Kingston Peace News - May 2010

Just War

Jim McCluskey has written an article A Just War? in which he looks at the main tenets of Just War Theory as they relate to our wars in the Middle East and then asks if a war can be just that deploys the weapons of our modern arsenals.

Flame of Hope

On Saturday 10th April, members of Kingston Peace Council/CND took part in an initiative to raise awareness of the crucial Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to be held in New York from 3rd to 28th May.

The South Coast ‘Flame of Hope’ was carried in a relay from Dover to Portsmouth between 2nd and 11th April, and will be taken to New York to join the ‘Nuclear Abolition Flame’ which was inspired by, and became part of the World March for Peace and Non-violence, the first march to circle the earth calling for the end of war and nuclear weapons. The Abolition Flame was lit from the flame which stands in the Hiroshima Peace Park, and was carried from Hiroshima on the World March which ended in Argentina on 2nd January 2010.

The Kingston walkers joined members of other peace groups on the section of the South Coast relay from Littlehampton, ending at the Siddlesham Nature Reserve, near Chichester. Lucky with the weather, we only hope the result of the conference will be as good!

Gill, Monica, Roger and Rosemary

More information on the Flame of Hope and the NPT can be found on:

CCND Embassies Walk

(Continued from last month)

At the Mexican Embassy, Mr Abarca was expecting the group but unfortunately had another meeting to attend.  Before he left, he introduced us to Susana Garduno who worked under him on Multilateral Affairs.  She was a very well-informed woman who was fully acquainted with her country’s role as a member of the New Agenda Coalition.  Michael Pullen explained who CCND were.  Ms Garduno stated that as a member of NAC, Mexico was working towards global nuclear disarmament and that the Minister was very pro-disarmament.  Mexico works well in putting forward good arguments to encourage disarmament.  She said that we must focus on the fact that Obama doesn’t speak for the whole of the USA and that Congress is a different matter. The development of security in the US has not encouraged faith in its sincerity concerning non-proliferation.  No governments in Mexico have been concerned in acquiring nuclear weapons and ambassadors have stood up to nuclear weapon holding countries.

The International Atomic Inspection Agency is difficult to convince.  Mexico is fully committed to its role in the NAC and will always send its best consultants.

Michael asked that as a member of NAC, has Japan been approached by Mexico? Ms Garduno replied that it probably had been and that Japan is very much adhering to its own agenda; possibly having their own army is still on the cards. She offered to supply CCND with any leaflets in English which would provide further information on Mexico’s position and involvement.

Michael said that a visit had been arranged for the following day at the Chinese Embassy to which she replied “That will be difficult”. Michael stated that they do have a “no first use policy” and would be encouraged to publicise this.  Did Ms Garduno have a view of Obama’s “smart security”?  She replied that the US could be very ambivalent.  Obama is a much publicised figure.  Bill Clinton was the president who had done the most for nuclear disarmament.  He made it possible to sign the current treaty and ratify it.  Previous treaties were pieces of paper only.  She wondered whether Obama would be able to persuade Congress to take on his reforms including NPT.  She seemed to doubt very much that he would!

Ms Garduno recommended a book entitled “Eliminating Nuclear Threats – A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers” which was a report of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament drawn up by Gareth Evens and Yoriko Kawaguchi who are co-chairs of this commission.

A short discussion on other South American countries informed us that Venezuela has been working with and cooperating in training exercises on submarines with Russia.  These submarines could carry nuclear weapons.

The meeting ended and Ms Garduno was thanked for her time and hospitality.

All who join in these embassy visits feel that they are very worthwhile and give information and an insight into the agendas of other countries.  The replies to questions are of necessity very guarded, but nevertheless very interesting.    

Margaret Rees

How can I get involved?

“We want to live in a world without war where no soldiers are needed to protect us.”
(Sejersgaardsskolen, middle school Tollose, Denmark,
for the United Nations Peace Poem Project, 1997)

This may be the shortest section I have ever written on how to get involved but we find ourselves in a time of immense importance and we all have a part to play. For the first time in my voting life, I feel that my vote can really make a difference. Don’t get me wrong – it was always important and it always counted but it wouldn’t necessarily have affected how our country was governed.

This month, we each have the opportunity to have our say, to stand up and be counted, and to know that it matters. I urge you to get involved and take up what so many people have fought and died for over the centuries – your right to vote. It is that serious. We are a democracy and we will not be overruled by those we raise to power.

The word ‘soldier’ in the quote above could easily be replaced by ‘nuclear weapons.’ We don’t want to live in a world where weapons that can destroy millions of lives are regarded as defence for our protection. We don’t want to live in a world where it’s okay for us to condemn the nuclear weapons of ‘threatening’ or ‘instable’ countries without considering that our weapons might be the threat that causes them to want their own!

When you plan your vote, I urge you to consider each party’s position on nuclear weapons. They are undeniably part of our past – let us keep it that way!

Radical booksellers take on Amazon

Fifty years ago, in the aftermath of World War Two, a group of pacifists opened Housmans radical bookshop. Ever since, Housmans has worked hard to continue its mission of promoting ideas of peace, human rights and a more equitable economy by which future wars, and all their inherent suffering, might be avoided.

At a time when independent bookshops are closing down left, right and centre, Housmans is having to fight to hold its corner. The biggest threat to independent bookshops has been the rise, and subsequent domination, of the online bookseller Amazon, which has achieved an unrivalled supremacy over the marketplace, but this near-monopoly wasn’t achieved without unethical practices.

In 2001 the Guardian first reported on the poor working conditions in Amazon's warehouses, and nothing much has changed since. In December 2008, a Sunday Times reporter went undercover to their Marston Gate warehouse near Milton Keynes and discovered that staff were required to work seven days a week and were punished for taking sick leave, even if they had a note from their doctor. According to Unite the Union, Amazon continues to see trade union representation as illegitimate.

Publishers are also squeezed for every penny, as Amazon forces them to supply them at rates so low that it leaves authors and publishers out of pocket – particularly damaging smaller publishing houses. Amazon’s dominance of the market means that publishers have little choice but to comply with their demands.

However, Housmans, in conjunction with Gardners Books, has just launched its own online bookshop to rival Amazon. Although still prioritising their stock of radical interest and progressive politics, the site is also able to provide around half a million general titles.

“Many of our most politically conscious colleagues use Amazon, and when asked why, it’s because they know of no alternative…I think it’s essential that we are able to provide an alternative to help dent Amazon’s monopoly,” explains co-manager Nik Gorecki.

“This year Housmans celebrates fifty years of trading from our Caledonian Road address, but in order for us to be here another fifty years we have to stand up for ourselves, and trust in ethically-minded book-buyers to support independents. The staff at Housmans has fought many battles over the years for causes we believe in, and this is one battle we can’t afford to lose. Please support the shop that supports your campaigns!”

The wisdom of children – why can’t we learn?

“Why have a war – it’s all happened before.”
(Lornshill Academy, Clackmannanshire, Scotland)

“And we dream to make not just a world…but a just world.”
(Integrated School, Bacolod City, Philippines)

“We don’t like it that our fathers must be soldiers and shoot other children’s fathers.”
(Engbrottsskolan, Ctvidaberg, Sweden,)

Quotes taken from the UN Peace Poem Project, 1997

Newsletter Editor for this issue was Fiona Brown.

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.