This year’s CND conference, held at Bradford University, started with an opportunity to consider the focus of campaigning work over the previous year. The work to ‘Scrap Trident’ had generated a lot of publicity with the economic issues being brought to the fore and CND had had a presence at the anti cuts demonstration that was held in March. One Union, PCS, had also produced their own anti Trident placards. There had been work at party conferences with fringe meetings held to shift thinking on Trident and the defence review and in addition at the time of the Labour conference in Liverpool there had been adverts about these issues on the sides of buses. An anonymous donor has paid for a member of staff one day a week to strengthen links with trades unions, to work at conferences and to produce briefings and they had been so pleased with the results that funding has been renewed for a further year. CND had also continued to work for the global abolition of nuclear weapons alongside ICAN and had produced a new leaflet and briefing on the missile ‘offence’ programme.
At the NATO summit at the end of 2010 a global strategy for expansion had been produced and CND is now part of an international group that campaigns against the organisation. It has been a significant year for the campaign against nuclear power in the context of the tragedy in Fukushima. A number of other countries have revised their plans or cancelled their programmes but there is disappointment that the British government haven’t followed suit. CND worked with MEDACT to organise a parliamentary meeting and produce a briefing on the anniversary of Chernobyl. There has been continued work with the Stop the War Coalition against the continued action in Afghanistan and the bombing of Libya and CND continues to use Facebook and Twitter. Finally there were stalls at festivals with activities for adults and children.
Resolutions were then debated. Some of the key points were a desire to step up campaigning against Trident with costs and security arguments being brought to the fore, to work with the Scottish Parliament to call on the UK government to remove Trident and to mount a legal challenge to their basing of weapons on Scottish soil and to campaign amongst trades unions members on the issue. There was an additional resolution to support actions opposed to nuclear power, to counter industry propaganda including misleading economic and environmental assumptions and to exert pressure for alternative strategies to combat climate change. There were a number of resolutions about specific areas around the world - missile defence in East Asia with the construction of a naval base on Jeju island in the face of local opposition, a resolution to urge India and Pakistan to pull back from further building up nuclear arsenals and a call to countries in the Middle East not to develop nuclear weapons. The most hotly debated resolution was on the subject of CND campaigning, with some members concerned that the wide range of issues that are now being covered diluted the central message and narrowed membership as a result. This was defeated as it was felt that it was not possible to move towards a position of concentrating purely on disarmament and that the issue of nuclear weapons came into many other areas of CND’s work, such as the policy on NATO or concerns about peace in the Middle East.
The location of the conference provided an opportunity to tour the outside of Menwith Hill. For many years Yorkshire CND has monitored and campaigned outside the base, providing valuable information for the work against the missile ‘offence’ system, of which the base together with Fylingdales located nearer to the coast, forms a part. This scheme has unfortunately gone forward under every President. Menwith Hill is believed to be the largest electronic monitoring station outside of the US. It forms part of a network of bases forming a shield that would enable the US to launch a first nuclear strike, which is exacerbating tensions with both Russia and China (despite unconvincing protestations that the scheme is not directed against them) and raises the spectre of a new arms race. In addition it operates as a spy base, with information that has been gathered controlled by the US National Security Agency.
The golfball radomes of the base are located nine miles west of Harrogate in beautiful countryside and are part of an international interlinked system of missile sites, interceptor stations and link sites. The whole scheme is over budget and over schedule and there are severe doubts that it could ever work – in recent tests it proved impossible to shoot down a missile despite knowledge of its trajectory and the inclusion of a homing tracker. Despite this huge sums of money continue to be spent.
Yorkshire CND has produced materials on the base including a walkers guide that allows people to understand the key features inside of the fencing. We were able to get the live guided version of part of this tour from those who campaign locally against the base and it was extremely interesting to listen to their experiences, including the shifting nature of local bye-laws as loopholes in the law are exposed by campaigners. We were met by the RAF commander, who received a letter from CND expressing our opposition to the missile ‘offence’ programme, and having walked around part of the base we made our way to a viewpoint where much of the site could be seen. I’m certainly hoping to return at another time to walk the rest of the circuit of both Menwith Hill and Fylingdales to understand more about these bases and the role they play.
‘Please let the governments realise that education is more important than weapons and war,’ is part of a prayer written by a group in one of the primary schools we visited to give a Peace Day assembly. Certainly a wish that many of us at Kingston Peace Council might echo.
This year members of KPC did assemblies in eight primary schools and one secondary school to mark the UN International Day of Peace. This provided a wonderful opportunity to talk to local schoolchildren about peace. Jeremy Gilley, the man whose hard work and dedication persuaded the United Nations to make 21 September a day of peace every year, has local connections. His first office was in his mother’s spare bedroom in Richmond and now his organisation, Peace One Day, has moved into rather larger offices also in Richmond.
Children listened with rapt attention as Maggie told the moving story of Sadako, a girl from Hiroshima, and the origami cranes she and her friends created, while older students watched an excellent DVD featuring iconic peacemakers and their words, made by Hilary.
We have already got some bookings for Peace Day in 2012. We will be writing to schools in Kingston and Richmond in the spring. If you have connections with a local school please remind them about the peace assemblies and ask teachers to get in touch.
Maggie Rees, Hilary Evans & Mary Holmes
As Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, local MP Vince Cable is responsible for the UK Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI-DSO), the government agency that promotes arms exports. He is also responsible for signing weapons export licences.
During the third quarter of 2010 military material worth £4.1 million was approved for export to Libya. This included wall and door breaching projectile launchers, crowd control ammunition, small arms ammunition, and tear gas. The UKTI-DSO has continued vigorously promoting weapons to several repressive regimes including Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The Bahrain Government has been responsible for killing and injuring democracy protestors using British weapons, according to the Guardian.
The Arab Spring has highlighted the UK’s role as arms supplier to authoritarian rulers in the region. Members of KPC and others concerned about the arms trade are getting together to promote awareness of the UK’s role and to lobby local MPs Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Zac Goldsmith. A petition will be organised calling on Vince Cable to cease all arms sales to Bahrain and other repressive Governments. Campaigners aim to arrange a public meeting to present the petition and question the MPs.
Anyone interested in joining the group or supporting our actions should contact:
Paul Tippell, 41 Dysart Avenue, Kingston upon Thames, KT2 5QZ
phone: 07970 868508 or 02085469955
email: firstname.lastname at caobjects.com (address obfuscated to avoid spam, use your intelligence)
Jim McCluskey wrote in September to his MP, Vince Cable, asking whether he “considers it is appropriate to be encouraging arms sales to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia when Bahrain has been responsible for killing and injuring democracy protestors”. He also asked whether Dr. Cable is “working towards the closure of UKTI – DSO” since many of his constituents “do not wish their taxes to be financing the stocking of the armouries of repressive dictators as has been the case for so long in the past”.
Dr. Cable is not allowed to respond to constituency correspondence which directly relates to his role as Secretary of State, so the reply (on 2nd November) came from Lord Green, Minister of State at the Department for Business Innovation & Skills.
He referred to the Foreign Secretary’s announcement on 13th October of the outcome of the FCO Review of Export Policy. He said that
“the review did not find any fundamental flaws with UK export licensing system, but it identified areas where the system could be further strengthened, particularly our ability to respond to rapidly changing situations and unforeseen circumstances. One major proposal of the review is the introduction of a new mechanism to suspend licensing to countries experiencing a sudden change in circumstances, for example because of outbreak of conflict, or political instability. Licences will still be assessed case-by-case against the Consolidated Criteria in light of prevailing circumstances.
Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms remain mandatory considerations for all export licence applications.
The defence industry continues to make a vital contribution to the UK economy and plays a leading role in stimulating and encouraging innovative science and technology. In 2010, the UK won almost £6bn of new defence business and it employs around 310,000 people in the UK, about 55,000 of which depend on the export of defence equipment and support. In the same year, there was £2bn of new security business in 2010 and that sector employs around 336,000 people. UK-based defence firms provide high-quality jobs throughout the English regions, and in the devolved administrations. Exports by these firms play an essential role in maintaining a strong, competitive defence industry here in the UK and that in turn underpins UK Armed Forces’ capabilities.”
Jim responded as follows:
It comes as no surprise that FCO’s Review of Export Policy ‘...did not find any fundamental flaws with the UK export licensing system’. If the review had been carried out by an independent agent I feel it would have been more convincing.
In the last paragraph of Lord Green’s letter he boasts of our government’s assistance to the arms trade whereby you made ‘a vital contribution to the UK economy’ and ‘won almost £6bn of new defence business’. This would seem to indicate a total lack of understanding of the objections to your support of the arms trade which many people consider an appalling contribution to the world’s wars.
The word vital means necessary for life. It is difficult to understand its use, by Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint in the context of selling 6 billion pounds worth of killing equipment on the world’s arms market.
A hundred thousand Palestinian families in the West Bank depend on the olive harvest for all or part of their livelihood, so the destruction of trees can put the entire family at risk. Furthermore, olive trees represent their inheritance, their dignity and their land. Yet more than 8,000 olive trees have been destroyed by settlers in 2011. There are now over 500,000 settlers in the West Bank. Settler population growth rate is double that of Israel, and illegal settlement construction has doubled in the last year [ref]. Attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank have increased by 165% since 2009 with four Palestinians killed and 268 injured to date in 2011 [ref (PDF)].
A group of 18 volunteers - people of faith and no faith, including one from a Jewish background, went to show our support for the Palestinian farmers and to provide ‘non-violent protection by presence’ against Israeli settler violence during the olive harvest, and to see for ourselves what is happening in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The olive trees (a symbol of peace across the world) became an icon of Palestinian humanity and of their human rights so long denied.
We stayed in two neighbouring villages to the South of Nablus. They are overlooked from the surrounding hilltops by the Yits’har and Bracha settlements, both built in 1983. In every direction we looked from the villages we saw the red roofs of the settlement buildings and their outposts, snaking around the hilltops.
Each day we rose at dawn and went out in twos and threes with local people who asked for us to accompany them. Often we had to travel some distance, squeezed into cars and trucks, or hiking up the steep, stony hillsides, as families often have land away from the villages and on the hillsides under the settlements, making them particularly vulnerable. The Palestinian farmers are expert olive growers, showing us how they graft the most productive trees onto the strongest root stocks, how to prune them, when to pick the olives to maximise the oil content and quality, and how the different types of olive are used for different purposes. But their expertise and generations of knowledge are of limited value, as for most of the year the settlers prevent them getting to much of their land and the Israeli occupying authorities issue permits (for Palestinians to access their own land) for just a few days at harvest time, saying that this is so that soldiers can be present to protect them. So trees near the settlements go unpruned, groves are not cleared of weeds or fertilised, and yields fall - economic violence is a very powerful tool.
In the olive fields, we and our Palestinian friends were always aware that trouble might be just around the corner. One morning some of our group went out to work with a Palestinian family who had a permit to pick for just three days. They were met by a mob of settlers and soldiers. The soldiers turned the British volunteers away, threatening to arrest them and stop the Palestinians from picking as well. Our group withdrew to a distance. The settlers soon began hassling the Palestinians as they worked. Instead of sending the settlers away, the soldiers arrested a young Palestinian man. Later in the day two others were made to sit blindfolded with their hands cuffed behind their backs all day. The first man was taken away and only released two days later after his mother had been forced to pay a bribe of 1700 shekels (about £400). Young men and boys are arrested and imprisoned at whim by the Israeli military, everyday across the West Bank. However most days passed with no trouble - possibly because of the presence of "internationals" like us?
In spite of all the problems, not least heat and hard work, we had a wonderful and inspiring time, enjoying the tremendous welcome and hospitality of the Palestinian families we met, who provided delicious food at lunchtimes in the olive groves and often invited us into their homes for an evening meal. We were able to visit places such as Jerusalem, Nablus and Hebron, and visited local schools - all Palestinians are passionate about education.
Now we need to publicise what we have seen, and encourage others to protest against the situation we found there (see a few suggestions below).
http://villagesgroup.wordpress.com http://www.whoprofits.org http://warisacrime.org/node/38128
This is part of a longer report written by one of our party, incorporating the experiences of us all. If you would like to read this in full, please email me rosemaryadd at aol.com and I will send it to you.
I suppose for peace campaigners remembrance has a year-round presence but November, which has become the national month for Remembrance, is a good time to raise publicly the who? what? and why? questions and the issue of whether Remembrance should include, in the words of some of the womenfolk of World War I soldiers, ‘a pledge to peace that war must not happen again’ especially now that we have the knowledge, international laws and institutions, and the skills to resolve conflict non-violently.
Kingston Peace Council/CND has marked Remembrance in two ways this year.
We were fortunate to receive donations in memory of our own Dorothy Hayball who died last year and some of this money has been spent on copies of Remember War Make Peace, a collection of prayers, reflections, songs and services for Remembrance Sunday in which all casualties of war are remembered and in which the act of remembering is accompanied by a commitment to look forward and work for peace, reconciliation and alternatives to war. These books have been distributed as a possible resource to the clergy of eight churches in the area where we had reason to believe they would be sympathetically received. Suggestions for a further two or three possible recipients will be considered next year. This seems a fitting memorial to Dorothy, a committed member of the Church of England, who so often felt frustrated by what she saw as the failure of much of the Church to give due weight to matters of peace and justice.
The who what and why questions of Remembrance were addressed by Jonathan Bartley, Co-director of the Christian think-tank Ekklesia and writer and broadcaster, who spoke at the first of our three lunchtime meetings, organised in partnership with the Revd Jonathan Wilkes, Rector of Kingston. He pointed out the selectivity of traditional Remembrance in terms of who is remembered: generally British military dead. Often excluded are civilians who make up about 90% of the casualties of modern warfare, surviving military personnel who may suffer physically and mentally years later, fatalities on the opposing side and of course conscientious objectors who have sometimes suffered grievously too in times of war (and he might have asked where Franz Jagerstatter, Austrian farmer and father of young children, executed for refusing on grounds of conscience to fight in Hitler’s army, fits into our remembrance). Since Remembrance is underpinned by a desire to give war a positive meaning, selectivity again comes into play: ill advised or less ‘successful’ wars or military campaigns are quietly ignored, as are atrocities and dishonourable acts. Remembrance, our speaker believed, should involve a more truthful reflection of what takes place during war and most importantly of all should include a commitment to peace if it is truly to honour the dead.
Ekklesia has produced a report on Remembrance which can be found at http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/ReimaginingRemembrance.pdf
On 8th February 2012 Kingston Peace Council / CND will be holding its AGM. Please put the date in your diary and come along if you can. Also, in the two months between now and then please give some thought to making nominations for our committee, or indeed putting yourself forward. Hilary will be standing down as secretary, so someone with good organisational skills would be very welcome, but apart from that position we are always looking for new blood and fresh ideas.
It’s your group, so come along and tell us what we should be doing, and how!
At the second of our three lunchtime meetings at All Saints Church, Kingston, Bruce Kent gave an enthusiastic endorsement of the work of the United Nations.
Plans for setting up such an organisation were under way before the end of the Second World War, and the Charter was signed in San Francisco on 26 June 1945 on behalf of 50 nation states. It is for the most part a legal document, but a preamble was written to make it more appealing to the population at large. It starts:
WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED
- to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
- to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
- to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
- to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
AND FOR THESE ENDS
- to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
- to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
- to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
- to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,
HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS
These are stirring words, and Bruce considers that a copy should be given to all children when they enter secondary school, and study of the UN should be given prominence. (It was pointed out that due to the efforts of the Twickenham & Richmond United Nations Association, it is now a part of the National Curriculum in secondary schools. The aim was to raise awareness, and encourage debate about the part our government is taking in the role of the United Nations. There are also schools that hold “Model United Nations” sessions.)
The concept of “nation states” was a new one, and one of the greatest successes of the UN was to support the de-colonising process, leading to the independence of virtually all states.
The United Nations is by no means a perfect organisation, and Bruce raised the following criticisms:
Nevertheless, there are bodies within the UN organisation that have been very successful, e.g. UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation) and WHO (World Health Organisation). And although there have been many wars since the inauguration of the United Nations, many of these have been civil wars in which the UN was not authorised to intervene. We cannot know how many international conflicts may have been averted through its efforts.
Audience questions led to a discussion of how we could overcome the general apathy about world events. Bruce’s message was that we should all strive to raise awareness of the United Nations, and encourage people to question its actions.
Gill Hurle & Mary Holmes
Many people shy away from the idea of pacifism. They imagine people who turn the other cheek, an inappropriate response sometimes in a world red in tooth and claw. They imagine pacifists to be cowards, not the sort of people you need when you have a fight on your hands. They imagine that in the face of a threat, pacifists will not resist: people who rationalise their acceptance of tyranny by claiming that violence breeds more violence, and so always worsens a situation.
It is indeed difficult to accept a strict philosophy of non-violence. It seems that the evil in the world must be met with strength, with actual force.
Yet pacifism cannot be so easily dismissed. Two obvious points occur at once. One, pacifists are certainly not cowards, but in the real world have proved their bravery. One thinks of Hans Jagerstatter, who chose death rather than joining the Nazis – admittedly an extreme example. But above-average courage is needed to refuse to go with the flow, to stand out and refuse to join the mass on moral grounds. The history of conscientious objectors is an inspiring one. In Britain today, pacifists would probably be merely jailed in the event of war, but in other countries with less advanced ideas on human rights, conscientious objectors have been shot, and in peacetime! Such is the hold the military have on modern society.
The other major point to consider is that pacifists offer a feasible plan, perhaps the only possible plan, for a peaceful world. If the world ran on pacifist lines, it would be happier, more secure, more prosperous. The failure to abolish war has had a crippling cost. It has now become plain that the waste of military preparations in a world on the brink of environmental collapse cannot be long sustained. War results from a failure of administration. The most cursory glance back at our history reveals us as a snarling, bad-tempered species that has been its own worst enemy. Military ways, pacts, preparations for war just in case, have always dominated foreign policy. Every century, including this one, has been full of conflicts, which have become more and more savage as each war has inspired the invention of more and more savage weapons, culminating in the hydrogen bomb. Anti-militarism makes sense, and anti-militarism has the closest links with pacifism. Anti-militarism is in a way negative, an identification of what is wrong: pacifists are anti-militarist, but with a positive message to convey.
That a pacifist schedule is achievable is demonstrated in any mature local society, though it has not yet been achieved on an international scale. The founding of the United Nations Organisation is a hopeful sign that such international cooperation has been considered possible by leaders. Perhaps today a naturally violent man can join the pacifists, recognising that they have a valuable alternative to continual war to offer. He can become a fellow traveller, for the sake of realising a better, safer world. What shall we call such a man?
The pacifist message, a practical one involving the rejection of violence, the building of cooperation and trust, is subtle and not easily conveyed. Fortunately the pacifist case has been clearly set out by several writers – Aldous Huxley and Kathleen Lonsdale come particularly to mind. Lonsdale had the sharp analytical mind of a top scientist – she was the first woman, with one other, to be admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Society – who was also a Christian and a pacifist. Her background and her book Is Peace Possible? will be reviewed in the next issue of KPN.
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.