[At the start of the paper version of the newsletter, we gave details of the events in London to commemorate the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. These are omitted here in the web version, as it is being published too late to be useful]
(Article taken from CND's Summer 2019 Campaign Magazine)
IT’S TEN YEARS since President Obama made his famous Prague speech, committing to a nuclear weapons-free world. I remember hearing his words broadcast, amid the tumultuous cheers of the crowd in Hradčany Square, as if it were yesterday. What heady days those were, what days of hope. Then as President Medvedev of Russia added his voice to the call, hopes were high that real progress would be made towards that goal. Those were truly inspiring moments, and although over the year that followed there were times when I felt hope was receding, finally words were turned into actions. The new START Treaty was signed, which made significant reductions to US and Russian nuclear weapons, limiting their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to a combined total of 1,550. It wasn’t everything we wanted, but it was a step in the right direction. How far away those days seem now. It’s not just that moves towards arms reduction and disarmament have stalled – they have actually gone into reverse. Since Trump entered the White House, there have been sustained attacks on the treaty architecture that underpins the rules-based system that most countries struggle to uphold and extend. The whole principle of multilateralism has faced successive onslaughts, and with John Bolton at Trump’s right hand as National Security Adviser, non-proliferation and disarmament treaties are not long for this world.
The Trump administration is doing its very best to destroy the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, whilst also banging the drums of war. Its withdrawal and reintroduction of sanctions on Iran can only lead to greater instability in the Middle East and increase the likelihood of more countries in the region pursuing nuclear weapons. This move by Trump is not a popular one: all the other signatories to the deal are trying to uphold it – including Britain – but it’s not clear how long this will be sustainable.
President Trump’s next goal was the destruction of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia, announcing US withdrawal. Russia has since done the same. This treaty has been a cornerstone of nuclear arms control since the Cold War, having eliminated thousands of nuclear missiles in Europe, playing a crucial role in ensuring that US missiles are not situated on our continent. There are many possible dangers as a result of its cancellation: a new nuclear arms race, US missiles back in Europe – and that includes Britain – trained on Russia, US missiles in Okinawa trained on China, nuclear war.
As if it can’t get much worse, US withdrawal from the INF treaty also calls into question whether Washington will work with Moscow to renew Obama and Medvedev’s New START treaty in 2021, when it is due to expire. If Bolton has his way, once the Treaty expires there will be no restraints on nuclear weapons left. A grim prospect indeed. Underpinning these very dangerous developments lies the policy approach which massively increases the risk of nuclear war. Trump’s 2018 nuclear posture review has opened the way to both nuclear new-build and nuclear weapons use, in something of a throwback to the early years of this century. President Bush’s 2002 review had backed the development of new nuclear weapons such as bunker-busters and mini-nukes for use in ‘regional conflicts’, which we understood at that time to mean the Middle East. But the advent of President Obama knocked the project on the head for a number of years. Obama’s 2010 review ruled out the development of new nuclear weapons, including bunker-busters. The most significant element of Trump’s review has been a return to the belligerent approach of the Bush years, notably the commitment to a whole new generation of nuclear weapons, with the emphasis on low-yield nukes, often described as ‘usable’. Is it any wonder that the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has placed the hands of the Doomsday Clock at two minutes to midnight? We’ve never been closer, even at the height of the Cold War. And it’s never been more important to be active in CND.
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And, surprisingly, it seems the comments of NATO's General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg are somewhat similar though more restrained, but, of course, putting the main blame upon Russia:- -this from Al Jeezera online:-
“ NATO is preparing for a world without a key nuclear arms control treaty and with more Russian missiles” , Mr Stoltenberg said. His comments at the recent opening of the annual Aspen Security Forum came just weeks before an August 2 deadline the United States had given to Russia to come back into compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. (Washington said in February it would suspend in six months its participation in the Cold War-era treaty unless Moscow destroyed a new missile system, which the US and its NATO allies allege violates the accord. Russia denied the accusation and also gave notice that it would pull out of the 1987 treaty, which banned all ground-based missiles with ranges between 500km and 5,500km.) Stoltenberg said Russia still had time to save what he called the "cornerstone of arms control in Europe", adding that NATO had been calling the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin to move back into compliance. He noted, however, that there was no indication that Moscow was doing anything towards that direction. "Now Russia has started deploying these missiles again," referring to the SSC-8 ground-launched cruise missiles. "They are mobile, hard to detect, can reach all European cities within minutes reducing the warning time," he added. If Russia does not come into compliance by the deadline, Stoltenberg said NATO will respond in a "measured" and "coordinated" manner, with "no bilateral actions". He added NATO's 29 members would not deploy missile defence systems but could strengthen the integrated air and missile defence already in place in Europe.
Surely Jens Stoltenberg must see some responsibility for this mess when he looks at the actions of Donald Trump and John Bolton? Ed
And now a bit of good news follows:-
Campaigners have welcomed a Court of Appeal decision in June to overturn a 2017 High Court judgment that allowed the UK government to continue licensing the export of arms to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen. The appeal hearing took place in April 2019. The June judgment comes amidst global concern over the use of these weapons against civilians.
The legal action was brought by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), represented by solicitors Leigh Day, against the Secretary of State for International Trade. It was based on reports from numerous reputable sources that Saudi forces had violated International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in their ongoing bombardment of Yemen. Criterion 2c of the Consolidated EU and National Arm Export Licensing criteria says that export licences should not be granted if there is a clear risk the equipment to be exported might be used in a serious violation of IHL.
In their judgment, the Master of the Rolls, Rt Hon Sir Terence Etherton; Lord Justice Irwin; and Lord Justice Singh concluded that it was ‘irrational and therefore unlawful’ for the Secretary of State for International Trade to have made the export licensing decisions without making at least some assessment as to whether or not past incidents amounted to breaches of IHL and, if they did, whether measures subsequently taken meant there was no longer a "clear risk" that future exports might do so. The judges said: "The question whether there was an historic pattern of breaches of IHL ... was a question which required to be faced."
The Secretary of State for International Trade must now reconsider the export licences in accordance with the correct legal approach.
Andrew Smith of CAAT said:
'We welcome this verdict, but it should never have taken a court case brought by campaigners to force the Government to follow its own rules. The Saudi Arabian regime is one of the most brutal and repressive in the world, yet, for decades, it has been the largest buyer of UK-made arms. No matter what atrocities it has inflicted, the Saudi regime has been able to count on the uncritical political and military support of the UK.
‘The bombing has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. UK arms companies have profited every step of the way.'
The Court of Appeal has given the UK Government permission to appeal to the Supreme Court regarding the legality of arms exports to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen, following this ruling. But the Court has rejected the Government’s request for a ‘stay.’ If it had been granted, this would have allowed arms sales to continue unabated throughout the reconsideration process. There were 57 applications for export licences under consideration on 20 June 2019. These sales will not be allowed to proceed while the Government re-evaluates the legality of current licences.:-
The world's largest arms fair takes place at the ExCel Centre, East London, from 10-13 September this year. The Defence and Security Equipment International, DSEI, describes itself as 'a landmark event presenting to the world the excellence of the UK defence and security businesses'. London CND says Britain's role is nothing to be proud of including as it does the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia which fuel its war on Yemen.
A coalition of campaigns and groups, coordinated by Campaign Against Arms Trade, are coming together to protest. One of these is East London Against Arms Fairs. ELAAF has organised against DSEI for several years, see https://elaaf.org. Local CND groups and networks in London will be taking part in efforts to stop DSEI, See dates of Days of Action in our last KPC/CND News (June 2019).
On 6th June 2019 in Blagdon Park New Malden about 50 people of all ages gathered to enjoy an event which combined fun and games with protest against the arms trade. Sponsored by CAAT and KPC/CND, peace activists from Merton and Wandsworth were also involved.
We enjoyed a splendid picnic, some of it donated by local businesses. There were plenty of banners and placards to focus people’s minds on peace and - mindful of the date - a two-minutes silence was held in commemoration of D-Day.
The protestors left the picnic in a conga line, singing peace songs down New Malden High Street to Apex Tower where BAe Systems occupy 8 floors of offices. Activists drew attention to the presence of the world’s 4th biggest arms company with banners (one reading WAR STARTS HERE – LET’S STOP IT HERE), cardboard coffins (a man-sized one and a child sized one), leafleting and obtaining sheets of signatures on a petition.
All action was of course peaceful and to be respectful of the local community protestors kept on the pavement to avoid disrupting traffic. Dr Tariq Shabbeer, CAAT’s fundraising manager and chief organiser of the event, was so encouraged that he hopes to have another Peace Picnic during the August Bank Holiday weekend. Watch this space! [Update: It has been decided that this will not happen in August, but Peace Picnicers should try to support the activities at the Carshalton Environmental Fair on the Bank Holiday Monday and the DSEI protests]
‘Media: Marginalising the Palestinian Voice’ was the title of the first session I attended at the Palestine Expo. There were three excellent speakers - two Palestinians and an Israeli. What can we learn from their experiences?
Jehan Al-Farrar, who lives in Gaza, had studied architecture for five years and was about to do her final exams when Israel launched ‘Operation Cast Lead’, its attack on Gaza. Suddenly Jehan’s exams lost their importance. She felt the vital thing she had to do was to tell people outside what was happening all around her. She started taking photos and writing on social media. She told us that she felt she didn’t really have the luxury of choice. Getting the Palestinian story out was something she just had to do.
Later Jehan studied English literature, continued writing on social media and worked as a fixer for visiting journalists – often writing much of their copy for them. She also helped with the Palestinian History Tapestry which illustrates history from Neolithic times onwards, with scenes embroidered by Palestinian women living in the West Bank, some in refugee camps. Jehan’s determination to continue using a whole range of ways to get the Palestinian experience heard, was inspiring.
The other Palestinian speaker, Rawan Damen, is a filmmaker and has made award-winning TV documentaries. She is currently engaged on a project to produce a series of documentaries which will provide educational resources for young Palestinians, either where they live or in the diaspora, so they can become ‘ambassadors’ for Palestine in their local communities. The documentaries will cover history and politics and how best to put the message about Palestine across. These resources, which are free, will be launched in September this year and students can take an exam in May 2020 to qualify as ‘Palestine Ambassadors’.
Gideon Levy, a journalist who writes for Haaretz, focused on the Israeli media. “I can’t talk about ‘marginalising’ the Palestinian voice” he said. “Day in day out the mainstream Israeli media dehumanises and demonises Palestinians. Israeli media simply acts as a willing servant of the government". He believes that if Israel had had an independent media providing real information on the situation in the West Bank the Occupation would have ended long ago.
One example he gave was an Israeli newspaper giving front page coverage, during a major Israeli assault on Gaza, to two dogs belonging to Israelis that had been killed, in separate incidents as a result of the fighting and missiles. There were photos of the dogs being buried with military honours. Some ten Palestinians who had been killed on the same day were mentioned on page 19 of the paper. The message is: Palestinian lives are not valuable or important.
Gideon said most Israelis know virtually nothing about their Palestinian neighbours. The system is designed to ensure that this continues. The only real contact is when, as soldiers, young Israeli men and women in protective clothing with guns stand at checkpoints, patrol areas or deal with protests. There is no real personal contact between Israelis and Palestinians.
Palestinians who have any confrontation with Israeli authorities are always described in the Israeli press as terrorists or linked to ‘terrorism’ in some way. Even children.
Gideon, a Jewish Israeli, visits the West Bank every week to cover important issues and meet people. He has done this for thirty years. Amazingly he is the only Israeli journalist who goes regularly to the West Bank. He gets stones thrown at his car windscreen in Israel and a lot of abuse. He is very courageous.
In the UK we are fortunate that we can hear Palestinian voices such as those of Jehan Al-Farrar and Rawan Damen, and hear too Gideon Levy’s views of the situation. We just have the job of trying to spread their message and complaining when we believe Palestine and the Palestinians are being marginalised.
This session on the media was just one in a brilliant programme at the Palestine Expo. There was lots else besides – Dabke dancing, art, embroidery, and beautiful cushions for sale, but also graphic scenes showing the difficulties of daily life for Palestinian families. And a beautiful model of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The last session I attended took hope from the experience of the end of Apartheid in South Africa, with Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Zwelivelile Mandela, who is an MP there, encouraging us all to be more hopeful.
Walter Wolfgang died a few weeks shy of his 96th birthday, still campaigning for peace and justice. An organiser of the first Aldermaston march, Walter was vice president of both the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Stop the War Coalition at the time of his death.
Born in Frankfurt am Main, Walter had tasted anti-semitism first-hand by the time his parents sent him to Britain in 1937 to escape Hitler’s Germany. Walter made his home here. He became a British citizen in 1948 and joined the Labour Party the same year.
A devout Jew, Walter explained the connection between his religious and political views thus: ‘I came to understand the spiritual side of human existence through the Hebrew prophets. I was influenced by the idea that a society which doesn’t care for the disadvantaged ultimately decays, and I began to articulate the notion that western civilisation had taken a wrong turn. I believe that western civilisation has yet to be realised.’
Walter was deeply critical of Labour foreign secretary Ernest Bevin’s decision after the Second World War to align Britain with the United States. He campaigned for the adoption of a non-aligned foreign policy. He stood as a parliamentary candidate in the 1959 general election on a unilateral nuclear disarmament platform and increased the Labour vote in the safe Tory seat of Croydon North East.
More recently, Walter became known to a new generation of activists as the elderly gent evicted from Labour’s 2005 conference and detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for heckling another foreign secretary, Jack Straw, over the Iraq War.
Walter won instant approval for saying out loud what everyone else was thinking. His reinstatement to conference next day was greeted with a standing ovation and he was elected to Labour’s national executive a year later, where he continued to press the case for an independent, peaceful and non-nuclear foreign policy.
A modest man, Walter remarked: ‘I’m not very important and I’m certainly not a celebrity. But I’ve done a lot of things in my life that are important – considerably more so than getting thrown out of Labour Party conference, which isn’t very important at all.’
In an address to Walter’s funeral, his friend, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, described him as ‘an inspiring comrade, a brilliant mentor, a wonderful friend, and a huge loss to the international labour movement and the peace movement.'
I first met Walter in 1982, when we campaigned together against US cruise missiles in Britain. He became a special friend. The Walter Wolfgang I’ll remember was a man who always spoke truth to power.
A celebration of Walter's life is likely to take place soon, it will be announced in KPC News.
Another Obituary! Not many of our members may remember Gwyneth Whittle who lived in Tolworth. She joined KPC/CND in later life - probably about 20 years ago. She died in May, just four months short of her 100th birthday
She sometimes came by our stall in Kingston Market Place and would say how much she enjoyed our Newsletter. She was a teacher, a keen gardener, a cyclist, a volunteer at Surbiton Blind club and Surbiton Methodist Church, so she will be much missed.
Thanks to 'The Good Life' - Ed..
How much progress has been made towards a world free of the threat of a terminal nuclear war, a ‘war to end war’ indeed! Here in Australia we have just elected an extreme government that is strongly opposed to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that has been adopted by the United Nations. Neighbour New Zealand, which often shows the way in nuclear matters, is one of the 23 nations to have ratified the Global Ban Treaty so far,( with 71 nations having signed pending ratification. )
The failed and dangerous idea that nuclear weapons are a protection still has its advocates here. Professor White at the Australian National University in Canberra has just written a book advocating that Australia should 'seek the protection' of its very own nuclear weapons, what with the ‘growing threat’ of China. But we also have here a very strong anti-nuclear response to such nonsense. The Canberra Times today printed a full-page rebuttal of Professor White by Doctor Sue Wareham, she who has played a leading part in ICAN, the Nobel Prize-winning organisation that persuaded the United Nations to adopt its nuclear-weapons-banning Treaty.
But it appears we will need a change of government before Australia joins its neighbour across the Tasman Sea in ratifying the Treaty that puts nuclear weapons beside chemical and biological weapons as officially banned at last.
Thanks to David Polden for sending us the information below about the NVRN newsletter. It is an excellent read, and I do encourage you all to subscribe. The Network was set up in 1983 by CND. David has been its coordinator since 1985, producing a newsletter every two months, sent free to members.
The Newsletter aims at reporting non-violent direct actions worldwide in the cause of peace, disarmament and human rights. In the current edition there are reports on Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning being in jail, the CND and Christian CND demonstration outside Westminster Abbey against the service inside celebrating 40 years of the Trident ‘Deterrent’, Burghfield blockaders on trial, the judicial review of the High Court’s decision that selling arms to Saudi Arabia was legal, dockers’ action stopping a Saudi ship loading arms for Saudi, Extinction Rebellion activists on trial, US Veterans for Peace entering Shannon airport to investigate a US plane suspected of carrying troops for Middle East wars, and Palestinian prisoners in Israel hunger-striking against imprisonment without trial, as well as a page of coming events in the UK.
If you want to be sent the newsletter regularly, just let me know that you want to be put on the Network mailing list. Also let me know whether you want it sent by post or e-mail, there is no charge in either case. My address is NVRN, c/o CND, 162 Holloway Road N78DQ, phone-number 020-7700 2393
Here's an extract from the June/July issue re. Chelsea Manning, who is in jail again for refusing to testify re Wikileaks disclosures:-
"she told the Judge she would 'rather starve to death' than testify before the jury. In addition to being held in custody for the duration of the Grand Jury's investigation, the judge ordered her to be fined $500 every day she is in custody after 30 days and $1,000 for every day after 60 days. She had already served 62 days, 28 of these in solitary confinement..."
(If you want to write to her, details are given in this latest NVRN newsletter. Ed)
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Rosemary Addington
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND