Kingston Peace News - April 2012

Trident all at sea over Scots independence vote

Where do the subs go if they vote ‘Yes’?

A report prepared by Scottish CND has highlighted the difficulties that a vote for Scottish independence would pose for the UK's nuclear weapons programme. 'Trident – Nowhere to Go' examines in detail potential alternative locations for Trident outside Scotland and concludes that none of these is viable.

Possible alternative sites such as Devonport, Barrow, Portland, Falmouth and Milford Haven were all discounted in a secret study by the Ministry of Defence in 1963 when the government was searching for sites to base the Polaris nuclear fleet. They are even less viable now for environmental, financial, and political reasons. Moving Trident to the US or France would not be viable, because the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would prevent the UK from using existing facilities and new ones would have to be built.

The report was published as the temperature of political debate over Trident in Scotland rises, with First Minister Alex Salmond stating; "It is inconceivable that an independent nation of 5.25 million people would tolerate the continued presence of weapons of mass destruction on its soil" and Defence Secretary Philip Hammond threatening that a newly independent Scotland would be forced to pay towards the costs of relocating Trident.

Despite taking an official position that there are no plans to consider alternative locations for basing Trident. The Financial Times has reported that the Ministry of Defence is considering contingency plans for Trident in the event of a Yes vote for independence.

MAD to miss an anniversary

Phillip Cooper considers Mutually Assured Destruction

Fifty years ago in mid February the world officially adopted madness as an instrument of foreign policy.

For it was then, in 1962, that US President Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara set out in a speech the concept of mutually assured destruction or MAD.

Never was an acronym so apt: the idea that, should hostilities erupt between the US and the then Soviet Union, the Americans would have sufficient nuclear armaments in place to survive a first strike by Russia and her allies and would be able to strike back inflicting a crippling blow. Both sides would effectively destroy one another.

In an article on the BBC website, marking this chilling anniversary the question is posed ‘how did this frightening concept of the Cold War fade from people’s psyches?’ How indeed with so much concern about Iran’s intentions, North Korea’s nuclear programme and the ever-present fear that terrorists may get their hands on a nuclear device.

The article continues: “In the past, wars had been fought by defeating your opponent on the battlefield by superior use of force. But MAD was a radical departure that trumped the conventional view of war. The age of MAD heralded a new fear with citizens knowing they could be annihilated within a matter of minutes at the touch of a button several thousands of mile away.”

The article goes on the quote Dr Christopher Laucht, a lecturer in British history at Leeds University. “You were at the mercy of political decision makers. Apart from the fear that one side would do something stupid, there was also the fear of technology and the question ‘what if an accident happened?’”

Ironically, just eight month’s after McNamara’s speech MAD was almost put to the test when the Cuban Missile Crisis erupted. There are those who argued that the concept of MAD saved the day while others would maintain that both the US and Soviet leaders saw sense (unlike their hawkish military advisers), backed down and promised concessions thus averting doomsday.

The fear of everyday attack and impending destruction entered the psyche of the population including that of young people. And not without reason. In 1983, 20 years after the Cuban crisis the Soviet early warning system detected what it thought was a US missile entering Russian airspace. It was not of course and the world breathed again.

Slippery slope

Today, the problem has barely subsided but the public at large no longer seem to care. “Today the problem is not so much Armageddon but a slippery slope of proliferation,” says Paul Rogers, professor of peace studies at Bradford University.

The general public does not throw up its hands in horror when Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu stokes up the rhetoric about Iran and makes it abundantly clear that he would like to instigate military action this year.

Similarly, few question the necessity, let alone the cost and the morality, of Britain retaining Trident while cutting everything else to the bone, including conventional forces raising the spectre that the UK does not now possess the means to deter aggression, except by threatening nuclear retaliation.

Many analysts believe the world to be less stable than it was during the Cold War. No it’s not time to be MAD again but being awake would do no harm.

In Guantanamo it’s business as usual

An appeal from Noel Hamel

With a heavy heart I write this knowing a totally innocent man languishes in Guantanamo because the Americans grabbed him in 2001 and disbelieve his story, because there is no due process and the British government told the Americans they didn’t want him back. They told his wife too as she patiently waits in Battersea. It made her ill.

Doing charitable work for others less fortunate is one of the five pillars of Islam and it is not unusual for compassionate, committed Muslims to travel to places of extreme poverty like Bangladesh, Somalia, Afghanistan …. to do charitable work. Shaker uprooted his entire family together with Moazzam Begg and family and traveled to Afghanistan in 2001. Fanatics destroyed the World Trade Centre, NY, and the families were some of the last to know because of Taliban prohibitions of modern communications. Valiantly the men got their wives and children to safety but the men were seized and transported to Guantanamo. Ten years on Shaker remains in isolation and deteriorating health. After years of UK complicity and inaction the coalition government says they intend at last to retrieve him and return him to his family, but nothing happens. They blame the Americans for not allowing him to be freed, despite being “cleared for release” twice. Now we hear a Saudi Arabian delegation recently visited him to try to persuade him to go there!!!

David Cameron visited Obama in March but should we put much faith in the possibility he might get Shaker back? Reprieve and others think that as Shaker is highly critical of the treatment and conditions at Guantanamo he may make embarrassing revelations on release – and this may account for the 10 year delay. Now the family and lawyers have initiated a GOVERNMENT E-PETITION requiring 100,000 signatures by May 15 to initiate a parliamentary debate (possibly).

It is a curious irony that someone who is undoubtedly a better person than most of us should be so horribly treated; an irony too that he would be amongst the first to denounce the 9/11 atrocity; and that the “land of the free”, the USA, should imprison him, ‘beat him up’ and not release him despite an absence of any evidence of wrongdoing. We can’t do much except badger government. I have written over 1000 letters. Can you and your friends and acquaintances take a few moments to help a Battersea family by signing on line the GOVERNMENT E-PETITION please, pleeaaase! Make a stand for Justice and Humanity.

Letter to the Editor

Dear Kingston Peace News,

I thought Harry's article in January's Kingston Peace News was very good and informative. However I have to point to the video below that gives the physiological reasons on why we can't cope with the truth that 911 was an inside job.

Please, please open your mind and view because we must not perpetuate the lie that 911 was the work of a "tiny gang of al-Quaida terrorists".

I know how difficult it is for people to absorb this frightening concept, but it is so glaringly obvious once it is properly looked into with any degree of objective analysis.

Let's see KPC support this quest for truth. We shouldn't be part of the conspiracy!

If I can convince the members of KPC, then we can join the millions of 911 truth seekers and between us we will expose the myth and move on in the world.

Here's hoping you see 911 from a fresh perspective,

Des Kay

Poetry corner

Friendly Advice to Fellow Citizens

It’s all about security,
security, security,
for reasons of security
from walls and rooftops cameras sprout,
in airports armed policemen scout,
judge and jury booted out.

Show proof of your identity
confirm your nationality,
don’t think status or seniority
will give you any clout.
Don’t make a fuss, don’t argue, shout
Or for an instant think you can flout

The dictates of security.
And enemies of security
In your murky foul obscurity
prepare for utter rout –
Protestor, anarchist, vandal, lout
From terrorist to ticket tout

All forms of criminality
will be dammed to all eternity
lose home and hope and sanity
down the pan and up the spout.
And none of us need ever doubt
come joy or grief, come flood or drought.

Security’s a surety.
The ultimate priority
The absolute authority
That’s what it’s all about.

George Miller, Oswestry Peace Group
Author of the Buzzards of Zinn

Thanks to Lib Rowlands-Hughes for sending this.

Imposing Security

Part Three in the series describing official attempts to abolish war

Four part series: 1 Military pacts | 2 The League of Nations | 3 The United Nations Organisation | 4 The Future

The United Nations Organisation

On October 24th 1945 the United Nations Organisation was founded. The Second World War had come to its bloody end with the dropping of atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Once again a world war forced the leaders of nations to consider the concept of collective security. The atom bomb had raised the stakes. This time failure to prevent war might have catastrophic consequences.

This time the United States of America vigorously backed the project, and it was seen as appropriate that the beautiful building to house the new organisation was erected in New York. With the example and the warning of the League of Nations as a guide, there was every reason to hope that the new-formed United Nations Organisation would indeed serve as the long-awaited bastion against war that all member nations now said they so ardently desired. With the creation of such an international forum dedicated to the prevention of war, failure of leaders to keep the peace would now amount to a betrayal of the legitimate hopes of the peoples of the world.

Terrible Start

But the new organisation got off to a terrible start. The needed trust and belief in a common purpose was compromised by the existence of the atom bomb. An attempt was made to alleviate the atmosphere of fear and suspicion: the Baruch plan was put forward to the new-formed UN Atomic Energy Authority in June 1946, in which the US offered to turn over all of its nuclear weapons on the condition that all other countries pledge not to produce them and agree to an adequate system of inspection.

The Soviets rejected the plan on the stated grounds that the United Nations was dominated by the United States and its allies in Western Europe, and could therefore not be trusted to exercise authority over atomic weaponry in an evenhanded manner. The plan foundered on this detail. If we could have that time again! At the time there were perhaps only two atom bombs in the world stockpile. Failure to agree on details of control in 1946 meant that the future held the frantic arms race, and the development of nuclear weapons (the hydrogen bomb) that were an unimaginable six thousand times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. The Soviets exploded their first atom bomb three years later, on 29th August 1949.

Once again the power politics that had destroyed the League became a serious obstacle to this new cooperative effort to abolish war. The UN became a debating chamber, where political points could be scored on behalf of one’s own side. The Cold War ensured that Security Council decisions were hamstrung by predictable vetos, as one side or the other of the Iron Curtain cast their vote to confound political enemies. The war in Korea (1950 – 53) was fought under the UN banner only because of the temporary absence during the Security Council vote of the Soviet Union and its expected veto, in protest at the strange exclusion of China from UN membership.

The United Nations Charter (its Constitution) is admirably written. Few would quarrel with the ideals set out clearly in the preamble: firstly ‘to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’, secondly ‘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’, thirdly ‘to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained’, and fourthly ‘to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom’.

Fine words! All of these benign conditions, once established, would cut terrorism by states or individual groups (and even crime in general, as nations, free of the burden of war, became more prosperous) at its root.

The UN Charter makes provision for containing aggression, including concerted action on economic sanctions and ground rules for members, and though it does not mention military intervention by name, it does not rule it out. The first Article of the first Chapter makes that plain, citing as the first purpose of the organisation ‘to maintain international peace and security, and to that end to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace .’ (See also Article 2, Chapters 5 and 6, which also apparently allow for the use of military force by the UN.) The use of force by an organisation such as the UN was obviously to be a last resort.

Lack of commitment

Old habits die hard. From the beginning there was a lack of real commitment to the open international regulation of foreign policy that the UN was designed to make possible. Old-style pacts and deals between individual nations continued.

President Kennedy was predisposed to value the UN highly, and appointed as US ambassador the greatly respected Adlai Stevenson. But openness at the height of the Cold War seemed dangerous. As his intimate adviser Arthur Schlesinger noted in 1961:

‘Considering the fact that JFK is surrounded every day by State Department people, who essentially believe in bilateral diplomacy, and by generals and admirals, who don’t believe in diplomacy at all, I think he does exceedingly well to keep the UN as considerably in the forefront of his attention as he does.’

This glimpse into what occurs in the corridors of powers is revealing. To this day the UN is often regarded by those wielding power as impossibly idealistic, and its advocates as too naïve, for the real world. President Obama recently referred to the Palestinian attempt to become a member of the UN as ‘unrealistic’ and not addressing the problem with Israel, a matter best solved, he suggested, by a bilateral deal instead.

Without UN sanction

Once again power politics and a lack of commitment threatens to trump the organisation the nations had created. Major wars after the end of the Second World War were fought without UN sanction. The war in Vietnam was provoked by Cold War thinking. In the case of the 2003 – 2010 war in Iraq, UN approval could not be obtained. The three major post-World War wars, Vietnam, the second Iraq war, and that currently being pursued in Afghanistan, have all been fought in the old way, invoking military alliances. The present off-the-cuff threats of a military strike against Iran have been made by leaders without prior reference to the UN Security Council. Strong memories of the contemptuous by-passing of the League of Nations by Hitler and Mussolini are evoked.

However the UN continues to exist. In fact, much useful work in conflict prevention has been quietly accomplished. Peacekeeping and peacemaking efforts by the UN have proved most valuable. The growing role of the UN in modern disputes, achieving peace by the back door, as it were, will be considered next month, completing this series on the official attempts to abolish war.

Harry Davis

We shall remember them …

With the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War upon us one statistic we may not hear from official sources is that since the conflict some 300 British ex-servicemen who fought in the South Atlantic have committed suicide, more than died in the actual conflict. The Argentinians are thought to have experienced a similar situation.

Hinkley Point demo

Report by Gill Hurle

Jonathon Porritt at Hinkley Point

On Saturday 10th March, the first anniversary of the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power station in Japan, I joined demonstrators surrounding the existing nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, on the Somerset coast. We were protesting against the proposals to build eight new nuclear power stations in Britain (the first new build for more than 20 years).

According to the Stop Nuclear Alliance (supported by CND) there were over 1,000 demonstrators, from all over the UK as well as Ireland, France and Taiwan. Over 100 people camped outside the main gate overnight, and continued to blockade the plant until 2pm on Sunday.

Speakers included Caroline Lucas MP (Green Party), Kate Hudson (General Secretary of CND) and Jonathon Porritt (Ex-Director of Friends of the Earth and chair of the former Sustainable Development Commission). Jonathon Porritt (pictured) made an impassioned speech deploring the fact that he found himself back going over the arguments he and other campaigners had been making 25 years ago after the Chernobyl disaster. Germany is leading the way in creating a blueprint for a sustainable energy future that is nuclear-free and affordable. “If Germany can do it, why can’t we?” He was also very dismissive of those who had campaigned over the years against nuclear energy and had now “changed sides”, and he criticised the Liberal Democrats, who are sacrificing their principles in order to stay in power.

No public enquiry

Last July, EDF (Electricité de France), the developer of Hinkley C, was given permission for preliminary works, involving activity across an area of more than 420 acres, stretching from the Severn estuary to the village of Shurton. EDF have now applied for planning permission to build two new reactors at Hinkley C. There will be no public enquiry - the main decision will be taken by the unelected national Infrastructure Planning Commission – effectively a rubber stamp for government policy. In February, activists occupied a barn on the land now owned by EDF. They were evicted by court order, but EDF failed to get an injunction to prevent protest groups from demonstrating at the site. We were taken over this land (the path is still a Right of Way) by some of these activists, who told us that EDF plan to remove all the soil and flatten the underlying rock in preparation for the foundations of the power station. As part of the permission granted for preliminary works, EDF has been obliged to construct concrete sets so that badgers could be relocated, and a barn for bats to use. Last autumn they ploughed a field in order to ensure that skylarks would not be able to nest this spring, because once the birds were nesting EDF would not be allowed to remove the soil. They have also planted trees along the field boundaries to replace ancient woodland that will be destroyed. If they fail to get permission for the actual power station construction, they will replace the soil which they have removed (and piled up in adjacent fields), but of course by then the wildlife habitats will have been destroyed.

There are many arguments against nuclear power. The link with CND’s agenda is that all existing reactors create fissile materials that can be used to make nuclear bombs. A typical commercial reactor produces enough plutonium every year to make at least 40 nuclear bombs. Britain has a stockpile of around 100 tonnes of weapons-useable plutonium which, according to the Royal Society, are kept in “unacceptable” conditions and pose a severe safety and security risk. Civilian nuclear programmes in India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea have provided the materials, knowledge and technology for nuclear weapons production in those countries. Other countries, particularly those like Japan with plutonium reprocessing and Iran with uranium enrichment, could easily follow suit if they decided to do so.

Any nuclear expansion increases the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation and hinders nuclear disarmament.

Other objections

Construction costs: The industry has a history of huge cost-overruns and lengthy delays. The reactor proposed for Hinkley is a new French design, the EPR, with no operating track record. In Finland the first EPR is four years behind schedule and its cost has doubled to £5.7 billion. The former head of EDF has recommended that the EPR be abandoned, and a recent report by the French National Audit Office also found the EPR to be too complex and expensive. EDF, 85% owned by the French government, will only build the Hinkley reactors if the risks involved are borne by British households and businesses rather than by themselves. On 17th February a deal was signed at a summit between David Cameron and President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris to strengthen co-operation in the development of civil nuclear energy.

Running costs: The price of nuclear energy per kilowatt hour is approximately twice that of natural gas and is unlikely to go down. The costs of wind and solar, on the other hand, are now cheaper than nuclear energy and rapidly falling as energy efficiency improves and economies of scale kick in.

Nuclear waste: Radioactive waste is released into the environment at every stage of the fuel cycle. The highly radioactive waste from Hinkley C would be stored on site, despite the risk of sea flooding, for at least 100 years. Even then it may be too hot to bury.

Decommissioning: There are more than 400 nuclear power reactors in the world, having an average age of 27 years. The plants have to be shut down within a few decades of being built because years of sustained neutron bombardment of the metal reactor vessel makes the metal and anything the coolant touches become highly radioactive, brittle and prone to failure. But even the world’s biggest nuclear powers do not yet have the trained staff or institutional skills to carry out this massive clean-up. The task of dismantling the defunct Windscale Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor started in the early 1990s, but is only now nearing completion. There are 26 more defunct stations of an earlier design dotted around the UK coastline in “care and maintenance”. These older plants are so full of radioactive debris that nobody will try to disassemble them until the end of the century at least.

* On 13th March Jonathon Porritt and three other former directors of Friends of the Earth sent a detailed paper to David Cameron warning him that he is being badly advised by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) on nuclear power. The arguments therein were refuted by George Monbiot in an article in the Guardian on 15th March, and Jonathon Porritt et al responded to this the following day. See

War to help business through the bad times!

Sales of weapons and military services by the world’s biggest arms companies have continued to rise during the downturn and now exceed £250 billion, The Guardian reported in March. Although the increase has slowed to just 1% year-on-year since 2010 the rise in sales has been 60% in real terms since 2002, says the Stockholm International Peace Institute. Second from top in the global league table for 2010 was Britain’s BAe Systems with sales worth £32,880,000. Vince Cable must be proud!

Newsletter Editor for this issue: Phil Cooper

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND