Bruce Kent in Kingston
CND Vice-President Bruce Kent finished his nationwide "Scrap Trident" tour on 30th April in Kingston trying, as he did in every town and city visited during the month, to draw attention to the "disgraceful squandering of public money" on our present nuclear weapons system and on its proposed replacement "which has everything to do with national pride and nothing to do with national security". He said, "nuclear weapons are no answer to any of the threats we actually face. This is where the government should be making its cuts, not on health, education and public services."
In addition to engaging with passers-by outside the Bentall Centre, Bruce Kent discussed the issues with A-level Politics students from Richard Challoner School, before meeting faith leaders in the Mayor's Parlour at the invitation of the Mayor of Kingston, Councillor Mary Heathcote.
Pictures on a separate page
We are extremely grateful to an anonymous donor who has funded the hire for the next six months of our new meeting venue at Surbiton Hill Methodist Church hall, 39 Ewell Road, Surbiton.
At our June meeting we shall be showing ‘This is my land – Hebron’. This award winning film by Guilia Amati and Stephen Natanson is a powerful depiction of the daily grinding routine of abuse and harassment in the Palestinian city of Hebron. It records encounters bet-ween Palestinians and the 600+ Jewish settlers, and includes commentary from Palestinian and Jewish residents.
The meeting starts at 7.45pm on Wednesday 12th June. We look forward to seeing you.
Part 3: Assessing the Einstein/Freud discussion of how to end war, continued from last month’s KPN.
How far did Einstein and Freud agree on ways to abolish war? Both saw the creation of an international body with sufficient trust and power to enforce generally-agreed rules to prevent war as essential. Both recognised that whilst the newly-formed League of Nations acted as a supreme court of judicature, there was a need, and a difficulty, in providing the League with the necessary ‘adequate executive force’, without which it could not carry out its function. Freud in particular was doubtful that such necessary executive power would ever be granted to the international body, because ‘nationalist ideas, paramount today in every country, operate in quite a contrary direction’. Yet without partial renunciation of national authority, there was no prospect of lasting peace. Sadly, their predictions of failure of the League proved accurate.
Both recognised that wars had always been started by ruling cliques, and that the people who would suffer as a result could always be recruited fairly readily. How was this possible? Einstein thought ‘an obvious answer to this question would seem to be that the minority, the ruling class at present, has the schools and press, usually the Church as well, under its thumb’. Freud added that in addition to a Love instinct, all men possessed a latent Hate instinct, and that both might serve to recruit for war. The lust for aggression (Hate) can be stimulated by appeals to idealism (Love).
Could democracies be trusted never to go to war? In theory, people power should be a strong bulwark against taking the nation to an elective war. However, both Einstein and Freud distrusted such a theoretical safeguard, for the reasons above stated. Both called for an organisation of prominent citizens of proven integrity and intelligence, whose purpose was to speak truth to power, with influence on decision-making. Their distrust of democracy was to be later justified in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Both men were appalled by the horrors of war. Einstein, in a ‘can do’ spirit, thought that outlining the problems of war [since greatly magnified by the invention of the H-bomb] would be useful, that reason might be recruited to effect the necessary changes in administration, in particular in establishing an international body powerful enough to prevent war, a League of Nations with teeth. Freud saw the need for such a body, but thought it could never be created. His view of the future was therefore gloomy.
What has happened in the 80 years since the Einstein/Freud exchange on ways to abolish war? Shortly afterwards, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, and made his preparations for another world war that was to be even more horrific than the first. Nuclear weapons were invented and used. The Cold War with the Soviet Union, exacerbated by the Bomb, created tensions that resulted in wars in Asia, Africa, Central and South America. On the Hate generated, the military-industrial complex arose, diverting international funds and increasing tensions worldwide.
In particular, the 2003 elective war against Iraq by the US and Britain demonstrated the power of rulers to take democracies to war, even in the face of public pressure. Looking back from today’s world, that of 1932 seems gentle and hopeful.
Has there been any positive movement at all towards the creation of an effective international body as described by Einstein and Freud? Perhaps so. After the ending of the Cold War, the UN peacekeepers have been deployed in 62 operations. Peacemaking using military force under UN command was successful in East Timor and the Ivory Coast. Perception that elective wars led by ‘coalitions of the willing’ have been costly failures has increased public mistrust and may deter leaders from undertaking similar adventures, at least for the time.
As reported in the February edition of Kingston Peace News, this year has seen the launch of Action AWE (Atomic Weapons Eradication), a grassroots campaign of non-violent 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 raise awareness of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.
On four occasions so far this year, a small group of KPC members and friends has been getting up early to stand outside one of the gates at Aldermaston from 7am as workers drive in. The workers are at that moment placing themselves ‘inside the wire’, where they will help to maintain and enhance our genocidal weapons.
Why do we go there? We go because there is an instinctive and real need to confront the evil where it lies. No amount of writing and talking elsewhere can substitute for facing these five miles of wire, behind which five thousand highly technical creative people work to engineer a new Armageddon.
For this type of action we try for a non-threatening presentation – no banners on the wire, no chanting, just one rainbow peace flag and then the placards with a clear message. The objective is for staff to think about what they are doing. They will not stop to take a leaflet – you get a bit of eye contact if you are lucky – but they cannot help but read the simple, polite, strong messages on our placards.
Do they get the message? Yes, probably. Drivers are trained to read signs instantly. A very simple, polite message, repeated clearly two or three times on otherwise plain placards, probably goes straight into the mind. And it’s not a hostile message – it’s personally supportive but questioning. Even if only a small percentage were reminded of their role in the de-facto UK non-compliance with treaty obligations, or were moved to look up what the Oslo Conference was all about and find out why UK sent no experts, then we are making some progress.
And we shall be there again. With more of us we could be at more gates and see more people more often. There are about 5,000 more, easy-to-reach, potential thinkers. The only hard bit is to get up sufficiently early.
If you are able to join us on our next outing, contact Martin or Gill. We must never let these people forget what they are doing.
On 23rd April John McDonnell MP, flanked by Chris Coverdale of “Make Wars History” and Annie Machon, an ex-MI5 officer who resigned on a point of principle, launched an initiative to try to improve understanding of the UN Principles of International Law applying to War. Claiming that the UK had repeatedly engaged in illegal wars he cited Point 6 of the UN document UNGAR 2625 which took eight years to produce and was intended as an unequivocal clarification of the UN declarations drawn up in 1948. The clarification had been requested to ensure there were no ambiguities about when war was acceptable and when it was illegal; and the result leaves no scope for doubt:
“No state or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements are in violation of international law.”
John made the point that a standing army, well equipped and sustained by the world’s fourth largest military budget is a temptation too far. It is an asset awaiting a mission and at the first sign of international controversy it too easily becomes ‘the solution of first resort’ when other options might be preferable. John cited particularly the Iraq War where a majority of MPs gave support, despite a record Labour ‘rebellion’. MPs, he claims, are ill-informed and lack impartial expert advice to help make informed choices. Things might have been different had the large influx of new MPs, replacing many flushed out by the expenses scandal, been posed the question. There is however a pressing need for adequate advice and resources for MPs faced with exceptional circumstances such as decisions about war. Since 1945 we have enjoyed “peace time” which in reality has been anything but for the many thousands whose deaths have been caused by UK actions, including about 1 million adults and 600,000 children in the 21st century alone.
Annie Machon knows from the inside how statements in Parliament about no “UK boots on the ground” were the exact opposite of the truth as UK special agents infiltrated various States for the purpose of mentoring opposition activists or provoking instability. She said the secret services are so secretive that no government can effectively exercise oversight and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee is completely toothless.
However, she commended the USA’s 16 secret service agencies which had redeemed themselves after the Iraq WMD debacle by producing a joint report saying Iran was not building a nuclear weapon.
Chris Coverdale said the UK was addicted to war and had spent £500 billion since 2001. The illegality of war was declared in 1928, confirmed in 1948 and reiterated in 1970. States and the individuals responsible for illegal war can and should be held to account. Those supporting illegal war are guilty of conspiracy and withholding financial support through taxation is the appropriate course to deny funding of illegal wars.
In Afghanistan NATO, not being a signatory to the UN Declarations, cannot be held responsible, but participating States can be and Afghanistan neither attacked anyone nor posed a threat.
The crime of war is further compounded by use of weapons of mass destruction such as bombing civilian areas, use of depleted uranium and drone attacks which have a very poor record of targeted killings versus civilian deaths; and the use of which against neutral states is completely outside the framework of UN legality.
John McDonnell believes the examples of Iraq, which ended badly, and Afghanistan, that is wearing patience thin, do inevitably influence government thinking for the better, discouraging any further headlong rush to war.
There is no doubt that UK subversion played a part in the Libyan conflict, despite government denials, and is continuing to do so in Syria where western subversion has been active for decades.
Bombing in Libya was definitely illegal, as is the use of drones in Pakistan. And each ‘bomb’ used in Libya may have cost UK taxpayers £1 million at a time of domestic austerity. The costs alone should call into question the wisdom of military strikes against other states.
John will initiate an EDM and hopes that everyone gets their MPs to sign and support it.
On Saturday 27th April, members of Kingston Peace Council/CND joined an estimated 600 demonstrators who marched from Lincoln for a rally outside the UK's new drone headquarters at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Station Waddington in Lincolnshire. The Ministry of Defence began carrying out missile-carrying Reaper aircraft missions from the newly built headquarters there earlier that week. Previously, the RAF had been piloting the unmanned aircraft in attacks against Afghanistan from the Creech airforce base in Nevada. Reportedly, the RAF has purchased five more Reaper aircraft - bringing the total to 10 - which they are expected to deploy in Afghanistan over the summer. British UAVs have flown 45,000 hours in Afghanistan, and fired 350 weapons, including Hellfire missiles.
Veteran peace protestor Helen John, a founder of the Greenham Common protests, had set up a one-woman peace camp opposite the base. She spoke at the rally, saying "What I would like to see is that the base does not have one hour of rest. What they are doing is completely illegal and what I would like to do is organise a mass walk-in into the base so we would be arrested and have to explain ourselves in court. This base is a smokescreen for the work that's going on in killing children across the world. We should make sure that everyone who works there is trembling in their boots about going to work."
As reported in the Dec/Jan newsletter, TRAKNAT (Twickenham, Richmond And Kingston against the Arms Trade) held a very successful public meeting with Vince Cable MP in November attended by over 300 local people. Originally Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park, was also going to attend, but withdrew at the last minute. However, he offered to meet a delegation in a committee room in Parliament.
The meeting eventually took place on 13th May, when members of KPC joined other local arms trade campaigners representing a number of local groups, in a meeting with the MP at Portcullis House, Parliament. They urged him to call upon Vince Cable’s Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) department to do more to regulate the shady world of arms brokers.
Campaigners explained that the UK Government promotes weapons sales to some of the world’s most repressive regimes. The Government co-sponsors the world’s biggest arms fair, held biennially in the Docklands. To its shame BIS invites delegations from countries identified by the Foreign Office as having ‘the most serious human rights concerns.’ Zac reacted positively when asked to call upon the Government to be more open about its process for inviting delegates and to publish the criteria by which it selects them, as well as publishing a full delegate list in advance of the arms fair.
Over the last 10 years there has been a threefold increase in weapons sales to many developing countries. Over one third of the world’s poorest people live in India and Pakistan yet their Governments spend nearly 20% of their budgets on the military, but only 3-4% on health. Military spending dwarfs aid budgets. Amnesty member John Hatto said: “BIS does not even follow its own criteria for promoting weapons to developing countries. We call on Zac to ask the Government for a full review of its promotion of weapons to developing countries.”
Jim Mortimer, a member of Kingston Peace Council/CND, who has died aged 92, was a leading figure in the Labour movement over 60 years. He campaigned, wrote and spoke on a wide range of issues and challenges facing working people and progressive movements both in Britain and internationally. His autobiography A Life On The Left captures the essence and spirit of a comrade totally dedicated to the socialist cause.
In 1946 Jim won a TUC scholarship to Ruskin, the trade union college. Following this he became a national official of the Association of Engineering & Shipbuilding Draughtsmen (AESD). He soon emerged as the union's main speaker on wages policy and general economic issues. In 1969, Jim accepted Barbara Castle's invitation to serve on the National Board for Prices and Incomes. He was appointed in the summer of 1974 as the first chairman of the Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas). In 1982 Jim became general secretary of the Labour Party. During the 1984-5 miners' strike Jim spoke on behalf of the Labour Party at many solidarity rallies. In appreciation of his unstinting support for the miners' struggle the NUM later made him an honorary member.
After retirement Jim made a highly valued contribution to the work of the Institute of Employment Rights. Almost to the end he remained a union activist travelling across London with his wife Pat to attend meetings of his branch and the Unite Broad Left and attending regularly as a branch delegate to the Kingston Trades Council and the Kingston Constituency Labour Party.
From Morning Star
Harry Davis writes:
Jim Mortimer was a stalwart, uncompromising socialist politician, secretary of the Labour Party in the days when socialism didn't count against you. He refused a knighthood, which indicates what kind of a man he was. He was the sort of man who could give politics a good name, dedicated and incorruptible.
The following report was written in February, a month before the second anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The three melted-down nuclear reactors on Japan's Pacific Ocean coast sit slumped down in and under their metal bottles, like 3 angry little dragon's eggs, dribbling and belching their poisonous slime and vapours. Occasionally, it seems, they stir restlessly, re-starting fission. (They keep detecting Xenon 135, which has a half life of 5 days so shouldn't be around 2 years later.) They continue to release 10 million becquerels per hour of Caesium 134/137, mostly as vapour/steam. We continue to absorb, Tepco and politicians continue to collect their salaries, saying sorry from time to time.
They caught a fish (murasoi, or rockfish) in the reactor's harbour with contamination of 254,000 bqs/kg. The official safe limit is 100 bqs/kg, so quarter of a million is not good. Their proposed solution is to put a net around the harbour and to kill all the fish inside the harbour to prevent them swimming out and being eaten by other fish, thus contaminating them too. Good luck to Tepco with that, and with preventing any fish escaping from their tender efforts to protect us better. Fish caught 200kms south (Choshi) were found to be over the limit. The soil from a river bed in Fukushima city, 80kms from the plant, was shown to have contamination of 430,000 bqs/kg. They tried to again measure the fish (smelt) in an inland lake 200 kms away, Haruna, but couldn't find any to measure. They have all 'disappeared'. I wonder why?
They drilled into the torus of Unit 2, (the big donut around the reactor base. Part of the 'containment'.) They tried to insert a camera but found the way obstructed by pipes and grates installed after construction. Aren't there any updated blueprints? Yes, but they are, stored in a part of the building now too radioactive to enter, as no one expected an accident in the building one day. They'll drill another hole and hope to be luckier.
The newly-elected conservative government in Japan tries to push ahead with the nuclear industry. They are pushing ahead with the nuclear waste reprocessing plant at Rokkasho, even though it is 15 years behind schedule and has cost $29 billion so far. But if they admit that the plant doesn't work, they would have to return the 3 thousand tons of waste already sent there, and there is no room back at the plants that created the waste as their spent fuel pools are already mostly full. And many of the local areas containing these plants would refuse to accept the waste back. Rokkasho local area government only accepted the waste on the condition that it would be reprocessed and then stored in a safe geological site, yet they have had to admit there is no safe geological site in an earthquake zone country like Japan. Best not to have built nuke stations there in the first place. Now they find that Rokkasho has an active fault under it that could produce an earthquake up to magnitude 8 at any moment. Hmm, what to do with the waste if they close the Rokkasho complex??? Maybe easier to just ignore the active fault? We'll see what they decide is best for us. Meanwhile, worldwide the stack of deadly waste fuel rises by 12,000 tons a year.
There are problems with on-site storage of the semi-filtered water from the reactor basements. The tanks contain 240,000 tons, increasing at 400 tons a day, and are nearly full. Solution? Tepco announced last month they would pour it into the ocean, after filtering it some more. 'Can't get the strontium out, or the tritium', they said. So sorry. The plan is to dilute it before throwing it into the Pacific. Dilute it with water so its below the legal limit. Guess we'll soon hear what the local fisherfolk think of that. They had a 20 ton leak from the filter system last week. But they say its OK, as it didn't go into ocean, just into gravel, 'as there was no ditch leading to the ocean'. So that's all right. As long as it doesn't rain one day. If it does, Tepco could say it was unforeseen...
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND