Wednesday 29 April 2020, 6pm Kingston University
David Wearing, a lecturer at Royal Holloway, will give a talk describing the links between the UK and Saudi Arabia, the UK/Saudi arms trade and the flow of Saudi wealth to London.
For further details and confirmation of the room check the home page
According to The Observer (23 February), Pentagon officials confirmed that its proposed W93 sea-launched warhead, the nuclear tip of the next generation of submarine-launched ballistic missiles, would share technology with the UK’s next nuclear weapon, implying that a decision had been taken between the two countries to work on the programme.
Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “It is totally unacceptable that the government seems to have given the green light to the development of new nuclear weapon technologies with zero consultation and zero scrutiny. Britain under Johnson increasingly looks like putty in Trump’s hands. That Britain’s major defence decisions are being debated in the United States, but not in the UK, is a scandal. Under Johnson, it seems that where Trump leads, we must follow.”
Tom Plant, director of proliferation and nuclear policy at the independent security think tank RUSI (Royal United Services Institute) said the lack of debate about the new weapon was a concern. “There’s been a presumption from those in opposition and analysts like myself that it should come to parliament in some way, like the 2016 vote on Trident. I suspect that the MoD’s position is that they don’t want it to. What the programme doesn’t need from their perspective is lots of scrutiny. But if there’s going to be a decision it should absolutely come to parliament.”
The Morning Star (27 February) reported that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has issued a statement: “To ensure the government maintains an effective deterrent throughout the commission of the Dreadnought class ballistic missile submarine we are replacing our existing nuclear warhead to respond to future threats and the security environment. We will continue to work closely with the US to ensure our warhead remains compatible with the Trident Strategic Weapon System.”
The Attorney General's office has been sitting on corruption charges in relation to arms deals with Saudi Arabia for nearly two years.
In 2010 a company called "GPT Special Project Management", a subsidiary of Airbus, agreed a £2bn deal to supply communications equipment to the Saudi Arabian National Guard (which helps guard the repressive regime against internal dissent).
The same year a whistle-blower fled the country after uncovering evidence that GPT used tens of millions of pounds of illicit payments and gifts to secure the deal. The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) began investigating the allegations in 2012, and in 2018 it requested a prosecution.
Yet nearly two years on, nothing has happened. No explanation has been given for the delay.
The government has appointed a new Attorney General, Suella Braverman MP, and her approval is necessary for the case to proceed.
The UK has a shameful history on arms trade corruption. In 2006, BAE escaped the process of justice when Tony Blair, under pressure from Saudi Arabia, quashed another investigation by the SFO into BAE’s multi-billion pound Al Yamamah deals with Saudi Arabia. While the UK government blocked the investigation, despite opposition in the courts from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), the US Department for Justice later sentenced BAE to pay a $400 million criminal fine.
Like the Al Yamamah case, the GPT case concerns another deal brokered by the UK government with Saudi Arabia.
CAAT would like you to ask the Attorney General to prioritise the rule of law and the UK's international obligations over the interests of arms companies and the repressive regimes they supply.
Take action at www.caat.org.uk/gpt
CND Peace Education, a member of the Peace Education Network and the Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT) empowers young people with knowledge on nuclear weapons and peace issues, enabling them to think independently about these crucial matters. Two of their education packs have been awarded the ACT Quality Mark and one is an Education Resources Awards finalist.
They have produced a new teaching pack, Critical Mass: Lessons on gender, race and nuclear weapons. It is a cross-curricular resource, catering for a wide range of subjects, and can be downloaded free at http://bit.ly/CNDCriticalMass and tes
With free online PowerPoint presentations the pack contains lessons on:
* International Disagreements, Nuclear Negotiations and Gender
* Women’s Peace Activism
* Atomic Bomb Survivors & Art
* Uranium Mining in Northern Australia
* Philosophy for Children (P4C)
The Peace Education team can deliver workshops from Critical Mass or any of their six teaching packs in your school, college or teacher training institution. They also offer assemblies.
Book at https://cnduk.org/education/free-school-workshops/
Or you can request a free teacher training session: (https://cnduk.org/education/free-teacher-training/)
PSC Annual General Meeting, Saturday 25 January, 2020
Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti spoke movingly at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign AGM about the situation of his fellow citizens and how crucial UK support was to their struggle for freedom, justice and equality. Barghouti, one of the founders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in 2005, emphasised the central importance of the movement and how vital it was that we in the UK resist our government’s pressure to delegitimise BDS. He went on to say “Let’s be clear, if they succeed in suppressing advocacy for Palestinian rights, no other justice movement will be safe. Our collective struggles against racism, climate destruction, sexism and economic disenfranchisement would all be in danger.”
He was speaking a few days before the dreadful Trump ‘Peace Plan’ was launched (see below), but the Plan had been in gestation for some three years and we knew it would appear soon. So our debates took place with this in mind.
Emergency Motion 1 called for PSC to oppose the government’s proposed law to stop public bodies supporting BDS campaigns. It was felt that defeating the proposed legislation would require establishing a broad coalition, centred on defending freedom of expression and the obligation of public bodies not to be complicit in human rights abuses. Work on this campaign would include ensuring public bodies didn’t prevent meetings on Palestine taking place in their buildings, and combating accusations of antisemitism where these were used to try and put a chill on campaigning. A whole range of activities involving local authorities, universities and pension funds will be needed. Much more info on www.palestinecampaign.org . There was huge support for the motion from the 300 plus members in the hall.
A second, related, issue where there was more debate was the important subject of accusations of antisemitism to smear those campaigning for Palestine, including many members of the Labour Party. Some PSC members felt that this had done so much damage, in particular the insistence on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism and all its associated ‘examples’, that PSC should launch a major campaign to deal with these accusations. The PSC Executive had considered this but felt that the organisation’s primary role must always be to put the interests of Palestinians first and centre. We shouldn’t have our energy deflected into a major campaign on the antisemitism issue where we would be confronting very well-funded lobby groups who would be happy to see such debate instead of active campaigning for the rights of Palestinians. We should combat antisemitism accusations where they interfered with campaigning on BDS and other issues but not run a special campaign on such accusations. The vote on this showed the great majority of members in support of the Executive’s view.
There was also a motion raising the idea of supporting a One State solution for Palestine/Israel. The Executive’s view was very clear that whatever our personal opinions about the best course of action it was up to the Palestinians to make decisions about the future they wanted to see – not us. Again there was a lot of support for the Executive on this and the motion was defeated.
Of course campaigning continues on Gaza, child prisoners, settlements, ending UK links with the Israeli arms trade and other essential areas. Since this was an AGM, too, there was voting on membership of the Executive committee and various roles on the committee. My feeling was, though, that it would have been good to have had one session where groups and individuals could have shared ideas and experiences. Last year we had some student groups telling us how they’d checked their universities’ investment portfolios and raised issues about some of the companies involved. It was really inspiring to hear their enthusiasm. We are certainly all going to need lots of enthusiasm and energy in the coming year as we work for a world where Palestinians can live in peace and dignity.
Note KPC member Noel Hamel also attended the PSC AGM in order to report back to Jewish Network for Palestine (JNP). His report and reflections can be viewed at
KPN readers will have read summaries and newspaper comments on this Israeli dream wishlist. The Plan involves:
• Annexation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank,
• Jerusalem to be Israel’s undivided capital
• The Jordan Valley taken under Israeli control
• No Right of Return for Palestinian refugees
• The land Palestine would lose to Israeli settlers would be compensated for by some areas of desert on the border with Egypt which would, allegedly, become economic development zones. $50 billion would, it’s said, be invested in the Palestinian economy.
The above is just a brief summary. The Plan is all about the rights of Israeli citizens while any concessions to Palestinians are dependent on their agreeing to the Plan’s humiliating terms and the loss of any idea of real autonomy. As commentators across the world have pointed out, a peace plan where only one party - the Israeli government - is consulted is unlikely to succeed. Sadly, Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the Plan was a ‘serious’ attempt at charting a way forward.
Mary Holmes, February 2020
The fifth and final part of the essay on the history of protest against nuclear weapons by our Australian correspondent and life member Harry Davis
In the February newsletter we mentioned two grass-roots anti-nuclear organisations that have received the Nobel Peace Prize. A third such group is an international movement seeking an international ban on nuclear weapons, ICAN.
In 2017 the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its successful decade-long campaign to persuade the UN General Assembly to adopt (by a two thirds majority) a landmark global agreement to ban nuclear weapons, known officially as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It will enter into legal force once 50 nations have signed and ratified it, establishing nuclear weapons along with chemical weapons and landmines as illegal under international law. At the time of writing (May 2019) there are 70 state signatories, of which 23 have ratified the Treaty.
[Editor’s note: There are now 81 signatories and 35 nations have ratified it.]
The full text of the Treaty can be read at
In addition to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) such as these specifically concerned with the threat posed by nuclear arms, other NGOs with a broader, environmental sphere of activity such as Greenpeace also actively campaign for a nuclear-free world. The International Red Cross has also taken a firm stand. At a conference in Sydney on 17th November 2013, the global Red Cross and Red Crescent movement stated its ‘deep concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons’, and adopted a four-year action plan towards ensuring that nuclear weapons are never used again.
The world’s largest humanitarian organisation confirmed its objective to prohibit the use of, and completely eliminate, nuclear weapons. The resolution was adopted unanimously at the Council of Delegates meeting, the highest governing body of the movement.
Grass roots anti-nuclear-weapons protest in the USA has a long history. There have been marches and demonstrations and non-violent direct actions targeting nuclear weapons manufacturers and nuclear weapon sites, sometimes involving attacks on the weapons themselves, ‘plowshare’ actions such as hammering on the submarines that carry Trident missiles, symbolically beating swords into ploughshares, according to the advice of the prophet Isaiah. Some examples may be briefly quoted here as illustrations, out of a long list of such actions.
The longest anti-nuclear march by far was when in 1986, hundreds of people walked from Los Angeles to Washington DC in what is referred to as the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament. The march took nine months to traverse 3,700 miles (6,000 km), advancing approximately fifteen miles per day.
The largest demonstration so far has been when on 12th June 1982, one million people demonstrated in New York City's Central Park against nuclear weapons and for an end to the cold war arms race.
“I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave's government also.” Henry David Thoreau.
Another manifestation of grass roots action was Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA). Long ago (1849) the American philosopher Thoreau had written Civil Disobedience, which outlined the rationale for disobeying rules perceived to be unjust. Civil Disobedience has guided such figures as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and continues to inspire grass roots protest. In 1960 the Committee of 100, led by the philosopher Bertrand Russell, was set up to organise NVDA actions against nuclear weapons. In February 1961 4,000 protesters sat down outside the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall. In September 1,300 were arrested in Trafalgar Square and 350 at Holy Loch in Scotland where the UK nuclear submarines, armed with US-loaned Polaris nuclear missiles, were based. The authorities began to arrest and imprison the organisers (including the 89-year-old Russell).
The principles and practice of NVDA were worked out in detail during this time so that when direct action came to the fore again in the 1980s, it was generally accepted by the peace movement as a legitimate form of protest. NVDA has played a part in anti-nuclear actions ever since. In 2006/7 there were more than 2,000 arrests over the course of the year when anti-nuclear protesters from many countries sat down to block the gateways at Faslane, the facility where Britain’s fleet of nuclear submarines are docked.
There have been many ‘plowshare’ actions, where activists have penetrated the razor wire and guards in symbolic actions to attack nuclear weapon sites. These are actions when the intention is to be arrested in order to explain in court why the action was taken. Sentences are often for very long terms, the longest so far being given to American Helen Woodson, who in 1984 took a jackhammer to a Minuteman missile silo and managed to crack the concrete, causing permanent damage. (That silo was years later blown up by invitation by a Soviet military man, as part of an agreed reduction in the nuclear arms of both superpowers.) Woodson was sentenced to 18 years, and served the sentence in full.
What has been the effect of this grass roots protest on the history of nuclear arms? In view of the more or less continuous increase in lethality of the weapons, and the continuing increase in numbers of nations that have acquired nuclear arms, any talk of progress toward a world free of the nuclear threat seems unrealistic.
However, the influence of the grass roots in the modern world is clearly increasing, from a status around zero in times ancient to becoming a considerable force in the maturing democracies of the modern world. The Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, given much credit for the easing of East/West tension, whom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declared was ‘a man you can do business with’, whose reforms changed Soviet communism, admitted to being inspired by the Pugwash conferences and IPPNW.
There are rational grounds for believing in the possibility of a more cooperative rather than an adversarial approach to international security, emanating from grass roots pressure. In a mature modern democracy the voice of the people may now be having an increasing influence on decision-making.
We asked Harry whether he was affected by the recent Australian bushfires. He replied “In our inner suburb, with not much burnable greenery around, I think we are in no danger at all, though the smoke that wafts over the city from time to time is a nuisance. Physical activity outdoors is not recommended, sports venues have been cancelled, and so on.
“Australians are facing the possibility that summer bushfires on this scale are going to be a regular feature. It is estimated that the emissions from the fires have amounted to two thirds of the target we are supposed to have signed up to. There is no chance of us keeping to the agreed level of emissions anyway. But at least everyone is now talking of global warming, and the so-called sceptics are keeping a low profile and are saying nothing.”
Continuing the account of Victoria Brittain’s talk at a KPC meeting in October
In the December/January edition of Kingston Peace News we published an account of part of Victoria Brittain’s ‘Global Dangers’ talk, in which she gave her thoughts on ‘all things nuclear’. In this issue we cover what she said about other dangers that confront us (edited).
In spite of the US pulling out of yet another international treaty - the Paris climate agreement - the Climate Emergency has at last begun to come to the centre of global and individual consciousness in much of the West. All over the Global South people are living the destruction of climate change, and part of the great tidal waves of migration destabilising even the West are driven by that.
The President of the United States and his fossil fuel tycoon friends go on trying, but they can no longer dominate the media on this issue. The global conversation has changed, triggered by the efforts of a 16 year old Swedish schoolgirl’s wake-up call for people to listen to the scientists’ work.
What has not yet changed however is the explicit consciousness that war and the military industrial complex are the greatest drivers of the Climate Emergency.
Today, as so very often, giant US and Israeli War planes are in the skies, and bombs drop on Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan or Gaza. It has been going on for so many years now that it has become a normalised part of Middle East life, and barely registers in the West. Every now and again the bombing of a wedding party, a school bus trip or a hospital wakes a brief response of outrage in the West. But not nearly enough outrage to stop it happening again. And again. Yet this all involves our military hardware, our bombs, our logistical support. It has to stop.
What do we imagine is the carbon footprint of these wars without end which we mostly choose not to pay attention to? One figure sticks in my mind - the US Dept. of Defense contributes nearly 80% of the federal government’s energy consumption. (see fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R45832.pdf )
Besides the twin existential crises I have highlighted - escalating nuclear ambitions and proliferation and rapid climate change - I want to draw attention to some other real global dangers. All of them are linked.
A lazy, compliant and commercialised media, mainly captured by Western political and economic interests and their local clients, shapes public opinion to accept a complacent narrative of what is normal and what is in the words of the scientists I spoke of earlier, the new abnormal. Their responsibility in amplifying dangerous populism and nationalism is very great.
And then there is new media. We know now how Cambridge Analytica harvested data from millions of Facebook users without their knowledge and used it to target them and their Facebook friends, to recruit for the Leave campaign, and later for Boris Johnson’s Conservative party on behalf of a hard Brexit. The victim is democracy, lost in waves of systematic government lies and false promises.
We have no plan or mechanisms to stop all this, though the EU has signalled great determination to enforce new rules.
The new normal of dramatic income and wealth inequality, and the normalisation of corruption are a seeping poison in our society.
Today’s UN weakness would have deeply shocked the idealistic founding generation of the mid 20th century. Those great women and men believed in a world based on international law, the principles of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and a world order which would reduce poverty, increase education and health chances, restructure inequality and safeguard peace.
Now unstable world leaders are hugely responsible for the dangerous rising tide of nationalism, sectarianism and xenophobia. We can see it from India and the Philippines to Turkey, Israel, Hungary, Poland, all over Western Europe, to Brazil and the US.
In all of them we can say that social media amplifies lying by leaders, but also bites back with rage against obvious wealth and opportunity differentials, leading to a corroding cynicism from the young who see wasted lives ahead for them.
Where are the caring voices of responsible leadership against this tide?
At least we can count on the Pope for a strong true voice with an echo – on migration and climate change.
Politicians? At home we have the ethical voice of Caroline Lucas against wars and for action on climate change; in Europe, on migration Angela Merkel was the voice of morality and compassion who opened Germany’s doors; New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinta Arden’s immediate response to the massacre in her city’s mosques was to act on gun control; in the US you can hear truth daily on the issues which concern us from the fearless congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio Cortez.
And we luckily have artists like Ai Wei Wei who uses his brilliant art work and films to expose searing truths of dictatorship, repression, war and migration. Artists and writers inspire us to see, and to act.
The changes in our society and in our inter-linked world - which we need so urgently - will come about because we, individually and collectively, take the responsibility for demanding changes in every possible and noticeable way. We can join CND on the streets with Extinction Rebellion, handing out fact-filled leaflets, speaking on the stages wherever possible. Greta Thunberg spoke for each of us when she told Barack Obama, “I have learned that you are never too small to make a difference.” She’s right. And I want to end with a variation on another of her dictums: When she was invited to speak to the US Senate, she gave them a copy of the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change saying, “I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists.”
At the KPC meeting in September 2018 we were told about Kingston Community Refugee Sponsorship (KCRS). Community Sponsorship is a scheme in which community groups accept major responsibility for sponsoring and resettling a refugee family into a local area. Backed by a government initiative, the local community group raises the necessary funds and is hands-on in helping the family settle in the community, learn English and find work.
KPC decided to pledge £100 a year for two years. When £9000 had been promised KCRS would undertake to support a refugee family for two years - a family recommended by UNHCR.
The Community Sponsorship scheme required that KCRS have a detailed written plan for resettling refugee families and that this be approved by Kingston Council. After a few revisions the Borough approved the resettlement plan and it was submitted to the Home Office as the basis for their approval “in principle” pending KCRS securing accommodation for a refugee family. The Home Office has now agreed a “pre-approval visit” in which a Home Office team will meet with the KCRS trustees.
The resettlement plan can be seen in full in the “Our Files” section of the KCRS website at https://kcrs.org.uk/
A training event, organised on behalf of the Home Office, was held on 24 January at the Kingston Quaker Centre. Some points made during training were:
• Our vision should be to help the family become independent – supporting them in learning to do things for themselves
• We must respect a resettled family’s privacy, for example sharing their contact details only on a “need to know” basis
• We should be prepared for the family being surprised and possibly disappointed at some of the differences between their expectations of life in the UK and the reality
KCRS have not yet secured accommodation for a refugee family. If you know of any possibilities where a landlord might be willing to rent for two years at housing benefit rates, please contact KCRS.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND