Campaigning focus for 2013
2013 is a year of continuous activity at AWE Aldermaston to highlight the site’s nuclear bomb-making function.
This is vital as we head towards the 2016 decision point on whether or not Trident should be replaced. Vast sums of money are being poured into developments at Aldermaston, even before any decision is taken on Trident.
The total cost of a replace-ment for Trident would be over £100 billion. Think what else that could be spent on! We say it's time to scrap Trident, and on April Fools’ Day we’ll be telling the government to ‘stop fooling with nuclear weapons!’ We’ll be saying ‘Scrap Trident and cancel plans to replace it’.
Kingston Peace Council/CND will be joining thousands gathering around the base with music, colour, and speeches. Each of the gates at Aldermaston will have a different theme and regional/national focus – including a women’s gate and a faith gate.
Bring banners, placards, knitting, poems… and anything else you can think of to decorate the fence to show what you want to spend the money on rather than Trident. Also bring pots, pans and musical instruments, as we will be surrounding the base with the sound of protest. We hope you’ll join us for an inspirational day of protest against Britain’s illegal and immoral nuclear weapons!
Our travel plans are yet to be finalised, so make sure you check the March edition of Kingston Peace News, or contact Gill or Noel to tell us you want to go.
Action AWE (Atomic Weapons Eradication) is a grassroots campaign of nonviolent actions dedicated to halting nuclear weapons production at the Atomic Weapons Establishment factories at Aldermaston and Burghfield. The purpose is for groups and individuals to take part in autonomous actions and events to raise awareness of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.
Action AWE will be holding a public launch on Wednesday 27th February at 7.30pm in The Kennet Room, Reading Civic Centre, RG1 7AE. All are invited to come along and discuss the issues and arguments with Dr Rebecca Johnson, Co-chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, speaking on ‘Avoiding nuclear catastrophe: from local action to a global nuclear ban’ and Kate Hudson, CND General Secretary, speaking on ‘Time to Scrap Trident – how we can make it happen’.
Seating is limited so please reserve your place by telephoning or emailing -- details on the Action AWE web site.
In 1985, Greenham Women set up Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp (AWPC) - and they are still there. Whatever the weather, you can find them on the second weekend of every month outside the 'Citadel' (A340) gate - look for the peace flags and banners!
They occupy Ministry of Defence (MoD) land, but have not made this a permanent camp because it would not be good for their health! In addition to its radioactive discharges into the air and waterways, AWE has a poor safety record, with fires, explosions and flooding that the emergency services have struggled to contain. They draw attention to the high security area where plutonium and other materials are machined to form the nuclear 'pit' at the core of Britain's Trident warheads. Aldermaston also develops special high explosives that are packed around these plutonium pits at AWE Burghfield, 7 miles away. The warheads are then transported by road to Coulport in Scotland, where they are stored ready for loading onto the US-made Trident missiles that are carried on nuclear submarines based at Faslane. AWPC is part of Nukewatch (www.nukewatch.org.uk) the net-work of citizens who monitor and track the military convoys that carry the warheads between Burghfield and Coulport. If a convoy is spotted they inform others in Nukewatch. If they can do so safely, they will halt and mark it.
Privatised with American investment
Although the nuclear weapons are the responsibility of the MoD, the Aldermaston and Burghfield bomb factories are managed by a private conglomerate, called AWE Management Limited (AWEML), made up of Serco and two US arms companies, Lockheed Martin and Jacobs Engineering. The day to day running of AWE is carried out by another legal entity called AWE plc in which the government holds a special share. Although AWEML has the overall management contract, much of the work is subcontracted to other companies, including Jacobs Babtie, Mott MacDonald, Amec, WS Atkins, RWE Nukem, and Babcock. Of the 6,500 staff employed at AWE, 2,000 are subcontractors.
Billions from UK taxpayers before Trident decision
Since 2005, even before any political decision to replace Trident, the government gave massive increases to its funding for AWE, including for several large construction projects. Last April, the MoD announced spending up to March 2018 of about £1bn a year, 40% of which is for capital projects. Key construction projects include:
ORION - laser facility that simulates nuclear tests required for designing new warheads (to begin operation in April 2013)
GEMINI - office complex already in use
PEGASUS - handling facility for enriched uranium (still at an early stage)
CIRCINUS lightning conductor (where high explosives are fabricated)
SCORPIUS - planned for explosives powder manufacture
LEO - components manufacturing at Burghfield
MENSA - new warhead assembly and disassembly plant at Burghfield (due for completion in 2015)
In addition, AWE has been upgrading and refurbishing existing buildings and laboratories. Two new WILLOW supercomputers and a new Bull Systems computer called BLACKTHORN have been installed. Used together with a sophisticated visualisation computer known as IVY these new computing facilities replace and massively outstrip the capabilities of AWE's old Cray computer.
Violating international law
AWE's expensive construction projects are for one purpose - to ensure nuclear weapons can be maintained, designed, modernised and manufactured for the next 50 years or more. This contradicts UK obligations under international law, including the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which includes the commitment to pursue nuclear disarmament in good faith. In successive NPT conferences - most recently in 2010 - Labour and Coalition governments have committed the UK "to undertake concrete disarmament efforts" and also to "make special efforts to establish the necessary framework to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons." Only AWE's verification work - a tiny fraction of its budget - is compatible with the UK's disarmament obligations, which were spelled out in 13 key paragraphs that NPT states adopted in 2000. Instead of making warheads, AWE could have a future fulfilling Britain's disarmament obligations and verifying the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Every 2nd full weekend: Feb 8/10; March 8/10; April 12/14 etc. Website: www.aldermaston.net
As part of Action AWE, Trident Ploughshares will be holding a disarmament camp at Burghfield from 26th August to 7th September. There will be skill-sharing sessions on action planning and practice, how to run legal support, how to facilitate effectively and make decisions by consensus and using spokes-councils, radical music and song and much more. On 1st Sept, European anti-militarist groups will join the camp to share their experiences and also take part in a joint international action of resistance.
Action AWE are looking for people who would be willing to form a legal support team to help out at various nonviolent direct action events - especially at the Trident Ploughshares summer camp. A free training day would be provided by experts who have run legal support teams and also trained others. No previous legal experience is required, just the ability to observe, record and help support people who have been arrested doing nonviolent actions at Burghfield and Aldermaston. Please contact Angie via the Action AWE web site if you are interested.
The Aldermaston event will launch the national Scrap Trident tour through April and beyond. CND Vice-president Bruce Kent will be touring the country, campaigning to Scrap Trident. He will be highlighting the wasteful spending on Trident when so much investment is needed to eradicate poverty, boost people-friendly development and make our world a safer and more peaceful place to live. We are hoping to invite Bruce to visit Kingston at the end of April – keep an eye on future newsletters for more details.
The cuts continue apace and are likely to bite harder and deeper this year. CND will be mobilising outside Downing Street on the occasion of the Budget announcement on Wednesday 20th March. As the Chancellor informs the country about what he is doing with our money, we shall be telling him there is a good cut that could be made: “Cut Trident and spend the billions saved on investment, welfare and services that will actually benefit the British people”.
At our street stall in March Kingston Peace Council/CND will be following up our October action on this theme (for Think in Kingston) when we took to the streets with our ‘cutometer’ (see our Dec/Jan newsletter).
If you could help for an hour or more between 11am and 2pm on Saturday 16th March, either dressing up or leafleting, please contact Noel.
Whenever a persuasive politician like Barack Obama promises change on being elected it almost inevitably sets us up for disappointment, if we believe oratory equals action. That is the case with Guantánamo which four years ago he roundly criticised and pledged to close. This election he carefully avoided the issue.
The US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay was opened 11 years ago and members and supporters of the London Guantánamo Campaign turned out on the anniversary, January 11th , to mark the occasion. Members of Kingston Peace Council joined others from across London and the South East, including the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, to give the issue publicity. We planned a series of walks around London, visiting the embassies of many of the countries colluding with the US system. We concluded with a candlelit vigil at the US embassy.
After the appalling attacks of 9/11 George Bush demanded US forces invade Afghanistan where a tottering and unpopular fanatical Taliban regime was already under threat from internal dissent. Afghanistan was not responsible for the Middle Eastern suicidal fanatics of 9/11 and the US invasion was neither necessary nor helpful. On the back of it an arbitrary rounding up of ‘foreign’ Muslims, not confined to Afghanistan, was initiated. These kidnapped victims were forcibly flown around the world with the full cooperation of foreign governments, some agreeing to torture victims, some setting up ‘dark’ sites for disappearances. European governments were amongst the worst offenders despite commitment to human rights and international law.
Evidence is that possibly 90% of victims were completely innocent of supposed offences the US accused them of. Guantánamo is only the visible part of a process that granted the US unrestrained licence to gratuitously and deliberately abuse people simply for being Muslim, with no credible evidence of any wrongdoing. Few have ever been charged or tried. Over 600 have been released leaving around 160. US authorities systematically fabricated stories to cover for the programme and, whilst the focus is on Guantánamo, in Afghanistan the growth of the prison at Bagram escalates.
Releases and trials have dried up and many of the processes are becoming almost institutionalized. UK supports an ignominious corrupt and unrepresentative Afghan government.
Despite the Obama pledges of four years ago, buckling under the dead weight of brainwashed US public opinion, the Obama administration has not even followed through on the more enlightened initiatives of the later Bush years; whilst all manner of kidnaps, imprisonments and systematic ill-treatment are believed to continue ‘below the radar’. Governments, including our own, are taking measures to conceal truth and deny victims justice. The use of plea bargaining and out of court settlements denies the oxygen of publicity, and secrecy on grounds of national security denies evidence and scrutiny.
No! Obama has not closed Guantánamo or stopped the illegality and inhumane treatments that are its hallmark. Our demonstration on January 11th was to draw attention to this and to the willing cooperation of the world’s governments that made Guantánamo and its medieval treatment of innocents possible. Consider this: if there is no evidence of you or I committing offences then we are innocent and expect to be treated as such – not so innocent Guantánamo victims.
We were not alone. Demonstrations happened elsewhere including the US. Pictures of our demonstrations join hundreds beamed around the world on the internet where they remain almost in perpetuity. Obama may prefer his broken promises are not advertised but we, in our own way, ensured that they are not forgotten or completely obscured.
It is possible to suppress truth and justice using levers of power and concealment for a while, but eventually lies escape. Treating people unfairly and inhumanely does nothing for peace and reconciliation. We should fear its legacy.
I continue to campaign for the Battersea charity worker, Shaker Aamer, (see http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/33133 ). My particular thanks to KPC supporters of the 11th January anniversary protests.
A personal appeal to our prime minister from the young people of Hiroshima goes straight to the generals and bureaucrats at the Ministry of Defence.
On December 3rd 2012, London schoolchildren delivered a special present to Downing Street, as part of an International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) project to send 1,000 hand-folded origami paper cranes to the president or prime minister of every UN member state – over 180,000 paper cranes in total, from the young people of Hiroshima. They also delivered a letter addressed to David Cameron, asking specifically for a message of support for a global treaty to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons.
Young people of Hiroshima are reaching out with a gift and a letter, appealing to common sense, justice and humanity. The paper cranes, “each one a prayer for a peaceful nuclear-weapon-free world”, are tightly threaded together and assembled into a unique and colourful object.
Paper cranes are a traditional Japanese symbol for good health. Since the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, which claimed more than 210,000 lives by the end of that year (and many more have died from radiation-related illnesses in the decades since), they have also symbolized support for a nuclear-weapon-free world. It is hoped that this project will demonstrate the overwhelming support worldwide for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.
Response from Cameron
Headed by a statement from Ban Ki Moon, responses from national leaders to the letter are already beginning to appear on the ICAN website. However, enquiries have found that the Prime Minister’s office has forwarded the gift of paper cranes and the letter to the Ministry of Defence. Is this to be Cameron’s response to a hand-crafted personal gift? One wonders what the MoD will do with it - their ‘peacemaking’ is normally done with military hardware!
Witness to War: An American Doctor in El Salvador, by Charles Clements, M.D.
Charles Clements came from a military family. He graduated as a pilot and was sent to Vietnam, where he flew over 50 transport missions. His experiences there caused him to seek an exit from the war. His plea of conscientious objection was disallowed. His refusal to fight being deemed a symptom of madness, he was referred to a psychiatric hospital for a cure (shades of the treatment of dissidents in the Soviet Union!). With the aid of a lawyer he escaped the hospital, and this is where the main story starts.
He became a Quaker, studied medicine, and on graduation went to El Salvador, where a cruel civil war was in progress. This was the time, the height of the Cold War, when the US was sending military aid to rightwing governments in America’s ‘backyard’ of Central and South America. Death squads and soldiers were slaughtering civilians in the villages, while US warplanes strafed indiscriminately daily. Clements chose to help the civilian wounded. His Quaker convictions did not permit him to take sides, though being resident in the villages he was often in contact with the guerrillas.
The conditions were awful. Lice and fleas were the least of worries. With low supplies of chloroquine, Clements was reduced to treating malaria with an infusion from the bark of the local quina tree, as better than nothing. He kept a supply of chloroquine for himself, reasoning that a malaria-stricken doctor would be of no use, but when a pregnant villager had life-threatening acute malaria, he gave his supply to her, resulting in his catching malaria himself. On another occasion his big heart forced him to give two units of his own blood in a forlorn attempt to save the life of the wife of a guerrilla.
The government forces were powerful and remorseless. Death squads descended on villages, indiscriminately killing men, women and even children. Dangerously exposed, Clements himself would probably have been killed if after a year the guerrillas had not decided to repatriate the gringo doctor so that he could tell the story of the civil war to his countrymen. Which he did, founding the Salvadoran Medical Relief Fund, and testifying before Congress and the American people to promote peace and justice in Central America.
Witness to War comes into the rare category of unforgettable books, at once heartwarming and inspiring. It is depressing to observe that there are idiots in the world who sometimes get to control the destinies of whole nations, and so influence human history, and as an antidote it is well to keep in mind that on the other hand there are also people like Charlie Clements, an American hero.
Second-hand copies of Witness to War can still be obtained from Amazon.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND