The march and rally on 27 February 2016 is being hailed as the largest anti-nuclear march in a generation. Those assembling at the end in Trafalgar Square heard excellent speeches from Caroline Lucas, Nicola Sturgeon and many other prominent personalities, concluding with Jeremy Corbyn.
Here are a few photos from the day.
Presented to the AGM of Kingston Peace Council/CND, Wed 10 February 2016
The year has seen us settled in at the new Quaker Centre, though we may not call it new much longer. We have been well served with the accommodation for the committee and public meetings, and for the ease of tea and refreshments. We are extremely indebted to the Quakers.
On the street we have a new folding table with display boards (courtesy of one Noel Hamel) and the Parish Church kindly accommodates us. We hold our twice monthly marketplace public stalls with grateful thanks to the team.
Harry left us for Australia but left behind substantial funds for our security, new equipment and enabled us to donate generously to CND in the supposed Trident replacement decision year.
Maggie and the team are eternally enterprising with fund raising despite a run of bad weather luck at Carshalton.
Our newsletter editing roster sustains an interesting and diverse product.
We marked Hiroshima Day, with the revelation that the Japanese emperor himself decided the atom bombing was merely two more cities destroyed, making sixty two; and no cause for surrender. Also the UN International Day of Peace which inches towards the goal of universal acceptance of total-cease-fire-day. Very many thanks to Mary and the team for helping promote the concept through school assemblies. I must make a dedicated ‘Peace Banner’ for our annual stall.
A lively series of hustings were organised in conjunction with other campaign groups where candidates were posed with searching questions about nuclear weapons and warfare, justice and human rights, arms sales and Israel. Suddenly elections became interesting!
Paul and TRAKNAT, following the departure of Vincent Cable as MP, continue pursuit of the arms sales scandal that is UK ‘policy’ reconfigured by expediency. Also proper scrutiny of those licensed to trade in the name of the UK and end user specification required by UN Arms Sales Treaty obligations.
Sri Lanka atrocities continue to surface, and persist, so we took the cause to James Berry MP who is already on the case.
Kingston University ran a week-long peace study course of stunning and informative events and speakers. We were invited to participate and found it very rewarding.
Some of us worked unstintingly for Shaker Aamer’s release, an effort richly rewarded by revealing a person of the utmost integrity and warmth. Some of us continue campaigning for Guantanamo closure before Obama goes – though likely a fudge looms.
A talk by Ben Griffin was our most fascinating and lively public meeting about the ethos and training methods of the military which are entirely antithetical to normal concepts of ethical engagement, constructive pursuit of conflict resolution and peace – contrasting with govern-ment PR portraying “our boys” as white knights poised to sort evil globally. The military recruitment budget has multiplied tenfold whilst recruitment has halved.
Daesh escalates atrocities against a backdrop of decades of Western hostilities. Government got approval, at third attempt, to escalate UK bombing in the interminable Armageddon, formally known as Syria, which, after five years of war, surrenders up many thousands of refugees who admire stable European culture; but to general dismay we aren’t universally welcoming. Some steadfast souls attended demonstrations against bombing Syria. We urged a constructive approach but lost to a ‘bombing-solves-all mentality’.
Number one in conflict is to understand an opponent. KPC does and knows Daesh narrative of ‘Allah’s warriors under crusader attack’ flourishes under hails of Western bombing. Persecutions pursued on the back of deliberate deception and propaganda, like the Iraq War and Guantanamo, are the drivers of a production line of willing recruits. Different schools of thought amongst global Islamic communities have been around for millennia but more recently some have become increasingly and dangerously militant in reaction, it seems, to decades of western interference and assault. War is never a good idea and it’s never a bad time to reappraise bombing which was invented to kill women and children whilst fighting men were away from home.
KPC has laid some groundwork for 2016 when the anti-Trident campaign steps up a gear, though maybe over emphasis on cost has been at the expense of sense and security. If UK families are to be amongst the first targeted and killed in a (unwinnable) nuclear war then Trident renewal is the way to go. Logic suggests that an opponent with nuclear weapons should be the first to be ‘neutralised’, ‘undetectable’ nuclear submarines or no. Maggie organised CND education packs’ distribution to schools. Prepared by independent advisers they provided ideas for objective debate about nuclear bombs – disappointingly little response. Our CND Trident ballot stall showed there is little public interest though the overwhelming majority of participants thought Trident a bad idea. David Cameron says Trident renewal is part of his mission for a “Great Britain”, confirming Trident isn’t about security but about image. The renewal programme is already in trouble and cost estimates race ahead – conservatively now £167 billion. (Our warships need regular ‘roadside breakdown’ service. Aircraft carriers are oversize and too many – without aircraft.) What could possibly go wrong?
The submarines might possibly be ready by 2031. Decisions about missiles are deferred to 2019. The ‘main gate’ commons vote could be postponed to 2018; but to exploit Labour splits 2016 could be more advantageous to Trident supporters. The missiles, like other items including the running and maintenance, are not yet fully costed. There should be decommissioning costs for replaced missiles. There is a £10 billion contingency.
As the local CND group it is worth making extra effort this year to pursue a focused anti-nuclear campaign and no opportunity for creative and inventive ideas to present the case to an uninspired local public should be ruled out. If we can’t do it in 2016 then when?
Possible questions for local electors that occur to me:
Having nuclear weapons makes us the preferred target for other’s nuclear weapons in war. And not only is he who presses the nuclear button the greatest mass-murderer in history but also he brings down on everyone’s heads certain death and destruction with poisonous radioactive clouds to extinguish survivors. Already the stratosphere is lethally contaminated from bomb testing.
Defence? What defence?
Are these facts understood – and if not how could we let people know?
Noel Hamel, February 2016.
Carol Turner was elected Chair of LRCND and she spoke about the role of CND in the Trident debate now that Jeremy Corbyn has been elected Leader of the Labour Party, urging everyone to get involved, especially in supporting the Stop Trident demonstration on 27 February.
There were four workshops:
The conference concluded with Jean Lambert, Green Party Member of the European Parliament, speaking on ‘Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Power in Europe’. There has been a resurgence of nuclear power due to the question of ‘security of energy supply’. Austria, Germany and Belgium are strongly anti-nuclear, Ireland has always objected to Sellafield because of North Sea contamination and Sweden and Italy have rejected nuclear power in referendums. Even France, the most pro-nuclear, is reducing its dependence, but Finland and Hungary are building new stations and Britain is introducing a nuclear power programme, although this is already well over budget. On nuclear weapons Jean observed that the European Parliament has in the past passed resolutions strongly in favour of implementing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s call for elimination of nuclear weapons, but in 2015 it was not possible to put forward any resolution. Austria and Ireland are against nuclear weapons, but the Greens are the only party opposing them. This is mainly due to the situation regarding Russia and the Ukraine. One success is the 2015 agreement with Iran.
The current situation is of course not good, but there were some encouraging things to report.
Finances are in good shape - donations generated during the 2014 bombardment of Gaza have not fallen off and interest in Palestine is being maintained - it is thought that the international mood is shifting. Possibly, in an attempt to counter this, notorious Mark Regev is about to be appointed Israeli ambassador in London! Of course it is good to have a committed Palestine supporter now in charge of the Labour Party. The successful campaign against Veolia was noted, campaigns against G4S and Hewlett Packard are ongoing, and a new focus will be on the arms trade with Israel.
The Cooperative Bank has advised PSC, and a number of other organisations, that it will no longer allow them to have accounts. PSC is mounting a legal challenge to this and has, at least in the short term, ensured that no further organisations are banned. PSC will continue with this action as long as funds allow.
PSC continues to challenge the BBC at every opportunity and has had some successes.
Attempts by the Government to clamp down on BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) activity are also being challenged. The Prevent Strategy and Extremism Bill will cause a lot of problems for campaigning and the Government is further trying to prevent local authorities from making ethical investment decisions. PSC is working with Campaign Against the Arms Trade and War on Want to assert the right to campaign and lobby on BDS.
Mustapha Barghouti reported as usual via Skype on the current depressing situation in Palestine and Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador, made the final speech.
Long-term members of KPC will know that Harry Davis and his wife Betty moved back to Australia a year ago. Harry was one of the editors of this organ for many years. I recently visited Harry and Betty in Canberra, and you will be pleased to know that they are very well and have settled happily into their new home.
Harry showed us round the capital and the surrounding area. A very impressive building in the centre of the Parliamentary Zone is the National Library of Australia, shown here.
The terrace which extends along the right hand side of the building is named after Patrick White (1912-90), the Australian novelist who won the Nobel Prize in Literature (the only Australian recipient of this award) in 1973.
The red display panel in front of the terrace tells us about his life and literary career. He was born in London and studied modern languages at King’s College, Cambridge, but spent most of his life before and after his studies in Australia.
But our readers will be interested to know that in later life he dedicated himself to a range of public issues and concluded his last major public speech with a short prayer:
I pray that we may act honourably at home and abroad; that our Aborigines receive the justice owing to them; that black and white live together in harmony; that we may concentrate, without further shilly-shally, on vital projects of soil and water conservation; and that we may open the eyes of increasing numbers of our fellow countrymen to the universal issues of nuclear disarmament and peace.
An article from our Australian correspondent:
In our doctor’s waiting room the mags are very upmarket, and include the authoritative military periodical Jane’s Defence Weekly. An article in a recent issue had to do with the US anti-missile defence. Readers will remember that the idea of providing a shield against nuclear missiles was Ronald Reagan’s, dubbed Star Wars, and involves sending a missile to intercept and destroy an intercontinental ballistic missile on its way to destroy a city and all its inhabitants. Today Star Wars is renamed the Ground-based Midcourse Defence System, but after four decades of improvements it performs no better than before. The latest report concerned a recent failure to intercept a single target missile that was travelling at a known time and was on a known trajectory.
The problems are formidable. In a real attack it must be assumed that there will be a flock of missiles. No notice will be given, and the incoming missiles will be virtually impossible to detect, as the booster rocket with its tell-tale exhaust will have been discarded well before the warhead nears its target. Each missile will have multiple warheads, and besides the genuine nuclear bombs an unknown number of dummies will be deployed that will be indistinguishable from the real thing. The total reaction time will be measured in minutes, as the warheads will be travelling at seven kilometres a second.
The article was frank concerning the latest failure to destroy a single target, and suggested a need to go back to the drawing board. The Obama administration is being asked for more funding. Apparently in excess of $41 billion has already been spent.
There is a refusal by the Administration to recognise that there is no military solution to a real missile attack, and that the only possible solution is a political one, which involves general nuclear disarmament.
Harry Davis, Canberra
How independent is our so-called deterrent?
At this point in the paper version of Kingston Peace News are some excerpts from an article by Ian Jack which appeared in The Guardian on 11 February 2016. Readers online can read the original article at: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/11/trident-the-british-question. See particularly the paragraph starting "Britain had some leverage here" and the four paragraphs that follow it.
The outcome of COP 21, the Paris Climate Conference, was greeted last December with largely-deserved euphoria and seen as a turning point for binding and transparent action to limit climate change to below dangerous levels.
But one massive source of carbon emissions seems to be completely off-limits in any discussion: that caused by military activity. Vast quantities of greenhouse gases are produced but accurate figures are difficult to obtain – often shrouded in secrecy on grounds of ‘security’. If we accept that probably the greatest threat facing the world is that of climate chaos, then we need to know all the facts and figures of military pollution. At the UN Climate talks in 1997 in Kyoto, the US negotiating team secured exemptions for the military from any required disclosure and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; other nations took advantage of these exemptions.
A few figures are known or estimated. We know that global military expenditure is around $1.7 trillion a year and that the Pentagon is the largest single oil consumer in the world. It is believed that a single B52 Stratocruiser bomber uses around 500 gallons of fuel a minute. When we consider that total emissions from global military activity include:
then one estimate put forward that military activity could be responsible for up to 10% of global carbon emissions seems not too fantastic.
So why are these emissions not included in climate negotiations? “The atmosphere certainly counts the cost of carbon from the military, therefore we must as well”, Stephen Kretzmann, Director of Oil Change International, told the Guardian. Under the Paris agreement, countries will no longer have automatic exemption from consideration of their military emissions – but they will not be obliged to cut them either. One tiny step in the right direction … or business as usual?
Prince Charles and Charlotte Church are not alone in pointing out that climate change with its resulting environmental degradation and food and water shortages leads to instability and war. This though is the other half of the vicious circle: war and its preparations and aftermath lead to climate change.
We who support the ideals of the UN recognise that there are better, more civilized ways of resolving conflict than by military means, through the channels now available: well-established international institutions, laws, treaties, and tried and tested non-violent methods of conflict avoidance and resolution. We need to resist the pressure of certain sections of big business such as BAE Systems which thrive on insecurity and conflict and relish the resulting “opportunities”. As part of our support for the climate agreement, we should be demanding much more serious funding for non-military security and non-violent conflict prevention and resolution work.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND