Suicide in the Trenches
I knew a simple soldier boy
In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Londoner Hetty Bower died recently aged 108.
Hetty was a veteran of the 1926 General Strike, of the 1936 Battle of Cable Street when ordinary people faced down Oswald Mosley’s fascists, and of the peace movement that followed two world wars. She was a founding member of CND. Many will remember her at the annual London Region Hiroshima Day commemoration each August 6th in Tavistock Square and also in the front line at all the CND/Stop the War Marches against Trident, the Iraq war, bombing Libya and to free Palestine.
She had vowed to campaign until her last breath. And she did. Her daughter Maggie Dolan says: “Almost her last words were ‘Ban the Bomb for Ever More’ – a line of one of the songs we were singing with her during her last hours”.
As I was writing this I was very pleased to hear a comprehensive obituary of Hetty on Radio 4’s “Last Word”. This should be available on iPlayer if you receive this before Sunday 8th December. The programme is broadcast Sunday evenings at 8.30pm.
He was the leader of Vietnamese forces in the wars of liberation against the French and then against the USA. He is quoted as saying “nothing is more precious than freedom. A nation that stands up and knows how to unite will always defeat a foreign invader.” He was speaking of Iraq, but I thought about Palestine when I read this. The people there have such patience and dignity, and cling to the belief that no occupation lasts for ever.
More about Palestine below
MP for Kingston & Surbiton, and Energy Secretary in the Coalition Government
Fracking. Recently Edward has announced that fracking is a very good way to reduce our carbon emissions and to enhance our “green” energy generation. This would be news to those in the USA who have had this taking place in their neighbourhoods and have experienced cracks in their properties and pollution of their water supplies. It also necessitates a very great usage of water, and with rising population growth this cannot be acceptable. Another disastrous consequence will be the methane gas release the process causes. 89% of the residents of Balcombe in Sussex where a test-drilling was attempted recently stated they were opposed to it - this is in a very Tory area. It will be interesting to see how this develops as apparently many areas have shale gas beneath them. Surrey maybe? Or South West London? Apart from such environmental concerns it is impossible to view it as a green technology considering the infrastructure that will need to be built.
Trident-Lite. At their Party Conference in September Edward supported the decision by the Liberal Democrats to support their leadership and keep/renew Trident, but reduce the number of boats and drop continuous at-sea patrols. This idea has been widely derided as it will not maintain our continuous nuclear “deterrent” stance which is ostensibly the main reason for keeping/renewing it. Others of course say the true reason is to maintain Britain’s status as one of the Big Five nuclear powers. The motion to scrap Trident replacement altogether fell by 228 votes to 322, a great disappointment. Kate Hudson from CND remarked that it was an historic opportunity missed, and although Lib Dems in opposition held a firm anti-nuclear position, many in the party now seem to see the Trident-Lite option as a way to ease coalition negotiations in 2015.
Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station. Unsurprisingly Edward’s latest blunder (in our opinion) is to announce the go-ahead of Hinkley Point C, to be built by a French and Chinese consortium, although it will of course provide a lot of British jobs during construction. Ed has boasted that this will be the first nuclear power station not to be subsidised by the taxpayer, but he has guaranteed a massive price of £92.50 for every megawatt hour it generates – this is double the present wholesale price and takes no account of fluctuations and conditions pertaining when it comes into operation. Dr. Paul Dorfman of University College London said “It equates to a subsidy, and the Coalition promised never to subsidise nuclear”.
Paul Flynn, MP for Newport West, said “This is the worst deal of the century. Nuclear energy technology is fragile, there is still no solution to the problem of waste, and the fact that many countries are turning away from nuclear shows us the way. It takes no account of the dire situation in Japan with Fukushima, and the claim that it is carbon neutral or contributes towards our green generation commitment is clearly untrue.
So there you are - if you are a constituent of Edward Davey – plenty for you to complain to him about!
Thanks to Edward Snowden the general public are finding out more about the activities here. A recent article by Paddy McGuffin in the Morning Star made this comment “World leaders have reacted with outrage to reports and allegations that their communications have been monitored without their knowledge. But is it really so surprising? Perhaps it would be more pertinent to ask why this furore is only occurring now when the truth began to emerge decades ago regarding the US spy base at Menwith Hill. ……Since 1966 this base has become the largest secret intelligence- gathering system outside the US. It is part of a global network of spy-bases used to monitor all forms of international communication. …It is also due to act as the ground receiver and relay station for Space-Based Infrared Satellites, part of the US Ballistic Missile Defence ( BMD) programme.
In recent years it has been suggested that the base has played a key role in the controversial US drone warfare programme, tracking and identifying potential targets via their telecommunications. The programme has been condemned by human rights campaigners who point to the large number of civilians including women and children killed in the “targeted” strikes.
UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Philip Alston has called the US drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere “part of a strongly asserted but ill-defined licence to kill without accountability” and warned that they are contributing to an erosion of longstanding international rules governing warfare…..
In 2001 an investigation into US National Security Bases (NSA) by the European Parliament concluded that the agency was unlawfully providing US companies with sensitive commercial information to give them an advantage. The NSA did not comment on these findings and no meaningful attempt was made to investigate the allegations in the USA. But the European Parliament’s conclusions led to the US being forced to close down its NSA base in Bavaria.
Menwith Hill however remained open as successive British governments failed to hold the base to account. In 2002 the Defence Select Committee expressed its concern that Menwith Hill would be used as part of the US missile defence system without permission. Then Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon assured parliament that the technology at Menwith Hill was used for early warning only…. In 2007 the day before Parliament went into summer recess and without parliamentary debate or consultation, the Government announced that Menwith Hill would indeed become part of the US BMD system. A number of MPs demanded a full parliamentary debate on the matter, this has never happened.”
Campaigners in Yorkshire, including the indefatigable Lindis Percy have for years been highlighting the ongoing scandal of this US spy-base near Harrogate, with regular Tuesday vigils, often in wet or freezing conditions. Lindis often gets arrested for such things as putting a foot across the yellow line along the road which denotes the ‘restricted area’ of the base. Despite many court appearances and arguments as to the exact ramifications of the byelaws, much police time is wasted by different officers interpreting these in various ways, as Lindis always contests her arrests and often wins, but is also often imprisoned.
More information from the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases: www.caab.org.uk
16TH NOVEMBER 2013
I found this conference totally fascinating and very informative.
SGR, (Scientists for Global Responsibility), was formed 20 years ago. It has very little funding and very few paid staff, but appears to consistently produce excellent and challenging work.
The main presentation at this year’s conference---Offensive Insecurity to Sustainable Security----argued that the UK Government’s current National Security Strategy, which focuses on offensive weapons which can be used to project force overseas, should move towards tackling the root causes of insecurity---climate change, competition for resources, global militarisation, (including the arms trade) and the marginalisation of the majority world (including international poverty and social inequality). The current strategy, it argues, leads to more, not less, insecurity----increase in global terrorism, for example------and a strategy focused on the ‘real’, as opposed to the ‘imaginary’ threats, would lead to a real increase in security and a more sustainable world. The UK spends three quarters of its R&D (Research and Development) budget on offence. There is a huge amount of money, therefore, which could be diverted into other projects. The arms trade, of course, is intimately linked to the Government’s offensive approach to security, necessary, it would say, to offset the R&D costs associated with the production of the weapons.
The second presentation discussed the catastrophic humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons----there is obviously no need to tell KPC members about those, but it was interesting for me to discover exactly how much disconnect there is between our Government’s nuclear policy and that of most of the rest of the world, in particular since Fukushima. Almost everyone else is abandoning nuclear---we are embracing it!
The third presentation concerned the UK Government’s energy policy, and talked about how to meet our future needs safely and economically in the face of dwindling reserves, global warming, fuel poverty etc.
The following points were made:-
A vast disconnect between UK and Europe -Sweden obtained 47.6% from renewables in 2010 – the UK only 3.8%.
Nuclear power will not solve our problems----the current proposed deal between the Government, EDF and China was described as madness----cost astronomical, power station will not be built for many years, will only then supply 2% of our needs, will reduce CO2 emissions, but not by much, (by far the greatest problem is cars). Nuclear power will not solve our unemployment problem-----only around 1,000 jobs would be created by Hinkley Point. 40,000 could be created by investing in renewables.
Fossil fuel and nuclear costs are going up-----the cost of renewables is coming down.
‘Peak oil’ was probably reached in 2006.
We are still very dependent on fossil fuels---subsidised by the Government, along with nuclear (hugely subsidised) while subsidies for renewables remain very low.
Government’s response to the problem of energy shortfall is to increase supply----what it should be doing is cutting demand, by investing much more in energy efficiency. The UK wants to double supply by 2050-Germany has decided to cut demand by 25%.
Conclusion Everything points to far more investment in renewables and energy efficiency is required, but not happening at present.
Following on from Noel’s article in November KPC News, I would like our readers to consider the following possibility. (This is following a meeting I went to recently organised by London Region CND at which the speaker was Valerie Flessati.)
She brought with her an excellent booklet, “Opposing World War One: Courage and Conscience” , published by Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi, Peace Pledge Union, Quaker Peace and Social Witness, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
I intend to obtain more of these, but in the meantime I’m sure there will be more information on the websites of these organisations.
The articles in this publication are on the theme of conscientious objection and peace activism before and during World War 1. For example, in 1915 there was the Women’s International Congress at the Hague. 1200 women from 12 countries attended – but only 3 from Britain. Why was that? Because 180 applied to go but only 25 were granted passports. When the 25 arrived at Tilbury they were told all shipping had been halted. The 3 who went were luckily already in Europe.
Many individuals and organisations who campaigned actively against war will not be remembered by many today. I think we would do well to publicise these histories as much as possible locally, perhaps by producing a series of simple leaflets to hand out on our stall.
I especially liked Valerie’s suggestion of researching and publishing a list of local conscientious objectors – amazingly she said research in Hackney had found 120, so we could be surprised if we followed this up!
Please let our next editor, Gill Hurle, know if you would like to be involved in this, or have any comments.
There has been a lot of discussion around this subject this year including mention of the white poppy, and complaints about the compulsory wearing of the red one on BBC TV even before the end of October. There was an interesting ’phone-in R4 programme on this (You and Yours) – some of you may have heard it. Albert Beale of the Peace Pledge Union was a contributor, and several people not apparently peace protestors were unhappy about the militarization of the red poppy.
I think the poem on page 1 sums it up.
Email received on November 17th from Dr Rebecca E. Johnson, Executive Director, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy: www.acronym.org.uk
Attached please find the resolution adopted unanimously today by the highest governing body of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, the Council of Delegates, meeting in Sydney, Australia. The final text with close to 40 sponsors has not yet been released, but the contents are unchanged from the draft attached.
This provides a great opportunity to thank and congratulate your national Red Cross/Red Crescent society on the resolution and their collective resolve to work for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons, and explore opportunities to work with them to help implement the resolution.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent movement adopts a 4-year action plan towards the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons
The global Red Cross and Red Crescent movement today reiterated its deep concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and adopted a four-year action plan towards
ensuring that nuclear weapons are never used again. The world's largest humanitarian organisation reiterated its objective to prohibit the use of and completely eliminate nuclear weapons. The resolution was adopted unanimously at the Council of Delegates meeting in Sydney, the highest governing body of the movement. This year's resolution follows up the landmark resolution of the previous Council of Delegates meeting in Geneva in 2011:-
Working towards the elimination of nuclear weapon(http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/resolution/council-delegates-resolution-1-2011.htm)
The resolution was sponsored by close to 40 national societies. The floor was opened by a moving statement from Fiji Red Cross on behalf of all the societies of the Pacific region, many of whom have bitter direct experience of the lasting ravages caused by nuclear test explosions. Supportive interventions were heard from national societies from each continent.
The resolution outlines activities for every part of the global Red Cross and Red Crescent movement to take in support of its implementation at all levels. National societies are urged to publish the resolution, communicate and engage governments and parliamentarians, and raise awareness of the resolution at all levels within each national society including with governance, staff, volunteers and youth members. National societies are urged to communicate to the public, host public events, and pursue opportunities to engage with specialised audiences including academic, health, humanitarian, environmental, legal and scientific communities. The action plan urges discussion of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons in national publications, engaging with national disaster planning agencies to examine the consequences of nuclear weapons detonations and response capacity, and encouraging involvement of disaster planning officials in the development of national positions on nuclear weapons.
The lead role of representing the movement in multilateral forums on this issue is taken by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which will also provide reports on results achieved, next steps and opportunities for action by national societies. The Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies which links all national societies has established a network for all parts of the movement to share resources, information and experiences, and each national society is asked to appoint a contact to facilitate implementation of the resolution and share information and experiences with other national societies.
– Lisbeth Rowland-Hughes.
Following the recent publication in the Morning Star of an article entitled “The Fighting Quaker’s Change of Heart”, Lisbeth has raided her impeccable filing system to send us a piece written in 1935 by Major Gen. Smedley D. Butler U.S.M.C (retired).
The Morning Star article, by Richard Maunders, quotes from War is a Racket, which he says is available as an ebook.
Lisbeth’s piece is taken directly from a publication called Common Sense, November 1935:-
“There isn’t a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its ‘finger men’ (to point out enemies), its ‘muscle men’ (to destroy them) its ‘brain guys’ (to plan war preparations) and a ‘Big Boss’ (supernationalistic capitalism).
It may seem odd for me, a military man, to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to do so. I spent 33 years in active military service in the Marine Corps, in all commissioned ranks up to Major General. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle-man for big business, Wall Street and the Bankers. In short I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.
I suspected I was just a part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all members of the military profession I never had an original thought until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of the higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.
Thus I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba decent places for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909 -12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916 and in China in 1927 I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.
During those years I had a swell racket. I was rewarded the honours, medals and promotion. Looking back on it I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. I operated on three continents.”
This October I went back to the West Bank for the olive harvest, having been first in 2011. On that occasion our group had 18 participants, this time it was 32, so more of a challenge to our two wonderful organisers, Maggie and Noirin. It was wonderful meeting up again with many friends made last time, and great to meet so many really dedicated new recruits. These included Andrew, a recently retired GP, Nick, a chiropractor who gave free treatments to Palestinian residents in the evenings, and Jane, who was going on to start 6 months as PA to one of the clergy at St. Georges Cathedral in Jerusalem.
It is very distressing to hear the stories of those who suffer continual harassment and worse at the hands of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and the illegal settlers, but extremely inspiring to experience their patience, and gratitude that people come from around the world to meet them and to go back and tell others about the situation.
We stayed as before in the villages, Madama and Burin, SW of Nablus, and some were in one other village, Kufrqaddum, which is having particular trouble at the moment, as it is near a big settlement, and they have blocked a road used by the villagers. Someone who was organising protests about this was found dead by the side of the road just before we arrived, so there is now a weekly protest there on Fridays. Some of our group attended one of these, and were duly tear-gassed by the IDF.
Because of these protests the olive harvesting was very restricted – one elderly woman whose trees are right by the settlement was not allowed anyone to help her – not even family members – but she is determined to struggle to harvest some of her olives as her family has always done. To do this alone is hard for a young fit person! Another farmer there was not allowed to have “internationals” go to his land near to the settlement – so our group went to the other end of his land and picked there. It is important not to go against these petty rules as that will probably cause trouble later for the Palestinian families.
However on our last day many of us did go with a young farmer to some land very high up and near an Israeli army post. He had applied many times for permission to pick there, but had not received it. (Often permits have to be requested by Palestinians to go on their own land). He had not been to this land for several years and was fed up! So he said he wanted to go if we were prepared to – of course we said yes. About 14 of us went, plus about 8 young Palestinians. They were quite nervous, but in the end we were there all day and nothing happened. The trees were not good, having been neglected, but at least we did get a few bags of olives filled. Hopefully he had no trouble after we had left.
Unfortunately there was an attack by settlers, one with a metal pole, on some Palestinians very near to Burin, a couple of days after we left, so it is a worry that our presence is noted and reprisals may occur. But they tell us they want us to come notwithstanding, for practical help, solidarity, friendship and to come back to our home countries and tell their stories.
This time I stayed with 4 others in a self-contained part of a Palestinian home – the family were delightful, interesting and so hospitable. It was almost impossible to prevent them constantly making tea, coffee and supper for us! This family also has some olive trees high up and near an army post and settlement. The younger son is a policeman in Ramallah and so was only around to pick olives on his week off (he works 1 week on 18 hour shifts and 1 week off). Three of us went to help him there, he was nervous as he has been attacked there before by IDF soldiers. Luckily nothing happened and we picked many bagfuls, carrying on until sunset to get it done. While we were there his 75 year-old grandfather came by with his sheep – an unusual sight as livestock are normally kept indoors for fear of settler attacks. He has lost 2 recently in this way, but is determined to carry on with his way of life – he started as a shepherd at age eight.
I would be happy to come and give a talk and show photos to any of our readers interested, on their own or with friends or relatives.
Just ‘phone or email me to arrange it.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Rosemary Addington
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND