COMMENT by Joanna Bazley

Star Wars — Space Control and Domination

This is the title of an article by Dr Philip Webber in the July newsletter of Scientists for Global responsibility and is an expanded version of a talk he gave at the International Star Wars Conference in Leeds in May. “Let's remind ourselves where we are.... We live on a blue-green planet with a layer of atmosphere about 100km thick (that’s the thickness opaque to X-rays). If we were living on an apple we’d be in the sheen on the skin, on a cricket ball in the dust on the surface. We are already polluting this fragile environment, the land, the seas and the atmosphere — millions are already living in poverty or in various nasty regional conflicts. We already have a global nuclear overkill several tens of times over. We already have considerable offensive capability. Possibly the very last thing we need is to spend a few hundred trillion on a new version of Star Wars”.

Dr Webber goes on to analyse the complex technicalities involved, demonstrating very clearly that the only winners will be the multi-million-dollar US arms and computer industries — taking all the rest of us as environmental and military hostages in their pursuit of the isolationist, technical-fix model of the world that they hope will guarantee indefinite US global dominance.

I quote this article because it is a reminder that the NMD debate is in danger of becoming very parochial in this country — reduced to the level of wondering whether Yorkshire will become a legitimate target for Russian (or North Korean) missiles — while people like Richard Perle are given air time on the BBC to explain how the US is only concerned with the safety of its own citizens in the face of all these new rogue states and their aggressive behaviour. All the evidence indicates that the US is interested in a much bigger prize than the ability to shoot down North Korean missiles. They want total military control of space, and they don’t care about the UN, international treaties or diplomacy.

US space capabilities will “provide a dominant battlefield situation awareness and to conduct precision engagement and manœuvre campaigns on land, sea and space” {US Space Command — Vision for 2020]

It is deeply depressing to read the statements of Jack Straw, recently appointed Foreign Secretary with no background in the NMD debate, regurgitating the line of the Bush administration that NMD is nothing more than a ‘reasonable’ precaution against the threat of attack. (Lately the US has embroidered this line by suggesting that missile defence might be an essential protection against accidental missile launch.)

The British government should be joining its European colleagues in stepping up the pressure on the US to really work for negotiated nuclear disarmament with all possible urgency and rapidity, instead of endless spineless acquiescence to the US line. (Of course Britain is in a very difficult position as a client state in relation to our own Trident system.)

The one bit of encouraging news is that the Foreign Affairs Select Committee has decided to hold an inquiry into “relations between the United Kingdom and the United States and the implication of US foreign policy for United Kingdom interests”. Those wishing to submit memoranda are invited to do so by 8th October — so get writing!

‘The Star Wars 17’

Fifteen Greenpeace activists and two journalists face serious charges following a peaceful protest against Star Wars in the US. If convicted of the two charges of ‘conspiracy to violate a security zone’ and ‘violating an order from a commander’ they could face up to six years in jail. Duncan Campbell, writing in the Guardian [15.8.2001] says “What has angered Greenpeace and puzzled observers is the use of the felony charge against demonstrators when usually a misdemeanour charge is used. This is seen as an indication of the sensitivity with which the protests are being interpreted by the US authorities.”

The trial begins on September 25th and it is important to write to the US Ambassador in London expressing your concern:

Ambassador William S. Farish, US Embassy, 24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 1AE

(It is probably not helpful to be rude, but it is essential that the US realises that there is widespread and serious concern in the UK about the nature of the charges).

Hiroshima Day


"Elements cause chaos at Cowes" was the headline in the national Guardian which spoke of abnormal 40mph gusts setting up wind-versus-tide patterns "making steering downwind a fraught business". This was nothing compared with the struggles of our little fleet of lighted candles on Rushmere pond on Monday August 6th. An hour of frustrated effort produced a brief glimmer for the photographer (and a very striking picture in the local paper) but in the end we had to depart frustrated for the first time in very many years.

It was deeply disappointing and wholly unexpected after the fair weather forecast, but perhaps it made us all think a bit about why this symbolic annual event has become so important to us. Yes, it is a beautiful and moving experience, but it has become something even more than that; an opportunity for us to gather together as a group to remind ourselves about the never-to-be-forgotten real events that are still so central to our entire campaign. We think about the suffering of all those innocent people on the other side of the world and resolve that it should never happen again. That is what war does to people, civilised people become uncivilised, and there must be a better future. The strongest argument against nuclear weapons is still the simplest: they are morally wrong.

‘And the Fence came tumbling down’ — a new Atomic Mirror Film.

In April 2000 the fence finally came down around Greenham Common airforce base in Southern England. This ten-minute film tells the story of how a military base came to be returned to the people after 20 years of non-violent protest and witness. With dramatic footage and archive material of the women’s peace camps intercut with the events on the day the fence came down it is an informative and inspiring record of a historic transformation brought about by people power.

The film is accompanied by an information pack for schools, colleges and community groups which contains historical background material, personal histories of some of the people involved and suggestions for further exploration of the issues.

Copies can be ordered from

The Atomic Mirror, 25 Farmadine, Saffron Walden, Essex CB11 3HR

at the price of £10 + £2·50 p&p, cheques payable to Janet Bloomfield.

Greenham Appeal

Funds are being sought for the ‘Commemorative and Historic Site’ planned for the land occupied by the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp. Plans were submitted in 1999 and planning permission was received from West Berkshire Council in October 2000. For details of the intended design, contact

Commemorative Fund Appeal, Dept GCWPC, 15 Sydney Rd, Wanstead, London E11 2JW. Tel: 020 8989 4819

Military spending in perspective

Global military spending amounts to £785,269,000,000 a year — one third of which is spent by the United States. The US spends more than the next 8 big military spenders combined.

[IISS The Military Balance 2000, quoted in Labour CND Newsletter August 2001]

Lions Club Fair, August Bank Holiday

Our stall did well again at this traditional event in Morden Park, thanks to our loyal helpers: Brian, Jim, Maisie, Ann, Joanna, George and Margaret. Especial thanks to Brigitte and David for coming to our aid at the very last moment when we had a threatened transport crisis.

Total profit was £234 and we received a friendly reception from the bank holiday crowd, many of whom seemed to be regular customers from previous years. The money will be put to good use in our campaign, but equally important is to have had a public presence on a big local occasion like this. It just reminds people that we exist.

Visit to the M.P.

As Roger Casale, newly re-elected M.P. for Wimbledon, was unable to see us during the Disarmament Lobby of Parliament organised by UNA on July 3rd, we arranged a visit to Roger’s ‘surgery’ at the end of the month to discuss some of the arms control and disarmament issues that had been raised at Westminster. Alison Williams (representing UNA) and myself (WDC/CND) spent nearly 45 minutes explaining our views and exploring Roger’s attitude to current Government policy. We decided that it was best to concentrate on only two of the main themes of the Lobby: UK involvement in US plans for Missile Defence and the international prospects for small arms disarmament. Roger told us that he felt very strongly about Third World debt relief, and that he had fears that the efforts put into the campaign for the cancellation of the debt burden of poorer countries would be overshadowed by the more headline-grabbing international issues of missile defence and climate change (Kyoto). He had “concerns about the way in which the international system is developing”.

He gave us a copy of a recent speech he made in the House of Commons about small arms (9th July) during the debate on the Export Control Bill — a Government measure to reform arms export legislation introducing some of the recommendations of the Scott Report. He had said “We must recognise that the legitimate arms trade can ensure security and peace in certain areas, but we must also recognise that the unscrupulous trafficking of arms to conflict zones in areas of instability contributes to the terrible account of human suffering, and the destruction of communities and lives that occurs especially when conflicts are fuelled by the presence of small arms.... I am extremely concerned about what might happen to the [international] initiative that Kofi Annan has taken and what may happen at the [UN] conference starting today in New York.... it is worrying that initiatives to control small arms may be blocked because of the US Government’s threatened failure to co-operate. That is why it is so important that Britain is seen to be leading the way in arms exports.”

On NMD, we were very pleased to learn that Roger had felt able to sign Early Day Motion Nº 23 tabled by Malcolm Savidge:

That this House expresses concern at President Bush’s intention to move beyond the constraints of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in developing missile defence; and endorses the unanimous conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee which recommended that the Government voice the grave doubts about NMD in the UK, questioned whether US plans to deploy NMD represent an appropriate response to the proliferation problems faced by the international community and recommended that the Government encourage the USA to explore all ways of reducing the threat it perceives.

In fact EDM 23 went on to attract 276 signatures, including one Tory — Sir Teddy Taylor — and 216 out of the total of 412 Labour M.P.s. Given that government ministers and Labour whips traditionally do not sign EDMs this represents an overwhelming majority of Labour backbenchers.

Report by Joanna Bazley


Scientists for Global Responsibility Newsletter, July 2001

CND Return to Newsletter index