The theme of this year’s Peace Day is ‘Shaping Peace Together’ and asks us all to spread compassion, kindness and hope in the face of the pandemic. For me this is a timely reminder because with covid-19 and the necessary restrictions it’s easy for us to reduce our concerns to our own immediate circumstances and forget about the wider world. The virus is causing suffering across the globe and there can only be an adequate response if there is peace, and an end to conflict wherever it exists.
Readers will know that members of KPC write to schools in Kingston and Richmond every year to suggest doing school assemblies on the theme of peace and Peace Day. This term many schools will be making different arrangements about assemblies, and the schools and head teachers have enough to deal with as they prepare to welcome children back. So we decided against a general mailing but will just be contacting the schools we have visited most regularly. We have suggested possible resources including Peace One Day’s website www.peaceoneday.com.
We would be happy to visit a school this term or later in the year if the authorities feel this can be done safely in line with their virus precautions. Contact Mary.
I have been re-reading Gill's report on this, which she wrote in July. Unfortunately not a lot has changed, and I think we need to understand that until there is a vaccine it probably won't. We are still having internet meetings and there is a great deal of information available and petitions to be signed. As before there are details and information on the back page [not in the web version].
But here are some changes - first the good news!
We were able to have actual events on 6th August Hiroshima Day, and there is a report of these below.
Now that All Saints Church in Kingston is open again we shall be restarting our regular stalls on the first and third Saturdays of the month - the first one will be on 5th September, with hand gel and social distancing.
Although the Quaker Centre is now open we have decided against restarting meetings there until the new year. We shall instead hold Zoom meetings. If you are on our email list you will be informed of this, if not please do 'phone one of the members (see contacts page) to check.
The bad news is that we have just heard that Ham Fair will not take place this year. This is a great shame as it is an excellent fund-raiser for us, and a wonderful day out when the weather is good. Carshalton Environment Fair was also cancelled. However, car boot sales have been running for some time now, and Maggie and I have attended several, selling plants and some of the donated goods which are stacked up in our garages.
Much as we usually welcome donations of goods, we are unfortunately not able to accept any more at present as our garages are pretty full.
STOP PRESS - Update: As I write today, Bank Holiday Monday, we have just held a very successful garage sale thanks to Maggie Rees and many helpers, and managed to increase our funds by £177 - and to reduce somewhat the amount of donated goods stored in her garage. But we would still appreciate no more donations of goods until 2021 please.
On August 22 members of Richmond and Kingston Palestine Solidarity Campaign gathered in Eden Street Kingston outside HSBC bank to commemorate the hundreds of children killed in Gaza by Israeli forces between July 2014 and today, by reading aloud their names.
The significance of this event is that at the time of the bombing of Gaza in 2014 Israel decreed that the names of the children killed must not be commemorated or spoken aloud at all.
Don't mention the children.
Don't name the dead children.
The people must not know the names
of the dead children.
The names of the children must be hidden.
The children must be nameless.
The children must leave this world
having no names.
No one must know the names of
the dead children.
No one must say the names of the
No one must even think that the children
People must understand that it would be dangerous
to know the names of the children.
The people must be protected from
knowing the names of the children.
The names of the children could spread
The people would not be safe if they knew
the names of the children.
Don’t name the dead children.
Don’t remember the dead children.
Don’t think of the dead children.
Don’t say: ‘dead children’.
Members took it in turns over 2 hours to read the names, and Michael Rosen's poem was also read out.
Here is the story of how just one child was killed by an Israeli soldier on a Friday in July 2019, this time in the West Bank.
Abd el-Rahman Shatawi, nine years old, was hanging about outside his friend’s house when an Israeli sniper soldier shot him in the head. The bullet exploded into a hundred fragments in his brain. A regular demonstration was going on outside his village but this child was nowhere near it. He was just messing about in the road when he was shot from 100 metres away by the sniper.
More than 100 companies manufacturing and selling military equipment to Israel have offices and factories in the UK.
BAE Systems, Caterpillar, Boeing, Elbit Systems and Lockheed Martin are just some of them.
Financial institutions such as HSBC invest and provide financial services worth millions to companies that supply Israel with weapons, including BAE Systems and Raytheon.
To know more about this campaign or to join PSC look at www.palestinecampaign.org or https://www.facebook.com/RichmondAndKingstonPalestineSolidarityCampaign/
Maggie did some great posters for the Hiroshima vigil. This took place in the centre of Kingston at midday. Most passers-by were respectful and some took explanatory leaflets and newsletters. Some people thought perhaps we should do something similar next year but with a double set of posters so we could have a facing line of people on the other side of the street.
After the vigil we went along to Canbury Gardens where it had been agreed we should have a daytime commemoration instead of our usual evening one. We laid our banner out on the grass so that participants could socially distance around it.
We were pleased that our Mayor Councillor Margaret Thompson was very keen to attend again. (She was also Mayor last year and came to our evening event then). She stressed how important it is never to forget the terrible and continuing consequences of the nuclear bombings, mentioning her own family and their strong hope that the next generation could live in peace. She was also critical of the arms industry for fuelling war.
KPC member Hilary Evans gave the main speech. This was followed by the Mayor's speech and then 2 minutes silence, after which we scattered our white flowers onto the river in memory of those who died.
In addition to remembering the appalling atrocities in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75 years ago, we’re here to look forward and say NEVER AGAIN. Because such a monstrous event will happen again, sooner or later, whether intentionally or by accident, as long as these hideous genocidal weapons are in existence.
But there is a glimmer of light. Setsuko Thurlow, now 88, was 13 years old when the bomb dropped on her home city of Hiroshima. Buried under the rubble, she heard a rescuer encouraging her to try and push her way out towards where she could see a chink of light. In 2017 she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and she said then: ‘I kept pushing. I kept moving towards the light. And I survived. Our light is now the ban treaty’. She was one of the lucky ones and she has continued to push ever since, for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
The ban treaty she was referring to is the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) passed by 122 nations of the United Nations in 2017. The 122 nations were increasingly concerned about the catastrophic humanitarian impact, were these weapons ever to be used, and concerned too about the lack of genuine progress by nuclear-armed states in their international obligations towards disarmament. The UK government did not even participate in the negotiation of the treaty and has stated it does not intend ever to join. However, the Treaty is expected to enter into force early in 2021 and when that happens, the UK will have to decide whether to support it, in line with its commitment to the UN, or whether to head instead for isolation and stigmatisation, by turning its back on international law.
The big question is of course ‘Will the TPNW make a difference to the actions of nuclear-armed states?’ One major area of hope concerns finance: it is likely that such countries will find it increasingly difficult to access finance for their weaponry, once the weapons have been delegitimised by the majority of nations. The biggest banking corporations have a global reach and cannot disregard international law.
Certain weapons are described within the finance industry as ‘controversial’, either because they’re illegal – their production and use is prohibited under international law - or because they’re indiscriminate in their effect, thus contravening international humanitarian law. With the advent of the TPNW there is a growing recognition that nuclear weapons ought to be defined as ‘controversial’, and should therefore be barred from any investment activity, in a manner comparable with cluster munitions and landmines. Many financial institutions already refrain from investing in “controversial weapons” as a way to establish themselves as sustainable and responsible investors. Some have already explicitly highlighted the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in their decision to cease nuclear weapon investment.
When ICAN was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2017, the Chair of the Nobel Committee remarked ‘binding international prohibitions have already been established for chemical weapons, biological weapons, landmines and cluster weapons, precisely because of the unacceptable harm and suffering that these weapons inflict on civilian populations. It defies common sense that nuclear weapons, which are far more dangerous, are not subject to a comparable ban under international law’.
Setsuko Thurlow has written to world leaders to mark this 75th anniversary giving a powerful, eloquent and moving account of the utterly horrific scenes she witnessed – nightmare scenes we can scarcely imagine. Her letter urges leaders to support the new treaty. It was sent to our Prime Minister on 24 June but as yet, he has not taken the trouble to reply.
'The development of nuclear weapons signifies not a country's elevation to greatness, but its descent to the darkest depths of depravity. These weapons are not a necessary evil; they are the ultimate evil.'
[The main ICAN web site is at www.icanw.org and you can sign the 75th anniversary pledge to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at rise.icanw.org.]
Note: Setsuko Thurlow did receive a depressingly predictable response, on 21 August, from the Counter Proliferation and Arms Control Centre.
If the majority of human beings do not want wars but at the same time believe that it is impossible to stop them, then the first change we must bring about is in our heads. We must change the idea that "it is not possible" because it is only what we believe about reality that prevents us from transforming it.
Mikhail Gorbachev, 1997, former Soviet Head of State.
Three days ago I discovered that it was fifty-one years since I started a military career. For forty years from the beginning of that career I had continuous experience in the theory and practice of war. No-one studied it more keenly than I did, and I was in a position to know what war really meant. And the only conclusions I have been able to make are these - that war seldom if ever, settles anything. More frequently than not it leads to fresh wars. Preparing for war never seems to prevent it, and in its conclusions war is just about as disastrous to the victor as to the vanquished.
Field Marshal Sir William Robertson, 1860 -1933.
As a military man who has given half a century of active service I say in all sincerity that the nuclear arms race has no military purpose. Wars cannot be fought with nuclear weapons. Their existence only adds to our perils because of the illusions they have generated. There are powerful voices around the world who still give credence to the Roman precept - if you desire peace, prepare for war.
This is absolute nuclear nonsense.
Lord Louis Mountbatten, 1900 - 1979, Admiral and statesman.
(So do we really believe it was the IRA who killed him? Ed.)
August 29 was the International Day against Nuclear Tests.
2000 nuclear tests have taken place since the first one in 1945. These tests have had devastating consequences on communities, resulting in loss of life, cancers, birth deformities, radioactive pollution of the atmosphere and marine environment, and untold further damage to the well-being of all forms of life.
There is a clear link between campaigning against nuclear weapons and defending our environment. The fallout of a nuclear war would have devastating effects on our eco-system and even a ‘small’ localised nuclear conflict would lead to crops failing in dozens of countries — devastating food supplies for more than one billion people. And a nuclear winter would dramatically alter the chemistry of the oceans, probably decimating coral reefs and other marine ecosystems.
As we get ready to support Extinction Rebellion’s We Want to Live action (see https://cnduk.org/we-want-to-live-climate-not-trident/ ), and to mark the International Day against Nuclear Tests, we’re asking our supporters to contact their MP to explain why the issues of climate change and nuclear weapons go hand in hand.
Here is a suggested wording for you to use to write to your MP. You could amend this as you wish, or compose your own letter:
At this time of global pandemic I write to you to reflect on the key threats facing us.
This year in January, the Doomsday Clock – which indicates how close humanity is to catastrophe caused by human activity – was set at 100 seconds to midnight. It's the closest it has been since it was founded in 1947.
The atomic scientists who set the clock confirmed that the reason for the closeness to midnight is the threat of nuclear war and climate change.
Despite the grave dangers that nuclear weapons and climate change present, we are woefully unprepared to avert these catastrophes.
As your constituent, I believe the government needs to invest in meeting these challenges and I urge you to hold the UK government to account to make the necessary and essential spending to meet the urgent security threats we face.
An estimated £205 billion is being spent on replacing Trident, an obsolete nuclear weapons system. This is money that could be better used to embark on a state-led response to combatting climate change, and creating a generation of jobs in renewable industries, insulating our homes, upgrading public transport and restoring green spaces.
Britain should not only be a world-leader in tackling climate change, but also in the disarming of nuclear weapons. The ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is an important step to take and I would urge you to put pressure on the government to sign this historic agreement.
This would also allow the UK to set an example to nuclear-armed states across the world, demonstrating how the vast resources freed up by divestment from nuclear weapons can be used in the fight against climate change, helping ensure a future free from the dual existential threats of climate catastrophe and nuclear extinction.
Six US Air Force B-52 bombers arrived at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire last week. This is potentially an exceptionally dangerous development and serious questions must urgently be asked of government.
Read CND General Secretary Kate Hudson's blog for more: www.cnduk.org
All readers will have heard of the appalling killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He was killed by racist and violent police officers, one of whom was kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, while he was pinned to the ground. His final words, “I can’t breathe”, underline the brutality of his murder.
The weeks that followed have seen mass protests taking place across the US. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to oppose the violence and racism that led to the killing. They have been met by heavily militarised police officers who have inflicted terrible abuses against campaigners, activists, and journalists. The violent crackdown and use of rubber bullets and CS gas on peaceful protestors in the United States has shone a light on the increased militarisation of the police. US law enforcement agencies have received $7.4 billion in military equipment transferred from the armed forces since 1997, under the 1033 Program, contributing to their aggressive and violent response to protests.
The US is one of the world’s largest buyers of UK arms, with almost £6 billion worth of arms licensed since 2010. This includes all weapons categories. The end user is not published, so no distinction is made between the military and police, but it is likely that some will be for police forces. Since 2010 the UK has licensed £2 million worth of security and paramilitary police goods to the US, this includes anti-riot shields and other equipment that could be for police use. The Government has also licensed £800 million worth of small arms and £18 million worth of ammunition sales to the military and police, including crowd control ammunition, CS hand grenades, and tear gas. Many of the tear gas and “crowd control ammunition” sales were done via the opaque and secretive Open Licence system. This means that the value of exports is not published and nor is the end user. These licences allow for an unlimited volume of equipment to be exported over a fixed-term period. Moreover, the Open General Export Licence (OGEL) issued in relation to the UK-US Defence Cooperation Treaty allows registered companies to export tear gas and other anti-protest equipment without limit and without further licensing indefinitely. Between 2009 and 2018, the UK signed contracts worth £14.8 billion for arms sales to the US and Canada, according to the Government’s Defence and Security Organisation, compared to just £5 billion worth of export licences issued. According to the consolidated criteria for arms exports “The government will not grant a licence if there is a clear risk that the items might be used for internal repression.” By any reasonable interpretation this should have seen these arms sales suspended. Tear gas, which can cause serious injuries, miscarriage, and even death, is a chemical weapon banned for use in war, yet it is widely used against civilians.
The UK has licensed at least £34 million worth of tear gas sales to over 50 countries over recent years, as found by an investigation by CAAT and the Independent. They found 202 unlimited-value open licences since 2008 allowing this, including to some of the world’s most abusive regimes and dictatorships. In 2014 the Hong Kong police used UK-made tear gas against pro-democracy campaigners. In the aftermath of the crackdown the UK government pledged to take the abuses into account before approving licences to Hong Kong in future. Unfortunately, within 12 months the UK was again allowing the export of tear gas to the Hong Kong authorities. Last summer the same equipment was used again, with the same horrific results. Likewise, in 2011 UK-made tear gas was used against protesters by Egyptian forces, aiding a bloody crackdown that killed more than 800 people. It has been sold to Greece, where tear gas has been used against refugees, and to France, where tear gas was used against Black Lives Matter protests in Paris. The UK doesn’t just license the sale of weaponry. It actively promotes the sale of “crowd control equipment” – and with it, the militarisation of policing – through multi-million pound arms fairs like the Defence and Security Equipment International Fair which is scheduled to take place in September 2021.
See https://www.caat.org.uk/ for more details.
The Imperial War Museum has an exhibition by Ai Weiwei until May 2021, so there should be plenty of opportunity to go and see it. He has covered the whole ground floor with his artwork History of Bombs.
A high-impact reminder of our insatiable desire for destruction.
One of the bombs reproduced in a life-sized 3D image on the floor of the Imperial War Museum is the Soviet Union’s Tsar Bomba, the most powerful nuclear weapon ever created and tested. Suspended beneath a bomber because it was too big to fit inside, it was dropped over the Barents Sea and exploded with a force of 57 megatonnes, more than 1,500 times the combined strength of the two atomic bombs America dropped on Japan.
Ai Weiwei’s History of Bombs is an artwork about incalculable destruction in the form of an encyclopaedic collection of bombs and missiles, depicted with clinical precision across the floor of the Imperial War Museum’s central hall and flowing up a staircase. At a time when the world is quaking from a natural pandemic, he reminds us of our mind-boggling capacity to obliterate ourselves. It’s a mesmerising piece of popular history that shows in detail how the human race has accumulated a murderous arsenal since the early 20th century, when the invention of flight unleashed explosive new possibilities in warfare.
You must book online at the Imperial War Museum www.iwm.org.uk
Here you can also watch a short video where Ai Weiwei explains his concept.
Here is the first of the commonly- heard myths we need to try and counteract. It is headed Nuclear Weapons deter War - they keep us safe.
"It is often claimed that nuclear weapons preserve ‘strategic stability’ or ‘keep us safe.’
But there is no evidence for this beyond the mere correlation of the existence of nuclear weapons with the fact that a third world war has not (yet) occurred. Countries have conducted acts of aggression against countries with nuclear weapons. Argentina invaded the British overseas territory, the Falkland Islands in 1982, as one example. An arsenal of thousands of nuclear weapons did not protect the United States against the tragic 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks or deter terrorists from the attack in the first place. It is naïve and unrealistic to expect nuclear weapons to deter or defend against all aggression. What’s more, if nuclear weapons really did reliably deter war or keep people safe, why wouldn’t nuclear-armed states encourage more countries to acquire them? On the contrary, most governments know that nuclear weapons are dangerous, destabilising, indiscriminate, and potentially catastrophic.
One hundred and ninety-one countries have joined the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which prohibits the acquisition of nuclear weapons.
The United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom have willingly accepted a legal obligation to negotiate disarmament (Article VI of the NPT) in exchange for nearly all other countries accepting a legal obligation never to acquire nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons do not keep anyone safe; they threaten massive, indiscriminate harm to millions of people."
Editor's comment - you could also add that since 1968 the five above-mentioned nuclear armed countries have completely failed to carry out their side of the bargain. Unfortunately certain other countries have now also seen fit to acquire nuclear weapons, probably as a consequence of this failure.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Rosemary Addington
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND