RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire is to be the home base for the control of these unmanned weapons. “Pilots” sitting in front of computers operate them from thousands of miles away to kill by stealth, without warning. At present they are controlled remotely from Czech and Nevada USA bases – now they are coming to Britain.
The US and UK are currently deploying these weapons in Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan/Afghan border areas. They often miss the intended targets, (militant Taliban fighters) causing death and destruction to innocent civilians. And what do they do to the “pilots” playing computer games with live people?
The UK is investing heavily in this technology and plans to double our number of Reaper Drones by 2013, at a cost of £135 million.
Please protest against this to your own MP, and write to Foreign Secretary William Hague, King Charles Street, London, SW1A 2AH, private.office at fco.gpv.uk
More information from Yorkshire CND www.yorkshirecnd.org.uk/DroneWarsUK
And fellowship of Reconciliation www.for.org.uk
Thanks to Labour Action for Peace for this item.
It’s always difficult to know where to begin and what to emphasize. We must thank Maggie and her army of helpers who run our stalls at Fairs and raise the money we give away to the many organisations and causes we support, and from which we derive inspiration and information. Thanks to the army of volunteers who man our twice monthly stall in Kingston Marketplace, and to Angie who organises this, also to our team of Newsletter editors who help broadcast our message, and to those who take our message to schoolchildren. Thanks particularly to Hilary Evans our retiring secretary who has contributed so much to the smooth running of KPC and who initiated and helped organise so many important events. Thanks to Charles too for maintaining our website, and Phil for getting us press-coverage.
Each year there are events we respond to – the International Day of Peace, Hiroshima Day, 10 years of Guantanamo, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the DSEI Arms Fair, 10 years of Afghan War, anniversary of “Operation Cast Lead” Gaza attack, Armistice Day, Human Rights Day – sometimes with a dedicated stall in the Marketplace. We attend Kingston University Freshers Fair and support activities there where we also hold our contribution to Think-in-Kingston - John Hilary of War on Want this year. We organised a talk on ‘Human Security, an alternative to the war on terror’, by Professor Mary Kaldor. Our series of Lunchtime Conversations at Kingston Parish Church were a great opportunity to reflect on issues like the United Nations, Remembrance and Military Intervention. Garry Ettle of Amnesty International spoke to us about the circumstances of Palestinians under Israeli occupation and Rosemary reported back on her olive-picking trip to the Occupied West Bank. Copies of ‘Remember War, Make Peace’ were sent to sympathetic local churches and a ‘Peace’ competition was launched for local schoolchildren to encourage thought about choices between cooperation and conflict.
A group centered around constituents of Vince Cable has relentlessly pursued the issue of arms sales, particularly to client states with clear malicious intent and those who divert funding from health, welfare, schools and infrastructure, to pay for weapons of death and destruction. We drew the attention of local Councillors to the activities of Veolia operating illegally in occupied Palestine.
Trident and Nuclear Weapons campaigns do not yet ignite public indignation, and leafleting missions to Basingstoke disappointingly didn’t sow the hoped for seeds of opposition to Aldermaston. Some do travel from London to join blockades – we just need a few more locals.
No year ever passes without disappointment and unfulfilled expectations. Obama promised closure of Guantanamo but passed a bill that actually perpetuates it and all that it stands for, whilst Bagram prison has expanded fourfold to near 3000. Our coalition government seems unwilling to repatriate innocent Shaker Aamer. The Afghan War drags on with the inevitable death, destruction, poverty, corruption and ill-health that were its accomplices from the start. The Syrian Government continues with dreadful slaughter in Homs and Hama. The Gibson Inquiry into the connivance of British secret agents in torture and abuse closes before it has begun because more skullduggery was unearthed in Libya; and we learn that, despite denials, there were UK Special Forces helping the Libyan rebels. American warfare is increasingly about remotely operated assassination drones. Concerns about arms sales policy and export guarantee funding continue to reveal breaches of government guidelines, despite contrary assurances. Promoting arms sales is horrendously expensive but the bandwagon roles on. Events are planned for next year to highlight the situation. Brian Haw died of cancer and the longest London protest ever seen is evicted – but the cause is not!
Noel Hamel, Chairperson. Edited by Rosemary Addington
In a typical Why oh Why! article in the Guardian (2nd February) George Monbiot condemns shortsighted ‘anti-nukes’ for rejecting a valuable energy source out of simple prejudice. If the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) really did work as he described, it would have obvious advantages over other designs of nuclear power stations. Not only would it produce a hundred times more energy from a given quantity of fuel, but at the same time it would also consume dangerous nuclear waste, rendering it harmless. In fact, Monbiot claims that what is now regarded as dangerous, almost immortal radioactive waste becomes a valuable fuel.
One major disadvantage not mentioned remains, namely that the IFR reactor, like any other nuclear power station, does produce plutonium, and so does not address a major flaw in the technology, the threat of proliferation. Any nation with IFR reactors could make its own plutonium for nuclear weapons. One would have to trust that this did not happen. In a world aware of its own long-term good, the IFR technology offers much. All nations would surely want the nuclear sword that is suspended over the future, removed at last, so would behave sensibly with their plutonium, and burn it for fuel instead of making bombs from it. Unfortunately, history teaches that we do not yet live in such a world.
Nevertheless it is worth looking at the IFR in some detail. Does it really work as claimed, and if so, why has such a nuclear reactor not long ago superseded other types? A quick visit to the internet, and the IFR modus operandi is explained in sufficient outline. The Integral Fast Reactor is a design for a nuclear reactor using fast neutrons and no neutron moderator (a "fast" reactor). The fast reactor needs relatively rich fuel, but once it starts up, it creates more fuel than it burns. The ‘fast’ neutrons are better at fissioning the uranium, so that a greater proportion is transmuted to breakdown products such as caesium, with much shorter half-lives. Not only that, but the reactor can even use these breakdown products as fuel. Because it is so efficient, the cost of supplying the reactor with uranium is estimated at only 1% of that needed for a water-cooled reactor, so that obtaining uranium from the trace of it in the ocean becomes a worthwhile proposition. Enthusiastic articles describe such ocean mining as having limitless potential for supply, converting nuclear power into a virtually renewable energy source. Perfect!
Does this wonderful technology have any disadvantages? Well, it is a bit dangerous. Instead of water, the coolant has to be liquid sodium, which is very corrosive, and bursts into flame if exposed to air. That is the only problem easily found from an internet search, but there must be others, as today there are no working fast breeder nuclear plants in commercial use anywhere in the world.
They have been tried. In 1995 there was an explosion in the Monju fast breeder plant in Japan. Work started at once to repair the damage, and seventeen years later, in 2011, the repairs were nearing completion. However after the Fukushima disaster, the Japanese government ordered the plant to be permanently closed.
The French fast breeder plants Phenix and Superphenix have both now been closed down, the Superphenix after a troubled final ten years when virtually no electricity was produced. The British experiment in fast breeder reactors at Dounreay started in the late 1950s, the plant being decommissioned in 1977, leaving serious and notorious radioactive pollution of the area.
The British and United States governments have shelved plans for construction of fast breeder nuclear plants. Perhaps they know something that George Monbiot doesn’t? Yet it does seem a pity that the potential of fast breeder nuclear plants will probably never be realised. As Monbiot says, it would be a great advantage to be able to generate power while burning up and rendering harmless radioactive waste that otherwise presents unsolved problems of disposal. Even so, the problem of nuclear power producing bomb material would remain.
Perhaps one day, when the world is a safer, more mature place, improved fast breeder nuclear reactors will once more be commissioned to deal with the gigantic mountain of radioactive waste that has been generated by conventional nuclear plants. But that day is probably a long way off.
Sent from Australia by Harry Davis
It is difficult to do justice to such a multi-faceted man in a short summary. He was:
For about 20 years before his death Henry Richard and his wife attended what is now Kensington United Reformed Church, Allen Street, where he was a close friend of the minister the Revd Dr Alexander Raleigh. Henry Richard died in 1888 and was buried in Abney Park Cemetery, very close to Dr Raleigh’s grave as he had requested.
Sunday, 1 April 2012 - 2:30 On the bicentenary of his birth, come and celebrate the life and work of this remarkable Welshman . Short ceremony at the grave followed by refreshments and an opportunity to visit this interesting non-denominational garden cemetery and local nature reserve (now run by the Abney Park Trust). Bus 73 from Victoria, Oxford Circus, Euston Station, Kings Cross, and Angel Islington passes the cemetery. Speakers include Bruce Kent and Diane Abbott MP. www.abney-park.org.uk . Wheelchair accessible via High Street entrance. Organised by the Movement for the Abolition of War www.abolishwar.org.uk
Note. At this point the paper version of the KPC/CND newsletter contains a copy of the article U.N. Agency Returns to Inspect Iran Nuclear Program from the New York Times, which I suggest you look at directly. Our editor adds:
(Doesn’t all this sound rather familiar? Ed.)
Meanwhile – There is Syria. A truly dreadful situation – but surely none of our readers would advocate Western (Nato?) intervention after what we have seen in Libya? A strange twist is that Al Quaeda are apparently supporting the “rebels”. We must keep on trying to find a solution through the UN – General Assembly if not Security Council, however inadequate this seems amid reports of such terrible carnage.
Part 2 in the series of official attempts to abolish war.
Four part series: 1 Military pacts | 2 The League of Nations | 3 The United Nations Organisation | 4 The Future
In revulsion at the carnage of the first world war, leaders felt the need to seek a different way of ensuring security. Adversarial military pacts had caused the war: what was now needed was an international organisation that was open and inclusive. Peace was seen as a condition that benefited all nations. A great international body with universal membership was now envisaged, in a cooperative rather than a confrontational approach that offered the first-ever realistic promise to abolish war.
It was the American president, Woodrow Wilson, who was the driving force behind the creation of the League. During the forging of the treaty at Versailles he gave way on the setting of German reparations, which he considered too high, in order to obtain agreement on the League. Though he convinced the Allies, sadly he was unable to convince his own country. The US Senate refused to ratify the agreement, and so the US remained outside the League.
The League’s central purpose was to prevent war. It aimed to replace the failed network of bilateral and multilateral treaties between individual nations and the secret consular and diplomatic deals with an international body open to all nations, with a Covenant agreed by members unequivocally outlawing war and providing for economic and financial sanctions to be applied against any aggressor nation.
In structure the League was very like the United Nations of today. It had an executive body similar to the Security Council, a Council consisting of five great powers as permanent members, any one of whom had the power to veto any decision, with four non-permanent members elected by the Assembly (compared to ten in the UN today). All disputes were to be referred to this Council. The League undertook to guarantee all existing treaty obligations and ‘to respect and preserve against external aggression the territorial integrity of all members’.
Alas for good intentions and fine words! The League started well, settling a Swedish/Finnish dispute over the Aland Islands in 1920, and preventing a conflict between Greece and Bulgaria in 1925. The League helped refugees, distributed aid, and did pioneering work in surveys on health. But the lack of real commitment by its members caused the League to fail the sterner test of preventing the bellicose intentions of the more powerful nations.
Japan, a permanent member of the Security Council, invaded Manchuria in 1932. When the League condemned the invasion, Japan simply resigned, and the League failed to implement the sanctions against Japan that such a breach of its Covenant demanded.
Then came another crisis. When Mussolini’s Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935 despite the existence of a Friendship Treaty between the two nations, the League again failed to implement its Covenant. Weak sanctions were applied, but the critical sanction of oil was not enforced, pragmatically, the reason given by defaulting League members Britain and France being that Italy could in any case obtain plenty of oil from a non-member, the United States of America.
An unexpressed motive for Britain’s and France’s breaking the League’s sanction may have been the fear of displeasing Italy’s leader, Mussolini. Another war was looming, and there was evidently no faith in London or Paris in the League’s ability to prevent it. So it was deemed important to keep Italy on the side of the Alliance, against Germany, as in the First World War. Power politics proved stronger than commitment to the League. If the need to placate Italy was part of the motive for breaking the sanction on providing oil, it did not produce the desired result. After witnessing the quick German victories of the Second World War, in September 1940 Italy joined what appeared to be the winning side and became a partner in the Axis Alliance that included Germany and Japan.
Despite an anguished plea directed in person to the Council by Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie, the brutal Abyssinian war, in which the Italian forces used mustard gas sprayed from aircraft against civilians, was allowed to continue to its end without any attempt at further intervention by the League.
Then when Mussolini’s Italy sent men and guns to assist fellow fascist Franco in his bid to overturn the elected Spanish government and seize power in a military coup, and after Germany sent its bombers to Spain for the same purpose, the League members did not respond by referring the conflict to the Security Council. Britain and France made a virtue out of doing nothing to assist the legal Spanish government, stood scrupulously aside, did nothing to bring Franco’s military adventure to the League’s formal attention, and insisted on their own ‘neutrality’. The League was still officially in existence, but it was functionally dead.
Recognising this, Hitler ignored the League and invited the leaders of Britain, France and Italy to a meeting in Munich on 29th September 1938, where he informed them that he intended to annex the Sudetenland, territory that was formerly German, but which had been given to Czechoslovakia after the First World War. The Munich agreement was signed, Hitler invaded and claimed the Sudetenland, and shortly thereafter almost all the rest of Czechoslovakia, without resistance.
Old habits had proven too strong. Power politics trumped the League. Abandoned by its members, the League was powerless, and was contemptuously bypassed by Hitler. With its most powerful members signing a treaty promising non-interference during an invasion by a member state, without even referral to its Council, what could be done?
After Japan in 1932, the only other country to be expelled from the League was the Soviet Union, after its invasion of Finland on 30th November 1939, but this was a strange, empty gesture. By then the carnage of the Second World War had begun.
The lack of belief and commitment of its powerful members and the non-participation of the United States had caused the League to fail. Another attempt to abolish war was to be made after the second of the world wars. This time the stakes had been raised by the atom bomb. Failure to prevent war was now unthinkable. This time there would surely be more commitment, and universal membership including the United States. Carrying the hopes of mankind, the United Nations Organisation would not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Part Three, a short history of the United Nations Organisation (necessarily incomplete, as the UN continues to survive to this day) will follow in the next issue of KPN.
This month thas seen the 10th anniversary of Battersea resident Shaker Aamer’s incarceration in Guantanamo Bay. This is despite the fact that no charges have ever been brought against him, and the US Government cleared him for release in 2007. William Hague says he has been working hard to get him repatriated but there seems to be no progress. His local MP Jane Ellison (Conservative) also appears to be working hard on this – she has met the family and attends meetings and demonstrations, and will attend a Government briefing on the matter in March.
The Save Shaker Aamer campaign has organised 2 recent demonstrations to draw attention to Shaker – one locally in Battersea and one on the actual 10th anniversary of his capture at the American Embassy. All thanks must go to them,especially Joy Hurcombe the Campaign Organiser, as at last there has been more media coverage – from the BBC, the Guardian, the Observer and the Independent.
But we cannot afford to rest on this partial success - at a recent meeting we were told by Cara Murray from Reprieve that one of their lawyers has met him recently and was very shocked about his physical condition – he has many health proplems which are not being treated. Also he is held in what the US call “segregation” (ie. alone in his cell for at least 22 hours a day, with contant fluorescent light on him) The use of this term has led William Hague recently to deny that he is in “Solitary Confinement”.
So you can see that this situation has now become desperately urgent – please write to your own MP about Shaker, and also directly to The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, King Charles Street, London, SW1A 2AH, email private.office at fco.gov.uk
To get more information for your letters look at 2 excellent websites:- www.reprieve.org.uk and www.andyworthington.co.uk
Editor for this issue was Rosemary Addington.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND.