Our comment this month is written by US President Dwight Eisenhower — reproduced as a Guardian leader on February 15th.
“The way chosen by the United States was plainly marked by a few clear precepts, which govern its conduct in world affairs. First: no people on earth can be held, as a people, to be an enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice. Second: no nation’s security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation hut only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations. Third: any nation’s right to a form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable. Fourth: any nation’s attempt to dictate other nations their form of government is indefensible. And fifth: a nation’s hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations.
“ln the light of these principles the citizens of the United States defined the way they proposed to follow, through the aftermath of war, toward true peace. This way was faithful to the spirit that inspired the United Nations: to prohibit strife, to relieve tensions, to banish fears. This way was to control and to reduce armaments. This way was to allow all nations to devote their energies and resources to the great and good tasks of healing the war’s wounds, of clothing and feeding and housing the needy, of perfecting a just political life, of enjoying the fruits of their own free toil.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
President Dwight D Eisenhower, 1953
Trident submarine Vengeance arrived at the Devonport Dockyard, Plymouth last month for its first major refit, which has caused a flurry of interest in the media, particularly in the Southwest where there are fears of pollution and possible effects on tourism. So perhaps this is a good moment to remind ourselves just exactly what the Trident ‘minimum deterrent’ really is: a weapon of mass destruction cruising the oceans of the world, on hair-trigger alert 24 hours a day and 365 days of the year with a range of 4,000 miles.
Each Trident submarine carries 16 missiles. Each missile carries 3 nuclear warheads. Each warhead has destructive power seven times greater than the Hiroshima bomb which killed around 200,000 civilians. 3×7×16=336. Vengeance equals 336 Hiroshimas.
In the wake of September 11th we might ask ourselves (and the government) just whom Vengeance is supposed to be deterring?
A recent paper in the scientific journal Nature (reported in the Guardian 22/2/2002) described the steps being taken at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston to check that our nuclear weapons are still in good working order. ‘Stewardship’ it is called, and the plain duty of any responsible government. To anyone outside the blinkered inner circle, nuclear testing in specially strengthened and equipped laboratories looks like a flagrant breach of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in spirit if not in legal fact. Particularly as it is also being made clear that these tests are needed to ‘modernise’ our nuclear weapons for the future.
The UK Government and other nuclear weapons states are pledged under Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to an unequivocal commitment to eliminate nuclear weapons. The World Court Advisory Opinion of July 1996 stated clearly and unanimously: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” We need to keep up pressure on our government to suit actions to words when it comes to respect for the UN and international law.
Milan Rai of ‘Voices in the Wilderness’ was responsible for bringing over from America two remarkable people bereaved on September 11th who have made it their mission to speak out against further revenge and violence.
Kelly and Ryan Amundson are wife and brother to Craig Amundson who was killed in the Pentagon. They spoke quietly, with an immense dignity which was moving and impressive. They were using their personal tragedy as a force for something positive and I came away feeling very humbled, feeling that this must have taken a very rare kind of courage.
“My life changed for ever on September 11th,” said Kelly, and she meant not just her personal life, but her perception of the rest of the world and her place in it. She is a very young woman with a daughter of only 2½ years old. She is determined that the horror lodged in the mind of her own children should not be inflicted on anyone else’s children.
On September 25th she wrote to the Chicago Tribune “I have heard angry rhetoric by some Americans, including many of our nation’s leaders.... I would like to make it clear that my family and I take no comfort in your words of rage. If you choose to respond to this incomprehensible brutality by perpetuating violence against other innocent human beings, you may not do so in the name of justice for my husband.” The bombing of Afghanistan started on the day of her husband’s memorial service. She was surrounded by her husband’s friends from school and college and wanted to think about him — but she said that at the back of her mind she was wondering about all the other families experiencing “their September 11th” in Afghanistan.
She felt that it was wrong that people in America didn’t feel comfortable about speaking about alternatives to war, and eventually she and others organised a Walk for Peace from Washington DC to New York behind the banner “Our grief is not a cry for war”. In January they were able to spend ten days in Kabul meeting some of the victims of US bombing at first hand. Kelly showed us pictures and told us moving individual stories: “it is so horrible we live in a world where children have these stories”. But she ended on a note of hope. She visited a girls’ school, now opened again after a 5 years’ ban, and delivered messages and money raised by US children taught by her own mother. In return the Afghan girls made beautiful thank-you cards for every child who had written, and one of their older classmates was able to write in perfect English “Hallo dears”, “we are very sorry for September 11th... the same situations have repeatedly happened in our country.... Please don’t forget us.”
Craig Amundsen’s brother Ryan described how the anxious families lodged in a hotel near Washington awaiting news after the tragedy were already being addressed by a Congressman who talked confidently about “them” being eliminated — even at that stage Ryan said he felt that revenge was a very false sort of comfort. This has grown into a conviction that we need fundamental political and economic changes to the world, with military force being a highly unlikely means to achieve any of it. He was very polite about President Bush, saying that he was sure that he honestly believes he is doing the right thing “killing one innocent in Afghanistan to save 10 lives later” — but “I just don’t buy it.”
He gave us the analogy of using a sledge hammer to get rid of a swarm of mosquitoes. “We should at least be using a fly swatter.” Dropping bombs to get rid of individuals is “not the right tool”. It was very measured and impressive — and a good antidote to anti-Americanism.
Website: http://www.peacefultomorrows.orgJoanna Bazley
Thanks to George Marsh who sent us the following snippet from The Democrat, Jan 2002:
After tremendous Iobbying by the nuclear industry, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development offered a loan of $215m to the Ukraine to help finish the construction of two new nuclear reactors.
The Ukraine is, amongst other things, a bankrupt country, but the people have told the EBHD to stuff their loan because they do not want any more nuclear reactors. Not surprising after Chernobyl.
There is considerable displeasure amongst bureaucrats, bankers and nuclear companies whose plans were to move in and build the reactors.
The introduction to the Human Rights Watch World Report 2002 points out that the September 11th attacks were beyond the bounds of international human rights and humanitarian law — the principle that civilians should never be deliberately slaughtered regardless of the cause. “Certain means are never justified no matter what the ends”.
In the battle against terrorism world governments now have to face a fundamental choice whether to reaffirm human rights principles or whether to ignore them, and themselves embrace the ends-justify-the-means ideology of the terrorists. “Whatever its success in pursuing particular terrorists, the coalition risks reinforcing the logic of terrorism unless human rights are given a far more central rôle.”
The report argues that any fight against terrorism is only in part a matter of security; it is also a matter of values. Terrorism is less likely when the general public is firmly committed to basic human rights principles, i.e. a culture where disregard for civilian life is condemned not condoned.
Western nations have too often tolerated human rights abuse where it has suited them, today in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and Turkey for example, and not so many years ago in Iraq and Afghanistan when these states were seen as allies against a greater foe.
“In societies where basic freedoms flourish, citizens could have pressed their government to respond to grievances... but in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and many of the other countries where Osama bin Laden strikes a chord of resentment, governments restrict debate... they close off avenues for political change. They leave people with the desperate choice of tolerating the status quo, exile or violence.” Repressive governments close off avenues of dissent and then portray themselves as the only bulwark against extremism.
The report notes that various governments tried to take advantage of September 11th to redefine their own internal struggles against minorities as ‘battles against terrorism’. Emergency legislation in Western countries, including the UK and US, flouted civil liberties and international fair-trial standards. “Tomorrow’s military dictators need do nothing more than photocopy the Bush order to secure a repressive mechanism that promises to be highly effective in warding off US criticism.”
The US continues to refuse to accept formal scrutiny and enforcement of any of its actions via international treaties, and continues implacable opposition to the International Criminal Court. Speaking at the meeting at Friends House on February 21st, journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown suggested that the most effective method of campaigning against US militarism would be to promote the European Human Rights model against the Bush ‘Axis of Evil’. She felt that it was the European fundamental respect for human rights that was nauseated at the treatment of Afghan prisoners in Cuba, and so alarmed the US establishment. Globalisation and the spread of information is gradually ensuring that no-one now believes that one person’s life is either more or less important than another’s and also making governmental hypocrisy based on misinformation almost impossible to sustain. Lies are exposed and rejected.
Politicians need to be made to realise that the psychology of a globalised world is changing. Generalised anti-Americanism will be easily dismissed. We need a more focussed and more sophisticated attack against what is being done in the name of the war against terrorism.
Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/wr2k2/intro.html
“A renewed United Nations for peace, human rights and sustainable development” is the theme of this latest UNA lobby, and rejection of National Missile Defence and weapons of mass destruction is to be one of the major targets for government action. Speakers will include Lindis Percy from the Campaign against American Bases and Caroline Lucas, Green MEP. Please get in touch if you would like to join the group going up to Westminster from Wimbledon.