The fragile progress made at the NPT Review Conference in New York is threatened by plans under way in the US for a National Missile Defence (NMD). Friends of the Earth, Sydney, is encouraging a global campaign to make our views known to Heads of Government in time for the G8 Summit in Okinawa on 21–23 July. Please write to Robin Cook and Tony Blair.
The planned American system is a radar-controlled anti-ballistic missile system of the type banned under the 1972 ABM Treaty between the US and the Soviet Union. There is intense political pressure on President Clinton during the run-up to the November elections because in America no country wants to be seen as ‘soft’ on defence, and Britain in particular among the NATO allies is heavily involved. Not only will the US expect our political support but part of the projected system and a radar will actually be sited on British soil (Menwith Hill and Fylingdales in Yorkshire).
The revival of US interest in the Strategic Defence Initiative beloved of President Reagan is ostensibly due to concern at the possibility of attacks from ‘rogue’ states such as North Korea, Libya, Iran and Iraq. In practice the development of a missile to reach as far as mainland America from any of these states would be very difficult. (Apparently short-range missiles (150 km) can be scaled up to intermediate range (1500 km) but beyond this the technical problems are of a completely different order.)
In addition, the upgraded radars planned for Greenland and Britain, and the new radar in Norway, are far better placed to counter missiles coming from Russia than from Korea. Russia feels threatened and has already announced its intention of adding extra warheads to its intercontinental missiles, and has pointed out that Menwith hill and Fylingdales would become legitimate nuclear targets.
Please remind the Prime Minister that Britain recently expressed strong support for the maintenance and strengthening of the ABM treaty, and ask him to make it clear to the US Government that Britain will not cooperate in any way with missile defence plans. Treaties deserve all the respect due to international law. The very discussion of missile defence options is in itself destabilising, and puts progress towards global elimination of nuclear arsenals at risk.
At the Annual General Meeting of the National Peace Council on the 10th June members were told about the severe cash-flow problems facing the organization despite the efforts of the small and extremely hard-working staff. The National Peace Council was founded in 1908 and is the oldest peace organization in the country, consisting of over 200 local, regional and national groups, and at a discussion meeting following the AGM representatives spoke of the aspects of its work which they have valued most: the networking rôle of the National Peace Council, the Peace Education Network, including support for teachers, and the facility for organizing Crisis Response. Bruce Kent emphasised how tragic it would be if this work which the National Peace Council has built up over the years were to be lost.
The Annual General Meeting decided that it would be necessary to wind down the formal Limited Company set up about five years ago, but in the course of the year a committee will evaluate what kind of structures NPC members will be able to put in place in order to carry forward the work of the Council. It seems ironic that this crisis should have occurred during this International Year for the Culture of Peace, when, in spite of the many tragic conflicts taking place around the globe, there does seem to be a move towards the realization that war cannot be considered an acceptable way of resolving conflict in the twenty-first century.
We had a very busy Peace Table outside Wimbledon library on 3rd June. A poster with “Say No to Star Wars & No to the Radar station at Fylingdales in Yorkshire” drew public attention to our petition to Tony Blair. We were able to have discussions with many people who already knew about the Missile Defence System the US intends to set up and 75 signed the petition asking him not to support this system. Also 25 people put messages on the cards ‘pointing the finger’ which will be tied on the fences at Fylingdales and Aldermaston on August 6th. We will have the table and petition out again on Saturday July 2nd from 10·30–12·30. Join us if you can and let people know CND is still around and still campaigning.
This new book by Commander Rob Green — formerly of the Royal Navy and now coordinating the New Zealand Peace Foundation’s Disarmament and Security Centre — is heartily recommended.
Starting with his own moral and intellectual journey, Rob goes on to examine the whole concept of deterrence and the history of nuclear weapons , reminding us of the political twists and turns, and flawed strategic thinking which promoted the nuclear arms race. He shows how deterrence doctrine almost acquired the unchallenged status of religion in Britain and the US, and then clearly exposes the total absence of military logic behind it. Deterrence logic is examined in the context of the Cuban missile crisis, the Falklands War and the Gulf War, and also in some of the familiar hypothetical situations where we are constantly told that nuclear weapons are essential for our defence: against chemical and biological attack, paranoid régimes, terrorists etc.
He concludes that nuclear weapons actually create a more dangerous world. “The ultimate irony of nuclear deterrence may be the way in which it undercut much of the political stability its proponents claim it creates.”
A whole chapter is devoted to the debate about the morality of nuclear deterrence and the ‘just war’ doctrine, where both sides have argued from a Christian perspective. Rob draws a historical parallel with the campaign against slavery “for which the leading Christian religions were apologists” (and where the successful campaign eventually used legal rather than religious arguments.) The final section of the book examines legal challenges to nuclear deterrence, the significance of the 1996 World Court Advisory Opinion, and safer alternatives to a nuclear-dominated world.
Rob writes with the authority of an ‘insider’ — he spent the years 1978–80 in the Ministry of Defence as Personal Staff Officer to an Admiral closely involved in recommending the replacement for Polaris. The clarity and intelligence of his writing serve to organise and inform one’s own thinking.
UK Distributor: Pax Christi (Tel: 020 8203 4884)
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On Sunday August 6th we shall hold our traditional candle-floating ceremony on Rushmere (near the War Memorial, Wimbledon Common). This is a simple, beautiful and moving occasion when we remember those who died and pledge “never again”, and we hope that very many of you will be able to be there.
Sue Davis spoke at our meeting in June about her visit to the annual International Peace Conference in Hiroshima. She told us about the warmth of the welcome she had from the Japanese and her vivid personal realisation of the common humanity which unites us all, despite cultural differences and historical divisions. She was impressed by the willingness of the Hibakusha — the atomic bomb survivors — to take upon themselves the evils that Japan had perpetrated as well as the truth that nuclear weapons are the absolute evil. (Where is an equivalent acceptance of responsibility for the evils perpetrated against Dresden, Hiroshima, etc?)
Every year a commemorative ceremony is held in the Peace Park at Hiroshima (the site of the atomic bomb) attended by the Japanese prime minister, and every year the Mayor of Hiroshima asks the Japanese prime minister to invite his prime ministerial colleagues from around the world — but they never come. Perhaps we should suggest it to Tony Blair?
Sue made the point that there is still a general popular assumption that the Hiroshima bomb ended World War II. We need to try to get the message across that this is simply untrue.
“Japan was at the very moment seeking some way to surrender.... It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”
• General Eisenhower
“It would be a mistake to suppose that the fate of Japan was settled by the atomic bomb. Her defeat was certain before the first bomb fell.”
• Winston Churchill
“Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped.”
• US Strategic Bombing Survey, 1946