Please will every reader of this Newsletter rise to the challenge set by National CND and get 10 signatures onto the petition enclosed with this Newsletter: family members, neighbours, colleagues, visitors to the house... it shouldn’t be difficult.
The decision about the future of UK nuclear weapons will be taken during this parliament. The indications are that Tony Blair has already made up his mind what he personally wants, which is to perpetuate the status quo ‘just in case a nuclear-armed enemy might threaten this country at some unspecified time in the future’. He seems incapable of seeing that the logical extension of this line of argument is that any medium-sized nation should be entitled to arm itself with nuclear weapons ‘just in case’. He also seems impervious to the implications under international law (see below) and for UK treaty obligations.
It is absolutely essential that the Tony Blair view of the matter does not go unchallenged. It is up to us to do everything we can to generate public debate based on the full facts. Briefing material appears on the CND website (http://www.cnduk.org) or can be supplied by Joanna (8543 0362). We have written to MP Stephen Hammond asking for an appointment to discuss these issues with him and urging him to sign Early Day Motion Nº 1113: Trident (sponsored by 2 MPs from each of the 3 main political parties) asking for openness, transparency and democracy in the decision-making process.
Every day brings news of cut-backs in health, education and local authority spending. It is estimated that the total cost of replacing Trident missiles, submarines and base facilities could be as much as £25 billion. This would be enough money to pay for:
Here in Merton in the past few months we have seen proposals for cuts in special educational needs transport and cuts in specialist mental health services (closure of wards at Springfield Hospital). Remind people of the government’s priorities every time you get the opportunity!
In 1996 the International Court of Justice made it quite clear that under any circumstances the threat or use of nuclear weapons must comply with the principles of international humanitarian law regarding “necessity, proportionality and discrimination” (i.e. a nuclear weapon could be used only if there was an overwhelming danger and absolutely no alternative — and only if a distinction could be made between military targets and the civilian population). As each warhead in the present Trident weapons system is eight times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb (total Trident killing capacity: 3,072 Hiroshimas i.e. 43,000,000 people) it is almost inconceivable that Trident could be used lawfully.
Under the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, the UK as a nuclear weapon state is committed to nuclear disarmament “at an early date”. The Year 2000 NPT Review Conference laid out a Programme of Action for global nuclear disarmament which included “an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament”. How can Trident replacement fit in with this? Even if the government decides to extend the life of the present system for another 20–30 years it will violate the NPT. You cannot carry out negotiations “in good faith” whilst projecting nuclear weapons well towards the end of the century. Bequeathing nuclear deterrence to our grandchildren cannot possibly count as eliminating our nuclear arsenal.
Please write to your MP asking
The concert on November 22nd at St Mark’s Church was a wonderful occasion: if you missed it, you missed a treat. Deborah Fink sang works ranging from the life-affirming Greek folksong settings of Ravel, bubbling over with faith, love, joy and hope, to the darker settings of Michael Tippett’s ‘Child of Our Time’ and Philip Munger’s new cantata dedicated to the memory of Rachel Corrie. This latter having originally been scored for an ensemble of percussion instruments presented a real challenge to pianist Desmond Bazley, but he rose magnificently to the occasion.
The anguish and tragedy of the music might have been a hard act to follow, but we were fortunate to have with us Joanna Small (winner of the Mayor’s poetry competition for young Londoners) to read her own poem ‘Peace’ (printed in the November Newsletter): it was very moving to reflect that Rachel herself had been only a very few years old than Joanna at the time of her death. The local team of Wendy Tansey, Anne Pugh and Alison Morgan had chosen for us a glorious feast of poetry with tears and laughter in equal measure. Wendy’s impersonation of the snobbish heroine of Betjeman’s “In Westminster Abbey” and Anne and Alison’s double act in Roger McGough’s “On Top of the Bus” will remain long in the memory.
After taking the evening’s expenses into account, we were able to send a cheque for £150 to MANA (Musicians Against Nuclear Arms).
Readers will remember that the premiere of the Rachel Corrie Cantata (‘The Skies are Weeping’) took place on November 1st at the Hackney Empire in large measure due to the personal efforts of Deborah Fink who was appalled that Philip Munger had been forced to cancel the US performances due to death threats to the student performers, and who courageously took on most of the organisational responsibility as well as the demands of singing the solo soprano part. It was a huge undertaking, and although it was a great artistic success it did not manage to cover costs and there are still bills to be paid. A collection was taken at the interval of our concert, and we were very pleased to be able to present Deborah with £77 towards her fund-raising campaign. If you were not at the concert in St Mark’s and would like to contribute please send donations (large or small) to ‘The Skies are Weeping” c/o 43 Wilton Grove, London SW19 3QU.
The November Newsletter gave details of an exciting new initiative by a group of Middle Powers led by Canada at the First Committee of the UN in an effort to break the longstanding deadlock at the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) at Geneva.
Disappointingly the proposals were withdrawn after heavy pressure from the nuclear weapon states joined by India and Pakistan. “An irony,” writes Rebecca Johnson of Acronym, “as the key protagonists in attempting to get a CD work programme over the past decade have also been drawn from this pool. As a US brief sent to capitals and a number of UN delegations demonstrates, a battery of arguments was used to scare First Committee members with the threat that the Initiative would destroy the CD, the First Committee and, to listen to some of the wilder rhetoric, diplomatic civilisation as we know it”.
However, in withdrawing their proposal, the sponsoring countries (Canada, Brazil, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Sweden) gave notice that they would be resubmitting it to the First Committee in 2006 if sufficient progress is not made at the CD in the interim.
Alison Williams was very pleased to get a nice ‘thank-you’ letter from the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Peter Southgate, who spoke at the rededication ceremony at the Hiroshima cherry tree in Cannizaro Park on October 23rd. He writes “It was the ideal setting... and I was pleased to see so many different faith groups represented and to hear their testimony.... We are grateful to you for the effort that must have gone into organising Sunday’s ceremony and congratulate you on achieving such a simple yet effective act of witness.”
Barbara Bampton has sent us some recent press clippings from the Portland Press Herald (Maine, USA) which underline the growing disillusionment of ordinary Americans with the Bush régime and its Iraq policy.
“I find it hard to believe that as an intelligent society we are not more angry about where this president has taken us.
“We are in Iraq under false pretense. We are there because our president couldn’t wait for the UN team to find weapons of mass destruction. We violated the UN Charter... Imagine if George Bush was in power during the Cuban Missile Crisis. We would all be dead. Wake up America. This is a heartless dangerous man... This has become a religious war, and the results, we don’t even want to think about. The moral majority? You did this.”
“I believe that if the press... would have done its job earlier we might have avoided this horrible war.... When the press abrogates its responsibility to ask difficult questions in the search for truth, we suffer as a country.”
“This government is ours to ignore or ours to take back. As the bumper sticker says ‘If you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention’. Let’s all speak up... Bush’s actions affect all of us.”
We have a new supply of the colourful ‘rainbow’ peace flags which have been such a feature of our stalls and demonstrations this year. A gusset allows your flag to be flown on a bamboo pole, and eyelet holes in the corners allow it to be tied into place. The waterproof crease-resistant lightweight fabric makes it possible for your flag to be folded into a bag or pocket. At £4 each (cost price) these flags are not to be missed and every campaigner should have one! (Orders to 8543 0362)
Kingston Peace Council/CND hosted an excellent meeting in Kingston on November 21st at which the speaker was Dr Chris Busby, an expert on low-level radiation and the closely-related subject of depleted uranium. It seems the huge vested interests of the military and the nuclear industry are colluding in a massive cover-up of the real risks: see report in the February Newsletter...
The new WDC/CND website can be accessed via two addresses: http://www.wdc-cnd.org.uk and http://www.wimbledoncnd.org.uk. We aim to keep the site regularly updated with fuller details of campaigning materials than is possible in this Newsletter, so pay us a visit.
We hope eventually to make our archive of the past nine years’ Newsletters available on this site; would any members who do not want their contributions readable in this way please contact us so that we can remove the relevant articles!
(set by Jim Addington of Kingston Peace Council/CND)
Please answer these questions. You will be delighted by the prize at the end!
Is it true that conspiracy to commit a crime can be prosecuted under British law? Y/N
Is it true that murder is a crime? Y/N
Is it true that sending soldiers to war for an act of aggression is a crime? Y/N
Is it true that the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal in 1945 states that to attack a sovereign state is the greatest international crime? Y/N
Is it true that the Genocide Act makes it illegal under international law to kill large numbers of civilians? Y/N
Is it true that the Geneva Conventions declare it illegal to target civilians (as in Falluja and other Iraqi cities)? Y/N
Is it true that international laws and conventions ratified by the British Parliament make it possible to prosecute war crimes in the British courts? Y/N
If so what stops the British justice system from prosecuting Tony Blair and the entire UK Cabinet for war crimes?
That would be the prize!