COMMENT by Edwin Cluer

At the beginning of 2003 I wouldn’t have imagined composing and compiling my own leaflet. But here it is!

One of the people passing my one person demonstration on Westminster bridge said of my WORLD PEACE NOW message, “That’s a bit naïve, isn’t it?” There is a fair proportion of people who say things like “it’ll never happen”, “You’ll never get peace”. As no leaflet I had seen quite fitted my requirement, I decided to create one. Over about 6 months I have tried to evolve a positive leaflet to encourage thought and effective action. I think it is particularly important to develop international co-operation between peace groups in as many countries as possible.

If you would like more copies of my leaflet for your friends etc, just phone me on 8540-7730 and I can deliver them.

Edwin Cluer

Peace is Possible

How do we achieve Peace: that is, the permanent elimination of war and the threat of war, everywhere? It is up to everyone to make it Priority Nº 1, try to find answers, act effectively and get the job done. We abolished slavery... achieved votes for women... even went to the moon!... so why not real, permanent peace?

Here are some ideas which might help:

Inactive today? Radioactive tomorrow!

... well, who else will save the world? ... the military?... the nuclear weapons industry, which makes huge profits from the present governments’ policies?... Governments themselves? Shall we wait for Superman, or the Messiah?

No. We must do it ourselves. Public opinion is the new superpower!... but only if we, hundreds of millions of us, are actively working for peace. Nothing is more important.

Written with best wishes and love for everyone in the world.

London Region AGM

The London Region AGM took place on 19th January this year and was a well-attended and stimulating meeting. Guest speaker was Hani Lazim of the Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation, who was informed, articulate and impressive, pointing out that he and his colleagues had been campaigning for democracy in Iraq for 40 years. He painted a clear picture of the realities of life in present-day Iraq: the deteriorating security situation, the lack of services, breakdown in communications and widespread smuggling and corruption. There is resentment at the “billions of dollars being siphoned off by the occupiers” as contracts for reconstruction are given to US firms and then subcontracted to Iraqis for a fraction of the money.

He had very little time for the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, many of whose members are apparently out of the country for much of the time. Much of what he said about the suspicions that the reluctance of the US to sanction free elections stems from US inability to control the outcome was borne out by the massive popular demonstrations the following week in Iraq. The majority of Iraqis are understandably apprehensive about their future, do not trust the West and have very little confidence in the UN. (This last is hardly surprising when one remembers that it was the UN that imposed the sanctions which were the cause of so much suffering in the years before the war.)

Afternoon workshops included discussion of the future rôle of the UN in Iraq, US military doctrine, Israel/Palestine, and plans for an Aldermaston march at Easter. I chose to attend the first two workshops.

Much of the discussion on Iraq and the UN became general. We were reminded of the inherent limitations of the Charter which allow powerful nations to prevent the UN from achieving the aspirations of its founders.

The UN can easily be perceived as a ‘front’ for powerful countries. This will only be changed by radical reform, but meanwhile a structure exists which is ‘as good as we make it’, and it is worth remembering Dag Hammarskjold’s maxim “The UN was not invented to take mankind to heaven but to save it from hell.” In the short term, the most encouraging development is the increasing involvement of non-governmental organisations (‘civil society’) in policy discussions.

The survey and analysis of US military policy was scary. Under Bush, the US has effectively ‘redefined war’ on its own terms so that the US has a monopoly of the use of armed force to police the world: the culmination of the ‘full spectrum dominance’ of the 1990s. ‘Assymetric threats’ arise as other countries or factions try to undermine US military dominance. Full spectrum dominance has now been extended by President G.W.Bush to encompass a new doctrine of pre-emptive war, under which the worst threats can be confronted even before they emerge. Kofi Annan has said that this doctrine presents a fundamental challenge to the UN.

The Unified Command Plan divides the whole world into command zones and the Single Strategic Command incorporates both nuclear and space weapons: global missile defences, military, civilian and commercial satellites are all integrated. The integration of every aspect of war fighting under this doctrine blurs the distinctions between nuclear and conventional weapons, and between military and non-military use of space. From now on all NASA missions must be seen as ‘dual use’.

US military planning, with its new emphasis on ‘force enhancement’ from space, is in clear contravention of the PAROS (Prevention of Arms Race in Outer Space) Treaty of 1967, but this is evidently no more of a deterrent to current policy-makers than the now defunct Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

In addition to the vast sums allocated to research and development in outer space, new US legislation allows for the development of both ‘bunker busters’ and ‘mini-nukes’. Bunker busters are big (bigger than the Hiroshima bomb) and penetrate very deep, and are presented as being designed for defence. Mini-nukes are very small (cup-sized) and can be fitted anywhere: they will “take over where the Daisy Cutters leave off”. Both are designed to be integrated into war planning strategy.

US Democrats who expressed disquiet that very little discussion had taken place, nevertheless voted for the Act on the grounds that “the US has to have a nuclear deterrent.”

Report by Joanna Bazley

Campaign to Free Vanunu

Several of us went to a special showing of the BBC2 film “Israel’s Secret Weapon” in the House of Lords on January 26th, a damning account of Israel’s weapons of mass destruction, and the long imprisonment of Mordechai Vanunu who exposed what was happening at Dimona. A real bonus was the presence of Olenka Frankiel, the journalist who played a crucial part in making the film, as well as interviewing Peres and other key players. She was able to give extra background to events shown in the film and contribute to the discussions that followed from first-hand experience.

Vanunu has endured his ordeal with astonishing resilience, in large measure due to the international support which he has received, and is now within sight of his release, due on April 21st, but there are worrying indications that the Israeli government is seriously alarmed about the prospect of Vanunu “running about the US and Europe talking about the bombs Israel has [which] could be a serious irritant from the Israeli government’s perspective” (academic Avner Cohen). According to Newsweek (12/1/2004) there may be pressure from the Israeli defence establishment to invoke an arcane regulation to prevent Vanunu from ever leaving the country. This article also suggests that other government officials believe Vanunu’s imprisonment should be extended by “administrative detention” — a measure usually reserved for Palestinians suspected of terrorism. The Campaign continues.

Campaign to Free Vanunu, 185 New Kent Rd, London SE1 4AG.

Seeds of the Positive

At Tuesday lunchtimes all through January, Alison Williams has been leading a series of discussion groups. The British government is quietly working towards the prevention of armed conflict, and supporting civil society groups in the Third World in ways that might surprise some of us, given the noisy media attention given to its support of US belligerence. The interesting question is why this constructive diplomatic engagement is not a matter of pride and celebration to Tony Blair. Why does he continue publicly to define foreign policy in terms dictated by President Bush?

The Big Conversation

Tony Blair has invited us to give our views on the way forward for Britain, and we should take him seriously. One of the sections of the Big Conversation document is entitled “How do we develop our concept of international community?” and this is our big chance to press the Labour Party policy-makers to have the courage of their convictions and put the UN at the heart of British foreign policy.

“It is vital that we deal firmly with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” says the Conversation document, and “in most cases this means working with others to exert diplomatic pressure on countries to comply with international obligations”. 2005 sees the next Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York. Write to Tony Blair and suggest that the UK might side with the New Agenda Coalition States (New Zealand, Eire, Canada etc.) in promoting a Nuclear Weapons Convention at the UN that would really confront the nuclear weapons states with their responsibility to disarm.

Think that the UN needs reform? As one of the Permanent Five on the Security Council, Britain could lead debate.

E-mail, or send your letter to "FREEPOST Big Conversation" or text 84402 with your top priority for Britain. (Nuclear disarmament maybe?)

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