The Peace Movement’s recent sigh of relief following Kofi Annan’s negotiated settlement in Iraq and subsequent endorsement at the UN will be an inadequate response in the long run and we must embark now on a campaign for the total lifting of sanctions against Iraq, not to save its leadership, but to ease the crippling effects on the health and economic development of the people.
The long of tooth and white of hair will remember that the Versailles Treaty spawned Hitler, who through diplomatic manœuvring and military might conned the German people into embarking on war to achieve its aims.
Until sanctions are lifted, we can expect periodic bouts of instability when Iraq mounts diplomatic offensives. But will Kofi Annan be able to muzzle Madeleine Albright, America’s Pit Bull Terrier — or, for that matter, her lap-dog George Robertson, Britain’s toothless Bulldog? I hope he can, but it will ultimately be determined by the amount of pressure that the World Peace Movement can exert on getting a Middle East Peace Movement, including Israel.
Robert Fisk of The Independent is shocked by what he has seen in Iraq and has set up an Appeal Fund which will work with Care International and Medical Aid for Iraqi Children. It is a start, but can only scratch the surface, and it is the political action that will be most effective.
Our group needs money too, to enable us to campaign on ridding the world of nuclear weapons and its Trident delivery system, and also to play a part in the wider Peace Movement. We need £1000·00 for our year’s work and everyone can help! The Fête of the Earth, our main fund-raising event (16th May in the Wimbledon Community Association from11−4) needs promises of help on the day, to transport goods and serve on stalls. Beforehand, we need to know who is knitting, baking cakes, making preserves, setting seeds and bringing on the plants which form the backbone of the events.
Start collecting your toys, books, bric-á-brac and good clothing now — don’t give it away to less deserving causes beforehand, ask us and we will arrange collection.
Finally, please do respond to the appeals of the organisers.
“It was the worst of centuries and the best of centuries.” That is the opening sentence of the draft vision statement of the Hague Appeal for Peace, which invites organisations around the world to concentrate attention at the end of this century on the means to abolish war.
The central event will be an International Peace Conference at The Hague in Holland, from 11−16 May, 1999. Since 1899, when the first International Peace Conference to abolish war was convened on the initiative of Tsar Nicholas II, The Hague has become the world’s capital of emergent international law. A Permanent Court of Arbitration was established there before the First World War, and the League of Nations’ Permanent Court of International Justice followed by the United Nations’ International Court of Justice were located in The Hague.
The main conference in 1999 will be organised by civil society organisations with three core items on the agenda:
The organisers hope there will be many complementary Peace Meetings, both in The Hague and around the world, organised on sectoral as well as geographical lines: for example, peace and religion, peace and sustainable development, peace and art, peace and women... The goal is peace. As the vision statement concludes, it is time for“replacing the law of force with the force of law.”
The project is being coordinated in this country by the International Peace Bureau through their representative, Bruce Kent.
Dave Knight, Chair of CND, visited Wimbledon on 12th March, and spoke to a packed audience for nearly an hour, before answering questions and inviting comments: it was an excellent meeting.
He spoke at some length about the political context of the CND campaign, and made the point that the current House of Commons offers a broad base for lobbying and support. Plaid Cymru, the S.N.P. and several Liberal Democrats are all very supportive, in addition to a considerable body of opinion within the Parliamentary Labour Party. The scale of the May 1st Labour victory meant that a lot of CND M.P.s got in ‘under the wire’ via seats which no-one expected to be won.
A new Liberal Democrat anti-nuclear defence policy is being promoted within the party by Liberal Democrat peace groups, raising the intriguing possibility that the Liberal Democrats may become the ‘radical’ party in this, as in other environmental areas.
Dave discussed the probable outcomes of the awaited defence review, where he reckons that there will be concessions on a fairly modest level e.g. reducing Trident warheads to Polaris level — ignoring the fact that they will still be independently targetable, longer-range and more accurate.
He touched upon tensions between the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence. The really significant decisions will be taken when the next Labour manifesto comes to be written: the question of the replacement or enhancement of Trident cannot be postponed for ever.
NATO expansion is taking place with almost total absence of debate, either here or in the USA, with the media rather belatedly just starting to pick up on the fact that it should have been discussed. With the UK apparently bent on following the US government line in all foreign policy matters, UK progress on nuclear disarmament will be dependent on a future policy gap’s opening between the two countries.
Dave suggested that a more optimistic way of looking at this scenario was to assume that Britain’s slavish loyalty over e.g. Iraq will mean that the US will owe Britain a few favours — which could perhaps be called in at the Conference on Disarmament. At the moment it is South Africa (with the enormous political and moral authority of having got rid of its nuclear weapons unilaterally) which is calling the bluff of the nuclear powers and planning to table a formal question calling for an ad hoc committee to discuss possible steps to nuclear disarmament. We must challenge the British government to support this initiative. An important factor in the political context of the CND campaign is the growing status of CND as an NGO valued amongst diplomats as a source of good information and research.
Campaigning for CND operates at local, national and international level, and Dave pointed out that “CND does everything” — direct action, national and international lobbying and public education — in contract to most other campaigning organisations which typically concentrate their energies and resources in more specific directions. He recommended letter-writing as “a much underrated communal activity”, and we must make a point of this in WDC/CND — so easy and so effective.
The CND 40th anniversary has given us the opportunity to celebrate our tenacity, and Dave found during a recent visit to the USA that the newer US peace groups are openly impressed by CND’s longevity. There is now a real opportunity for nuclear disarmament in the world: even if there is only minimal movement within the current British government, things continue to move forward internationally.
We were urged to contact local schools where young people ‘doing projects’ are often crying out for material. We can offer interviews if we have been around for a long time and have a good history of the peace movement — we become a valuable ‘resource’ for History, English, humanities or PSE! Ask your children and grandchildren who is the best staff member to contact, said Dave. Find the ‘trendy teacher’.
Letters and articles in the press keep the subject in the public eye, and the ubiquitous radio ‘phone-ins are often desperate for articulate contributions. Whatever the ostensible topic, it is usually possible to work the discussion around to Trident and its cost, immorality and environmental dangers.
Dave had just come from a meeting with Environment Minister Michael Meacher about MOX (Mixed Oxide Fuel) — CND is working with other anti-nuclear organisations to oppose BNFL’s plans to start operating a full-scale MOX plant at Sellafield.
On April 9th at 7pm there will be a special 40th anniversary showing of the film March to Aldermaston (1958) at BAFTA, 195 Piccadilly W1. The programme will be compèred by Bruce Kent and will end with an address by Dave Knight. Tickets £5 (limited supply) from David Cormack on 0171-437-8506. Book in advance to ensure your seat.
President Suharto of Indonesia (occupier of East Timor and Purchaser of British military equipment) will be coming to London to join other Asian and European leaders at the Asia-Europe Summit on 3–4 April. This summit meeting will focus on trade and investment whilst failing to promote peace, freedom and democracy for the peoples of Asia.
CAAT, along with a broad coalition of other groups is holding a demonstration and protest rally to take up many of the human rights, economic and peace issues which will not be addressed by the heads of state in their meeting. The meeting point for the demonstration is in Jubilee Gardens, Belvedere Road, London SE1 at 11am on saturday 4th April. the protest will start off at 12pm and go to the summit venue (QEII Centre) and finally to a rally in Trafalgar Square. Speakers will include Glenys Kinnock and John Pilger.
You will no doubt have seen the wonderful news that Mordechai has won his release from solitary confinement (Guardian 13·3·98) although of course he remains in Ashkelon jail and the campaign to end his imprisonment continues. A clemency appeal will be presented to the Israeli authorities by the Campaign to Free Vanunu in time for the parole hearing in late April, together with an international petition with approximately 12,000 names.
“Mister V” the one-man-play which showed briefly in London and Edinburgh last year has just been performed at Cologne University and will shortly be going to the USA for an 8-city tour including New York and Washington. The Campaign is beginning to think in optimistic terms about collecting for Mordechai’s future once he is out of prison, and we shall be contributing on behalf of WDC/CND.
Every Saturday: Noon – 2pm vigil near the Israeli embassy, Kensington High Street opposite the end of Palace Green W5.
Nearest Underground station: High St Kensington
Info: Helen 0181 661 1060