The end of an era
For many years, Kingston Quakers have very kindly let us hold our monthly meetings in the Quaker Meeting House in Eden Street. However, a brand new Meeting House is being planned, and the existing building will be sold at the beginning of May 2012. As a consequence we need to find alternative accommodation.
It has been arranged that, as from Wednesday 9th May and for the next few months, we shall meet in the Kingston Environment Centre (see map on the right). Pedestrian access to Fairfield East is from Fairfield North (look for an opening in the wall to the east of the Fairfield Bus Station and Swimming Pool car park - the centre is then on the right). Motor access is from Fairfield Road - the Centre is at the far end of Fairfield East. Parking is available. The time of meetings remains 7.45 pm.
Members of Kingston Peace Council at the last meeting in the Quaker Meeting House in April 2012.
Creation of the state of Israel
On 10th November 1945, US President Harry Truman, facing a problematic re-election campaign, announced his intention to support the application to the United Nations for recognition of Israel as an independent state. He summoned envoys from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt and told them:
“I am sorry, gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism: I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.”
Truman’s support for Zionism and the plan to create a Jewish homeland (by force) was strongly opposed by his Secretary of State, George Marshall, by the US State Department, by Arab opinion, and by the British, who all warned that Jewish migration to Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state threatened to destabilise the Middle East, and that American support would severely offend Arab opinion for generations. Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, warned about the perils of provoking Arab hostility, with possible repercussions for access to oil in the Middle East, and “the impact of this question on the security of the United States” - an opinion shared by the CIA.
Truman, once the most popular US President, had seen his support plummet. Concerned about his re-election prospects he concluded that supporting Zionism would be more advantageous than opposing it, and his ‘inner circle’, including his special legal counsel, Clark Clifford, agreed. They argued that Israel was essentially a fait accompli and if the USA didn’t recognise it first then the USSR might do so (the Irgun and Haganah, Jewish paramilitary organisations responsible for the Palestinian Nakba, used Soviet weapons), and any appearance of US ambivalence would not serve American interests. Voices within the US military argued that the Israeli state could be a significant military asset in ‘holding’ the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and oil interests. They argued that a friendly Israeli state with guaranteed loyalty to the US could serve as a military outpost. On the downside, the US military assessment was that contemptuous Israeli attitudes towards Arabs would ensure that the Zionist state could only survive, in the face of Arab hostility, with indefinite external support. The necessary ‘external support’ is American military aid, currently worth around $3billion/year.
The Palestinian government collapsed two weeks before the British troops were due to leave and it was reliably predicted that, without strong Arab reinforcements, the “Jews will be able to sweep all before them when the British go”. The American UN delegation was seriously concerned about “aggressive and irresponsible operations such as the Deir Yassin massacre and Jaffa” and the forced evacuation of the population of Haifa, and speculated about whether the Jewish action was legitimate or whether it constituted such a threat to international peace and security as to call for coercive measures by the Security Council. Some even thought that the US might be obliged to intervene if a wider conflict broke out. It was thought that any military action by neighbouring Arab states would lead Israel to claim that their state was the object of armed aggression. However, contemporary US assessment of the military capabilities of the Arab states found that they lacked equipment, organisation, commitment and cohesion. Crucially, the Saudi view was that the conflict was a civil dispute that it would be unwise for Arab states to become involved in, lest it trigger UN involvement on the grounds of interference in a neighbouring sovereign state – in the light of the pending, and anticipated to be successful, application for Israeli statehood.
It is unclear whether Israel would have got UN recognition without Truman’s intervention. Critics at the time accused Truman of playing the ultimate cynical game with foreign policy simply to secure his own re-election. He was re-elected with a margin so narrow that early newspaper editions announced that he had lost to his rival. Ever since the ‘Israeli lobby’ has been prominently influential in US elections.
A small step towards establishing a culture of peace
Over 100 people gathered in the sunshine at the grave of Henry Richard in Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington on 1st April 2012 to hear Diane Abbott MP, eminent historian Lord Kenneth Morgan and Bruce Kent lead tributes to this great Victorian leader of the peace movement, Minister in the Congregational Church and Member of Parliament who once had an international reputation as The Apostle of Peace and campaigned tirelessly for a league of nations and a permanent system of arbitration, thus laying some of the foundation stones of our present UN. Speaker of Hackney Council, Councillor Susan Fajana-Thomas was also present.
Diane Abbott, proud that the celebration was taking place in ‘the best London Borough’, pointed out that many of the things Henry Richard campaigned on are as relevant today as they were in the 19th century: for improved educational opportunities for all, against misleading press reporting and for better ways of resolving international disputes.
Lord Morgan described Henry Richard as a man of peace and a citizen of the world, while remaining a proud Welshman and creating the modern idea of Welsh identity. In addition to his great work for peace and education, he championed women’s suffrage. He was, said Lord Morgan, 'the valiant prophet of a better world'.
Daffodils were placed on the grave by Rhian Medi Roberts of the Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Office, assisted by 4 year old Hazel, daughter of Abney Trust Chair David Solman, then the Revd Peter Dewi Richards introduced a two-minute silence for people to reflect on Henry Richard’s life and work in whatever way each felt appropriate.
Afterwards, Bruce Kent observed that it is crucial to remember and celebrate the lives of people of peace because all too often they are forgotten, while those who wage war are remembered. He suggested that a statue of Henry Richard should occupy the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in recognition of his important work for peace.
The Trustees of Abney Park were thanked for their hospitality and the excellent work they do and John Baldock spoke briefly about the work of the Trust.
Finally, Bruce Kent invited the Welsh folk present to sing something suitable to the occasion and they rose magnificently to the challenge, giving a truly wonderful spontaneous rendition of the traditional Welsh song Calon Lân sung in full harmony: very appropriate, referring as it does, to a true and steadfast heart – Henry Richard was well honoured!
Following the ceremony, the party continued with tea and cakes in St Mary’s Church hall.
It was pleasing that representatives of all the main aspects of Henry Richard’s life and interests (Peace/UNA/Church/Wales/Parliament) participated in this celebration.
(with contributions from Genny Bove)
Part 4 - Final part in the series on 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 original plan for an organisation created to save succeeding generations from war, was to prevent war by the combined action of all the powerful member nations. This ambitious plan had to be shelved when the advent of the Cold War prevented the necessary cooperation. With the adversaries as permanent members of the Security Council, each provided with a veto, agreement on coordinated action became impossible.
All the major wars after the end of the Second World War were fought without UN mandate or involvement, with the exception of the first war in Iraq in 1991, which was fought under the UN flag but in which however the forces were not under UN control, an arrangement to be later repeated in Kosovo in 1999 and in Libya in 2011. Involvement in major wars being ruled out, and in any case rather a contradiction of its Charter, the UN’s role became relegated to peace building, peacekeeping operations.
Maintaining a post-conflict fragile peace that both warring parties have agreed to was not part of the original UN agenda. Dag Hammarskjöld, the second UN Secretary-General, referred to peacekeeping as belonging to a Harry Potteresque "Chapter Six and a Half" of the Charter, placing it between traditional methods of resolving disputes peacefully, such as negotiation and mediation under Chapter VI, and more forceful action as authorized under Chapter VII, action rendered impossible by the Cold War tensions. Lightly armed UN soldiers were sent to patrol borders that had been established after relatively minor-scale quarrels – an office both former adversaries might regard as beneficial (e.g. the partition of Cyprus by a UN-patrolled buffer zone between the Turkish and Greek sectors in 1974, which the UN guards to this day). The UN soldiers were generally accepted as impartial, with the keeping of the peace as the sole agenda.
After the Cold War ended in 1991, the UN, no longer limited to simple patrolling of a border agreed between former combatants, was able to expand its operations greatly.
To quote from the UN website:
The United Nations has the unique ability to mount a truly comprehensive response to complex crises and has developed the concept of “integrated missions” to maximize the overall impact of its support to countries emerging from conflict.
After the simple kind of Cold War border-patrol peacekeeping, a new generation of operations aimed at restoring normal relations between combatants has emerged. Since 1948 over sixty UN peacekeeping/peacemaking operations have been mounted. Not surprisingly considering the complexity of some of the situations, there have been some relative failures, which have been more instructive than the successes. The UN failures in Rwanda in 1994 and Srebenica in 1995 demonstrated the need to protect citizens from internal crises, when genocide was threatened. The important idea that the international community had a right, and even a responsibility to ensure basic human rights wherever they are endangered emerged from these failures.
Peacemaking, including diplomacy, sanctions and even the use of force as a last resort, is a modus operandi for the UN that requires a degree of disinterested concord and belief in UN values that has still not been fully achieved. Yet there have been some notable successes. After Indonesia was persuaded by the UN to remove its military from East Timor in 1974, a UN force was sent to stop the killing by rogue militias and to oversee the transition to democracy. Elections in the Ivory Coast in 2002 resulted in a win for Ouattara, but former president Gbagbo, backed by his military, refused to stand down. Civil war was threatened. A UN operation swiftly protected the newly-elected president and used force to subdue the nascent military threat. Information on many other United Nations operations may be found at http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping. Budgets for these UN operations are miniscule when compared to the enormous cost of invasions organized by Nato or ‘coalitions of the willing’.
The current situations in Iran and Syria illustrate the differences in approach between the old-style militarism and modern UN mediation.
The threat of military action against Iran over its alleged attempt to become a nuclear weapon state comes from individual leaders of existing nuclear states. Israel’s president Netanyahu has declared that ‘his’ country’s patience is almost at an end, president Obama refuses to rule out a military strike, and prime minister Cameron agrees that ‘all options are on the table’. Clearly these leaders feel they can act without UN sanction, as has occurred in the Iraq war just finished, and in Afghanistan.
In contrast, international reaction to the civil strife in Syria, where an Arab Spring-type uprising has been brutally repressed by the military, has been left to the United Nations/Arab League. There have been no individual leaders shouting threats from the sidelines, but instead coordinated action from genuinely supranational bodies. Military intervention has been ruled out, even to the extent of refusing to arm the protesters. UN-Arab League envoy, former UN general secretary Annan, has put forward a peace plan, which includes a UN-supervised ceasefire and delivery of humanitarian aid, which president Assad may accept, an issue unresolved at the time of writing. In the case of brutal repression by the standing military under a dictator’s command, there exists no certain cure in today’s world, but each UN success brings the day nearer when unified international action will deter officially sanctioned murder – no nation is an island.
After analysing the costly failures in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, perhaps future leaders will be reluctant to involve their countries in war, and will be readier to allow the UN the chance to resolve the dangerous situations which are sure to arise in tomorrow’s world. In the end, with interventions by individual nations discredited, a stable universal peace may at last be achieved by default, by the back door so to speak, in this way.
Discussion paper from the BASIC Trident Commission
Savings of over £80 billion could be made if the Trident replacement programme was cancelled, according to a leading defence economist.
The figures are published in a new discussion paper from the BASIC Trident Commission, which examines defence-industrial aspects of the Trident renewal programme. The paper looks in particular at the economic and employment implications of a decision to construct new 'Successor' class Trident submarines.
The report, written by defence economist Professor Keith Hartley of the University of York, concludes that up to £83.5 billion could be saved over the period 2016 to 2062, equivalent to an annual average saving of £1.86bn if the Trident renewal programme was cancelled. Under a worst-case scenario cancellation would result in job losses of around 9,200 jobs, mainly after 2025, followed by the loss of a further 21,700 jobs after 2052, amounting to a total of almost 31,000 job losses.
However, Professor Hartley concludes that there is sufficient time for government intervention to mitigate against these effects in vulnerable local economies, such as Barrow-in-Furness, Aldermaston and Plymouth, where significant numbers of jobs are linked to the Trident programme. As submarine manufacture is particularly capital-intensive, more alternative jobs could be created with the same investment.
The report states that the option of building a new fleet of four new Astute submarines with nuclear-armed cruise missiles – which is being considered by the Ministry of Defence Trident Alternatives Review – might cost £56.5bn up to 2058, but would be a less effective deterrent.
The consequences of outright cancellation of the system would create difficulties in maintaining the submarine engineering skills base, and Professor Hartley recommended that, if the UK intends to continue with a nuclear-powered submarine programme, employees should be given alternative work in submarine maintenance or the construction of surface ships between orders for hunter-killer submarines.
The study emphasises that the decision on replacing the Trident system should not be dominated by the impact on jobs or industry, but on the contribution the programme might make to UK security, protection, and peace.
The Trident commission is jointly chaired by the former Conservative and Labour defence secretaries Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Lord Browne and the former Liberal Democrat leader and foreign and defence spokesman, Sir Menzies Campbell and aims to consider options to Trident replacement with the aim of stimulating debate in the run-up to the next election.
Nuclear Information Service
This is an extract from an article in the Guardian on 20th April – for the full text see :
Given Greece's financial predicament, illustrated last week by IMF managing director Christine Lagarde's refusal to rule out a default, growing numbers have begun to question the probity of the nation's defence expenditure. Its military budget accounts for nearly 4% of national economic output, compared with the eurozone average of around 2%.
Just under 15% of Germany's total arms exports are made to Greece, its biggest market in Europe. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), France is not far behind. Some 10% of its total arms sales go to Greece, which is a member of NATO.
Greece has paid Germany over €2bn (£1.6bn) for submarines that proved to be faulty and which it doesn't even need. It owes another €1bn as part of the deal, totalling three times the amount Athens was asked to make in additional pension cuts to secure its latest EU aid package.
Greece has cited perceived security risks from Turkey as the reason for spending an estimated €216bn on armaments since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
Under the latest EU-IMF-sponsored rescue programme, which is propping up the near-bankrupt Greek economy with an extra €130bn in emergency loans until 2015, Athens has agreed to cut defence expenditure by €400m. Speculation is rife that international aid was dependent on Greece following through on agreements to buy military hardware from Germany and France.
John Nye, a member of Kingston Peace Council/ CND, died prematurely on 20th February.
In 2003 (after the invasion of Iraq) John, inspired by Gandhi's words "I object to violence because, when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary. The evil it does is permanent", wrote the following poem to mark the UN International Day of Peace that year:
Is violence ever justified? No never,
War is too often the first resort whenever
Instead negotiate; go for win-win. The clever
This day each year marks a new endeavour
At the time, the poem was published in Kingston Peace News. We thought members (and others) might like to see it again.
Kay Lippold, KPC member and long-standing peace activist, died on 7th April 2012.
In earlier times Kay and her husband Olof attended KPC meetings and were enthusiastic promoters of Kingston Peace News. In recent years, although less able to take an active role, they continued to support our fundraising activities. They were also stalwarts of Surbiton and Elmbridge UNA.
Kay was arrested on two occasions - once for entering the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment, for which she received eight days in Holloway, and once for entering Faslane naval base. She was not charged with the latter offence, as officials at the base were too embarrassed to take it further. She and two other women were walking around the base and came across a small gate which had been secured with rope. One of them found a pair of scissors in her handbag - they cut the rope and walked in!
We offer out condolences to Olof at this very sad time.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND