COMMENT by Muriel Wood

“Now more than ever” is the slogan on the new CND T-shirt, and what a timely slogan this is in view of the answers to questions by the British delegation at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Prep-com (NPT) in April in New York, and those given in the House of Commons by Geoff Hoon.

Carol Naughton (CND Chair) went to the NPT and the first couple of days were open sessions where Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) were able to hear the opening speeches and get papers.

Both the Non-Aligned Movement and the New Agenda Coalition were very critical of the Nuclear Weapons States, especially of the US, saying that US plans for Missile Defence would lead to a new nuclear arms race. They called for a specific framework of time for nuclear disarmament and for the NPT to be legally binding. Nearly all the states condemned the US Nuclear Posture Review for introducing a new rôle for nuclear weapons.

In answering questions put at a round table discussion with delegates from various countries, the UK delegation stressed that they were not extending the life of Trident, developing new nukes (lower yield ones) or changing in any way the negative security implications they had signed up to under the NPT. None of that was substantiated in private meetings Carol had with UK delegates.

In March Geoff Hoon, when answering questions before the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, made it quite clear that Britain would be prepared to use nuclear weapons against a “rogue” state such as Iraq if they used chemical or biological weapons to attack British troops in the field. This flies in the face of previous undertakings given by the MoD which stated that Britain would only consider using nuclear weapons in self-defence, or in extreme circumstances subject to the rules of international law and humanitarian law applicable in conflict. A chemical or biological attack in the field could by no stretch of the imagination qualify as a threat to the survival of the British State.

Carol was able to spend time talking to the UK’s head of delegation and permanent representative to the NPT. Given the ambiguity of the statements by the UK delegation she has asked us to write to Geoff Hoon and Jack Straw questioning:

  1. whether the life of Trident is to be extended beyond its original planned operational life
  2. whether the UK is planning or considering a new lower range nuclear weapon or modifying current nuclear weapons to lower the yield
  3. when, where and how a decision will be taken on any replacement for Trident
  4. whether the UK would use Trident against any country that did not have nuclear weapons, and in what circumstance
  5. whether the UK would take the opportunity of testing any new weapon if the US re-opens facilities in the Nevada desert.

US-Russian Nuclear Treaty

As Bush and Putin meet in Moscow to sign the US-Russian treaty on nuclear arms it is hard to strike the right balance between optimism and cynicism. Obviously any reduction in the world’s nuclear arsenal is to be welcomed, but this treaty allows both sides to continue to deploy about 2,000 strategic nuclear warheads — amply sufficient for mutual annihilation — while there is no requirement to destroy retired warheads. Either side is allowed to return to any force level it desires after 10 years, either side can pull out with 90 days’ notice, and there are no controls on tactical nuclear weapons. As one senior administration official quoted in the New York Times said “What we have now agreed to do under the treaty is what we wanted to do anyway: that’s our kind of treaty.”

The limitations of the treaty have led many commentators to question its value. Many have argued that at a time of unprecedented trust between Russia and the US far more could have been done to reduce nuclear arsenals irreversibly. The agreement has also been criticised by former US government officials. In a Washington Post article co-authored by Sam Nunn, William Perry and Gen Eugene Halsiger (ret.) the deal is criticised for leaving too many questions about US security unanswered.

Meanwhile, the Americans will shortly be free of the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty and able to start previously banned work on their Star Wars missile shield. (Information from Washington Nuclear Updates 22 May 2002, a new e-mail series from BASIC —

The NPT Prep Comm: letters needed

CND chair Carol Naughton presented a paper on behalf of the Non-Governmental Organisations at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee in New York last month and reports that “most of the [non governmental] world is with CND and appreciative of our efforts”. We have been asked to write to Ambassador David Broucher, head of the UK delegation to New York, to follow up points he made in a speech there. David Broucher said:

“We have continued to call on Israel to accede to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapons state. ... The Final Document [of the NPT Review Conference] in 2000 called for the reaffirmation of, or declarations of support for, a ‘nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East, as well as the development of zones free from all weapons of mass destruction’. The United Kingdom has consistently supported resolutions in the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly [the Committee that deals with disarmament] calling for the establishment of a Middle East Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone. The UK has also taken steps with other countries in the region to establish the conditions for a zone free of weapons of mass destruction”.

Please write to Ambassador David Broucher, Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament, UK Mission to the Conference on Disarmament, 37-39 Rue de Vermont, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland, making the following points:

Officials at the FCO commented to CND on the number of letters received about the NPT: letter writing does make a difference.

‘Bat Shalom’ at the UN

Kurt Strauss has sent us details of a fascinating speech recently delivered in the UN Security Council by Terry Greenblatt, Director of Bat Shalom, an Israeli feminist peace organisation which is working with the Jerusalem Center for Women (a Palestinian women’s peace organisation) for a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, respect for human rights and an equal voice for Jewish and Arab women within Israeli society.

Last month Bat Shalom and the Jerusalem Center for women published a Joint Declaration in both Israel and Palestine: “It is our rôle, women on both sides, to speak out loudly against the humanitarian crimes committed in order to permanently subjugate an entire nation... in the face of uncontrolled military turmoil, we jointly ask the international community of states to accept its duty and mandate by international humanitarian law to prevent abuses of an occupying power by officially intervening to protect the Palestinian people.... we know that there is one future for us both. The deliberate harming of innocent citizens, Palestinian or Israeli, must not be condoned. We believe that women can develop an alternative voice promoting effective peace initiatives and sound approaches. We undertake to work for this goal together.”

In her speech to the UN Security Council, Terry Greenblatt argued that women have a “very special kind of intelligence, social intelligence, and a very special brand of courage, social courage.” “We have developed the courage to cross the lines of difference drawn between us... and the intelligence to do it safely without a gun or a bomb.... we are learning to shift our positions, finding ourselves moving towards each other without tearing out our roots in the process.”

Further details of Bat Shalom’s latest activities can be found on their website or Bat Shalom, PO Box 8083, Jerusalem 91080 Israel.

Embassies Walk, 20th May

We sponsored WDC/CND member Shamila Sengupta to join the annual Peace Pentecost event arranged by Christian CND. This year was the second anniversary of the renewal of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the 2000 Review Conference, so the group of sponsored walkers visited the London embassies of all the nuclear weapons states with a ‘birthday’ cake asking how they were progressing with their “unequivocal undertaking... to accomplish... nuclear disarmament” (NPT Review final document 19/5/2000, New York).

They also visited the embassies of the New Agenda Coalition (those middle power countries who have put forward a radical and constructive alternative to nuclear stalemate): South Africa, Ireland, Mexico, Egypt, New Zealand, and Brazil, though the Swedish embassy was closed due to a public holiday.

Finally, they called on the embassies of the de facto nuclear weapons states: Pakistan, Israel and India, who have not yet signed the NPT.

Shamila reports that it was a fascinating day, starting with a very moving short service in the Dick Sheppard Chapel, St Martin’s-in-the-Fields. Reception at the New Agenda embassies was friendliness itself, especially Ireland and New Zealand, but their reception by India and Pakistan was decidedly frosty.

They were pleasantly surprised to find the whole group being ushered into the US embassy — only to find themselves being hastily asked to leave by an embarrassed official who had obviously exceeded his authority. Apparently, the security recommendation had been for one representative only to be admitted!

AGM Report

At our Annual General Meeting held on May 14th, all existing officers were re-elected:

Chair/Membership Secretary: Muriel Wood
Secretary/Newsletter Editor: Joanna Bazley
Minutes Secretary: Ann Strauss
Treasurer Jim Lindsay

Finances are healthy, with a slight surplus on the year. Campaigning featured more networking initiatives with other groups and more contact with schools. Eight new members had joined.

Friday Vigil for Peace

This regular event continues to take place near Wimbledon Library from 6 to 7 pm every Friday evening. We get a sympathetic reception from passers-by, many of whom take our leaflets, and a few of whom stop to join us. Last week we had a visit from a slightly worried policeman who had been informed that we were ‘demonstrating’. We managed to convince him that we were acting with full permission (obviously at Wimbledon Police Station they had not realised that something cleared with them last October could possibly be still continuing) and parted on very good terms.

Fête of the Earth

The Fête was once again a great success, earning us just over £1,000 in total and involving about fifty of our members and friends as helpers in one way or another. Takings on the door were slightly down on last year which may have been influenced by the later starting time or competition from rival events, but more probably reflects the fact that we did not have our usual team of leafleters out on the street this year. (Volunteers for next year, please!)

Fortunately those who did come through the door obviously spent lots of money and the atmosphere was very happy and relaxed, with the usual excellent quality of catering and plenty of opportunity to chat to old friends. Thank you to everybody who contributed goods, help, transport or custom. Next sales event is Wimbledon Village Fair on June 22nd where we have a bric-à-brac stall. (No doubt a few plants will also creep in!)

Stop the Arms Trade Week

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is once again holding a week of action to highlight the effects of the international arms trade. This year, the week will be focusing on the fact that a huge amount of public money is used to support the arms trade. CAAT estimates that £763 million of government money is given each year to subsidise the arms trade and £1 billion is invested in arms trade companies by local authorities around the country.

Stop Week 2002 aims to expose this public investment in the arms trade and call for public money to be used in a productive and ethical way.

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