But still no US apology
President Obama becoming the first serving US president to visit Hiroshima was a welcome move, but there was disappointment at the lack of an apology for the atomic attack that destroyed the city, says CND general secretary Kate Hudson.
Writing after the visit she said: His compassion and dignity will be welcome to the remaining survivors that still bear witness to those terrible and unimaginable days in August 1945 when the US unleashed atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His reflections on the dangers of scientific and technological revolution without equivalent moral revolution are unquestionably true.
And she went on: His call to pursue a world without nuclear weapons - echoing the sentiments of his Prague speech in 2009 - is important. His call to change the mindset on war and to strive for peaceful cooperation, for a recognition of our common humanity, is vital in today’s world.
But she continued: what was unsaid in his address speaks volumes. The truth is the bombs didn’t just drop from the sky. They were dropped by the United States on civilian populations.
And the reality is that - contrary to conventional wisdom about the bombing - they were not necessary to bring about an end to the war. It is a recognition of this truth that is most essential. It is essential even beyond an apology, but it is what makes an apology necessary. The 'necessity of the bombing to end the war' is the foundational falsehood of the nuclear age, and it needs to be exposed and finally laid to rest.
By the time the bomb was ready for use, Japan was ready to surrender. As General Dwight Eisenhower said, Japan was at that very moment seeking some way to surrender with minimum loss of face, and 'it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing.'
Churchill himself said: 'It would be a mistake to suppose that the fate of Japan was settled by the atomic bomb. Her defeat was certain before the first bomb fell and was brought about by overwhelming maritime power.'
So if Japan was defeated and ready to surrender, why were atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
A significant factor in the decision to bomb was the US's desire to establish its dominance in the region after the war. Those planning for the post-war situation believed that this required US occupation of Japan, enabling it to establish a permanent military presence, shape its political and economic system and dominate the Pacific region without fear of Japanese resurgence. But Japanese resurgence was no longer the US's key strategic concern; its main concern, above all, was the Soviet Union in the post-war world, both in Asia and in Europe.
This reality, that the bombs were not required to end the war, but that the US played geo-politics with the atomic bombs on Japan, is what makes an apology necessary. Above all, it is time to set the historical record straight.
There are growing concerns that technological developments could render Trident’s successor submarines strategically obsolete by the time they are due to be operational in the 2030s.
The issue was given a timely airing during a debate organised by British Pugwash at University College London in mid-June.
It calls into question the entire rationale behind the Government’s determination to replace Trident with a new generation of multi-billion pound nuclear-armed vessels and strengthens those arguing for Britain finally to axe its nuclear ‘deterrent’.
The Guardian’s world affairs editor Julian Borger opened the meeting describing Nato research currently underway at the Italian navy’s La Spezia base. This was developing underwater drones; robots designed to cruise the ocean depths so as to locate enemy submarines, then surface to contact their base with the information. The Italian centre for maritime research was also working on so-called ‘gliders’; underwater vessels that could remain at sea for many months at a fraction of the cost of manned submarines, operating in ‘swarms’ to locate and pinpoint enemy submarines.
Conversations with US personnel revealed that this research would tilt the strategic warfare balance against ballistic submarines and yet, at the same time, the US was planning to increase the proportion of its strategic ‘deterrent’ that was based on submarines, up from its current level of 60 percent. Why should this be?
Those at the meeting, with widespread experience of debating these issues with senior government scientists and officials, took the view that career considerations, not to mention the size of arms contracts, often precluded people from broaching topics that would seriously upset the status quo.
While British Pugwash was often ‘reassured’ by the MoD that ‘our experts’ were confident that the opacity of the oceans would remain and the stealth of ballistic missile submarines would outpace the ability of new technologies to locate them, this idea was dismissed by those present. The development of asw (anti-submarine warfare) is developing at a terrific rate, one audience member commented. Issues such as improved battery life, autonomous operation, artificial intelligence and so forth will be very far advanced within five to ten years while the Trident successor will not be available until the 2030s, said one.
This would create what one audience member described as “an unstable deterrent”. If emerging technologies meant that there were short periods when submarines were to become visible then this increased the threat of a pre-emptive strike against them. This in turn would put pressure on the UK government that might decide to adopt a “use it or lose it” posture.
The issue was further complicated by the advances being made in cyber warfare. British vessels were controlled using ‘Windows for Submarines’ software which had been chosen for cost considerations but which was increasingly at risk from being hacked or compromised in some other way. Software could be “spoofed” into believing that the vessel was under attack or its communications could be disrupted. Similar software employed by the US Air Force had now been replaced because of the risks involved. However, it was now impossible to certify 100% that the US command and control system was secure from the introduction of malware designed to disrupt it.
The question was posed as to whether nuclear armed submarines cruising the world’s oceans would in the future be better protected than if nuclear weapons were sited on a nation’s own soil. This would open up a whole new political debate for a future UK government which might be looking for a smaller nuclear ‘deterrent’ that would cost less to maintain and could therefore be easier to give up if the willpower to do so existed.
Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives have lined up quietly to kill a cost estimate of the Pentagon’s three-decade nuclear modernisation program, which experts predict will exceed $1 trillion. The vote was mentioned briefly in April in Politico, a website briefing that covers security issues in Washington, but otherwise received no media coverage. Brian McKeon, the US principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told reporters in October that the Pentagon was “wondering how the heck we’re going to pay for it,” and that current leadership is “thanking [their] stars we won’t be here to have to answer the question.” In November, the Pentagon comptroller called the cost of nuclear modernisation “the biggest problem we don’t know how to solve yet.”
CND has calculated that replacing Trident, will now end up costing at least £205 billion, and that’s before taking into account that Ministry of Defence projects typically go well over budget.
A Parliamentary decision is expected soon on whether or not Britain goes ahead with building new submarines, the delivery vehicles for the nuclear missiles. In its National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence Review, published in November 2015, the Government announced a huge increase in the estimated cost of these submarines to £31 billion. Additionally, a contingency fund of £10 billion was allocated to the project.
The UK leases the missiles for the nuclear weapons system from the United States and will participate in that country’s missile life extension programme so that they can be used until the early 2040s. As set out in the government’s 2006 White Paper on the Future of the United Kingdom’s Deterrent this will cost £250 million, or £350 million in today’s prices.
The 2006 White Paper also stated that the current warhead will last into the 2020s and provided for up to £3 billion for the possible future refurbishment or replacement of the warhead. This is £4 billion in today’s prices. Another £3 billion (or £4 billion in today’s prices) is allocated for infrastructure at Faslane and Coulport bases over the lives of the submarines.
The biggest expense however is the day to day running costs, which the Government confirms is around six percent of the total defence budget.
Conservative MP and chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Crispin Blunt worked with Reuters to estimate that over the lifetime of the system this would add up to £142 billion.
An additional cost to the public purse is the conventional military forces who are assigned to support the nuclear weapons system. In 2007 the Government said it believed around £30 million was spent on this function. Over the lifetime of Trident’s replacement, this will add up to just over £1 billion in total.
It is difficult to know how much decommissioning Trident’s replacement will cost, but using the Government’s estimate for decommissioning its previous nuclear weapons system, Polaris, it seems this will be at least £13 billion in today’s prices.
Some £20 billion is being spent on the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), where the warheads are manufactured and maintained, over the period 2000-2025. This money will be spent on infrastructure building work, servicing costs, upgrading the warhead and studies for development of a replacement. CND hasn’t separately itemised this amount for the time being as it is not yet clear whether this will be separate to other amounts announced by the government.
A peace exhibition will be coming to All Saints Church, Kingston, from 29th July 2016 through to August 12th.
Hilary Evans has obtained the display material put together by Tavistock Peace Action Group supported by Devon Area Quakers with material from the Peace Pledge Union, The Quakers and the Imperial War Museum.
Entitled The Challenging Road to Peace Since the First World War, the display asks if war is a reasonable way to conduct international relations.
As we are still in the midst of the centenary commemoration of the First World War the display records the fact that 5 million died fighting for the Allied powers during the conflict while 3.9million perished fighting for the Axis powers. This was the equivalent of 6,000 deaths a day on average.
The exhibition covers a range of topics including recruitment, conscription, the role of women, conscientious objection and a consideration on what makes war more likely today. It offers suggestions as to what action ordinary citizens can take to make a difference and create a more peaceful world.
The stories of more than 90,000 World War One British Red Cross volunteers – whose work ranged from driving ambulances on the front line in France to cleaning floors in makeshift hospitals back in the UK – can now be found online thanks to the dedication of almost 800 volunteers from Kingston University’s Centre for the Historical Record. For the past two years, a team of volunteers has been hard at work painstakingly transcribing a collection of 100-year-old personnel index cards that held the details of people who gave their time to support the war effort. Many of the 90,000 Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) offered their services a number of times. Each instance was recorded separately, resulting in a staggering 244,000 registration cards. The free digital archive gives the British public the chance to search for friends and families who volunteered during the war and unearth key details about where they worked and the tasks they carried out. The VADs came from all walks of life and included the rich and famous – internationally-renowned crime author Agatha Christie volunteered as a pharmacist – as well as working class families and children. While some were qualified nurses, others volunteered as cooks or cleaners in makeshift hospitals or set up knitting circles to provide the troops with socks.
The modern-day volunteers were recruited from the British Red Cross and societies such as local history associations. Kingston University senior lecturer Dr Sue Hawkins, who managed the creation of the database, described the sheer scale and diversity of the World War One volunteers as both illuminating and inspirational, prompting the team to go beyond the task of merely transcribing the record cards.
"Many of our present day volunteers are family historians who would see something interesting in the cards and then want to go off to research to find out even more," she said. That desire to dig deeper was a familiar feeling for volunteer Anne Beaumont, who became involved in the project through the Kingston branch of arts-based educational charity National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (Nadfas), which holds its monthly meetings at Kingston University’s Penrhyn Road campus.
"You see the people come to life right in front of your eyes and the more you discover, the more you want to know," she enthused. "It's impossible to resist the urge to research to find more about their lives and who they were." During a recent visit to a war cemetery in Etaples, France, Ms Beaumont even chanced across the name a volunteer she recognised. "It was a VAD nurse who was killed in action. Seeing things like that remind you that these were real people and it really brings their experiences home to you," she said. Fellow volunteer Lynne Mason was particularly fascinated by the stories of two children she came across: "I was struck by the handful of children we found in the card index – it's not what I would have expected," she said. "Two that particularly stuck in my mind were one noble boy who had volunteered peeling spuds – presumably after school – in a hospital each day throughout the entire war and another, possibly long suffering, young man who seems to have been a guinea pig on whom the VAD nurses practised their bandaging."
The two-year project, awarded £80,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, was launched by the British Red Cross in response to demand from families who needed an easier way to access the records of their loved ones and in a bid to preserve the 100-year old registration cards from damage caused by being handled.
The British Red Cross appointed Kingston University as project partners due to its work on The Historic Hospitals Admission Records Project (HHARP) which saw the digitisation and indexing of admission registers for a number of London children's hospitals. "The team from the University's Centre for the Historical Record was able to bring valuable expertise, knowledge and experience to the project through its work designing a transcription system, developing guidelines for volunteers – and in the general management of the volunteers," British Red Cross VAD database manager Jemma Lee said.
CND’s mass lobby of Parliament aimed at stopping Trident takes place on Wednesday 13th July 2016.
Trident was a major point of debate in the 2015 General Election, with the spectacular gains of the Scottish National Party (SNP) a stark indicator of opposition to nuclear weapons in Scotland.
A majority of the British public are in favour of scrapping Trident, and CND is campaigning to make this happen.
Kingston Peace Council/CND will be involved in the lobby questioning our MPs calling on them to vote against the creation of a new generation of indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction.
If you wish to join the mass lobby please contact the following:
This will take place on 22nd and 23rd October in Manchester.
Resolutions for the conference must be submitted by July 18th and anyone from KPC/CND who wishes to put forward a possible resolution for us to forward to the conference is asked to let us have it prior to the scheduled KPC/CND meeting on Wednesday 13th July when it can be discussed by members.
This conference obviously did not have a lot of good news to report, but there were some hopeful signs, and a number of inspiring speakers.
The general consensus was that Israel, with good reason, believes that it has won, and is now, in effect, mopping up. The Palestinian Authority was described by one speaker as clinically dead and just waiting for the life support machine to be turned off although another speaker thought that the US and Israel would not switch it off in the foreseeable future!
Nabila Espanioly, a ‘48’ Palestinian citizen of Israel, characterised the current situation in Israel in the following terms:
“A racist government enacting racist laws with a racist population, in other words ‘a racist democracy’.” Of course the Arab parties in Israel, in spite of the Government’s attempts to exclude them, are protesting, but the police and the army have been given enormous power and there is no protection for minorities, Christian or Muslim, or adherence to human rights evidenced in part, by the extrajudicial killing of Palestinians carrying knives. 75% of Israelis apparently support the segregation of, and the discrimination against, the Arabs inside Israel, that is some 20% of the population, but owning only 2% of the land’ segregated in hospitals and schools and discriminated against in the job market. Private schools for Palestinian Arabs have recently had their government grant cut from 70% to 30%.
Omar Barghouti, recently banned from leaving Israel, then spoke via Skype. Omar is a co-founder of the Palestinian-led BDS movement and he reported several recent successes. These have led to a large-scale panic inside the Israeli government. Several large corporations have pulled out of Israel and several large pension funds have divested from Israeli banks. As a result of this Israel is now mounting a major campaign in the US and Europe to suppress BDS ‘propaganda’. Activists are spied on and pressure is being put on governments to pass laws banning BDS activity. The aims of the BDS are:
As a result of his activities Omar has been threatened with ‘targeted civil elimination’ condemned by Amnesty, HRW, the Swedish, Dutch and Irish governments so far.
Another contribution was made by Ahmed Masoud, a writer and director, and British citizen, who was refused entry into Israel recently - he had been hoping to attend a literary festival - because he had been born in Gaza, where his family remain.
ICAHD is continuing with its study tours, although it has decided not to have a rebuilding camp this year because of the dangerous situation on the ground.
It is difficult to feel anything but despair at the situation, but of course we must continue to campaign, in particular for BDS and against the British Government’s attempts to prevent this.
Hackles were raised at the recent BAe annual meeting when a protester against the arms company likened the firm’s excuses for selling weapons to Saudi Arabia to the IG Farben defence at Nuremberg at the end of the Second World War.
Zyklon B, the lethal gas used to murder millions of Jews, gipsies and others in Nazi death camps, had been manufactured by a subsidiary of the German chemical company.
BAe Systems chairman Sir Roger Carr told peace activists at the meeting that selling weapons encouraged peace following questions about arms deals with the Saudis. A number of shareholders questioned the morality of such sales.
Responding to the peace activists at the meeting, Sir Roger said the Saudis were crucial allies and an appropriate customer for their products, reported The Guardian.
"We are not here to judge the way that other governments work, we are here to do a job under the rules and regulations we are given," he said.
"We will stop doing it when they tell us to stop doing it."
Around 30 activists linked to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade had bought shares in BAe so they could attend the AGM. Two activists were carried out at the beginning of the meeting for holding up posters. Sir Roger reportedly lost his temper when one person said: "Your defence reminds me of the IG Farben defence at the Nuremberg tribunals."
The BAe chairman retorted: "Can I just say to you, sir, how grossly offensive I find that and to every member sitting on this board."
Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs, Allan Hogarth, told The Independent that BAe Systems was in denial about the actions of Saudi Arabia in Yemen. “The deeply unpleasant reality is that the Saudi Arabia-led coalition could be using Sir Roger’s ‘big stick’ to inflict terrible suffering on thousands of Yemeni civilians," he said.
“Sir Roger is hiding behind governmental ‘rules and regulations’ when the wisdom and lawfulness of the government’s policy over exporting arms to Saudi Arabia has been brought into question time and time again.
“The boss of BAe Systems may be in denial about the carnage that the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is causing in Yemen, but BAe’s shareholders ought to be under no illusions whatsoever.
“BAe Systems should show some long overdue corporate responsibility by immediately suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia.”
IG Farben was the only German company in the Third Reich that ran its own concentration camp. At least 30,000 slave workers died in this camp; a lot more were deported to the gas chambers. It was no coincidence that IG Farben built their giant new plant in Auschwitz, since the workforce they used (altogether about 300,000 people) was for free.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Phil Cooper
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND