The latest Newsletter from the Action for UN Renewal (Nov.2000) contains a provocative article by Stephen Cheleda which I found extremely interesting. He writes:
“One of he important points we ought to bear in mind is that a government’s policies are worked out in academic circles and in ‘think tanks’ before they are presented as fully fledged policies by politicians. This applies equally to defence and to economic policies, as well as to the Government’s stance towards the UN. This, basically, means that we have to win the argument regarding these issues rather than merely make a big enough demonstration to draw attention to our cause.”
However he then goes on to maintain “A case to illustrate this point is that of CND, which was, at its peak, a very powerful voice expressing people’s revulsion of nuclear weapons. Probably no other organisation since has marshalled such persuasive talents to its cause. Why did it not succeed in its aim to abolish nuclear weapons?... could it be that moral stance alone is not enough and CND as well as the World Court Project has been addressing the symptom rather than the cause of why the nuclear powers are persisting to hold on to their arsenals?”
He concludes that nuclear weapons are a symptom of the insecurity engendered by the present structure of the Security Council, and that by implication we should be concentrating our efforts on reforming the UN.
Although I disagree with the conclusions drawn from this argument, I feel that Stephen Cheleda raises some interesting points which are worth our consideration. I do not see that the ‘rational’ and the ‘moral’ arguments are necessarily mutually exclusive — in fact I think that both aspects of the argument should go hand in hand in the case of nuclear weapons — but I do agree that we do ourselves a great disservice by adopting a simplistic approach to what is now a very complex problem.
The problem would, of course, be less complex if the politicians of the immediate post-war period had listened to the anti-nuclear movement of their day: the nuclear arms race need never have happened. But the international context of the early days of CND is not the international context in which we are now campaigning. The nuclear power balance is infinitely messier than it was when the deplorable UK decision was made to join the nuclear ‘top table’.
The moral rights and wrongs of the arguments against weapons of mass destruction are as clear as they ever were and deserve to be repeated again and again, but moral arguments are not enough to sway the civil servants and diplomats and politicians who inhabit an altogether greyer moral world.
If we are to win at their game we have to play at their game, and the anti-nuclear movement is becoming increasingly sophisticated. You will read elsewhere of the triumph of the New Agenda Coalition in getting their Resolution through the UN this month. It is of course sad that the wording had to be changed so that Britain and the US no longer felt an immediate threat to their privileged status. It is easy to be cynical and dismiss this year’s Resolution as ‘watered down’ because it contains no timetable, but it does commit the nuclear weapons states more clearly to nuclear disarmament than ever before and surely this is an achievement?
Thanks to Action for UN Renewal for permission to quote.
Lobby for a renewed United Nations for Peace, human rights and development, Wednesday 6th December 2–7pm.
Please get in touch if you can spare time on 6th December to lobby M.P.s Roger Casale and Siobhain McDonagh.
Three specific areas of action have been identified, and we shall be urging the Government
Details of the lobby have been sent to church, environmental, ethnic minority and other interested groups and I hope that we can show our local M.P.s that significant sections of the electorate are deeply concerned abut these matters.
Briefings are available from Joanna [8543 0362]
Our replacement cherry tree was planted in Morden Park at 11·00 am on Armistice Day, November 11th, while all around us we could hear the boom of explosions from more conventional ceremonials. It was a deeply moving occasion.
We observed the two-minute silence and then the Rev. Anne McClelland (chair of Merton UNA) spoke and Jim read ‘Bombed City’ by a Second World War poet, Alan Rook, new to most of us:
“Walk with me to the silent city
Walk with me in the fainting street
Where the tramlines of evening
Wind around the houses....”
The tree is on a windy exposed hilltop, but it is a good size and will eventually form part of a small ornamental plantation which should provide protection. The new plaque records the “Rededication in the UN Year of the Culture of Peace”.
The story of HMS Tireless, the nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarine stranded at Gibraltar with with cracks in the main coolant pipe, has rather faded from the headlines. After initially trying to downplay the significance of this problem and its implications, the MoD eventually admitted to a ‘generic’ problem in all PWR reactors on hunter-killer submarines and belatedly withdrew all 12 of the UK’s Swiftsure and Trafalgar class submarines from service on 21st October.
CND is sceptical over the MoD statement that such a generic problem could not be detected in the Trident PWRs: these may be modifications on earlier designs but they are subject to the same stress and pressures and should be subject to the same inspection procedures.
Meanwhile the naval dockyard at Devonport (Plymouth), which had been celebrating winning the contract to service Trident, is now beginning to find itself less popular with the local population, having applied for permission for an 8-fold increase in nuclear discharges into the River Tamar.
The combined costs of defence budgets of all NATO states works out at over £10,000 every second.
As in previous years, CND has asked us to send Christmas peace messages to the Government. This year the suggestion is that we should put to Tony Blair two simple question, “What have you done for the UN Year of the Culture of Peace?” and “What will you do to help make effective the UN Decade of the Culture of Peace?”
The Rt Hon Tony Blair MP
10 Downing St SW1A 2AA
Tel: 020 7270 3000
The Rt Hon Geoff Hoon MP
MoD, Whitehall SW1A 2HB
Tel: 020 7218 2111
The Rt Hon Robin Cook MP
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles St SW1A 2AL
Tel: 020 7270 2059
Peter Hain MP
Minister of State, FCO [address as above]
Tel: 020 7270 2129
The Lord Advocate’s Reference hearings (the appeal by the Government following the acquittal of the three Trident Ploughshares activists in Greenock last year) resumed in the Edinburgh High Court on 14th November and the hearing is now over. The Judges have retired and we shall probably have to wait at least two months for their verdict.
George Farebrother of World Court Project UK reports one very significant remark from the chairman, Lord Prosser, who is quoted as saying that at least his court had the advantage that they were hearing about one particular weapons system — unlike the World Court which was attempting to deal with generalities. Whatever the outcome, the important thing is that the arguments for and against the legality of nuclear weapons have been heard in the highest court in Scotland, and Scotland is the home of Trident.
Many thanks to all who responded to the Urgent Appeal for funds to cover transcription costs last month. We are pleased to report that the target was reached within five days.
This is the title of the comprehensive resolution presented by the foreign ministers of the New Agenda Coalition countries* and passed by the UN General Assembly First Committee in November; it will now go to the UN 55th General Assembly (the Millennium Summit) in December.
* New Zealand, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, Ireland, Slovenia, South Africa
Article 8 of the Resolution “Calls for steps by all the nuclear weapons states leading to nuclear disarmament in a way that promotes international stability, based on the principle of undiminished security for all:
This Resolution echoes paragraph for paragraph everything from the “Programme of Action” which emerged from the NPT Review Conference in May so it would have been difficult for the nuclear weapons states to vote against it. The one highly significant addition is Article 18 which “Affirms that a nuclear-weapons-free world will ultimately require the underpinnings of a universal and multilaterally negotiated legally binding instrument or a framework encompassing a mutually reinforcing set of instruments.”
This sounds like the Nuclear Weapons Convention for which we have been campaigning so hard.
The UK and USA voted in favour of the whole Resolution for the first time and deserve congratulations. The only countries voting against were the nuclear outcasts Israel, India and Pakistan. The eight or so abstentions included Russia, France and their satellite states. It appears that the US ‘yes’ vote was chiefly motivated by a desire to avoid a split within NATO so we must feel quietly pleased at the success of many years’ lobbying.
You will find a petition form enclosed with this Newsletter. Please use it, even if you only manage to collect signatures from yourself and your family. It is encouraging to see the UK Government standing up to the Americans over the issue of global warming at the recent Hague conference. We must step up the pressure on Tony Blair to say ‘No’ to NMD bases at Fylingdales and Menwith Hill.