My feet seemed hardly to touch the ground. So much seems to have happened.
Thanks to Maggie Rees and numerous others for their work staffing and organising garage sales and stalls, on at least 8 occasions including the Kingston University Freshers Fair. Our message continues to be heard and our bank balance looks healthy.
Thanks to our army of rotating editors of Kingston Peace News which makes the magazine so lively and interesting and thanks to Charles Wicksteed who looks after our website.
We continued the theme of getting the message across with our twice-monthly stall in Kingston Market Place and special stalls featuring Depleted Uranium, Trident and for Arms Trade Week. We had a special stall again for the International Day of Peace and several members took the message into schools and were well received – they have been asked back!
The general election saw no government elected. An agreement was quickly cobbled together between the Lib/Dems and Conservatives – unkindly known as the Con/Dems. I firmly believe that, judging from the Thatcher and Blair eras, there ought to be better mechanisms to keep governments in check – so maybe a coalition will ultimately prove a better outcome, one day? We had probably the best Hustings ever when a number of local groups, including KPC, got together and opted for questions on war & weapons, climate change & carbon emissions, third world debt, fair trade and overseas aid, justice and human rights, ecology and other green issues. We all vowed to do it again whether or not government lasts its allotted 5 years.
In March, as part of Think in Kingston, Dr David Lowry talked to us about the economics and safety of nuclear power, which governments still persist in pushing as an essential solution to reduce carbon emissions. The conclusions were that published figures for safety, cost and carbon emissions are massaged to enhance nuclear’s image, and the flagship project in Finland is in considerable distress.
Our Hiroshima Day vigil (it didn’t rain this year) was unexpectedly well attended with an estimated 75 – 100 present. The Deputy Mayor joined in the spirit of the event which concluded with little ships, their shimmering lights reflected in the water, gliding gently off in the afterglow of the sunset.
We were very grateful to Len Aldis who came to talk about the residual problems of Vietnam. In vain I tried for hours on Kingston’s streets to interest the general public. The devastating consequences of spraying dioxin, which the US library of Congress estimates may have left 3 – 5 million people suffering incurable illnesses and appalling disabilities, is what I refer to as the greatest genocide in the history of the world.
Concerned that people who live in the towns closest to Aldermaston seem comparatively ignorant of the continuing increases of sinister activity there, we had a mass leafleting campaign by eight of us in Basingstoke and distributed 1000 leaflets to an eager public in 1½ hours.
We joined demonstrations about Gaza, Afghanistan, and at Blair’s two appearances at the Chilcot Enquiry. We joined demonstrations about the failure to close Guantanamo and the continuing detention of Shaker Aamer from Battersea despite having been “cleared for release” in 2007 as a confirmed innocent man engaged in zakat – charity work.
Persistence about Veolia’s involvement in building the colonization of the Occupied Palestinian West Bank, making them unfit to work for local council-tax payers, has resulted in an opportunity to have councillors receive a delegation. Some have joined David Polden and others leafleting about Trident in Parliament Square.
We had a magical series of lunchtime talks in the Kingston Parish Church when we talked about issues like the justice of war and nuclear weapons and our stewardship of the earth we inherited. There was a fascinating exhibition of Nobel Peace Prize Winners too. We all felt that sometimes we should find more time for discussion.
We met Ed Davey and made clear our concern about the Afghan war which seems destined to produce yet more slaughter and little else. We expressed interest in the fact that neither government nor the Ministry of Defence wanted responsibility for funding Trident replacement and the absurdity of ringfencing it when all else was to be cut. We have corresponded with local MPs about the attacks on Gaza convoys, the continuation of UKTI-DSO which bestows disproportionately funding and support for Arms Companies with a foot-fall in the UK, about the regulation of paid mercenaries (contractors) whom nobody appears to want to be responsible for, and about depleted uranium.
A group of seven KPC members and supporters visited their constituency MP, Vincent Cable, to talk about UKTI-DSO and the arms trade since, as Business Secretary, he is responsible for this department. A copy of the Campaign Against Arms Trade report, “Private Gain, Public Pain” was presented for comment, which was promised. The group was interested to know what, if any, changes he might make since the money and effort supporting arms sales is not proportionate to its 1½% of UK exports.
Maggie Rees and a group drawn from the KPC Committee have collaborated on designing a “Peace Competition” for local schools to help get our message out about alternatives to military force as a way of reaching an accommodation with our fellow humans.
Noel Hamel, 9 February 2011
The recent events in North Africa and Bahrain have turned the spotlight onto the UK arms trade.
Supporters of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) have long tried to draw attention to the type of situation which is now being highlighted in Libya. The UK government actively promotes the sale of weapons and equipment to authoritarian regimes and then tells us that such sales are closely monitored and that licences will not be granted for equipment likely to be used for internal repression. Figures obtained by CAAT show that in the third quarter of 2010 (the most recent period for which figures are available) military material worth £4.1 million approved for export to Libya included wall and door breaching projectile launchers, crowd control ammunition, small arms ammunition, and tear gas. To put such equipment in the hands of an unreliable dictator like Gaddafi, well known for his human rights abuses, indicates either extreme naivety or the belief that private profits at home are more important than human rights abroad.
Similar sales were approved in 2010 to Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. And in February, when all the upheaval was at its height, it was sickening and almost unbelievable to see pictures of David Cameron trailing around the region with arms dealers in tow.
Meeting with Vincent Cable
Vince Cable, as Business Secretary, has ultimate responsibility for UK Trade and Investment and for its Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO), the unit whose sole purpose is to promote and support (at taxpayers' expense) arms sales around the world. Many of his constituents have expressed concern over the arms trade on numerous occasions in the past and letters have gone to him from Kingston Peace Council/CND, as a number of our members live in his constituency.
I recently wrote to Dr Cable about the arms trade in the light of the recent events in the Arab world, and on 11th March Mary Holmes and I went to see him in his surgery. I have to say that he was not at his most convincing.
He has in the past always justified the arms trade but assured us that strict controls are in place for monitoring sales, and he himself has been responsible for instituting tighter controls. Taking Libya as an example, Mary suggested that these controls are perhaps merely 'window dressing' - a rather cynical idea, felt Vince Cable. He repeated his view that it's acceptable to sell military equipment to stable countries, and this seemed to include dictatorships which are 'stable' due to extreme repression. He has now asked for a report on all countries we sell arms to and will review our sales policy when he receives it. We asked if arms sales to Saudi Arabia would cease if his report indicated human rights abuses, but he didn't answer that. When we repeated the question before we left, he reminded us of the occasion a few years ago when he refused to attend the official banquet for the visiting King of Saudi Arabia (a stance we warmly congratulated him on at the time) and rather enigmatically said that there are limits beyond which he will not go.
We did not receive an answer when we asked why arms sales are not just approved but are actively promoted. We complained about the disproportionate support military equipment receives compared with all other exports. He pointed out (perhaps with some justification) that because arms sales are carried out at government to government level and require careful controls(!), more staff are needed than with harmless goods. For the same reason, he refused to give any assurances about closing down UKTI DSO, even when it was pointed out that his party had voted in favour of this at the Lib Dem annual conference in 2010.
He had no comment to make on the quotations from Minister for International Security Strategy Gerald Howarth: We are proud to support the biggest defence export drive in decades and from Defence Equipment Minister Peter Luff: There will be a very, very, very heavy ministerial commitment [to arms sales]. There is a sense that in the past we were rather embarrassed about exporting defence products. There is no such embarrassment in this government. We pointed out that there are very many people in this country who are extremely embarrassed about this, including probably, deep down, Vincent Cable himself.
Our final question was whether the fact that we are the second most successful defence exporter in the world with 20% of the market is really something we want to be proud of. Wouldn't an ethical foreign policy and detachment from any financial support for the arms trade give us a far better type of influence in the world? Vince Cable believes that stringent and properly applied controls over arms dealing are one mark of an ethical foreign policy.
Vigil outside Vincent Cable's constituency office
On 18th March constituents and others held a Vigil against the Arms Trade outside Vincent Cable's constituency office, at the time of his weekly surgery. We got great publicity – it was featured by Radio Jackie, the Informer and the Richmond & Twickenham Times.
Those present were able to speak to Vince Cable as he arrived for his surgery. They reminded him that sales of equipment suitable for crowd control were approved in 2010 to Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia, all repressive regimes responsible for human rights abuses. The group argued that the arms trade puts weaponry in the hands of dictators and murderers, legitimising repressive regimes, and making torture commonplace. It is quite clear from recent events in North Africa and the Middle East, all completely predictable, that controls and monitoring systems for the sales authorised in this country are completely ineffective.
The group told Cable that "We are deeply ashamed by the likelihood that innocent pro-democracy protesters in the region have been killed or injured by equipment officially licenced for export from this country." Cable said that sales have now been cancelled to the (unspecified) countries where there is trouble at the moment but protesters noted that he couldn't offer any explanation for why such sales should have been taking place anyway to such dubious regimes, even during his watch.
A new historical era opened three months ago with the popular uprisings in Tunisia and then Egypt, the first of the ‘Arab spring’ season. These rebellions brought hope to millions and youthful energy to societies suffering decades of repression, injustice, inequality, especially gender inequality, and increasing economic hardship. The Libyan revolt was inspired by these largely nonviolent victories, but, as the world has witnessed with dismay, has rapidly become militarized and is now embroiled in a full-scale civil war.
This is the opening paragraph of a statement by the International Peace Bureau. The full statement can be read at www.ipb.org.
By the time you read this the situation may have developed further, but it is very difficult to see how a peaceful outcome may ensue.
For those of you with internet access the following links give further information and arguments:
The Letters Editor,
UN Resolution 1973 authorising a no-fly zone over Libya and other measures short of invasion that may be necessary to prevent massacre of Libyans is very welcome, and as Chris Michaelsen and Donald Rothwell have recently pointed out in Canberra Times, may well help bring in a UN-centred approach to international conflicts in future. But this important potential breakthrough must be carefully handled. This is no time for ‘shock and awe’.
Let the Libyan people see that the world is on their side, let them see their brothers in Egypt going to the polls. Keep military action to the absolute minimum required to stop Gaddafi’s attacks, and wait for his regime to implode.
These fundraising sales will take place on Monday 2 May and Monday 30 May (Bank Holidays), in Lower Ham Road, rear of 289 Richmond Road, Kingston, from 10 a.m. to approx. 4 p.m.
We have also booked stalls at local fairs later in the year and need to make our stalls look appealing in face of lots of competition.
To enable these sales to be a success we need to have GOOD bric-a-brac – unwanted gifts and undamaged goods that will appeal to customers. We also need books IN GOOD CONDITION – we have discovered that customers are much more particular about what they buy these days and only the best will do! Please have a good search and declutter your homes.
Please give Maggie a ring on 020 8549 0086 or email her on Maggie at galdor.co.uk. If necessary, she will collect within the borough of Kingston and if you live further away we’ll see what we can arrange. If you are able to help for the morning or afternoon or only for just an hour at one or both of the sales, Maggie would be pleased to hear from you.
Professor Mary Kaldor gave an audience of KPC supporters and a couple of dozen Kingston University students an insight into her concept of ‘human security’ which has set out to redefine the notion of how force should and should not be used in pursuit of political and humanitarian ends.
Taking as her text the book The Ultimate Weapon is No Weapon, which she co-authored with a US Army officer (who we learned has since had his military career blighted for his pains) Prof. Kaldor set out the so-called ‘security gap’ between what military forces were configured to do as distinct from what they could achieve.
Nowadays, she argued, our security defences were inappropriate, tailored to a Cold War mentality years after the Cold War had ceased. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall Prof. Kaldor had become a founding member of the Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly with the aim of creating a pan-European civil society and establishing a radical new concept for ensuring human security. Not long after, in the early 1990s, the Bosnian war erupted and she became convinced that when genocide was being threatened then force should be used to prevent it. But then, she argued, NATO’s campaign of bombing the Serbs had gone too far.
Fast forwarding to the presidency of George W Bush she convened a meeting that included academics, senior military personnel and lawyers to develop ideas that would counter the new US doctrine of pre-emptive defence. In its place should be a concern for human, rather than national, security. The doctrine of ‘human security’, as it was dubbed, had three principal tenets.
Firstly, it should uphold the security of the individual and their communities rather than of states and borders; secondly there should be security for people faced with violent situations that would also take account of poverty, homelessness, disease and environmental disasters. Thirdly, and most importantly, there was a need to shift governments and politicians from what she called ‘a war paradigm’ to a ‘law paradigm’ so as to uphold the rule of law. This challenged the traditional thought pattern that said law and policing is what we do at home, war is what we do abroad.
What was needed was a new set of security capabilities with military services looked at in terms of global emergency services. If this viewpoint was followed through then Afghans would be treated as though they were insurgents in Belfast during the Troubles. i.e. they were part of the UK and should be treated accordingly. ‘After all,’ she said, ‘we didn’t use the RAF to bomb Belfast.’
In the US the troop surge, orchestrated by General David Petraeus, heralded a change in thinking which he referred to as ‘population security’ but the emphasis was still on counter-insurgency i.e. defeating an enemy which still gave the indigenous population the feeling that one was not there primarily to help them. In Afghanistan, the concept of the war on terror was still predominant with Kabul reduced to a collection of fortress-like Green Zones where foreign forces and diplomats were shut away.
Were a ‘human security’ policy imposed on Afghanistan this would see an end to the military campaigns and a stop to warlordism where so much of the aid money funnelled into the country went to line the pockets of the warlords while ordinary people continued to suffer.
There were obviously objections to the notion of ‘human security’, said Prof. Kaldor, according to which side of the political spectrum the criticisms came from, it was either derided as naïve and too soft or still too militaristic and a cover for imperialism.
On the question of Libya it was, she said, fundamentally important to ask the rebels what sort of assistance, if any, they wanted. Any sort of Western military intervention was, she felt, out of the question and she asked, instead, what the Arab League or the African Union could do. The possibility of safe havens, as had been seen in the Balkan conflict, should be considered.
Following her talk there were questions from the floor and a lively discussion for the remainder of the session. Those who spoke voiced a range of concerns, including whether the use of military force, under whatever doctrine, was ever justified.
Our thanks go to Kingston University for letting us use the C-SCAIPE room and to Professor Philip Spencer for chairing the meeting.
Professor Kaldor donated two copies of her book The Ultimate Weapon is No Weapon to KPC/CND. If you would like to borrow a copy, please ’phone Gill on 020 8979 2482.
We citizens know that the existence of arsenals of nuclear weapons threatens the survival of our species. We also know that our government is prepared to overlook that possible consequence in order to pursue its own agenda – the perceived status these Armageddon machines give it. In addition we know that warnings of impending disaster fail to influence members of our, and other governments. Thus, in spite of warnings, they waited till disaster struck in the financial sector. Even after the disaster nothing has been done either here or in the US to ensure that the same will not happen again. They have waited until disaster struck again in the nuclear power industry. And again they are already softening up the public to continue as usual post-disaster with building these lethal plants, by telling us that they are setting up a meeting to ensure the safety of future construction.
We must never underestimate the state of denial in government when considering such matters and the pursuit of its own agenda.. So how do we put pressure on government to rid us of the curse of nuclear arsenals? Although they may be insensitive to the dangers to citizens, democratic governments tend to be sensitive to accusations of illegal or criminal behaviour. The laws of war and of human rights prohibit the use of weapons which cannot discriminate between civilians and combatants. Thus the use of nuclear weapons would be a war crime.
The ‘Affirmation’ movement calls on citizens to instruct their government to behave accordingly. A copy of the ‘Affirmation’ is enclosed in this newsletter. Please sign it and submit it to the address on the form. (If no form is enclosed, please ’phone Gill on 020 8979 2482). Alternatively the Affirmation can be signed on-line at http://inlapwcp.webplus.net/.
Jim McCluskey, 19.3.11
When in 2008 CND celebrated its 50th anniversary, a frequently asked question was why, given the use of the atomic bomb in 1945, was there such a long delay before CND was launched? In fact the 10 years prior to 1958 saw quite intensive ban-the-bomb campaigning but for various reasons seldom remembered these days. For one reason the initiative to launch an international campaign started with the French. Various people who had been prominent in the French resistance during the occupation, notably Yves Farge, d'Astier de la Vigerie and others, decided that on the basis of their war experiences it was important to take steps to ensure that henceforth Europe could be kept safe from war and in particular nuclear war.
Initially they envisaged a purely French organisation but were soon persuaded that for their aims to have any chance of success, an international body was called for. The first step was a gathering of intellectuals in Wroclaw (Poland) held in August 1948. Paul Robeson was one of those present along with Pablo Picasso, P Neruda, and numerous other internationally known celebrities. They decided to go for a much bigger event involving all social classes and every part of the world. This was the founding congress of the World Peace Council, launched in Paris in 1949 with Picasso's dove as its emblem. The French nuclear scientist, Frederic Joliot-Curie was elected President. It was thought appropriate for a scientist to have the leading position because they understood just how horrific the effects of nuclear weapons could be, while most other people were only vaguely aware.
From the start there were major problems. Influenced by the government the media adopted a hostile attitude. Many delegates were denied visas. Paul Robeson in particular was the victim of a vicious campaign of threats and abuse when he returned home to the US. Nonetheless within 6 months 72 countries set up national bodies. They came into existence just at the right time because in January 1950 the US President announced his decision to go ahead with the production of the Hydrogen bomb. Albert Einstein was one of several scientists who opposed this decision but the voices of reason were ignored. The response of the newly established World Peace Council was to meet in Stockholm and launch the Stockholm Appeal, calling on all countries concerned to agree a universal ban on nuclear weapons. Throughout the world peace activists started collecting signatures; this was especially successful in France where 12 million signatures were recorded but British achievement was also commendable: notwithstanding strong opposition from the media, and the Labour Party, 750,000 signatures were gathered. In those years the British Peace Committee was the foremost campaigning body in the anti-war movement, enjoying good links with various trade unions. Local peace councils came into existence in most large towns and some continue to the present day, Kingston Peace Council/CND being an outstanding example. In the years following the Stockholm Appeal, there were other international campaigns. German rearmament was a major issue. The conviction of the peace movement was that peace in Europe would be best guaranteed if defeated Germany remained demilitarised. There was a real hope that the Labour Party would endorse this policy but cold war attitudes won the day, while CND, in those days, preferred to emphasise unilateral disarmament by Britain. Later on the Polaris base was established in Scotland and on this issue the British Peace Committee campaigned along with CND to mobilise opinion. People travelled up from London to go down the Clyde on a chartered boat. The last chapter of the work of the British Peace Committee was Vietnam. The BPC campaigned tirelessly for an end to the war. Eventually CND decided to get involved, meaning that there was no further need for the BPC which disappeared into history.
On Saturday 23rd April, from 12noon, there will be a demonstration opposing nuclear power at the entrance to the existing Sizewell nuclear power station, Suffolk. Like the reactors at Fukushima in Japan, Sizewell is right next to the sea and indeed in an area that has been subject to flooding in the past and is geologically sinking. Yet a new nuclear power station is being planned at Sizewell consisting of two reactors. There are also plans for storing on site for a period of about 100 years the “spent” highly radioactive fuel rods when removed from these reactors.
London Region CND is running a coach to this demonstration, leaving from outside the CND Office, 162 Holloway Road, N7 (Near Holloway Road tube) at 8.45pm on 23rd April and leaving Sizewell at 3pm, to get back to London about 6pm. Tickets are £20 waged and £10 unwaged. Send your name & address and a cheque made out to “LRCND” to London Region CND, 162 Holloway Road N7 8DQ and you will be sent your ticket/tickets.
From Friday 22nd to Monday 25th April (Easter weekend) there will be a camp at Sizewell, marking the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. As well as the demonstration, the weekend includes a public meeting, workshops, skill shares and camping on the beach. There are also B+Bs in the area for those who prefer not to camp (list available). For details, see: http://sizewellcamp.org.uk/.
Newsletter Editor for this issue was Gill Hurle.
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.