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Kingston Peace News - October 2009

CND welcomes Obama's scrapping of planned Missile Defence system

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament warmly welcomed the reported scrapping of US plans to build Missile Defence bases in the Czech Republic and Poland, as detailed by the Wall Street Journal. The highly destabilising plans had been opposed by majorities in both those countries, as well as by Russia which was considering its own arms build-up in response, creating a 'new Cold War' in Europe. This highly significant change opens the way for major advances in related areas, such as the cuts to nuclear warhead numbers that President Obama wishes to see.

The UK government supported the Bush-era plans but the rethink by the Obama administration must leave open to doubt whether two military bases in North Yorkshire will still form part of the remaining system.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said "We strongly welcome this rethink. The Missile Defence plans were an unnecessary and destabilising provocation to Russia which threatened to plunge Europe back in to a new Cold War. Whereas both the US and Russia were previously threatening to deploy more missiles on the continent, we hope this decision will open the way to negotiating major cutbacks.

"With Obama and Medvedev due to meet at the UN next week we urge both sides to set bold targets for reducing their arsenals, which still have the power to destroy all life on earth several times over. Missile Defence has been the key stumbling block in the path of negotiations so we really hope the detail of the revised US plan raises no further problems - specifically, that plans to deploy US short-range Patriot anti-missile batteries to Poland are also scrapped.

"Our government should build on President Obama's example of cancelling unnecessary and costly weapons programmes, ending participation in Missile Defence and scrapping the 76bn Trident replacement. Both Missile Defence and renewed nuclear weapons systems actually contribute to bringing about the situations they are supposed to prevent. By providing leadership in nuclear disarmament by scrapping Trident, Britain could spur on drives towards the global abolition of nukes - replacing it only lets other countries claim that likewise, they need nuclear weapons for their own security." -

DSEI Arms Fair - Close UKTI Defence & Security Operation

Many members of KPC/CND attended the events organised by Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) and East London Against Arms Fair (ELAAF) at the beginning of September. Very successful was the demonstration in Victoria Street outside the Trade and Industry offices to show the links between the Fair and our Government, which spends our money on supporting private arms companies to spread death and destruction around the world, while raking in vast profits. Two double-decker buses brought protestors from the Excel centre housing the Fair to the centre of London where we were more visible and able to leaflet large numbers of passers-by. This Fair takes place every 2 years - let's hope this one might be the last as many people in CAAT and ELAAF continue to campaign vigorously against it continuing.


The Problems with Nuclear Power

These tips on the problems with nuclear power come from a letter Jim McCluskey sent to The Guardian during September. I do not believe it was printed, but I quote them here as a useful summary which can be memorised and used in conversation with people not convinced reliance on nuclear power is a bad idea and not really Green at all.

..........A list of objections may be helpful.

  1. Extremely expensive and likely to require subsidy,
  2. Same enrichment technology as for weapons manufacture,
  3. Produces dangerous waste with no agreed means of disposal,
  4. Plant and waste deposit storage vulnerable to terrorist attack,
  5. Centralises 'power' in hands of elites,
  6. Makes poor countries dependent on rich ones,
  7. The fuel, uranium, will soon become increasingly scarce,
  8. Draws funds away from sustainable renewables,
  9. Subject to catastrophic failure (see 'Normal Accidents', by Charles Perrow).

Drones

Thanks for Val Swain for this item sent on the Internet - information gathered from a recent Radio 4 programme:-

Drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) are being manufactured by 43 countries, Israel being one of the biggest manufacturers.There is a $5.5bn dollars budget in the US for unmanned systems alone.

The US have carried out more incursions into Pakistan using drones, than in the Kosovo war using manned bombers. But there has been a marked difference in how this has been treated by US and government and the media. Unlike Kosovo there has been virtually no discussion, because it is seen as being without danger for US personnel. Pilots do not 'go to war' in the traditional sense. They fly the raids remotely, and can just nip home for tea when they've finished.

In Pakistan the attacks resulted in the loss of 600 civilian lives. They are of course also used in Afghanistan with devastating effects on remote villages where there are unlikely to be reporters to inform the world about the atrocities.


Kingston Peace Council/CND celebrate the UN International Day of Peace

We celebrated this 2 days early this year on our regular Saturday stall, as this had proved very successful last year. Once again we were lucky to have wonderful weather. Maggie had cut out doves upon which children (and adults!) were invited to write thoughts and hopes about peace, which they then hung on a 'tree'. Fiona had also prepared packs for children to take home with them. A real highlight was the wonderful music provided by members of the Raised Voices choir who had come from far and wide to sing inspirational songs of peace. (thanks to Mary for arranging this) . Many of our members came along for part or even all of the 3 hours event, so nearly 300 leaflets were given out explaining the concept of the Peace Day.

Photos of this event will appear in the next issue.


Vietnam - (continued from last month)

Part 4: Vietnam under Eisenhower

From Harry Davis

The story of how each of the four succeeding presidents handled the situation that Truman bequeathed, the problem of US involvement in Vietnam, is of compelling interest. There were differences in style: each president failed in a different way.

'I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.'

Thus ex-General of the US Army, and newly elected President, Dwight D Eisenhower. Eisenhower famously coined the phrase military-industrial complex to describe the military beast he saw growing in his country after the war, though he would be surprised at its gigantic size and power in America today.

In another famous quote, he said, 'Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed . .' Given his understanding and his loathing of war it is strange, then, that President Eisenhower did not take the opportunity to take America out of the developing mess of Vietnam. This was a time before US troops had been officially committed, and when advice from experts, including CIA assessment, warned that a military victory in a land aspiring to become a free nation would be difficult to achieve, and, if achieved, of little value when imposed upon a hostile people.

Nevertheless, Eisenhower was uncharacteristically hawkish about Vietnam. It was he who first used the phrase 'falling dominoes' to describe the notion that if Vietnam should fall to the communists, other neighbouring nations would soon also collapse. Though he did not commit US forces, he did sanction considerable US military aid to the occupying French forces, and to the southern Vietnamese army after the French had been defeated.

On one point Eisenhower was firm - he was unequivocally opposed to committing US forces in Vietnam without Congressional approval: a scruple that did not deter his successors. Under Eisenhower, the fanatically anti-communist John Foster Dulles was Secretary of State. Dulles was famous for his outspoken 'brinkmanship', warning that if China interfered in Vietnam 'massive retaliation', generally understood to be a nuclear strike, would follow. Half the world thought Dulles was bluffing, and the other half feared he was not. This was also the time of the rise of Senator McCarthy, of reds under the bed, anti-communist hysteria.

The perception of the red bogey constrained Eisenhower. He felt he could not 'lose' Vietnam: too much US prestige had become involved. Yet he did have an opportunity to get out, which he did not take. After the French forces had withdrawn, a Geneva accord was signed and the country divided along the 19th parallel pending general elections. As the north outnumbered the south and could be relied upon to vote almost as a single block, Diem, knowing he would certainly lose, refused participation when the time came. As US aid was contingent on Diem holding to his part of the bargain, and as Diem had been shown to be weak, corrupt and inefficient, with a strong opposition from within his own government, Eisenhower, whose personal popularity was very high, could have withdrawn US forces at that point, and so prevented the tragedy that was to unfold over the next two decades.

In his memoirs Eisenhower was to write of his doubts on Vietnam: 'The mass of the population supported the enemy', and that 'American aid could not cure the defect'.

Next month: Vietnam under Kennedy

Correction to casualty figures. Our member Roshan Pedder has pointed out that the casualty figures given in Part One of 45,000 US soldiers was probably too low. US National Archives and Records Administration (www.archives.com) gives 58,193, from '56 to '98 (presumably including post-war deaths of the wounded, and suicides). Vietnamese deaths, stated as 500,000, probably exceeded 2 million (see www.historycommons.org/timeline.jsp?timeline-vietnam) H.D


Stop the Traffic - people shouldn't be bought and sold

A member of the Kingston group of Stop the Traffik came at her own request to speak to us at our September meeting. The local group email is kingstonact at live.co.uk.

She explained that people-trafficking is a growing problem, nationally, internationally and even locally. 7 trafficked women were found in Surbiton in July when a brothel was raided. Most trafficked people are female (80%) and under 18 (80%). Some are recruited in poor countries by promises of good jobs - which often turn out to be prostitution or domestic service with conditions of virtual slavery. Once here their passports are taken from them and they are told they must "earn their freedom/passage home" - ie. debt-bondage.

An example from their leaflet : An ice-cream seller. She saw an advert in a local paper to be an ice-cream seller for the summer in a foreign country. IT WAS A TRAP. She was brought from Latvia and sold in the coffee bar at Heathrow airport for 4000. She was forced into the sex industry, abused and raped, her life destroyed.

Stop the Traffik wants everyone to be aware that this is going on, and keep a look-out for signs of trafficking. Look at their website to see tips on what to look for and who to contact, or email as above to be sent a copy of their excellent leaflet.


Anti-Trident lobby gets stronger

- from Morning Star 10th Sept

Ex-ministers join forces to call on the government to scrap nukes., by Adrian Roberts

Anti-nuclear campaigners welcomed the formation yesterday of a new group of ex-ministers and retired senior military officers who are calling for multilateral nuclear disarmament.

The Parliamentarians for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation group is part of a growing movement of senior politicians from across the political spectrum who are highlighting the urgency of moving towards a world free of nuclear weapons. In the US a similar group has been formed by former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who wrote recently to the New York Times setting out the case for multilateral disarmament.

These announcements come at a time of renewed debate about the 76 Billion project to replace Britain's Trident nuclear weapons system. A recent ComRes opinion poll has yet again showed a majority of voters in favour of scrapping Trident, 58% against replacement and only 35% in favour. The group includes former Labour ministers Des Browne, Margaret Beckett, John Reid and Lord Robinson, senior Conservatives Malcolm Rifkind and Michael Ancram, and 3 former chiefs of the Defence staff, General Lord Guthrie, Field Marshall Lord Inge and Admiral Lord Boyce. Liberal Democrat Peer Shirley Williams is also joining the group.

CND Chairperson Kate Hudson said that the formation of such a high-level coalition underlined the urgency of the task facing governments including Britain to ensure progress on disarmament to avoid proliferation. She welcomed the cross-party nature of the group, and said that CND strongly supports the group's goal of reaching a common European position on the withdrawal of the remaining 200 US nuclear weapons in Europe. "Rapidly reaching a consensus on this could feed into the current rewriting of NATO's 'strategic concept'. The sharing of US nuclear weapons with Germany, Belgium, Holland, Italy and Turkey contradicts both the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and NATO's international non-proliferation policy".

Stop press ! Its not a lot but welcome nevertheless - today, 23rd Sept. It has been announced that Gordon Brown proposes only building 3 more Trident submarines , not 4. At least they are talking about it!


AFGHANISTAN WARMONGERS IN CRISIS

(From Stop the War newsletter)

Opposition to the war in Afghanistan is growing, even among those who have till now supported it as the 'good war'. Leading Democrats in the United States are trying to stop Obama sending more troops, with his Afghanistan commander General McChrystal rumoured to be asking for an increase of 45,000.

The rigged election in Afghanistan puts the lie to any idea that NATO forces are bringing progress to the country. The fast rising rate of US and British soldiers dying has forced politicians and military commanders alike to admit that they are not "winning" the war. Opinion polls in Britain and the US show that people no longer believe the war serves any purpose. Even the tabloid media is having to reflect the growing discontent.

Stop the War's intensified campaign to bring the troops home is getting a tremendous response across the county. 600 people packed an anti war rally in Liverpool this week. Everywhere we have leafleted in towns and cities, the response to the anti-war message has been very encouraging.

The more visible and active we make our campaign, as the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, the greater will be the pressure on politicians to do what most people in this country want: bring the troops home, particularly when we're just months away from a general election.

We need to ensure that this groundswell of anti-war feeling is translated into the biggest possible demonstration in London on Saturday 24 October. JOIN US -- KPC/CND members will meet at 11.30 am opposite Platform 17 of Waterloo station to travel together to the March.


And after all that you deserve a laugh

David Beckham, George Bush , a doctor and a little boy were on a plane about to crash, but there were only 3 parachutes. David Beckham said "I'm the greatest footballer in the world so I deserve one", so he grabbed one and jumped out. George Bush said "Well I'm the greatest President the world has ever had" so he did the same. The doctor said to the boy, "well, I've had a good long life, so you must take the last one", but the boy said, "no, don't worry there's one each here". So the doctor said, "well how can that be, there were only 3?" And the boy answered " George Bush took my satchel".


Gerrard Winstanley's 400th Anniversary

From George Short

Gerrard Winstanley was born 400 years ago in Lancashire, and last Saturday the Mayor of Elmbridge unveiled a plaque in his memory on a wall of Cobham Parish Church, Surrey. This commemorates his having been churchwarden there from 1667 to 1668, but more importantly it points to his identity as a visionary man of action and leader of the Diggers (or True Levellers) who formed a commune to cultivate land on St. George's Hill 2 months after the execution of Charles 1st, and after 8 years of civil war and severe hardship.

This is an extract from his "Watch-word to the City of London and the Armie," , published in Aug. 1649

"Thou City of London, I am one of thy sons by freedom, and I do truly love thy peace: while I had an estate in thee I was free to offer my Mite into thy publike Treasury Guild-hall for a preservation to thee and the whole land; but by thy cheating sons in the theeving art of buying and selling, and by the burdens of and for the soldiery in the beginning of the war, I was beaten out both of estate and trade and forced to accept of the good will of friends crediting of me, to live a country life. There likewise by the burthen of Taxes and much Free-quarter, my weak back found the burthen heavier than I could bear; yet in all the passages of these eight years troubles I have been willing to lay out what my Talent was to procure England's peace inward and outward, and yet all along I have found such as in words have professed the same cause to be enemies to me. Since when, as I worked quietly many things were revealed to me that I never read in books nor heard from the mouth of any living flesh, and when I began to speak of them, some people could not bear my words, and amongst these revelations this was one - That the earth shall be made a common Treasury of livelihood to whole mankind, without respect of persons; and I had a voice within me bad me declare it all abroad, which I did obey, for I declared it by word of mouth wheresoever I came, and also wrote a book wherein I declared it.; yet my mind was not at rest because nothing was acted, and thoughts run in me, that words and writings were all nothing and must die, for action is the life of all, and if though dost not act those dost nothing. Within a little while I took my spade and went and broke the ground upon St. George Hill in Surrey, thereby declaring freedom to the Creation, and that the earth must be set free from intanglements of Lords and Landlords, and that it shall become a common Treasury to all, as it was first made and given to the sonnes of men"

As many readers will know, there was a commune started by Winstanley and others on St. George's Hill, which gave shelter to many destitute families, and the land was dug up and planted to provide food. However the troops of the English Commonwealth in support of local landowners regularly attacked and burnt the dwellings and destroyed the produce, so the project quickly failed and Winstanley was imprisoned. On the plaque in Cobham church is written Winstanley's words "I have writ, I have acted, I have peace and now I must wait to see the spirit do his own work in the hearts of others". So now it is down to all of us!


Newsletter Editor for this issue was Rosemary Addington.

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.

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