iraq would be needed to prove the case.
In Afghanistan's Tora Bora region "bunker busting bombs" were used and some birth defects may be attributable to DU, but local government is giving out conflicting messages. Serbia has been falsely declared DU free as not all contaminated sites have been identified or tested. There have been unexplained increases in cancers amongst the younger generations but they aren't generally discussed.
DU is on the agenda at the UN General Assembly and dedicated people are beavering away there and elsewhere like the European Parliament. Some politicians and delegates are persuaded, but progress is slow. Funding is problematic and the issue doesn't capture public imagination like atomic explosions or collapsing towers. But the effect of DU is to kill and destroy thousands of innocent lives over generations, and, despite existing knowledge and military warnings about ill-health, there is no inclination to accept responsibility or clean up Iraq. The public campaign squeaks like a mouse, yet the scale of the crime - trashing all precepts about sovereignty, blasting into Iraq, and casually poisoning it for billions of years - cries out for a ROAR of protest!
By Phil Cooper
|US dead to wounded ratio in Iraq is the highest in the country's history|
Government ministers are forever telling us that Britain's present economic woes are the fault of matters beyond their control; the sub-prime debacle in the US, oil prices affected by instabilities elsewhere in the world, not least in the Middle East.
This excuse would be valid but for one thing. The root cause of the widespread unstable, credit crunched, fuel price hiked world in which we currently live is a four-letter word. Iraq. More specifically, the war in Iraq which, you will recall, the British Government supported.
The trail of incompetencies, deceptions, and financial sleights of hand that have lead from Bush to Blair to Baghdad to bankruptcy is argued persuasively by economics Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, author, with fellow economist Linda Bilmes, of the book The Three Trillion Dollar Wa*r.
The essence of the book's devastating critique was summarised in an interview with Stiglitz published in The Guardian in February. The article comments: "There will be few who do not think that, whatever the reasons for going to war, its progression has been morally disquieting; following the money turns out to be a brilliant way of getting at exactly why that is."
The sums of money involved are staggering. The figure of three trillion dollars is estimated to be America's share of the cost. Stiglitz and Bilmes suggest that an equal sum is having to be shared by Britain and the rest of the world. America's three trillion is not only made up of the cost of fighting the war and dealing with the insurgency that followed it but, something neither we nor the American public hears much about, the cost of paying death benefits and after care for the thousands of US personnel injured in the conflict. America's wounded to dead ratio, estimated at seven to one, is also the highest the country has suffered in its history which of course includes two World Wars, Vietnam and the amazingly destructive Civil War. Of those conflicts only Vietnam (12 years) has lasted longer from the point of America's involvement.
The issue is how the Bush administration has financed this war. Traditionally, America has financed its wars through raising taxation with the population exhorted to dig deep, to meet the sacrifice through their pockets. The direct consequence of this is, of course, that ordinary citizens begin to understand the cost of hostilities in financial as well as casualty terms.
This war is different. It has been financed through borrowing at interest rates of a couple of hundred billion dollars a year which, by 2017 argues Stiglitz and Bilmes, will add up to another trillion dollars. Something for the next three US administrations to deal with!
At the same time as the loans were being raised the Federal Reserve Bank kept interest rates artificially low and "looked the other way as lending standards were lowered, thereby encouraging households to borrow more - and spend more." Everyone was encouraged to take on unprecedented debt.
This was coupled with a meteoric increase in the price of crude oil, brought about by instability in world markers caused by - the war in Iraq. This has fed through into vastly increased fuel costs pushing up the price of food and all other commodities. In response banks have put up interest rates, lenders have clamped down on credit approvals and hey presto! A recession.
It's also worth reflecting on where American borrowed its billions to wage its Neocon war in Iraq. It approached China and a range of Middle Eastern countries. The largest shareholders in the Citibank for example are now in the Middle East. This, says Stiglitz, : creates a dependence "and whether we become dependent on Middle East oil or Chinese reserves - it's that dependency that people ought to be worrying about."
It is ironic perhaps that America having effectively hobbled the UK economy since 1945 by requiring the repayment of our debt to the US Treasury for the loan that stopped the UK going bankrupt after the Second World War - a debt that we only actually cleared in December 2006 - has now hobbled its own economy for the foreseeable future by borrowing from the Middle East and Far East to pay for its Iraq War.
Do we expect to hear much about this from the candidates in the US presidential election? Do we expect Gordon Brown to admit that the Labour Government under Blair helped get us into this mess?
Do we believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy?
*The Three Trillion Dollar war, by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, published by Allen Lane, price £20.
The Iraqi Association is based in Hammersmith and works with refugees who have fled the country in fear of their lives. It works with young and old alike. One of its campaigns is IraqChild set up a year ago to raise money to assist NGOs working to support doctors and hospitals in Iraq working often without adequate equipment or medicines to help the many thousands of children maimed and traumatised by the ongoing violence in Baghdad and other principal cities.
The Iraqi Association welcomes donations to help support the IraqChild campaign. For further information visit the website at: www.iraqiassociation.org
Cold War Modern is the first exhibition to explore international developments in modern art, design, architecture and film in the context of the Cold War.
It is running at the V&A, South Kensington from September 25th to January 11th. Tickets £9 adults, £7 concessions.
It includes a full range of accompanying lectures, talks and films.
The organisers of the CND national conference have accepted for debate the following resolution, drawn up by Jim McCluskey, and submitted by Kingston Peace Council/CND
"UKCND urges the British Government to do all it its power to ensure that all nuclear weapons worldwide are taken off hair-trigger alert status (also referred to as high-alert status). This means that the weapons could no longer be launched within minutes of an order being given, thereby reducing the possibility of launch by accident, misjudgement or unauthorised actions.
Appropriate measures to achieve this end shall be determined in consultation with the International Atomic Energy Authority. UKCND urges the British Government to pursue this goal in the UN Security Council and the General Assembly, the First Committee on Disarmament and in negotiations with all the nuclear weapons states and in other appropriate forums."
(NB: It is estimated that around 5,000 nuclear weapons worldwide are on hair-trigger alert)
Noel Hamel has written on behalf of KPC to Foreign Secretaary David Miliband about the current antagonism between Georgia and Russia. His letter ends with the following plea:
We believe that Britain's stand in support of the Saakashvili government's aggression seriously compromises our position and seriously restricts our ability to help in the resolution of the problems of the region. By taking sides against Russia, whose behaviour may have been less than exemplary, Britain's interests are damaged. We strongly urge that you support all diplomatic efforts to try to achieve an enduring solution to the real problems of the region and distance Britain from the game of power politics initiated by the United States which serves the interests of no-one, including the United States.
Newsletter editor for this issue was Phil Cooper.
Disclaimer: It is the nature of a newsletter like KPN that views cannot be sought on everything that appears herein, so views expressed are almost never the agreed opinion of the group.