Following Lance Corporal Joe Glenton's nine months jail sentence for refusing to fight in Afghanistan, his mother Sue Glenton said:
"I am extremely angry. The court barely paid lip service to justice. The judge clearly didn't listen to the arguments or if she did she ignored them. The lawyers are considering an appeal. The Ministry of Defence will be hearing a lot more from me."
Please send messages of support to Joe Glenton by email and letter.
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Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, Military Corrective Training Centre, Berechurch Hall Camp, Colchester, CO2 9NU.
At 10 a.m. on Monday 1 March a short but meaningful service was held in the Dick Sheppard Chapel in St Martin-in-the-Fields. It was attended by about 20 people who were meeting to begin the Embassies Walk organised extremely well by Christian CND. A briefing was held after the service and participants were asked to restrict questions and comments to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons as this walk precedes the visit of some members of CCND to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee Meeting at the end of April in New York. Many NGOs and concerned citizens attend these meetings to observe and report.
More people joined those present before dividing into three groups who would follow different routes to visit fifteen embassies and high commissions throughout the day. At six of these appointments had been set up with named representatives at prearranged times. The embassies to be visited were those of states which are party to the NPT, those who are non-signatories of the NPT and members of the New Agenda Coalition (an alignment of non-nuclear weapons states).
Each group leader was given suggested questions suited to the country being visited. For all Embassies and High commissions a letter had been prepared asking questions on the countries’ policies.
Group 3, led by Michael Pullen co-chair of CCND, first handed in a letter to the South African High Commission. No one was available to speak with us on this day, but a meeting had been arranged for 12 March. The Indian High Commission also received a letter - the gentleman who spoke to us at the door did not give us his status, but said that India supported disarmament and doesn’t advocate nuclear war. He also said that he couldn’t answer for the policy makers, but assured us that all questions in the letter would be answered and that it would reach the High Commissioner.
The visit to the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt was very short as they were only willing to receive the letter.
The visit to the Embassy of the United States of America was quite different. After security checks which took about twenty five minutes – mainly due to the fact that two members of the group (KPC members!) had not given their names in advance – the group was met by an escort and by Christopher Palmer (First Secretary, Political) who led us to the Benjamin Franklin Room where we were offered alcoholic and soft drinks. Michael Pullen thanked him for his warm welcome and asked him “As a signatory of the NPT you are committed as a country “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date”, how does your country intend to show it is positively moving forward towards the goals of this commitment at this NPT Preparatory Committee?” Mr Palmer asked how candid he should be, would his remarks reach the media? He was told that reports of this visit would be printed in “Ploughshare” the magazine of CCND so it was agreed that the notes taken by Chris. Wood, sponsored by Quaker Peace and Service to work for CCND/CND, would be viewed by Mr Palmer before being put in print.
Mr Palmer explained that he was a career diplomat and that it was his job to reflect the views of the present government. He stated that he was very pleased with Obama and mentioned his Prague speech; that the security summit in April represented progress and Obama clearly wants to see the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as a priority but he has to get Senate approval for this. The fissile material cut off arrangements were also a priority of the US administration. Obama was working with the Russians on renewing the START treaty and was committed to arms control in general. The US government is pleased with what has been happening in Britain under Gordon Brown and British leadership on multilateral disarmament. Obama does not believe in unilateral disarmament.
A member of the group, John Methuen (former Dean of Ripon Cathedral), commented that world arsenals have capacity to destroy the world three times over. To what extent do these reductions affect the situation? What real difference did Mr Palmer believe these reduction talks would make? A reduction by half was hoped for replied Mr Palmer. The rest of the world is looking at US and Russia to see if they can reduce. Several times Mr Palmer emphasised that the vast majority of nuclear weapons were owned by the USA or Russia so this was where the focus had to be for nuclear reduction. Reduction is one aspect, non-proliferation is the other.
Michael Pullen asked, “What progress of this kind has your country made over the past year?” Mr Palmer said that he would not give details, but Obama has reinvigorated the debate. Mr Pullen said that the third pillar of the NPT - access to nuclear power - was also important. Mr Palmer added that the present approach to Iran has been significant and that the US has been working with the UN. The real risk does not come from the Nuclear Weapons States, but from others. “We have nuclear weapons, but we also have incredible security.”
He continued by saying that terrorism is nothing new. The US has worked on global initiatives and on the Proliferation Security Initiative.
Michael Pullen commented that Obama has offered “smart security”. The response was that there was a need to work with all. Because countries don’t have the same view or same goals it does not mean that we can’t communicate with them – no more “You’re with us or against us”.
John Methuen asked what sort of pressure can US bring to bear on countries like Iran. Immediately Mr Palmer replied “Dialogue”. He then expanded this point by saying that it was preferable to pressure. There were strong nationalist elements to be considered. There were long term reservations about nuclear power, but each country has a right to provide energy for peaceful means. What is keeping the genie in the bottle at present is inertia.
Michael said that UK churches have been speaking up against nuclear weapons. What would the US do to support if our government decided to renew Trident? Mr Palmer replied that the UK was the US’s most important ally “I won’t comment on renewing Trident”. He added that UK’s weapons on four Trident submarines are an insignificant number.
M.P. UK is dependent on US for development and supplies for Trident.
J.M. The UK doesn’t really have an independent nuclear deterrent.
Mr Palmer did not really agree with this and said that the UK has done an outstanding job of reducing its warheads – see “Lifting the Nuclear Shadow”. Governments have a right to defend themselves using a nuclear arsenal. Britain is a responsible country.
A few minutes discussion on the UK using American positioning maps was followed by Mr Palmer commenting on NATO’s strategic decision and that NATO would take care of the defence of Europe.
Michael Pullen then became aware of the need to move on to the Mexican Embassy and to the meeting with Mr Abarca.
Mr Palmer and escort were thanked for their time and courtesy.
From Maggie Rees. Report to be concluded in the next KPC/CND newsletter.
At the KPC/CND March Meeting Rosemary reported on a meeting about this at the House of Commons on Tuesday 2nd March . Once again, protestors at this demo were corralled and allowed to leave only if they left their names and addresses with the police. Some were subsequently arrested in dawn raids. 119 people were arrested and charged with violent disorder. 22 were given prison sentences, some for 15 months. One defendant was given an 18 month sentence for throwing a plastic water bottle. Some had their passports taken away. The judge said he was giving ‘deterrent sentences’ to discourage participation in demos – in other words discouraging people from exercising their civil rights. It seems that 33 complaints have been made against the police but not one has so far been investigated. Imran Khan the barrister is pursuing the matter and also the invalid instructions which have been given to some who have been sentenced – that they have only two days in which to appeal against the sentences.
(Joanne Gilmour from the University of Manchester has done a comprehensive report – I was enormously impressed by her hard work and professionalism. I was also encouraged to read an accurate double-page report of this in The Guardian on 13th March. You can read more at http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2010/mar/13/gaza-protesters-sent-prison – Rosemary)
Action we can take: complain to the DPP; and to your own MP.
This all seems very vindictive and is likely to be counterproductive in turning people against the police (especially after defendants were actually quite co-operative in providing the police with their names and addresses in the first place). Also read more about this at www.nomoreisolation.wordpress.com and sign up to PSC's email alerts for the latest information.
Report by Hilary Evans.
An interim report - by Rosemary Addington. (It is hoped a more comprehensive report will appear in May KPC/CND newsletter.)
Dr. David Lowry is an independent environmental policy and research consultant specialising in nuclear policy. He came to the meeting at Kingston University armed with a mountain of reports and papers from a very wide spectrum of government and scientific personnel, and started his talk in a somewhat unconventional manner, picking out numerous comments from these all of which stated that nuclear is essential in the combating of climate change as it is carbon neutral at the point of generation of electricity.
He then proceeded to overturn these arguments because it is far from carbon neutral if one takes into account the many other issues, such as building the power stations in the first place, dealing with the waste, and the big issue which he made the main focus of his talk, the necessity of mining uranium. This takes place in countries which often do not have stringent protection measures for the miners, the deposits are often in regions whose ‘ownership’ is disputed by tribal groups (Australia for example) Also as more and more countries come to rely on nuclear power the price of uranium is likely to rise, as less readily available deposits will need to be accessed. The enrichment process is also hugely energy-consuming, and involves transportation over long distances – another source of carbon emissions.
The people who devised the medieval torture that is Guantanamo are basking in the warm uplands of retirement. It was the notorious George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Chenney who initiated the 21st century caging and torturing of human beings in true medieval style. But the real wimps and men of straw now reside in Washington, Whitehall and Westminster. It is their inaction that allows the atrocities to be perpetuated as they watch the runaway savagery continue down its not-inevitable path whilst they argue arcane detail, attempt concealment of past misdeeds, and pass the buck.
Shaker Aamer and his family were doing zakat (charitable work, a requirement for devout Muslims) in Afghanistan in 2001 with Moazzam Begg and his family. The Americans rounded up the men and abducted them to the medieval torture chambers of Guantanamo, without knowledge of innocence or guilt, like wacky superstitious 21st century witch hunters.
Shaker is still caged after eight years because he refuses to be silenced despite being regularly beaten by dedicated teams of paid thugs on stand-by to be dispatched to sort out ‘trouble-makers’ and those not cooperating in their own abuse; as they cower like frightened animals in their cages. But more than that, Shaker speaks up for others and protests at the injustice, the inhumanity and degradation of the entire medieval system. He’s an intelligent and very brave man who certainly knows this doesn’t help his own cause and bid for freedom and yet he refuses to surrender to the cruelty and inhumanity of Bush, Rumsfeld and Chenney, and the wimps who see injustice and look away. Scared of Shaker and the truth, the wimps, thugs and hirelings have attempted to dispatch him to Saudi Arabia where authorities operate a hermetically sealed system to stop knowledge escaping. On one occasion resistance cost him such a beating that his lawyer was turned away lest knowledge of the bruising got out.
Meanwhile back in Battersea his family patiently await news after over eight years. David Miliband claims to have been trying to get him back since 2007 but is coy about explaining what exactly he has been doing. Meanwhile activity in the Courts has been frenetic as David tries to avoid release of embarrassing revelations of torture and possible British involvement. Friends and family asked to meet David Miliband as a delegation to hear his explanations. Nine months later, at very short notice, a deputy was wheeled out to meet us - and at the last moment decided only to meet family and lawyers. No news of Shaker’s release. No news of better prospects or of his detention conditions. No reason why his wife Zin hasn’t had a letter for more than 2½ years, and when asked if he could be treated humanely the answer was, “we will consider your request and get back to you.”
How many of us after eight years of brutality and beating would have the backbone and determination not to succumb to the lawlessness and brutality of perverted authority? Shaker has and he continues to deny his tormentors the satisfaction of breaking him. Now who do you think is the real hero? It is easy for us to complain about injustice in the knowledge it costs us nothing. Much more difficult for Shaker.
Don’t you be frightened to let the Foreign Office know what you think: Standing up against injustice serves everyone’s needs and a few letters and emails is a small price.
David Miliband: firstname.lastname@example.org
More info at: http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/brighton_against_guantanamo/
Noel Hamel, Chair, Kingston Peace Council/CND
Phone: 020 8395 2656
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Gandhi observed that in the end public pressure was always effective in removing dictators. ‘There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it, always.’ It is something of a paradox that our democracy, a superior form of government, is sometimes more resistant to improvements than tyranny. Democracy was meant to provide an alternative to kings, an enhanced form of decision-making, after open discussion by those we elected to be our representatives. But today’s democracies do not operate in this way. As we have seen, the war in Vietnam was conducted by the administrations of five successive US presidencies. Bypassing Congress, disastrous decisions were made behind the closed doors of the Executive, and presented, suitably wrapped, to the American public. Ominously, the deficit in democracy went largely unnoticed. Have lessons been learnt?
Unfortunately not. Thirty years later an American president responded to a terrorist strike in New York by declaring war on an entire country, even though that country had offered to give up the terrorists sheltering therein: an appalling decision that he was empowered to make. In an emergency, democracy was not considered a safe means of decision-making, and suddenly the nation needed a ‘commander-in-chief’. Again, as with Vietnam, inappropriate military means were chosen. Shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq was also invaded. Another Executive decision, in spite of much warning, and this time in the face of much public opposition. Today it is clear that the decision to go to war in Iraq was hatched on a Texas ranch by US president Bush and UK prime minister Blair, and then presented to their respective parliaments in such a way that it seemed an anti-war vote would put one’s country at risk (the UK’s parliament was told that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction that could be launched ‘within 45 minutes’). Two more costly, bloody Executive wars, still unresolved today, and matching Vietnam in dire consequences. Today President Obama had to decide whether to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, or to make a phased withdrawal. He seems to have fallen between the two stools. It is unquestioned that it is his decision. Why is there no faith in the transparent decision-making that would be characteristic of a proper democracy, where in theory the prime minister is merely primus inter pares, the first amongst equals?
A pessimistic view is that democracy is too good a system for us. It does not cater sufficiently for our desire for charismatic, decisive leaders. We demand, and will only elect, leaders of the most dangerous kind, and in an emergency hand over power to them just as if they were dictators, albeit elected ones. Perhaps we accept without questioning this flaw in our democracy because it suits our inner need for a strong leader for the clan. Here in Britain, the leader possesses all the powers of the royal prerogative, the powers once wielded by ancient kings to appoint ministers, make treaties, and decide on their country’s foreign policy. In the US, the president has at least equal power.
It is tempting to blame leaders when they make bad, costly mistakes, but this is unfair. Their job could only be done by superman himself, and in real life there are no supermen. Those in fact to blame are we, the people. Perversely, given a system of government capable of magnificent results, capable of ensuring that for the first time in history war might be finally abolished, we reject democracy and choose superman. We seem to enjoy the position of underlings. Today there is some pressure for change, to give back power to parliament from the Prime Minister and his appointed Executive, but there is not as much desire for change as you would expect from a people who really believe in democracy, and perhaps the proposed reforms will come to nothing, despite the tragedies inflicted upon us from our elected dictators.
This concludes the potted history of the Vietnam war. The monthly installments have been made into a single document, which may be downloaded from our website (web page or Microsoft Word for printing).
The UK costs of the war are spiralling: the current estimate for 2009/2010 is £3.7 billion, up from £2.5 billion last year.
Two thirds of the British public believe the war is unwinnable and all the troops should be brought home by Christmas.
And yet, despite the imminent general election, as Seumas Milne (Guardian Journalist) has recently pointed out, "the political class seems determined to cling to Nato and its patron, rather than represent the now settled will of the voters". And it does so supported by much of the media.
Please write to your own candidates when known to make your views clear. You can get ideas for questions and tactics from the CND website: www.cnduk.org/election
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.