COMMENT by Joanna Bazley

This is the first Newsletter of 2002 and an opportunity to explore hopes and plans for the new year. After the dreadful events of 2001 — the beginning of the UN Decade of the Culture of Peace! — we can only pray that the future holds something better.

As far as we in Wimbledon are concerned, the events of September 11th have proved a catalyst for a closer partnership with other local organisations and individuals who share our determination to attempt to ‘do something’ to make the world a more peaceful place. We accept that we come at this from different directions and with slightly different agendas but we are united in our refusal to be fatalistic about the violence and inequality of the world. At the very least we feel that these are issues which need to be publicised and talked about and analysed in all their complexity. We refuse to accept simplistic talk about ‘crusades against evil’ and ‘wars against terrorism’. Of course we are as concerned as anyone else about our short-term safety, but we feel that our future security lies in a better global understanding of our common humanity and responsibilities to each other. We want our government to work towards real long-term international security via multilateral disarmament and the United Nations.

The group of CND members, Merton UNA members and Quakers who have been assembling in St Mark’s Place for a one-hour vigil for peace every Friday since the beginning of October has produced leaflets for handing out on the street and for distribution to local churches and other community groups. We have written to M.P. Roger Casale asking if he would support us in facilitating public discussion of some of the wider issues which are at stake, and we are pleased at his very positive response:

“As for your suggestion about taking further an exchange of views on international and environmental issues is concerned I am currently discussing a schools initiative with Wimbledon Civic Forum which might provide a suitable vehicle....” A constituency surgery appointment will explore this further, and we look forward to developments here with real optimism.

National Missile Defence

Many people will have seen the article in the Guardian by David Clarke, former adviser to Robin Cook at the Foreign Office. [Guardian 4/1/2002] Clarke argues that the Blair government, even though dubious over the strategic rationale for National Missile Defence, will inevitably give the go-ahead to US radar development in Yorkshire: “politics.... trumps logic”. The Prime Minister “sees fealty to the special relationship as a litmus test of Labour’s fitness to govern.” This political one-track-mindedness is clearly shown to be at odds with the military realities: “The paradox of September 11th is that while it increased the anxieties that are driving NMD, it also exposed its futility... the illusion of invulnerability can be the greatest threat of all”. “Fixed defences can be outflanked by new technologies and tactics.... The horrific possibility is that NMD will trigger the sort of responses that will actually make it easier for terrorists to bring carnage to the streets”.

It is interesting to discover [BASIC NMD mailing list† 10/1/2002] that there is also debate about the NMD in the mainstream US media — contrary to what we are led to believe by the UK government.

Joseph Cirincione from the Carnegie Non-Proliferation Project argues [4/1/2002] that the congressional disagreements that are rapidly re-emerging over missile defence are compounded by the competing budgetary demands of the war against terrorism. He quotes the Chair of the Senate Armed Forces Committee: “When the missile defense debate resumes, there must be a renewed appreciation that every dollar we spend on the least likely threat of ballistic missiles is a dollar not spent on the most likely threat: terrorism.”

Bill Keller, writing in the New York Times [29/12/2001] questions whether “missile defense makes it likelier that we will get into a war that is not essential to our national interests, or that we will move more easily from containing bad régimes to ousting them, and whether as part of such a conflict we may find ourselves playing nuclear chicken”. Far from being “a protection for the American people against nuclear catastrophe” NMD is seen in defence circles as a tool for “force projection” as it denies opponents the potential for nuclear blackmail. “Personally, if missile defense is about defense I can imagine better ways to spend $100 billion.”

† To add yourself to the NMD mailing list, e-mail with the words ‘subscribe NMD Update” in the subject line.

A Culture of Peace — Dream or Achievable Goal?

This important new book by Pax Legalis contains a verbatim account of a colloquium held in September 2000: four senior academics with expertise in the field of academic security giving their views on problems, causes, effects and remedies in the context of the May 1999 Hague Agenda for peace.

Possibly even more valuable is the final essay by Paul Rogers and Scilla Elworthy of the Oxford Research Group, which examines the outlook for the world after the World Trade Centre disaster. As well as tracing the emergence of the views that have shaped current US military and economic thinking, this chapter explores the extent to which the US world-view is rejected by nations that are not part of the ‘North Atlantic’ system. The atrocities of September 11th and their aftermath are discussed in the context of the cycle of violence, and constructive alternatives are suggested both in the short- and longer-term.

“The cycle of violence can be broken at a deeper level by an analysis of the underlying causes. An intelligent understanding of the antagonism that lies at the root of such an atrocity coupled with a willingness to address its causes is the only long-term method to prevent its recurrence.”

In conclusion, the authors suggest that the policies and outlook of the Bush administration are a throw-back to the Reagan world-view of the 1980s but applied to a much more complex world. The current US view of the world is compared with British imperialism of the 19th century. “It took Britain more than half a century to learn to live without its imperial rôle, to begin to understand the extent of resentment and opposition towards what we regarded as our benign and civilising imperium. Perhaps our current rôle may be to support the US in progressing more speedily and with less cost than we did.”

Copies can be obtained from Joanna (8543 0362), price £3. Buy it — read it — and distribute as widely as possible!

Fête of the Earth

May 11th this year! Please put the date in your diary and start making marmalade.

Kingston Friends Mediation

WDC/CND members may be interested to learn about the work of this local voluntary organisation which offers a mediation service to groups or individuals, works with schools, and runs a range of training courses. Mediation is a proven method of conflict resolution: a way of avoiding violence or litigation, and enabling people to resolve disagreements quickly and confidentially. It is encouraging to see an alternative approach to conflict resolution being actively promoted and developed, albeit in a small and local way. The lessons for the international community are obvious.

Further information from the website or tel: 8547 1197

Greenpeace Star Wars protest

Readers of this newsletter will remember that we highlighted the plight of the 17 Greenpeace protesters who were arrested after demonstrating against an NMD test at the US Airforce Vandenberg base last summer. The protesters were charged with “conspiracy to wilfully and knowingly violate an order and knowingly to enter Vandenberg without permission”: felony which carries a maximum 6-year prison term and $250,000 fine. WDC/CND joined a world-wide protest against the severity of the charges and we wrote to the US ambassador urging the US to show that it valued freedom of speech and freedom of non-violent protest.

On the eve of the trial, newspaper reports indicated that a plea bargain might be agreed, with the serious felony charges dropped in exchange for guilty pleas to lesser misdemeanour charges of trespass [Guardian 7/1/2002], and a day or two later it was confirmed that the protesters had been released on probation. Obviously, the US is highly sensitive to protests at Vandenberg (apparently it has become a focal point for anti-nuclear protests equivalent to Greenham Common in Britain in the 80s.) But I think we can assume that massive lobbying of US embassies in protest played a part in the eventual compromise reached. (Over 70 MPs contacted the Foreign Office or Tony Blair after being lobbied by Greenpeace supporters and some 30,000 postcards were sent to the US Embassy in London.)

NMD in the context of US Strategic Planning

This was the theme of an excellent workshop run by Jim Brann at the recent London Region AGM. US military spending overwhelmingly dominates the world total, equalling that of all the next 10 ‘big spenders’ put together. The US has given itself unlimited authority to plan and carry out military operations, with Chiefs of Staff allocated to each of these vast world ‘arenas’ — Atlantic, Pacific, Southern, Europe and Central. Although NATO was by treaty originally a defensive organisation the New Strategic Concept (1999) allows for virtually unlimited intervention (a precedent set with the bombing of Yugoslavia). The total NATO budget is $469bn and of this $283bn is supplied by the US. The total military spending by the rest of the world is only $340bn.

The NATO command structure places US generals in virtually all key positions even within the European regional sector. As the US strategy document puts it: this is a very good way of “transmitting strategy” to US allies. The notorious document Joint Vision 2020 (published in June 2000) repeats the mantra “full spectrum dominance” again and again with four major strategic concepts: ‘decisive force’, ‘power projection’, ‘overseas presence’ and ‘strategic agility’ in the five domains of air, sea, land, communications and space.

Jim Brann pointed out that the Bush administration is quite exceptionally militarised, with two former defence secretaries, Rumsfeld and Cheney, in key positions, plus Colin Powell (former chair of joint chiefs of staff). An application for huge military expenditure was put to Congress last June but there was much debate since Rumsfeld wanted to break up the old heavy army divisions in favour of more mobile forces. The attacks on September 11th had the effect of releasing money almost overnight, and all of a sudden it seemed that hard choices no longer had to be made. New weapons developments will now go ahead unchallenged, and this year will probably see a 20% increase in military expenditure and possibly even a deficit budget to pay for it.

Jim also reminded us of the link between the US armed forces and the arms industry: the American Committee for NATO Expansion is chaired by a senior executive of Lockheed Martin, arms companies openly lobby politicians and high-level forces personnel routinely move into positions in the arms industry when they retire. Jokingly, Jim suggested that we might feel that something approaching a military coup is taking place in the USA.


Membership Secretary Muriel Wood was able to report at the meeting on January 8th that response to our annual request for subscriptions had been excellent. Thank you to all who paid up so promptly — and a reminder that the rate remains unchanged at £4 (£2 concessions), payable to WDC/CND and sent to 53 Pepys Road SW20 8NL.

For Sale

ORION knitting machine. Best offer secures. Full instructions (and expert help in setting up) available.

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