It is vital that every candidate standing for election on Thursday 8 June knows that where they stand on nukes makes a difference to how we vote. CND wants every candidate to be contacted many times during the campaign. None of them must think that nuclear is just a side-issue.
CND would like you to ask candidates for their views on three key issues. They will publish the responses as they receive them to help people make an informed decision before casting their ballot.
As candidates are announced you will be able to contact those standing in your area through the CND website and see what responses others have received. See http://www.cnduk.org/component/k2/item/2727
The website provides a model letter to help you when contacting candidates.
Please send any responses you receive to email@example.com or telephone 020 7700 2393 to ensure that their records are up to date. Please also contact them if they have missed candidates standing in your constituency.
The upcoming General Election takes place less than a year after the decision to go ahead with the replacement of Trident at an estimated cost of £205bn. This decision, together with the increasingly dangerous international situation, makes nuclear issues one of the key subjects on which I will be basing my vote on 8 June.
In 2016 the United Nations voted to begin negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. These talks are due to end in July when a treaty will be finalised with the support of the majority of the international community. Despite successive UK governments claiming to support multilateral disarmament, our government boycotted the talks, choosing instead to stand outside with the other nuclear weapons states. The treaty comes as the prospects of a confrontation between the US and North Korea are rapidly increasing.
The government also remains committed to building new nuclear power stations despite concerns about safety, feasibility and soaring costs. At the same time grants for renewable energy have been cut.
As a candidate in the General Election I am asking you to support the following three positions should you enter the House of Commons:
I would be grateful if you would let me know which of these you are able to support and any other thoughts you have on these policies.
As we reported in the May edition of Kingston Peace News, the first session of the negotiations of a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons was held at the United Nations in New York in March. This session was a great success and there is a significant possibility that governments could adopt a treaty by the end of the next session, which is from 15 June to 7 July 2017.
Despite the UK government claiming that they play a “full and active role in the UN First Committee on disarmament and international security” they voted against the talks. As the negotiations got underway in March the UK representative boycotted the session, choosing instead to stand alongside Donald Trump’s representative and belittle the efforts to bring about a world free of nuclear weapons.
The UK government has previously stated that it believes the best way to make progress is through the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but that process has failed to provide progress in the past and there are few signs of a breakthrough.
On 22 May the draft text for a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons was presented by the President of the negotiations, Ambassador Elayne Whyte of Costa Rica. It is based on the discussions and inputs made at the first session in March.
The draft treaty can be seen at http://www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/BanDraft.pdf
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) issued a statement:
ICAN welcomes the release of the draft as an important milestone in the years-long effort to ban these indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction in light of their inhumane and catastrophic impacts. Once adopted, the treaty will constitute a major step towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
The draft provides a solid basis for a strong, categorical prohibition of nuclear weapons. ICAN expects further constructive debate on certain provisions as the process moves forward, and will be campaigning to ensure the strongest possible treaty. We are confident that the treaty can be agreed by 7 July.
“We are particularly happy that the text is rooted in humanitarian principles and builds on existing prohibitions of unacceptable weapons, such as the conventions banning biological and chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions,” said Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of ICAN.
“Nuclear-armed and nuclear alliance states should engage constructively in these discussions”, she said. “Whilst they will be able to join the treaty once it has been agreed, failure to participate in the negotiations undermines their claims to be committed to a world without nuclear weapons.
“Nuclear weapons are morally unacceptable. They are intended to kill civilians indiscriminately,” Ms Fihn said. “Their continued existence undermines the moral credibility of every country that relies on them. A treaty to ban them, as a first step towards their elimination, will have real and lasting impact.”
There is still an opportunity for the UK to participate in the next session of talks, so please contact your election candidates to establish their views on the ban (see page 1), and immediately after the election (before 15 June) contact the successful candidate to ask him/her to urge the government to take part in the talks.
The chart below, produced by Martin Birdseye, may be useful in putting forward your case.
The first session of the negotiations for the nuclear weapons ban treaty in March was marked in Britain by a London CND-organised tour of two survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The Hibakusha visited London, Scotland, Manchester and Oxford, meeting parliamentarians, local government rep-resentatives and faith leaders, as well as Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, also visiting Faslane Naval Base, home to Trident, the UK’s nuclear weapons system, and the nearby Peace Camp.
Reiko Yamada was 11 years old and still in primary school when the US bombed Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. She lived 2.5 kilometres from ground zero and escaped the fires that raged in the immediate aftermath. Many of those who didn’t escape fled to her neighbourhood, ‘so heavily burned and disfigured that they did not look like human beings’. Reiko described what happened to her family and friends:
‘A good friend of mine was waiting for her mother to return home with four brothers and sisters. On the second day after the bombing, a moving black lump crawled into the house; they first thought it was a big black dog, but soon realised it was their mother. She collapsed and died when she finally got home, leaving her five children behind.’
Midori Yamada is a second generation Hibakusha. (Despite a common family name, the two are not related.) Midori’s father was deputy mayor of a nearby town and helped with the Hiroshima rescue operations. She is a cancer sufferer and has recently published a manga book, ‘Jiro-chan: an Hiroshima boy’, describing what happened to her elder brother during the bombing.
Rather than report on the whole AGM I present an edit of one briefing that interested me.
The briefing by Mark Curtis, a historian and author* who has studied UK/US foreign policy for decades, much of it based on declassified UK documents, is edited by this writer.
Mr. Curtis makes four extraordinary points.
1. Using troops and drones, Britain is involved in seven covert wars. The government is operating outside serious democratic control by parliament, the media, the public and standards of legality.
2. Human rights are at stake as Britain cosies up to some of the worst human rights abusers. Arms export controls to repressive regimes are in name only. UK interests are related to commercial, political, and military considerations. In Mr. Curtis’s readings of declassified documents the protection and flourishing of the citizens of another country is never a concern.
3. The special relationship with the US policy positions and military adventures continues in spades.
“I don’t think this is because Britain is America’s poodle. It is worse: Britain wants to see the US ruling the world by force because the UK commercial and political elites benefit from it.”
4. The UK is gearing up for more war. Mr. Curtis lists concrete examples of UK intentions such as the two new massive aircraft carriers, and development of a programme called “Joint Force 2025” involving drones, attack aircraft, and of course Trident. The general lack of knowledge by the public of UK foreign policy gives the government a free hand. Military deals with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Turkey and others “trump” morality. And of course the establishment cannot stomach Jeremy Corbyn because he says “human rights” is the prism through which to judge foreign policy. The aggressive military stance wants to nip such talk in the bud.
In conclusion, exposure to the truth, more effort by the press, and the resulting knowledge could give some hope. “Not in my Name” is the brake that needs pulling.
* Books by Mark Curtis include Secret Affairs (2010, ISBN 1-84668-763-2) and Web of Deceit (2003, ISBN 0-09-944839-4).
Some members of CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade) have a single share in BAE Systems, so are able to attend the AGM and ask questions of the board.
I had not been to the AGM for a few years, in fact since they moved it to Farnborough from the convenient Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre at Westminster. It was not surprising they did this, since there used to be many protestors there, both inside and outside the venue. Now it seems only a token group of CAAT members and supporters make the journey so it is a much more restrained affair.
The first part of the question and answer session was predictably pretty boring, until a woman asked a question about diversity. The Chairman, Sir Roger Carr, responded with a self-congratulatory claim that the board was now 30% female, and they aim for executives to be 20% female by 2020. Looking around the attendees whom I reckoned to be 98% white and the board which was 100% white, I waited for ethnic diversity to be mentioned, but it was not. No-one queried this, the woman questioner was apparently content with his answer.
This was about the only surprise - when we came on to weapon sales, especially to Saudi Arabia, it was all too predictable and shocking.
The first questioner from CAAT, Andrew Smith, cleverly tied his question to a recent advertisement for BAE staff to load munitions onto the planes they have supplied, which have recently been extensively used to bomb Yemen, with much loss of civilian life - the point being that they claim only to supply the planes and provide logistics and training, and deny any involvement in actual war-fighting. This resulted in a string of claims that their policy was ethical, supporting the legitimate Government of Yemen, that the war is UN-sanctioned, that Saudi Arabia is a valued ally of ours in the "war against terrorism", the Saudi Government is improving, human rights and women's rights are "improving". Finally Sir Roger Carr came out with the astonishing statement that "War is a terrible thing, everyone condemns it". I cannot see that most of the large shareholders of the Company would agree with that, as their income largely depends on it.
Andrew and some subsequent questioners kept coming back to the basic question of dreadful human rights in Saudi Arabia and also Turkey with an awful history of recent human rights violations - the justification here for huge arms sales is of course that Turkey is a NATO ally.
Although it may seem that all this is pretty minor in the context of a huge and powerful arms-seller, I still think it is important to go there and put our disapproval on record - it would be worse if they were not challenged at all at this annual event. This year CAAT is concentrating on organising big opposition at the September DSEI Arms Fair which is held every two years. I hope next year perhaps a bigger protest can be mounted at Farnborough.
Ex-KPC member Harry Davis writes from Australia
I often think of the dedicated workers for peace I have left behind: they are a hope and an inspiration. With them in mind, I read an editorial in the Canberra Times that made me take up my pen. This is what I wrote (and they did publish it immediately). It should read as a homage to KPC:
In your editorial Security can’t be taken for granted (25 April), you comment ‘It’s a time to remember, and to be thankful for peace’. Yes, but it’s not enough to be thankful. Though the wonderful turnout at the (Anzac) war memorial demonstrates the strong feelings of citizens when remembering the war dead, very few actively work for peace during the rest of the year. Why is this? There must be a fatalistic acceptance that war is inevitable, that it is a result of decisions that are outside our control. Even in a democracy like ours, where voters are supposed to have some power, this feeling of acceptance and helplessness is general.
Wars are not inevitable. History shows that they have been the result of deliberate policy, of decisions taken by a few leaders, sometimes by a single man. Violence on the international stage has always ended badly, a result that prompted the genesis of the League of Nations, and the United Nations. Yet such is the general acceptance that military power of individual nations is the best way to ensure security that support for the UN has always been lukewarm. In this ‘real world’ of ours, reliance on international agreement and control is perceived as dangerously idealistic. Well, the ‘real world’ is what we make it.
Every year since 1982, 15 May has marked International Conscientious Objectors’ Day - to commemorate those who have resisted and those who continue to resist war, especially by refusing military service, and a ceremony is held at the Conscientious Objectors’ stone in Tavistock Square.
This year the guest speakers were Nick Jeffrey, a Vietnam War draft resister, and Mark Rylance who, with actor Patrick Walsh MacBride, read from the play Not About Heroes, by Juliet Rose, featuring the First World War experience of Siegfried Sassoon.
There were also songs led by Sue Gilmurray, and flowers were laid at the stone, in remembrance of Conscientious Objectors of all countries, followed by a minute’s silence.
KPC member Stephen Hensel who attended the ceremony was also a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War and has written the following recollections for Kingston Peace News.
I was a conscientious objector in opposition to the Vietnam War.
Everyone had to register with the Selective Service System at the age of 18 and could be drafted into the army by a local draft board.
College students had a deferment until they graduated - an unfair advantage - which I also had.
Many protested against the war.
In 1969 there was the My Lai Massacre where as many as 500 civilians died.
In 1970 four students in a peaceful protest at Kent University were killed by the National Guard.
At the same time the draft lottery came into force, assigning a draft number to your date of birth.
Protests grew as a result of these and other events.
My draft board had a large number of men available.
As a result, and because of my letters of support my application for CO status was accepted.
In the history of conscientious objectors my efforts were small.
I had to find a job that was considered valuable to the nation.
I worked two years in a small rural hospital.
And what lessons did America take from the Vietnam War? Did she learn that invading a country and causing widespread death and destruction is an illegal, immoral, and fruitless act? No.
She learned not to draft middle-class college kids from suburbia.
No one holds the can for these disastrous wars. No politicians, no generals, no arms dealers.
And the invasions continue.
P.S. As in most American conflicts the use of nuclear weapons was mooted as a "shortcut to victory".
Sunday 25 June at 7pm
Kingston Peace Council /CND, in partnership with Wimbledon Amnesty, London Campaign Against Arms Trade and Wimbledon Quakers is supporting the screening of ‘The Shadow World’, one of the events in the MyRaynesPark Festival, an annual local community arts festival committed to promoting justice.
This award winning documentary reveals how the international trade in weapons fosters corruption, determines economic and foreign policies, undermines democracy and creates widespread suffering. The film unravels a number of the world’s largest and most corrupt arms deals through those involved in perpetrating and investigating them. In shedding light on how our realities are being constructed, the film offers a way for audiences to see through this horror, in the hopes of creating a better future.
After the screening there will be a discussion with Andrew Feinstein (author of The Shadow World) & Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei (Bahrani human rights activist now living as a refugee in London).
Tickets are £5. You can book online at
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-shadow-world-tickets-33505936157 (with 90p online booking fee).
Venue: The Scout Hut, 106 Cottenham Park Road, SW20 0SX
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND