… and a Beacon of Hope
Passers-by joined members of Kingston Peace Council/CND at Kingston Riverside on August 6 to mark the annual commemoration of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States in 1945.
Some 40 people gathered to pay their respects and observe a minute’s silence for the victims, not only of the two Japanese bombings, but also of all wars.
KPC member Phil Cooper gave a short address in which he spoke of the growing tensions throughout the world with the United States and Russia both withdrawing from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the current tense situation with Iran and the latest developments between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir. He reminded those present that the Doomsday Clock now stood at just two minutes to midnight.
Injecting a hopeful note into the comments he said that, as next year would mark the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings, there could well be greater publicity and discussion given to the topic worldwide.
We were delighted to welcome the Mayor of Kingston, Councillor Margaret Thompson, and her husband, Prof Richard Thompson, to the event.
Following speeches those present lit lanterns and strewed white petals onto the Thames in memory of the souls of the departed.
Speaking at our Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemoration event KPC/CND member Phil Cooper gave the following address:
‘Our event here this evening is both an act of remembrance and an expression of hope.
It is 74 years since the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic weapons. And although our commemoration here by the riverside in Kingston may seem a modest affair we are strengthened by the knowledge that it is being replicated in similar acts of remembrance throughout the world today. This, as with those many other events across the globe, is not held solely to honour the memories of those hundreds of thousands of lives obliterated in the first nuclear attacks. It is also held to draw the world’s fading attention to the threats posed by the possession of nuclear weapons by nine countries, including our own.
And the threat is increasing.
The so-called Doomsday Clock has been in existence since 1947 when it was created by an organisation called the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, among whose members were those who worked on the Manhattan Project which built the first atomic bombs.
Since January this year the Clock has stood at two minutes to midnight signifying how very close the world has come to catastrophe. The only other time it has been so close to midnight was in 1953, the year when both the United States and the Soviet Union exploded their first thermonuclear weapons. Significantly, the clock was pegged back to six minutes to midnight in 1988 when the US and the Soviets signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (or INF) Treaty which first Trump, then Putin, have repudiated this year. The treaty expired a couple of days ago. (It was August 2 – Ed)
Add to that the current Iranian situation, also precipitated by Trump’s withdrawal from an international treaty, the current situation involving two nuclear-armed states – India and Pakistan – in conflict over Kashmir, and military planning in the Pentagon that envisages being able to fight, and win, a nuclear war, and the necessity for events like this and organisations such as ours is as crucial as ever.
A major problem, in addition to the stupidity and recklessness of certain national leaders, is that nearly three-quarters of a century has elapsed since the two Japanese cities were destroyed. The voices of those who survived - known as the hibakusha - is fading as their numbers dwindle. Their average age is now 82. The lived experience of those who suffered the effects of the most terrible weapon ever devised is in danger of becoming a footnote to history.
We will continue to work with like-minded organisations at local, national and international level to ensure that those voices are not stilled and that those terrible experiences are not overlooked.
And we hope that next year - 2020 - marking as it will the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings, will be used to generate the level of international media and political interest that we have witnessed this year for such events as the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing.
Perhaps, then, the hubris of various national leaders can be tempered by a wider public understanding, revulsion and rejection of nuclear weapons.
This is the earnest wish of one of the hibakusha: “I hope no such tragedy ever happens again. We must never allow ours to fade into the forgotten past. I hope from the bottom of my heart that humanity will apply our wisdom to making our entire Earth peaceful.”
Please would you now join us in observing a minutes’ silence in commemoration of the victims, not only of the two atomic bombs, but also of all wars.’
The Mayor of Hiroshima had stern words for the Japanese Government at the commemoration event held in the city.
“I call on the government of the only country to experience a nuclear weapon in war to accede to the hibakusha's (atomic bomb survivors') request that the TPNW be signed and ratified,” Mayor Kazumi Matsui said in the annual declaration at the memorial ceremony, referring to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was passed in July 2017 with the support of 122 nations.
“I urge Japan's leaders to manifest the pacifism of the Japanese Constitution by displaying leadership in taking the next step toward a world free from nuclear weapons.”
But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declined to accept the request, saying the treaty does not reflect the reality of security. Japan has refused to participate in the treaty, along with other countries under the US nuclear umbrella, as have the world's other nuclear-weapon states.
Holding a press conference after attending the ceremony, Abe said the treaty is “not based on the real aspects of security.”
In a speech delivered at the ceremony, he did not mention the treaty, only saying Japan will serve tenaciously as a “mediator between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states” and “take the lead in making such efforts” in the international community.
Attended by some 50,000 people and representatives from about 90 countries including the United States, Russia and Britain, the annual ceremony took place at the Peace Memorial Park near Ground Zero.
“Around the world today,” Matsui said, “we see self-centred nationalism in ascendance, tensions heightened by international exclusivity and rivalry, with nuclear disarmament at a standstill.”
The power of individuals is weak, he said, but added there have been many examples of collective strength achieving desired goals. “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit,” the Mayor said, quoting Mahatma Gandhi. He said that “coming generations must never dismiss the atomic bombings and the war as mere events of the past.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in his message, “The world is indebted to” people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the other A-bombed city, “for their courage and moral leadership in reminding us all about the human cost of nuclear war.” Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki in November during the first papal visit to Japan since John Paul II toured in February 1981.
Despite occasional heavy rain due to a typhoon, local people of all ages and tourists visited the Memorial Park from early morning to pay tribute to those who died in the bombing and wish for peace. Three days after the Hiroshima commemoration the Mayor of Nagasaki, Mayor Tomihisa Taue used his city’s memorial ceremony to back Hiroshima Mayor Matsui’s call for Japan’s government to immediately sign the UN treaty banning nuclear weapons. As a step toward joining the treaty, Mayor Taue called on Japan “to seize the trend toward denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and to initiate efforts to make Northeast Asia a nuclear-free zone where all countries coexist under, not a ‘nuclear umbrella,’ but a ‘non-nuclear umbrella.'”
Bolivia marked Hiroshima Day by ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which means it is halfway to being brought into force with 25 out of the required 50 national ratifications. Picture shows Bolivia’s UN Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorenty Soliz (left) with a UN official.
The British government has been told that Saudi Arabia has “whitewashed significant civilian harm” from the war it is waging, with UK-supplied weapons, in Yemen.
A 288-page report, compiled by Yemeni Human Rights Group Mwatana and a team of international lawyers was delivered to Britain’s newly appointed International business Secretary Liz Truss in August.
The report, backed by eyewitness testimony and photographs, claims that Saudi Arabia continues to commit war crimes in Yemen and is failing to investigate the atrocities. The British government has relied heavily on the Saudi’s own assessment of the effect of air strikes to justify the continued sale of weapons. But in June the Appeal Court ruled that the UK government must review its decision to continue these arms supplies. Last month the Saudi’s Joint Incident Assessment Team announced that its forces were not responsible for an aerial attack on a funeral in 2016 which killed 23 civilians, including a two-year-old girl. This was despite the Saudi-led coalition controlling Yemen’s airspace and debris from an air-to-surface munition being found at the blast site.
Dr Gearoid O Cuinn, director of the Global Legal Action Network which submitted the report, said: “This evidence will assist the UK government in deciding whether to grant further arms sales licences for Saudi Arabia.
“They can either continue to rely on discredited Saudi/UAE-led coalition assurances, or listen to those who have painstakingly documented the constant civilian deaths caused by coalition air strikes.
“Multiple European states have already suspended arms sales and now the case for the UK doing the same could not be stronger.”
Mwatana chairwoman Radhya Al-Mutawakel said: “The Saudi/UAE-led coalition is decimating Yemen, with indiscriminate and disproportionate air strikes destroying the country’s infrastructure without regard for civilians.
“The UK should have stopped selling weapons to the Saudi/UAE-led coalition a long time ago.”
Campaign Against Arms Trade spokesman Andrew Smith welcomed the report, telling the Morning Star: “This is a very important report which totally undermines the British government’s claims that the Saudi regime is best placed to lead investigations into itself for war crimes.
“Over the last four-and-a-half years Saudi forces have dropped thousands of bombs on Yemen, which have had a devastating impact.
“This terrible war has only been possible because of the complicity and support of arms-dealing governments like the UK’s.”
He went on: “The Saudi dictatorship has a long-standing and proven contempt for human rights — evident in its decades of appalling abuses against Saudi people and the humanitarian crisis it has inflicted on Yemen.
“The UK government must end the uncritical political and military support which it has given the regime.”
There has yet to be a UK government response to the report’s findings but, meanwhile Liz Truss’s department has been busy drumming up business for the Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair due to be held this month in London.
The Guardian reported recently that a delegation from crisis-hit Hong Kong has been invited to attend the event despite a promise made by former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in June that exports of teargas would be halted to the Hong Kong government.
Britain had licensed £9.4m of arms sales and security equipment to Hong Kong since 2014. Saudi Arabia is prominent in the list of countries invited to attend DSEI as well as eight countries identified by the Foreign Office as a “priority country” in its latest annual review of human rights and democracy. These include Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, Israel, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle noted that the list of invitees was “eerily similar to its official list of human rights abusers.”
Biennial arms fair comes to London this month
CND will be partnering with other anti-nuclear groups, including Campaign Against Arms Trade, to host the ‘No Nuclear Day’ on Wednesday 4th September 2019, as part of Stop the Arms Fair’s two week programme of protests against the fair.
Every two years, the global arms trade comes to the ExCel Centre in London Docklands. Defence Security Equipment International (DSEI), one of the world’s largest arms fairs, returns this month, running from September 10 to 13. This is where those who profit from war, repression and injustice do business.
As lorries and trucks transporting armoured vehicles, missiles, sniper rifles, tear gas and bullets attempted to get on site in 2017, people from around the world were there to put their bodies in the way. There was music, dancing, aerobics, an academic conference, a gig on a truck, abseilers dangling from a bridge, theatre, rebel clowns, religious gatherings, hip-hop artists, people in arms locks blocking entrances, even Daleks! Will you help make 2019 even bigger?
Join peace campaigners, migrant solidarity groups, anti-nuclear groups, LGBTQ folk, Palestine solidarity activists, academics. Join anti-frackers, green groups, anti- racism organisers, and those moved by their faith. People from the local community will join those from all over the world.
All are welcome to organise action or activity on the following themed days:
Together we will take action. More details https://cnduk.org/opposing-dsei-arms-fair/
Join us at the two DSEI entrances through which set-up equipment will be passing. We will be at the gates near Royal Victoria and Prince Regent DLR stations between 10am and 4pm. There will be speeches, entertainment and activities and you are welcome to join us for all or part of the day.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7700 2393.
The official DSEI website describes the purpose of exhibiting at the arms fair as follows:
Now entering its twentieth year, DSEI is respected and commended by the industry it serves. The event presents a pivotal point in the calendar to explore international business opportunities with an audience that is unrivalled, both in terms of the scale and seniority of those that attend.
Funny there’s no mention of exploring new ways of subduing and killing people!
Pentagon thinks it can fight and win a nuclear war, document reveals
On 11 June, the US military posted an unclassified document, updating doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons, on a public Pentagon website. The most quoted part of Nuclear Operations is this: ‘Using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability. Specifically, the use of a nuclear weapon will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and create conditions that affect how commanders will prevail (a favourite US military term) in conflict.’
In other words, Nuclear Operations is a guide to using nuclear weapons to fight and win battles and wars. This is not how US nuclear policy is portrayed to the American general public.
Nuclear Operations explicitly uses the ‘w’ word: ‘Both warfighting utility and deterrence require survivable nuclear forces and command and control structures.’ (emphasis added)
This war-fighting approach is not a post-2016 Trumpian invention, but a way of thinking about nuclear weapons that has deep roots in the US military and a long history. We can see this, for example, in the institutions and equipment that have been in place for decades to assist nuclear war-fighting.
Nuclear Operations caught a little bit of media attention only because it was removed from public view after just eight days, something noticed by a secrecy expert at the US Federation of American Scientists (FAS), Steven Aftergood, on 19 June.
Here’s another eye-opening section from Nuclear Operations: ‘Employment of nuclear weapons can radically alter or accelerate the course of a campaign. A nuclear weapon could be brought into the campaign as a result of perceived failure in a conventional campaign, potential loss of control or regime, or to escalate the conflict to sue for peace on more-favorable terms.’ (emphases added)
This is not about protecting your homeland from overwhelming nuclear destruction by threatening massive nuclear retaliation.
This suggests the use of perhaps just a single nuclear weapon in order to achieve political as much as military objectives.
Because of the ‘prompt’ and ‘sustained’ effects of nuclear weapons, commanders are asked to consider ‘their impact on future operations throughout the operational environment.’ ‘The commander must employ appropriate protective measures to ensure mission-critical operations can continue after exposure to nuclear effects.’
In other words, you need to think about how the nuclear strike you are calling in will affect your soldiers as they continue to fight on a possibly irradiated battleground. Nuclear Operations states that the US ‘maintains nonstrategic nuclear forces and capabilities to increase the regional deterrent value of US forces’. Planning for nuclear war-fighting on the battlefield, and an administrative infrastructure including specialist ‘consequences assessment’ staff, have been part of the US army since the dawn of the nuclear age. And if you use a nuclear weapon for war-fighting, you need to know where it lands (‘battlefield damage assesssment’). If it doesn’t land on target, you can launch another warhead to ensure that the objective is destroyed.
The US has had a way of spotting nuclear explosions since the 1960s. In the 1980s, the Pentagon began deploying a much more precise ‘nuclear detonation detection system’ called NDS. Today, a large part of NDS is carried by the US military’s NAVSTAR satellites. They are most famous for hosting the GPS global positioning system used by every smartphone.
(This article is extracted from one by Milan Rai, co-editor of Peace News. Nuclear Operations can still be downloaded via the FAS website: www.tinyurl.com/peacenews3258 Ed.)
Our Australian correspondent and life member of KPC/CND Harry Davis has been looking at the history of protest against nuclear weapons.
This is the first part of his essay on the topic
The pages of history are crammed with so much violence that the condensed story of any nation appears as a listing of battles won and lost. The merciless expeditions of Genghis Khan, with murder and robbery as the naked motive, are an extreme example in terms of mindless cruelty and destruction, though the wars initiated by many nations in order to extend the bounds of empire were essentially similar in motivation. Britain and France fought each other fiercely to claim ownership of what became the United States and Canada, and after Britain won that war, another merciless war was fought when the colonies of their own people did not submit to total control. Such empire-building has continued from the earliest times until the 20th century, when Britain fought the Boer wars simply to annex parts of South Africa to the empire. As recently as the first half of the 20th century, Hitler was able to initiate a war with nothing but empire-building and plunder as the stated objective. International violence has always been initiated by the governing, executive level, but there has been a very recent change in public acceptance of such violence, and it is this developing grass roots pressure, very modern, that we will look at here. The dominance of the beast in international affairs appears to be diminishing. Naked empire-building has now ceased, and the formerly subject nations, sometimes with a violent struggle, sometimes peacefully, even with a simple vote, have today regained their independence. The empires that cost so much bloodshed have gone.
However the bestiality that has driven the violence of the past has not gone away. Threats that if ever carried out would be terminal, continue to plague the modern world. The brutish state of mind responsible for past empire-building wars has persisted in a new form. Today the emphasis is no longer on spreading the bounds of empire ‘wider still and wider’, but has become directed towards mere survival in a world suddenly more dangerous.
The weapons that human ingenuity has produced as a result of an open-ended arms race are now so powerful that they cannot be used. Today we have reached a position of stand-off that is both dangerous, being dependent on the good sense of decision takers who in the past have had a poor track record, and costly, amounting globally to $1.739 trillion every year in military preparations [Stockholm International Peace Research Institute figure for 2018]. This costly stand-off remains the conventional wisdom to secure peace, but there is a grass-roots pressure to reassess the problem of security on a more homo sapiens basis. In past times the people had virtually no input into the large decisions of war and peace. In fact they often actively supported the expeditions of their leaders. But a change has occurred. Once the people actively encouraged the martial ambitions of their leaders, but today the maturing democracies have provided the grass roots with a stronger voice and the people themselves appear less bestial, perhaps realising that the failure of leadership is more dangerous today, or perhaps a higher level of education has raised a general awareness. In a modern democracy the people have a much stronger voice than heretofore. Given the nature of modern war, it would be surprising, and not a little depressing, if a strong movement had not originated from the grass roots dedicated to the prevention of conflict. Grass roots pressure took a long time to find its expression. The first true grass roots anti-war organisation of the 20th century was the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), founded in October 1934 by Canon Dick Sheppard. Members pledged that they would never support or sanction war, war being always a crime against humanity, and would work for the removal of all causes of war.
With the arrival of the nuclear age in 1945, the destructive power of war had leapt to a new level, making a solution to the problem of war suddenly more urgent. This further justified the efforts of existing anti-war protesters, and in addition prompted the creation of a new movement specifically directed against the new weapon of mass destruction.
(In the next part of this series Harry charts the formation of CND)
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Phil Cooper
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND