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Kingston Peace News - September 2017

The newsletter of Kingston Peace Council / Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament


Peace gathering to commemorate 72nd anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Down by the riverside

On August 6th more than 40 members and supporters of Kingston Peace Council/CND gathered at Kingston Riverside for our annual commemoration of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This year we were pleased to welcome the Mayor of Kingston Councillor Julie Pickering. (Right/above) Poster from a commemoration held by peace activists in New York City.


London Mayor and arms fair

Khan speaks out against DSEI

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has spoken out against the international arms fair – DSEI - due to take place from the 12 to 15 of this month in Docklands.

Khan said he was “opposed to London being used as a marketplace” for dictators and autocrats who come to the capital’s ExCel centre every two years for the Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition, the world’s biggest arms fair.

No power

Sadly, despite his opposition, Khan has no power to prevent the fair – that attracts more than 30,000 attendees from the world’s governments, military and arms manufacturers - from happening.

The event organisers say it complies with all laws and export controls imposed by the British government but of course the government is perfectly at ease with selling huge amounts of sophisticated weaponry and weapons technology to countries, especially in the Middle East, with atrocious human rights records.

Since 2010 ministers have issued licences for the sale of arms to 22 of the 30 countries on its own human rights watch list, and 39 of the 51 countries rated “not free” by the Freedom House NGO.

During the years of the Coalition government the Business Secretary with overall responsibility for arms sales was the then, and recently re-elected, MP for Twickenham, Vince Cable, now newly installed as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Most recently, the Government went to the High Court to defend its decision to continue arms sales to Saudi Arabia, despite advice from the top civil servant in charge of export controls that they should be suspended as a precaution.

Mr Khan’s position on the fair is in contrast to that of former Mayor Boris Johnson, who said in 2013 that DSEI was a “sensible” way to sell arms to governments. The former Mayor, now of course Foreign Secretary, told the Huffington Post at the time that it was “very important that there should be access to legal weapons” and that there was “no question of illegality” at the event.

Aquitted

Boris Johnson’s assertion does not, however, accord with the finding of district judge Angus Hamilton who acquitted eight protestors who attempted to disrupt the 2015 DSEI on the grounds that certain types of weapons were in fact being sold illegally at the exhibition. The protestors had argued before Stratford Magistrates Court in April 2016 that they had been attempting to prevent greater crimes, such as genocide and torture, by blocking access to ExCel. Human rights experts giving evidence on behalf of the protesters described the role of the arms trade in facilitating the repressive Bahraini regime, in Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign over Yemen, and with Turkey’s internal repression of its Kurdish population.

Illegal Weapons

Dismissing the case against the protestors, namely blocking a highway, which had been brought by the Crown Prosecution Service, the judge said the evidence of illegal weapons sales had been left unchallenged by the prosecution and that such sales would potentially break arms control laws.

“[There is] clear, credible and largely unchallenged evidence from the expert witnesses of wrongdoing at DSEI and compelling evidence that it took place in 2015," he said.

“It was not appropriately investigated by the authorities. This could be inferred from the responses of the police officers, that they did not take the defendants’ allegations seriously.”

He also said there was no evidence of an investigation by authorities into whether illegal arms were being sold at the trade show.


Blair escapes war criminal charge – again!

Tony Blair has escaped a further attempt to have him charged as a war criminal because, unbelievably, the Iraq War is not viewed as a crime of aggression under English Law.

An attempt to prosecute the former prime minister was made by former Iraqi Army chief of staff General Abdul Wahed Shannan Al Rabbat who accused Blair of committing a crime of aggression by invading Iraq, alongside the US, in 2003. The General wanted to include former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith in his legal action.

But, on the last day of July, two senior High Court judges; the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, and Mr Justice Ouseley, ruled that the case could not succeed because English Law does not recognise the crime of aggression.

This is despite the fact that aggression had been held to be a crime under international law by a former UK attorney general Sir Hartley Shawcross at the time of the Nuremberg Trials after the end of the Second World War.

Representing General Al Rabbat Michael Mansfield QC argued that the issue of whether international law in such cases should supercede English Law was a matter that should be tested in the UK Supreme Court. His argument was dismissed.


Hiroshima is about people, not just statistics

Phillip Cooper spoke at the Kingston Peace Council/CND’s annual commemoration of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Here is what he said.

Lady at a sewing machineMan in a doorway wearing a white coat

Toshiko Sasaki (left/above) and Terufumi Sasaki (right/below) survived the Hiroshima bomb

“At exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning, on August 6, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia Tin Works, had just sat down at her place in the plant office and was turning her head to speak to the girl at the next desk. At that same moment, Dr. Masakazu Fujii was settling down cross-legged to read the Osaka Asahi on the porch of his private hospital, overhanging one of the seven deltaic rivers which divide Hiroshima; Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor’s widow, stood by the window of her kitchen, watching a neighbor tearing down his house because it lay in the path of an air-raid-defense fire lane; Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest of the Society of Jesus, reclined in his underwear on a cot on the top floor of his Order’s three-story mission house, reading a Jesuit magazine; Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young member of the surgical staff of the city’s large, modern Red Cross Hospital, walked along one of the hospital corridors with a blood specimen for a Wassermann test in his hand; and the Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church, paused at the door of a rich man’s house in Koi, the city’s western suburb, and prepared to unload a handcart full of things he had evacuated from town in fear of the massive B-29 raid which everyone expected Hiroshima to suffer.

Wonder why

A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb, and these six were among the survivors. They still wonder why they lived when so many others died. Each of them counts many small items of chance or volition—a step taken in time, a decision to go indoors, catching one streetcar instead of the next—that spared him. And now each knows that in the act of survival he lived a dozen lives and saw more death than he ever thought he would see. At the time, none of them knew anything.”

That is the opening paragraph of the Pulitzer Prize winning article written about the atomic bombing by American journalist John Hersey and published in The New Yorker magazine in August 1946.

The strength of the article is that it looked at the experiences of six ordinary citizens. The statistics of the atomic bombings - 100,000 dead in Hiroshima, 80,000 in Nagasaki three days later – are so huge as to become almost meaningless, certainly incomprehensible. It was by concentrating on the stories of a few, named, individuals, that Hersey’s account created such a powerful effect Those six people were the representatives of all humanity then and still today as we continue to live beneath the shadow of nuclear destruction.

It is now 72 years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the world is not a safer place.

The international scientists who maintain what is known as The Doomsday Clock – forewarning of a human-made global catastrophe - have moved its imaginary hands to two and a half minutes to midnight, closer than it has been since the end of the Cold War.

The cocktail of reasons leading to this are well known; the uncertainties and foreign policy incoherence of the Trump administration, the accelerated policy of missile tests by North Korea, the frozen international relationships between the US, Russia and the UK.

There has been some sunlight among the gloom however. Only a month ago 122 nations at the UN concluded a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons. Sadly those handful of countries that possess them, including our own, boycotted the UN sessions at which the treaty was formulated and finally agreed.

Proponents of the concept of nuclear deterrence argue that because no nuclear war has erupted in the 72 years that have elapsed since Hiroshima and Nagasaki then things must, basically, be alright.

But it is the very length of time since those atrocities that is part of the danger. The Second World War is passing out of living memory. Those who witnessed and survived the atomic bombings are fewer and fewer. Actual lived experience of terrible events, whether Hiroshima or the Holocaust, are powerful testimonies to help prevent such things from ever happening again As the atomic bombings become mere history we would be wise to recall the old adage that those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.

That is why we are here today and that is why people throughout the world are at ceremonies like this one. We cannot allow the events of August 6th and 9th ever to be forgotten or minimised or misunderstood.

Thank you for being here.


Late July and early August is a time of year with many notable anniversaries relevant to nuclear weapons. Here are a few of them:

August 2, 1939 – Albert Einstein urges US to start nuclear programme

Hungarian physicist Leó Szilárd wrote a letter signed by Einstein and addressed to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Both scientists worked in the field of atomic energy and were concerned that Nazi Germany would develop a nuclear weapon. Roosevelt responded to the Einstein–Szilárd letter by initiating the Manhattan Project that would result in the country’s first atomic bomb.

August 6, 1945 – US drops atomic bomb on Hiroshima

At 8:16 a.m., the world's first nuclear bomb, Little Boy, detonated in Hiroshima, Japan. Dropped by an American B-29 bomber, Enola Gay, the bomb annihilated the city, killing between 90,000 and 166,000 people in the months following the blast. It was estimated that over the next decade, 237,000 people were killed directly or indirectly by the bomb's effects, including by burns, radiation or cancer.

August 5, 1963 – Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed

Representatives from the US, UK and the Soviet Union signed the treaty, bringing an end to more than eight years of negotiations. After the start of the Cold War, all countries were rapidly increasing their nuclear arsenal, and the treaty placed limits such as prohibiting testing of nuclear weapons in outer space, underwater or in the atmosphere. It was hailed as an important step in curbing a nuclear race.

August 1, 1975 – 35 nations sign Helsinki Accords

Leaders of the US, the Soviet Union, Canada and every European country other than Albania and Andorra brought the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe to a close by signing the Act in Helsinki, Finland. The declaration was not binding, and was meant to improve relations between the Communist bloc and Western countries.

July 31, 1991 – US and Soviet Union sign Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty

Concluding nine years of talks on disarmament, US President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed the treaty that would reduce and limit the two countries’ strategic nuclear weapons. The treaty barred them from deploying more than 1,600 delivery vehicles and 6,000 nuclear warheads, and placed bans on developing new intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The treaty was brought into effect on Dec. 5, 1994.


PalExpo event goes ahead, despite attempts to have it cancelled

Roshan Pedder was there

On 8th and 9th July the Queen Elizabeth II Centre hosted the biggest Palestinian social, cultural and entertainment event in Europe. But it almost did not happen. Elements of the pro-Israel lobby had been working hard to undermine the event, making false and baseless allegations against FOA (Friends of Al Aqsa) and others supporting the event.

Solictor’s letters to the QEll Centre alleged that it was allowing groups “with terrorist links to operate an event on your premises”; and that “the recurring anti-Semitic themes promoted by the above groups is deliberately intended to intimidate and discriminate against Jews. Our client is certain that this event is a front for Jew hate and that the main groups (Friends of Al Aqsa & Palestine Solidarity Campaign) are organisations promoting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions in relation to Israel, a known anti-Semitic movement”. Unbelievably they sunk lower still when the letter went on to say that the organisers had “no right of audience anywhere in the UK especially not near the scene of the recent Westminster Terrorism attack”, with the clear implication of linking the tragic terrorist attack with the organising groups.

Government lobbied

The government was also lobbied and Sajid Javid Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) waited until 16th June 2017, to write to the organisers to say he “is minded” to restrict the QEII centre from hosting Palestine Expo. Then with a mere 15 days to go he stated that he would be making a decision “soon”. Eventually, right at the very last minute after taking on board that the organisers would go for a judicial review to prevent the government stopping this event, permission was given.

So a hard won triumph for justice and freedom of speech.

PalExpo was billed as a social cultural and entertainment event. The two-day event was attended by supporters in record numbers – well over six thousand on each day. It was almost too successful with halls not big enough to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend lectures and long queues ensued.

It covered all five floors of this huge Centre hosting a knowledge centre, interactive zone, student hub, gallery, shops of Palestinian goods, the must-have food court and an array of speakers – far too many to name. Suffice it to say that they covered the full spectrum of Christians, Jews, Muslims, non-believers, British, Palestinians, other nationalities and Israelis (including Miko Peled, the son of a famous Israeli general) all united in the goal that Palestine must be and will be Free!

Here are some links:

Tariq Ramadan’s speech spelling out what we should do and what we should not do to achieve justice for Palestine https://youtu.be/iVkvuJW_Szc

John Pilger speech: https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/07/11/why-palestine-is-still-the-issue/

Miko Peled’s new book is called Injustice – The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five. His previous book is called The General’s Son.


Govt refuses to publish jihadi funding report

An investigation into the foreign funding of extremist Islamist groups may never be published, the Home Office has admitted. The inquiry commissioned by David Cameron, was launched as part of a deal with the Liberal Democrats in December 2015, in exchange for the party supporting the extension of British airstrikes against Isis into Syria. But although it was due to be published in the spring of 2016, it has not been completed and may never be made public due to its "sensitive" contents, which would be particularly embarrassing given predicted involvement by Saudi Arabia in funding terrorist activities. Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake claimed the Conservatives were “"worried about upsetting their dodgy friends in the Middle East". He said the party had "broken their pledge to investigate funding of violent Islamist groups in the UK". The Government has recently approved £3.5bn worth of arms export licences to Saudi Arabia.


The US and North Korea are already, technically speaking, at war

Let us remind ourselves that, at the cessation of the Korean War in 1953, the United States and North Korea signed an armistice, not a peace treaty, so the two states are still technically at war.

Fast forward to current events in that part of the world where threats of a resumption of hostilities have been fuelled by the nuclear ambitions of Kim Jong-Un and the incoherent sabre rattling of Donald Trump.

A detailed exposition of the present situation was presented to a recent London Region CND meeting by Keith Bennett who then kindly passed his notes after the meeting to Noel Hamel.

What follows is an extract from that talk (together with updates in brackets in view of the constantly developing situation –Ed.)

North Korea carried out an ICBM missile test on 4 July, to coincide with American Independence Day, and just after a new South Korean President – Moon Jae-In – had visited Washington.

The key aspect of this test (and a further one that occurred on July 28) is the development it marks in re-entry technology. That is its ability to raise missiles to higher altitudes and crash to earth at greater speed. The missile only travelled about 580 miles in terms of where it landed at sea from its launch site. But it took a 1,700 mile trip into space before re-entering the earth’s atmosphere, its journey taking around 37 minutes according to the US and slightly longer according to North Korea.

The general consensus appears to be that this would put Alaska within range and some of the outer islands of Hawaii, but not the main island or California or other mainland US states. (The late July missile test suggested that more of the mainland US would be within range.)

There are other issues, too, such as the ability to miniaturise a nuclear warhead so that it may be mounted on a missile for delivery to its target.

But what no side now disputes is that North Korea’s nuclear and related capacity is rapidly developing.

Responding to the 4 July test President Trump had Tweeted “Hard to believe that SK & Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on NK & end this nonsense once & for all.”

(Following the end of July 28 test Trump has been more dismissive in his attitude towards China Tweeting he was “very disappointed” in China for not reining in Kim Jong-Un. He also sent two nuclear bombers to fly over the Korean Peninsular).

Grave mistake

The US and South Korea have been stepping up joint military exercises, following which General Vincent Brooks, the Commander of US forces in South Korea, declared “self-restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war … we are able to change our choice when so ordered by our alliance national leaders. It would be a grave mistake for anyone to believe anything to the contrary.”

The New York Times reported it as: “Self-Restraint is the only thing stopping war in Korea, US General says”.

Brooks’ reference that “self-restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war” actually confirms what North Korea has consistently said about the armistice signed way back on July 27,1953 – that an armistice is not a peace treaty and that the two sides remain technically in a state of war.

Suspension

Despite Trump’s Tweeted frustrations, China has for some months been proposing suspension for suspension and the resumption of negotiations among the parties concerned, which have been in abeyance for many years now.

Suspension for suspension means: North Korea stops missiles and nuclear tests. The US and South Korea suspends their massive military exercises which are being held several times a year.

China’s "dual-track" approach is for the denuclearization of the Peninsula on the one hand and establishment of a peace mechanism on the other, together with the "suspension for suspension" proposal.

This approach was endorsed in a China/Russia joint statement. While criticising North Korea tests as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions, the Chinese report on the joint statement says:

“To prove their readiness for unconditional dialogue, the countries concerned should exert restraint rather than make provocations.” China and Russia encouraged simultaneous negotiations among rival parties to map out general principles of their relations, including the non-use of force, non-aggression, peaceful coexistence, and the willingness to solve the Peninsula issues once and for all.

In this process, all parties concerned should be committed to establishing a regional peace and security mechanism that is acceptable for all, so as to achieve the normalisation of relations between the countries concerned. The UN Security Council resolutions should be fully implemented, said the Chinese and Russian foreign ministers, explaining that North Korea’s reasonable concerns should be respected, and other countries should make efforts to make the resumption of dialogues possible.

Military means should not become an option, said the two diplomats.

An editorial comment in the New York Times following Kim Jong-Un’s 4 July missile test said: “Mr Trump may also be learning another lesson; that he can’t rely on China alone to force North Korea to rein in its nuclear programme. What he hasn’t grasped is that a solution will eventually require direct dialogue with the North.”

(As of August this was not looking like a hopeful scenario. Trump started making his most bellicose statements yet promising to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea “like the world has never seen.” Kim responded by promising to launch missiles at the US military bases on the island of Guam. As KP News went to press this had not occurred.)


UN nuclear ban treaty now a fact

Lady with her hair tied back, earrings, blue suit, with a sign in front 'President of the conference'

On 7 July, the United Nations passed a treaty forbidding the development, testing, production, possession, transfer, use and threatened use of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

Costa Rican diplomat Elayne Whyte Gómez, (pictured, above/left) president of the abolition conference, said: “We all feel very emotional today. We feel that we are responding to the hopes and to the dreams of present and future generations, that we undertake our responsibility as a generation to do whatever is in our hands to achieve and to move the world toward the dream of a world free of nuclear weapons.”

Delegate Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of Hiroshima, said: “I have been waiting for this day for seven decades and I am overjoyed that it has finally arrived. This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.”

The 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons joins the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, meaning that all weapons of mass destruction will be banned by law when 50 countries have formally ratified the latest treaty. (It opens for signature on 20 September.)

122 nations voted in favour of the treaty, one country voted against (NATO member, the Netherlands) and one abstained (Singapore).

The nine nuclear weapon states, including Britain, all refused to take part in the conference in any way.


Gulf War seen as arms sales boost

A minister in Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government viewed the 1990 Gulf War as an “unparalleled opportunity” to sell weapons to Middle Eastern countries using the conflict as a real life war game.

Alan Clark, then defence procurement minister, sent a secret memo to Thatcher within days of the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait. The contents of the message have just been released by the National Archives.

Expecting the US and its allies, including Britain, to become involved in military action against Saddam, Clark wrote: “Whatever deployment policies we adopt I must emphasise that this is an unparalleled opportunity for DESO (Defence and Security Organisation); a vast demonstration range with live ammunition and ‘real’ trials.”

And he went on: “I have pencilled a list of current defence sales prospects at the start of the crisis. These are now likely to be brought forward and increase in volume if we do our stuff.”

Unsurprisingly, he didn’t see fit to mention that the ‘demonstration range with live ammunition’ would also involve live targets, that is to say, human beings.


Newsletter Editor for this issue: Phil Cooper

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND

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