COMMENT by Joanna Bazley

Don’t Attack Iraq!

The national demonstration on Saturday September 28th is the day before the start of the Labour Party conference, and a massive turnout on that day will drive home the extent to which the Prime Minister’s support for George W. Bush is becoming a minority position not only within the country but within his own party.

The Stop the War Coalition is a loose grouping of peace organisations, religious groups and trade unionists, with official support from the Muslim Association of Britain.

The ‘weapons of mass destruction’ ostensibly at the heart of the conflict with Saddam Hussein are at the heart of our anti-nuclear campaign. Yes, Saddam Hussein is an evil dictator, but he is not the only evil dictator in the world. Any stockpile of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons he may have is dwarfed by those in the hands of those threatening to attack him. Israel, his near neighbour, has been a nuclear power in the Middle East for decades, and now openly acknowledges the fact. The only way to control the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is through a nuclear weapons convention and the UN, led by the nuclear weapons states themselves.

Article 6 of the Non Proliferation Treaty says “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

Meanwhile the US plans to create a new command structure which will combine a military network that warns of missile attacks with military force that can fire nuclear or conventional weapons at sites suspected of harbouring weapons of mass destruction. This autumn the US will publish its National Security Strategy. Its theme will be the ‘New Triad’ of long-range strike systems, missile defence and a revitalised nuclear weapons complex including the use of space. ‘Mini nukes’ designed to destroy deeply-hidden, hardened bunkers mark a move from the Cold War doctrine of deterrence to a policy of active use.

As long as nuclear weapons are seen to confer ‘great power’ status they are going to be sought after by every military dictator on Earth.

[Data on the US National Security Strategy taken from an article by Jenny Maxwell, CND Vice Chair, published in the CND journal Campaign, Nº 3 2002.]

Bush may get UN support for his war

In a Guardian article (15th August) Dan Plesch explained how the US could get Security Council support for a war against Iraq. The writer is a former vice-chair of CND, now a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall.

He argues that those who have been urging ‘no war without a Security Council resolution’ may have failed to see how the US could get support. He explains that of the other four permanent members, Russia is indebted to the US for economic aid (and also gets help with dismantling its nuclear weapons). China usually abstains, France is unlikely to act alone, leaving Britain in support.

The short-term (2 year) members are vulnerable to cajoling or actual blackmail. Bulgaria wants to join NATO. Columbia is already receiving military aid from the US against its dissidents, Norway has a conservative government, Mexico and Ireland are economically dependent on the US.

Plesch believes that the US already has about eight votes and needs only one more from Syria, Cameroon, Guinea or Singapore. He feels that those opposed to the war should use the full version of the UN resolution that accepted the cease-fire in 1991. This called for a nuclear and other mass destruction ‘weapons free zone’ in the Middle East. This should be carried out before any resolution is passed to allow a new war on Iraq.

The article shows the danger of a small, relatively unrepresentative Security Council. Its permanent members are unbalanced, with two from Europe and none from Africa or South America. There are also too few rotating members, many of them small, poor and subject to pressures from richer and more powerful members. The two year period of office is too short; members take a year or two to understand the system, by which it is time to move over for another group of temporary members.

[Summarised by Jim Addington and published in the September News Update of Action for UN Renewal]

Hiroshima Day, August 16th

Our annual ceremony of remembrance took place on a gloriously warm summer’s evening, and the shimmering lights of more than two hundred candles were reflected in the almost still waters of Rushmere as darkness fell over Wimbledon Common. WDC/CND members were joined by Mitcham CND, friends and families.

Hiroshima Day at Sidmouth

Helen and Maisie have organised a commemoration for Hiroshima Day in the 22 years that they have been attending the International Folk festival at Sidmouth. This year they were helped by Julie and by some regular participants in the Festival who have come to expect an event to mark the day. It was a great success, not just because over seventy people turned up, but because there seemed to be increased awareness, greater commitment and determination on the part of those attending to prevent war against Iraq.

The overwhelming feeling was that as well as remembering the victims of Hiroshima and dedicating ourselves to the struggle to ban all nuclear weapons, we must do all we can to halt the plans of Bush and Blair for a new and terrible war on Iraq.

We listened to a very funny, but serious story, the beautifully moving poem “I come and stand at every door” by Nazim Hikmet, people’s feelings and experiences, including those of one stalwart peace campaigner, who said that even though the Hiroshima bomb saved her husband’s life (he was a PoW in Japan) she was totally opposed to nuclear weapons of any kind.

After singing “We shall overcome”, we distributed leaflets and reminded everyone about the “Don’t Attack Iraq” demonstration on 28 Sept. This, together with the official support we had from the organisers of the Festival, ensured that the peace message got across to many more people.

Maisie Carter

Lions Club Fair

August Bank Holiday was uncomfortably cold and grey, but once again we did well at the annual Lions Club Fair in Morden Park. We sold plants, books and bric-à-brac and took £247, thanks to a great team effort by David, Brian, Maisie, Linda, Julie, Helen, Maxi, Margaret, Ann, Jim, Marjorie and Joanna. We had a large CND symbol and posters from the Wimbledon peace vigil prominently on display, and were pleased to find plenty of goodwill amongst the holiday crowds. This is a big local event and it is an important place for our message to be seen, quite apart from the useful contribution to our funds.

Wimbledon Vigil for Peace

With the approach of the September 11th anniversary we realise that we shall soon also be marking the anniversary of our weekly vigil in St Mark’s Place. Members of CND, Merton UNA and local Quakers came together after September 11th in protest against the assumption that the only response to terrorist violence was more violence.

Over the last twelve months alone we have witnessed not only last autumn’s bombing of Afghanistan, but escalating violence in the Middle East, the threat of war between India and Pakistan and now the increasing belligerence of the United States towards Iraq. Gradually there are more voices being raised all over the world to question the morality and legitimacy of military force as a prime instrument of foreign policy. By continuing our vigil we feel that we are playing a part in raising these questions in the minds of members of our local community.

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

“Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King, Jnr

We hand out leaflets and sometimes passers-by stop to express support or scepticism (and very occasionally open hostility!) but for the most part we just stand in mute witness to our belief that there must be a way to break the seemingly endless cycle of violence in the world.

Peace vigil continues on Fridays 6–7pm at St Mark’s Place

White Poppies poster

‘Scatter White Poppies’

Our evening of poetry and music on September 28th is the product of a chance meeting at the London Region AGM, the culmination of the germ of an idea inspired by the poets of Bromley CND. The search for a venue that would allow us to reach a potential audience beyond the WDC/CND membership led us to the Colour House Theatre in Merton Abbey Mills where there is a regular programme covering the full spectrum of the performing arts. The Strawberry Thieves Choir has performed in Wimbledon before, and their founder and leader will act as master of ceremonies for the evening.

Admission is free and light refreshments will be provided. Drinks can be purchased at the Colour House bar, and a collection will be held to cover all expenses.

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