We cannot predict whether or not a war on Iraq will already have started by this date: it very much depends on what happens with the UN Weapons Inspectors. But whatever the state of things by then it is vitally important to make sure that MPs know the level of opposition to a war. We shall be lobbying Wimbledon MP Roger Casale and the other local MPs. There will be speeches in the committee rooms during the day and a public rally in the evening. Please get in touch if you would like to join us. And if you can’t attend please make your feelings known by e-mail or letter! (Use http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/alms.htm to find your MP’s e-mail address, or address letters to: House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.)
The ‘ceasefire’ resolution at the end of the Gulf War in 1991 called for many things but these did not include getting rid of Saddam Hussein. Some of the clauses of Resolution 687 are a useful reminder of the present hypocrisy of the US and UK as declared nuclear weapons states threatening to go to war with another country merely on the supposition that it may have ambitions to develop weapons of mass destruction. R687 is
The resolution also calls for Iraq to reaffirm unconditionally its obligations under the NPT — an area where the US and Britain are hardly in a position to criticise.
The most glaring omission in the interpretation of R687 coming from the US and UK governments is any mention of Israel’s nuclear weapons. How does this leave the prospects for a nuclear-free Middle East?
The chemical weapons attack on the town of Halabja in the 1980s was barely reported at the time although CND and the peace movement tried hard to raise the issue. During the Iraq-Iran war the ‘enemy’ was Iran and the West supported Iraq.
A PNAC report published in September 2000 called “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” called for a régime change in Iraq well before President Bush was even elected. And the PNAC personnel include Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowicz, John Bolton, Lewis Libby and Richard Perle.
[Phone 8543 0362 for a copy of the full CND briefing “The United States and possible War on Iraq”.]
CND is calling on all its members and supporters to take part in the following actions if there is a war on Iraq:
Armistice Day — November 11th — still holds a hallowed place in the popular tradition, and every British war memorial from the Cenotaph to the smallest village receives its annual wreath of poppies as a tribute to local servicemen killed in the two world wars.
Many years ago the Peace Pledge Union started producing white poppies to represent all the victims of war throughout the world, not just the military victims of the two major European wars, and recently the peace movement stepped up its efforts to find common ground with the British Legion, and to increase the emphasis on the “never again” message of the national day of mourning.
This year the Globe Theatre in Southwark was the scene of a wonderfully imaginative Remembrance event, masterminded by the Globe’s own Artistic Director Mark Rylance. White poppies were on sale in place of programmes, and Mark Rylance himself introduced the hour-long performance, flanked by Vanessa Redgrave on the other end of the wide and open stage. But these two dazzling professional stars deliberately down-played their own contribution in favour of the sheer ordinaryness of the dozens of women volunteers who normally work behind the scenes in the Globe’s wardrobe and education departments. These women read extracts from writings of war victims of all ages and from many continents — everything from the small child mourning the loss of his tricycle to the witnesses of rape and torture.
Mark Rylance invited us to raise a hand if we couldn’t hear properly but nobody wanted to break the spell as we strained to catch every quietly spoken word. For one hour these readings connected us with our common humanity. Any one of us could have been the victim, the reader or the listener. [Globe Theatre, Saturday November 9th 4pm.]
A recent article in the Guardian newspaper provided a ray of light in an otherwise grim Middle Eastern news scene. Raymond Dwek (professor of biochemistry at Oxford University) writes about his link with the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, a centre of expertise in arid land agriculture and water resource management, where graduate students come from around the world to explore ways to reduce and prevent desertification: research which may one day assist water resource management in the students’ home countries.
In arid regions of the world, battle for control of limited water resources can be a potent source of conflict. Tensions over the sources of the Jordan river in the Golan Heights preceded the Six Day War, and much of the current land dispute in the West Bank involves ultimate control over the natural underground aquifers.
The one exception to the rule is the peace agreement between Jordan and Israel which includes extensive arrangements for the sharing of water resources. As a result of this treaty therefore we have a group of Israeli researchers working together with Palestinian and Jordanian hydrologists and water engineers to monitor and improve the water quality of the Jordan river. “This is the kind of scientific endeavour that builds bridges to peace. It is the only way to create a joint commitment to protecting and promoting joint responsibility for cleaner water that will ultimately benefit all the residents of the region.”
In other words, a group of dedicated professionals working towards a common goal of practical importance to them all is quietly doing more for the cause of peace in the region than all its noisy politicians put together.
CND lawyers have sent a letter and a top QC’s opinion to Tony Blair, Geoff Hoon and Jack Straw warning that they will face a legal challenge over Iraq unless a written guarantee is given that the UK will not use armed force against Iraq without a further Security Council Resolution.
The letter attaches an opinion from Rabinder Singh QC and Charlotte Kilroy, both at Matrix chambers in London. In summary, this states that UN Security Council resolution 1441 does not authorise the use of force by member states of the UN, and the UK would be in breach of international law if it were to use force against Iraq without a further SC resolution. Phil Shinder of Public Interest Lawyers points out: “Even if eventually the Security Council issues a clearly-worded authorisation, there will be strict limits to what force would be lawful. Armed force to bring about ‘régime change’ or high level air strikes would be unlawful.”
Generally acclaimed to have been a major success, the 6th NPT Review Conference ended with a final document in which the nuclear weapons states gave an “unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals”. In addition, all the 187 State Parties to the Treaty agreed to take several other practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts to achieve the complete elimination of the world’s nuclear weapons. The 13 steps agreed by the five acknowledged Nuclear States at the NPT Review Conference in 2000 were to: